111 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: A Ride In The City”

    1. Preaching to the converted, let alone fanatical, Glenn. But why don’t they first have a preliminary experiment and just get the cars off the lane with the tracks for a year or so, just to see what happens.

      Though station-reduction will definitely increase passenger speed by an hour because they’ll get to walk!
      Sort of like (everybody name their favorite route) in (guess and name the city!) where a lot of stops have already been eliminated, though cars have not. Good metric for Portland.


      1. Thanks for the sympathies. Getting the city to understand this is a different matter.

        Maybe if enough people complain about the lost stations the city council will wake up.

        As this only happen on rare occasions, it’s probably going to take more than that.

    2. Portland should really relocate a number of their stops to the far side of the intersection. At locations where that wouldn’t be feasible, they should lengthen the platforms so that if one car is ahead of the streetcar, the streetcar doesn’t have to wait an entire signal cycle before it can move into position to open all doors. I’ll be in Portland tomorrow, riding the streetcar, and I know there are plenty of spots where the stops should be either consolidated, relocated or lengthened.

      1. Guy, far-side stops for both streetcars and buses are a good idea, but need one mandatory measure: have traffic signals let transit get into those stops before a red light forces them to stop twice, once for the red light, and seconds later, for the transit stop.

        It drives passengers nuts when this happens. Worst of all is when they insist on getting off while the transit vehicle is stuck at the red light. Which is bad because deboarding passengers keep the bus or streetcar from crossing into the real stop when the light turns.

        The South Lake Union Tramway northbound stop at Whole Foods needs to be signaled so cars ahead of the streetcar can turn right onto Denny when streetcar is ready to move, and the light held until the streetcar clears the intersection. For instance.

        But the Portland streetcar lines, which are different from MAX, have a different problem. They run in places with a fraction of the room on Westlake. Meaning that the worst obstacle to efficient operation is not spacing of stops, but whole block-loads of automobiles in their way.

        And also, standard octagonal stop signs at every single intersection. Cities and systems often go through things like stop-spacing experiments because they won’t take on the necessary but hard things like getting automobiles out of streetcars’ way.

        Taxpayers should insist that money for things like stop-spacing-experiments gets shifted to the car-removal effort.

        Mark Dublin

    3. Most of those are pretty major stops that they are looking to close. They also added right turn/streetcar only lanes in downtown which unfortunately isn’t a huge improvement as the right turn is the problem, but it is an easy/quick thing to do. They should just have signal preemption along the route, have the streetcar trigger the lights when its ready to go. Its good they are buying the used Seattle cars but throwing more cars on the route to maintain headways due to traffic is a way to throw good money after bad. The problem comes from that the streetcar is heavily used (despite being slow) and so a handful of people board and get off at every stop which are frequently placed, in which case they are more scheduled stations than on-demand stops.

      I’d ridden some PCC type streetcars and it seems to me their dwell time at stops is much more like that of a bus… quick grab and go and not have to fully pull into the stop all the way (I’m not clear why the streetcar has to fully pull into the stop especially if no one in a wheelchair is boarding/alighting and if they did show up at the last minute the streetcar could just pull up a few feet further to its proper stopping location).

    4. They should try this on the MAX east-west lines too. North-south has a reasonable number of stations downtown but east-west is excessive.

    5. Does Portland use POP payment? The newer streetcars on Toronto’s Spadina line (which will soon be the only streetcards on the line) are POP payment only. Some stops don’t have payment machines, but there are machines aboard every streetcar so you can pay on-board.

      And they’re POP payment 24/7, not 7am – 7pm only like RapidRide.

      1. Yes, everything in Portland is POP.

        Officially speaking, the bus drivers aren’t supposed to waste time arguing about fares either. The fare inspectors show up on the buses from time to time.

        The streetcar has the machines onboard as well. it’s cheaper as there are more stations than streetcars.

    6. >>Yes, everything in Portland is POP.

      Officially speaking, the bus drivers aren’t supposed to waste time arguing about fares either.<<

      If it's POP only than the bus drivers COULDN'T argue fares because they wouldn't know if you paid or not. Or maybe we're misunderstanding each other. The newer streetcars in Toronto are POP ONLY. Meaning you don't have an option of paying the driver when you board. You either have a pass, pay before you board, or pay onboard at the onboard machines.

      That's what I was asking.

      1. Best reason for drivers not to argue about fares- which Metro’s own drivers’ rule book forbids- is that in addition to putting the driver in some danger, operating time and public goodwill lost through these arguments costs more than fare in question.

        What Book also says is that if a driver is faced with a really egregious fare abuse, procedure is to fill out an incident report upon return to base. And collect a half hour’s pay even if the report only takes five minutes to write.

        So if the System really feels it’s being damaged, plain-clothes police themselves can ride the buses and continue the argument someplace off the bus, like in a squad car. ‘Til we get wider fare inspection.

        Mark Dublin

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loop_%28CTA%29

    Wikipedia shows and describes the Chicago “Loop” better than I can. First detail to note is date the project was started. You gotta remember, however, that the whole thing was conceived at a time the couple of cars in existence had chain drives, and nobody could you’d be weird if you didn’t have one. And therefore the whole future would just be faster ‘El’s. For ‘Elevated.’ Maybe underground too.

    Also, I think they still have the resident flock of pigeons that live on the “Loop”. Even more than Tukwila International. Though maybe we could become competitive if we put those great mechanical peanut machines of every platform. Maybe put one at the rent-a-car building.

    It was great to be standing at one station, buy some peanuts with a loud “click” and watch a flock of pigeons take off from the station down the track a couple blocks away and come see you. Like in that Alfred Hitchcock movie.

    However, defining pic of the Chicago ‘El is that scene in the first Blues Brothers movie, when Ellwood is sitting at the window of his budget-friendly hotel, with PCC elevated cars going by five feet away. Louder than a minute later when Carrie Fisher blew up the whole building with an RPG (see “Weapons, Afghanistan”.)

    Footnote: ten miles north in Rogers Park, apartments in buildings of that era rent about like South Lake Union. Too bad ST just thought of the Green Line. ‘Cause buildings there now don’t even have windows that open- even though the rent is a lot less.

    See also Electroliner:


    Couple jegs of the train we really need for Everett to Olympia via Tacoma. going around the “Loop” along with the local trains. A cafe car with white table cloths. Hey, ST….!

    Mark Dublin, Age 8, 1622 Green Leaf, Chicago Illinois they-didn’t-have-zipcodes-yet.

  2. I was told at the First Hill Streetcar Safety Day by Seattle Streetcar staff that the line would open by the end of the year.

  3. Here’s a recent thought I had about North Link to Everett. If we build the Boeing / Paine Field diversion, it will take about 10 mins longer for everyone to get to Seattle, peak or off-peak, for a destination that will only really be utilized during peak hours. Why can’t we just align link to 99, and make a really good BRT line to connect people to Boeing. Wouldn’t it be even better if there is already a voter approved BRT line that does just that? Like Swift II?

    1. That would make too much sense. I love light rail but my god it seems light rail is being proposed as the answer for every transit corridor in ST3 (save for eastside, with its halfassed 405 BRT from cloverleaf to placeless strip mall via clogged HOT lanes).

      1. Yep. All the crap of DART, with the expense (and then some) of SkyTrain. What’s not to love?

    2. Separate from ST, but it seems we need a lot of fast frequent east-west BRT lines feeding all these Spine stations

      1. We need a couple east-west subway lines in Seattle (Ballard to UW and Metro 8). We need a transit tunnel for downtown. That is about it. Until we build that, people will continue to drive at levels not found in cities that have spent as much (or less) on their transit system. We will have a system that is one of the worst as measured in a number of ways. Ridership per mile. Ridership per operational dollar. Ridership per capital projects dollar. Transit ridership per capita. All of these will be pathetic unless we start paying attention to the science and start trying to copy successful cities (like Vancouver, BC) and not unsuccessful ones (like Dallas). To be fair to Dallas, they didn’t spend as much money as we will.

      2. Oh absolutely for inner Seattle and capital projects. I was thinking more cheap “BRT” lines though feeding the North Seattle/Shoreline and also Federal Way areas and accept their role being more urban and with more housing. Clearly the decision has been made to build the quality high frequency transit to/thru these areas with 6 min headways, there is little around these stations so they need to be fed from other areas with frequent crosstown service.

      3. Oh yes, absolutely poncho. A BRT from Lake City to Bitter Lake would make a lot of sense. In the middle it might be hard to take a lane, but on much of it you could. There is some congestion, but not a huge amount (nothing like 145th). Off board payment would really clean things up and you could easily justify very high frequency all day (Lake City has a ton of buses going by it right now). 145th might get the same treatment, but it is a bit harder to justify. It might get a longer haul, less frequent run (from Greenwood Ave. to Bothell). That would be a lot more like our Rapid Ride.

      4. Seems to me pretty much every station between UDistrict and Lynnwood should have an east-west high frequency crosstown line that feeds the station, similar to the existing 44 serving the future UDistrict station… a 65th (east of I-5)-85th line (west of I-5), etc. Swift II is pretty much an example of this too as is the future Rapid Ride 44.

      5. Good point about 65th. Northgate is very cumbersome from an east-west perspective, given the location of the station. They should definitely improve that corridor, but it will never be great, which means that it will never be a great value. It will often be faster to “go around” (go north on Aurora to 130th, then east on 130th or go south to the Ballard to UW subway). A lot of the potential east-west corridors to the north could work, but a lot of the streets are a mess up there, the stations are very spread out and the east-west corridors often have little in the way of destinations or people on them. Without a doubt there should be frequent east-west service, but I doubt any of them will ever justify the frequency (or gold level treatment) of a Lake City-Bitter Lake or 65th crosstown route.

    3. Paine Field really shouldn’t be served by light rail to begin with, but pretending, as a thought experiment, that light rail absolutely had to serve both Everett and Paine Field, how about doing so via a branch? The all-day mainline could take the Everett branch, so no travel time bloat or frequency reduction there, while during peak hours, some of the trains could take the Paine Field branch, since Everett does not need 3-minute frequency. If warranted, ST could even operate half-hourly shuttle trains to Paine Field during the off-peak hours that would be truncated at the nearest station to connect to the mainline.

    4. Not “everyone”, just people from central Everett going to points further south. That’s a small fraction of the line’s passengers. And since they’re all in one city, they should be able to decide among themselves whether the tradeoff is worth it. That’s different from detours in the middle of the line like the Rainier Valley detour, where it slows down half the passengers and will slow down more than half when the line is extended. So that’s a legitimate concern for all users, unlike the Everett issue.

      A branch might not be a bad idea here. A Y from the south going to downtown Everett and Paine Field. ESPECIALLY if the Paine branch shows up as a separate budget item so it’s obvious to everyone how much it’s costing. We could then run every other train to Paine, or every other train peak hours.

      On the other hand, who is the Paine detour for? It seems to be mostly for northerners at the Everett Station P&R and the (few) urbanists in downtown Everett. They would not be directly served with a Y from the south; they’d have to transfer. So does a branch meet one of the main goals of the detour?

      Everett needs to publish numbers of how many Boeing workers live where, so we can see how many could theoretically commute on Link. My assumption is that most of them live east of the plant where they’d travel perpendiculat to the line. Are there that many workers coming from Lynnwood or King County? I’m afraid Everett is pushing the Paine routing without looking at whether it’s really a major Boeing commute corridor.

      1. Perhaps ST should begin with an assumption that there will be a branch north of Northgate, and study where it would be more adventageous! It is clear that three-minute service on a single, long track is less effective than a branch would be. Possibilities include 522/Bothell, Aurora, Paine Field/Mulkiteo and perhaps even less apparent corridors. Even two lines that begin at Everett, split (to I-5 express and 99/Paine Field local, for example) and return to the same track at Northgate would be good. Even an A-train/B-train station scheme may be a useful track configuration rather than have every train stop at every station.

      2. The merits of a light rail line running from Everett to Tacoma aside, if there was ever a place really anywhere for a local-express track rail transit line, Everett – Tacoma is it. Add a bunch more local stations to what we have and have planned then have an express line that only stops at the major stops.

      3. Would making a separate Link express track be any cheaper than just extending Sounder to run all day every day, especially now that Amtrak has convinced BNSF to shore up the mudslide-prone areas? It seems Sounder is much better suited to this than Link.

      4. >> That’s different from detours in the middle of the line like the Rainier Valley detour, where it slows down half the passengers and will slow down more than half when the line is extended.

        What? What “half” are you talking about? What detour are you talking about? Where do you get the idea that “more than half” will be slowed down when it is extended?

        Only a quarter of the riders take the train past Rainier Beach. This is about the same number that ride it in the Rainier Valley. The Rainier Valley, meanwhile is, (as Matt put it) fueling the growth in ridership (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2014/05/21/rainier-valley-is-pushing-link-ridership-growth/).

        An “express” that went via Georgetown would be only a smidge faster and that would largely be due to the fact that it served fewer people. That would be nuts. Unless ridership suddenly skyrocketed because people could get to the airport a couple minutes faster, you see a sudden drop of more than 25% of your ridership (because of course some of those riders to SeaTac start in Rainier Valley). Light rail to Rainier Valley makes sense, extending it farther (to the airport) is the part that was questionable. Skipping the good stuff to go after the weak stuff would have been stupid. That would be like building a light rail line to a sprawling city of 100,000 that is 20 miles from the nearest minor destination or building a light rail line to a sprawling industrial area. Or building both because you can’t quite figure out which one makes less sense.

      5. Skylar: To some degree Sounder is the express, though especially for North Sounder, the action is all along the I-5 and 99 corridors. I personally think more can be made of North Sounder especially as it isn’t going anywhere, I wouldn’t pull the plug on but I do think it needs some infill stations (LQA/Interbay, West Ballard) and make it of use beyond its underutilized infrequent peak trips.

      6. Skylar: The problem with the express track concept is that Link is only being built for 55 mph running.

        The Elecroliners Mark Dublin mentions above were geared for 90 mph on the main line. They were quite a bit slower once they joined the L though.

        The goal of an express track has to be to make things faster enough than driving that significant passenger numbers are attracted to the line.

        So, suppose that an express track and higher speed equipment gets it to the point that it could go from Everett to UW in 20 minutes.

        Except now they face another half hour to 45 minutes on local uses to get where they need to go.

        Plus, at the Everett end of things, there isn’t much around the station, and even the downtown area isn’t that busy. So, they face an ordeal at the Everett end too.

        So, they stick to I-5 because it is faster in the end to sit in traffic than take an express train.

        High speed trains work really nicely in Europe, and there has been a lot of talk in the USA about them. What isn’t mentioned is the network of lower speed 125 mph trains that feed those. Another step down and your looking at the regional trains that also fed those, and then local transportation.

        A single puzzle piece doesn’t give you a complete picture.

        I think that one day there will be a need for those 90 mph regional trains between Everett and Seattle. There has to be good local transportation at each end first, and enough stuff near the stations, for it to work really well.

      7. One of the advantages of an express train is that it frees up seating at stations closer to a downtown. It can often be more about capacity than it is speed.

    5. “Why can’t we just align link to 99”

      Because Everett is against it, and ST listens to cities more than it listens to anybody else. Everett inexplicably believes that Evergreen Way is “complete”, and anything to increase its transit or upzone it would be detriment.

      And for us, it would be a crying shame if Everett and Fife get Link on 99 while Aurora and Des Moines don’t.

  4. I have asked STB a few times to see if Kubly would be willing to talk about ST3. I ask again in light of the split spine, Ballard to UW vs. Ballard north, West Seattle option .

    1. +1. Not only that, but SDOT/Metro integration. SDOT is essentially imposing corridors and streetcars on Metro who has to pay for its operations, and those hours come out of Metro’s other Seattle routes unless the city starts paying for their ongoing operations. The city is unilaterally building routes which some in Metro think are in the wrong place to fit people’s travel patterns, or the priorities don’t match the biggest transit needs. Part of the problem is Metro has no long-term plan yet so it can’t articulate an alternative to the Transit Master Plan. The TMP was published in 2012 before Kubly, and I’m not sure how much transit-planning expertise went into it. So the city should consult with Metro more as it designs these lines from the TMP rather than just taking it as gospel.

      1. I agree, Mike. We should have mandatory cooperation rules if we are going to keep this agency structure.

      2. The 2012 TMP was a big change from the 2005 TMP and seemed to shift priorities from transit-dependent areas to hipster areas. It seems that it was done with little neighborhood input.

        Neighbors often view transit as part of a transportation system. Rather than city-wide modal plans, I think district multi- modal plans would be more effective as well as lead to a better consensus process for issues like bus restructuring when implementing them.

      3. Hipster areas are the same as urban/dense/high-ridership areas where transit can be most effective.

      4. I see little with SDOT’s plans to quibble about. Maybe they don’t do enough (Lake City BRT, anyone?) but what they do, they seem to be doing well. Madison BRT is fine. Off board payment and fast buses make sense to me. It might be made a smidge faster (by extending the BAT lanes to the east or replacing the downtown BAT lanes with Bus only contraflow lanes) but that is a minor quibble. The former can be added later (of course). The Roosevelt BRT sounds good, too. Compare it to Metro’s flagship proposal for Northeast Seattle, the 67. The Roosevelt BRT is fast. The 67 is not. Metro is concerned about covering every inch of King County to a fault. Seattle is not. They want to build fast, frequent service, even if it means people have to walk a couple blocks.

        Without a doubt they should talk more, but the lack of communication between Metro and SDOT is a minor problem compared to the lack of communication between Metro and Sound Transit. Metro just had a major failure and it was largely due to the fact that Sound Transit never consulted with it about how the bus routes would change once they build a billion dollar line to the UW. Have things changed? Sound Transit just released estimates for various light rail lines — did they talk with Metro about it? Of course not.

        If I had to grade the agencies and their planning I would give SDOT a ‘B’, Metro a ‘D’, and Sound Transit an ‘F’.

      5. It’s Metro’s job to provide transit service to everyone in King County; if that were SDOT’s job (even just within Seattle) its focus would look a lot different! If SDOT had to think of the whole network would it design Madison BRT running all on Madison, but not all the way to the end? Would it design streetcar routes that similarly cover only half of necessary transit corridors? These route designs force Metro to choose between duplication and leaving a lot of people with bad service. As for the longer corridors SDOT has proposed… we’ll have to see, because it hasn’t actually implemented any yet!

        Metro, on the other hand, doesn’t have direct control over a lot of the aspects of the street that are critical to transit operation. That doesn’t excuse their indifference to speed and reliability when designing their own infrastructure (mostly P&Rs) or influencing new designs (according to SDOT they didn’t build bus islands on Dexter south of Mercer because Metro didn’t want ’em, which truly pisses me off). But transit agencies are not accustomed to getting much support, and often still don’t get what they need (part-time parking in BAT lanes on the D and E Lines, losing the Montlake Flyer Stop); they’re used to figuring out how to run buses on the street network as it is, not being a partner in its design.

        As for hipsters and “hipster areas”, here’s the big sorted ridership chart. Where are the “hipster areas”? Now, a city is really measured by people and not streets, so… most of the people you see around town aren’t hipsters, whatever that’s supposed to mean exactly, and most of the people you see on the bus aren’t, either.

      6. A hipster is kind of like a yuppie (young urban professional) except it focuses more on going to clubs than going to work. The media spotlight swivels from one long-time subculture to another, and hipsters follow the media spotlight. So hipster places are places where trendy people go to. That can be considered Capitol Hill, the U-District, Fremont, Ballard, Uptown, and Belltown. So it’s more or less the same as the dense areas. Frequent transit between the dense areas is what gains the most ridership and functions as a base for transit and ridership to spread out from. So when we put transit in the most logical places, we can’t help but put transit in hipster places.

      7. You say that like it’s been true since the dawn of time. Hell, I’m not very old, but even I know that in the ’60s (the term has at least been around since then) the professional class and the media would have looked down on bohemian “hipsters”. A few decades later, you had classic gentrification: “yuppies” following “hipsters” (whose particular counterculture sensibilities were “non-threatening” and whose apparent “authenticity” had a particular cachet) into certain neighborhoods. Today luxury comes with faux-counterculture trappings, and marketers try really hard to look cool, though anyone that’s actually cool is cool effortlessly, and to the rest of us it’s all just tiring.

        I understand that you’re defending our city’s transit planning from the charge that it’s recently been based around something other than substance. I don’t buy the charge or the defense. Seattle’s plans for transit improvements are pretty well distributed around the city (even more when recent and ongoing projects are considered). And our regional transit ridership… well, a lot of it involves downtown and the U District, driven by long-term patterns more than “trendy” stuff. Our two most popular bus routes are the E Line and the 7. Lots of it involves the suburbs. Of course dismissing places “because hipsters” is nonsense, but the handful of places you mention represent a small portion of Seattle, by population as well as area.

      8. >> If SDOT had to think of the whole network would it design Madison BRT running all on Madison, but not all the way to the end?

        Sure. BRT is really expensive. The buses are really expensive. The off board payment system is really expensive. Extending it to Madison would mean a lot of work for a relatively few number of riders (compared to the rest of the line). If they went cheap (and just used regular bus stops) it would weaken the whole thing.

        I get your point. SDOT is cherry picking. So is Sound Transit. Neither has to worry about whether they serve the entire area. The ST buses are extremely popular and very cost efficient as a result, but it isn’t because they are masters at designing a bus network.

        But I still think Metro focuses too much on coverage and not enough on speed. Again, I cite the two examples — the new 67 versus the Roosevelt BRT. Keep in mind, I originally pushed for the bus to avoid Roosevelt. You could pick up way more passengers if you ran through the heart of the U-District (the Ave) which would also put you closer to Brooklyn. I could also see Brooklyn simply being reconfigured so that it was given over to the buses. Looking, further though (and after listening to counter arguments) I realized that simply wouldn’t work. There is no easy way to get over there. The bus would get stuck in traffic somewhere, and whatever time was saved for those riders in not walking a couple extra blocks would be spent sitting on a bus.

        Metro seems to have the opposite approach. Of course the 67 will pass by more people than if it went via 5th. But that will cost everyone a huge amount of time. It will make the bus run less frequently and less dependably. Its value as a connector will be lost as a result. Another example is the 12, which wasn’t touched during the entire Capitol Hill rerouting discussion. Do we really need a bus serving a fairly sparsely populated area (19th) when there are frequent bus routes five blocks on either side? You do if your focus is on minimal walking.

        These are trade-offs, but I prefer SDOT’s approach. Keep it fast. At a minimum, keep your big routes — your key routes (and SDOT is only building key routes) — very fast and frequent. Madison BRT will be very fast and very frequent and unless SDOT was willing to spend a huge amount more money, it wouldn’t be if went to Madison Park. As for Madison Park, they will be fine. The bus will take a turn at Madison and follow the current 43 downtown. This will please folks that want to get to Link or live in Summit and will miss the 43.

      9. Gee guys. Perhaps I should not have been as coded on what resulted: White privilege biases in the 2012 plan.

        You should really look at the 2005 plan a bit closer. There was a full-blown Lake City BRT and a Rainier Avenue BRT. They went away in favor of Madison. Meanwhile, ridership density on Union and Jefferson Streets were ignored for BRT treatment in favor of Madison.

        Let’s not get too strayed from the main point that no transit plan should be done in a vacuum by Metro, ST or SDOT. If all three agencies cannot adopt similar plans in some form, then it shouldn’t be implemented.

      10. You can say you prefer the “SDOT approach” but I don’t think such a thing exists.

        Maybe there’s some good to the situation that transit capital projects go through SDOT and ST, which have little operational legacy. Ignoring precedent is sometimes good, because sometimes the precedent doesn’t hold up in today’s conditions, and sometimes the precedent was always goofy. Sometimes Metro makes mistakes that seem broadly attributable to loss aversion. But SDOT and ST both regularly make mistakes that seem broadly attributable to inexperience, mistakes so blatant that they’re obvious to a bunch of blog trolls with no transit experience except riding the bus a lot.

        SDOT and ST, hopefully, make these mistakes while building projects whose benefits are great enough to reshape their part of the city. Metro is not going to reshape the area south of Northgate by choosing a routing for the 67. SDOT and ST often have the luxury of responding to tough conditions by doing nothing (the default SDOT response to vocal opposition) or pulling out service (which ST does with fairly little fanfare). Metro has to keep the buses rolling, has to run routes like the 50 along crazy courses that it knows are both necessary and doomed to low ridership.

      11. “You say that like it’s been true since the dawn of time.”

        I was referring to the 2000s hipsters, not the 1950s hipsters or 1930s hepsters.

        SDOT and Metro have different ideas. SDOT prefers an all-Madison route, while Metro thinks two routes on different parts of Madison serve the neighborhood better. There are similar differences in other areas, such as a Rainier-Rainier route or a 23rd-Rainier route. In general I like Metro’s ideas better. Not what Metro does in compromises, but what it would like to do. The problem is that Metro has not yet articulated a long-term network goal, so we can only compare TMP items one corridor at a time and in an ad hoc manner as Metro planners state their opinions. However, on Roosevelt BRT SDOT’s and Metro’s opinions seem to be closer together because downtown-Eastlake-Roosevelt is clearly a potential powerhouse and underserved.

  5. I think somebody (David L?) said a few days ago that the E has become Metro’s highest-volume route, although I can’t find the reference. I’ve had a growing feeling that this is extraordinary and we should give Aurora more attention.

    First, why has the E become the highest-volume route? Previously people said Aurora was somewhat lacking because the destinations/residents are on Phinney and Greenwood. So is the E’s rise due to AWV construction, Shoreline loving it, 46th loving it, or more people transferring at Aurora Village than anticipated?

    Second, what does Aurora need medium-term? Just some more frequency? Are the incomplete BAT lanes causing the E to slow down excessively? Should we look at light rail there again, especially since we’re about to make a 25-year decision that would preclude other lines in the meantime?

    1. For starters, the street parking in north Seattle the breaks up the bus lanes needs to go. The number of cars that are actually parked there at any one time is tiny – a single bus carries at least as many people as all the cars parked on Aurora in all of north Seattle – but all it takes is just one parked car blocking the bus lane and, now, pulling out of a bus stop means stopping and waiting for an opening in the traffic.

      Next, the bus lanes need to start actually being enforced. I have several times crossed over Aurora on a bridge during periods of bad traffic and there were so many people violating the bus lane that the bus lane was moving just as slowly as all the other lanes.

      Third, something needs to be done to speed up the E-line (and buses in general) through Belltown and downtown. One idea could be to re-purpose the current highway 99 tunnel for transit, once the new tunnel finally opens for cars. As part of the conversion process, the entrances and exits could be reconfigured to provide bus access to the 3rd Ave. transit corridor. This tunnel could also be used by other routes, such as the 5, 16, 26, or 28, in addition to the E-line.

      1. I think single family home owners who work downtown are using this line a lot. Unfortunately they are being priced out of closer in housing. More multifamily housing being constructed along this route too.

      2. More multifamily housing is being built along Auora? Hooray, about time. Aurora and Pacific Highway have vast potential for tons of housing and mixed use and TOD, displacing only decaying big-box stores with huge parking lots. The big-box stores could be stacked on top of each other like Northgate North.

    2. The 358 predecessor to the E Line might not have been Metro’s busiest route, but it was close to the top. As of 2009, it was #3 at just shy of 10,000 riders, after the 48 and 7:


      The 358 had some serious problems, though. Some of these were solved by the conversion to RapidRide, like off-board payment to reduce dwell time. Some of these actually weren’t; IIRC the BAT lanes actually predated its conversion, since SDOT/WSDOT laid down the paint before Metro decided to delay the E line rollout due to the C/D fiasco.

      If I had to make a guess, the biggest help was the huge frequency boost. Back in the 358 days, Sunday service was 30 minutes. I think this was fixed partly through RapidRide funds, and partly through adoption of the new service guidelines.

      While the E line might be Metro’s highest ridership route, I wonder how much higher it can go if we adopted asdf2’s suggestions? If I had to throw one more suggestion out there, it would be to find some way to reclaim the BAT lanes by the tunnel portal. WSDOT’s contractors are using them to stash equipment, and I have to believe that there’s some other place they could stash their equipment.

      1. IIRC the BAT lanes came first to Shoreline, and with somewhat less rider turnover up there, the last year or so of the 358 approximated the E Line pretty well in Shoreline. In north Seattle on-board payment and old high-floor buses meant boarding and exit delays prevailed until the E Line’s official opening. Of course the bus still slows down under high turnover, but it’s been a real improvement.

        In any case, any response to the speed and reliability improvements of the bus lanes is going to be largely counted after the E Line opening. I think you’re absolutely right about the importance of frequency improvements. I also think plenty of people took the opportunity of the E Line’s official opening to give it another shot, felt all the improvements at once, and stuck with it. Probably some of these used the 5, 5X, and 355 before, and others weren’t transit riders. Meanwhile the opening of bus lanes south of the Aurora Bridge (though they have been disrupted by construction) has helped the 5 and 5X, too, and it’s probably tough to separate these effects.

        I think it would be worth spending Real Money (and causing Real Temporary Disruptions) to build an E Line stop that’s more convenient to lower Fremont. We have two core north-south transit corridors to Shoreline, one built and one under construction; we have tons of local service and walkable destinations in Fremont; and never the twain shall meet. The inconvenience of accessing northbound 99 by car from any part of Fremont gives transit a head start — so a perfect location from a pedestrian point of view (an elevator directly from 35th Street) is not necessary, but we’ve gotta do better than “walk all the way up to 46th, then across uncontrolled exit ramps”.

      2. I agree that the E needs a stop in Fremont. I know someone mentioned the possibility of hanging stops off the side of the bridge but seems inaccessible and fraught with engineering headaches.

        I wonder if adding stops near the Bridge Way ramps would be better. That would at least provide close connections to the 5 and 16, although would still miss the other routes (26, 28, 31, 32, 40).

        Long-term, it would be nice if a route (maybe the 5) actually traveled from the Fremont Bridge all the way to 45th, but that’s a somewhat different problem.

      3. @Skylar: Yeah, the “elevator to 35th Street” thing is probably a non-starter, as it’s hard to figure how you’d stop a bus safely that shortly after an entrance southbound, or that shortly before an exit northbound.

        I’d consider a total rebuild of the interchange north of the Aurora Bridge to be worthwhile just to get this bus stop. I’m very biased, of course, since I work in Fremont and go to Shoreline after work sometimes.

    3. Another questions how many E riders will switch to Link. Some of them are going to the minor Aurora stops that Link+feeders would not be competitive with. But others may be avoiding the 512 because there are few buses to its stops, it has no Northgate stop, and it’s prone to delays and overcrowding.

      1. It’ll be quite a while before Link gets close to the Aurora corridor. Even once Link gets to Northgate, it won’t be that close to Aurora; I think even with the I-5 pedestrian overpass it’ll still be about 1.5 miles. Link might sap some riders from the 40 but I can’t imagine it taking many from the E. Anecdotally, when I’ve taken the E past the stop at 105th, there’s very few people getting on or off, even during peak times.

      2. It anything, Link will increase the number of people on that route, assuming that Sound Transit adds a station at NE 130th. Once you do that, then a frequent bus goes from Bitter Lake to Lake City. Then a transit trip from Lake City to the north end of Aurora actually makes sense (as opposed to a car trip). This is why cities like Vancouver have really high transit ridership even though a lot of the trips don’t involve a train. The train enables better, more affordable bus service.

        Things would get even busier if a light rail line went from Ballard to the UW.

      3. I think the E line north of 105th will get more riders when there are sidewalks north of 105th.

    4. Get the Aurora BAT lanes up then eventually shift the general purpose lanes outward/to the right into it, and move the buses to a new center-running busway

      1. A center-running busway is an idea, but it would be different from Madison BRT and San Francisco’s Market Street because there would be two lanes of highway between the stations and the outer sidewalk. You’d have to wait significantly longer for crossing signals, and it would be harder to walk without the signal without getting hit by a car.

      2. I don’t think buses are held up much on Aurora by right-turning traffic. If the crosswalks and turn lanes on Aurora get more crowded it’ll be worth looking at, but at this point there are lots of other places I’d rather spend streets money.

      3. I agree, Al. The much bigger problems are insufficient signal priority, and parked traffic in the BAT lanes off-peak.

        (And Belltown, of course.)

      4. I agree in general William and Al, but it does get very congested at the south end of the Aurora bridge. I could be wrong, but I think it gets a bit clogged around 80th as well. I’ve driven by a Rapid Ride, passed it in heavy traffic, and not have the bus pass me back. I should see that thing sailing by me at some point, but it just doesn’t happen. That may also be due to lack of off board payment, which might also be worth it.

        Center running would be pretty expensive. Like William said, start by doing other stuff.

      5. The Linden deviation for the northbound E can be time consuming in the evening. And there are a lot of conflicts in the transit lane 76th to 85th; I think that is where Aurora is narrowist.

      6. Would there be any value in a peak-only, peak-direction “E express” that would skip all the stops between, say, Northgate Way and Denny?

      7. Maybe. Would be better I think to retain the simplicity and add safe ped access on the east side of Aurora that allows the linden deviation to be axed.

    5. It’s worth noting that the information I linked to was a year old. In 2014, the E Line saw an average of 13,700 riders on weekdays.

      Metro released a new Service Guidelines Report in October 2015… and in that year the E Line added a staggering 2,100 riders on weekdays.

      That means that on an average weekday the E Line carries 15,800 riders. That’s HUGE for a bus route. The second busiest route is the 7 with an average of 13,400 riders on weekdays.

      1. The E is strong. It really shows the benefit of reserving space for transit vehicles. Even the weakest BRT can be transformative. And the better you make it, the more transformative the line.

        I’ve been riding it several times a week for a few years now. Seems to gain riders every day. Inbound this morning it was crush loaded by 100th … at 6:50 am.

  6. Take a look at a pic of where this bus is positioned. This is the bus that hit the elderly woman in Northgate. She later died. This is mostly a question for bus drivers. According to how you were trained, or how you’ve been told to take left turns through intersections, in your opinion, does this bus look like it make the left turn correctly?


    1. If the driver did finish the turn abnormally, I wonder whether it was because he saw or felt the woman trapped underneath?

      1. It seems like he may not have exited the TC from the far right side of the exit. And shouldn’t the turn be more squared-off? Like go out straight, then make the turn.

  7. Hypothetical: You have been given control of a transit agency formed from all transit agencies in Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Thurston Counties. It is 1993 and your revenue source is a 1% sales tax, $10 per employee head tax, and $1 per $1,000 of property value property tax, along with a combined sales tax equivalent to the sales taxes from Sound Move, Sound Transit, and Sound Transit III (assume a good estimate for the latter tax rate) combined for capital projects. You can not demerge the agencies. What do you do?

    1. I’d start with a complete network design up front, with both regional and local transit (feeders), and split it up into scheduled phases. The phases could each have their own election, and it would be possible to make changes based on the emerging environment, but people would know up front what the complete network would be, when it would open if all the phases are approved on time, and how it would affect people’s lives 1+ mile from the stations. This would also be before the Eyman initiatives when the legislature was less anti-tax, so we could also expect a boost for local transit agencies, non-Puget Sound agencies (Skagit, Whatcom), and intercity service outside Puget Sound (the inter-county connectors and statewide services). That would make transit statewide more viable.

    2. Unveil my grand vision for transit (it’s an interactive map but not quite finished, so feel free to look around and toggle the layers), invoking the spirit of dreamers and engineers in Seattle’s past. Implement a strict schedule for the phases and make no compromises. If a project doesn’t pan out in a phase, it gets bumped down into the next and the remaining funds are used to set up temporary consolation prizes (BRT with bus lanes that expire in a decade, for example).

      Current agencies are allowed to continue their own operations, but under the ST brand to help unify the transit experience. One website, one trip planner, one API (an official app and many third-party ones), one fare structure, etc. The back-end is retained at the county level, to quell fears over one area being prioritized over another.

      All a fantasy, but this is an open thread after all. Feel free to tear this to shreds while I go upload more transit photos.

      1. Nice map.

        Appreciate your WIP but Future of Flight? Where does that fit in? My understanding is CT is drafting plans to link the Seaway Swift 2 terminus with the Mukilteo Multimodal Terminal via the Future of Flight to solve two major problems in one line.

        Also you have commuter rail all the way up to Stanwood and Arlington. I would argue with that plan, no reason why NOT to make Arlington a commercial airport (I’m sure Arlington would welcome the jobs & economic stimuli Mukilteo doesn’t want and doesn’t need).

        As to serving Skagit County with rail, FYI ridership of 90X was 5,319 in October 2015, 70,961 in all of 2014 & 46,891 between Jan & Oct 2015. May not justify rail of any type out of Mount Vernon south…. but FYI from a recent public records request.

        Finally, FYI: I really like you having commuter rail go down to Olympia proper. Desperately necessary to express service of some kind between Seattle & Olympia – this way transit advocates can lobby legislators a lot more.

      2. Thanks for the feedback as always, Joe.

        Regarding Future of Flight, it’s fairly close to the Boeing LRT station (Phase 7, so a long ways away), so it’d be served in the interim by a CT route connecting Mukilteo to Seaway running every 30 minutes.

        Regarding Arlington becoming a commercial airport, I don’t see it being viable without major improvements to nearby roadways (possibly relocating it further away from the runway) and something to satisfy the local NIMBYs. Luckily, most of the NIMBYs are farm animals, but they can still kick up a fuss.

      3. Thanks SounderBruce for filling in your map for me. Much appreciate.

        Yeah, I think at some point we’re going to have to see another commercial airport to supplement SeaTac. With Paine Field surrounded by General Leia Gregerson’s forces, I doubt seriously it’ll go commercial in this episode of the Paine Wars.

        Boeing Field… maybe. Last attempt did fail in the Ron “we had an accuracy rate that any bank would envy” Sims era, so I give Commissar Sims’ era of “Governor Dean” Logan a big fat discount. We’ll see.

        Arlington just seems to make sense. Instead of all that Snohomish & Skagit airport traffic adding to Everett-Seattle peak hour congestion, almost all that traffic would go the other way.

    3. 1) Ballard to UW subway
      2) Metro 8 subway
      3) WSTT
      4) Bus improvements in various areas of town (Lake City, West Seattle Freeway, 15th West/Elliot, Aurora, etc.). These should include things like bus lanes, new stops or stations (e. g. Interbay and Husky Stadium) and Gold Medal BRT on some runs (which includes off board payment like Madison BRT).
      5) Replace “HOV2+” to “HOV3+” on all roads that need it.

      — Pause, reflect —

      5) Base improvements on the reflection. If the buses are really full from Ballard to downtown despite experiencing minimal congestion (then convert to rail). The same with other runs. If the buses can’t operate without congestion but have huge demand (which I could see happening with Lake City to Bitter Lake) then convert those as well. Consider other large scale capital projects as well (like center running on Aurora or other corridors).

      Oh, extend rail to Redmond (of course) and make similar bus based improvements for the suburbs. All of our light rail lines exceed the obvious terminus points, so extending them would be counter productive. Just run more buses more frequently from way more places to those stations.

      This would all be relatively cheap, which means we could actually afford to run the buses and trains after all of the construction.

      1. RossB,
        Remember this is before Sound Move so at the very least a Downtown-U District-Northgate line would be needed.

        Personally I would have taken a hard look at the system plan for the old Forward Thrust plan. Made adjustments based on changes in land use
        and commute patterns in the intervening 20 years. Then used it as a template for a system plan. (perhaps using heavy rail technology)

        Note that based on the recent numbers for Downtown-Ballard I’d say the line makes sense.

      2. @Chris– Yes, my list was assuming everything that is planned or built was built. If we go back, then I would do a lot of things differently. First add a bunch more stops between the UW and downtown (suddenly the Metro restructure is trivial). Don’t go all the way to Lynnwood, but stop at either 145th or Mountlake Terrace (whichever is cheaper). Mountlake Terrace already has great infrastructure (with bus only lanes to it and a huge park and ride). That would make it a great north end terminus. I’m sure the East Side line has a lot of flaws but the basic idea is fine.

        The order of everything would be a bit different. Start with UW (U-District, not just Husky Stadium) to downtown. Then the Metro 8. Then do several things in no particular order (North Link beyond 45th, Ballard to UW, and East Link). Then do rail to Rainier Valley, replacing the frequent buses (running on BAT lanes) that served the Mount Baker station, but had a one seat ride to downtown as well (a Metro 7 on steroids). Then extend that out to the airport and find a spot by the freeway to end it. Someplace similar to Mountlake Terrace (a giant park and ride with great bus access right off the freeway).

        This is how most cities build out there system (build the most important thing first). For all the griping about how Sound Transit is building the wrong things (like a fifty mile spine) the more obvious failure is that they building things out of order. BART wasn’t the first mass transit system in San Fransisco. It leveraged the urban system. I don’t know of any system anywhere that has done things out of order like we have. Obviously the most important section is from the U-District to downtown. That won’t be done for another five years. One of the least important is to the airport, which is what we started with. It looks like UW to Ballard won’t be done next, even though it is obviously more important than West Seattle light rail. Metro 8 subway? Not even on the radar.

        This is really the disconnect between rail dreamers and rail realists. With few exceptions, almost everyone says that something like the Metro 8 subway should be built before something like a West Seattle light rail line. But it doesn’t matter, because eventually it all gets built. But that is a crazy assumption. To think that we would spend more than L. A. is absurd (Los Angeles, for Heaven’s sake! A city way bigger and way more densely populated than us). We will never build what is on the main page of Seattle Subway today, let alone the maps they have proposed in the past. We will never exceed New York City in subway miles, so it is silly to propose that. At some point we stop building, because this stuff is expensive and we have other concerns (public safety, public welfare, schools, not having the highest, most regressive tax structure in the civilized world).

      3. “the more obvious failure is that they building things out of order…. Obviously the most important section is from the U-District to downtown.”

        ST realized that too. But when the ship canal alignment showed a substantial risk of cost overrun or failure, it was either build south or risk the overrun. An overrun or failure could have soured people on rapid transit for twenty years, like the Forward Thrust vote failure did.

    4. @Joe If for some reason we get high speed rail on Cascades including a station at Bellingham, perhaps expand Bellingham and use that as another airport for Seattle instead?

      1. Good thinking Bob, I wouldn’t be opposed to that. If and only if WTA had a change of priorities and served the airport. The fact the Port of Bellingham and noise complaints chased away Heritage Flight Museum means the only attraction the airport has is now the terminal. Oh well, Bellingham’s loss, Skagit & Heritage Flight’s shared gain.

        That said, WTA is currently doing a strategic plan. On their interactive website – http://buildyoursystem.ridewta.com/ – is serving their airport (KBLI).

  8. With the talk about serving SLU at the expense of Belltown, what about extending the monorail to this future Link Queen Anne station and adding an infill Belltown station on the existing line… Westlake-Belltown-Seattle Center-LQA. Ideally the Belltown rapid transit station would be further to the west but hey you got a free existing rapid transit line on 5th.

    1. It makes sense to me, Poncho. At some point, we will need to face the future of the monorail anyway. It’s going to be a senior citizen in 15 years.

      1. Re Monorail: I’m of the view you’d just have to replace the monorail cars plus wires, make the monorail cars museum pieces for photoshoots at a fee, and recycle the wires. Shouldn’t be hard.

      2. Plus if the Second Downtown Transit Tunnel happens on 5th, the monorail tracks on 5th at Westlake Center will likely have to be rebuilt as they are in the right of way. That then impacts the station at Westlake Center (and can fix the weird pinched track situation)

  9. I gotta tell ya I’d keep this beard I got going on until February but I got two Skagit Transit Citizen’s Advisory Committee meetings between now and the Super Bowl. Speaking of which, Tuesday we’re going to discuss a budget that lacks:

    *Goals for 2016
    *Ridership stats
    *Cost per hour
    *Table of projects

    At least the budget officer & CEO have a 100% legit excuse to be gone. Namely a State Transportation Insurance Pool mandatory meeting. So the planner is going to have to try to conduct a meeting about the budget and 2016 plans without budget staff support.

    I’m also going to make a motion for an annual Skagit Transit Accountability Report to Community every year with some basic stats. Just basic ridership and financial information not on the current website.

    Yes, if you can make it up to Skagit Station, MV at 5:05 PM/1705 until 6 PM or 6:15 PM at the latest I’d appreciate some moral support. If you bring your camera, thanks in advance but plz no flash during the meeting.

  10. So, I noticed that the updated pages for the downtown bus tunnel remove a few things (like descriptions of station art, which are now buried in the existing station maps) and also added a suspiciously familiar description of the tunnel.

    I can’t quite seem to figure out where I’ve seen it before…

    Specifically, the phrase “pair of tunnels for public transit that run north [and] south under 3rd Avenue through Downtown Seattle” looks a bit too identical to be a simple coincidence.

  11. Glenn:

    True, the Electroliner did indeed hit 90 mph on its own out-of-town track between Milwaukee and Chicago, and reduce its speed to run the Chicago ‘El tracks from the city line at Howard Street and around the Loop.

    It also ran much slower on plain streetcar tracks through the streets of Milwaukee on its way to Bullet-Train country. Much of which is now shopping malls from one horizon to another.

    In coming decades’ mandatory efforts to re-build existing communities and create new towns built around transit rather than cars, street rail- like I keep saying about the Waterfront- is friendliest mode of urban transit. And can then crank up to 90 past the city limits.

    Re comment above, the PCC streetcars and the Electroliners were designed for the same desperate fight. Street rail’s last attempt to save itself. Along with the fighting spirit behind them, the versatility of that technology-it’s most important characteristic, makes these two streetcars well worth studying.

    The cities and towns that will have to be built and rebuilt as we shift our living patterns away from sprawl have got some terrific precedents to follow. Passing track included: first rule in the streetcar revival is do what works for each set of conditions.

    Mark Dublin

  12. Where I grew up in Queens the big shopping street (before there were malls there were streets with stores all along the side) was Liberty Avenue.

    At the corner of Lefferts Blvd and Liberty Avenue (Lefferts was a general of the Revolutionary War and Liberty was I think named around the time of World War One) was the terminus of the elevated A line. (Funny but the A line does a giant horseshoe from there to Mahattan and back into Queens as the Rockway Beach line).

    When my Mom took us shopping it always amazed me the shops that were under the El versus the ones in the open air. Under the El it was darker, but it also felt more protected, like being in an indoor mall. It was noiser, but also busier, it seemed. It certainly had more mystery, more urbanity. But the shops not under the El seemed cheerier…if blander. It was like crossing a border between two different nations to walk under the El and shop there.

  13. I am happy to see that Metro just put out a survey to get feedback on rerouting the 10 and have it serve much of the 43 routing. I remember seeing that suggestion posted here- a great idea.

    1. I just posted the news in that thread, and I agree. There’re two other interesting pieces of news in that email, as well:

      * They’re increasing the evening and Sunday 8 from 30 minutes to 20 minutes to help serve Summit and Capitol Hill.

      * Even more interestingly, they blame the 19th and Madison intersection on SDOT: “SDOT has agreed to make roadway modifications and other improvements in eight places, but declined to make modifications that would support our approved changes for routes 8 and 11 on Capitol Hill and in the Central Area.” Can someone please follow up with SDOT about this? If true, it’s a complete travesty on their part.

  14. Wasn’t sure where to put this, it’s related to the Capitol Hill restructure. I got an email from Metro:

    “Weigh in on a potential change to Route 10: take our survey

    [info on routes 8, 11 staying the same…]

    To resolve this, we’ll be improving frequency on Route 8 above the levels originally approved by the County Council. We’re are also considering moving Route 10 to serve E John Street, the Capitol Hill Station, and Olive Way (the same pathway that Route 43 takes today).

    Please tell us what you think about this idea to change Route 10 via a short survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ULink-Route10). The deadline for comment is this Sunday, Dec. 13. Your input will help us more fully understand the implications of this change and decide whether to move forward with it.”

    Also see info at https://metrofutureblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/link-connections-metro-moves-toward-making-changes-adopted-by-council-needs-to-fine-tune-capitol-hill-connections/

  15. Nearly every other post on this blog, every proposal from ST or SDOT or advocacy group making proposals for changes to streets or transit service would really benefit from a tool that allowed the creation of containerized instances of google maps that would show the changes- and anyone could then try out asking for bus/car/driving/bicycling directions with the modified connectivity between places. It’s probably possible but very resource intensive to do this already with openstreetmaps, but a google maps api that allowed this would really transformative.

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