UW Station at night
Sparking new Sound Transit station. Photo by Joe Wolf.

2015 has been a terrific year for us at STB.  We made Zach Shaner (previously a longtime staff writer) our first-ever paid part-time reporter, and the move has tremendously improved our range of coverage.  We added two fantastic volunteer writers to our team, Seattle’s Erica C. Barnett and Kirkland’s Dan Ryan.  You, our readership, have grown in number–and continued to provide one of the most substantive and interesting comment sections to be found anywhere on the internet.  We’ve had plenty of news to cover, between University Link restructures, Move Seattle, landmark legislative elections, increases to Metro bus service, and Sound Transit’s preparations for next year’s big vote.

Even in such a news-packed year, one topic clearly dominated the conversation: Sound Transit 3.  In order, these are our most-read and most-commented posts of 2015.

Most Read

1.  A Transportation Solution for Today and Tomorrow, by guest poster Seattle Subway (July 14).  This is an exhortation to Sound Transit to think big for ST3, in terms of both dollars and years.  It appears to have worked, with ST expanding its preliminary 15-year time horizon to 25 or even 30 years in some scenarios put forth in the latest ST3 planning materials.

2. Dear Mercer Island: Public Space is for Public Use (Sept. 29).  Zach’s on-the-scene report covering Mercer Islanders’ numerous requests for special treatment by Sound Transit — in exchange for locating the south Eastside’s best transit facility in a non-residential area of the island — struck a huge nerve.  The report was cited in several local news outlets, and sparked a fascinating debate regionwide.

3. Seattle Subway’s Recommendations for the Sound Transit 3 Survey, by Seattle Subway (June 8).  This feedback was reflected in a number of Sound Transit’s proposed options for ST3.

4. ST3 – Once in a Lifetime, by Seattle Subway (Dec. 1).  Following up on the #1 post above, this post introduced Seattle Subway’s “STComplete” vision for a large ST3 proposal, with lines connecting essentially every transit-favorable community in the region.

5. Westside Seattle Transit Tunnel, by Seattle Subway (Feb. 18).  This February post presented Seattle Subway’s vision for a two-headed downtown tunnel serving both Uptown and South Lake Union.  Sound Transit ultimately did propose a second downtown tunnel as a core element of their ST3 vision, although the concept is somewhat different.

6. Sound Transit’s Conceptual Study: Should You Be Worried? (Apr. 24)  Martin’s careful look at Sound Transit’s tentative, suburban-heavy batch of initial ST3 concepts triggered an outpouring of angst and of support for bigger, bolder, more urban projects.  The agency’s later ST3 concepts turned out to be much closer to what we and many of our readers would like to see.

7. New Metro Buses Coming, by guest poster Ricky Courtney (June 22).  A quick update on Metro’s fleet plans, as the agency scrambled to convert options and get more buses quickly in light of Seattle Prop 1 and a strong economy.

8. Seattle’s ST3 Input (July 28).  Martin’s exposition, updated by another, later post, of SDOT’s input into ST3 station locations, focusing particularly on the Uptown-Ballard line.

9. Seattle Should Demand High-Quality Rail (Aug. 18), by Seattle Subway.  Following up on Martin’s post above, Seattle Subway also covered SDOT’s input.  The group continued to argue for a two-headed WSTT and, less controversially, complete grade separation.

10. The Full $15 Billion (June 29).  In this post Martin celebrated the successful inclusion of the full amount of requested taxing authority for ST3 in the state Legislature’s final transportation bill.

Most Commented

1.  Sound Transit’s Conceptual Study: Should You Be Worried? (Apr. 24)  See #6 above. 529 comments.

2. Seattle’s ST3 Input (July 28).  See #8 above. 364 comments.

3. Metro Presents U-Link Restructures (Mar. 6).  This was the first of a series of five posts in which I presented Metro’s original, deeply ambitious “Alternative 1” restructure proposal for U-Link.  Alternative 1 mostly survived in Northeast Seattle, but was defeated in Capitol Hill and never got off the ground in the SR-520 corridor. 340 comments.

4. Ballard to Tacoma? Sound Transit Looks to Split the Spine (Dec. 5).  Zach described one of the bigger news items to come out of Sound Transit’s staff work on ST3: a proposal to split the Everett-Tacoma “spine,” long seen as the central element of ST’s system, into two parts to address a substantial number of operational issues.  The resulting network map is, in my opinion, a thing of beauty. 324 comments.

5. Metro Sends Final U-Link Plan to Council (Aug. 26).  I thought when I wrote this post that I would be finished with what turned out to be a long, dramatic year of U-Link coverage.  As it turned out, in Capitol Hill, this plan was far from “final” — administrative changes have since modified all three of the major east-west routes serving central Capitol Hill. 290 comments.

6. Alternative 1: Capitol Hill and First Hill (Mar. 10).  In an early preview of the tinderbox of controversy to come, readers became enmeshed in long arguments about Metro’s Alternative 1 proposals to combine routes 8 and 11 and to remove route 43.  Neither proposal survived, although elements of both informed the final result. 278 comments.

7. Sound Transit Chooses I-5 for Federal Way Link (July 24).  Zach reported here on a disappointing development, in my opinion, in what was generally a positive year for transit in greater Seattle.  With this decision, Sound Transit permanently took away the possibility of developing long-underused Highway 99 through South King County into a corridor with real regional mobility and development potential. 265 comments.

8. Westside Seattle Transit Tunnel, by Seattle Subway (Feb. 18).  See #5 above. 262 comments.

9. News Roundup: Spite Votes (July 11).  Commenters found plenty to chew on in a week of big news.  Zach included Vancouver’s badly failed Translink expansion vote; hardball tactics by Mercer Island (which he covered later in much more detail); Madison BRT citizen feedback; and lots of discussion about density and development. 249 comments.

10. A Transportation Solution for Today and Tomorrow, by Seattle Subway (July 14).  See #1 above. 244 comments.

18 Replies to “Top 10 Read and Commented Posts of 2015”

  1. Big thanks to Seattle Transit Blog for giving Seattle Subway the space for our guest editorials and for your continued high quality coverage of all things transit and land use.

    2015 was an awesome year and 2016 promises to be even better. Keep up the good work!

  2. I’d be interested to see links to “The report was cited in several local news outlets, and sparked a fascinating debate regionwide” for Dear Mercer Island

  3. Do you have the comment counts? In the past few years there was sometimes one article that reached 300 comments, but this year I think there were several.

      1. Thank you!

        Incidentally, I’m pretty sure 529 comments is a STB record. Martin’s cri de coeur and the comments on it certainly got ST’s attention, and I like to think it gave the staff a bit more breathing room to propose the incredibly, vastly improved options we got later in the year.

    1. 2014: 282 comments (Prop 1 failing).
      2013: 296 comments (David L’s network).
      2012: no comment counts (Route 2)
      2011: 386 comments (RapidRide C&D restructure)
      2010“: no comment counts. (Most read: Cul-de-Sacs, which got “national attention”.)
      2009, 2008, 2007: no year-end article.

      So this year was truly a new era with three articles breaking 300 comments, one going into the 400s and 500s, and even the 10th reaching 244. 2014 had only one article that would reach our 10th place, and the same in 2013.

      I don’t remember when I started reading STB, maybe around 2010 or 2008. Looking back at the 2007 archive, Frank Chiachiere and Brian Bundridge go back to the very beginnijng.

      1. Frank was writing at his Orphan Road blog back in 2007. His blog archive got integrated with STB’s archive when he came on board.

  4. Got stuck behind a 71x today while running errands. It got me to thinking about how much things will change in 2016 – and in less than 3 months too.

    After all these years we will finally see changes in the 70 series. It has been a long time coming.

  5. “You, our readership, have grown in number”

    Up by 25% over 2014 in fact, and I imagine there will be not shortage of things to talk about in 2016.

  6. The comments thread for the University Link opening live thread will hopefully shatter the current record. Same goes for views.

  7. Congrats to STB for providing a forum for discussing transit issues, and increasingly getting some results from the operators and the cities. As we move forward, I hope the agencies understand how valuable a discussion forum is, and will quit relying on mega-meetings and comment forms that no one gets to read as their primary forms of public interaction.

    1. They do read STB and increasingly recognize it as the most comprehensive voice of the transit-knowledgeable public (both the articles and the comments). But it can’t substitute for open houses and comment forms because that would be favoring one private organization with an agenda over equal access to government. The laws and/or agency policies require an outreach meeting before each decision, and public testimony at board meetings before making a decision.

      (The testimony at board meetings is probably the most useless, because by that time the proposal has gone through several months of refinement and public meetings, and it would actually be unfair for one testifier to derail it because they can’t possibly be smarter or represent the public more than the months of work and input that went into it. So the real issue may be to improve the outreach procedures of the agencies. But what’s wrong with it and what can be done? The agencies ask attendees how to reach the rest of the public more but nobody seems to have an answer. I ran a users’ group for several years and we had a similar problem: how to let would-be members in the colleges and companies and community know we exist. (Now the answer is “social media”, which wasn’t as ubiquidous then, but even that only reaches people who follow social media. A lot of the public doesn’t, or only a little, or only a few forums with a limited number of people.)

      1. I’m a proponent of multiple focus groups of 5 to 10 people in a half-day session of education, discussion and a task that everyone must contribute to.

        At the end, group results can be compared to see where informed public opinion lies.

        It may be wishful thinking, but I’d love to see STB work with ST to do this for ST3.

        It helps if targeted community advocates are personally invited, and groups are randomly assembled to get balance out of the exercise.

        I wonder if there could be an online way to do this.

    2. Well-publicized comment periods are the best net for getting the most knowledgeable critiques, but in no way a scientific way to measure public opinion. Public meetings are indispensable as the only opportunity for the general public to get questions thoroughly answered, in a process where most respondents submitting written comments might otherwise feel like their comments are falling on deaf ears. Not everyone who wants to get face-time with the agency representatives can necessarily make it to these meetings, so there ought to be more ways for commenters to get written responses.

      If a group wants to exercise political muscle, public meetings with planners, etc, are an odd place to do it, compared to writing to the decision-makers. The planners are not paid to be politicians. Hopefully, though, the decision-makers will listen to the arguments, not any one person’s decibel level, as seems to have happened to the Capitol Hill restructure. Of course, if the agencies don’t want to set the planners up as targets, they would do well to actually state, at the outset, who makes the final decision (e.g. the county council, Executive Constantine, Kevin Desmond, etc.)

      If the agency wants a scientific opinion poll, it can do a scientific opinion poll, possibly in the form of focus groups. Some of the agencies have done surveys, but those surveys miss out on creative new options, and rarely give me the feeling my answer made my opinion clear.

      Going over the problems with the attempt to bring back route 42: the proposal was minimally-publicized. The feedback summary was entirely from the public meeting and ignored all other input, including the survey. Critiques of extending re-routed route 106 to the International District were expurgated from the feedback summary, but we know there was plenty of negative commentary on that part. Lobbying the planners is probably of little effect, thought they are aware of why it is a bad idea. The question, then, is whether the Executive, the General Manager, or someone below them, makes the final call on the restructure.

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