This November, there are two ballot measures targeted directly at improvements in the region’s bus systems. One of them will also make a significant contribution to safe nonmotorized transportation. Both of them are decidedly worth your vote if you live in either jurisdiction.

7 New RapidRide+ Corridors
7 New RapidRide+ Corridors

YES on Move Seattle. It would be tedious to recite every benefit that the Move Seattle plan will bring the City. But the heart of the measure is seven new Bus Rapid Transit corridors, dubbed “RapidRide+”:

  • Mount Baker to UW via 23rd Ave
  • Ballard to UW via Market and 45th
  • Downtown-Madison Valley via Madison Street
  • Downtown-Rainier Beach via Rainier
  • Downtown-White Center via Delridge
  • Downtown-Northgate via Eastlake and Roosevelt
  • Downtown-Northgate via Fremont, Ballard, and Crown Hill

Metro has tried to deliver rapid buses in the past, with mixed success, but the true ability of buses to bypass traffic is up to the cities that own the right of way. We’re glad to see that Seattle is stepping up. Current struggles with the First Hill Streetcar and the Seawall notwithstanding, SDOT has a good record with project delivery: Bridging the Gap did most of what it promised during a massive economic downturn.

Rail skeptics are fond of pointing out that bus investments can deliver much of the quality of rail much more cheaply. We’re interested to see which of those skeptics, now presented with a measure largely focused on high-quality bus service, manage to show up for this measure, and which will find yet another excuse to oppose spending money on transit.

Even if you’re as excited about rail as we are, buses will always be an important part of our transit system, no matter how many trains we build. Move Seattle will bring decent transit service to areas where rail is not on the horizon, and build momentum towards a city where a car is not a necessity for most people.

We also strongly support the levy’s funding of Graham Street Link station, the Northgate Pedestrian Bridge,  Vision Zero, Bicycle Master Plan implementation, the long overdue retrofit of Mount Baker Station, and rechannelizations of hostile arterials such as Aurora, Rainier, and Lake City Way.

Opponents of Move Seattle such as the Seattle Times argue both that the package is too big and yet not nearly enough, and that it caters to “City Hall’s urbanist-at-all-costs agenda” instead of benefiting drivers. They argue that the new districted city council members should decide which projects in their district deserve city funding–unhelpfully dividing what should be an integrated network into parochial fiefdoms. The reality is that large, necessary projects shouldn’t be subject to such whims, as the best projects connect districts and share benefits between them. Others complain that the project list has flexibility build into it. But of course the project list is flexible—a nine-year levy must be able to adjust for future needs, seek opportunities for grants and matching funds, and negotiate with communities and public process along the way. Move Seattle deserves your vote.

CT MeasureYES on Community Transit Prop 1. Because Seattle isn’t doing nearly enough to accept newcomers, it is inevitable that much of the region’s growth will occur in South Snohomish County. The only plausible way to preserve mobility alongside that growth is a convenient, frequent bus system, available when you need it.

Community Transit’s Prop 1 will add frequency, increase span of service, build two Bus Rapid Transit Lines (SWIFT II and III), fully integrate their system into Link at Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, and add new suburban connections between Marysville, Snohomish, and Mill Creek. And this will all cost the average resident about $2.75 a month. With Link likely to either terminate in Lynnwood or hug I-5 for most of its path to Everett, bus service will be indispensable in delivering people to Link at a scale that Park & Rides cannot match.

The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Zach Shaner, Erica C. Barnett, and Dan Ryan. It serves at the pleasure of the Board of Directors.

49 Replies to “STB 2015 General Election Endorsements: Measures”

  1. …[argue that] it caters to “City Hall’s urbanist-at-all-costs agenda” instead of benefiting drivers.

    To be blunt: I would really love to see where opponents would prefer that we build all of these new roads and, of course, on-street parking. Be detailed, show work. Because, otherwise, I completely fail to see how we can benefit drivers without multimodal transit investments.

    They argue that the new districted city council members should decide which projects in their district deserve city funding–unhelpfully dividing what should be an integrated network into parochial fiefdoms.

    And this, right here, is the biggest argument against district elections. Taxes collected across the city should benefit the city, not individual districts.

    1. Not that I support this argument, but some of the people aren’t thrilled with bike lanes, so I presume they want to get rid of those.

    2. Wes,

      You bet. And, by the way, they should include their home addresses so that the people whose dumpy, valueless houses will be bulldozed for the pretty lines on the map can come and “thank” them personally.

    3. Yeah, I don’t get this either. The easier you make it for drivers, the more people own and use their cars. That’s not going to solve traffic or parking problems. It’s very much a ‘My car is not the cause of congestion or parking problems, you and your car are the problem’ issue.

      The key here that many dont want to admit is cars take up a lot of space and carry very few people… 1 or 2 people at most in about 250 sq ft, when parked its 0 people in 250 sq ft. Whereas a bus takes up the space of 2 SOVs but carries 50-80 people. You have to incentivize those who choose the most spatially efficient modes with faster and more reliable trips through dedicated travel lanes. Otherwise everyone will just get behind the wheel and make the problem worse, not better. Then again there are commenters on local media sites that think in response to PARKing Day that motorists should stage a ‘Everybody Drives’ day because apparently everyone being in their own car benefits other motorists. (rolls eyes)

      1. We should have a no driving Sunday followed by an everybody drives Monday. The contrast would be brilliant

    1. I think STB staff are pretty uniformly pro ST3 even if it’s compromised (meaning unadvisable suburban choices). The only thing I think that would lead to a full-on revolt is a Ballard streetcar or surface downtown — completely unacceptable underservice in Seattle. The commentariat is a different thing: it’s more divided, but it’s not really “STB” in the sense of which way STB is going.

    1. Just looking at the map, it looks like E and SE Seattle gain the most from Move Seattle. Not sure what you mean by spending “billions”, because Move Seattle is around $930M.

      1. it’s an accumulative affect on our pocket books, ie st3 and move seattle are both costing us.

      2. Well, this is about Move Seattle, not ST3. And anyway, Ballard and WS have to be connected, so it’s going to affect more places than those two neighborhoods, necessarily.

      3. No, you’re in denial. They’re both about seattle transportation and they are related as related can be. Just because they are separate initiatives they cost us a lot of money for transportation. And most of this collective pool of money will be going to Paine Field, Ballard and WS and slim pickings for the rest of us.

      4. Ok, I’m in denial. Great argument!

        Most of the ST3 moneys will be spent getting to Ballard and WS. Right now, it looks like the Interbay alignment will win out, so that’s the biggest winner of ST3 as things stand right now. For WS, I’m not sure how much is spent in WS proper, but I wouldn’t be surprised in most of the money is spent on the trip there.

        But that’s totally orthogonal to Move Seattle, which funds 7 RR+ corridors in places other than WS and Ballard, and other great projects like the Graham Street station and the Northgate Ped Bridge.

      5. Yeah, les, I don’t understand your logic. Just vote for this and vote against ST3 (if you think that ST3 basically means “Spend[ing] billions on Ballard and WS and pacify everybody else with cheap [crap]”). This seems like a very good set of projects, whether ST3 passes or not. All of these areas need work, and for the money, it seems like a very good value.

      6. “most of this collective pool of money will be going to Paine Field”

        Have you heard of subarea equity? Your money won’t be going to Paine Field unless you live in Snohomish County, in which case why do you care how big Move Seattle is or where its projects are?

    2. Gotta love how Metro screwed up RapidRide D, the logical BRT corridor from Ballard to Downtown, so much that the 40, already considered a superior option by many, is going to get better BRT treatments than RR D has. To be fair, a lot of it is on SDOT for not emphasizing transit priority on 15th/Elliott and no queue jump at Mercer Pl southbound, but Metro definitely deserves some of the blame (like putting in the Uptown deviation to begin with).

      1. I wouldn’t say there are any guarantees that the new corridors will be faster. The 40 starts at Northgate, goes down to 92nd to cross I-5, up College Way to Northgate Way and Holman. There’s no plan for bus lanes anywhere on that stretch. Parts of Holman and 85th were just rebuilt, resulting in no bus lanes. It’s hard to see any extra room on 24th; Market would be a battle. Maybe less so on parts of Leary, and Westlake, but the key bottlenecks near the Fremont Bridge and Mercer won’t be easy for any amount of money.

      2. I haven’t seen anything that precludes bike lanes on the northern parts of 40. I’m also not sure why the recent renovation of Holman would prevent bus lanes. What’s your source, Al?

      3. No source, just common sense. Where do you see bus lanes going on these streets?

        When Holman and 85th were each redone Complete Streets reviews kicked in and designs were considered that reduced general-purpose vehicle capacity. Needless to say, SDOT did not choose them. East-west vehicle capacity is limited all over town, particularly in comparison to all the big north-south roads. Passing a funding package won’t change the design constraints, and when it comes time to actually design these projects we’ll have all the same challenges, for all the same reasons, as when we recently designed these streets’ layouts… similar to the challenges we had when we designed street layouts for RR.

        Another one of the corridors is the 7. Do you really think we’re going to do big-bang redesigns of Rainier or Jackson? These streets have been through multiple, recent design processes resulting in their current arrangements! Another one of the corridors is the south half of the 48. We just redesigned and are building 23rd, and the result of that process wasn’t bus lanes. None of these streets didn’t get bus lanes because of a lack of funding, or because transit wasn’t already important on these streets. We’d have to see a significant shift in the values informing the design process (and public participation!) to see significantly different results.

        Maybe big changes could happen on 45th/Market (it’s been a while since that whole route was considered for major changes, SDOT staff openly talk about removing street parking and relying on more shared use of off-street parking there, it’s only getting more important as a transit corridor complementing Link); and on Delridge (some sections are older in design, there’s plenty of width); and of course Madison. Roosevelt/Eastlake is also due for some serious design work, but parts are relatively narrow and other parts have a lot of competing interests for use of the space.

      4. Painting bus priority lanes do not require complete re-do of these streets.

      5. But it does require a redesign of those streets and often a reduction of general-purpose vehicle capacity, contradicting the design work done when the streets were redesigned.

        Move Seattle is a funding measure. The reason we didn’t paint bus lanes (or otherwise reduce GP vehicle capacity) in the previous designs had nothing to do with funding — it was the result of weighing the various uses of the street space in the design process. Move Seattle doesn’t override these processes. When it comes time to implement these corridors these things will be weighed again. We’ll be asking a somewhat different question, focusing on the overall performance of an important transit route, and we’ll be a few more years into Link expansion and infill development — there are some reasons to expect different results that are favorable to transit! But wholesale changes in some of the most auto-centric parts of Seattle, including heavily-used roads that move cars between 522, I-5, and 99? Major reallocation of road space around the Fremont Bridge (absent some other bridge)? I’ll believe that when I see it. Those battles are yet to be fought.

      6. I have to agree with Alex here on the critique of many of these streets having recently been re-built or in the process of being so. I am most familiar with 23rd Avenue (to 24th Ave and Montlake) which is currently being rebuilt from 4 lanes to 3 lanes (1 north, 1 south, and center turn) and actually being narrowed some to expand the sidewalk widths as well. This seems to preclude being able to turn 2 of the lanes in to RR+ bus lanes (even via re-painting), unless the city completely got rid of car traffic on 23rd Avenue. This seems unlikely, since 23rd really is about the only road that connects the Central District/East Capitol Hill to neighborhoods both to the North and South.

      7. If buses currently run on these roads, and there are currently multiple lanes, why would that prevent one of the lanes from being made bus only? Do bus only lanes have to be wider than GP lanes?

      8. On many of these streets there’s nothing physical preventing bus lane implementation (23rd might be an exception). I don’t understand why you’re arguing this point, which I’ve never claimed.

        What I am saying is that those streets that have recently received design attention, including Holman, 85th, 23rd, Rainier, and the western parts of Jackson, designs that reduced general-purpose vehicle capacity were considered and rejected. And the passage of Move Seattle will not change most of the conditions that caused those designs to be rejected (and that caused proper bus lanes to be rejected on parts of RapidRide routes, like California and Fauntleroy), which mostly have to do with the vehicle-moving capacity of the streets (and in some cases street parking, which remains a big issue for businesses whether we like it or not). SDOT has not completely abandoned the project of moving private cars on city ROW; literally nobody thinks Move Seattle is a referendum on this prospect.

        Therefore, to my original point, passing Move Seattle will not guarantee better results than RapidRide along these routes. Considering that most of the streets involved here are smaller, with fewer lanes to start with than the RapidRide routes, I’d be inclined to bet on a lower rate of total bus lane coverage (I wouldn’t actually place that bet without being clearer on how exactly to evaluate it) and lower average speeds than the 6 RapidRide routes. That won’t make them failures, as they’re running on totally different kinds of streets!

  2. “and which will find yet another excuse to oppose spending money on transit.”

    That would be all of them, except perhaps Ms. Fimia. The rest of the scurrilous crowd will find plenty of “excuses”.

  3. I have some concerns about Move Seattle. I don’t like the idea of using levies to fund basic operations like maintenance or small-scale projects. It is bad government policy – voters shouldn’t be deciding whether we maintain roads or not.

    Levies should be for major capital projects: new schools, courthouses, bridges, rail transit, etc. Move Seattle is a huge grab bag of transportation projects that includes some very worthwhile larger, defined projects (e.g. transit corridors) but otherwise is a grab bag of bike lanes, “safety improvements” and basic repairs which city government apparently feels no need to use general fund monies on.

    1. Unfortunately, the city is limited in what it can spend money on. The current city council supports this, and you can bet a majority of the new city council will support it as well. The mayor supports it. This means that if the city representatives were allowed to, they would just authorize the funding. The Seattle Times could then support candidates that promise to spend less money.

      Not a bad system (some would call it a normal, well functioning republic) but we don’t live in that kind of world. Our reps can’t simply fund this sort of work. Hence the referendum.

    2. Less than a third of the $930M Move Seattle levy is devoted to Congestion Relief – $303M. Congestion Relief is outweighed by the levy’s $420M for Maintenance and Repair. The remaining $207M of the levy is for Safe Routes.

      The $303M for Congestion Relief includes $169M for the 7 transit corridors that the STB Editorial Board rightly characterizes as the “heart of the measure”.

      I share Alex’s concern that this levy doesn’t include enough for new major public transit infrastructure.

  4. Good editorial. They both seem like very good projects, despite what The Seattle Times says. You can expect their editorial staff to oppose it (because .. taxes!) and the columnists that actually make the paper worth reading (e. g. Jon Talton) to support it. This is a really good value, plain and simple. Mobility is a major problem in the city, and costs us time and money — this is a very affordable way to make things better in many ways.

  5. I’m looking forward to seeing the first working drawings for making surfaceTransit Rapid between Stone Way and 45th and University.

    Mark Dublin

  6. Well I finally made some time out of a busy day, and wanted to thank you for endorsing Community Transit Prop One. This Prop One will solve the Future of Flight’s problems – finally, spread the transit net and help fill the light rail cars.

    I can gush on… if you’d like.

    1. It’s a bit of a shame that Swift II seems to wiggle back and forth so much. To be fair, part of that is the roads it uses themselves, and it’s hard to get straighter and simpler than 99 (a product of the mid-century highway boom), but Swift III seems comparatively simpler with basically three streets. All RapidRide lines, with the possible exception of F, are easy to define because they mostly run on just one or two major roads. Swift II seems to be serving too many masters at once. To be clear, this is mostly nitpicking and I’m not opposing it, and certainly Seattle’s “RR+” has its share of wobbly lines (and then on Madison it’s absolutely committed to a straight, simple line at the expense of usefulness and a rational bus network on Capitol Hill).

  7. I hope Seattle isn’t planning on having the 7 go downtown in perpetuity. I’m not even certain they have it using Jackson and not Dearborn; I’m not familiar enough with the district map to say for certain.

  8. Move Seattle is actually REALLY good value for money, as far as transportation projects in Seattle go. The bridgework and paving will actually save money in the long term.

    And of course the transit stuff …

    1. Yeah, having lived in that area for much of my life (I don’t currently, but have interests there still), it’s gotten the s*t end of the stick far too many times. It’s one of the few “affordable” close-in places that has some density and room for a lot more, but the City doesn’t even seem to be fighting hard to make sure that 522 corridor buses will head west on 125th instead of 145th, where comparatively nobody lives and avoiding a major neighborhood center.

      Too many people north of the Ship Canal think the city still ends at 85th, and too many south end people think that everyone north of the Ship Canal is wealthy and can take care of themselves; neither is true in Lake City or Bitter Lake but those areas get ignored far too often. The map above is just further evidence of that.

      1. The city gave ST its strongest support for 130th station, which is a prerequisite for routing the 522 there. ST seems to think of the 522 as a suburban route, and Lake City has just gotten a bonus all these years. The distance from Lake City to any of the stations is short enough that it arguably should be Metro’s responsibility, so Metro needs to stand up and say how it will address it better than the current 41. A frequent bus to 145th Station might not be the end of the world. The argument for the 522 turning at 145th is probably there’s not much specific demand between Lake City and Bothell/Kenmore, it’s more Bothell/Kenmore to other parts of Seattle.

      2. Yeah, I have friends in Ballard. Wouldn’t want to deprive them by voting against Move Ballard!

        3 trains, if you listen to Seattle Subway. Now 3 BRTs. It might be easier to just move the rest of the city to Ballard. Ballard is getting positively sticky with privilege.

        When people moved to Ballard, were they aware they were choosing to live in a pretty out-of-the-way peninsula of the city?

      3. And Lake City, while not as trendy hip or large, is actually more dense, and isn’t a massive dead-end like Ballard. We are taking on huge amounts of low-income, disabled and elderly density, which are actually reliant on transit, as opposed to the eco-hipster Ballardites who demand, and apparently are about to get, billions in transit options so they can leave their Prius’s in their garages.

        So Ballard gets all the goodies, and the argument in Lake City is how to destroy our transit options in the least-worst way. WTF?

      4. Mike raises two very important points, and I agree with both of them. The most important thing for Lake City is that the station be added at NE 130th. Nothing else comes close. The city officials fought hard for it, and it will be added (sooner or later).

        Second, I don’t think we should worry too much about the 522 bus. It really isn’t that big of a bus. The 41 runs more often, and that is just one bus that goes to Lake City. If the 522 goes along 145th, it will go a lot less often (since it will skip its biggest set of stops). At worse you are talking about a two seat ride from Lake City to Bothell. This is unfortunate, since UW Bothell has decent demand, but buses serving a Lake City Way bus would probably be very frequent, and the 522 bus (which cuts over to 145th) would at least have decent frequency, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

        I’ve considered possible routes for Lake City (and the rest of the north end) and I keep changing my mind. There is no obvious set of routes. There are a few things to keep in mind:

        1) The area in greater Lake City (roughly 145th to 125th and a few blocks from Lake City Way) is fairly dense and growing. But the areas outside it are not. The density flows a few blocks, but then ends fairly quickly in most directions, but especially to the east and north. If you look at the census block, you can easily pick out the city line. Just south of there (in Seattle) there is a census block containing over 30,000 people per square mile. North of there (Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, Woodinville, etc.) there is not a single census block over 10,000 people per square mile. In other words, that one census block has over three times the density of the highest census block in all the surrounding suburbs. What is true of the suburbs is true in most directions. You have to go west (towards Pinehurst and eventually Bitter Lake) before you get even moderate density (meaning moderate density for Seattle).

        2) Lake City is a major road convergence area. The northeast side of Seattle narrows there, with several arterials ending or converging there.

        All of this means that you can serve it any number of ways, but it will be served. It is, as they say “on the way” (with good density to boot). But how to serve it is not obvious. Here are a couple examples, that are quite different:

        1) Make a full grid, with as few turns as possible, by creating at least the following bus routes:

        * A bus along SR 522, from the Roosevelt station to Bothell (or Woodinville).
        * A bus along 145th, from Greenwood to Lake City Way.
        * A bus along 130th/125th, from Greenwood to Sand Point.

        This would provide a very nice grid, with buses traveling fairly quickly (no turns). The problem is that the buses would be close to empty much of the way. Sand Point Way to Lake City is very quiet. So too is SR 522 outside Lake City. This means the bus travels miles and miles without picking up anyone. This isn’t good, and makes frequency hard to justify. So, you could build something like this:

        2) BRT, starting from 130th and Greenwood, east to Lake City Way, where it would go north to 145th. This would be a very popular bus route. I could easily see very high frequency on a bus like this, given the high density (for Seattle) and major connectivity. If you make this bus BRT, it is generally a good idea to not share those stops with other buses. This forces other buses to other streets. I don’t think this is bad at all. For example, the 522 bus goes to 145th. Buses that serve the south (via Sand Point Way, Lake City Way or 35th NE) either turn around in Lake City, or head north on 30th, then west on 145th (like the 65).

        Personally, I favor that last option. A BRT bus along with the routes that complement it would be extremely popular. I could easily see frequency in the 2-10 minute range (two in peak, ten late at night). Let the folks north of Lake Washington have their bus on 145th. That actually would work out well for riders at the north end of Lake City (close to 145th) since they would have more options.

        All of this argues that improving the Lake City Way corridor from 125th to 145th should be on this list. But keep in mind, the area until recently was in a lot of flux. Without a station at 125th, I’m not sure what you do. Maybe focus on the section between Lake City and Northgate (good luck with that). As has been mentioned, there is a fair amount of flexibility within the system. The Seattle Times editorial staff doesn’t like that, but I do. It is quite possible that the city will refocus their efforts onto Lake City, especially when the stations are close to being added. We are still five years away from a station at Northgate, and seven years away from a station at 145th (which means a station at 130th NE is at best seven years away). I too am disappointed that Lake City is not on this list, but I’m not freaking out about it. I will definitely vote for it, and then keep pushing for improvements on the corridor. We have many years before major changes are needed, and first priority is still getting the station at NE 130th as soon as possible.

      5. Thanks for your thoughtful and balanced response, Ross, to what was more a primal scream on my part.

        Clearly, in order to maintain and increase market-rate multi-family housing, it’s absolutely essential that Lake City continue to have a frequent, fast commuter line. To be able to reach both job centers – Downtown and U-district, in under a half-hour is a huge draw for students and young professionals who buy and rent market rate properties.

        Right now, Lake City is in serious danger of reaching and going well beyond a well known tipping point where more than 30% of housing is being used by ultra-low income families. If transit is further degraded (the 306 is sorely missed), I fear that tipping point will be reached. A 2 or 3 seat ride, or a meandering slow-boat to Northgate will be a knife in the back of Lake City.

        Losing the 522 downtown, which is really the sole reason many people rent or buy in Lake City, would be a disaster. That’s a 19 minute 1-seat ride to downtown. An ultra frequent straight-shot to the ephemeral 130th St. Station would be a partial replacement, but an inferior one. Anything less, and Lake City will become the dumping ground of the unemployed, handicapped and retired, and quickly spiral downhill.

        If you care about Lake City and you aren’t freaking out, you should be.

        Waiting until ST 4, and there won’t be anything left to save.

        I’m not sure why there is such neglect, whether it’s lack of political clout or local ambivalence, but neither of those things should be an excuse for Metro and ST planners to completely destroy Lake City transit while lavishing such absurd gold-plated redundancy on places like Ballard.

  9. I really wish there was a combination of the two Ballard lines. A Northgate to Market street via 24th that then goes to the U-District via Market/45th. Being in northern Loyal Heights, I can already get downtown via RR D (obviously not via Fremont and not crazy fast), but the 48 line is so painful for getting to the U District. I sometimes even walk to Market and just take the 44, and thats a 1.2 mile walk.

  10. Another statistical tidbit, for those who think the NE is “covered” by link, and Ballard is left out in the cold.

    Distance from 15th and market to Roosevelt Station: 3.3 miles, of relatively low-traffic roads. And there is plenty of Ballard closer than that.

    Distance from Lake City to either Northgate or 145th – 2.5 miles of a pretty congested, unpleasant slog. Pretty much a wash.

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