• SDOT has released a video of daytime First Hill streetcar tests. Still no estimate of a service start date.
  • Ballots have dropped for this year’s unprecedented City Council shakeup. Please vote, and look for our endorsements in the middle of next week.
  • A woman walking on the BNSF tracks (pro tip: never do that!) was killed by a Sounder train on Tuesday afternoon’s commute near Golden Gardens.
  • The $16.1B transportation package is now law, signed by Inslee on Wednesday. Gas prices will go up by 7 cents/gallon in August.
  • Seattle Tunnel Partners has given WSDOT a new repair and construction schedule ($), with digging set to begin again in late November. The new best-case scenario for tunnel opening? 2018. Will North Link beat Bertha?
  • The Downtown Seattle Association’s mid-year Development Guide has been released, and boomtown continues: 106 active construction sites and 3,500 apartments to be delivered this year (full report here).
  • Alan Durning of Sightline had a great piece this week on single-family housing that was equal parts wonky analysis and a meditation on privilege.
  •  The Angle Lake extension now has a complete guideway from SeaTac Airport to South 200th. Also, the project is ahead of schedule and could open as early as May 2016 ($), though September is still the official date.
  • Seattle Bike Blog eulogizes Andy Hulslander, a person who was killed by a drunk driver while bicycling in Ravenna in June. The driver is free on bail awaiting trial for vehicular homicide, and is amazingly allowed to drive in the interim.
  • Ferry woes: with the Elwha out of service for 4 months, a major and unpleasant shuffle is in order. The San Juans will lose 20 cars worth of capacity, the Evergreen  State will be recalled from retirement, and the tiny Hiyu will be reactivated to provide ad hoc service between Fauntleroy and Southworth, which will go back to 2-boat service.
  • Lynnwood Link now has FTA approval, with the Record of Decision on the Final EIS being issued Wednesday.
  • Sound Transit’s Pamela is now at Roosevelt, breaking through earlier this week. North Link tunneling is on schedule to be complete by mid-2016.

This is an open thread.

55 Replies to “News Roundup: Ballot Drop”

  1. I’m curious, if the tunnels will be done in 2016, why will it take a further 5 years to finish northgate link?

    1. Probably will take 4 years given sound transits track record (pun intended) they always add float time. Which explains why u link and angle lake station may both open significantly ahead of schedule.

      1. so why does it take so much longer to outfit the bored tunnels for light rail than a freeway? 2021 for northgate link, 2018 for bertha tunnel?

      2. Because
        A: Northgate is far, but Bertha is relatively short.
        B: 2018 is the “best case scenario.” The Bertha tunnel won’t be finished by 2018 and everyone knows it.

      3. A lot of it has to do with WSDOT simply being more optimistic in its estimates than Sound Transit. The DBT was originally supposed to open before U-link.

        That said, I’d be shocked if highway tunnels require the same ridiculous 6-month testing period as transit tunnels.

    2. And to be pedantic, the tunnels aren’t finished until the cross passages are completed and any additional ventilation (more than the stations) is completed. So that is another 6-12 months, then track and catenary and signals. Also, they can’t really start construction on U District station until the TBMs pass through, and station construction must take 1-2 years. Then testing.

      Basically, it sucks that it takes this long, but it does.

      1. With Bertha’s best-case opening date being 2018, here are some things which will be open before Bertha’s tunnel:
        — University Link
        — Angle Lake Link
        — First Hill Streetcar
        — Broadway Streetcar Extension
        — I-90 Two-Way Transit Lanes
        — Point Defiance Bypass and several other projects speeding Amtrak from Portland to Seattle
        — Tacoma Trestle replacement, double-tracking the Sounder trestle near Freighthouse square
        — complete delivery into service of the New Flyer trolleybuses, retirement of Gilligs and Bredas

        There might be more. 2018 is the *best*-case scenario for Bertha. If it slips into 2019 or 2020…

        This again raises the issue of “Shouldn’t the viaduct be torn down right now?” It’s not earthquake-safe.

      2. @Nath…

        You missed a really big one. Around 2017 or 18 the DSTT will become Light Rail only. That will significantly improve the reliability of LR and allow ST to do all sorts of other interesting things.

      3. Lazarus,

        What will happen in 2017/2018 which will allow the expulsion of buses from the DSTT? Is Metro going to restructure South King County such that the 101, 102, 106 and 150 can be shoved out? If so, it’s not clear how. How about the 216, 218, 219 and 255? And what about the 550? That line is a “natural” for the tunnel, since it’s pretty much a “shadow” of East Link, at least to Bellevue TC

        What is going to happen in 2016/2017 that will increase the throughput frequency and capacity of Link sufficiently that all these bus lines can be “kicked upstairs”?

        I don’t think it will happen until North Link opens.

      4. Anandakos, convention center expansion will take out Convention Place station in that timeframe.

      5. The simplest solution (which is probably what Metro will probably end up doing) is to just send the expelled buses downtown via 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th Ave.

      6. Seattle Times article on Friday pointed out that the completion of the convention center in 2021 will coincide with the buses being kicked out.

      7. That’s incorrect. Even if convention center construction doesn’t close Convention Place station, construction at IDS related to East Link in 2019 will close IDS to buses.

      8. The station at IDS is elevated and I have seen no evidence that EastLink construction will affect the bus tunnel. Do you have a source?

  2. Watching the financially caused woes of the ferry system over the past 15 years has been painful. At least they are now finally getting new boats.

    Hopefully the fleet can be brought fully to a state of good repair and enough ferries can be bought to allow for both scheduled maintenance and breakdowns during the busy summer season.

    1. Once the two boats get added then we will have a stable fleet. One more is under construction (Seattle Bremerton 144) and another is funded. Should add stability to the fleet.

  3. 1. Good streetcar footage. But would like to see ongoing series showing the First Hill cars climbing the southbound grade past Swedish Hospital carrying at least the weight of a full passenger load on batteries.

    Withholding judgment pending results, but might help if the system explains we’re running an experiment with a new propulsion technology. And encouraging passengers to adjust their travel schedules for critical travel accordingly.

    2. It would be good if engineer Brian Bundridge could comment on the number of people regularly killed on the BN tracks passing Golden Gardens. Am I right about combination of willful individual ignorance, inadequate barriers, and short line of sight from the cab?

    I wonder if BN could install trackside intrusion sensors to warn both trainmen and railroad security about trespassers. Though would be good if this could be done without drones, which to me are becoming a civic habit dangerous to both public safety and civil liberties.

    3. Any chance WordPress could issue “Name and Email” reminder without exiting the blog and deleting the comment? I wouldn’t tolerate getting my hand slapped when I was five, which was a very long time ago, leaving me a lifelong habit of returning a slapped wrist with a closed fist. Just sayin’…

    Mark Dublin

    1. Alan Durning is a hypocritical piece of work. . . How does an increase in the price of my house make me wealthier when the only cash flow effect that results is my having to pay more property taxes? If I never move, housing inflation makes me poorer, not richer. And then to imply that people like me are greedy and the beneficiaries of racism (at the very least) is really rich. Housing inflation is only good for people who move away (something we are supposedly trying to prevent), people who use their homes as ATMs (which many do irresponsibly).

      I am in full agreement that additional supply is needed to try to preserve affordability. But, funding “affordable” housing with increased property taxes creates as many problems as it solves by making the cost of living higher for those homeowners who are on fixed incomes. If it is okay to pressure these older, greedy, “racist” homeowners to sell and move out, why isn’t it okay for lower-income people to be pressured to move out by higher rental and/or home prices?

      1. An increase in the value of the house makes you wealthier. Look up the definition of wealth. Now, whether increased wealth can lead to increased income or an increase in your quality of living is a completely different story. But as you age, you can get a reverse mortgage. You can pass on the wealth to your heirs. This more than makes up for the property taxes you pay (or your heirs pay) along the way.

      2. An increase in your assessed value doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in your property tax. The tax depends in part on how your assessed value rose or fell in relation to all the other pieces of property in your various taxing districts.

      3. @rossb,

        Ya, as you age you can do something really stupid and get a reverse mortgage just to stay in your own house.

      4. This opens a big door to fixed income owners. If you can build in an ADU or DADU, you are no longer on a fixed income, and all you have to do is rent to someone responsible. Being a landlord is work, but if you have only one tenent and they live next to you its not so bad.

  4. One cannot be a proponent of both urban density and the upzoning of single family neighborhoods.

      1. Ross, as Master Po said to Grasshopper, being puzzled it the beginning of wisdom. I will not tell you the answer, for a great professor teaches his student how to think, not what to think.

      2. The ability to take on an increased amount of debt on an illiquid asset does not make you wealthier. Reverse mortgages create obligations – it is not found money. And a higher home value does not equate to increased wealth if I have to spend just as much when I sell the property to buy a comparable home in a comparable location. All that the higher home value represents is inflation.

      3. Scam,

        A great professor asks a question in order to stimulate the mind of his student. He (or she) does not emit a messy, stinking emesis of clearly irreconcilable hypotheses as revealed truth.

    1. Sustainable urban density only exists in aggregate form. It does not exist in quarantined islands in seas of sprawl. That is a nonsense Seattle theory that needs to die.

      This is why European cities are both more functional, dynamic, and sustainable than Seattle. Full stop.

      Also, shut up, troll!

  5. Off the above topics somewhat but after following Denver’s Fastrack initiatives and Vancouver’s voter disapproval I’m concerned about future ST initiatives (ST3, ST4 and etc) ever passing. As part of Fastracks, Boulder and Longmont were promised LR extensions in return for votes. As it turned out, except for a few miles of token track, Boulder county was screwed over while the remainder of Denver got several miles of new track. In light of these failures I think ST should be very careful in choosing the sequence of projects undertaken. To help ensure votes I think all remaining destinations should be offered to make the network as appealing to the most voters.

    1) Link to Everett should be cut in 1/2 so has to reach Paine with ST3. (Destination: Paine field from the south) ST4 can extend from Paine to Everett.

    2) Likewise with Des Moines to Tacoma, do it 1/2 way for ST3 (Destination Seatac from south) and finish with ST4.

    3) Do a Ballard to DT tunnel in ST3 and then LR from Ballard to WS in ST4.

    4) For ST3 do Ballard to Children’s (Destinations Woodland Zoo, Children’s, University Village)

    In doing it this way all significant destinations are covered and hence a likely larger voter approval rate due to destination attractiveness. Also, every region gets a piece of the pie but still has incentives for ST4 to pass.

    1. Making the suburbs wait another cycle for light rail isn’t going to get very much support from voters and elected officials. Also, Paine Field should be skipped altogether (in my opinion).

    2. Les,

      The truth is, Sound Transit has already hit the limit of sub-area equity. There is nowhere to spend enough East King dollars effectively to allow a package big enough to meet North King’s needs. That’s because North King’s needs were largely sacrificed to political cowardice in ST1 (Link to the airport) and suburban hegemony in ST2.

      But voters in Kent, Auburn, Des Moines, Bellevue and south Snohomish have all they need from Sound Transit. I expect they’d be happy with the express buses and Sounder as is and Link as it will be after ST2 is built out.

      Do folks in South Snohomish want to take the train to Everett? Do folks in Midway want to take the train to Tacoma? Rarely. Basically, everywhere in the suburbs between the Seattle City Limits and the places to which Link will reach as of ST2 completion are likely to vote ideologically. Most Republicans will vote “No”; most Democrats will vote “Yes”, and the 10% who actually evaluate ballot questions will mostly vote “No” because they understand that pushing further into the boonies doesn’t make sense.

      Especially since the places beyond the current to-be-built termini, with the exception of Redmond, really don’t want to become dense places.

      So while your planning strategy would have been superb had it been applied to ST2, the horse has left the barn. The dense parts of the suburbs have their cake. It’s too little, too late.

      1. I think that’s certainly true with respect to extending rail to new places. However, simply increasing the schedule of the existing Sounder line could be quite popular with Kent and Auburn for ST 3 (the bus options when Sounder isn’t running take at least twice as long), and could easily fill up South King’s piece of the $15 billion pie.

    1. The plan calls for underground parking and other facilities, so the station will be removed.

      Link can’t use Convention Place Station because of its proximity to I-5, as explained when it was rejected as the temporary northern terminus of Central Link back in the early 2000s. Westlake Station is close enough for the loss to be of no real consequence.

      1. There is definitely a huge gap between Westlake and Capitol Hill Stations. The loss of Convention Place wouldn’t be that bad if there was a Pike/Pine station which was an incredible oversight in planning. It could have perhaps been incorporated (at least a station access easement) into those big new 7 story almost full block developments between Pine & Pike at Boylston that are finishing up. Convention Place area also is seeing a ton of new high rise development as it serves the Denny Triangle and even some of Cascade. Its too late now but when the work was done on DSTT with the Pine Street stub in late 2000s that would have been an opportunity to have designed a new Convention Place station actually under Pine Street.

  6. Interesting to compare the Link spine through Seattle which has almost no provisions for branches (like Ballard spur) with Philadelphia’s Broad Street Subway which was designed from the beginning for lots of expansion (which never occurred) through branches with all kinds of flying junctions and express tracks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broad_Street_Line

  7. Saturday nights: 164 gets to Green River College at 10:18pm, last 181 to Federal Way leaves GRC at 10:16pm. That doesn’t work. How about route 180?

    180 gets to Auburn station at 10:37, 181 to Fed Way leaves Auburn station at 10:30. That doesn’t work either.

    Transit planning in a vacuum at its finest. Someone should tell metro that a gridded network doesn’t work if transferring routes don’t work.

    1. Sadly, such thunderously poorly scheduled transfers happen in far too many transit systems in the USA.

      The concept that a few operators in Europe have with very well executed transfers and transit centers at helf-hour points along major routes seems like an excellent concept. I’ve not had the opportunity to gain extensive first hand experience.

      1. Granted, the only way to make any transfer scenario work with infrequent routes would be to either have buses wait for each other (which seems non-existent here, which is a shame, because it would solve so many transfer woes), or to have specially timed dwell periods at transit centers (used by Pierce Transit for transfers between route 100 and Gig Harbor trolley). But in the case of 164 to 181 and vice versa, for each direction, there is only one transfer scenario because they share a terminus, it’s not hard to make this work at all, especially with a two minute difference. How could no one at Metro have ever thought that someone might want to transfer between 181 and 164 at Green River College? I mean, literally the ONLY reason anyone would want to take the bus to Green River College on a Saturday night would BE to transfer to another bus.

      2. I’ve complained about similar issues in other parts of the Metro system. If they’re going to spend the money to run a low-ridership coverage route, the least they can do is schedule it to line up with other buses at connection points. The argument that a route is important enough to run at all, in the first place, but not important enough to bother coordinating schedules is one that has never been convincing to me. The cost of the staff time it would take to fix issues like this is negligible compared to the cost of actually operating the buses in question.

        There is also the possibility that Metro sometimes intentionally schedules routes they don’t like to have poor connections in hopes that the ridership numbers will justify cutting the route or reducing trips when the next recession hits. The former 927 in Issaquah is a good example of this. It’s connections with the 554 were horrendous, nobody rode it, and the result is that Metro no longer has to pay for it.

      3. The 164 is timed to give even headways in East Hill with the 168 and 168. The 169 is timed to transfer to/from the 101 in Renton. Kent Station should have coordination between its routes but it doesn’t seem to be very good. Likewise, the Federal Way routes are not-very-well coordinated at the Federal Way Transit Center. Expecting them to meet all those timings and line up at GRCC is a bit too much, especially since GRCC has never been designated as a transfer point or transit center.

      4. It’s nice to see that at Renton TC, local routes are timed well with the bus from Seattle. At Federal Way, the 181 (westbound) does time nicely with the 578 from Seattle in the evenings, but the 187 is timed horribly (you can usually see the 187 drive away as the 578 enters the transit center). On weekends, the opposite is true: the 187 is timed nicely, but the 181 is not (You can often see your 181 drive away as you enter the transit center on weekends). Often times, I feel like the bus schedules are more random than anything, which is a shame. Buses not connecting from Kent east hill is one thing, but buses not connecting from Seattle is another.

      5. One hidden problem with timed connections is that no matter how big the “gap” is between the two buses, it tends to not work all that well. Any gap longer than about 5 minutes and the wait time between buses becomes a significant fraction of the total time of the trip, and is often the dealbreaker to one’s willingness to ride the bus – especially if the system doesn’t allow you to use the connect time to buy a cup of coffee, or even use the bathroom. On the other hand, any gap less than 10-15 minutes, you run the risk of missing your connection if your first bus is a few minutes late.

        Even a missed connection just 5% of the time means an average of one missed connection every other week for someone who depends on this connection for his/her daily commute. This is far beyond what the average person is willing to accept.

        The result is a lose-lose situation. No matter how much pad time Metro puts in, it’s either too little to ensure reliability, too much added travel time when everything is on-time, or both.

        In fact, work connections generally require one of three things:
        1) Buses that wait if incoming connections are late. (This, unfortunately, can have the side effect of worsening reliability for people who just want to ride one bus in a straight line and aren’t making any connections).
        2) Make at least one of the two routes have frequent service, ideally both. (This is by far the best option if the operating costs are affordable).
        3) Trips where at least one of the segments is long enough so that even with lots and lots of padding time, the distance, not the connection, dominates how long the trip is going to take. #3 works reasonably well for intercity trips (e.g. if you take local bus to King St. Station, followed by Amtrak to Portland, a 30-minute connect time at King St. Station is usually not a dealbreaker), but #3 pretty much by definition, excludes trips that are short enough for people to be willing to make on a regular basis.

      6. When I lived on the Eastside in the 90s the Bellevue Transit Center had what they called ‘Pulse Time’ — connections were made twenty minutes past the hour and ten minutes before the hour. Of course there were way fewer routes then….

  8. Hydrogen heats up: Alternative energy source gains traction

    HONOLULU (AP) – Hydrogen-powered vehicles are beginning to roll onto Hawaii’s transportation scene.

    Two 25-seat hydrogen-powered buses will soon be shuttling tourists between the visitors center and the Thurston Lava Tube at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and hydrogen might someday fuel the Wiki-Wiki shuttles at Honolulu Airport.


    1. I read once that San Francisco Muni actually has cameras mounted on the front of their buses to catch drivers illegally driving in bus lanes. This could probably work in Seattle too – just equipping the RapidRide buses with cameras, alone, would probably be sufficient to catch most of the bus lane violations.

      Unfortunately, it would probably generate a lot of push-back about war-on-cars, etc. – especially if a good chunk of the new ticket revenue ends up simply paying for the cameras.

      1. True, though I bet if it was just done in Seattle there would be enough political support to justify it. I would be OK with that, as long as the collected revenue is used to support only Seattle routes (same criteria as Prop 1 funds maybe). I bet a number of routes could become revenue-positive with this; the 44 alone could collect at least a thousand dollars at each of its stops at peak times.

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