3rd/Pine from the Macy’s Skybridge (Photo by the Author)

This is an open thread. 

76 Replies to “News Roundup: 9.5 Blocks”

  1. So after years of delay getting realtime information signs and off-board payment for the 3rd and Pike RapidRide stop, they’re moving it.

    I can’t even care anymore.

    1. This is Seattle. If you don’t like the policy, just wait 5 minutes!

      Seriously, in one part of downtown planners want to encourage people to hang out with things like street furniture, alleys used as public space, and transit with permanent-looking stops. In another we are going to discourage different people from hanging out by getting rid of street furniture, closing off alleys, building fences, and disrupting transit operations.

      “If the strategy is successful, they want to do the same thing in other neighborhoods.” Including some of the neighborhoods where they’re trying to do all the opposite stuff.

      1. Yep. I look forward to the problem relocating, probably up to Belltown. It’s anecdotal but its felt like things got better up there in the 00’s but are going back downhill again now.

      2. The idea of a combined mini-cop-shop and social-service center, with the explicit purpose of removing problem actors from the area by breaking crime/addiction/behavior cycles that have thus far been tacitly accepted, is a good one.

        As long as the initiative is taken seriously by all parties, and isn’t just an excuse to claim “we’re doing something”, like the cops chatting in their parked car with the windows closed (while someone fences stolen bicycles five feet away) are today.

      3. There’s certainly a need to do something. Maybe some of this stuff will work. But “temporarily” removing the benches and bus stops and closing the alleys is basically, “We’ll clear the area out, and arrest anyone on the sidewalk that isn’t moving quickly.” So maybe they’ll arrest some people that didn’t read the Times and plan ahead — will that make any dent in the long term?

    2. Argh, I usually make my transfer at this bus stop, 3rd and Pine, because it is the shortest distance to the other buses that alternate blocks. I can make a short jog from in front of McDonalds to in front of Macy’s.

      1. If you’re going N-S, why not just transfer at Virginia which basically combines the alternating stops?

    3. If this is what it takes to get that area cleaned up, awesome. My wife flatly refuses to use 3rd/Pine because she’s been physically groped and offered drugs there. I try to avoid it if at all possible, or go up to Virginia but that’s less of an option these days because some of the troublemakers are migrating up there.

      This is what I meant a month or so ago when we were discussing the restructure and my desire to have some kind of two-step connection from the CD to Convention Place. Proposing to go via downtown is not a comfortable exercise, especially after 6pm when the commuters and police traditionally clear out.

    4. So what all the coverage fails to mention is that there’s another reason for the temporary relocation of the 3rd & Pike stop… construction.

      SDOT is planning on reconfigurating the loading zones north of the bus stops into “flexible loading zones.” When the project is finished it should create more room for buses to load/unload during peak periods, while maintaining loading zones for the businesses during the off peak hours. As a part of the same project, the island stop at Pine & 3rd will be removed to create a full time loading zones for businesses and a full time place for officers to park while in the area.

      Here’s the project link: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/3rdave.htm

      That being said Metro and SDOT have mentioned that they are considering keeping this new bus stop once the old 3rd & Pike stop reopens. They want to split off some of the buses that stop at 3rd & Pike. The theory is that there are so many legitimate passengers waiting to board at those stops, it provides cover for the people doing illegal things. If there are less passengers at each stop, there are fewer people to hide amongst.

  2. What are the FRA’s objections to the clock tower?

    Any (realistic) cost estimate on rebuilding I-5 through JBLM?

    1. I think the issue is that the FRA doesn’t want to pay for the clock tower with federal funds. If Tacoma wants a clock tower and is willing to pay for it out of local funds, the FRA won’t object.

  3. At what point in ST3 negotiations should a Seattle only measure be proposed or revealed in detail?

    1. Seattle “going it alone” would be imprudent. The city by itself doesn’t generate enough financial heft to buy the system it needs. Love it or hate it, the monorail exercise proved this. Even with a fantastically high MVET tax within the city limits, it couldnt generate enough money to build the full Green Line, and had to resort to junk bonds to finance the portion it could build between Ballard and downtown. That is why the regional tax base is so important. Seattle citizens are generous and eager for transit, but this isn’t New York or LA, we are still a city of “only” 650,000 people. The path to good transit is for the Seattle/King County members of Sound Transit to fight for the right projects in ST3. They have a lot of leverage, because they represent the vote-rich part of the region.

      1. Subarea equity would seem to contradict that. The North King subarea consists only of Seattle, Lake Forest Park, and Shoreline. Seattle obviously makes up the bulk of the money for this area, and is more willing to tax itself for transit than outlying regions.

      2. Seattle “going it alone” would be imprudent. The city by itself doesn’t generate enough financial heft to buy the system it needs.

        If Seattle were allowed to tax itself at proposed ST3 subarea rates, it could by definition build the projects that ST has built or is planning to build within that subarea. We’ve just never been allowed to vote on those separately, given the sink-or-swim -together requirement that all subareas vote yes in aggregate in order for any of them to start building projects. SAE happens to protect Seattle now because of our stronger growth, even though it was designed to protect the suburbs from Seattle. But if ST3 failed at the ballot and somehow the state allowed Seattle/North King to propose the same taxes within just the North King subarea, Seattle could basically go it alone and get the $5B worth of projects its own revenue can generate. Right?

      3. The real issue for the monorail is the cost of what they wanted to build didn’t match the tax and rate selected. It doesn’t mean the tax base is “too small”. As others point out everything built by Sound Transit in Seattle is being funded by taxes collected in Seattle.

        Sales taxes and property taxes have the advantage of not necessarily needing to be paid by Seattle residents, however the burden of an MVET falls almost entirely on residents who own cars.

      4. At the last STB meetup somebody asked the STB rep whether Seattle could go it alone if ST3 fails or is not allowed by the state. He said no because Seattle alone can’t generate enough money for its proposed Link lines. I asked how can this be since Seattle is 90% of North King so it’s the same amount of money in either case. He said subarea equity is only a small part of the financial picture. When the entire ST district lets bonds it can get a better interest rate, and that affects how much of the tax revenue is available for projects. I think he meant that with an ST-wide measure the entire ST district pledges to repay the bonds, so it’s a larger and more diverse set of repayers so the bonds are less risky.

      5. Yeah, I remember that question and answer Mike. I think d.p. summarized it well.

        The real issue is taxing authority. Nothing more, nothing less. Seattle has a rock solid record as far as bonds are concerned, and given our financial health, would do just fine. Even the most conservative investor would look at this city and assume we are a very good bet.

        But we are either allowed to tax ourselves or we aren’t. For Seattle to “go it alone” is sure appealing, but it isn’t clear to me (and the issue has been discussed over and over) how much authority we have. My guess is we don’t have much, and the state isn’t about to grant us more.

        I think it makes sense to wait until 2016. If ST3 fails, then hopefully we will have a more favorable state legislature, which will simply allow us to vote on our part ourselves (or at the very least the county). We could also try and change the rules via initiative. I think the argument that a jurisdiction can’t charge itself for transit is very weak. That would make sense if the state was providing it, but as we all now, it isn’t.

      6. Given the alternatives we were presented with today for Ballard, I fear going it alone may be our only option.

        I am not going to vote yes and have Seattle’s money spent on streetcars while the rest of our subarea’s money is sacrificed on the altar of the much lower ridership Everett to Tacoma spine.

      1. If only there were a 100% grade-separated option that offered significantly improved mobility to many more places, garnered just as many riders, was 2 miles shorter, and cost half the price despite that grade separation.

        You know, like some kind of “spur”?

      2. Do you have a link for more details? If it’s MLK-style rail, I’d support that. But if it’s streetcars, I would look for ways to actively campaign against ST3.

      3. I’m not surprised, I posted a link to a Ballard survey a couple of open threads ago, where SDOT stuck in options for a Ballard stop which were the streetcar options stops from Ballard to downtown alternatives. Hopefully, Seattle Subway sees “the bat signal” and comes in with some kind of way (monorail taxing authority?) to put the Ballard spur on the ballot for 2016.

      4. If Ballard is surface and West Seattle is overserved, I may be tempted to vote against ST3. Especially if there’s no DSTT2 or 45th line.

        The silver lining is ST2 was the one we really had to have. That puts light rail through the entire length of the city and to Overlake and Lynnwood. It’s diminishing returns after that. So if we can’t get anything more politically, at least the next thirty years will be easier to get around than the last thirty were.

      5. You’re kidding, right?

        Have you really been that in the tank for the BART model this whole time?

        How’s that working out for the Bay Area? Super easy to “get around” down there, right? No traffic or transit apocalypses or parking fights or need for zillions of private buses whatsoever, no?

        Cities are not fucking “diminishing returns”.

        Jesus. With allies who think like that, who needs antagonists?

      6. It’s a lot easier to get around the East Bay than it is the penninsula or Silicon Valley; that’s the main reason I’ve avoided working in the South Bay or southwest Bay. And in San Francisco BART is faster than MUNI. The biggest hole in San Francisco’s transit is that BART doesn’t go to the west side of the city or the north side or the Haight area.

      7. Yeah, that’s nice.

        Except that 99.99999999% of your East Bay destinations are unservable by BART, because that’s just what sprawl is, and that’s why it’s modeshare for anything but cross-Bay commutes is in the toilet 40 years later. (It’s cross-Bay modeshare being, in the grand scheme, unimpressive too).

        Now imagine the MUNI subway was a shuttle that ran only between two random underdeveloped nodes of little use to anyone, and that getting to anywhere west of the Twin Peaks involved the world’s shittiest surface streetcar. Because that’s what Sound Transit just offered to bestow upon us, and which you suggested could be “silver lined” because anything but your precious BART regionals offers “diminishing returns”, or because Broadway and John is the only fucking place anyone is supposed to go in this town, or something.

        Sound Transit is shit. It’s plan is shit. Regionalism is giving us useless transit that will forever amount to shit. Just call it the shit that is.

      8. So Sound Transit decided to drink the Dow koolaid and go with what many predicted a useless and expensive grade separated line to West Seattle and a shitty streetcar to Ballard.

        I agree with Seattle Subway, this is completely tone deaf. https://twitter.com/seattlesubway/status/591388848057229314

        If this shit is what is advanced for ST3 then let me say not only will I vote ‘NO’ but I will actively work for the No campaign.

      9. Yep. Dead issue. I will also actively work against ST3 if that’s the crap we get. I’m tired of this agency and its apparent motto “You know that thing that doesn’t work anywhere else? Let’s do that!”

        Unlike many people here who advocate strenuously for certain things because they live there, I don’t live in any of the areas affected by these decisions, nor is my commute aided or hindered directly by anything ST does. I just want to be able to get around my city without a car if I so desire.

        I was involved 30+ years ago with the Citizen’s Transit Advisory Council as a high school student, when the DBT was being built. I’ve supported transit my entire life and have always wanted, supported and voted for transit improvements. My grandfather drove and later was a supervisor at Seattle Transit/Metro. I can afford to drive and park, but would much prefer to take transit. I’m a choice rider and a supporter of strong public transit–if you lose me and people like me, you’ve lost.

        You’re going down a dangerous path, ST. If you lose Seattle’s supermajority, you’re toast–no matter how many Federal Way or South Everett stations you might want to build.

      10. By “diminishing returns” I meant the totality of an ST# measure. Of course you can draw up a package of Seattle lines and I would say, “Great, important, let’s do it.” But that package is not plausable in ST’s current structure or subarea equity, and Seattle’s property tax is capped by Eymanesque laws and an uninterested legislature.

        Regarding the Bay Area, I’ll give you one concession. Multiple BART lines in San Francisco can’t scale to Oakland or San Jose, so if you look at a MUNI solution instead, you’d have to overhaul MUNI. Move the street-running segments underground, raise the frequency on every line to 10 minutes minimum, and add grade-separated lines to the northwest and north of the city. An underground Judah line could marginally “serve” the Haight area, but it would be unfortunate because Judah is less dense and more residential-only. Then raise Caltrain to 30 minutes and then 15 minutes and add a modern ticketing system, and you could simply rename it BART rather than extending a new right of way.

  4. Regarding the new KC Metro stroller policy, I’m curious, aside from online announcements, has anyone seen any information on buses, bus shelters, etc., to advertise and publicize the change in the stroller policy? Like signs inside the buses somewhere that tell parents of the new policy?

  5. With regards to construction on I-90 forcing weekend detours to the express lanes – if the work is happening in the Mt. Baker Tunnel, not on Mercer Island itself, is it not possible to at least keep the westbound HOV lane open to the Mercer Island P&R exit? In the past, they did not do this, which forced the 550 to go all the way through Mercer Island on local streets (with lots of twists and turns), just to serve the bus stop at the P&R.

    1. WSDOT indicated they were also doing (unspecified) work under the Luther Burbank Lid, which is immediately east of the Island Crest and 80th Ave HOV ramps.

      1. Fine, but that section is after the P&R, not before. A ramp exists at that point for the bus to take the express lanes. I can understand why they don’t want all the regular traffic clogging up the Mercer Island P&R exit and entrance ramps (so they force them to switch them over to the express lanes earlier), but the thought of forcing buses to take a costly detour down neighborhood streets, just to avoid an area where no construction work is actually happening…

        It’s a classic case of government bureaucracies not talking to each other.

      2. I’m referring to the Luther Burbank Lid, which is east of the P&R and the Island Crest Way exit. If the westbound I-90 lanes under the Luther Burbank Lid are unavailable due to construction, the only way to access Mercer Island going westbound is via the East Mercer ramp. The exit ramp to ICW goes under the lid, and the HOV exit to 80th Ave SE is just after (west of) the lid.

        The Mercer Island Lid, which is the one I think you’re referring to, is the one west of the P&R, between 76th Ave and West Mercer Way.

    1. twice an hour is better than once an hour, but given that its the most popular route, I wonder if experimenting by boosting it to 15 minutes is worth trying?

      Give the peninsula a taste of better transit than they have ever had, they might start to ride more.

    2. Another thing that would also make huge difference is coordinating bus schedules with ferry schedules all day, not just rush hour. Running service later in the evening on Saturdays would help too. The Saturday span of service is currently so short, by the time you take a bus to the ferry and ride the ferry to Seattle, you only get an hour or two to actually spend in Seattle before you have to board the ferry back to make the last bus home. And if you want to attend any kind of evening event in downtown Seattle (even on weekdays), forget it.

      This is not the way to attract riders to the service.

      1. I absolutely agree.

        The several times that I have taken Island Transit 1, the bus was fairly full, especially when you consider that Whidbey Island is probably more sparsely populated than areas of Kitsap County served by transit.

        Island Transit has done what it can to make the 1 coordinated with the ferry to Mukilteo, which I think makes a huge difference.

  6. I’m somewhat disappointed about moving the 3rd/Pike bus stop, because it’ll make transfers to Capitol Hill routes much harder.

    However, cleaning up the 3rd/Pike area is definitely worth it, especially as transfers become more important with the further opening of Link. I hope it’ll work.

  7. 88,000 applicants for 55 units in a NYC “poor door” building. Most people find this story offensive because of the poor door aspect to it. I find it offensive because 55 people will soon have all their ambition and motivation to ever lift themselves up out of low-income status taken away from them. Not one of those 55 people will ever take a promotion or second job if it risks making them ineligible to keep their heavily discounted Upper West Side apartment. Sad.


      1. I know. “Just stay low-income, and you get to live in this awesome new building in this great neighborhood, and receive a dozen or so other income-tested benefits for life.” Who in their right mind would ever take a promotion or increase in pay if it meant that tens of thousands of dollars in benefits would go away? How is this any kind of solution to anything?

      2. The other 79,945 low-income people did not get an awesome new apartment. Many of them are probably going without adequate food or medicine or provisions for their kids to afford their rent. Or have very long commutes because the cheapest market-rate housing is so far out with few jobs or services near it. Or they’re homeless because they can’t afford rent. The plight of the 55 is nothing compared to that, troll.

        What we should have is a minimum national income independent from work, and government-subsidized housing at 1/3 that monthly amount for everyone who wants it. Eventually we’ll have to move in that direction if technology obsoletes the majority of jobs as some people predict and no alternate living-wage jobs are feasable. Otherwise everybody except the 1% will be homeless and the economy will grind to a halt.

    1. Good, 55 people will have good quality, affordable housing. Too bad about the poor door, that should go away.

      Your bit about motivation is blame the poor garbage.

  8. Given that Tacoma is asking for an ST Express route to the eastside, and ST is looking at providing rapid and frequent transit on I-405 between Renton and Bellevue, does anyone know if extending route 574 from SeaTac airport to Bellevue via Renton is on ST’s radar?

    1. Unfortunately, the ridership numbers do not really justify adding more buses down 405 than what’s already there. It might be feasible to extend the 574 to Bellevue, as a replacement for the eastern segment of the 560, but that would be it.

      At least during rush hour, I think there is supposed to be a timed connection in Kent between 567 and Sounder, although with the amount of traffic the 567 has to go through to get to Kent, the schedule timing is probably worthless in the afternoon, although I would expect the train->bus connection in the morning to be mostly reliable.

  9. Morgan Spurlock calls “BS” on anti-hydrogen naysayers!

    Sometimes reality stinks. Toyota has tapped award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock to show how calling hydrogen fuel cell vehicles “bullsh*t” isn’t far from the truth.

    “Fueled by Bullsh*t” is the first online video in a multi-part “Fueled by Everything” series aimed to educate a broad audience about the innovative ways hydrogen fuel can be made from renewable sources.

    Spurlock directed the 3-minute piece which features a dairy farmer and mechanical engineer as they follow cow manure from a mooing supply source to its ultimate use in powering the hydrogen fuel cell electric Toyota Mirai.


    1. Yeah! We finally have bullshit flowing into the hydrogen car ‘industry’ instead of flowing out of it! Its moment is coming any second now.

    2. I’m really hoping that fuel cells can be made more economical soon.

      Some 25 years ago Coleman had a portable generator on the market that was fuel cell driven. It would have been perfect for some of the stuff nmy employer does. Sadly, for the same price you could get 20 or so the diesel power plant.

      There are a couple of places that are now making railroad signal power supplies that are fuel cell based. They still aren’t too common yet.

      1. Hyrdogen fuel cells can’t be made economical. Batteries are gonna beat them every time.

      2. The problem is that they’re fuel-based heat engines. Heat engines are *super wasteful* to start with…

  10. Does anyone have any information on the ST3 authority bill being passed by the full house? I can’t find any updated info on the legislature’s website and I even emailed the legislative assistant of the transportation committee, who hasn’t got back to me.

    Can we expect ST3 to pass this session?

    1. No. The session has to end this weekend, and given that the two chambers seem miles apart on both education and roads, I’d be surprised if they even bother with working over the weekend.

      1. Likely there will be a special session as the education issue has to be addressed.

  11. I’ve noticed a trend, watching the real-time information on screens downtown, that a bus will be 2 minutes late, then 5 minutes late, and then will just disappear from the lineup. That is really anger-inducing when you take the information as true. Where did that bus go? It happened to me on Saturday night with the Route 2 at around 7 p.m. It just dropped out of the rotation and the next one was at about 7:25 p.m.

    1. That’s better than when it says NOW, NOW, NOW, -2 when it never showed up. Can’t it say “Cancelled” or “No show”?

      I was waiting for an eastbound 8 at Denny & Dexter last week, and it said two buses were coming but the first was 20 minutes late and the second was 32 minutes late. Eventually the second one caught up with the first and they were both 5 minutes away. But then the “time to come” stopped changing and the “late” times changed instead, indicating the buses were standing still. Meanwhile the third bus was 10 minutes behind them and catching up. I saw an 8 go the opposite direction (the fourth bus? 10 minutes seems too short to get from Dexter to 1st W and back even without a layover). After several minutes the “time to come” started going down again, and eventually the first two buses were “NOW”. The first one came at “21 minutes late”, and of course it filled up completely by Fairview Ave. The second bus I didn’t see but it was presumably a few cars behind.

    2. There’s still a lot of work to do to make these things more intelligent.

      One of the problems is that the systems use the published timetable as a reference, so once the bus gets too far off schedule the systems tend to revert to the published timetable.

      It seems to me that these things can be made more intelligent. If a bus takes 20 minutes to cover a certain distance, and it is still farther than that away, then there is no point in telling us that it is going to be here in 6 minutes.

      1. NYC’s adaptation of OneBusAway, MTA Bus Time, uses distance rather than time and leaves the rider to estimate how long it’ll take to get to their stop. So instead of saying “15 minutes away” it’ll say “2.5 miles away” or “3 stops away” when it gets closer.

      2. They set TriMet’s system up to switch to that once the bus got past a certain point of being off its timetable. When I saw that I figured that it would certainly help solve the problem. It does help under certain circumstances.

        Unfortunately, in December I found that it didn’t help me too much. Based on the GPS map of the bus location, the system was grabbing the location of a laying over line 152 bus rather than the line 79 that I was waiting for.

  12. Progressive Railroading has released their list of “Rising Stars” in the North American railroad industry.

    The list includes Amanda Nightingale, Assistant Superintendent of Organizational Development and Training at King County Metro – which generally isn’t regarded as a railroad. I’m guessing the publication considered Amanda Nightingale’s activities applicable to the railroad industry.

    Full profiles will appear in the magazine’s September issue as well as on their web site.

    NOTE: This is not the same as the Mass Transit Magazine “Top 40 Under 40”, which is a similar list of under 40 people involved in the transit industry that have shown considerable forward thinking. Nominations for that list remain open until mid-May.

      1. True, but other people on the list are from Canadian National, Wheeling and Lake Erie, Union Pacific, Amtrak, GE Transportation (the locomotive shop), VIA, BNSF, and a few others that are from the industry that Progressive Railroading usually follows. Transit systems usually only rate a minor blip on their radar.

        So, something really got their attention.

      1. That makes a lot of sense. That type of situation is applicable to any operator.

      2. I’m sure it was a challenge to move the staff mindset to a rail-culture.

        Bus-operators live more in the wild-west atmosphere of having to navigate around the (SOV) hostiles.

  13. A month ago, after a sign fell on a bus on the 520 bridge, commenter Charlotte wrote this: “Amazing how quick this incident gets a post, yet the incident involving the ST (1st Transit) bus blowing the light at Totem Light killing two people was merely a blip In the “News Roundup.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the latest accident involving a Link train hitting a car on Monday didn’t even make the News Roundup this time.

    Here’s the video of Monday’s train violence.


    1. It looks like the driver chose to illegaly turn left from a non-turn lane while the left turn light was red.

      Self-driving cars can’t come soon enough.

      1. Worse, he appears to be going around a person driving in the left turn lane who was stopping for the light. That’s just dumb^2.

    2. The accident happened on MLK at Othello. It’s just one more incident that could have been prevented had we chosen to put the Link stations at Othello, Columbia City and Rainier Beach overhead or underground. Had we done a better job building a safe trackway on MLK, the trains could go faster too!

      I’m waiting for a brave politician to stand up and say that ST3 should includie a funding fix a fix this problem — but I doubt that will happen any time soon. Even though we just spent 7 million doing preliminary design work, we don’t even have a plan or cost number to get us out of the MLK Link problem. I’d love to see a modest study that looks at solutions so we could know what the cost and design should be.

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