4th & Battery (SDOT Photo)

4th & Battery (SDOT Photo)

This is an open thread.

77 Replies to “News Roundup: Seeing Red”

  1. The vessel tracker for the FHST story is kind of fun. As of 11:25 on 1/29 the cargo ship is just pulling in to the channel of the Savannah river. I guess the streetcar is going by rail the rest of the way?

    1. Update: Maybe not by rail – the Tiger has left Savannah and set course for Manzanillo on the west coast of Mexico. Might be continuing up to Seattle after all.

  2. I’d prefer it if there were just some sort of bus service from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge. Otherwise, you’d have to clear far too many trees.

  3. A hurricane ridge tram would be awesome. We do need a good tourist bus out to Port Angeles though to give it enough riders though…

    1. I would love to see a passenger only ferry from Seattle to Port Angeles. Then you could take public transportation downtown, get on a ferry, and be on top of Hurricane Ridge without ever dealing with a car. There aren’t many places in America where you can do that. I think that would be a big hit summer and winter. But Glenn is right, a bus from Port Angeles would work as well (although a tram would be a lot more fun).

  4. No more Route 2 misery. Spring St to get bus lanes…

    Rampant bus-lane violations continue…

    Please resolve.

    1. The bus lane violators put a lot of the inexpensive bus speed improvements at risk.

      I wonder if cheap concrete barriers are in order in some areas…

      1. Does SDOT not have the authorization to install bus lane cameras for enforcement purposes? Seems like the obvious fix, though a physical barrier would help too.

      2. Perhaps we could politely ask SPD if they spare some of the resources currently invested in arresting 70 year old black men for no reason and pepper-spraying High School teachers and ticket some violators.

      3. I’d like to see Metro install cameras on buses. They could do double-duty at catching cars illegally passing buses trying to merge (front&back timestamped cameras on the left side of the bus keyed to the left-turn signal should do the trick), and could get bus lane violators at the same time.

        Metro could even offer some of the ticket revenue to the city if SPD agreed to do their jobs and help with enforcement. If not, maybe the transit police should be pressed into traffic enforcement as well.

      4. It’s hard to imagine the SPD doing anything for an event short of a shooting. Actually they do two things – shootings and ticketing people not putting money in meters. That’s pretty much it. You could sell heroine in front of them and they wouldn’t even acknowledge your presence so expecting them to acknowledge cars driving in bus lanes (or bicycles blowing through red lights) is a bit wishful.

      5. Barriers seem too gentle. I’m emotionally for tire chewers, but the disabled cars would block the buses.

    2. In response to this item, it mentions Prop 1 funding. I thought that Prop 1 money was only meant for operations dollars and not capital improvements. (Not that I am complaining, I love it if that is a possibility.)

    3. An island stop by the library would make more sense. Then the #2 wouldn’t have to get in the right lane until after I-5. Spring street is generally free-flowing except for the right lane queue for I-5.

      1. Yeah, that would’ve been more expensive, but that was the real “if we must never move the 2” solution.

        The 2 is still in for a world of trouble trying to turn off 3rd into its (furthest) lane. Eastbound cars block right to the very edge of the box every single cycle at rush hour.

      2. If you can’t bring the 2 to the BRT, bring the BRT to it. :) Seriously, though, if the eastbound 2 can participate in a consolidated BRT street without moving and thus angering the “Save Route 2” activists, then maybe that’s OK, and it would leave us with more social capital to pursue other reorganizations. That still leaves the westbound 2 though. Would it remain on Seneca as-is? Or would Seneca get speedups? Or would it move to Madison.

        If it’s not going to be 2-way Madison, then Spring is better than Marion because of proximity to the library and to University Street Station. Ferry passengers may not think so, with their Marion Street footbridge, but there must be a another way to provide ferry access than putting the bus on Marion.

      3. Mike,

        The ferry footbridge to First works just as well for a Madison/Spring loop as Madison/Marion. The difference in the two routing options is that people have to walk the block and a half north to the stop on First between Madison and Spring and cross First Avenue. But they have to do that whether the footbridge is there or not. The Ferry Terminal is at Marion Street, so putting a skybridge at Spring wouldn’t change the distance people have to walk.

        Using Spring would make the “live loop” at First much easier. Two right turns is way better than two lefts, although the stop will probably need to be on a mid-block bulb.

  5. “We made a significant investment being in the streetcar business, and unfortunately there hasn’t been a marketplace that would justify that investment were we looking at it with the clarity of today,” said Oregon Iron Works President Corey Yraguen.

    If the cities that created streetcar lines had given them more right of way and signal priority and not put stations every two blocks, then they’d be faster than walking, and there would be more demand from other cities for this missing level of transit service, and United Streetcar would have more business. “Catalyzing real-estate development” is not a reason for a streetcar. Better mobility for inhabitants is the reason for streetcars. But it requires the first part, “better mobility”.

    1. The Oregon Iron Works product is a licensed design from Eastern Europe that would probably not be purchased by any operators in Europe today. OIW had to produce that design because someone conned the city of Portland into purchasing that design at the start, and the platforms are so design specific here that they pretty much only work with that particular car design.

      Kawasaki, Bombardier, Alstom and others all have 100% low floor car designs to minimize station dwell times. Siemens S70 cars are everywhere in North America as light rail cars, and there should be decent parts availability for those. That’s what Atlanta decided to use on its streetcar line.

      So, the city of Portland and whoever conned them into buying an outdated car design to begin with bears some of the responsibility for this.

      OIW had its share of issues too, but the type of car they had to license to meet the city of Portland requirements isn’t something that can be overcome without starting over from scratch.

      We still have some parts in our shop from a little bit of work we did for OIW. I’d offer to sell them to you cheap if you wanted them, but I don’t have the authority to do that.

  6. Re: Link Crash

    10 minutes is *very* kind of KIRO. I watched this unfold from my house and it was *at least* 30 minutes. Just sayin’.

  7. That sea-tac story is insane. Yeah the international landing story is terrible, but the price tag is ridiculous.

    1. Compared to the third runway the new international terminal is cheap. The Port is already spending $500 million on remodeling the North Satellite. All expenses at the airport are paid by leases and fees charged to the airlines and other tenants.

      The current FIS facility is inadequate especially at peak times for the number of international passengers Seattle is seeing.

      1. Where the money comes from or the price tag of other past or present expensive projects (the rental car facility also cost like $550 million) is really neither here nor there. Is $500 a lot of money?

        It really is. Really. And that’s public money whether it comes from fees, taxes or grants.

      2. Infrastructure isn’t cheap. Airlines want to expand service to Seatac, the population is increasing, and more people travel. The choice is expand the airport or make do with an increasingly outdated and overcrowded facility.

      3. Infrastructure isn’t cheap. Airlines want to expand service to Seatac, the population is increasing, and more people travel. The choice is expand the airport or make do with an increasingly outdated and overcrowded facility.

        I have no problem with them expanding things, it’s just how much does this cost? U Link, already over priced, costs almost the same as SeaTac’s rental car facility, their North Terminal update and this international terminal update. That’s over $1.5 billion!

        Keep in mind, Vancouver just opened a new terminal for $213 million (like literally two weeks ago: http://www.yvr.ca/en/flight-information/latest-information/15-01-13/yvr_officially_opens_newly_expanded_domestic_terminal.aspx), and ten years ago announced a $1.5 billion plan that included two new terminals, a new run way (or possibly two) a new parking facility, etc.

        We’re so used to being completely and utterly ripped off for infrastructure around here we no longer even question it. You essentially just shrugged and said “it ain’t cheap” without even thinking about why.

        Why is it 2-3x the price that Vancouver, a more expensive place in terms of labor?

      4. Link is several times more useful to average inhabitants than those things, and some of them use it daily, weekly, or monthly, rather than the twice a year or less they take a flight. So we should invest more heavily in what affects people’s daily lives more.

        Also, why should the cost of a Link line have any relationship to the cost of an airport terminal? They’re vastly different things.

      5. You’re missing the point. ULink is so valuable you’d build it if it cost $5 billion. It happens to cost close to $2 billion, which is similar (+/- 50%) of what Vancouver paid to build the entire Canada line. Just because we would do ULink at $3 billion or $5 billion doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to figure out why it costs close to $2 billion. Right? These airport things might be awesome, maybe we need them, and would do them even if they cost twice as much. That’s not my point.

        My point is why do these things cost so much? Especially where a place just two or three hours up the road is getting a 50% discount.

      6. Different country, different regulations, different bidders… To compare the cost of the two lines you’d first have to know what’s the average cost of construction/transportation projects in Washington vs BC.`Then figure out how much higher Link is compared to that. The US has a lot of regulations and paperwork, and the different parts of government don’t work together as well as they should, and politically powerful companies buy tax breaks and regulations that suit them and the rest of us have to pay more to make up the difference. Canada is one of the most well-run countries in the world, so it’s not surprising they can do what’s needed at low cost and with little red tape.

      7. Good answer Mike, but I still think it would make for a very good newspaper article. If anyone knows anyone at the Seattle Times, I think it would make for a great story. There are a lot of interesting details here that can be explored (and a lot of them aren’t obvious). I’m sure folks would find the ideas provocative. Just the basic idea sounds like a Danny Westneat column (“Why can Vancouver build their light rail line so much better and cheaper than us?”).

      8. I am 100% sure you are right, Mike. But… Isn’t that a very important thing we should sort out? If we could get a 50% discount, like BC gets, isn’t that as good as a 100% funding increase? It just seems we are so happy to just say “hey Vancouver is awesome!” and not saying “Why can’t we be awesome like Canada?”

        It seems so many of us here south of the 49th are happy to say “it costs what it costs.”

      9. RossB, it is important to get to the bottom of it, and more importantly to fix it, but it requires much more sweeping changes to society and government than just replacing the ST board and renegotiating contracts. This is what happens when different parts of society turn against each other, when people can buy laws that favor them — otherwise known as corruption –. when a large part of society believes they don’t have a civic duty to their city/state/country, when they nominate people who want to shut down agencies as the head of those agencies: you get an expensive mess that doesn’t work effectively. If we would just do what the Canadians do and the New Zealanders do and the Scandinavians do, it would take us a long way. But our society is far not ready for that, just like it’s far not ready for DP’s CityRail or putting pedestrians before cars in city design or cancelling the deep bore tunnel.

        Other issues with Washington vs BC subway lines include different currencies and exchange rates, which affect the price of Asian supplies, different unemployment rates, etc. When you get to the end of the calculation, some of the differences are illusory, others are due to national issues, others are due to the community’s values (Vancouver rates walkable transit and density higher; Pugetopolis rates alternatives to freeways higher), some of it is doubtless other factors, and the remaining part is ST’s experience and design choices and negotiating power.

        Oh, and then there’s that state infrastructure bank, which, if it existed, could finance a larger ST3 at a low rate, and the interest would go back into the fund for other infrastructure projects.

      10. I think the state infrastructure bank is a great idea, something we should try. I will point out that the canadian dollar is significantly less than the US dollar today, which means that would make Asian products more expensive in Canadian dollars, and the total project costs cheaper in US dollars. (It was about even in 2009 when the Canada line was built).

  8. I clicked on the vessel locator link and it appears that the MV Tiger is now at port in Savannah. Note that the update on the screen capture was the 23rd, so it’s had six days to cross the Atlantic.

  9. WSTC has released more details about how I-405 express toll lanes will work. There is now an opportunity for public comment.

    Good To Go! toll rates will range from a minimum of 75 cents to a maximum of $10 – it is estimated that the typical toll will range from 75 cents to $4.
    HOV-3 are exempt at all times. HOV-2 are exempt off-peak (I think that’s new).
    There will be plate readers for drivers without a Good To Go! account. They will pay $2 above the posted rate. (The WSDOT website previously indicated that a pass would be required).


    1. Ya, WSDOT continues their war on the HOV lanes.

      When they got the HOT lanes approved on SR167 as a “test” they discovered that they were losing gobs of money. WDOT then quickly merged all the administrative functions in with the administration functions for SR520 where there is no non-tolled option and overall toll revenue is high.

      They essentially hid the fact that the SR167 HOT lanes were a financial failure, then they claimed they were actually successful and extended the program to I-405. It’s a disgrace.

      And in the mean time they are increasing the HOV requirement to 3 people because the lanes don’t meet Federal standards for speed.


  10. Maybe it was just a poor choice of words, but Hasegawa describing light rail as something akin to a pet’s feces may say something about how he feels about it

    1. So far I’ve seen Hasegawa appeal to the lowest common denominator on these kinds of issues. How about educating your constituency that getting light rail to your neighborhood improves your home’s value far more than the cost of the parking pass, he likens it to a burden. Ask Ballardites if they would trade $35/year for a light rail station…

      1. Especially when you consider that the average ballardite probably did pay $35 a year to build that light rail line.

      2. Many of his constituents feel very strongly about this issue, and they’ve been hounding ST over it since the line opened. I don’t agree with them, but this isn’t like Hasegawa somehow has it in for ST, he’s just reflecting a widespread belief among a lot of the people he represents.

      3. Don’t get me started on how Sen. Hasegawa has treated his constituents on this issue. Not responding for over a year is unprofessional. So much for that theory of how much more accountable district reps are.

        But since he still keeps up on social media, even if he doesn’t read his emails or answer calls, I’ll put my suggestions for cleaning up his bill here:

        (1) Limit the number of free decals to one or two per resident. (Nobody is trying to limit a household of 30 residents to one decal, senator.)

        (2) Limit the amount of the subsidy per person. Spell out an amount.

        (3) Make the subsidy even-handed — the same for everyone. If a low-income parker is getting a subsidy of only $5 a year, why should the owner of a mansionette get a subsidy of $1000 per year (if, hypothetically, Shoreline decides to charge that much around 185th St Station, since the sky is the limit, and ST would be on the hook to pay it all)?

        (3) If a resident is not parking any vehicles at all, reward them, too. Same subsidy, loaded up on an ORCA card, when they register their promise not to get a decal. If the purpose of the bill is to free up more parking space for current residents, this might be the first provision in the bill that actually helps achieve that purpose.

        (4) Give the subsidy only to residents who moved in before the light rail station opened. If they moved in after that, they knew there was a light rail station in the neighborhood, and they knew parking was scarce. Certainly, encouraging more car owners to move into the open units in the neighborhood defeats the point of trying to free up parking space for current residents. RIght, senator?

      4. +1 for #3. The policymakers should at least look at equitable benefits for non-drivers vs drivers, even if it may be less clear what those should be.

        #4 makes me nervous because it can lead to a two-class situation over time, like California’s Prop 13 and some cities’ rent control. In other words, longtime residents end up getting an extraordinary benefit, and everyone else pays for it.

      5. WIth just #3, the number of beneficiaries will grow over time. With #4, it will shrink, unless everyone finds the path to immortality.

  11. So maybe now the Bertha mess will cost something closer to like 8 billion.

    To put that into perspective, that’s 888,888 of Sound Transit’s future Puyallup station parking (at $9000 each), and 320 pedestrian bridges across I-5 in Northgate (at $25,000,000 each).

      1. The 520 project is in early days yet, we may not know what the final prize tag will be.

  12. A 10 minute restoration time is pretty much the best case scenario. No serious injuries and the vehicle was still towable. Unlike, say, a Mountain Dew truck…

    Even more amazing is the fact that SPD usually closes streets for much longer when doing an accident investigation. Is this evidence of a new procedure, or just a lucky break with an easily-cleared scene?

  13. “Rampant bus-lane violations continue …” I can confirm this. I frequently see bicyclists illegally using the bus-only lane. Get the police out there to ticket them!

    1. Completely legal, everywhere I’ve checked. There’s a decent argument that it shouldn’t be, but it is.

      1. There is no “nice try.” I’m simply reading the words in the red paint. It says bus only. If other vehicles besides buses are allowed in that lane, then I’m not mistaken, the signage is.

      2. A lot of the signs describing the bus lane regulations have those “EXCEPT BICYCLES” strips under them. I mean, I can’t really read them from the blank side while salmoning down the bus lane, but that’s usually what those sorts of strips say.

    2. The chum is added to the water. The lure goes spinning across the horizon. Splash!

      Alas, the fish judge the lure to be fraudulent.

      Such a sad song.

  14. Twin Transit down in Chehalis / Centralia is reworking their fare structure:
    The big problem they have there is that the decreased bus service about two or so years ago, and now they have had an increase in vastly more expensive paratransit rides since there isn’t an alternative. (There was a previous article about this some time back.) Now they have to restructure the fares to deal with the increased number of high cost riders.

  15. The red bus lane on Battery is tough to deal with. Making a right turn onto Battery, the natural and legal thing is to turn into the right lane, just like we learned in drivers’ ed. Then we have to immediately merge into the left lane (hoping some kind soul allows that). Or is there some work-around that I’m missing, short of just not driving on Battery St. any more?

    1. Well, roughly half the cars which at one time used Battery may not any longer. Are you one of that half? It depends where you’re begging your trip.

      From what street are you turning onto Battery? If you’re turning right you’re coming from the south on one of the “Avenues”. Why not use Blanchard or Virginia to Seventh and then enter Aurora from Seventh? (That is, “not driving on Battery St. any more.”

      If your trip starts north of Blanchard I can see your need, but it most likely does not.

      And, not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re apparently commuting between somewhere in the Aurora corridor, broadly speaking and downtown Seattle or the Denny Regrade. There is nowhere in the Aurora corridor which does not have excellent bus service through the Denny Regrade to the CBD.

      Just wondering why you’re not one of those exploiters ripping off the driving public by using massively over-subsidized public transit. Any thoughts?

      1. You can’t enter Aurora directly from 7th, you have to turn left on Denny first… Battery might be better than that, I don’t really know.

      2. I’m not a car commuter. I’m retired transit with a life-time transit pass in my pocket which I use regularly and often. But I do occasionally drive in downtown, and some of these spot changes can be confusing and awkward for non-daily drivers. I wish SDOT could take a step back and look at downtown vehicle circulation holistically. I expect there are better configurations that could be created, on a larger scale. I don’t think we’re getting very far with just a tweak here and there.

      3. Al,

        Yes, you’re right; you have to turn left off Dexter. I was incorrectly remembering that it was Seventh that was the one-way northbound, but of course it’s Sixth. But detouring by Sixth doesn’t help much because the left lane in the block between the five-points intersection at Sixth and Battery is full of cars from the last Battery Street green so cars from Sixth can’t turn into it.

        However one can use Seventh and just turn at John, not Denny. The Aurora on-ramp has not merged with the tunnel traffic at that point so it’s possible to turn right into still fairly slow traffic, rather like the 6 and 16 used to do at Valley.


        My apologies for the assumption that you were commuting not just an occasional driver.

        To Drivers In General,

        The bottom line is that there are over 40 buses per hour which use the Battery Street lane in the peak hours. They carry many times the number of people than the SOV’s which used to use the lane. During the “base period” there are of course fewer since it’s only the E, 5, and 16 which use it then. But there are also lots fewer autos using Battery.

        So suck it up you selfish narcissists. The lane is a huge net benefit to the people of Seattle, even if it inconveniences you.

    2. I hate driving downtown. There used to be quiet places where it wasn’t so bad, but that doesn’t exist anymore. Meanwhile, it is the only place in Seattle that is really good for buses. I pity the folks that feel the need to drive down there on a regular basis. Some of them, of course, need their cars after work for other purposes. For example, I have a friend who takes the bus downtown every day but Tuesday. Tuesday he drives to visit his dad in Lacey. Poor guy.

    3. Eastbound the bus only lane would have made more sense one lane further out. If they want to keep it where it is I think they might need to ban cars from turning right onto Battery from N bound 3rd and 4th. Otherwise it’s really easy for cars taking that right to either occupy or block the bus lane.

      1. There’s still a bus stop along Battery at Denny, which buses have to access from the right lane. If the bus lane was the left lane between 3rd and 6th you’d need to do something to get to it:

        – Have buses change lanes right around the intersection with 6th, maybe with a queue jump or something. Backups into the bus zone could still cause problems.

        – Turn the sidewalk bus stop into an island stop. That would be a significant street reconfiguration. With traffic going by on both sides it might be an even less pleasant place to wait for a bus than the existing stop.

        Either way, right now isn’t the greatest time to sink money into reconfiguration, since they’ll probably need to do some work on the street when the Battery Street Tunnel is closed, assuming that ever happens.

  16. The Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge tram seems completely insane to me. That’s at least 15 miles, into a national park. Is this “Dan Williams” character proposing to pay for it? Why?

    I grew up out there; I would have ridden that thing on a regular basis if it existed then (The ridge is beautiful all year, but that road scares the crap out of me) but it still seems fundamentally crazy.

    1. How many riders per day, and at what price per trip, would be required to support the capital investment in this aerial tram?

    1. If Brenda gets done early, maybe she could do a 45th tunnel before she goes home. :) She knows her way around U-District Station and that could help a transfer station. Of course this won’t happen because ST3 isn’t approved yet and the Ballard-UW line isn’t in ST3 yet….

      The answer to DP’s dilemma of why can’t the Long-Range Plan be a phased and vetted approach, is, we should have a much larger multi-phase system plan (as the concrete lines in ST# are called). Then ST could take advantage of opportunities that benefit future-phase lines. The way from here to there is to take a final network idea, such as Seattle Subway’s, and number the lines in priority order (which Seattle Subway has done for the next phase, but not beyond that). But then it gets into asking the public to approve or preapprove the entire multi-phase plan all at once, and it forces the hand of all specific issues all at once (i.e., who gains by having a line/station and who doesn’t). If we take $50 billion as the total price tag (as some comments have suggested), the public is less willing to swallow $50 billion all at once than approving $15 billion every ten years, even though it ends up the same. And forcing all those specific issues simultaneously, it may have some benefit (integration and wholeisticness), but it may also shock the public and bring all the anti-progress pitchforks all at once and scuttle the think. Or the public might rise to the occasion, which one hopes. The public could also keep some incremental control over the phases and financing by approving the multi-phase vision but releasing the financing for each phase one by one. But when you talk about a multi-decade plan, it will have to be updated along the way. So how do you guarantee that each update sticks to the level of the original principles, while also accomodating demographic changes and trip-pattern changes.

  17. I assume Olympia is outside the Sound Transit taxing district. If so, why does bus 592 serve the state capital?

    1. It’s also a pilot program to test the viability of a Seattle-Olympia route, and the Intercity Transit portion comes from a state grant. There have been calls to extend Sounder to Olympia. This is a potential precursor, although the current schedule is useless to people who live in Seattle; it’s designed for people who live in Olympia. Outside of that, there are buses every 1-2 hours from Olympia to Lakewood daytime but they’re uncoordinated with the 594, so in practice it takes two hours each direction. (The 594 is also notoriously sluggish between Tacoma Dome and Lakewood, so that adds half an hour to the trip.)

      1. One thing that could help matters significantly in this regard is if the 594 could serve Tacoma Dome Station and get right back on the freeway, without slogging through downtown Tacoma, itself. People already have Tacoma Link, plus numerous Pierce Transit bus routes, to connect to downtown. If necessary, the service-hours saved by having the 594 not slog through downtown Tacoma could potentially be re-invested by running Tacoma Link more frequently.

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