More Fare Changes for Pierce County Coming in 2016

Pierce Transit Route 1 Bus and Tacoma Link Streetcar
Pierce Transit Route 1 Bus and Tacoma Link Streetcar

The Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to raise its discount fares from $0.75 to $1, and its Shuttle paratransit fares from $0.75 to $1.25, effective March 1, 2016. The discount fares include the Regional Reduced Fare Permit — for seniors 65+ and riders with disabilities — and youth 6-18. The regular fare of $2 was not impacted. Pierce Transit does not have a low-income fare at this time.

Meanwhile, STB has received word from Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason that a proposal to create a low-income fare on Tacoma Link will be going to its board in the near future. Tacoma Link is currently free, but is scheduled to start collecting fares as early as September 2016. The fare is set to start out at $1.50, or $0.75 for RRFP cardholders and youth.

Sound Transit’s board voted in November to implement fare changes on ST Express and Sounder, including introducing a low-income fare, to take effect on March 1, 2016. With a $1.50 low-income fare already in effect on Link Light Rail, that leaves Tacoma Link as Sound Transit’s only service not yet scheduled to have a low-income fare.

Fares for all fixed-route transit services that accept the PugetPass are below the fold. Washington State Ferries is the only agency that accepts ORCA, but not PugetPass. There is a customer satisfaction survey underway for ORCA. You can take the opportunity to urge the expansion of ORCA, PugetPass, and ORCA LIFT (the low-income fare program). Bikeshare is explicitly listed as an expansion option. The monorail is conspicuously not, but you can write it in. Continue reading “More Fare Changes for Pierce County Coming in 2016”

ST3: Kirkland-Bellevue Bus Rapid Transit

At the December 4 Board workshop, Sound Transit staff shared their latest study of Bus Rapid Transit along the Eastside Rail Corridor between Bellevue and Kirkland. The study parameters incorporate many suggestions from the City of Kirkland. Ten miles of mostly at-grade BRT guideway connect nine at-grade stations: three are in the Totem Lake area, two around downtown Kirkland, one at South Kirkland, and three more in Bellevue.

E06_MapThe corridor BRT is well-integrated with regional services. It would connect to I-405 BRT at Kingsgate/NE 128th, to East Link LRT at Wilburton Station, and to regional bus services at the Bellevue Transit Center. An alternative configuration at Wilburton might have an elevated station.

The study acknowledges the need to accommodate the existing trail on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor, and a future trail on the Eastside Rail Corridor in Bellevue. It specifies that the rail would be on the east of the corridor with trail uses to the west.

Continue reading “ST3: Kirkland-Bellevue Bus Rapid Transit”

CORRECTION: Westlake Location

In this morning’s First Hill post, I inadvertently placed the Green Line Westlake station one block too far to the East compared to Sound Transit’s preliminary concept for the station . Oran has corrected the images in the original post, and I’ve revised the numbers accordingly. The numbers change a bit but the analysis doesn’t change qualitatively.

A Proposal for Madison Station

firsthill
Map by Oran

The Green Line subway that Sound Transit seems certain to propose next year has one stop between Westlake and International District/Chinatown, on Madison Street. Falling between two existing DSTT stations, it would greatly improve integration of Madison BRT into the rail system.

The Sound Transit concept places the stop at about Madison & 5th Avenue, right in front of the Central Library and a block from the I-5 trench. But what if we could use this opportunity to correct one of the most regrettable outcomes of Sound Transit 1, the deletion of First Hill Station?

Moving a station away from 5th takes the line away from the region’s tallest buildings, but these buildings are well-served by existing Link Stations. Nudging the line up to Madison and 8th Avenue has negligible impact on tunnel length (0.05 0.09 miles according to Oran’s software)*, and places all three hospitals within easy walking distance of Link (see walkshed map below).  Reaching Boren would be much harder, adding a quarter mile and in practice forcing transfers for many Green Line riders headed downtown,  but locates the station very near the hospitals and credibly serves Seattle University and the entirety of First Hill.

walksheds

Although the 8th Avenue option isn’t a huge change in linear feet, the surface of 8th Avenue is 65 feet above 5th, and Boren is another 52 feet above that. That implies either an even steeper climb for the trains (before dropping down again to Westlake), a more expensive deep station, or both. And it involves tunneling under I-5 twice.

When I asked ST spokesman Geoff Patrick about these possibilities, he didn’t dismiss them, but I got the impression that the question was definitely outside the box. However, “it would be a board policy decision,” so if local officials understand that is feasible, desired, and very much needed, they can bring it onto the agenda. It’s certainly worth a look from ST planners.

* If tunneling costs $600m/mile, that’d be $30m $54m in additional expenditure on a multibillion dollar project.

A King County Metro Ridership Update

stvsmetroSTB posts a monthly update on Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail ridership and Quarterly updates on Express bus service, and I thought it might be interesting to create a similar post on King County Metro’s ridership. We’re often excited about Sound Transit’s new service plans, but ST is still a very small player compared to Metro. Metro serves 3 times the number of riders of SoundTransit (that includes buses and light rail) and is the 7th largest bus system in the country (and the second most used Trolley Bus service in the country!), so it is important to keep a close eye on Metro.

metrobymonthAs you can see from this chart, Metro’s ridership isn’t moving fast. Average weekday riders are flat between this year and last, and have been up approximately 2% per year for the past 4 years (after a 2% decline caused by the recession).  Those small ridership changes are despite the deployment of RapidRide, big fare increases, various restructures, and the small service reductions of 2013.

2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Jan 399,659 391,165 382,570 346,481 367,442 368,984 378,489
Feb 403,660 396,446 386,026 384,704 363,735 360,624 367,692
Mar 398,675 396,159 386,284 373,495 365,156 364,532 373,790
Apr 408,368 407,430 401,121 390,652 380,261 364,905 381,236
May 414,693 415,463 408,461 399,030 389,018 371,357 385,628
Jun 399,673 396,597 388,215 385,084 375,049 360,476 370,254
Jul 396,465 392,605 381,570 373,882 364,403 353,249 364,223
Aug 387,251 382,214 370,386 364,909 357,025 346,108 347,649
Sep 390,296 399,363 386,868 382,395 365,628 357,702 357,929
Oct 421,955 415,086 403,681 393,665 392,552 382,314
Nov 399,668 394,393 383,972 373,625 349,807 360,059
Dec 359,928 354,129 338,578 340,088 329,071 329,071

metromaIf you had a goal of increasing Metro’s ridership  by 10% in a year, how would you do it? In a future post, I’ll delve into some specifics about Metro’s ridership to show where the weak points are and what can be done to improve ridership.

The Green Line: Downtown Seattle Transfers

In the latest ST3 study concept, with a one-seat ride from Ballard to the Rainier Valley, there are a total of 14 sensible transfers in Seattle: two at Sodo, between West Seattle and Rainier Valley; four at International District/Chinatown, between Redmond and either West Seattle or Rainier Valley; two at Westlake, between Ballard and Everett; and six equally appropriate at two or more of those stations, because the direction of travel through downtown is the same. In a discussion with ST spokesman Geoff Patrick and other ST staff, STB learned about some preliminary concepts for how these transfers might work.

Of course, these concepts are very preliminary. The Board hasn’t even committed to a second tunnel, much less accepted detailed transfer concepts. But they do indicate a staff thinking hard about how to avoid the transfer mistakes of the past.

ids
Image Courtesy Sound Transit

At International District, Sound Transit would excavate a cut-and-cover station under 5th Ave S, directly east of the current station (see the figure at right). The new station mezzanine would connect directly with the northbound platform in the existing stop. From the existing southbound platform, riders would climb to the surface, decline to the northbound platform, and then work over to the Green Line mezzanine without having to cross the street.

Image by Oran
Image by Oran

This concept is miles ahead of past station designs, and significantly reduces the frustration of Sound Transit’s refusal to consider a center platform at the current ID station. Direct street access to the Green Line Mezzanine would be a nice addition. But then Oran developed a far better concept, with a tweak from me, shown at right. The beauty of this configuration is that it maximizes the ease of the most important transfers at International District, which are between East Link and either West Seattle or the Rainier Valley. I imagine a setup like this would be a substantially more complicated project, probably more expensive and with more service disruptions during construction, and I suspect Sound Transit will find a reason not to do it. But it’s worthwhile to put the optimal configuration on the record.

Although the all-surface transfer at Sodo is much more straightforward, switching Central Link to the Green Line and a new tunnel will require significant work in the busway corridor. As Geoff Patrick put it:

Subject to refinement during the environmental review and design processes, the existing tracks north of Massachusetts would be reconfigured to connect with a new alignment proceeding north to the vicinity of the current location of Stadium Station where it transitions into a new tunnel. The existing Stadium Station would be relocated to the west side of the E3 Busway and would serve the West Seattle to Everett line through the existing Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. All of the specifics will be subject to close review during the preliminary design and environmental review process, during which alternatives will be developed in consultation with the public, impacts will be evaluated and mitigation will be identified.

westlake
Image Courtesy Sound Transit

At Westlake, the Green Line will be traveling (roughly) North towards South Lake Union while the Blue and Red lines travel (roughly) East towards Capitol Hill.  As you can see in the figure below, the green line tunnel would pass to the  and below of the existing station. Stairs or escalators would connect the (mined) new mezzanine with either platform of the existing station. A transfer of this quality is crucial, as a decent Westlake transfer in this context fulfills the longtime wonk dream of a congestion-free transit connection between Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill, the informally discussed “Metro 8 Subway.”

City’s Response on Waterfront Transit Lanes: Don’t Worry, It’s Just Process

Seawall Construction (SDOT Photo – Flickr)
Seawall Construction (SDOT Photo – Flickr)

On Tuesday I reported council testimony from the Office of the Waterfront that disclosed the new possibility of eliminating dedicated transit lanes on the future Alaskan Way. The Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) will include a new option that rechannelizes the roadway from 8 lanes to 6, retaining two general purpose lanes and a turn/ferry queuing lane in each direction. In his testimony before Council, Office of the Waterfront Director Marshall Foster strongly implied that the inclusion of this new option was at the behest of community groups in Pioneer Square, including long-time friends of the blog Feet First, and to that end my reporting included a 2013 blog post from Feet First that corroborated Foster’s testimony. The post called for shifting transit lanes away from Alaskan Way to the Sodo busway instead.

In subsequent correspondence with both Foster and Feet First’s Executive Director Lisa Quinn, they both strongly denied any intent to deprioritize transit. Lisa Quinn commented on STB yesterday:

In no way did Feet First propose eliminating a bus lane. Marshall Foster was mistaken and this was said out of context. The City made compromises to make the 8 lane highway work for people such as adding refuge islands etc. But, quite frankly, at the end of the day, there needs to be less lanes along the waterfront for people to cross. We have proposed other options to solve this safety issue for people crossing by eliminating the 2 turn lanes for the ferry to 1 lane. Additionally, we have called for more flexible lanes shared by freight and buses. Walking and transit are intrinsically connected. We need a transportation system that puts people first. The elimination of buses on the waterfront is not something Feet First has ever proposed.

In response, Feet First wrote a forceful blog post and quickly uploaded a joint letter from August – cosigned by TCC, Cascade, and Washington Bikes – that called for a narrower roadway but included suggestions that retained transit priority, either with shared freight/transit lanes or with expanded transit lanes from Dearborn to Columbia Street.

And that’s where the process gets a bit confusing. In Foster’s testimony he merely said “we got a lot of feedback from Pioneer Square and groups like Feet First” for a narrower roadway and then immediately proceeded into a discussion of eliminating transit to achieve it. But in a phone call this morning, Foster clarified that none of the groups he mentioned either asked for or support eliminating transit priority. So why the disconnect? Basically, the State and the Port.

Foster said the total number of comments asking for a narrower roadway hit “a tipping point” that forced the City to formally respond to their request, necessitating a SDEIS that studied a narrower roadway. However, Foster said the funding agreement between the State and the Port explicitly codifies two general purpose lanes in each direction, effectively prohibiting the City from studying reducing those lanes in the SDEIS:

Section II, A, 5: The Central Waterfront from Pine Street to Colman Dock will have two lanes in each direction plus a turning lane; the segment south of Colman Dock will have 3 lanes in each direction plus a turning lane.

So the City is in the odd position of being required to study a narrower channelization because enough of the community asked for it, but since the only mode not explicitly protected in its right-of-way allocation is transit, the City will study eliminating transit priority even though neither the City nor advocacy groups see that as a preferred outcome. Isn’t process fun?

We stand behind our reporting of Monday’s committee meeting, which relied on direct quotation of official testimony and published material, but we failed to grasp the full complexity of the situation and regret any hasty criticisms of groups such as Feet First.

Foster took a glass-half-full approach in our phone call, saying the DEIS is likely to show unacceptable impacts from eliminating transit lanes, and that such an outcome would actually backhandedly and belatedly codify the need for transit priority. And Mayor Murray’s office has been clear about its priorities while also deferent to process, telling us by email, “While the Waterfront EIS is considering more than one alternative, the Mayor is clear his priority is a new waterfront roadway with dedicated transit lanes.” And of course, all of us will have a chance to comment before the Final EIS is developed next summer. I hope that the walk, bike, and transit communities can coalesce around a vision for a walkable waterfront that also takes the mobility needs of 25,000 transit riders seriously.

SDOT Presents Bus Options for Roosevelt-Downtown

SeattleBRT

SDOT held two open houses for the Roosevelt-Eastlake HCT, on Wednesday at TOPS elementary school and last night at UW Tower. The project is the second of the RapidRide corridors partially funded as part of the Let’s Move Seattle levy.

While it’s still early days for this project, we’re getting a better idea of what SDOT meant by the somewhat vague “RapidRide+” that appeared in the levy campaign materials.   Though the initial Transit Master Plan had targeted this corridor for possible streetcar treatment, the city has narrowed the study to focus on buses. That’s consistent with what we’ve seen previously from the Murray administration, which has been selective about streetcar investments.

The latest transit study focused on a route that runs from Westlake Station to Northgate via Roosevelt Avenue and Eastlake.  Think of it as a “local” version of Link light rail, which will travel underground along a similar route. From Westlake Station to Eastlake Ave E, the route might take Westlake Ave. N or Fairview Ave. N.  The Westlake routing is a holdover from when this was a streetcar proposal. Now that buses have been chosen as the preferred mode, Fairview seems like the wise choice, based on current bus routes and the available right-of-way. The buses themselves would continue on to Northgate, but major capital investment would stop at NE 65th St.

The Goldilox menu includes three options:

  • “RapidRide” is the minimum bar and least expensive. It would be similar to other RapidRide corridors: branded buses, station improvements, and transit signal improvements.
  • “Targeted Investments” is being pitched as the sweet spot: it’s what we might think of as RapidRide+. It would add queue jumps for buses at major intersections and possible electrification, along with some bus lanes.  SDOT seems eager to push for electrification as far as possible.
  • “Full BRT” would have exclusive right-of-way and center island stations. It would take away parking and have the highest per-mile capital costs. It would also have the fastest travel times.

The full Roosevelt-to-Downtown corridor has a long and varying right-of-way. Getting exclusive lanes all the way through is likely to be cost-prohibitive. Conversations with Metro on bus integration are still in early stages, though SDOT is obviously aware of the similarities with the new Route 67.  The “targeted investment” approach also leaves the most room for an “Open BRT” system used by both this route and other Metro routes.

Removing all parking is likely to encounter some opposition from some in the Eastlake neighborhood, especially since most demand for higher speeds and reliability will come from passengers on either side of Eastlake, not the neighborhood itself.

The bike options seem the most fluid: bikes may be located on the side of the street, in a 2-way protected bike lane, on a parallel street, or a mixture of all three.

Speaking of parallel corridors, while they are usually rare in a hilly city like ours, the U-district is unique in that there are 5 major N-S corridors within 1/2 mile: I-5, Roosevelt/11th Ave, University Way, 15th Ave, and, of course, Link. Rather than spread out capital and service investments, it would make sense to have a single point of view from Metro, SDOT, and Sound Transit on where to put biking, transit, pedestrians, and cars.

Project engineering will begin next year, with the new line slated to open in 2019.  Documents from the open house will be posted shortly on the project website.

Thanks to reader Tim Fliss for contributing to this report.

ST3: BRT on SR 522 and NE 145th St

This is part of a series of posts looking at Sound Transit’s candidate projects for ST3.

ST3 Concept for BRT along SR 522 and NE 145th St
ST3 Concept for BRT along SR 522 and NE 145th St

The communities on the North end of Lake Washington have been in an unfortunate no-man’s land when it comes to regional transit discussions. Straddling Sound Transit’s North and East King subareas, and used by plenty of Snohomish County residents, SR 522 has often played second (or third) fiddle to the I-5 and I-405 corridors.

The cities and neighborhoods along SR 522 – from Lake City to Kenmore to Bothell – realized somewhat late in the game that getting organized is the key to getting on Sound Transit’s radar. But organize they did and ST has responded with a proposal (pp. 70-83) for connecting SR 522 to Link via NE 145th St as part of ST3.

The plan comes in two parts. Part one is a BRT project along SR 522 that fills in the gaps in existing HOV lanes along the corridor. For $311M, ST would acquire property and conduct the capital projects necessary to keep buses on SR 522 running smoothly from the Seattle city line to Bothell, with a possible extension to I-405 BRT. A separate project would then connect those buses to the Link station at 145th.

Continue reading “ST3: BRT on SR 522 and NE 145th St”

October 2015 Sound Transit Ridership Report: Link up 18%

Oct15WeekdayMovingAVG

October saw the largest gain in Link ridership in a year. In fact it was the bookend to what at first blush looks like a ‘bad’ year for Link. For the first time since the line opened in 2009 Link was held to single digit ridership growth for a 12 month period. From October 2014 to September 2015 Link averaged only 6.4% year over year growth.

However that number is a bit deceiving. It is important to note that the year of Oct. 13 to Sep. 14 was Link’s best 12 months on record. Ridership grew 15.9% in that time period. A significant part of the higher than normal (normal for Link being 10-11%) bump was special event ridership. The year from Oct. 13 to Sep. 14 had three Seahawks weekday home games, a Super Bowl Parade and the first Mariners season since 07 worth talking about. Special event ridership is nothing to scoff at. Seattle’s worst traffic days are generally tied into afternoon events (and god forbid a fish truck turn over during one of them). Not only does Link take tens of thousands of cars off the road during the regular commute, but it takes the most cars off the roads on the worst traffic days.

Long story short, Link only had a no good very bad 12 months because the year before it had extremely higher than normal growth. Were the numbers to be revised down to average only 10.3% (the average for the prior year, Oct. 12 to Sep. 13), the 12 months ending Sep. 15 would have seen 10.1% growth. So calm down, ridership is still strongly heading in the right direction. And enough editorializing, here are the numbers.

October’s Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 38,297 / 22,138 / 25,205, growth of 17.8%, 0.3%, and 27.5% respectively over October 2015. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 9.8% with ridership increasing on both lines. Tacoma Link’s weekday ridership increased 0.4%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 3.3%. System wide weekday boardings were up 8.1%, and all boardings were up 5.3%. The complete October Ridership Summary is here.

My charts below the break. Continue reading “October 2015 Sound Transit Ridership Report: Link up 18%”

Eastlake and SE Seattle Open Houses Tonight

There are two open houses tonight for those of you interested in transit advocacy, one in Eastlake and the other in the Rainier Valley.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.41.37 AMRoosevelt-Downtown HCT
The Roosevelt-Downtown High Capacity Transit project will hold an open house tonight from 6-8pm in the TOPS School Cafeteria in Eastlake, in advance of identifying a Recommended Corridor Concept in early 2016. The plan could include dedicated transit lanes, protected bike lanes, both, or neither, all dependent on community feedback and neighborhood negotiation. Given Eastlake’s vocal neighborhood residents and the natural constraints of the corridor, there are likely to be intense debates about the tradeoffs and relative priority of cars, buses, bikes, and parking. For the bike advocacy perspective, see Seattle Bike BlogCascade’s, or Seattle Neighborhood Greenways views. And if you can’t make it tonight, there’s another meeting in the UDistrict Thursday.

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6 – 8 p.m.
TOPS School, Cafeteria
2500 Franklin Ave. E, Seattle

Thursday, Dec. 10, 6 – 8 p.m.
UW Tower, Cafeteria North
4333 Brooklyn Ave. NE, Seattle

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.10.25 AMSE Seattle Restructure
Metro will hold a meeting on the proposed restructure of Routes 8, 9, 106, 107, and 124 Wednesday evening at the Filipino Community Center. The proposal would combine Route 38 (south half of Route 8) and Route 106 to form a frequent all-day connection between Renton, Skyway, and the Rainier Valley, a meritorious idea that we’ve supported since it was first proposed in a service cut scenario in 2012. Unfortunately, the proposal also halves Downtown-Georgetown service and adds a duplicative 4th route between Mount Baker and the International District. We’d encourage attendees to listen to the planners and the community at this open house with an open mind, while also asking hard questions of staff. Suggested questions to ask:

  • Could better all-day, evening, or weekend frequency on Route 106 be achieved  for the same service hours as extending the route to the International District?
  • Why does Metro propose cutting service to Georgetown when the 2014 Service Guidelines Report called for 25,000 hours to be invested on the Route 124 and Route 131 corridors?
  • The 2014 Service Guidelines Report did not target any additional investments for the Route 7 and Route 8 corridors. Why are the other 58 corridors targeted for investment being left behind?
  • Are there additional options for a Route 106 terminus that would be less duplicative and create better network connections? What about the Central District, Yesler Way, First Hill, or South Lake Union?
  • A major rationale for splitting the Route 8 in the ULink restructure was to restore reliability along the route. Does this proposal undo that work? Does Metro think a Renton-IDS route could be reliable for riders?

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 6 – 8 p.m.
Filipino Community Center
5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S (MLK & Orcas)

News Roundup: Jinxed It

Streetcar 404 at 14th & Washington

This is an open thread.

Waterfront Bus Lanes May Be Endangered

Start watching at 22:20

[Update: Mayor Murray’s office has responded, saying “While the Waterfront EIS is considering more than one alternative the Mayor is clear his priority is a new waterfront roadway with dedicated transit lanes.”]

Yesterday at the city’s Special Committee on Central Waterfront, Seawall, and Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program,  Office of the Waterfront Director Marshall Foster quietly dropped a bombshell: the city will study the impact of canceling bus-only lanes on the future Alaskan Way.

As a refresher, current plans call for buses to exit SR 99 near the south tunnel portal at Royal Brougham, accessing a reconfigured two-way Columbia Street via dedicated bus lanes on Alaskan Way. Dedicated lanes have long been seen as essential mitigation for the loss of freeway access implied by the Downtown-bypassing Deep Bore Tunnel, so much so that former Governor Gregoire sold the plan as the “tunnel plus transit” plan.

To be clear, the proposal to cancel transit lanes is just one alternative in a new Supplemental Draft EIS.  The option with dedicated transit lanes remains in the EIS and is still on the table. Foster said that community feedback and concerns about pedestrian safety are driving the addition, and that the SDEIS will evaluate the impact of narrowing the street by 24′ by eliminating the the two transit lanes:

“We got a lot of feedback, especially in Pioneer Square…that we needed to look at a narrower Alaskan Way; that especially in the South End that the roadway was too wide. There was a lot of concern about pedestrian ability to cross that street safely and comfortably…based on that, we worked with the State, worked with King County, and the ferries, and we’re going to include an alternative that looks at a narrower Alaskan Way. The key thing that will change is that it will not include dedicated transit lanes south of Yesler.”

Foster specifically cited Feet First, the pedestrian advocacy organization, as a community stakeholder that had suggested removing transit lanes to narrow the roadway. And he’s right. In a September 2013 post Feet First decried the “8-lane highway” planned for Alaskan Way and rallied their supporters to submit comments in support of 3 ideas: overall lane reductions, variable ferry fares to manage demand, and moving the transit lanes elsewhere.

Continue reading “Waterfront Bus Lanes May Be Endangered”

Metro Proposes Moving Route 10 – Take Their Survey

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 4.54.13 PM

In response to community complaint surrounding the largely rescinded Capitol Hill restructure – in which Route 11 reverted to E Pine Street after SDOT denied Metro’s request for needed improvements to 19th Avenue – Metro is proposing modifying Route 10 to serve Capitol Hill Station via E John Street and Olive Way.

Last week on the blog, David wrote about the merits of this idea, hailing it as an ‘administrative’, zero-cost change Metro could make to atone for the lost connectivity caused by the deletion of the off-peak Route 43 and the failure to move Route 11. Though it does little to help between those losing key frequency east of 15th Avenue, the proposal would do a number of good things:

  • Restores frequent all-day connections between Pike/Pine, Summit, Capitol Hill Station,  and Hilltop
  • Provides a new connection between Link, the 15th Ave E business district, and Volunteer Park
  • Increases service on Olive and John from 5 buses per hour to 9
  • Restores trolley service to the John/Olive corridor

Current ridership data also supports this change. Between Bellevue Avenue and 15th Avenue, Route 43 has double the daily ridership (2,240) compared to Route 10 (1,170). The stop furthest from either John or Pine, at 15th/Howell, currently sees 150 boardings per day. If adopted, those riders will have either a maximum 2-block walk to frequent service on Routes 8/10/11 or a 5-block walk to the south entrance of Capitol Hill Station at Nagle/Denny.

Metro is seeking feedback for six days only, given the need to having everything nailed down before the Christmas holiday. Please take their short 3-question survey and let them know your thoughts.

Full text of Metro’s blog post reprinted after the jump. Continue reading “Metro Proposes Moving Route 10 – Take Their Survey”

60, 124 Could Do More For Georgetown

South Seattle College Georgetown Campus could get direct service with a re-route of routes 60 and 124
South Seattle College Georgetown Campus
could get direct service with a re-route of routes 60 and 124

King County Metro rolled out a restructure proposal last month that would, among other things, change bus travel patterns in southwest Beacon Hill and Georgetown.

The proposed route 107 extension would be a boon for students and employees of Cleveland High School, with a new one-seat ride to a wide swath of south Beacon Hill. It would also give residents along that path better access to the soon-to-expand Link Light Rail system, and improve frequency on 15th Ave S.

For a portion of Georgetown, the proposal degrades transit options, by removing route 106 service between Georgetown and downtown, as David pointed out.

But that begs the question: Why is route 60, which serves southeast Georgetown and heads to Beacon Hill Station, not seen as a frequent option for heading downtown? The answer lies in a basic routing error: The route skirts the southern edge of Georgetown heading south (S Albro Pl / Stanley Ave S / 13th Ave S / S Albro Pl / Ellis Ave S), and misses most of central and northern Georgetown heading north (following Carleton Ave S / S Bailey St / 13th Ave S / S Albro Pl). Riders using route 60 to get home have to backtrack northward after departing the bus.

There is a way for route 60 to serve a larger walkshed in Georgetown: Have route 60 cross through Georgetown on Corson Ave S and S Lucile St (which is essentially one long street that becomes an overpass over the railroad tracks and under I-5), between E Marginal Way S and 15th Ave S.

Map by Ian -- Click for full size
Map by Ian — Click for full size

Not only does this widen route 60’s walkshed and remove the Carleton/Ellis couplet, but it also provides direct service to the Georgetown campus of South Seattle College, and save several minutes of travel time for through riders.

A further problem with the current Carleton Ave S path is that it features a series of traffic circles, forcing the bus to crawl down a street that was clearly not designed for bus travel, and frequently scrape its tires. In a conversation I had with a King County Department of Transportation employee a few years ago, it was indicated that SDOT put the traffic circles on Carleton Ave S without consulting King County, and that if King County had been consulted, it would have said No.

Route 60 currently runs 20-minute-or-better headway during the day on weekdays, and 30-minute headway late into the evening seven days a week, thanks to 2014 Seattle Proposition 1 funding. Compare this to 30-minute headway on routes 106 and 124, which tend to be much less reliable than route 60 due to traveling through downtown. Route 60 could easily become the favorite route of many Georgetowners with a simple tweak to put its routing where it can serve the most riders, and take the most direct path to Beacon Hill Station.

Route 124 currently does a better job of reaching northeast Georgetown, but could also improve its walkshed and travel time via a similar restructure, traveling on Corson Ave S between E Marginal Way S and Airport Way S. It, too, has to suffer the Carleton Ave S traffic circles.

One additional tweak that could be considered is decoupling route 124 from route 24 downtown, and putting route 124 in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, which would be an essentially 1-to-1 switch with peak route 106 trips, proposed to no longer go into the DSTT. This would improve reliability on route 124 and potentially improve usage of the tunnel off-peak if route 124 gets an all-day frequency bump. The decoupling from route 24 would be a prerequisite to that all-day frequency bump.

The travel time savings from straightening the path of routes 60 and 124 through Georgetown could help pay for that frequency bump for route 124. Indeed, having each 60 and each 124 travel along Corson three times per hour in each direction all day on weekdays would give central Georgetowners a bus headed in the downtown direction every 10 minutes, if the routes are synchronized well.

Metro’s Comment Period

Metro is continuing to collect input on the restructure proposal, via phone, email, and a survey, through Wednesday, December 23. There will also be a public meeting:

Wednesday, December 9, 6-8 p.m.
Filipino Community Center
5740 Martin Luther King Jr Way S, Seattle 98118

Sound Transit 3 Financial Options

taxesSound Transit staff presented a financial analysis at Friday’s workshop in support of ST3 planning. Perhaps in response to Seattle Subway’s ST Complete proposal, or the general desire to fund more projects than the new revenue authority allows in 15 years, the analysis explores breaking the rule of thumb (from the 2007 and 2008 votes) that 15-year packages are more politically palatable.*

As someone interested in the ultimate shape of ST3, there are three things you should take away from this analysis:

1) Don’t confuse different types of dollars. This is probably the most boring of the points but also the most important. This mistake will result in lots of unworkable projects and lots of misleading talking points for the no campaign.

All of the corridor study cost estimates are in 2014 dollars. All revenue figures are in Year of Expenditure (YOE) dollars.

We all know what 2014 dollars are. A YOE dollar’s true value varies over time, and is worth less than a current one. Thus a $15 billion revenue package sums up numbers in different units, and doesn’t actually communicate much. But it’s much easier to compute for the boffins, because fewer assumptions are built into the model.

So how we turn 2014 dollars into YOE? The short answer is, you can’t. You’d have to understand the phasing of various projects, how cash flow varies over those phases, and then apply the correct inflation rate over those years. Last year, I very roughly took some historical ST1 phasing information, and made a guess that $3 in YOE dollars buys you about $2 in 2014 dollars. That’s a bit better than a wild guess, and in any case only valid for a 15-year time frame. ST will have to do some detailed staff work to work out the translation.

2) 20 years buys a bit more, 25 years a lot more.

The headline figure in the legislature last session was $15 billion. That figure referred to total (YOE) collections over 15 years. Because ST will also sell bonds, apply for federal grants, collect fares, and so on, any amount of collection enables a larger amount of capital spending. A 15-year revenue cycle using all three taxes (sales, MVET, property) provides about $26 billion (YOE) for projects, which may involve tough choices and/or some value engineering.

Another five years, as one might expect, gets you 33% more taxes. But due to bonding limitations and so forth, the total budget goes up to only $30 billion (YOE), which may be about enough to build the Board’s apparent highest priorities. But give it another 5 years (through 2041) and ST1 and ST2 bonds start retiring, restoring ST’s bonding capacity and raising the total budget to as much as $48 billion (YOE). Of course, that far out the actual purchasing power of those dollars is likely quite a bit diminished from today. That should be enough to build everything the Board seems to prioritize, and a several additional projects (Ballard-UW, anyone?) to boot.

3) Subarea Equity may not mean what we think it means.

Most observers probably learned something when ST CFO Brian McCartan explained the true origins of the policy that taxes collected in one subarea must (roughly speaking) be spent in that subarea. As it turns out, the statute only requires that the proposition ”identifies the degree to which revenues generated within each county will benefit the residents of that county.” The restrictions on spending are a matter of board policy, and the board can change it.

Josh Feit’s report quotes several board members expressing sentiments that a project’s physical location has little to do with who really benefits. That’s a good thing, as subarea accounting is a futile exercise only necessary due to excessive parochialism.

In Sound Transit 1, Subarea Equity was generally understood to advantage the suburbs over Seattle. Around the time of Sound Transit 2, I was one of the people arguing that Link reaching the city line meant the valence had reversed. Today, I’m not sure what to believe. Mayor Murray certainly believes the case for Seattle projects is convincing.

Moreover, the corridor studies suggest that the most productive system would involve shipping at least some dollars from East King County to Snohomish County, leaving the traditional Seattle/suburb rivalry entirely out of it. As always, the board will have to balance regionwide merit against electoral feasibility, and the outcome is unclear.

* It is debatable, to say the least, that package length had any impact on differing outcomes in those years.

Ballard to Tacoma? Sound Transit Looks to Split the Spine

One possible ST3 scenario (map by the author)
One possible ST3 scenario (map by the author)

Among the dozens of projects and corridor studies presented at the ST3 Board Workshop yesterday, perhaps the most interesting new concept was an operational idea to effectively split the spine into more manageable corridors. Though unspoken by regional leaders, the light rail spine has always been more of a political conception than an operational one, as running a pure Everett-Tacoma line was always going to be a stretch (at best). Such a line would be over 2 hours end to end, require additional maintenance facilities, restrict scheduling options, and likely require operator changes on every single train.

At the same time, Sound Transit has recognized something that advocacy groups such as Seattle Subway have long noted, namely that a new downtown tunnel for a Ballard-West Seattle line would waste that tunnel’s capacity, hence Seattle Subway’s idea for a bus-rail tunnel instead. Not at all keen on that idea but cognizant of the operational realities, Sound Transit has come back with an exceedingly ambitious and exciting proposal (see my unofficial map above):

  • Blue Line: Everett to Redmond (6 Minute headways)
  • Red Line: Everett to West Seattle (6 Minute headways)
  • Green Line: Ballard to Tacoma (6 Minute headways)
  • 3 minute headways between Everett and International District/Chinatown

South from International District Station (IDS), the Red Line would serve Stadium and Sodo in new tracks west of the current stations before running elevated to West Seattle, terminating either at Alaska Junction or White Center. The current station at Stadium would be demolished and rebuilt as part of Green Line construction. The Blue Line, meanwhile, would head east as planned to Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Redmond.

The Green Line would serve Tacoma, Federal Way, SeaTac, the Rainier Valley, Downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, Queen Anne, Interbay, and Ballard. From a rebuilt Stadium station, the line would enter an expanded International District Station via cut-and-cover construction on 5th Avenue South. IDS would essentially be a 4-track station, potentially with  cross-platform transfers between southbound Green Line and northbound Red and Blue line trains. North of IDS, the Green Line would run in a new deep bore tunnel through Downtown to Queen Anne, with stations at 5th/Madison, at Westlake (beneath the current station), at Westlake/Denny, and at Queen Anne/Mercer. There the tunnel would emerge and run elevated through Interbay to Ballard.

Sound Transit’s Ric Ilgenfritz walked the Board through this idea, and it was clear from the presentation that Sound Transit prefers this concept to a standalone Ballard-West Seattle line. Though there are drawbacks, such as permanently leaving out Belltown and requiring Snohomish and North Seattle riders to transfer to reach the Rainier Valley and Sea-Tac, etc, the operational benefits are immense:

  • By freeing the Northgate-IDS core from the Rainier Valley line, you could potentially increase frequency beyond 3 minutes and improve reliability to near 100%.
  • Transfers would be world class at both Westlake and IDS, both contained within their respective stations.
  • Travel between South Lake Union and Capitol Hill (the “8 subway”) would be effectively solved with a simple underground transfer between a 6-minute line and a combined 3-minute line.
  • The new Madison station would connect with Madison BRT for additional eastbound options. It might be even better a couple blocks east as a true First Hill station, but that’s a post for another day.
  • The new tunnel would rebalance passenger loads, taking pressure off the current tunnel while better utilizing the new tunnel.
  • This option allows ST3 to be built out with 4 maintenance bases instead of 5.
  • Operations are much simpler, and labor much more reasonable, when no single line exceeds 90 minutes end-to-end running time.

What do you think?