2015 debuts: new trolleybus, new streetcar, new double-decker

This is an open thread.

58 Replies to “News Roundup: Happy Thanksgiving”

  1. Eliminate parking along the streetcar line in problem areas. Allowing parking immediately next to the streetcar was a bad idea to begin with.

    Also, if Kirkland residents hate buses but might like light rail on the corridor, maybe we have a better chance to ask for a bigger ST3 package than I thought.

    1. It’s old retired NIMBY homeowners who don’t need to travel at peak times that also have the time to attend the meeting. Ask a working age crowd in Kirkland-Bellevue and they’ll think pissing away an off street traffic free transit corridor is complete nuts. Of course they won’t be in attendance at an evening meeting because ironically they are stuck in traffic on the commute home.

    2. I was at the at the open house and saw everything. While it’s good that the city is at least well-intentioned and realizes that can’t just build their way out of traffic by widening the streets, I think they are severely underestimating the impact that any kind of a roadway along the CKC would have on the quality of the trail – even if the roadway is just for buses. Issues include noise, fumes, loss of green space, severe construction headaches for trail users, and the fact that the busway would cut off access to the trail from neighborhoods to the east of it.

      I’m also not sure that CKC BRT is such a panacea from a transit user’s perspective. Contrary to what many think, a fair number of people at the open house expressing opposition to CKC BRT were actually regular bus riders. CKC BRT would not be able to replace existing express service along I-405 (it’s too slow, compared to the HOT lanes), nor would it be able to replace local service along 108th Ave. and Lake Washington Blvd. (proposed stops are too sparse to really cover the neighorhood, and there’s a significant vertical gap between the CKC and either Lake Washington Blvd. or 108th, even if the parallel corridors appear close together on a map).

      So, CKC BRT would require a massive investment in new service hours. Now, new service hours is always a great thing. But must ask the question whether those new service hours could be spent just as effectively by increasing the frequency along existing routes. Traffic on 108th Ave. is not that bad during rush hour, and is minimal outside of rush hour. So, it would arguably be better to just spend the new service hours beefing up the frequency of route 255. Or, if fast downtown Kirkland->downtown Bellevue is desired, create a new express route that would provide that service (via 85th St.->I-405), at least during peak commute hours.

      Oh, and another issue with Light Rail on the CKC that is often overlooked – you would have to transfer to EastLink at Hospital Station to actually reach downtown Bellevue.

      1. Ya, I dint think buses on the CKC will ever happen. The perceived negatives of buses are just too great. I suspect what Kirkland will end up with is little more than enhanced buses of some sort operating on existing streets. So Lynwood gets LRT and Kirkland gets more buses. Who would have thunk it possible?

        And LR on the ERC would not require a transfer at hospital station. Properly designed such a Kirkland LR line would join East Link at hospital station and run interlined to at least South Bellevue Station. It would be a one seat ride to DT Bellevue and a 2 seat ride to DT Seattle.

      2. If nothing else, more frequency on the routes that are already there would serve Kirkland quite well. Although, I still think a peak-hour Kirkland-Bellevue express route should be on the table as well.

        According to ST’s proposal, light rail on the ERC would continue south past Hospital Station, then turn east to Issaquah at I-90. It would not provide a one-seat ride to downtown Bellevue.

      3. The best light rail line would share East Link’s track between Spring District and South Bellevue. But Sound Transit didn’t include it in its study alternatives although it included a BRT version, because that would require Link to cross Mercer Slough and trigger environmental mitigation, and some residents have threatened to sue ST if it did because they think the slough is more important than mobility.

      4. I went to see the trail today, from South Kirkland P&R to downtown Kirkland. I’m leaning more against BRT there. It wouldn’t be much better transit access than 108th. But if we don’t use the trail then 108th needs better transit priority in return.

      5. The biggest problem with 108th today is:
        1) Meandering in and out of the bus loop to South Kirkland P&R.
        2) The stoplight at 108th.

        The first problem is solvable with on-street bus stops (together with wider sidewalks) relatively cheaply. The second problem is slightly tricker, since any light adjustments that favor the 255 on 108th would hurt the 245 (and a couple of other lesser routes) on 68th. One idea that might help would be to extend the right-turn lane on northbound 108th another block or so, while signing it to allow buses only to go straight from that lane. (Part of this would involve moving the far-side bus stop closer to the intersection and making it a pullout-style stop, so the bus can get through the intersection and open its doors for the bus stop before needing to merge back into traffic). At least according to Google Street View, I think it would be possible to accomplish all of the above while only taking land currently used for landscaping, plus 3 or 4 parking spaces.

      6. “Meandering in and out of the bus loop to South Kirkland P&R”

        I went in on the 255 and out on the 234, so I saw it on both and it’s actually much worse on the 234. The southbound 254 manages to go west to Lakeview Drive and Lake Washington Boulevard, east on Northup Way, north on 108th, into the P&R loop (where nobody got on or off at noon), and south on 108th again to 112th and Bellevue. If I were a regular rider I’d have thrown a fit years ago. That’s not good transit,, and no wonder ridership between Kirkland and Bellevue is so low.

  2. “66% of Portland Streetcar trips begin at home”

    Translation: by the end of the day everyone is too annoyed with the slow speed and walks back to their home.

    1. A lot of people use the Portland Streetcar, the NS cars are always packed except late at night. I used it for over 10 years.

      1. People use it, but it is nowhere near as popular as it should be considering how many transit routes and dense areas are connected together with it.

        Give it some integration with traffic signals and a bit less nonsense with four way stops, and it could be drastically improved.

        Dedicated lanes would do even better but we’ll not see that here outside MAX lines.

      2. I thought I saw something from the City of Portland and Portland Streetcar about adding signal priority to the line to increase ridership and reduce the delays of the route. That alone would make it far better.

        I consider myself a pretty fast walker and I’ve never managed to beat the streetcar to a destination unless it is just a few blocks away.

    1. Does anyone know what the I-94/I-35 interchange miniature graphic in a graphic is depicting? Did they really create a model of the monster, and called it InterchangeLand, complete with bumper cars?

      1. Great idea, Mic! Would bring down insurance rates like a ton of bricks! But ever see “Super Mario Brothers?” Where dodge-em cars are powered by a streetcar type shoe at the end of a pole, contacting a widespread electrified net?

        Every amusement park used to have these things, which for traffic had another attraction: when screaming kids (and grown-ups) jammed the “rink” solid, everybody could just climb out of their cars and go out for cotton candy while the crew cleared the jam by hand.

        Make those automatic, and the whole thing will work just fine. You win a huge fluffy teddy bear for that one, without ever having to guess anybody’s weight.


  3. Sent this in to the Everett Herald:

    Prop 1 Victory New Era for Community Transit

    Dear Editor;

    After a negative toned campaign waged in Washington State by opponents of Community Transit Proposition 1 – hereafter Prop 1; as a transit advocate I am chest-pounding proud fellow transit advocates like Jennifer Gregerson and I “Beat Them Trolls” for those who could not speak. But what should Prop 1 winning translate into?

    First, in a few years, the Future of Flight – Snohomish County’s number one tourist attraction and involuntary contributor to both Community Transit & Sound Transit – will finally receive its just share of direct transit service. But a Prop 1 victory should also mean more nonprofits are publicly invited to request transit service. I’m also cautiously optimistic Community Transit can improve integration with Island Transit and Skagit Transit; especially if the state legislature passes the transit community’s request for direct state funding of county connector routes throughout our state.

    As you may have noticed, all of those objectives cost taxpayers. That said, to those whom have continuing concerns: If you have positive ideas to improve transit service and reduce congestion in this state, please feel publicly invited to put your ideas forth to improve public transportation instead of wallowing in negativity like a troll.

    I would really appreciate it if more transit advocates would write letters to the editor and also really make clear that those whom have ideas to improve transit service need to step forward.

  4. 1. “Self-driving cars may be a disaster.” In spades and latrine shovels! Sooner or later, the car is going to get packed into a jam. In this case by the thousands. Remember that fish truck? And every single other time when one single car collision has plugged the whole region solid? Like I-5 every single rush hour?The one thing that computers handle worst is the main fact of driving: sudden unpredictable mass screw-ups. Ban the damn things.

    2. Go Dan Savage! Instant end to worst transit blockage- fare arguments. But fare price question pales beside the main one, summed up in one phrase: “Poor, working-class”! Good working definition of “poverty”: the inability to participate in society as a full citizen by reason of lack of money. Good slogan I dare the Democrats to use: “In America, there shall be no such thing as “The Working Poor!”

    Leaving out, however one group working fiercely to end congestion and to lower market-driven rents in Seattle: those of us who can’t stand to live in Seattle anymore whether we can afford it or not.

    Maybe it’s an unfair personal prejudice, but as a class, the people in the income group displacing everybody else are really boring to be around. Thing I miss most about old Ballard (meaning ten years ago) was that residents actually did unvirtual tasks like making things like boats out of metal and fitting nuts on bolts.

    Wherever these people are fleeing to is going to be my neighborhood for life. And reason gentrification won’t be a problem there is historic hallmark of gentry everywhere. They think working people smell bad. Including the ones that make their weapons.

    3. Streetcars: parking is the easy one, including forbidding it entirely. Hard one is what to do where the tracks are blocked with car traffic allowed there by law. Near Swedish Hospital, northbound track has beautiful slalom curve. Which will take a priority traffic signal at both ends for streetcar one to get through at all. For starters.

    4. For Kirkland, street rail- different caliber than light rail- might be easier “sell” than busway. As long as the line is not designed First Hill team, street track can switch off the main line (which can stay straight) and get to the Transit Center no slower than a bus.

    But main thing is that streetcars are the world’s friendliest transit mode for pedestrians, bicyclists, and neighbors. I’ve got several hundred jpegs and several dozen videos I took on-site in Europe to prove it. (Where they also have a lot of cars, but keep them paper-trained.) Whoever will head up the campaign can have them all.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I don’t agree with the one buck arguments at all. I think it sad that just as the poor are being priced out of transit accessible areas in earnest, someone proposes making cheap fares for transit because it will “help the poor the most”. Those poor aren’t even there any more. Even more bizarre, he argues that one time fares could remain the same, as long as you can get a yearly pass for $365. It’s precisely the poor who would end up paying the regular fare because living from week to week doesn’t allow for a three and a half hundred dollar per person investment at one time.

    2. Actually, I think it would cost roughly $5 million per year to reduce the youth/LIFT fare down to $1. It is not as pie-in-the-sky as Dan makes it sound. If Metro doesn’t throw away $2.5 million on that proposal to extend route 38 (or a re-routed 106) all the way downtown, that could pay for reducing the youth/LIFT fare to $1.25. Throw in a grand bargain of eliminating paper transfers at the same time, in exchange for a guarantee that youth/LIFT will forever be a half-fare or less, and the operating savings could end up wiping out the lost fare recovery. (Hence my call for Metro to measure net fare recovery alongside gross fare recovery.)

    3. The self-driving car car article is extremely lazy. If congestion is bad then the natural use of autonomous cars for suburban commuters wishing to go into urban areas would be to drop the users off at a train station and pick them up in the evening. There are number of other solutions and possibilities that any amount of thought could generate, the comments have plenty of them.

      It’s also irresponsible to call increased congestion a disaster when there is an ongoing actual disaster where people are killed by the tens of thousands in the U.S. alone on a yearly basis- and autonomous cars have the potential to dramatically reduce those fatalities and serious injuries.

      1. +1
        The biggest difference self driving cars will have on society will be in injuries and deaths. Currently, a car is an economic necessity for much of our society. As such, we give license to almost anybody. As the cars start becoming ubiquitous, lawsuits will appear over early injuries and deaths, forcing the manufactures to make the cars safe, even if slow. The as the tech becomes more widespread, The carnage of human drivers, people who don’t need to be driving anyhow, will be in stark contrast to the safety of automated cars, and the push for stricter licensing will come about.

  5. Moved from last open thread.

    If Madison BRT has the 7pm rule and the left-side doors are behind the driver or toward the middle of of the bus, will passengers have to walk around the driver to tap their card and then turn around to get to their seat, and will there be room for them to walk back while other people are walking forward to pay?

    1. On RapidRide at 7pm the fare inspectors go home, so you have to enter the front door and pay the driver. That also means you have to look at the real-time sign to determine if the bus will arrive just before 7 or just after, so you can tap the offboard reader or not. (Of course if you tap it and then tap again, it doesn’t cost any more.) Link doesn’t have this; it’s always offboard payment.

  6. Regarding the sleeping passenger article–a driver once told me it’s not safe to tap a sleeping passenger on the shoulder to wake him up, as some get aggressive or ballistic.

    1. “This is the last stop. All passengers must depart. Thank you for riding Metro.” Turn up volume. Repeat.

      1. Except for the drunks curled up on the back seat. I used to kick em out, but when they just stand there at the front door, staring at you in the dark and cold to start your next run, it’s easier to just let them sleep.

  7. STP has been spinning Bertha’s cutter head on and off for a few days now. Hopefully they get it right this time and can complete the project. It is well past time that the viaduct gets torn down and the waterfront gets returned to the people of Seattle.

    1. Well, yes, but can’t the viaduct be closed tomorrow if it is truly unsafe? In case you forgot, overall capacity will go down with the opening of the tunnel and closing of the viaduct.

      1. It is past time that the viaduct come down from an urban design POV. It is time to get that monstrosity out of there and give Seattle back its waterfront.

      2. In case you forgot, we aren’t really getting our waterfront back. We are getting a waterfront highway.

      3. The capacity on SR 99 through downtown Seattle won’t change a bit. It has always been two lanes in each direction. People getting off 99 to go toward Ballard will just have to get off 99 earlier when the new tunnel opens.

      4. I’m confused now; it has been widely stated that the tunnel will have less capacity than the viaduct.

  8. Regarding The Cost of Zoning: “Now, it’s true that hiring construction workers in New Jersey will cost more than hiring them in Arkansas, but is it really double?”

    I’ve recently been looking at what it would take to build a house, for the simple fact that my wife and I would love to buy our first home but if we’re all very honest most of the housing stock in Seattle is absolute rubbish and overpriced. But alas, I’m told by the architects and builders than construction costs per sqft here in Seattle have risen from under $200 a few years ago to now $250 sometime $300 per sqft. I do suspect this is actually twice what is costs to build in Arkansas.

    As for zoning. This is the biggest frustration we have. One way for us to increase affordability of building is to build on a smaller lot, or build two houses and sell one. We see plenty of potential to build *two* very nice single family homes on a 4,000 to 6,000 sqft lot, yet can’t, unless you find magical LR zoned land in which case you’re paying so much for this rare land that you *MUST* build as much footprint as you possible can. Forget even going higher density, with Seattles *ABSURD* zoning rules you can’t even build what they used to be allowed build. Walk around all the neighborhoods that are considered desirable, they are a mixture of small homes on small lots, big homes on big lots, and duplexes, triplexes, the odd four story apartment building on the corner, and so on. But you can’t do this today. Zoning rules have backfired big time.

    1. I think that is one of the big problems we have. The single family zoned areas aren’t even good for those who want to own a single family home! Small houses on small lots is by far the best way to get affordable houses, but we don’t even allow that on most of Seattle.

      I agree completely that the zoning rules have backfired in so many ways. Most of the nice neighborhoods would be illegal right now. Whether it is the small apartment mixed in with the houses, the small house on a weird little lot or the beautiful old apartment building that doesn’t have any parking (or set back). All would be illegal in most of Seattle.

  9. We are expecting breakthrough tomorrow on the Vancouver / Evergreen line tunnel in Coquitlam.

  10. Spending Thanksgiving week in Las Vegas with son…Vegas I think has been known in the past for infrastructure innovation like the monorail but walking the strip here from the MGM Grand, I keep thinking, with all the pedestrian shopping does it really need to be a five lane highway (the walk lights start at 35 seconds for their countdown).?

    Put the Strip on a road diet. At least one lane one each side for bicycles. Then street level tram, light rail. I appreciate all the pedestrian bridges, but if ever a street should be ceded…no conquered by…pedestrians it’s the Strip…which is an open air shopping, entertainment mall.

    1. Agreed. Although the Strip is a distant second to Bourbon street, in need to be given over to pedestrians. I don’t think there’s anyplace on this continent with that ratio of foot traffic to auto traffic, combined with the sheer volume of foot traffic for a very narrow strip of concrete.

      (of course, Bourbon street is closed to cars at night, and during the day, the whole French Quarter is just a Deep South Woonerf.)

  11. Self-driving cars, in some cases, will brake for pedestrians wearing t-shirts with a stop sign logo. That’s a true fact!

    1. They are testing self-drive cars in a mocked up town (44-acres) on Ford’s research lab in Michigan.

      I’d really like to see what happens when you let loose a couple hundred robocars — and I mean 100% automated.

      Might end up like the movie “Westworld”

      1. There’s an automotive safety standard that cars sold in Sweden must pass that is nicknamed the “moose test” or some such.

        I’d like to see what happens to this swarm of self-driving cars if a herd of elk or moose or something were turned loose in this test city.

        The good news is that some of the new sensors are infrared heat sensors, so they could perform very well as they could sense large animals on a dark road that are humanly invisible.

        At the same time, multiple large unpredictable animals would be a very useful test.

  12. Does anyone notice how the Mt Baker traffic diagram has a turning bay set up to collide with head-on traffic? It’s also curious how the Rainier lane drops are assumed even though that has not been presented in meetings that I’ve attended.

    Sure this looks pretty in an aerial but the amount of delay for buses and cars with this scheme will be significant.

  13. McMansions marching in ($). Why don’t we have zoning restrictions against this instead of against multifamily housing? In what universe is it logical for a triplex to be disallowed but a 3000-7500 sq ft mansion to be perfectly OK?

      1. What drugs are you on? Once everyone has their own bedroom and bathroom, house size has nothing to do with quality of life.

  14. Two thoughts:

    Why can’t they move the Mt. Baker transit station to the huge empty plaza below the link station? I suppose it is supposed to be earmarked for Farmer’s Markets and Art Fairs, but having the busses pull right into that covered area to load and unload passengers would be a much more efficient and convenient use of that space.

    Southcenter: Has any thought ever been given to having a free bus between Tukwila Light Rail Station and the Southcenter retail area, like the Emeryville, CA “Emery Go Round”? (www.emerygoround.com)? I live near the new Capitol Hill Station, don’t have a car, and would love the opportunity to go to Southcenter for some shopping time, and that would be perfect.

    1. There is the RapidRide F between the Tukwila station and Southcenter mall, I don’t think the transfer costs much.

    2. Having a farmers’ market under the platforms is a citizens’ idea; it has never been officially adopted. ST has been keeping the space empty for I don’t know why. This might be worth following up on; revisiting why it’s empty and what the possibilities are.

  15. OK, I really like the “one triplex per block” meme. How about making it “one triplex conversion per block” in order to make it even more inoffensive?

    1. I think what gets me on this one is that “one triplex per block” does not guarantee that there will be one triplex per block. Just because it’s allowed doesn’t mean it will be built.

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