Sounder 909 and 911 at King Street Coach Yard
Photo by SounderBruce on Flickr

This is an open thread.

98 Replies to “News Roundup: Massive Expansions”

  1. The other day on his radio show, Dori Monson said that, according to their own documents, by the year 2040, after having spent $174 billion dollars on transportation in the region, that light rail will only account for 4/10th of 1 percent of daily trips.

    Is that true?

    http://kiroradio.com/listen/9988213/

    @ the 10:33 mark

    1. Define “region”. My guess is that PSRC’s definition is much bigger than not only the Link service area, but also the Sound Transit district whose taxes are paying for it.

      It also presumably assumes no ST 3, since there has not been a concrete proposal yet.

    2. Not all trips are created equal. By grouping all trips together in this statistic, a 15 mile trip to work has the same value as a 1/2 mile trip to get postage stamps. It is an intentionally deceptive way of twisting the argument into one’s favor.

      Plus, I’m not so sure about these projections in the first place.

    3. Sounds like BS. The ULink-Central Link lines will attract 114k riders and EastLink 30k more by 2030 (from ST’s website) which means the host is claiming that there will be 360000000 rides in the area by 2030?! And I couldn’t even find ST numbers for 2040.

      1. I suppose he’s getting his numbers from Transportation 2040. The $174B is for all transportation spending in the four county area. I didn’t find mode share data that breaks out LR specifically in a quick read.

    4. Link averages 35,000 riders per day. The current population of our “region” is 7,000,000,000. Link carries 35,000/7,000,000,000=0.000005≈0% of people daily.

      Link carries zero people everyday. And we’ve spent close to a trillion, yes you heard me close to (if you round upwards) a TRILLION, on it, when it clearly (you saw my math) carries not a single person! You’ve just been Dori Monson’ed, my friends.

      1. The math is off by 1,000, so it would instead be 35,000 / 7,000,000 = 0.005, which is a half of a percent. It is true that that is not a large percent, but as Mark in Kenmore said above, not all trips are created equal.

      2. I read RapidRider as suggesting Monson’s region was the entire world, which does have around 7 billion people …

      3. And the population of the Universe is zero, by the same logic. (There’s an entry in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy about that somewhere.)

      4. Another way to do the math: If light rail investment lasts for ~50 years, what does the alternative cost over the same time period? Let’s take regional population of 7,000,000, multiply it by time (50) and by the average annual cost of car ownership in the US (about 10,000, according to http://newsroom.aaa.com/2013/04/cost-of-owning-and-operating-vehicle-in-u-s-increases-nearly-two-percent-according-to-aaas-2013-your-driving-costs-study/).

        Without even considering the cost of roads, you’re at 7.5 trillion. I’m not going to attempt to estimate road costs, but those are going to be pretty insane, too. My point isn’t to show that transit is cheaper, as that’s been done and takes a lot more calculation, but rather, that transportation is enormously expensive.

        Living in dense communities, so we don’t have to do so much of it, and finding ways to get multiple people in one vehicle (transit) seem like pretty good strategies for reducing those costs in the long run and producing economic growth.

      5. FBD is correct. I purposefully left it ambiguous, as Mr. Monson would, to get his point across.

      6. Sorry I missed the point and only focused on the numbers, which did not seem realistic. I will have to check out Mr. Monson sometime.

      7. …. that’s only 7% of daily trips. I-5 is really underused, what a waste of billions!

        and many of those trips aren’t even from of to Seattle, but from elsewhere to elsewhere, and only going through Seattle.

        So, obviously, a huge waste of money.

    5. Sam, how would either Dori Monson or the authors of the documents he cites have 1 millionth of a clue what is going to happen in 25 years? Just a millionth of a millionth percent curious.

      Mark

  2. Sawant and Licata might want to do better research before citing all these cities with rent control policies. They do, but some are not particularly impactful:

    Washington DC exempts everything built after 1975 from rent control.

    San Jose’s law only applies to buildings built in 1979 or earlier.

    Newark’s rent control exempts newly constructed buildings with more than 4 units for 30 years.

    None of those policies would change the landscape for new development in Seattle.

    1. “None of those policies would change the landscape for new development in Seattle.”

      Is that a bug, or a feature?

      1. Whatever it is, I’m against any sort of price-setting or rent controls in general.

        I’m just amused that Sawant & Licata cite cities with pretty toothless rent control regimes as examples. The “everyone is doing it” argument rings hollow when you realize several of those policies do very little in practice.

        Rent control is just another issue in Sawant’s plan to create an entire constituency dependent on the government (via Sawant herself) for pretty much everything. With rent control she could argue that the wicked capitalists are going to kick you out of your apartment…unless you vote for me (& maybe donate to my campaign with some of the $$$ you’ve saved from the lower rents I gave you).

      2. Thats unfair Alex. The rent control proposal is a response, one i happen to disagree with, to the problem of large and fast rent inflation. People are actually being very dramatically negatively effected by that. You dont have to care about their problems, but it is a politician’s job to try to fix them. I dont think it is the right fix, but trying to fight for the poor is not a Machiavellian scheme for power.

      3. Except this proposal does nothing to help poor people because it is not allowed under state law.

        It is a stunt, plain and simple.

        FWIW, Sawant is not a renter anymore – bought a house last year. Which is a little odd for someone who doesn’t seem to support private ownership of businesses or property.

      4. @Alex: I don’t think rent control as tried anywhere in the US would solve Seattle’s problems. But let’s keep this fair. Virtually no socialist believes in the total abolition of private property. The traditional call is to seize capital, the means of production. That doesn’t even necessarily mean the abolition of all private businesses. There’s nothing contradictory about owning a home as a socialist.

      5. “this proposal does nothing to help poor people because it is not allowed under state law.”

        If it passes it will put some pressure on the state to change the law. It builds a precedent that a future legislature may be amenable to, especially if some other cities pass similar measures. The $15 minimum campaign started with success in one of the smallest cities. What else could the city do instead that would be more effective in getting the state to repeal the ban?

    2. Is there a link to the actual proposal somewhere? I’ve been really puzzled by the total lack of detail presented about how Sawant intends to avoid the abject failure seen in other cities which have tried rent control policies.

    3. That’s exactly the problem with “classic” rent control policies: they apply to a small and gradually shrinking number of units built before the biggest waves of rent increases. So 10% of renters have an extraordinary deal, while 90% of renters can’t find an affordable place to live. The solution is a citywide (or better regionwide) policy on all apartments, plus enough construction to match the rising population. Germany has essentially statewide rent controls, which means everybody knows they can find a reasonably-priced apartment and it will always be reasonably-priced (relative to inflation), and they can choose any apartment in the state rather than the tiny fraction of units that were built in a certain decade. I’m hoping Sawant is smart enough to understand this, that we need an up-to-date smart rent control policy, not one of the old failed ones that are fantabulous for the few who have the lucky units but ineffective for the many.

      1. It would help if she would ever say anything more about what she is trying to accomplish than simply the words “rent control”, which are… um… scary. An anti-brand with strong name recognition.

      2. two minutes on google suggest that all is not well in Germany:

        Rents in Germany’s largest cities are rising as developers try to reduce a housing shortage caused by migration into cities and a long slump in construction. In Berlin, rents have gained more than 30 percent in the past three years, according to data compiled by Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

      3. Any rent increase in Berlin is likely a simple corrective, and commensurate with its recent popularity with expatriates of all ages. A popularity that arose precisely because it was a distinctive megacity recuperating from an odd economic history that had afforded it an excess of amazingly underpriced housing stock — as in, 1/4 the price of any comparable European capital, and in some ways analogous to the bargain-basement experience of New York in the ’80s.

      4. I’ve got a way for the average person to be able to have a good home, and become the exact opposite of dependent upon the government:

        Give the average person an effective education in more than one skilled trade, and hire him or her at decent wages.

        If no one’s private profits can afford these people at employees, then indeed have government collect the taxes to hire them for public work.

        The term “stimulus”- meaning creation of useless jobs- is indecent. Every public thing we need to remain prosperous is literally falling apart.

        It’s a good thing that the broken rail that just held up Sounder Northline didn’t happen under a mile-long oil train.

        It’s both unproductive and wrong to force private companies to hire more people than their shareholders’ interests require.

        But the higher someone’s private income, the more public systems and structures they need for their own protection- let alone enjoyment.

        So it’s only fair- and absolutely necessary- for private business pay for public needs that are frankly a distraction from their work. Like any other legitimate bill.

        The attorneys and executives who spearheaded the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle certainly held this outlook.

        The fact that the Southern Democrats threw them out of the Republican party doesn’t mean their kind and outlook have vanished.

        Only that they need another political party that serves their commercial interest with the sanity it deserves. Housing or anything else, “affordability” means that most of the population earn enough money to afford it.

        Not be “given” anything out of pity. But to relate to our government as the owners of any well-run cooperative business.

        Mark Dublin

    4. SF’s policy is similar, but because the city is so hostile to development the portion of rent controlled housing stock is still fairly high.

  3. The interesting thing about mass transit in Seattle is that “M” isn’t the primary symbol, it’s actually “T.” This is sound transit’s “bat signal” for transit centers. Although king county metro has an M in its logo, that M is next to “etro.”

    1. The “T” is for transfer or transit. It’s used mostly on multimodal stations, which every Link station is.

    2. I think they could use a brand upgrade… keep the T, but make it a heck of a lot more noticeable… make it stand out so tourists and new residents have half a clue where the stations are.

    3. At Westlake, they don’t even bother with the T. No station entrances are visible from Westlake Park or the Starbucks plaza at the mall. People with luggage come by all the time, wandering around with a blank look on their faces, looking in vain for a way into the station.

      Mystery of the decade is why nobody in charge, at either Metro or Sound Transit, gives a damn about effective wayfinding.

      1. I’ve got a couple of little flat cardboard models of a combination LINK car and jetliner, left over from opening ceremonies.

        Very tempted to have a few hundred of these copied up, and start personally sticking them to the tile walls at the foot of the escalator at the east end of the southbound Westlake platform.

        As the busiest hotel-oriented platform on an airport train’s first station, that area is arguably the most important passenger point-of-interest on the whole line.

        Which for going on six years, both Metro and Sound Transit- and I don’t care whose job it is, it’s their joint responsibility- have not only neglected but flatly refused to “sign” as service demands.

        So it might be effective to get a sidewalk permit near a station entrance and up a card-table. Maybe Dick Falkenbury’s got one left over from the Monorail days.

        Or the Lyndon LaRouche people will loan you one if you leave the pics of the President with a Hitler mustache, and posters supporting their new hero Vladimir Putin stuck to it.

        And sit outside the main Westlake entrance at Pine and Sixth handing out little LINKliners with loops of masking tape on the back for intending passengers to stick on the walls before boarding.

        Any uniformed interference…bring a TV camera along with the next delivery. Bet the official sign goes up without stopping to un-tape its cardboard predecessor.

        Mark Dublin

      2. There is at least one (very discreetly placed) T by the side entrance on Fifth avenue. The one with the really slow elevator that stunk of urine the one time I used it, being brand new to the city and not having the faintest clue where the entrance was.

  4. This whole linkage fee brawl is quite fascinating. I feel like I need to pull out the popcorn.

    Dan feeding those opposed with convenient, logical arguments:
    http://www.smartgrowthseattle.org/linky

    Owen providing a whole wonky series of data in support:
    http://www.theurbanist.org/2015/06/08/repeating-the-case-for-inelastic-land-supply/
    http://www.theurbanist.org/2015/05/07/why-urbanists-must-support-linkage-fees-and-inclusioinary-zoning-a-scalable-policy-for-affordable-neighborhoods-in-seattle/

    And, Roger losing it in ways that only he could (nice work, dude):
    http://www.smartgrowthseattle.org/facebook-toward-understanding-real-estate-financing-linkage-land-value/

    Keep it up guys! They’ll soon be making a Mad Max film out of this. *grabs popcorn*

    1. Adding taxes and fees to housing construction seems pretty stupid, but it might make sense to add some tax or fee to the leasing transaction of finished buildings. When a lease is signed the agent who handled the transaction gets a 6% cut of the total value of the lease. So, if a real estate agent leases a 2000 ft^2 space for 5 years at $40/ft (total value of the lease = $400,000), the agent earns a commission of $24,000. Then the city taxes that commission at .00415 and gets $99.60–which seems like a rather meager sum. Instead of taxing the building of the property, I would suggest adding fees or taxes to the use/lease of the property. The leasing tax would be subject to a threshold test so that cheaper property wouldn’t be subject to the tax, but prime property would be subject to the tax. I would also suggest making housing subject to the tax, but setting the threshold high enough that affordable housing isn’t subject to the tax. For example, the top 25% of all residential leases would be subject to a lease tax, but leases below that threshold wouldn’t be subject to a lease tax.

  5. I wish we would stop relying on Tiger grants as the funding source for necessary infrastructure. (like the Northgate Bridge).

    Its a bit like buying lottery tickets to fix a hole in your roof.

  6. I don’t get why Councilmember Licata is so resistant to using property tax as the main funding source for Move Seattle. If you want to tax millionaires, you tax property.

    This is far, far better than funding transportation projects with sales tax.

    Depending on linkage fees only makes sense if you are simultaneously trying to encourage development, so that linkage fees actually become a revenue stream. If the linkage fees are just one more hoop for developers to jump through, on top of height restrictions, use restrictions, design review, etc, in hopes of discouraging development, we better not come to depend on that revenue stream.

    Plus, I thought the plan from proponents of linkage fees was to spend a big chunk of that money on building “affordable housing”. (Same question on affordable housing: Is the goal to build affordable housing, or to discourage development?)

    1. There are state and constitutional caps on property tax levels. If we use it all up for transit it won’t be available for other things, or future needs, or emergency needs. I would say transit is one of our top priorities and we need a comprehensive network now, but other people including councilmembers have other priorities.

      1. Indeed, and unless the levy swap thing happens in the Legislature, Seattle’s school funding will come from local tax levies.

    2. Never can figure out Licata. Perhaps he is worried that SFH owners might not be ok with another significant property tax increase. Special levies are now 1/3 of the overall city property tax bill. Despite the “specialness” most are effectively permanent. When they expire, supporters insist that not only must the taxes be renewed (otherwise terrible things will result) but also that taxes must be increased. Voters always say yes, which only encourages more and more “special” levies that aren’t actually special.

      If you take nice-enough hostages (Families, Education, Parks, Libraries, Fire Stations, Pike Place Market, Preschool, etc.) it is pretty easy to get voters to approve special tax levies. Transportation is not as sexy, which is perhaps why Licata thinks it may be less likely to win if it solely relies on property taxes. There’s a reason we won’t see a police levy – I bet it would lose.

  7. So, it’s been almost a week since the service changes, and the first round of Prop One improvements. How’ve they been?

  8. When I saw e-bikes, my heart skipped a beat, thinking they meant motorized bikes. But then I clicked the link and saw that they meant pedal assist bikes.

    I’m cautiously optimistic about this, as it’ll be interesting to see how inexperienced bikers deal with the ability to go faster than their abilities allow.

    1. I watched some dude with a power wheel cruising down the Burke this morning going 25. Nearly mangled himself along with couple toodling slowly – He had to go off-trail to avoid an accident.

      If you want to go 25, get on the road.

    2. What is the difference between “motorized” and “pedal-assist”? I thought “pedal-assist” was the name of a mode in which a motorized bicycle can be operated.

      1. Pedal assist, from what I know, does not directly drive the chain, but rather gives your pedaling a boost, as it’s connected to the pedals. Stop pedaling, and the bike is coasting; you can not start from a stop without pedaling, contributing to your acceleration. Usually the speed boost is maybe up to 50%, by observation (but that could totally be wrong).

        Motorized bikes usually have a throttle that controls a motor that directly powers the rear wheel. You can go from zero to 20 without moving your feet. The people I see with these typically appear to be out of control.

        While I don’t particularly like either, I feel that pedal assist is safer, because the act of pedaling can give a sense of awareness of your speed and the trail ahead of you.

      2. The pedal assist bikes (at least the ones that I know of) typically have a speed limit cutoff as well. So beyond a certain speed (around 15 MPH) you are on your own.

  9. Anyone know what Sound Transit submitted a TIGER application for this year?

    Any TIGER applications from King County or Port of Seattle?

    Did UW go after a TIGER grant for Burke Gilman upgrades again?

    1. According to the u.s dept. of transportation, Tiger funding for FY 2015 is just $500 million, across the entire country, or $10 million per state. Murray’s $25 million application is effectively asking for all the money for Washington and Idaho combined, plus half or Montana. Good luck.

      1. It can’t possibly be that each state just gets $10 million regardless of its population and the merits of its projects. You’re trolling right?

      2. The projects are judged on their merit. But, at the end of the day, the average award for each state must be $10 million, in order the total to come out right.

        I am dividing the national budget by 50 to illustrate just how competitive TIGER is these days. If Seattle gets what it wants, and the grant money is distributed roughly evenly across the country, this means essentially zero for the entire rest of the Pacific Northwest. And if a couple of similar projects in the Pacific Northwest get funded, then a large region elsewhere in the country will get nothing.

        I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m simply saying that $500 million, spread out over the entire USA is extraordinary tiny, as large as the number may seem at first glance. If we get something, great, but TIGER is not something that can be dep

      3. The projects are judged on their merit. But, at the end of the day, the average award for each state must be $10 million, in order the total to come out right.

        I am dividing the national budget by 50 to illustrate just how competitive TIGER is these days. If Seattle gets what it wants, and the grant money is distributed roughly evenly across the country, this means essentially zero for the entire rest of the Pacific Northwest. And if a couple of similar projects in the Pacific Northwest get funded, then a large region elsewhere in the country will get nothing.

        I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m simply saying that $500 million, spread out over the entire USA is extraordinary tiny, as large as the number may seem at first glance. If we get something, great, but TIGER is not something that can be depended on, and there had better be a backup plan if we don’t get squat.

        With Republicans in control of Congress, TIGER funding is only going to go down for the foreseeable future. Most Republicans would probably prefer to eliminate it altogether if they could.

      4. “$500 million, spread out over the entire USA is extraordinary tiny”\

        And what’s 300 million? The US population. So it’s slightly more than $1 per person. That buys about a third of one bus trip or half a Sunday newspaper. That’s the answer to America’s infrastructure needs?

  10. Glenn, any comment about the Portland mode comparison? My own take is same as always:

    Up to a certain passenger load, there’s no reason why buses on comparably reserved right of way can move as fast and smoothly as light rail cars.

    But again, since there are problems coupling buses, at a certain point, for the same passenger capacity, the following distance necessary makes same passenger load much longer than a train.

    Hence preference for right of way able to carry buses short term, joint ops mid-term, and trains only when buses can’t handle the loads anymore.

    Pretty much same original idea of DSTT. However, hopefully designed, and more important operated, by people who not fully understand, but care about, efficient operation in all phases, and smooth transition between phases.

    Which was the original plan for the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Which should be a treasure-chest of object lessons.

    Mark Dublin

    1. MAX costs about $0.44 per passenger per mile. TriMet’s buses cost about $4 per passenger per mile.

      The fact that the cost per passenger is about the same only means that people have stopped using the buses for longer trips. Or, are willing to put up with four times the annoyances before saying “Screw this, I’m buying a bike.” (Seriously, some statistics show that we have about twice the number of bike commuters as TriMet commuters.)

      Also, may I remoind you that buses and MAX feed one another. Many of those short trips on the bus wouldn’t happen unless there was MAX to connect to.

      The green line in particular crosses a number of frequent service bus lines. Why spend an extra hour on the bus when you can transfer to MAX and get there faster, if you happen to live in far southeast? The fact that fewer people need to be on the bus and get a walking speed tour of SE Division or Hawthorne mean those are less crowded, so it is easier and faster for those passengers to board, reducing the cost of those routes a bit.

      MAX, however, has not been built in a way that serves the very busy inner SE areas. Those are very busy, and I don’t think there is a question in anyone’s mind that those could be operated for less per passenger if light rail went there, if the line were built right. Except, you would probably attract more riders and attract them from further out.

      We have such a small express bus network here that you don’t use the bus to go long distances unless you have to, or unless you are really cheap (like me). MAX has changed this. People are willing to go farther by transit if it moves faster, and MAX (despite its issues) does move faster than the TriMet bus network.

      I think there was also an evil conspiracy plot by TriMet to try to equalize the costs of the buses and MAX during the recession. Some of the southeast routes and the 15 in NW were every 15 minutes until 9 at night before the cutbacks. Some of those went to hourly for a while. The demand was there, but they had to cut something. So I think they cut back everything until the costs per passenger were about the same.

      In any event, it’s a statistical artifact from looking only at cost per rider and assuming that someone going two miles on the 15 and 10 miles on MAX should cost the same.

    2. Just to give you an idea of what you need to do with buses too equal MAX performance, ST express is about the same as MAX in terms of cost per passenger mile.

      So, as long as you have buses that go long distances without stopping, you can build up enough miles to equal MAX.

  11. I had this funny notion about how to satisfy the builder, renters and NIMBYs alike.

    What if we got rid of all the zoning, density, style and other silly building rules. In there place we could put well defined rules for neighborhood opposition to new construction which is different from most of the buildings in the surrounding area.

    The builders wouldn’t have to be experts in funny rules and could build as big as dense as they want. They just need to ask around the local businesses and residents first.

    The places populated by lawn preservationist will need to spend less time organizing to protest new buildings because their wish to preserve their neighborhood in amber is recognized by law.

    The people perennially complaining anything new is ugly can push for either interesting style or matching current style.

    The renters would also benefit because overall there would be more buildable land.

    I particularly think this would be a good choice in a place as conservative as the US.

    But then I realized there is one important group of people that would never go along with this idea – politicians. How would they be able to maintain the illusion that they are important. They would have no power to alter the building outcomes in the city. If these where the rules, what would they tell voters when things go bad. They cant say, not my fault; nothing I can do. But with these laws, that would be the truth.

    Another clever idea ruined by politics.

    1. Neighbors will always oppose new developments, so the renters will always lose in the system you are opposing. No new developments would be built.

      1. Some always will. And I’m sure some neighborhoods would never change. But some places wouldn’t care. Do you think any of the businesses or students in the U-District would care if another tower went up next to the UW tower? Also, you would try to balance the rules for reasonableness by having a minimum amount of neighborhood occupants needed to raise opposition and recourse for developers to counter with a pro movement from other local residents.

        Ok, I admit this was sort of a joke idea, but I can’t imagine it being much worse than our current system, and it would definitely be more interesting.

      2. There are people in the U-District who do care that the one-story buildings remain one-story and the lowrises remain lowrise. They don’t want to see anything new except more open space. (Always more open space.) Students’ opinions don’t count because they’re not homeowners or business owners. The UW dorms are an exception because they’re on UW property and the UW has eminent domain power and can argue for whatever zoning capacity it needs.

    2. I know that seems like kind of a crazy idea, but I think for a lot of the city, it would be an improvement. For example, I could easily some of the big houses in Seattle converted to apartments, and the neighbors basically going “so what?”. It reminds me of when public notices have to go up for obviously minor things (like a new antenna) or things that just about everyone would support (an addition to a school).

      I could also see a public fund that would allow bargaining. Each proposal would come with a local offset. So the conversion would come with no extra money, but a big ugly apartment building would come with an extra couple million. That money could be used for neighborhood amenities, like better playground equipment at the parks or sidewalks (in areas that lack them). With enough of an offset, people might support it — then again, if the building is really ugly, people might reject it.

      Of course people would demand parking, which I find especially frustrating. I can understand why you don’t want an ugly building to be built (and that goes for a new house). But I have no sympathy for those that demand that renters, or new owners, pay extra so that they have parking they may not even use.

  12. I rode the SLU streetcar earlier this week and a transit official checked all Orca Cards during the southbound trip on Westlake. I was guilty of not having tapped-on, and apparently he could see that I had money on my card; he asked me to tap when I got off. It seems like they know a lot of people have considered the SLUT free for a few years now, and so are going easy on offenders until awareness increases..

    1. Interestingly it doesn’t say “light rail now”; at least on my reading it says “West Seattle should get what works”

    2. Right! In my experience West Seattle transit advocates are much more reasonable than the strawman version of them that commonly shows up in these common threads.

      1. It’s not exactly a stawman, because various political powers that be keep drawing lines that go there.

    3. Argh, I just can’t tell what they’re actually proposing! Is this just a strategic thing? So that all the SOV drivers can believe they’re proposing new SOV lanes on the west seattle bridge, while all the transit advocates on here can believe they’re proposing new bus lanes on the bridge and new bus ramps to 99 NB and I-5 NB??

    4. All whining and hyperbole aside, the most intriguing part of the entire article was this:

      * Provide a fully funded, integrated, West Seattle Peninsula ingress-egress plan with a scope of work, timeline, and funding source. Its structure should be fully compatible with conversion to a future Sound Transit dedicated right-of-way, Light Rail or Bus Rapid Transit system.

      Catch that last part? These folks actually want (or would at least accept) a BRT system. This is huge. Lots of people have argued that the best thing for the peninsula (not just one little piece) is a good BRT system. I agree completely. The city should work with Sound Transit in doing exactly that. Build the WSTT, a freeway ramp and start working on all the other little pieces to make the system work really well. The city can (and should) chip in for those pieces (because they are much cheaper). There is no reason that the area can’t have a huge improvement in public transportation.

      1. The West Seattle Transportation Coalition is a very small group of people who most definitely don’t speak for the general population. They can’t even proofread their press releases as this one is riddled with typos. You guys really shouldn’t spend any time parsing this text.

      2. I know — but still. The fact that a group that has insisted on light rail as *the only solution* to include BRT in their article suggests that the message is at least getting around that maybe BRT is better (or at least acceptable to them).

    5. I’ve read a lot about why various plans to bring light rail to West Seattle don’t offer much bang for the buck, but I haven’t read a lot about what specifically doesn’t work about existing transit. My best understanding is that the biggest problems are:

      1. All of the all-day routes and possibly even the peak-hour expresses take too long to get from Alaska Junction to the freeway.

      2. Bus lanes on the West Seattle Bridge and 99 are incomplete, and where they exist are positioned such that drivers regularly have to merge across them; this means the lanes are sometimes blocked, and that it isn’t safe to go very fast in them (similar to parts of 520 where bus lanes are on the right).

      3. From a lot of places you have to go through Alaska Junction to cross the bridge even though it’s out of the way, and once you’re there you’re still faced with problems 1 and 2. Admiral is symbolic of this: most of the time cross-bridge trips start with a ride on the theoretically-frequent combination of the 50 and 128, to Alaska Junction… which is farther from the bridge (by travel time) than Admiral!

      So off-peak riders along Fauntleroy suffer problems 1 and 2; those from High Point (on the 21) suffer problem 2 and about half of problem 1; Delridge riders mostly just get problem 2; Admiral riders suffer all three; and if you live around Alki, at least you have the beach. Admiral drops problems 1 and 3 during peak hours. Without getting into how various ideas address these problems… is there anything important I’m missing in terms of what’s wrong with how it works today?

      1. Buses can be stuck for a considerable amount of time behind car traffic when entering the curved entrance to Hwy 99 N; When cars get into accidents on the WSB or Hwy 99, the buses are stuck considerably longer in traffic just like the cars; Outside of going downtown, it takes considerably longer to get to other parts of the city from WS via bus–buses getting stuck in car traffic in sodo, unreliable transfer times for bus connections—therefore many choose to drive. In the absence of light rail, a WSTT (REAL BRT) would make it much more amenable to commute by bus from WS since it would help buses reach a broader swath of the city w/o sitting in car traffic and potentially enable easier transfers to the light rail mode.

        We’re getting more people here, even though we’re not as populous as Ballard, so infrastructure inevitably has to change for us, lest cars and buses suffer longer queue waits on WSB and 99.

      2. I agree, Al, I would like to hear a lot more about possible solutions.

        I think your assessment is right, but I think you exaggerate the bridge congestion problems just a bit. In general they aren’t that bad. It is only really bad in the morning, and depending on who you talk to, not that bad in general.. It is bad mainly because I-5 is bad. This is one of the common misconceptions about the West Seattle traffic situation. If you added ten lanes to the bridge, the problems would still exist. If you added ten lanes to I-5, the problems would go away (at least until more cars took advantage). This is why it isn’t that bad in the evening (heading to West Seattle). Of course, the makes no difference if you are stuck in traffic, trying to get to 99 or a different off ramp. It also isn’t that bad in the middle of the day either direction (it is mostly a morning problem).

        Speaking of 99, East Coast Cynic is correct. In general the bus lane is fine, it is just too limited. It kicks in fairly late for those coming from the top of the hill, and goes away before the 99 turn. it starts up again after that, but just making that turn can take a while if traffic is really heavy (and it can get really heavy). The drivers cutting over to get to 99 are a problem, but I would imagine not a huge one. A bus driver with a heavy horn can get those guys out of the way (after a minor slowdown). It isn’t like Aurora, where the bus lane is shared much of the way with cars that are turning. In this case the car can legally only be in there for as long as it takes to get to the other lane (a weird situation, to be sure, but one that cuts down on congestion). Once a bus picks up some speed (even 30 MPH) I don’t think many drivers would cut in front (in heavy traffic). Meanwhile, drivers usually merge and get over there before a bus comes barreling through.

        The ramp from Delridge does not have a bus lane, so even though you get a bus lane almost immediately after you enter the freeway, you have to wait for everyone to merge in front of you. So that, along with the 99 problem, make it almost as bad as those on the top of the hill. In general, though the biggest problems are as you get to downtown (as ECC said).

        Solutions to many of these problems would not be cheap. But they also wouldn’t be nearly as expensive as light rail. There is a substantial infrastructure to leverage. and this is also one of those places where BRT, even from scratch, would be substantially cheaper, just because of the steep hillside. BRT spreading to the various parts of the peninsula (whether it is open or not) is the best solution, given the population geography of the area (too wide spread to serve with one line and not enough people to justify serving with three).

        I agree with East Coast Cynic that WSTT with a ramp (as shown on the WSTT map) would get us most of the way there. Even without new bus lanes, you would see substantial improvement. I would like to see a full fledged solution, though. I would love to see a list of projects that would make that area move as well as is ideally possible. I would include steps taken on the surface streets as well (all the major corridors). This is really where the West Seattle Transit Coalition is asking for help. They want the city to work on improving those corridors, so that they will fit well with future (Sound Transit) light rail or BRT. I agree. It seems crazy to think that we are thinking about spending billions on a rail line that just about everyone agrees will not be that cost effective, when we can get the city and Sound Transit to work on improving all of the corridors. This isn’t simple and easy, but neither is the Madison BRT. As the planning goes along, heavy lifting might be done by Sound Transit (improvements to the freeway along with the WSTT) and the smaller (but no less important) improvements be done by the city.

        The great thing about piece by piece projects like this is that you can see improvement right away. It is like building a bunch of overpasses, instead of a brand new freeway. Each time one goes in, things get a bit better. In this case, they would get a lot better, because if you did them all, you would have an excellent public transportation system that could probably handle all of the needs for West Seattle for the next century, while moving people as quickly as Central Link light rail does. It wouldn’t take long for these projects to quickly surpass the point where (for the majority of riders) it is better than light rail. The WSTT plus the ramp might get us there immediately, and if not, then other improvements on the freeway (and its rams) would.

      3. I think part of the general push for “rail and rail only” in West Seattle is that we’ve seen the emptiness of promises for BRT first-hand. The C-line is not rapid by any means because of the above-mentioned bridge/99/I5 traffic and incomplete transit lanes, and thus folks are rightly suspicious that anything less than rail will actually deliver on the promise of being “rapid” and free from woes caused by SOV traffic.

        If SDOT/Metro/Sound Transit could actually come up with a fully dedicated-lane solution between the junction and downtown, then people might be convinced that something other than rail is a viable option. In my mind, the WSTT, if done well, could go a long way in providing that in a cost-effective and forward-thinking manner. But what’s needed is *really* good outreach in the community, keeping in mind that West Seattle residents, rightly or wrongly, have the real sense that the city has for decades been throwing scraps at them in lieu of actual transit solutions.

      4. BRT “spreading” to the whole peninsula would require more total buses going downtown (or otherwise across the bridge), and therefore higher overall operational cost for less hours in West Seattle itself, right? Basically what we had before the RapidRide restructure, except with fewer morning delays? That service pattern is hard to stomach off-peak when the buses aren’t full, hence the RapidRide restructure and all those Alaska Junction transfers. Maybe it’s easier to stomach if it costs fewer hours due to being faster on the mainland. But it presents a challenge, as the routes spreading from the foot of the bridge don’t help much in creating the network of local services you want on the peninsula, and there aren’t many opportunities to interline for frequent corridors where they matter. It’s a pretty harsh cost-speed-frequency tradeoff off-peak.

      5. Remember that we already have the C, 21, 120, and 125 going downtown off-peak, with more routes during peak hours. These four all-day routes, taken alone, would already confer a significant advantage to the BRT. At most, rail could replace one of them; the others would need to either transfer or proceed downtown as at present.

      6. @LWC — I agree. Metro has ruined the label “BRT” for Seattle. The same thing has happened in other cities, for the label “light rail”. Imagine if our streetcar (which is stuck in traffic) was called “light rail” and you can understand how this happens. The education task will be difficult, but not impossible. One advantage of the WSTT is that it can be retrofitted with light rail later. The city has a history of that, and temporary problems aside, it has worked out really well.

        @Al — The operational cost advantages of rail only occur if the train is close to full. West Seattle light rail would not be full, which is why they don’t think the train would run very often (every ten minutes at peak). The 120 runs more often than that during peak, and fairly often off peak (every fifteen minutes or so). The 20 run roughly every fifteen minutes all day. The C is even more frequent during rush hour and the rest of the day. So with a train, folks either get nothing out of it (the buses still slog downtown) or people are forced to wait (and hope that the bus arrives a few minutes before, not after, the train).

        So right now, you have what Metro believes is justifiable service — service that is more frequent than light rail. My guess is these aren’t “empty buses”. With the huge improvement in service (cutting a substantial amount of time off of a commute) I think these buses would be extremely popular, and offer a huge operational advantage over light rail.

        You would get a very nice virtuous cycle out of BRT (or just bus improvements). It takes a lot less time to get downtown, which means that Metro can add more frequency. More people ride it (because it is really fast and frequent) and the service is justified.

        On the other hand, with low frequency on the train you lose much of that. You could easily add more buses, since you save a huge amount of service hours by forcing everyone to transfer. But you offer no rider advantage when traffic is low. It is actually worse than today. Even if the train was running at 10 minute frequency in the middle of the day, that is an average five minute transfer (there is no way a bus like that can get to a station at a consistent time). With no rider advantage, there would be no increase in ridership, and little reason for Metro to increase frequency. Besides, if the train runs every 15 minutes, then why have two bus loads arrive before the next train? That would only make sense if the buses can’t carry enough people every fifteen minutes, which is the opposite of the problem you feared.

        There just aren’t the numbers to justify an operational or any other advantage with light rail to West Seattle. At best it would provide decent, infrequent service for a handful of people in one area of West Seattle. But the rest of West Seattle would be no better off than today.

    1. A conductor rail capable of delivering 1500 Amps at 750 volts? In Light Rail stations? Wow, they have well trained riders in Europe. There’d be a moron a week fricasseed over here. Let’s stick with overhead, please.

      1. The way I understand it, that particular system only allows the third rail to be energized if the train is sitting on that section. I think I read somewhere that Bombardier demonstrated a similar product in China for one of the new tram (as in streetcar) lines as well.

  13. Every time I read about a TIGER grant, I get hit with a serious personal conflict about correct mental picture.

    Is this really about Tony, the mascot oN every single box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes sixty years ago?

    Or is it something more pertinent to both trolleybuses and international events, like a Russian armored car of that name figuring an accident report I’m glad I didn’t have to write.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcMstV-1oyY

    But the hands-down winner is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Rag

    Bet 1918 moms and dads went more raging berserk than modern ones whose kids crank up the “HipHop” ’til it breaks a window. So when popular music history repeats itself again…

    Wonder if we could use it to add 78 RPM phonographs to same to fill in gaps between announcements to hold onto poles and straps to similar advice about TIGERS?

    Mark

  14. Today, the 246 took an entire hour to get from Bellevue Transit Center to Somerset (it’s scheduled at 30 minutes at that time, and 20-23 minutes at uncongested times). About 20 minutes of that were spent stuck on the quarter-mile on SE 8th St just west of 405, and there was also stop-and-go traffic on Richards Road north of I-90.

    To be fair, that was probably an extreme case, but the point is that just a few strategically-placed bus lanes could have helped a LOT in this situation, as they would have provided a way around the severe congestion that cripples large swathes of the Eastside (including surface streets). Therefore, I’m a bit concerned that Sound Transit seems to think that Issaquah-Kirkland light rail should be the main priority for East King, apart from extending Link to Redmond and I-405 BRT. Instead of burning money on a project that will not speed up people’s trips at all (i.e. Issaquah light rail) or only marginally on a corridor that is struggling to fill up buses every 15 minutes at peak hours (Bellevue-Kirkland), could Sound Transit 3 be used to fund lots of small but crucial improvements that actually give people a way around the debilitating congestion on the Eastside? Bellevue already made a wish-list of capital investments, and I’m sure other cities could do the same: https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/07/03/bellevue-shows-the-way-on-capital-projects/

    Traffic congestion is definitely something that practically all Eastside residents can relate to, and I would think that creating a strong bus network that is practically immune to congestion would be a lot more popular to voters than an Issaquah-Kirkland light rail line of questionable utility. Of course, the Issaquah-Bellevue-Kirkland corridor could still be significantly improved, but the key improvements could probably be done for a small portion of the cost of light rail.

    1. Traffic congestion is definitely something that practically all Eastside residents can relate to, and I would think that creating a strong bus network that is practically immune to congestion would be a lot more popular to voters…

      Traffic congestion is a problem all around the region, but I think that the Eastsiders are willing to live with it, by and large, if it means keeping on with single-occupant vehicles. That’s not a slam, it’s a reality of life. The amount of money needed to run an all-day, frequent bus system that covers a variety of trip pairs on the Eastside is a lot and probably more than county residents are willing to pay. Stir in opposition to bus lanes because it takes away parking or lanes for cars and you’ve a mix that doesn’t taste very good.

      Rail, on the other hand, is something people will usually pay for even if they don’t anticipate riding it a lot because it looks shiny and lacks the bias against buses. Besides, rail has that permanence that a lot of people like and usually includes park-and-ride facilities outside of the urban core.

      I wish King County had voted yes on Prop 1 because I’d love to see what would have happened had the economy turned around and the entire county be able to buy the amount of service Seattle just bought for itself. That having happened would be a great opportunity to prove my skepticism wrong.

      1. >> Rail, on the other hand, is something people will usually pay for even if they don’t anticipate riding it a lot because it looks shiny and lacks the bias against buses.

        I disagree. We rejected rail several times before finally passing a very scaled down version that emphasized buses in the suburbs. If memory serves, I think the record is 2-4. The first two losses were with Forward Thrust. Then the loss with the first Sound Transit proposal (that had a lot of rail). The last loss was with “roads and transit”, which also had a lot of rail. The other victory was ST2 — the most current vote. If you are two and four and think you are on a hot streak because you won your last game, I think you are a bit overconfident.

        Besides, for the north and east sides especially, ST2 had the key pieces that just about everyone thought was necessary, and not a lot more (OK, Link to Lynnwood is more than necessary — just Mountlake Terrace would have been fine — but getting to Lynnwood was not hugely expensive from there). I think just about everyone agrees that we are getting diminishing returns for suburban rail now.

        Since every ballot issue is different, it is hard to interpret things. But in general, I would say Metro isn’t really popular, especially in the suburbs. Meanwhile, I think Sound Transit express buses are. Part of this is just commuter bias. It is a lot easier politically to cut local service than it is to cut crowded express buses. This suggests that an investment in more commuter oriented service (commuter rail and express buses) might be more popular than the all day, frequent advantages that light rail offers.

    2. As far as these corridors, especially where there are bike trails, I’ve always felt they’ve been completely wasted as a housing resource. Of course that means getting away from the pure and pristine concept of a “nature trail”.

      It seems to me that a nice design for around here would be to take a bike trail, and keeping it pure pedestrian and bike on the inside, allow them to build townhomes and apartment buildings on either side…retaining enough green space and trees to keep it natural, but allowing for development (again with a mandatory width).

      Then, paralleling the corridor, on the outside, would be the rail and roads. So basically, all homes and apartments would have one face to the nature/bike trail, and one to the street.

  15. Hyundai Motor Group Establishing Infrastructure for Hydrogen Powered Cars

    Gwangju will also take hydrogen fuel cell buses for a spin. Hyundai Motor will offer a 16-passenger hydrogen fuel cell bus to the city and operate it on a trial basis.

    Hyundai Motor Group’s hydrogen fuel cell bus will be provided to Gwangju Metropolitan City free of charge until May next year so that the city can evaluate its performance and eco-friendliness. The bus is a next-generation environmentally-friendly vehicle that has the integrated eco-friendly technologies developed by the group. It can speed up to 100 kilometers per hour and has a driving range of 440 kilometers on a full charge. The hydrogen fuel cell bus emits water instead of exhaust while driving.

    Hyundai Motor is planning not only to develop a third-generation hydrogen fuel cell bus in the future but also to lead the government’s green car development policy along with the Tucson hydrogen-powered vehicle, an electric bus, and the Sonata plug-in hybrid.

    http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/article/11016/future-cars-hyundai-motor-group-establishing-infrastructure-hydrogen-powered-cars#sthash.X7gGgyzv.dpuf

  16. I was unaware of the tweaking of the ST logo, at least as it appears on the livery of the two locomotives, as depicted in the opening photo. I prefer the one on the left with the ‘Sound Transit’ wording. I assume that is the later version. And I like the darker background color. (I am colorblind, so I don’t know if just a darker blue or purple). Does some committee decide on such changes or exactly how is this decision made?

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