First Hill streetcars lie in wait

This is an open thread.

106 Replies to “News Roundup: Scattered”

  1. WTF @ the linked Microsoft story. I work for Microsoft (and am there right now!) and hadn’t heard that they want to make the campus more ‘urban’. That’s awesome and amazing and magnificent!

    1. I’m really curious how this will turn out. A few questions:

      Urban is defined by density, but Microsoft seems to be firing workers left and right. So when they say urban do they mean amenities, or shedding land/adding workforce to get density?

      I’m not sure if the urban/suburban distinction applies in the same way to campuses as it does to other areas. Campuses are leafy and non-girded and quiet like the suburbs, and walkable and dense like cities (typically, and my model here is university, as that’s where once spent more time). As a young, obviously urbanism person, I love campuses. I imagine, of course, that Microsoft’s feels more like “Office Space” than like the UW, but, I wonder how far from the campus model towards an urban model would be beneficial, and what Microsoft plans?

      Given the above, I suspect encouraging urbanism around Microsoft, so that employees can have an urban lifestyle to go with their leafy campus, is the way to go. Microsoft, of course, could have enormous influence on zoning in Redmond. I wonder how much they will push for urbanism zoning in the area? I highly suspect it would succeede.

    2. A college town has the school buildings, housing, restaurants, bookshops, theaters, and other ancillary businesses all within walking distance of each other. It’s like the UW and Unviversity Way and the houses north of 45th without the rest of the U-District or U-Village. The campus can fit into the street grid like Urbana or NYU, or be parklike like UW or Duke. So I would consider a college town “urban” in a streetcar suburb sense, but not in a midrise/highrise sense.

      The Microsoft campus is more like towers in the park, at least what I’ve seen of it from the 545. Plain buildings all alone, although perhaps closer together than traditional office parks. “Urbanizing” it to me would mean more walkable businesses adjacent to the campus, again like University Way. And perhaps more businesses and amenities inside the campus, either by remodeling the existing buildings or in new buildings in between them.

      The article says a lot about moving from individual cubicles to open-plan shared workspaces, but I wouldn’t call that urban, or non-urban either. That’s just a variation in office arrangement, which is currently in fashion to some extent.

      1. Thanks for the perspective – I’ve never worked on a corporate campus, or been on Microsoft’s, and I’ve spent too much time on academic ones.

      2. I think “towers in a park” is a good way to describe the campus, or perhaps better “very low towers in a park”. I don’t know of any building that is higher than 3 stories and from what I’ve heard, one of the reasons for that is zoning restrictions. I’m guessing one of the reasons for the study is to look into how to expand the amount of office space currently available. I know it’s highly limited compared to demand which is part of the reason why Microsoft has several buildings in Bellevue. If they were somehow able to get the zoning requirements lifted, that would allow them to increase density by building vertically.

      3. Nitpick: I’ve been in one building with four floors, plus a garage in the basement. ;)

        And talking about garages, one very easy way to get more space would be to build something on the acres of open parking lots. Be that as it may, I’d estimate the lots I’ve seen are about 80% full, so unless there’s a huge leap in transit commuting, the space they’ll gain would be limited.

      4. “Towers in the park” originally referred to Le Courbesier’s vision of Paris, where all buildings would be consolidated into a few skyscrapers, widely spaced, with nothing but garden between them, and intentionally unwalkable so that you’d have to take a vehicle between them. But the first “skyscrapers” were only ten or so stories; they gradually grew taller. But later the concept came to refer to even lowrise buildings that had nothing around them; so 2-3 story office parks. What I meant here was buildings that are “dense” inside but surrounded by open space. I was mainly thinking of 3+ story buildings; I forgot that in the periphery are even lower buildings arranged like garden apartments.

        FWIW, parks originally were private game reserves for noblemen to hunt in. As the aristocracy declined they became public gardens and woods, and insipred the American parks. Somehow this got associated with places for storing cars, and “park” became “parking”, as in other countries courtyards became auto courts. Somebody wrote that as cars and parking became necessary features of unwalkable developments, “Towers in the park” became “Towers in the parking lot”.

    3. If they want urban, they should move to an urban location. Ya, they have sunk a lot of money into that site, but it can still be sold. They should sell it while they can and move to the proper side of the lake.

      Try to dress up the MS campus to feel more “urban” and it will probably end up feeling more like Disney Land.

      1. It’s not a bad idea if they do it right. Instead of moving to the city, bring the city to you. Redmond was not large enough to support that when the campus was founded but it is now. The light rail station is already planned, and it has an inclusive name “Redmond Technology Center”. All it needs is a real urban village around it, or whatever pieces of a village are compatible with a company’s reasonable security needs. Since there already is an urban village at Overlake Village, it just needs to be extended for real (rather than just nominally). I don’t know fully why MS leased space in downtown Bellevue and then withdrew from it, but the growing Bellevue/Redmond city on the Link network provides a real opportunity to “bring the city to Microsoftville” right now. And if people can get to it on Link as easily as if it were in downtown Bellevue or SLU or Fremont, maybe that’s OK. What we need to move away from is the isolated office parks on NE 20th Street and Eastgate and Canyon Park etc. The Microsoft campus used to be like that, but maybe now it can grow up without moving.

      2. +1 to Mike Orr. The reality is that they’ve got billions invested in that campus, and it looks to them like a better deal to keep it and try to grow walkable businesses in the area than to sell the whole thing and move. I’m sure it won’t be the region’s most beloved and sought-after neighborhood anytime soon, but they’ve got the money and the influence to get midrise mixed-use with ground floor retail next door.

      3. The three most beautiful words in the American language: I Toldya So.

        It was I who said it was stupid not to run East Link to Crossroads in Bellevue, the densest neighborhood on the eastside, (Just like Central Link bypassed Boeing to serve the Rainier Valley neighborhood), because what if one day Microsoft goes out of business decades from now? And people on this blog vilified me, much like I imagine Galileo was. So Microsoft should now move from its enormous Redmond campus to downtown Seattle or Bellevue?

        I am sitting here with a self-satisfied smirk on my face, having been proven right once again. I’ll await the apologies I am due.

      4. Far too early, Sam. It’s only a few people here on the blog saying that Microsoft should move. Microsoft itself is doubling down on its existing location, and if their ploy to BUILD MORE URBANISM (to borrow a Bailo-ism) succeeds, it’ll become even more of a desirable rail stop.

      5. I agree they should sell it…to be converted to residential housing.

        And relocate the headquarters and facilities to Mumbai in India.

        To serve a larger world audience and make way for new industries in this region.

      6. I always expected Link to serve Crossroads as the previous subway plan did. But the current route makes some sense. It isn’t just serving Microsoft, it’s also a more direct way to Redmond, and it opens up a new urban village in the Spring District. The area between downtown Bellevue and Crossroads is lowish density and probably resistant to change, whereas the Bel-Red corridor and Overlake will be redeveloped and may eventually exceed Crossroads’ population. I also thought that the Eastside’s highest population and highest potential transit ridership was in Bellevue-Kirkland-Redmond, but it turns out it’s around the Bellevue-Redmond axis where Link goes plus Crossroads. RapidRide B connects Crossroads to both downtown Bellevue and Overlake and downtown Redmond, so it will have good access and frequency can be added when it’s needed.

      7. If Microsoft goes out of business, some other companies will take up the space. Especially with the Link station right there and the growing urban villages nearby on both sides.

      8. The “proper side of the lake”? That’s not just unrealistic, it’s insulting.

        How much do you think it would cost to pick up Microsoft campus and move it? And what of the employees who live on the Eastside? The attrition would kill the company.

        And where would you find that much land on the “proper side”? Maybe we should close Woodland Park Zoo. It’s not very dense, and Fremont is virtually a suburb anyway. Heck, we could put most of the Overlake/Crossroads apartments in Discovery Park. And while we’re at it, let’s just move Bellevue Square on top of U Village. U Village is just a shoddy imitation of Bell Square anyway.

      9. While I agree that they aren’t going anywhere, companies are not immune from pulling up tent pegs and moving.

        Hell, Boeing threatens to do that on an annual basis or so. Then they went and moved to Chocago.

        If Microsoft is after a more urban environment, then they wouldn’t need quite as much land. If Bill Gates ever gets a case of Donald Trump envy they could cram it into a couple of Twin Tower type structures with a giant G on top or something.

        However, the infrastructure is already there in Redmond. Building up that makes more sense than displacing some other business that wants to be close to downtown.

    4. I suspect it’s going to be more renovations like the cafeterias in 31 and 34, maybe a handful more places like Commons, and that’ll be the extent. Also, all of those fancy services will be available during regular business hours only and will be of limited use to those of us who work outside of Connector hours.

      I don’t need more reasons to stay at work; I would like more ways to not have to hike across the lake to begin with, either working from home or worksites located on the west side of Lake Washington. However, I suspect the latter would experience massive pushback from a lot of people sitting on the Redmond campus. If my coworkers’ reactions are any indication, virtually none of the people I’ve met while on main campus voluntarily set foot inside Seattle more than once a year.

      1. I think it’ll be more than that. On the radio, they were talking about over a billion (with a b) dollars in the budget.

      2. A lot of us who live and work on the east side of the lake cross the bridges routinely. The idea that there is a true east-west divide is immature and unproductive.

    5. Campus means different things.

      Portland State is part of downtown Portland so that the two can not be separated really. One block is, one block isn’t, and scattered through the University are things that aren’t it.

      UW is larger, and it has a well defined campus. It is separate from the city, but visitors come and go, and it has a museum and art gallery the public are allowed to visit.

      Nike calls it’s place near Beaverton a campus, but it is surrounded by a high earthen berm that functions as a castle wall. Forget anything about visitors to museums, as the buildings (and some are quite large) are far enough away from the wall that nothing is visible to the public on the other side. Even Boeing is more visible to the outside world. Rumor has it Nike may even have moat monsters patrolling beyond the citadell gate, eating anyone who dares wear clothing without the proper insignia.

      I’ve never been to Redmond, WA, so I don’t know what campus model Microsoft follows. However, if they followed the Big Castle Wall with Moat Monsters model that Nike has, creating an urban like environment will be a difficult task.

      1. Campus seems to mean just a cluster of buildings. I remember my high school principal calling the school a campus, and I didn’t think so because it wasn’t huge like the UW.

        The Microsoft campus is a group of some forty buildings on both sides of a five-lane boulevard, with a freeway exit nearby and a transit center. The land was previously a golf course. The core buildings have small streets going to them, and the peripheral buildings seem to be linear along the boulevard and spaced like garden apartments. There’s no wall or moat.

      2. FYI, the land was not previously a golf course. The campus on the east side of 520 was previously bare dirt originally slated to be a shopping mall, and the campus on the west side was originally a chicken farm (in part) along with a lot of low rise development along 148th. Redmond Town Center was the former golf course.

  2. You forgot to mention another upcoming opening: the NYC subway 7 line station at 34th Street — Hudson Yards on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.

    1. I suspect ST will announce a date for U-Link opening before SDOT announces a date for the FHSC opening.

      Not that U-Link will open before the FHSC, but I’m guessing ST will get their target date out first. ST seems to be a wee bit better at planning than SDOT.

    2. Streetcar is still working out bugs on the new cars. Brakes are a major issue and they are not safe yet for service, as well as some other software issues. We as operators do not even know when it will all be ready, but the builder has their techs here working on all the cars everyday. Testing is occurring, but theres still no projected start date yet, not even a guess.

    1. Several years ago, they had a route much like the new 63. I rode it all the way to the end of the line in maybe 2010.

      There’s a lot of area out there to cover, and not a lot of ridership.

      To me, it seems like the thing they need to do out there would be a flexible route bus, similar to what Tillamook Transit does along highway 101. There, the bus may go as far as 3/4 of a mile from its designated route to get to places where people actually need the bus. Brown’s Point isn’t blanketed in dead-end streets, so at least such a flexible route could go through without getting trapped.

      1. The 63 is different from the old route (61) because it doesn’t go very far into NE Tacoma (the extended 903 does that). How it works is you transfer from the 903 to the 63 in the morning, and vice versa in the afternoon, and there is a very short wait because the routes are timed. This means that people in NE Tacoma can now go either to downtown Tacoma or downtown Federal Way (where you can transfer to Seattle).

        The 61 actually had Bus Plus coverage at one point, which is similar to what Tillamook Transit does with off-route deviations, but PT stopped doing that to save money.

    2. I really like the idea of extending KCM 903 into northeast Tacoma. I’m not as sure whether the 63 peak express to downtown is worth it, though… but I guess that’s part of what they’ll be studying.

      1. Hopefully they have numbers on route 62 passengers as to where they wind up going. I’m sure that was a factor in the decision to draw up service. Metro Route 182 is a suitable replacement for the old pierce transit 62.

      2. They had a union contract with the drivers of the 62, so they couldn’t simply cut out the 62 in such a short amount of time. That’s why they need a 63, so they could still employ the driver of the 62 when that gets replaced.

      3. I certainly hope that’s not the only reason – there are other parts of the county where that driver could be used as well.

      4. I’m pretty sure that the union contracts do not dictate the level of service down to that detail. Contracts just state working conditions and benefits (i.e. seniority, breaks, pay, etc). Operational decisions are left to the agency.

        However, PT cannot simply abandon NE Tacoma, as that would be in violation of their mission. They have a moral obligation to serve that area somehow, and that’s what they are trying to do,

      5. “They have a moral obligation to serve that area somehow, and that’s what they are trying to do,”

        Wouldn’t “contract with another agency to serve it per our specifications” work, if that’s the best way to serve it? Suppose KC Metro felt a need to serve Skykomish; couldn’t they just contract with Community Transit to extend their US 2 routes down there?

  3. Orange Line opens on Saturday at 11, but the light show on the bridge (LEDs that change with the flow and temperature of the river) starts tonight.

    1. Oh, and if anyone is planning to come down here for the 12th, I’ll pay their TriMet ticket fare for that day.
      (because TriMet is fare-free system wide that day, as well as Portland Streetcar and the Portland Arial Tram).

      Not only dies not charging a fare for the day help deal with the crowds, but it also gets people who would never otherwise try transit to try it. Sometimes, they might even try it a second time.

  4. “Vision Mercer Island” invited me to fill out an online survey of MI residents regarding transportation issues – I’ve declined to do so since the organization is so mysterious. A cruise through the website leaves me convinced that the agenda is I-90 privileges: preserving special express lane access and preventing tolling.

    Though I’ve been a little prickly about reflexive anti-Mercer-Island comments here, I’ll say that we have a real groundswell of antipathy to increased density and to cooperation with the region regarding transit. Four of the five city council positions that are open will be contested this fall – an unusual development here – and the current mayor (Bruce Bassett) faces an opponent who is explicitly running against regional cooperation: “It’s time to prioritize residents before region. Preserve Mercer Island. Vote Thomas Acker.”

    For the few MI residents who read STB: this election matters, and particularly deserves our attention. Though none of the candidates are as forthrightly pro-density and pro-transit as most STB readers would prefer, there are still real choices to be made. For what it’s worth, I believe candidates Bassett, Weiker, and Bertlin are better on density and transportation issues than their opponents.

    1. Wish I could back in time and make Mercer Island a regional park with some scattered organic farms and restaurants. It would be fantastic.

      Regardless, I hope people there continue to be reasonably open minded about local versus regional needs.
      It’s a neat place with lots of nice people, despite its sprawly land use.

      1. Are MI residents nice enough to accommodate Section 8 housing and or more apartment buildings?

    2. Jim-

      As a fellow Mercer Island resident, I generally agree with your comments here. I also received the survey and have not filled it out.

      I don’t totally buy into the groundswell of antipathy though; Nextdoor comments aren’t necessarily indicative of anything since we’re talking about a small minority who have joined that site, and Save Our Suburbs, for all the noise they made early on, doesn’t seem to be able to figure out exactly what they should be for, rather than against. Some people seem to clearly be anti-everything and would prefer things go back to as they were in 1985 (the “I’ve lived on the Island for over 30 years” crowd), while others don’t care so much about Town Center but really care about I-90 access, while others just want open space uber alles (e.g. no MICA in Mercerdale Park).

      All that said, I share your worry that this is an off-year, low turnout election which really matters due to the candidates and number of seats up.

      1. I haven’t received the survey, just a postcard saying I would.

        At first, I thought that it was just the usual change nothing crowd who have us stuck with an outdated library an undersized middle school, but I’m beginning to think that there’s more to it than that. I think there’s a lot of half truths flying around and scaring people.

        I definitely plan to vote.

        P.S. did you see that Acker’s supporter are claiming that ST wanted to build a “bus barn” on “valuable park land”. It appears that not only is weak on transportation, but also reality.

      2. Oh, I definitely plan to vote too; I’m not that cynical! I hadn’t heard that particular phrasing from Acker’s supporters, but I’ve heard that general sentiment about the bus intercept proposal. Can’t say I’m too surprised, the hyperbole and FUD being thrown around about, well, everything, is reaching epic proportions.

    3. If there’s even a chance that the organization is genuinely trying to draft a citizens’ plan that’s the consensus of all residents, or it will publish all feedback, then it’s worth submitting something. Residents need to see that not all of their neighbors have the same opinion. On the other hand, if the organization will just bury dissenting feedback, or take your information and do something nefarious with it, then it wouldn’t be worth it. The most important thing is what this organization’s agenda is, and whether it needs an opposition movement.

    4. @East Coast Cynic (and other cynics %^) – There’s been quite a bit of apartment development (actually, mixed-use) here in the past 10 years, with more in progress, and more planned. This is part of what some folks are reacting to (though I think it’s generally a good thing). As to Section 8 housing – I don’t think a municipality has any say, it’s a subsidy from HUD for use in the private market. However, rents here are such that I wouldn’t expect too many folks eligible for the subsidy to use it here.There is one candidate (Jeff Sanderson) who has put forward affordable housing (in Mercer Island) as an issue – but in truth it doesn’t get much attention

      @Jason Rogers – hope you’re right that there’s more smoke than fire. What caught my eye are the numbers of signs in people’s yards (presumably the owners placed them there) – and the amount of defense that the good guys are playing. And ditto re: comments here.

    5. “Residents before region” is uncomfortable when you’re mercer island; it bssicay means wealthy vs. common, which is an even less appealing version of us vs. them than most.

      Slightly Donald Trump like, except of course that with him it’s more “citizens vs. residents”, and given the arrack on birthright citizenship, it’s more like whites vs. others.

    6. Um,. er, ah, they do know that Link will be somewhat “dominant” in the “Express Lanes” once it starts up, right? But, if they really want to drive there I wouldn’t stand in their way.

      1. %^) – forgive my poetic license, I should have referred to the HOT lanes that will be added on the outer spans (2 in each direction, I believe). The ask will surely be for free access for Mercer Island drivers. So far as I know, no one has asked for free East Link rides.

      2. Mercer Island’s special deal with the center HOV lanes was always temporary until it was converted to rail. They just don’t like to remember that now and want to redefine it as a permanent right. But it won’t be transferred to the outer HOV lanes.

      3. @Mike Orr – It could be transferred. The 2004 amendment to the I-90 MOA talks about addressing the “loss of mobilty” arising from closure of the Center Roadway (for East Link, and other construction impacts). Subsequent letters from WSDOT have committed WSDOT to allowing MI traffic access to the R8A HOV lanes, although that is not defined in any further MOA amendment so WSDOT could probably walk back from that if they wanted.

        The real trick here is that Mercer Island has some legal power when it comes to the configuration and operation of I-90 due to provisions in the MOA, so WSDOT and Sound Transit can’t just cite the state law about cities not precluding regional transit and be done with it. I don’t think anyone wants to find out exactly how legal action based on the MOA would play out, so coming to some sort of agreement is obviously in everyone’s best interests. What exactly happens is an open question though.

        There are a lot of ways to potentially address a “loss of mobility.” More parking and connecting bus service (to East Link) is one possibility. HOV lane access is another; you could facilitate this by making it a HOT lane and exempting Mercer Island cars from the toll. Construction mitigation is also something that needs to be addressed; the Center Roadway goes away in mid-2017 and East Link doesn’t open for 6 years after that, I-90 buses will lose their pathway into downtown at the same time, and buses will be out of the tunnel in 2017, 2019, or 2021 depending on what project you think is going to cause it (Convention Center, IDS pocket track, or Northgate Link opening). Optics of “Mercer Island wants their Mercedes lanes” aside, there are a lot of legitimate issues here and no easily obvious solutions.

      4. “I don’t think anyone wants to find out exactly how legal action based on the MOA would play out,…”

        Hang out at any of the local city council meetings long enough, and you’d be surprised how often decisions are made based the fear of lawsuits. Even if taking one on would possibly set a better precedent, most cities don’t want to spend the money fighting legal battles.

      5. @Jason Rogers – I agree that the bus intercept impact is a legitimate issue specific to Mercer Island and negotiating some real protections for downtown is a good idea. But the “loss of mobility” argument loses *me*: drivers from MI, Bellevue, Issaquah, etc – EVERYONE trying to get between Seattle and the eastside across I-90 – face EXACTLY THE SAME problems on the West Channel bridge. The MI exception has been phony ever since Aubrey Davis forced it through a generation ago. The “Mercedes Lane” folks have the merits right in this case, and we justify the snark & disdain by insisting on holding on to the privilege.
        If I missed something, I’ll happily be corrected.

      6. I was not talking about temporary mitigation during construction; I don’t know what’s appropriate for that. Although Mercer Island SOVs doesn’t sound like something that needs to be mitigated; why are their cars more important than those driving from Seattle to the Eastside? But buses should have mitigation because each bus might contain 25 to 50 more people than a car does. But after the project is completed, it’s not clear why they should have special rights to the HOV lanes. The only reason they had them in the middle lanes was there was so much extra capacity that would otherwise go unused.

      7. Sorry, getting back to this after the weekend.

        @Jim Whitehead – The loss of mobility argument is a loser to me too, and I didn’t mean to imply that I thought otherwise, although in retrospect I didn’t make it clear. I was trying to point out a couple of the mitigation possibilities that have been thrown around. I also think the geography of transportation for the Island plays a role, since all the transportation access points are on the north end.

        I think the 1976 MOA was made in an era where the privilege really didn’t make much difference (I-90 wasn’t that congested), so Mercer Island could claim a victory, while for everyone else it made basically zero difference. Today’s reality is far different and there are ~130,000 cars a day crossing the floating bridge along with significant congestion. Traffic patterns on the bridge are pretty close to equally bad in both directions, with a slight “traditional” bias (to Seattle in AM, away in PM), but that could be an effect of the Center Roadway providing additional “peak direction” capacity; westbound in the PM maxes out around 5,000 vehicles per hour, while westbound in the AM with the Center Roadway hits ~7,500.

        What I think gets lost by the “loss of mobility” crowd is that mobility to the Eastside is going to be substantially improved by East Link. For example, my commute to Redmond takes ~25 minutes in the morning and ~45 in the afternoon if I drive, and 45 in the morning and 60 in the afternoon if I take the bus. East Link will cut that down to ~30-35 both directions. That’s huge; I won’t get screwed by southbound I-405/Bellevue Way and the East Channel bridge anymore!

        @Mike Orr – WSDOT hasn’t sounded too excited about MI SOV traffic in the R8A HOV lanes, but they’re on paper as agreeing to the concept (MI’s website has an archive of the agreements and letters that are relevant). However as I mentioned earlier, they haven’t committed to it in a binding agreement so could walk it back. My best guess on how this plays out is that Sound Transit and WSDOT agree to build a big new parking garage somewhere near the light rail station (with some kind of restrictions on who can use it; maybe even turn it over to the city and let them worry about it), enhance local connecting bus service, and call it good. Figure another 450-stall garage (same as the current P&R) at $45k per stall = ~$20m, plus another $1.5m in ongoing operating costs the bus (~10,000 annual service hours). I’d rather see how permit parking works at the current P&R before building more parking, but $20m is arguably a small price to pay for making this issue go away.

  5. I wonder what KING5 had to say about Forward Thrust at the time. My guess is that their editorial leaning was different.

    1. I’ve done some research on this, and although I haven’t seen KING5’s position, newspapers were generally favorable to the idea and sentiment seemed to be broadly positive. However, rapid transit was only one part of the FT program: many of the other FT proposals passed, but rapid transit did not. Voters may have been wary of spending too much on too many different projects.

      Even if we had FT fully built out today, I think we probably would have fallen into some of the same traps as Atlanta and DC: insufficient maintenance leading to reliability problems and capacity shortfalls in the peak. The DC Metro can be downright unusable on weekends because of rebuilding shutdowns on core routes.

    2. Voters approved road expansions and most other city-planning projects and rejected high-capacity transit repeatedly throughout the 20th century. Seattle started with streetcars, but with a population of 200,000 in the 1920s it went giddy for cars and highways and one-way streets like a clown addicted to cotton candy. Throw out the streetcars and their ROW priority, build highways like Aurora and the Alaskan Way Viaduct, build freeways like I-5 and I-90 and 520. Don’t bother with a sidewalk on 520. Put infrequent buses on the freeways and streets and call it mass transit. I don’t remember the exact years but there were subways proposed around 1912 and the 1920s that were voted down just like Forward Thrust. Because we’re a small city and cars will soon be universal. (They did this even when only 10% of the population had cars; i.e., when Aurora Avenue/Pacific Highway was built.) That’s what led to our neglect of transit between 1945 and 2000.

      1. Good summation, Mike, although the 1910 plan (the “Bogue” plan) was not only an extensive rapid transit system but a complete redevelopment of everything from Yesler to the south end of Lake Union along the “City Beautiful” lines. It would have certainly made for a different city than we have today!

        It lost not due to car ownership, actual or incipient, but because the major business players in town at the time were concentrated in Pioneer Square and wanted nothing to do with the center of the business district moving north away from the properties they owned. Of course, in less than 20 years it had done exactly that and today is still doing so.

  6. For Vashon Island, the simplest way to get more ridership for the money is to have one bus shuttling back and forth between the north-end ferry dock and the main town, with timed connections to meet every other ferry all-day long, for the full span of service. (Yes, that would be abandoning coverage to parts of the Island not on the way between the north-end ferry dock and the town of Vashon itself).

    1. +1

      I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on local coverage(stop spacing, frequency etc), and forget about those who just want to cover large distances quickly.

    2. Vashon Center to the ferry is not a “long distance”; it’s four miles. That covers a third of the island’s length, but nothing of its width, or of Maury Island. So I wonder how useful it would be. People don’t live in the town; they’re scattered around the island. The town is just a short row of businesses. So how would people take the bus without driving to a P&R? I suppose parking at the town is better than parking at the ferry terminal, because the town is central and has several roads to it, while the ferry terminal is at a narrow end with only the highway to it. So it would essentially be a remote parking lot for the ferry, but not useful for travel within the island, except for the few people who live right along it. Off-islanders might use it, but if it just goes to the town and there’s little in the town to make a trip to Vashon worthwhile, I can’t see it being used much. If you’re going to the art studios, they’re all scattered in areas where the bus wouldn’t go.

  7. Question on Orca integration with the monorail. It was last December when the city council took action to investigate allowing use of Orca on the monorail, and at the time, a report/study was supposed to be ready at the end of Q1 of this year. Yet, there seems to be silence from the city.

    Has anyone heard an update on integration of Orca with the monorail?

      1. I thought that’s why the blog hired a reporter?

        To dig into stuff like this, attend meetings, file Public Records Requests, etc.

        So far, we’ve seen none of that.

  8. It looks to me as if SDOT was looking at the map of pins above when it put the diversion to Denny and Westlake and the station at Aurora into the Ballard-Downtown Link plan. Those buildings are all within three blocks of one or the other station. Get the CCC built with reservation along Westlake for the streetcar and new “BRT 40”. That should “hold the fort” for this spectacular new neighborhood at least until the tunnel can be built. Eventually the “Metro 8” should also be built through the neighborhood, from about Western and Cedar, under the Denny/Westlake station, with another station around Fairview, then on under Capitol Hill, down through the border between the CD and First Hill and on to connections with East Link and South Link. Take any zoning restrictions off the three blocks in any direction around the stations.

    The section of tunnel from Westlake to the west portal and the elevated structure out to Expedia should be the very first thing built in ST3.

    In fact, ST should start on the engineering yesterday. And damn the stupid objection that “the voters haven’t yet approved it!”.

    1. Well, not “all”. The ones along Fairview are going to have to settle for BRT until the Metro 8 comes their way.

    2. Don’t take off all the zoning restrictions. Take off all the zoning restrictions and add one: no more office parking in SLU. Not one more space.

  9. Just returned from a (too brief) trip to Rio de Janeiro, in which I ended up not having to use any of the city’s ubiquitous taxis but rather used their Metro and local bus service to get around.

    Finding out exactly how the system works isn’t as easy as it could be for a major tourist destination, although this ended up being more an issue doing the research from this end than when actually on the ground there.

    – Basically they have two Metro lines and two “Metro na Superficie” (Metro on the Surface) limited stop bus lines that connect with two stations on the Metro. You walk outside and there the bus is – although it is frequent it does not immediately leave on train arrivals. One line acts as a virtual extension of the subway line west from Ipanema, where Metro Line 4 (there is no line 3) is being constructed to serve the main Olympic sites next year. The fare is a single non-zoned price.
    – The city bus system is apparently run by several private operators but all the buses are under the same livery and fare system—not, however, the same as the Metro.
    – There are more “luxury” bus services that are at a higher price point (about 4x the normal fare) and use what would be the equivalent of tour buses here. They are nice and at a quarter the cost of a cab made sense from the airport to my hotel—and they have luggage compartments. Similar buses run on express routes to far-flung or wealthy neighborhoods. These bus lines are numbered and stop at regular bus stops.
    – There are ferries to a few points around the bay. I did not use these.

    To pay for the Metro you can buy a single-use card at the station ticket offices—but you can’t use it on the Metro na Superficie. For that you have to buy a card that allows use of both; it’s the same fare but one card works for both and the other does not (couldn’t understand that logic!). You can also do what I did, buy a pre-paid card that acts as an e-purse. You need to pay R$5 for it, which currently is about $1.25 but was closer to $3 last year—probably a much bigger impact to a Brazilian than $5 is for our ORCA. You can add to it whenever you like at machines located in the stations.

    The payment cards cannot be used on the city buses. You actually pay cash for those when you board; on some buses you pay the driver directly and on others there is a second person that takes payment at a turnstile, which all buses have. In either case they make change which makes the whole boarding process more than a little time consuming, then when you’ve paid they release the turnstile and you can enter the seating area. Obviously disembarking is rear door only! There is another type of fare card that allows travel on the city buses as well, but it required residency in Brazil as best as I could tell (you needed the equivalent of a Social Security number) and it had a high minimum balance which was not useful for tourist purposes at any rate. There are no day passes or the like.

    1. Wow, thanks for the report! I rode the bus in Rio for a year way back in 1983, mostly from Leblon to PUC-Rio (and back) for classes. I need to go back and see all the changes soon!

  10. I found it easier than expected to get around Rio, despite my limited Portuguese. The Metro stations are very large with subterranean passages to different points in their neighborhoods. These are extremely well signed, and in the Metro signage is in both Portuguese and English (unlike the bus system)—obviously a legacy of the World Cup and forthcoming Olympics. Trains and stations serving city buses to tourist destinations not on the Metro, such as Sugarloaf or Christ the Redeemer, are signed directing you to which exit those buses are at, and giving you the correct route number to look for. There are also local maps on the platforms and mezzanines. I was extremely impressed by their wayfinding in the stations; it wasn’t always so easy to find the stations themselves from the outside if you weren’t in sight of an entrance! Metro stations also have a lot of small shops in them, possibly a benefit of the long passages to wherever your exit might happen to be.

    Bus stops in the tourist areas of Ipanema and Leblon were also very informative although in Copacabana not as much so; the (still recent) legacy of just flagging down a bus still applies there to a large extent. Buses in high-traffic areas have dedicated lanes, some all day, some only certain hours. Buses are ubiquitous even on Sundays and holidays.

    Metro trains have designated “women only” cars at peak hours, marked in pink—so this isn’t just a Dubai/Middle East thing! In this case, however, I’m pretty sure it’s not for religious reasons. 

    One is told not to use the bus system after dark (the Metro is well-patrolled and considered very safe); I mostly kept to this advice even though it may be a “discretion is the better part of valor” sort of thing. Cabs are the method of choice at night, though Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana all had many people out and about and did not bother me in the least. Being rather big and ugly does tend to help there though!

      1. Thank you! Like many of us (I imagine) I enjoy trying to get around various places by transit when I’m able to visit.

        ST could do worse than improving their in-station wayfinding to match Rio’s.

      1. They did–the little yellow bondinho is back on the tracks (in a much safer guise). Unfortunately for me I did not have the time to check it out, but I’d love to go back and do so!

  11. There are changes coming to the Amtrak Guest Rewards program. Among them:

    + some tickets will be available for as little as 800 points. I’m guessing this will be especially true on special corridor routes such as the Cascades.

    + Chase bank will no longer offer the Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card, and by the end of September all accounts will be transferred to a different type of card.

    1. There is also a 10% points penalty for making changes to your AGR train reservations. That includes changing to a different date or cancelling the trip.

  12. If you worked for ORCA, and you were tasked by your boss with thinking up one word, or two short words, that would appear on the ORCA reader when someone attempted to tag their card again after they have already successfully tapped it, and your boss wanted a list of 20 ideas to choose from, where on your list would “Passback” be? Not only wouldn’t “Passback” be on my top 20, it wouldn’t be on my top 100.

    1. Agreed.

      I’d pick “ALREADY TAPPED,” or maybe “RE-TAP”. I might go with “Already Paid,” but to avoid any possibility of confusion, I don’t want the word “Paid” to show up there. (And what about people with passes or transfers, who wouldn’t have “paid”?)

    2. “PASS BACK” is not a message to the passenger, it’s a message to the driver that the card might have been passed back from one person to another on the same trip to evade the fare. It’s the narrow vision of the bean counters never imagining the message would appear so often in other circumstances. Namely, that the reader is sometimes so ambiguous it doesn’t act like it’s registered your tap until it says “PASS BACK”.

      1. It is a message to the passenger because it appears on the passenger ORCA reader, and two different messages are able to be programmed into the screen the driver sees, and the ORCA reader screen the passenger sees. ORCA intended for the passenger to see the word Passback after they’ve already successfully tapped and try to tap again. If it was solely meant for drivers, nothing, or some other message would appear on the passenger ORCA reader.

      2. It’s physically to the passenger but its purpose is for the driver. If they’d done a usability test they would have known (A) average passengers won’t understand what it means, and (B) it commonly appears in non-passback situations.

      3. … and (C) that most riders don’t read the screen when they tap.

        I often do want to read the screen to check my e-purse balance, but I feel pressured by the riders behind me to keep moving, so I usually miss it.

    3. If I go to a Link or Sounder ORCA tapper, and tap the card twice (once to enter the system and download the e-purse, and the second to exit the system so I don’t get charged for a ride I didn’t take) is this the message that gets displayed?

      1. I’m talking about Metro buses. Maybe ST buses, too. IDK. If you board and tap, and it accepts your tap, but you don’t realize it has accepted it, and you tap again, the passenger ORCA reader will display the word Passback. But to most riders, this is a nonsensical word that doesn’t tell them anything and conveys zero information, so they keep on tapping and getting the word Passback until they get fed up and quit, or someone tells them their card has already done its job.

      2. Yes, it happens on ST buses too. I’ve seen it several times on the 545, and yes, people do keep confusedly tapping until I tell them what it means.

  13. Good video in the Seattle Times today about the Denny Regrade back in 1928. But here’s what I don’t understand. They talk about needing to flatten the hill in order to make room for more people. But isn’t Capitol Hill one of the densest neighborhood in the state? So they didn’t really need to level-out the Belltown to make room for more people, did they? “Sam, you dope, they leveled it to make transportation easier!” Ok, but in the video that wasn’t the reason for the regrade, it was to make room for more people.

    1. I would argue the regrade is a big reason why Belltown is such a boring neighborhood to walk through. Some hills would have made it a lot more interesting.

      But, they didn’t think much about aesthetics at the time. The driving factor was that the roads were too steep for horse-drawn carriages.

  14. The top ten routes for Security Incident Reports are: A Line, C Line, D Line, E Line, F Line, 7, 36, 120, 150, and the 180. The 180 jumps out as unusual as I didn’t think that was a high volume route. Another observation is that 8 out 10 of the routes are in south Seattle, or south of Seattle. None are on the Eastside. 2 out of the 10 go to north Seattle.

    1. What jumps out at me is half of them are RapidRide. Have they become magnets for violence? I would have expected that for the E but not for the others. And the B is the only one not on that list. It’s also interesting that the 106 is not on the list, because it used to be mostly the 7 and 106. But the 106 was an express then and now it’s a milk run, so maybe nobody rides it and thus nobody’s there to make a security incident..

      1. My first guess would be that fare enforcement finding non-payers gets logged as a “Security Incident.” Does anyone know whether that’s the case?

        Also, where’s the break between the C and D? My guess would be most of the D’s incidents are in Belltown.

      2. I would never have described the 106 as an express, ever, despite its short trip on I-5.

        There has been a long history of express routes from Downtown Seattle to Renton (now the 101). Never would I included the 106 in that group. It has always been a local, milk run route, even more so now with the run through Georgetown.

    2. @William: Typically the through-routed lines change their signs at different points on the way south and north, so that downtown the sign reflects where the bus is going. In Belltown southbound buses show “C” and northbound buses show “D”. I don’t know whether the statistics are kept by which sign is showing, however, or by something else.

  15. “This extraordinary outcome also brought the benefits of exclusive HOV lane access to those commuting on and off the island, regardless of residential status, creating convenient passage to teachers, service workers, retailers, doctors, shoppers, and many more.–Vision Mercer Island

    What a crock of crap. The “exclusive HOV access” is only in the “peak” direction, which means that “teachers, service workers, blah-blah-blah” coming to the island — the only people who don’t have “residential status” — can’t use them.

    Purest nobless oblige bilgewater.

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