Photo courtesy Puyallup Police Department
Photo courtesy Puyallup Police Department

This is an open thread.

115 Replies to “News Roundup: Traffic Violence”

  1. The stadium story mostly refers to new sockor arenas. Interestingly enough the new home for the 49ers Levi Stadium, is in Santa Clara – not the most transit accessible site in the region.

    In Atlanta, there are plans to relocate the Braves to a new suburban stadium even though Turner Field isn’t 20-years old. There’s quite a bit of outrage since a lot of public money was used to build TF.

    1. While I’m not thrilled with the way that the stadium situation played out in Seattle, I am very grateful that we at least built them downtown. A suburban stadium or even having the Tacoma Dome host the Sonics would have been a traffic disaster for the area. I would say the biggest mistake was building two stadiums instead of one. Candlestick used to host both baseball and football, so I don’t understand why you couldn’t do the same here. It is less than ideal, but not the end of the world for either sport. Ideally you would move the Sonics there as well, but that is probably trickier. Regardless, it is crazy that we built a new football stadium (two if you count the Huskies) and a baseball stadium and yet still saw our oldest franchise leave the city. Nuts. Speaking of the Huskies, we could have saved an enormous amount of money if the Huskies just played in Seahawk stadium. The only argument against it is that right now, a huge percentage of folks walk to the game (from the campus or close to it).

      All in all, it makes for, as you said “an inefficient use of urban land”. But if the stadiums were shared, this wouldn’t be the case. Between football (pro and college), baseball, soccer and other assorted events (car shows, home shows, motocross, etc.) you could probably have an event there 200 times a year. 25 – 50,000 people in one area is pretty efficient, in my book.

      The worst thing about the area is the excess parking. I personally don’t know why anyone would drive to a game, unless public transportation is worse than I think. It seems to me that if you live in the suburbs you should drive to a park and ride and pick up the shuttle bus. If that is horribly inconvenient, then the city and county ought to address that. Meanwhile, we should sell off the parking lots and watch the big buildings go up.

      1. “Candlestick used to”

        There’s your answer. If it had worked well, they’d still be doing it.

        You only need to look at how bad some Sounders games have been the day after a Seahawks game (or vice versa) to see that having that many events isn’t good for field quality. Not to mention that a multipurpose stadium for football/baseball or basketball/hockey has to sacrifice some sightline quality for the fans. (I can’t think of one event in the Tacoma Dome that fits that space perfectly. Hockey and basketball certainly didn’t and football still leaves something to be desired.)

        So adding to that, if you have the Huskies and Seahawks share CenturyLink, it presents a couple issues. One, college football and professional football have different line markings. You could either have both sets on the field at the same time, which would look cluttered, or you would have to schedule the games so they weren’t home on the same weekend. (Along with this, if you had both sets of markings down, you’d have to pull them up and lay them back down each time there was a Sounders game.)
        Two, some of the equipment is different. They use different-sized goalposts which would require them to keep both sets (and spares) at all times and change them out after every game.
        Three, while not unprecedented, you don’t find pro and college teams sharing venues because of money. If the Huskies don’t have their own stadium, are they paying rent to play at CenturyLink? Is that more than the revenue it would generate for the school? Are the Huskies getting any concession money? How much is UW spending transferring equipment from campus, where they would still be practicing, to downtown every weekend there was a game? How are the players, the band, the staff, etc., getting downtown? Why create a need for all that transportation when it isn’t necessary?

        Yes, having unique venues is a bit ridiculous and a space eater but, if you think those teams are civic income drivers, having the highest quality field and stadium will accomplish bringing that income in the best way.

      2. In the 1970’s, you started to see multipurpus stadiums being built such as Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, the Metrodome in Minneapolis & of course the Kingdome. There is a serious drawback with such facilities & that’s scheduling conflicts. it’s less an issue if you are dealing with an arina seating 20K vs MetLife Statium that seats 82K.

        Taking the Kingdome as an example, the Seahawks could only have a home game if the M’s were on the road or if the M’s were home on Sunday the Seahawks could only play at home if there game was on Monday. This way both teams could be home on the same day without conflict – traffic not withstanding.

      3. The new husky stadium was built with private donations (though using the public bond capacity of UW, to be fair).

        I do agree that it’s an awful use of the land right on a subway station, though.

      4. We had a better multipurpose stadium and we blew it up so the team owners could get more profits with sport-specific, luxury-box rich, player-portraits-serving-as-wall-ads stadiums. At least CenturyLink has an event center as well as a two-sport stadium. Safeco Field is a throwback to sixty years ago when baseball was king, and it’s just vain and lame to have no multipurpose features but a retractable roof. Good riddance to the Sonics for demanding a “me too” separate stadium, but credit to them for asking only for public financing rather than public funding.

        As to the practical problems raised by M changing stadium configurations for different sports, there must be ways to mitigate that if they design the flexibility into the stadium at the beginning.

        “if you think those teams are civic income drivers”

        They are not civic income drivers except to the extent they bring in out-of-towners. Locals merely switch their spending from one place to another. A lot of housing and businesses could fit in to the space occupied by the stadiums, so their impact has to be compared to those. However, the stadiums are boosting Link ridership significantly, and presumably some of those are new to transit or use it only when they go downtown.

      5. I think it would be interesting to at least see a new multipurpose stadium design. The unattractiveness of the old ones is at least partially tied up in the unattractiveness of so much architecture of the mid-20th century. Architecture has changed since then and stadium design has changed since then.

        Teams have become richer since then and the specific needs of each league have grown more specific (I read an article about the NFL’s decision to move last week’s snowed-out Buffalo game to Detroit, and how all the non-NFL sites were essentially ruled out early because of the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be in place to put on a game). Maybe no pair of teams would accept even a great multipurpose stadium. Maybe today’s NFL, in particular, needs stadiums that basically sit around empty waiting for the next NFL game 350 days per year or more.

        But if that’s what the NFL needs, it’s not going to find a home in places like urban NY or SF. The development that will take place on the old Candlestick site is more valuable and better suited to the city/region’s needs than a single-use football stadium there. That’s why both NY football teams play in New Jersey, too.

      6. Yeah, like Mike said, it is all good and well to say that the Candlestick model doesn’t work that well, but we are the ones paying for it. As long as we are paying for it, of course the teams want the best facilities possible. Why wouldn’t they? But to suggest that it is somehow unprofitable is ridiculous. There is no free market, otherwise I’m sure a lot of teams would share stadiums. It would make financial sense to do so. If we consider this a public good (and we do, otherwise we wouldn’t pay for it) we have to ask whether we are getting our money’s worth. The simple answer is that we aren’t. We lost our oldest franchise, and (surprise, surprise) the Mariners attendance is completely dependent on their record. Despite having a state of the art stadium, we were 23rd in the league (and that was when we made a pennant run). In 1997, when the old Kingdome was around, attendance was about about a million more for the year. Meanwhile, our soccer team plays on field-turf*, in a football stadium, and has way better attendance than anyone else in the league. It isn’t the venue. It is the team, and the enthusiasm for the sport.

        As for the Huskies, they could share the stadium the same way that the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has been (at times) shared between two major college teams (USC and UCLA) as well as two NFL teams (the Raiders and Rams). The concept is not out of date because it doesn’t work, it is out of date because universities, like sports teams, have different priorities. If it worked in L. A. (a much, much bigger market than Seattle) then it could work here.

        Sports franchises leverage their monopoly by exploiting the local population and forcing them to subsidize additional amenities to satisfy their richest clients. With colleges it is a lot trickier. They are essentially in an arms race to compete with other schools in providing the facilities that will entice student athletes to attend their university (so that they can leverage their monopoly on the students to exploit their talents). If they are successful, then other student athletes get a free ride, and other students get good sporting amenities. If not, then the students might pick up the slack (paying more in fees) or other student athletics get cut. Again, I’m not sure if the UW will be successful or not, but I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on it working out great for everyone. The vast majority of the money did not come from private donors, but came from bonds. For the sake of the university athletic department (and the university, and the state) let’s hope that football remains popular, otherwise people will look back at the decision to rebuild as a big mistake.

        * One of the arguments for a new football stadium was that it would natural grass, which would entice the new, so called, Major League Soccer to give us a new team. It turns out that wasn’t necessary.

      7. I don’t know how many Seahawks fans know this, but the reason why MetLife stadium was awarded the superbowl last year was do to the fact that the Giants & Jets payed for the stadiums construction & no public money was used. Meanwhile the bonds that went to pay for the original Giant stadium in 1976 are still being paid for according to the NYT.

        One of the most interesting sidebars to MetLife is the redevelopment of the Medowlands including a giant shopping & entertainment complex “American Dream” adjacent to the stadium. The stories on this are legendary & have risen beyond the point of ridiculousness. You’ll find the coverage at http://www.northjersey.com AKA the Bergen Reccord.

    2. I was wondering about the Santa Clara statdium too, because I was there when it was under construction. Is it well used? Does it have any events besides football?

      My first impression was it’s a horrible suburban place for a stadium. My second impression was it may be the best location outside of downtowns because a several transit modes converge there. VTA light rail goes to SJ, south SJ, Mountain View, and Milpitas. Amtrak goes to SJ, Oakland, and Sacramento. ACE goes somehere in the eastern hinterlands. Buses go to west SJ and Santa Clara. Caltrain has indirect access via Mountain View, and BART via the Great America bus and future Milpitas station.

    3. Sean made the comment that with 2 stadiums both the Mariners and Seahawks can play at home on the same day and that is not true. There is an agreement with the city that the 2 teams cannot play at home on the same day unless there is at least 4 hours between the end of one event and the start of the next event at the stadiums. And with national television requirements it is doubtful that the 2 teams can meet the 4 hours requirement. The agreement also has the Mariners requesting from major league baseball that 2 Sundays be kept open so that the Seahawks can play at home on those days and with the Mariners playing on the road.

      There have been occasions when the Mariners and Sounders have played at home on the same day but one team would play in the afternoon and the other one at night. On rare occasions those 2 teams have played at the same time but with the Sounders only using half the capacity of CenturyLink Field combined with the attendance at the Mariners game was equivalent to a full house for a Seahawks game. .

      1. I didn’t know that rule existed, thanks for the correction.

        Didn’t mean to fumble there – is coach Pete Carrol going to bench me?

  2. In the downtown stadium story, the picture of the interior of CenturyLink was taken by STB reader and Seattle Subway member Tiffany. There was a game last year where my wife couldn’t make it and Tiffany lives DT so it was easy for her to come last minute. The picture is taken from my seats, 121 LL 8-9.

    How weird is that?

  3. Strictly speaking, stadiums are an inefficient use of land. But presuming that sports are going to happen (this is America, after all), I’d much rather have the stadium located in a transit-accessible, central location in the urban core rather than in an edge suburb. At least for CenturyLink, development is actually shrinking the stadium footprint.

    As far as utilization, most developments are not used anywhere close to 24/7/365. I guess jails (24/7 occupancy) and gas stations (high sales per square foot), for example, would qualify as very high utilization development but they don’t generate the kind of density that sustains cities.

    Obviously people can only be in one place at a time so 100% residential utilization is impossible, but I’m home less than 40% of the time, mostly sleeping. Office buildings are worse (best case, they are used 1/2 of ~260 days/year and daytime only). Only 2-3 shift industrial plants are close to fully-utilized and nobody wants to live by them.

    The same low-utilization criticism can be levied against the Convention Center, Benaroya Hall, the Central Library, museums, churches, and schools. Even bars & clubs are only busy ~20 hours/week.

    1. I think our professional stadia are pretty good by national standards, being on the periphery of the core, transit accessible, and without the massive adjacent parking craters you see elsewhere. Stadia are really more of a problem when they displace the potential for badly needed dense housing, like (cough cough) Husky Stadium. Hundreds or thousands of people have to commute further because a prime piece of university land has been taken for 7-8 Saturdays of football and tailgating every year. At least with CLink you have dual-use, and with Safeco you have a guarantee of 81 days of use per year.

      1. One of the writers for the Seattle Times made a very good case for the Husky football team playing its games at Seahawk Stadium. This was a sports writer, by the way. A guy who is well aware of the nostalgia and charm of Husky Stadium. But even he thought expanding there was nuts, when the area could obviously be used for better purposes (like expanding the hospital).

        As I said above, the one argument for having the Stadium on (or close to) campus is the fact that so many of the fans (and participants) can walk to the game. Mass transit is great, but if half your fans (30,000 people or so) can walk back home after a game instead of trying to get on a bus (or train) it is better. To me, that argument doesn’t outweigh the other one, which is that it was a huge waste of money. But the UW sports department believes that football can carry the rest of the sports, and is putting all their eggs in that basket. I personally don’t believe that (and I think T. V. is far more important than gate revenue) but I’m more of a basketball fan myself.

      2. The UW has a lot of lighly-used sports fields, actually, more than I remember when I was a student. There are dedicated fields for football practice (2, actually, with the indoors one), softball, baseball, soccer, and track plus a golf driving range and a bunch of tennis courts. Only Hec Ed is truly multipurpose and even it is only booked ~60 nights/year for sports.

        Don’t get me started on cemeteries, though. We have acres of prime real estate in the middle of the city that are used for absolutely nothing, in perpetuity.

      3. @Gordon — So far as I know, Husky Stadium isn’t used for much, other than what you mentioned. They removed the track, so track and field moved indoors. I think there is the occasional intramural type activity in there, but that doesn’t involve fans (I’ve played soccer there once). Speaking of soccer, there is a separate soccer stadium. At least the soccer stadium is used for two sports (men’s and women’s soccer). Hec Ed is used by men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and women’s gymnastics (the UW doesn’t have a men’s volleyball or gymnastics team).

        The stadium could certainly host other events, but with two other stadiums in the city, and the Tacoma Dome not that far away, it has trouble competing. When it had a track it could host big track events — I think it hosted the Goodwill games once — but now that distinction is gone. In general, that part of the campus is a huge waste. At best you could consider it part of general parkland, but most of it is boring. Walking through upper campus is a lot more interesting (interesting buildings, interesting plants, art, etc.). The best part of lower campus is the waterfront — but that is the one part of the area they really can’t mess up (OK, they could mess it up by denying access). The little ponds on the NE end are pretty nice (as a park) but nothing like what is in the other direction, across the ship canal (the arboretum). Because of the big structures, it is difficult to walk through (unlike upper campus). You can skirt the edges (via the waterfront or the street) but you can’t easily walk through. It’s obvious that it was designed with cars in mind and that is really a big mistake.

        Which leads me to my last point. It is easy to look at the stadium as a waste, or all of the fields as a waste, or the parking for the stadium (right next to the new train station) as a waste. But if you look at the area as whole, the parking for the intramural area is the mother of all wastes. That thing is enormous. It dwarfs everything else in the area. Hopefully someday they will build something (anything) there.

      4. I recall that the intramural parking lot is unsuitable for building—it’s either a filled-in swamp, or a Superfund site, or both.

      5. @Kyle — Good point. It wouldn’t surprise me if it is all landfill (much of that area was). But then again, somehow they built Husky Stadium, so I’m not sure what the issue is.

        Even if you can’t build there, you can make better use of the land then a parking lot. Just make it a park. It is not an area that needs a park (since there is plenty of parkland nearby) nor does it need a big pathway (since the Burke Gilman is across the street) but maybe a “northern arboretum” would work or a sculpture park.

    2. Then we have the Moda Center (this year’s name for the arena where the Portland Trailblazers play). Seriously? A vast windowless structure that could just as easily be shoved underground and serve all its intended uses, and have something useful on top that needs windows?

    3. With a wider span of operating hours, users representing a broader cross-section of the population, and a more consistent stream of people crossing its thresholds in both directions at all hours than any other non-retail building you could fathom, public or private, I have a hard time imagining why you would include the Central Library on your “low utilizations” list. It is anything but.

      Similarly, a mid-sized convention center that is well run, consistently booked, and integrated into the shared civic spaces that constitute a multiplicitous urban core evades any charges of underutilization. It is only when tunnel-visioned bureaucrats attempt to wholly commandeer multi-block swaths of the center city, in pursuit of the kind of mega-conventions that come more rarely than football games, that the charge is apt.

      1. The Central Library is used, but it very badly underuses the land it sits on. It could easily fill the bottom floors of a large office or residential building. Instead we used an entire city block in the most valuable part of the city for the library and nothing else.

        As for the convention center, it does get a lot of visitors (412k visitors in 2013) but that works out to an average of only 8,000 visitors/week. That isn’t particularly impressive considering the amount of land it sits on. The attendance is a lot less than either stadium hosts in a given year. But that’s just scratching the surface.

        WSCC isn’t actually profitable without a $57MM hotel tax subsidy. It pays no property taxes on some very valuable land ($134MM worth according to its 2013 financial statements). And all of the economic activity it “generates” presupposes that those full hotel rooms wouldn’t get filled with other non-convention visitors. That may be true in February, but not in July. It also certainly ignores the opportunity cost of using that land for a convention center instead of high-density residential. Bottom line – convention centers are a poor business model, which is why private companies don’t build them.

      2. I most strongly agree with your paragraph on the hotel tax and the economic activity that is displaced rather than generated, which is why I’m so adamant that the plan to expand the convention center into a 7-block behemoth is a boondoggle and an apotheosis of terrible urbanism.

        The mid-sized center we have now, though, is comparatively well-used, including in the off-season. Hopefully the additional downtown hotel capacity about to come online will alleviate the displacement it sometimes causes in the summer. I would tend to agree with you that the entire convention industry belongs to the “useless bullshit” sector of modern Capitalism, but as long as it continues to exist, I’d rather it commune with the bustling downtowns of engaging cities than be relegated to fortresses on the far fringes of downtown Chicago or occupying a paved-over swamp in Kissimmee, Florida.

        (The current WSCC could stand to commune better with the city, of course, and probably would if downtown in general were less pedestrian-hostile and worth wandering on foot past the Cheesecake Factory/Fox Sports Grill Suburban Visitor Entrapment Zone.)

        Re: your reservations about the library… Meh. Not every inch of downtown needs to be a skyscraper. In fact, the best ones aren’t, and most of the ones that are become Weekday Professional monocultures (this includes the tallest parts of our own).

        The problem — like most of Seattle’s real problems — is that our “central urbanized area” is so limited in scale and scope that anyone could be inspired to lament a well-used and iconic public amenity taking up a single block.

        Do you think anyone in Vancouver regrets the (much larger) block devoted to its art museum? Or the flagship public libraries in Boston and New York, two of the greatest public buildings in the Western Hemisphere, both on footprints much larger than ours and neither with towers above them? No! Because all of those cities have a whole lot more city than we do, so not every block must be furiously code-maximized.

        Calling the library “wasteful” because it isn’t an anonymous cubicle monolith betrays a stunningly limited understanding of what cities are for.

        (Besides, if you really wanted to go after wasted space, you’d look right across the street at the branch courthouse of the 9th Circuit, occupying a tiny footprint on an otherwise-abandoned block, and which only so much as turns the lights on about 2 weeks per year.)

      3. At least Seattle isn’t stuck with two such vast wastes of space, along with a publicly subsidized convention center hotel.

      4. ““useless bullshit” sector of modern Capitalism”

        The article is blind to the real problem. The reason people are working more than 15 hours a week is to avoid homelessness and starvation. You need $5400 to live decently in Seattle (the point at which you can rent a $1500 apartment), and you’re not going to get that working 15 hours a week. In order to move beyond the treadmill, society has to move beyond the point that people have to work just for basic food and shelter and public transit. The people creating bullshit jobs think they’re worthwile; the people calling them bullshit really have no idea which ones are needed or not; and the workers are just there for a paycheck.

        What keeps economists and the Fed up at night is worrying about what will happen if these tons of jobs actually do become obsolete to automation as predicted. There’s a gap between the mass unemployment and the utopia when the machines are producing everything for free. Piketty has some interesting things to say, namely that a “career job” is only 150 years old. Before that the masses worked for bread, and the aristocracy made more more on invstments (rent and government bonds) than they ever could by working. He points to some early 19th-century novels where upwardly-mobile men considered being a lawyer or banker but it still wouldn’t get them more than a mediocre life, and it would waste time from finding an heiress to marry that would make him several times richer. Now in the 20th-21st century the richest men are self-made, but he thinks that era is coming to an end, both because entrepreneurship/CEOness won’t pay so much and because the children of the Forbes 400 will be heirs. The New Deal and labor laws and such were to mitigate the worst problems of capitalism, and if mass unemployment becomes the norm it’s hard to see how such things won’t eventually be extended — eventually reaching a point where people don’t have to work, and where working brings in so little it’s laughable to do so, like our 18th-century non-lawyer.

        One of the reasons for raising the minimum wage is, what’s the public good of people working full time but they’re still on food stamps or working a second or third job? Are jobs that pay so little really worth existing? And if tons of jobs become obsolete, won’t that put more and more jobs into that category?

    4. There’s space above and around the stadium buildings that could have been used for other purposes. Developers have put big-box stores inside larger buildings; why not stadiums too?

      The Montlake parking lot is on top of a landfill, or what would be called a toxic waste dump now, so it would be expensive to clean up for other uses.

      1. Come to think of it, I’m seeing a lot of “12”s around town, including on swank new apartment buildings. I have to think at least a few of those people would be interested in a unit right at their favorite team’s stadium. Of course it would be a noisy environment around game times — but these people would be part of the noise anyway.

    5. Stadiums may be an inefficient use of land, but they’re great arguments for good transit. Transit is about maximizing land use value by increasing capacity. Sporting events, precisely because they happen rarely but bring huge numbers of people to a small area, come with huge capacity problems, especially in parking (think about it – how did tailgating come to exist, and get the name?).

      They’re also a great introduction to mass transit for a broad section of society. An overcrowded bus on the way to work? Pain in the ass. An overcrowded bus full of fellow amped up fans, everybody in you’re home team’s colors and regalia? Awesome!

      Our urban stadiums, much as I don’t personally like sports or think the associated public subsidies make any sense, are located exactly where they should be. When Link reaches the northern and easter suburbs, too, it will be THE way to get to games. And unlike so many stadiums, providing service does not mean a distracting dead-end line to nowhere, every other day of the year.

      1. When the new Yankee stadium was built, it was assumed that most fans would be driving from Westchester County or New Jersey. Truth is the privately operated garages with there backed bonds mostly went broke as most customers used public transit. The numbers even surprised the heads at the MTA especially those at Metro-North.

      1. Yeah, first they go after her insurance, then they go after the city’s insurance. I doubt they would go after her, just because she probably doesn’t have that much money. On the other hand, the city will probably settle, because at some point, it isn’t worth the risk or the attorney fees.

        I’m no fan of Clark, but in this case, I am very sympathetic. Lots of bikers drive, and plenty of them get in close calls, or end up hitting bikes. It sucks, which is why it is important to keep pushing for safer streets for everyone. From what I know of her record, Clark has been solid in this regard.

    1. Speaking of Kinkisharyo…
      Sound Transit has enough LRV’s for service from UW – Angle Lake… but when will a new order need to be placed? Does the extension to Northgate warrant the purchase additional LRV’s… or will Sound Transit be able to stretch the fleet until East Link goes into service?

      1. I believe there is budget for some LRVs in Northgate Link. They’ll probably wait until closer to the service date so they can piggyback an order for East Link and Lynwood Link.

        They also need someplace to put the new LRVs, so they’ll need to coordinate the delivery schedule with an expansion of the OMF and building of the OMSF.

  4. In addition to the downtown amazon numbers, I have heard multiple rumors of amazon acquiring land in Ballard.

    Just thought you folks might like to know ;)

    1. If they want an alley vacation in Ballard or something, maybe we could ask for a small contribution to the public good? Maybe a $250m contribution to expedite Ballard Link? ;)

    2. Where? The office building that will replace the gas station and Burger King at 15th and Market? I find this rumor a bit suspect.

    3. I think they have some office space near 15th and leary. IIRC, there was an article in one of the local business journals

    4. No city’s economy has ever gotten itself into trouble by overreliance on a single corporate entity with suspect business practices and questionable adaptability!

      1. Well, if they collapse, at least they will leave a lot of cheap office space in their wake. This is much better than Boeing, which may well leave us with unused factories, an airport that divides the southern end of the city (which I would argue should be removed) and a few quaint office buildings. Microsoft, meanwhile, may leave us with a huge, sprawling set of suburban offices. At least Amazon is building in the city, so I really don’t see a problem with that. Their bubble may pop, but as long as the state keeps investing in the UW, I figure we will be OK with whatever is left behind. At worst you could simply convert the offices to housing.

    5. 71,000 for Amazon. In 1990 they were saying 50,000 was the entire city center population (Uptown to First Hill).

    6. I probably missed it somewhere, but has there been an official declaration by Amazon that all of these building projects will be used only by Amazon, and that none of the new space will be leased out to other tech firms or similar companies?

  5. The article about the new hotel mentioned the monorail, which got me thinking. With Link poised to get the U-District (and then soon after Northgate and Bellevue) I could easily see the monorail becoming a lot more popular. Take a train to Westlake and transfer to the monorail for the Seattle Center event. This brought up many questions:

    1) Why doesn’t the monorail take ORCA. I know it isn’t a huge hassle to buy the ticket at the counter, but that seems silly. Ideally you would have a discounted, if not free ride when you transfer as well.

    2) The monorail seems to go every ten minutes. Can it go more often?

    3) Why doesn’t Google consider this “transit”. I doubt anyone can answer this one (unless they work for Google and on the Google Maps team) but it is strange to me. It may not show up on “Get Directions” because the monorail folks never added an API, but it seems like you could screen scrape to figure out when it is actually open or not. It seems to me like Google Maps should at least add the route (with a link to the schedule) on the “transit” layer of their map.

    It is easy to see the monorail as a “toy”, like a Ferris Wheel or the Space Needle, but it is a useful piece of transportation. Just because riding a ferry is fun doesn’t make it any less useful. In the case of the monorail, it is by far the fastest way to get from Westlake to the middle of the Seattle Center. Yet I know a lot of people don’t know about it. I talked to a guy who was from out of town and rode the train into downtown. Then he walked to his place close to the center. He complained about the lack of rail to the area (after all, Seattle is all about the Space Needle). He should probably have taken a bus, but when I asked if he considered taking the monorail, he had no idea what I was talking about.

    1. I know it isn’t a huge hassle to buy the ticket at the counter

      Au contraire, buying a ticket requires finding cash first, which I almost never have. If the choice is between going to a BECU ATM 6 blocks away to buy a cash ticket for the monorail vs taking a 1/2/3/4/13/D for free with my employer paid pass, I’ll choose the slower bus or just walk, every time.

      1. This is what privately operated transit looks like.

        The merchant fees per transaction for credit cards are too high to make much money on this type of thing, so credit cards aren’t taken. ORCA is probably the same way: too much money expended on the infrastructure for too little remaining income.

        It’s unfortunate, but if the primary motive is operating for a profit, then to maximize the profit it usually means hitting a spot other than maximum ridership.

      2. Yup. But it’s city-owned. And it’s so much faster than the Denny/Broad crawl. And it has oodles of excess capacity.

        That it has never been seriously considered as an option for the holders of existing monthly fare products — a demographic likely to be 99% mutually exclusive from its current tourists-and-suburban-family-daytrippers ridership base — is actually a bit concerning.

      3. I’m not a fan of having to go through a food court (or getting lost in staircases / Seattle Center) to access transit. Still, if it were free with employer ORCA, I might take it more and get lost less.

        I don’t quite understand how not taking credit cards helps them maximize profit. As it is, the monorail has so much excess capacity — wouldn’t taking cards let them increase revenue without any increase in expense?

      4. I can only speculate on the credit card thing. Small restaurants and bars take credit cards because they need the business. If I walk into a bar and it has a sign saying “cash only”, I may check my wallet and do exactly what Zach said. I’ll walk to the bar next door. But some really successful bars and restaurants are “cash only”. They figure you are there mainly for them, and aren’t worried about the business.

        Judging by these comments and the capacity, it is obvious that the monorail is not as successful as they could be. They shouldn’t feel like they are the “hot restaurant”, but they do. They feel like they are a destination, rather than a means of transport. If I get in line for the Space Needle and see a sign saying “cash only” then I will scramble around and find cash. Basically, the city treats the monorail like an amusement ride, and assumes that the only reason one would ride it is because “it’s fun”. This is wrong, and it hurts everyone. We are wasting a lot of capacity on an area that doesn’t have a lot of excess bus capacity. It would benefit everyone if Zach rode the monorail, instead of riding the bus.

        Even for the tourist, this is less than ideal. A lot of people want to check out the Seattle Center once in a while. It makes sense to take the bus (or train) into downtown, then ride the monorail back and forth. But that is basically three trips, all of them separate, and thus the whole thing is costly. So a lot of people won’t hassle with the monorail (for the reasons mentioned) and will only visit the Seattle Center. These people will probably drive, especially if they are coming from the north. When Link comes to Northgate, the north end visitor would have a much better, much more interesting and much more fun trip on public transit. But unless the rules change, some of these visitors will still drive. That is nuts.

      5. It’s owned by the city, but the operator is a private corporation. The company and the city split the profits.

        I’m not saying it is best, but it’s what makes a profit.

        How often would you use the monorail if the price for using a card were $0.50 more? That’s what one of the convenience stores near me charges. Another charges that if the total charged is less than $8.

      6. Of course for those that cash, but don’t have passes or transfers, the Monorail is actually 25 cents cheaper than a Metro bus. Soon to increase to 50 cents in a few months.

    2. I totally understand why the private Seattle Monorail Services doesn’t want to accept the Puget Pass that most of us have loaded onto our ORCA cards. I don’t expect that to happen.

      What I don’t get is why they can’t deduct fares (with no discount) from the ePurse on ORCA, like Washington State Ferries?

      I realize there are likely some administrative costs to accepting ORCA and the monorail would need to buy the handheld ORCA readers (like the ones used by the King County Water Taxi and fare inspectors), but I would think the increase in passengers should cover those costs in the long run.

      Maybe ORCA acceptance needs to be written as a requirement into the next operating contract issued by the City of Seattle.

      1. Maybe the City of Seattle should consider leveraging its wholly-owned resources for the public good, especially when so much of Metro’s core network beneath is detrimentally impacted by bunching conditions (and routing choices) partially related to demand for the very trip that this underutilized one-mile shuttle mirrors.

      2. Yeah, what d.p. said, especially when the city is spending millions on bus service, and millions on a streetcar and for all we know, a lot of these changes would actually be revenue neutral, if not make us money. The city should just should treat a ride on the monorail like it does with the streetcar. You can use your ORCA card, and transfers are accepted. Not only is this an underutilized form of public transportation, but it serves two key areas that are extremely important for Seattle — our downtown, and our publicly owned Seattle Center. Why, in ten years, the city would make it much easier and cheaper for someone to get from Northgate to Bellevue Square instead of Northgate to the Seattle Center is beyond me. I’m guessing they really haven’t thought about it. Like the guy I met in the bar, they forgot about the monorail (or didn’t know it existed), even though it is right there, across the street from our most popular station (Westlake).

        Another argument for getting the most out of the monorail is that it reduces the desire for light rail to Ballard to do the same. A stop a couple blocks from the Seattle Center compliments the monorail really well. The light rail serves the neighborhood, while the monorail serves the Seattle Center. Trips to the center are similar to trips to the ball park — they aren’t commuting, and their tend to be big spikes in attendance (Folklife, Bumbershoot, etc.). If you aren’t commuting, then the connection from Westlake to the monorail isn’t that big of a deal, especially if you know that there is a huge crowd, which means that driving isn’t a decent alternative.

      3. The City has a contract with the private operator of the Monorail. At the end of the contract term, the City can require whatever improvements it wants for renewal.

        Integrating the Monorail into Orca is a no brainer. It needs to be done. The monorail could operate at 3 minute frequencies, if capacity required it. The City needs to require these the next time around – and use some SDOT budget to subsidize operations if required.

        P.S. WIth Orca fare integration, I would jump the cash fare up to “tourist gouging” level to offset the cost impact of accepting Puget Passes.

      4. Turns out the Seattle City Council Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Equity Committee will consider a a ten year concession agreement with Seattle Monorail Services for operation, maintenance, marketing, and administration of the Monorail System on Tuesday.

        Here’s the agenda item: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/meetingrecords/2014/parks20141202_4a.pdf

        If you have any suggestions that you want considered before the agreement is sent to the full council, I suggest contacting the councilmembers on the committee (Godden, Harrell and Rasmussen).

      5. And it appears the intention is to perpetuate the status quo (the monorail will abstain from any participation in the mass transit system for the benefit of Seattle residents) for another ten years, and possibly twenty.

        Drat.

      6. Yup. Small income trumps long term public benefit, and possibly significant savings in other transit forms.

        Which is unfortunate as it could be useful for a lot of people. Extending it to Ballard could be far more economical than digging a subway tunnel. They can climb fairly steep hills so a bridge over the canal no longer is out of the question.

        Or, figure out how to extend it south, so there is an alternative north-south mode beyond the transit tunnel, and maybe you can wait a few years before digging the second tunnel.

        Not to support the past monorail proposals or anything, but it already connects two pretty heavily served areas and thus could become a pretty nice link in the transit system, of it were thought of that way.

      7. Thanks Ricky. So, I want to get involved, and I want to push the council to treat the monorail fare just like it treats the streetcar. That is a pretty simple proposal, and I think with enough publicity, we could get plenty of people to write the council. I read your link, but it doesn’t look like a meeting agenda as much as a proposal. Do you know more about the process, and how this legislation will be pushed forward? If it isn’t too late, I think we can get this changed, just because what we are asking for is so simple. One sentence, really:

        Have the monorail accept ORCA cards, just as the streetcar does.

        That’s it. Here is what the streetcar fare is: http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/slu.htm#orca
        Other than the specific pricing, this is what I want for the monorail. It is even better for the monorail than for the streetcar. Keep the ticket booths, and issue tickets, but otherwise, the ORCA card works just like it does on the streetcar.

        Adding ORCA support for the monorail should be fairly easy, from a practical and legislative standpoint. It could simply be an amendment added to the agreement (which is otherwise fine by me). I would like to write a Page 2 post, which would hopefully be elevated to full STB status (or someone at STB could write one). I would also like to contact Keith Kyle, at Seattle Subway, as I’m sure he would like this. They have a very extensive set of email addresses, so the message would reach a lot of people. With any luck, The Stranger or The Seattle Times could address the issue. But before I write something, I would like to know more about the process. At worst I can simply ask anyone to write the council members you mentioned, but it would be helpful if I knew more (are they going to meet to discuss this? Is the meeting public?, etc.).

        @Chad — “The monorail could operate at 3 minute frequencies, if capacity required it.”

        Holy Sh**, Really! Wow! I didn’t realize that. I had no idea what the thing was capable of (from a technical standpoint) but that is incredible. Nothing in our system is capable of that. No bus, no train, no streetcar, nothing. An express, grade separated line from downtown to the Seattle Center every three minutes is fantastic. There are definite flaws with the system in how it integrates with the neighborhood and other transit, but that kind of performance can more than make up for that. Meanwhile, for those who actually going to the Center (as opposed to the populous and growing neighborhood that surrounds it) there is nothing close.

      8. If the Monorail took my Orca pass, I would use it not only to get to Seattle Center, but all over Queen Anne. Even upper Queen Anne is a nice stairclimb from the Seattle Center, while Belltown is not as interesting to walk through and involves a lot more waiting at stoplights.

      9. Not that again, Glenn. You shouldn’t go there; we shouldn’t go there; this thread shouldn’t go there.

        The moment you extend or revise or alter the monorail even one iota, you’re looking at the costs of upgrading its antiquated structures and systems. It isn’t easy and it isn’t cheap. It isn’t even slim and sleek. The Seattle Monorail Project failed mostly because it started from the same misplaced cost assumption that you just did.

        As it exists, the monorail is a slightly absurdly routed vestigial oddity, which happens to connect downtown to the node a mile north, along an not-perfect-but-sorta-close-enough parallel route to the overtaxed 3rd Ave corridor, and happens to do it with a speed and ease that would make it worth integrating with existing transit, at least for regular transit users (i.e. holders of ORCA monthlies).

        It isn’t the start of something greater. That ship has sunk.

      10. I just want to reiterate a couple of points:
        * The Monorail is publicly owned… but it’s privately run by Seattle Monorail Services.
        * The Monorail makes a profit.
        * Seattle Monorail Services pays the City of Seattle a fee to run the monorail. Under this contract they pay the greater of $550,000 per year or 2/3 of net operating income. Seattle Monorail Services keeps the rest.
        * If there is a problem (say another crash) and the company earns no money, they still have to pay. They bear all the risk in this arrangement.

        Even if it served the common good, allowing pass riders would likely cut into that profit… and hurt Seattle Monorail Services (a local small business). That would likely necessitate a change where Seattle pays Seattle Monorail Services a fee to run the monorail.

        That being said… I think the Monorail should accept ORCA… but in the same way WSF does:
        No puget pass, no employer passes, just ePurse.

        Also, I sent an email to the general manager… he said they are looking into “electronic fare collection” and hope to start accepting credit cards by next summer. But, he seemed pessimistic about accepting ORCA since they are a private, for-profit company.

      11. It would be really interesting to know just how much the ORCA card readers cost. It shouldn’t be that much, but since the system is now owned by Cubic they can probably charge new agencies that are added to the system whatever Cubic wants to charge.

        On the other hand, there might be an extra portable card reader or two out there. If I remember right, SoundRunner (the ferry briefly operated by the Port of Kingston) would accept ORCA. If they haven’t sold the readers to someone else by now that might be a good solution without having to get new readers from Cubic.

        About that 3 minute frequency: It takes about 2 minutes for a monorail train to go from one end of the line to the other, so there is 4 minutes per round trip. Boarding and detraining might take another 30 seconds or so at each end if it is well organized. So, there is 6 minutes per round trip, and with two trains that is one trip every 3 minutes.

        The problem is that I’m not sure how easy it would be to actually accomplish that 30 seconds or so turnaround at the Westlake end with the way it has been rebuilt. There isn’t a platform for the track on the east side, so they have to use extenders that reach across the track on the west side to get to the train on the east track. The walkways to do this are narrow, so there is a bit of platform congestion due to what is essentially turning the car doorways into 10 foot long hallways of the same width. If integrating it into the rest of the transit network makes it popular enough, it will be necessary to consider reworking how that whole south platform area works.

        The good news is that the Seattle Center station is extremely well designed, and with a little effort could probably turn trains around in a very brief time. It’s set up so that there is a middle platform that serves both trains, and two side platform that serves the other side of the trains. If you really want to see how fast people can board and detrain, this is the arrangement to have. The way this is done at places such as Sé on the São Paulo metro (which can see several hundred thousand passengers per day) is that the doors on the middle platform would open first so that exiting passengers would start to deboard. Several seconds later the doors on the boarding platform side open an the train only boards from the one side. It sounds like a fairly simple thing to do and that it would not really help that much, but the times that I have been through Sé I was extremely impressed with the sheer volume of passengers they run through there, and their primary means of getting such fast boarding and detraining seems to be based around eliminating traffic flow conflicts by those detraining and those boarding.

      12. @Ricky — Thanks for the information. I want to be clear. I am not suggesting that “the small local business” absorb the entire cost of ORCA. I am suggesting that it be negotiated with them. That may mean the city pays for all of the cost, or that the cost is split between the city and county (like the streetcar). Depending on how the deal is negotiated, it might not cost the city (or county) much money at all.

        The fact that it makes money for the city is nice to know, but not a huge concern, in my book. The agreement removes any risk for the city, but limits the reward and the value of the system to the public. Imagine if Link was run that way. Once the construction is complete we could just hand it over to some company that runs it, maintains it, and then we don’t have to worry about it breaking down. My guess is that fares to the airport would be a lot higher, the park and rides would be a lot bigger, and there would be a lot fewer riders. The monorail is owned by the city. It is less than ideal (for various reasons) but as a stand alone system, I figure it is worth around a billion dollars (give or take a few hundred million). Cost should be a consideration, but as in all similar cases, it should only be one consideration.

        I agree that your suggestion would be a significant improvement, but I still think we should go the whole way with this. Riding the monorail should not be significantly different than riding the streetcar. I know a lot of other people feel the same way. I’m just not sure how I should contact my representatives, which is why I want to know more about the legislative process you mentioned. I can’t find anything about the meeting you mentioned, which is supposed to occur Tuesday. I also don’t know exactly how to word a letter. I have no problem muddling along (and will muddle just fine, personally) but if I write something on Page 2 (or someone else writes something) it would be really nice if we get our details straight.

        Also, if this ten year agreement has not been reached yet, then I think we can bargain from a position of strength. We should consider operating it like we do the streetcar. Maybe not exactly like it, but similar. With the streetcar, Metro contributes 75% of the operating costs, net of farebox revenue, and we pay the rest. I wouldn’t mind if the city pays more. I also wouldn’t mind contracting with this company to do the maintenance (rather than the county). But I’m not sure if the current setup (they take all the profits, but absorb all the risks) makes sense for a transportation project. It makes sense for something like an amusement park (the old Fun Forest) or a private museum, but it doesn’t make sense for an important, valuable transportation option. I’m sure there is at least one member of the council probably wonders why it is we are letting a private company make money off of a public asset (even if we make a little money off of the deal).

      13. OK, I think I found the links myself (sorry it took me so long). So, basically, here is the meeting agenda for Tuesday for the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries, And Gender Pay Equity committee: http://tinyurl.com/lygu96j

        The fourth item on the agenda is the approval of the concession agreement, as summarized in that page, and described in more detail in the memo Ricky mentioned earlier (http://tinyurl.com/k2urw9e).

        So, basically, I will write the members of this board to ask them to attach an amendment to this agreement. I’m no lawyer, nor do I know how this process works. I’m assuming that after this board approves the deal, it goes to the full council, and they (along with the mayor) approve the deal. Can anyone confirm (or refute this)?

        Also, I would like to suggest a plan that is fair and reasonable for both sides. The simplest solution is the one Ricky suggested. We could simply mandate that they accept ORCA cards, and receive full compensation (full fare) for each use.

        But as I’ve said, I would like to go further. I would like ORCA on the monorail to be like ORCA on the streetcar, even though it is operated by a private company. This would mean that the city would need to compensate the company for each use. I think charging the city full fare for each ORCA use in this case is excessive (and hard on the city). Technically speaking, it is the county that would benefit as much as anyone from this increased use, anyway (since riders would otherwise take the county owned buses). This is why the streetcar model makes more sense (with the county paying 75% of the cost). But I think it is way too late for the city and county to try and figure out how to come to some sort of agreement (especially since the county is short of money). But if the city comes up with the full cost, what exactly is fair? A dollar for each ORCA user? If it is technically possible, then this would only apply to transfers and other “free” usage (otherwise the SMS gets the full fair). Does it make sense to come up with a pilot program?

        This brings me to the last point. Ten years is a long time if you haven’t even figured out how to integrate ORCA payment. It may be too late to come up with a solid plan (this should have been considered a long time ago). Again, I think this is because people think of the existing monorail as an amusement ride rather than an important, fairly high quality form of public transportation (which would explain why this is not part of the transportation committee). But either way, I would like to see an amendment added to this agreement that allows for full fledged ORCA use. Anyone else have any ideas? It would help if anyone who knew the council could comment on this.

        I’ll probably have something on Page 2 by the end of the weekend, but the more people comment here, the better that post will be.

      14. The legislative process for the City Council works like like most legislative bodies:
        A proposal is considered by a committee and voted on.
        If it’s passed out of committee, it goes to the full council for consideration and a vote.
        if it’s passed by the full council, it goes to the mayor who can sign it, allow it to go into law without signature, or veto it.

        So even if this proposal passes out of committee (it probably will), you still have plenty of time to contact (phone, email) your councilmember (assuming you’re a resident of Seattle) or the councilmembers on the committee.

        Now to your proposal… to accept passes would likely require the concession agreement be rewritten as a contract for operation, maintenance, marketing, and administration of the monorail. That would require a full restart of the process, including putting the contract back out to bid (a months long process) and money being found in the city or county budget to cover the operating deficit with taxpayer funds.

        I just don’t see that happening.

        I do think that you can lobby the committee to require that the Monorail investigate accepting ORCA ePurse. Passengers can use their ORCA card and the monorail still gets $2.25 from each passenger. Heck the monorail can even sell its separate $45 monthly passes on ORCA cards if they want.

        That’s the easiest way to bring the monorail into the ORCA system and won’t require any large spending of taxpayer funds.

      15. Thanks, Ricky. That is what I thought.

        I agree that the easiest thing to do is require Seattle Monorail Services to accept ORCA ePurse. But even that would require reworking the contract. But it wouldn’t cost either side much money, so there wouldn’t be much push back from either side.

        Another alternative is to simply shorten the contract. Ten years is a very long time. This makes sense if you are simply contracting out an ordinary service. But that isn’t the case here. The folks who drew up this contract left out an essential piece — they didn’t consider ORCA. If it is really too late to negotiate a fare system that is satisfactory, then we should adopt a short term contract now, then start negotiating a new (perhaps longer) one after we settle this important issue.

        The more I think about it, the more I would consider something like this: Setup an ORCA payment system and compensate SMS full fare if the user is charged full fare, and two dollars if not (e. g. for a transfer). Have this be an experimental two year system, which can then be renewed (or altered) after that. This seems like a big giveaway to this private company, but keep in mind that the current contract gives the city “the greater of 2/3 of net operating income or $550,000 per year”. So basically, if lots of people use ORCA cards, and lots of those people use it for free, we would end up getting close to two thirds of that subsidy back. This would mean it would cost us about 66 cents a rider (for those that get a free ride using ORCA).

        I keep going back to the streetcar, because the monorail is very much like the streetcar. Some view it as a toy, while others view it as a form of transportation. But either way there are easy, obvious alternative bus routes. Price the streetcar like you do the monorail and usage would plummet. I don’t see why we want to do that, nor do I see why we have set up that system with the monorail. I agree that the ePurse idea may be all that we can do at this late date, but I don’t think we should lock ourselves into a system that is so flawed.

      16. The lazy, institutional-inertia thinking encapsulated by Ricky above — it makes money as a tourist tilt-a-whirl, the city gets a (nominal) payout, opening it up as a useful asset to public mobility would eat away at that — is negated by two facts I have already repeatedly mentioned:

        1) The monorail has oodles of excess capacity, even at current frequencies, for about 359 out of 365 days per year.
        2) Current tourist/daytripper usage is mutually exclusive from any potential ORCA riders, especially those carrying monthly passes. These are precisely the people who are not willing to add significantly to their costs for the last mile, and who therefore avoid the present option even when it might be of use to them.

        We could open the monorail up to monthly passholders on a trial basis, and the current concessionaire would be unlikely to see a dime of current revenue lost.

        Brent makes this case even more thoroughly below.

      17. And Ricky,

        How many of those “monthly monorail passes” do they sell every month? Seven? Fifteen? Zero?

        They market it as a “park and ride” option, but it’s not like all-day parking is especially cheaper around the Seattle Center than in other peripheral parts of downtown, and it’s not like Mercer is an especially easier place to exit to the highway at the end of the day. And even if you lived right on the first blocks of the slope behind Roy, a monorail-only pass makes no sense unless you work within a couple blocks of Westlake.

        The “problem” of competing monthly passes seems like a massive red herring here.

  6. I love Metro’s drivers, I really do… but last night, on a crush loaded 255 going north on I-5 to 520, for some unfathomable reason (to me anyway), our driver decided to move from the rightmost lane into the next lane over and travel in that lane to 520. As all 520 commuters know, and all Metro drivers too I’d think, that 2nd lane over is backed up by I-5 North traffic while the rightmost lane flows freely onto 520. We sat there in that lane for what seemed like hours getting passed on the right by every ST 545 bus on the planet, along with the occasional 311, 252, and even some pedestrians I think.. maybe I was imagining them. WTF!!!

    OK, I feel better now. Thanks for listening. My trip in this morning was wonderful as usual.

  7. It should be rather concerning to the STB that Metro is getting this fine. It suggests that there are poor scheduling practices and layover strategies by Metro. I’m not sure if the scheduling department is just being lazy or what, but with real-time bus arrival information it should be readily apparent where problems exist. Are the schedulers too lazy to adjust the bus cards to more recent congestion data?

    1. The planners just reacted to the findings of the performance audit, as directed to do by the county council. Reduce layovers and you can tighten up the schedules and save money. Then pay out the money saved in fines.

    2. The problem is the cost-cutting measures caused by the anti-tax advocates and the audit they insisted on, as well as the the recession. Metro preserved bus service by squeezing layover time, and that led to these ultra-short rest periods, and even the remaining breaks get wiped out when a bus is late and the next run starts as soon as the bus reaches the last stop. Restoring layover time, and padding the schedule enough to accomodate average delays, will cost money that will have to come from bus service or other funds (which have also been squeezed).

      1. Question for you. Mike. What do you think would be the best thing for the County Council to do if Labor and Industries, or some court, orders them to give their drivers the bathroom breaks they need to preserve their health?

        Or if their own Risk Management people tell them that the cost of multiple disabilities from kidney disease is going to make their rates knock the moon out of orbit?

        This is a serious question that I think STB readership is as qualified to answer as any consultant. And this civic contribution might save them enough money that transit can have both healthy work-force and unspent consultants’ fees.

        Above discussion of the monorail needs to check out Wikipedia and whatever other sources they can find about the days when Metro Transit operators ran the service. Until 1994, when the City turned the monorail over to a private contractor.

        Anybody who wants the monorail to be taken seriously might start by returning it to public operation- and operating personnel. Whatever its faults as part of an extended system for citywide transit, the monorail serves an irreplaceable purpose as a horizontal elevator connecting two parts of Downtown Seattle.

        Of course, as the Gary Larson “Caveman Plumber” says as he checks out a hole and a forked stick holding a roll of toilet paper: “Ooh! This not be cheap!” A one way ride will show anyone the amount of repair the line needs for serious transit. When these changes are made, installing ORCA should be a snap.

        Mark Dublin

      2. The layover/bathroom scheduling problem, like so many ongoing Metro structural issues that cannot be fixed merely by pouring more money into a flawed network, is directly attributable to the fragmented routing structure and its resultant strains for reasonable frequency.

        When your system continues to be structured around innumerable one-seat sloggers with relatively low clock-face frequencies, you’re going to find yourself in a “too much or too little” layover conundrum on many of those routes. 10 minutes recovery time is way too little; 40 minutes on every run is way too much; our network is designed to eradicate the happy medium. And erring on the side of excess every time can bump the cost of even a basic coverage route by up to 50%.

        This is just yet another reason to pursue massive rationalizations and restructures, Prop 1 windfall and lazy stasis-oriented campaign pledges be damned. Cities whose networks are built around 5-to-10-minute core services and shorter feeders in less traffic-prone areas do not experience these problems. Redundancy on the service corridor and flexibility of driver scheduling are built into those networks.

        Don’t blame Metro or the auditors or even the anti-transit tightwads for this outcome. Blame the Route 2 crazies.

      3. Mark: I believe drivers should have adequate rest breaks, of course, and if it has to come out of the service hours, then it has to come out of the service hours.

      4. DP: clock-ignoring schedules are fine when headways are 15 minutes or less, but it’s a pain when buses are every 25 minutes or every 45 minutes, and you have to remember which hours they’re on the :15 and which hours they’re not. Or if you don’t know, you don’t take the bus at all, and then it’s both lost ridership and you having to find another way or foregoing the trip.

      5. Yup. Which is why the enemies of rationalization/restructures are the enemies of quality transit in Seattle.

        In any rationalized system, heavy-lifting core routes that run way more often than 4 times per hour, and that represent the bulk of all urban and core inter-suburban services, and that have plenty of inherent overlap redundancy for their operators, and that have actual stuff (with bathrooms) at the termini, would be absolute fucking no-brainers.

        Seattle: desperately clinging to worst-possible transit practices since 1973.

  8. I’ve been looking over the proposal for the Seattle Streetcar’s Center City Connector… and I have one big question… why the stop for the closest to the ferry dock is on 1st between Spring and Madison and not 1st between Marion and Madison?

    If the station was moved to 1st between Marion and Madison… passengers could cross directly from the median platform to the Colman Dock bridge in a “barn dance” walk phase. Also the Madison BRT project is proposed to run on Marion and Madison… so a station between those streets, would make transfers easier.

  9. Madison Street is probably the most important east-west corridor through and out of the Central Business District, and needs as effective transit as possible. But the term “Bus Rapid Transit” worries me.

    For instance, I’d like to know the steepest grade, and the narrowest corridor, that what’s now termed “BRT” has ever had to run. And as well as difficulties such as lane reservation, diversion to any parallel street will certainly complicate and slow down service.

    Recalling the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, I think our system is capable of designing the most efficient electric transit system humanly possible up and down that hill, and through the critical neighborhood.

    But as soon as possible, I would like to see a set of representative drawings accurate enough that actual working drawings can originate from them. And I’d like to see a permanent advisory group of Metro’s best engineers, and Atlantic Base operators and supervisors, and overhead design and installation crews start work before the first drawings are dry.

    If the Millenium means anything, it’s historically considered the beginning of a new state of affairs. For transit in Seattle, with all the spirit and imagination this particular project needs- it has to start in the real world.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I’m not sure if I would agree with your first sentence. I think Cherry or Yesler are more important, but Madison is still very important. As far as BRT goes, I think Wikipedia gives a very good definition. Just as light rail can be stuck in traffic, and operate just like a very slow streetcar, the same can be said for BRT. The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy surveyed a bunch of cites and their BRT systems (https://www.itdp.org/recapturing-global-leadership-in-bus-rapid-transit-a-survey-of-select-u-s-cities/). Some of them got a ranking of “Not BRT”. I’m not sure where our existing RapidRide would rank — I’m guessing somewhere between “bronze” and “Not BRT”.

      From a technical standpoint, I don’t think there is any difference between the capability of a regular bus or a BRT bus. I suppose that some of the BRT buses (those with more doors and level boarding) might be a bit different, but you could say that about one model bus and another. Either way, I don’t think that hill will be a problem in terms of steepness. That is one of the advantages of a BRT system over a rail system — it can handle the hills.

      1. I’m not sure where our existing RapidRide would rank — I’m guessing somewhere between “bronze” and “Not BRT”.

        The Washington Street portion of Boston’s Silver Line received a rating of “Not BRT”, on account of its lack of off-board payment and insufficient enforcement of its bus-only lanes.

        RapidRide has a multitude of not-even-stations along its routes, suffers significant delays from cash payment on account of weak smartcard adoption rates, and barely has any bus lanes in the first place.

        How do you think it ranks?

  10. A follow up from last weeks news round-up.

    I spotted the 88 year old metro operator who was assaulted a few weeks ago back in service tonight on his run on the 2/13.

  11. I saw a Sound Transit sign at the Bellevue Transit Center that said something like, “Something Out of Place? Call us. But call 911 if it’s an emergency.” Then it gave a phone number to call if you see something that’s “out of place.” Can anyone give me a few examples of what they’re talking about? What’s something that would be out of place or suspicious, that you would call Sound Transit about, but doesn’t rise to the level of calling 911?

    1. In Tel Aviv, if the driver finds, say, a little cloth bag on the rear seat, at his next terminal, he pulls the bus into a huge yard surrounded by cyclone fence, goes into a trailer and calls the bomb squad.

      An officer arrives in full armor, makes sure no one is withing 300 feet of the bus, and rigs a system of cords and pulleys to the stanchions by the door. He then attaches the object to the pulley, gets off, trails the cord out 300 feet and yanks it.

      Night I was there, the bag fell apart and some dirty children’s clothes scattered out. So what classes as suspicious, in countries engaged in a long-standing shooting war, like Israel, or very long-standing domestic terror, like Spain, is every single thing left on a bus.

      But this unarguable level of clear and present danger makes preventive measures a lot more routine and a lot less of a big deal than here. And people go around a lot less scared- largely because the facts of the situation leave ordinary people very clear about the the threat, and what do do about it.

      Everyone knows what to look out for, whom to alert, and how to stop bleeding and clear airways when the damn thing goes off.

      Fortunately the truth is also that we the American people are a lot less panicked than a lot of our politicians would like. Close-up reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing showed our real homeland security.

      As did the way our air traffic controllers landed a whole continental sky-full of jetliners without a scratch in 2001. With no orders from D.C., which probably saved many lives.
      And evidently, as did the passengers on Flight 93. And the way ordinary people generally automatically organize themselves to deal with an emergency on the street.

      The “Something Suspicious” warnings are worse than useless. Deliberately or not, they seek to generate free-floating fear among a population whose main terror-fighting need is some first-aid training and a lot more solid information all around. But like terror itself-in this country, for enough people, official scare tactics don’t work either.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I was going to say “my keys! I can’t find them anywhere. I usually put them by the door but there not there”, but I like your answer better. Well said.

    2. I’ve got one! A LINK train going all the way through the Tunnel without once getting stuck in the Tunnel behind fare collecting buses, and the blood chilling message: “The train is being held due to traffic ahead….”

      If that ever happens, everybody aboard will know they’re about to die in a place where they can’t text even an OMG! And then, survivors will find on their screens: “DLAD!” Referencing a canine way to go! Even worse when they add: “LOL!”

      MD

  12. Haven’t heard from the Bailoman for a while. I hope he’s all right. He will tell us when he moves to Yakima or Kennewick, won’t he?

  13. Sorry to be late to the monorail discussion. I would love to see the monorail transformed from a tourist curiosity into a public transit asset.

    I have to strenuously disagree with the assertion that integrating the monorail fares with ORCA, inter-agency transfers, and the PugetPass, would be a money-loser for the monorail. The vast majority of people who will take advantage of using ORCA on the monorail are currently *not* riding the monorail. The riders who start riding the monorail because their ORCA transfer or pass pays for it are essentially free money for the monorail, once a few ORCA reader installations are paid for.

    If the monorail adds ORCA readers, but does not integrate with PugetPass or transfers, nobody will use the ORCA option. So, money will have been spent on capital improvement, for no increase in ridership.

    I have to, simultaneously, discourage comparisons to the streetcar, which has been propping up ridership for years by letting anyone with an ORCA card ride for free. A more relevant comparison is the fares on Link, or on Metro buses, where fare is actually collected. But the listed fares are all in the same ballpark. I would simply match the monorail fare to the Metro off-peak fare, complete with low-income fare category, of course.

    The reasons to forestall a new 10-year concession contract, and instead grant maybe a 6-month extension, are:
    1) The monorail would serve a lot more people, including Seattle denizens, by integrating with the other transit agencies’ fare system.
    2) The monorail would turn a larger profit.
    3) It will take a little time to look at the feasibility of installing the readers and integrating the fares. Hence, an extension of a few months.

    Let’s not let haste cause us to lose the monoral as a public asset for another 10 or 20 years. We can reclaim the monorail for public use, and make a profit in the process.

    1. I agree, Brent, I am leaning this way too. I think simply extending the current contract with the current company for six months while this issue is resolved makes the most sense. It is simply too complicated to work itself out within a very short period of time. I independently wrote about this option above. Because we are dealing with a private company, the options are a lot more numerous.

      As to your other points, I agree with them, but maybe not to the same degree. Folks here have said that if they allowed ORCA ePurse, they would use it. These same people have said they avoid it because they don’t accept credit cards, either. But I would agree that the number of additional users is tiny in comparison to those that would use it if transfers or PugetPass applied.

      I kept comparing it to the streetcar because I assumed that ORCA cards were accepted, and worked much the way that bus fare did. I stand corrected. I own an ORCA card, but don’t have PugetPass, so I guess it is basically a free ride for me. Wow, I had no idea. I’ve never ridden the streetcar, now that I know it is free I might try it sometime.

      So yes, a better comparison is Link or any of the other transit systems (other than the ferries) that are served by ORCA. The fare as it stands right now is almost exactly the same as an off peak bus; exactly the same for regular fare, and within a quarter each way for reduced fares (http://metro.kingcounty.gov/fares/ and http://www.seattlemonorail.com/information/) so I think we are good there.

      Regardless of how ORCA is integrated (like the ferries or like a bus) it would increase ridership substantially. But compensating the private company that runs the monorail for the fare is not obvious. It isn’t clear to me if the increased ridership (from paying ORCA riders) would compensate for the free riders (those that have PugetPass or those that rode a bus first). It is quite possible that it would, or quite possible that the deal could be reworked so that it doesn’t matter. For example, if it costs the SMS a bit, then we can compensate them with a higher percentage of the revenues (10% versus 5%).

      The goal is obvious — to treat the monorail like Sound Transit, Metro Transit, or any of the other transit agencies. But the compensation and negotiation between the city, county and the SMS is not.

      1. One other minor point: While PugetPass and transfer riders might see themselves as riding the monorail free, the monorail would still get revenue for every ORCA tap, based on the same pro rata division other agencies use, of the PugetPass’ value divided by total ride values that rider took during that month, or however the e-purse revenue gets divided among multiple rides within a 2-hour window. I may not be describing the formulae quite right, but from the standpoint of the ORCA-accepting service, there is no such thing as a free ride.

        Granted, the monorail may be getting less than half the face value of a trip from a typical ORCA tapper, but it is still revenue the monorail was not otherwise going to get.

      2. Thanks Brett. I had no idea how the cross-agency system worked. I’m not sure if I understand the particulars, so let me throw out a couple examples:

        Joe Schmoe buys a monthly pass (PugetPass) for $50. He rides Sound Transit ten times and Metro ten times. Both agencies charge the same amount. At the end of the month, Sound Transit gets $25 and Metro gets $25

        Jane Schmoe buys a regular ORCA card with ePurse. She rides the Metro Bus one day, and then transfers to a Sound Transit bus. Both agencies charge the same amount. She gets charged $2.50 (for a single ride) but both agencies split that (each agency gets $1.25).

        If so, that makes a lot of sense. Even if I don’t have the formula just right, the agencies have already worked out a deal, so the Seattle Monorail Service company should just be another partnering agency. That makes a lot of sense and should simplify the negotiations. As you, and many others have said, it is quite likely that SMS would come out ahead. Very few people who currently ride the monorail have ORCA PugetPass or transfer from another bus. This is working out to be a lot simpler and a lot more beneficial for everyone than I thought.

    2. I could not possibly agree more.

      With the possible exception of Bumbershoot weekend, the idea that any locals who have already paid for their connecting transit are presently paying additional amounts to ride the monorail is fanciful. Today’s monorail ridership has zero overlap with public transit ridership.

      Integrating this public amenity with the rest of our transit network should not infringe on its profitability in the slightest.

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