Pioneer Square Transit Tunnel Station, Seattle WA

This is an open thread.

67 Replies to “News Roundup: Causation, not Correlation”

    1. My work schedule has me commuting only at the tail end of each rush hour, but impact has been virtually non-existent. I expect it will get worse later in the week as people who’ve chosen alternate routes start to migrate back.

    2. From my vantage point on the Galer pedestrian bridge it looks just as backed up as usual. Except now the buses are stuck with the cars.

      1. Take a look at Google Maps with traffic though. All those who are on I-5 instead will be sadly disappointed.

  1. ‘“We are asking you, we’re directing you, as the electorate, when the city of Kirkland makes their recommendations to Sound Transit, that it be crystal clear that the people of Kirkland do not want buses on that trail. What we want is buses on 405, where they belong,” he said.’

    Is there even one person among the pitchforkhood who can credibly state that they would take BRT on 405 if it existed, and that it would be convenient for their origin/destination points? For people living along the ERC itself, 405 BRT would not be convenient at all; you’d have to go to the 85th exit, 70th exit, downtown Kirkland, or downtown Bellevue just to get to 405 BRT, depending on where exactly it’s routed.

    1. That’s assuming that all 405 buses have to be consolidated into one route. There is no reason why you can’t have a downtown Kirkland->downtown Bellevue express operating peak hours on top of the existing routes 535 and 532.

    2. Even the closest multiline scenario for people living between 68th and 38th would be a bus turning from 108th to 65th to the 70th entrance and getting off at Bellevue TC.

      1. While the ERC proposal looks at first glance like it serves the entire corridor, upon closer inspection, it actually doesn’t. Between Google and South Kirkland P&R, there are no stops, so the people in between would still be on the 234/235 regardless.

        The biggest market that ERC BRT would improve upon over the status quo is downtown Kirkland to downtown Bellevue, but an express bus down 405 would serve that same market, and do so with a much faster trip.

      2. asdf2 says
        While the ERC proposal looks at first glance like it serves the entire corridor, upon closer inspection, it actually doesn’t. Between Google and South Kirkland P&R, there are no stops, so the people in between would still be on the 234/235 regardless.

        Pretty much it. Rail on the CKC is even more stupid than BRT; although it’s a close call both rank right up there with stupidest ideas ST has ever floated. Even saving the time of picking up all those pesky passengers it’s not even a meaningful time savings over the 234/235. An express using 405 also wouldn’t be much if any faster. 25 minutes Kirkland to Bellevue on the 235 and most of that is S. Kirkland P&R to B’vue TC on Northup & 116th. Everyone on Northup & 116th would also get missed by using the ERC and the time saved would get more than eaten up for anyone trying to get to B’vue TC with the transfer at Whole Paycheck Station. Kirkland and Bellevue city council members are working hard for the title of most transit clueless west of Spokane Valley.

      3. An express using 405 also wouldn’t be much if any faster. 25 minutes Kirkland to Bellevue on the 235

        To be clear, a 405 expresss would get there in 15 minutes. If a 235X didn’t spend 5 minutes making the loop from Northup up down and around at S. Kirkland P&R that would save 5 minutes. Instead turn right on 112th and pick up a market currently not served and Voila! Better bus service with just the capital cost of adding a new route. Rail would only make sense if there were thousands of people an hour trying to get from Kirkland TC to DT Bellevue every 6 minutes. It’s more like 6 people which is probably why there’s not an express bus route.

      4. The point of high-capacity transit, BRT or rail, is not to serve every block in single-family land. So there will be a stop in Houghton, and a stop at S. Kirkland. In between will be local Metro service.

        There’s enough of a market along 108th that you’d still want local service. There’s a small university and some schools. It’s not the biggest transit market in Kirkland, but who ever said the BRT/LRT had to be the only transit? So I don’t understand asdf2’s objection.

        Even if ST does go with the I-405 stop at NE 85th (for a non-trivial fraction of the cost of just building out the entire corridor), it only works for direct downtown Kirkland to downtown Bellevue trips. There are a whole range of other intra-Kirkland trips that aren’t possible on I-405.

      5. “There are a whole range of other intra-Kirkland trips that aren’t possible on I-405.”

        Which is exactly what the 234, 235, and 255 are for. BRT on the ERC would not serve these trips because it has too few stops. Even downtown Kirkland to downtown Bellevue, ERC BRT’s ability to speed up significantly over the status quo is questionable, especially if a bus down the ERC still had to deviate into the South Kirkland P&R bus bays (do not assume that this is not the case; the 255 already has a stop at the junction of 108th and the CKC, yet the 255 still deviates into the bus bays).

    3. That recreational trail didn’t exist until all of about a year or two ago. Lets not pretend this is some trail that has been around forever.

      1. Perhaps it hasn’t been around for long, but it’s a massive improvement in bikability on the east side. I can now put my bike on a bus to cross 520, get off at Evergreen point, and except for a few blocks on surface streets, get all the way to my company’s office in Kirkland, entirely on trails. Once the bridge bike trail is finished (2017 ish), I’ll be able to skip the bus part.

        I don’t have an opinion about the desirability of a bus on the corridor, so long as they keep some kind of bike trail. But, completing that trail all the way through to either end is going to really change biking on the east side.

    1. It’s going bi-directional today. South in the morning and north in the evening. When the corridor is fully double-tracked, you wouldn’t want the train to cross-over to serve the one platform.

  2. I’ve noticed some continued hand-wringing by various groups that are supposedly concerned about ground transportation security.

    The latest article I received seems to be edging towards promoting of installing metal detectors in train stations.

    Although installing metal detectors in U.S. train stations hadn’t been proposed as of mid-December, rail and transit agencies across the nation will likely remain in a heightened state of alert over the coming weeks or months as consequences stemming from the deadly attacks in Paris continue to unfold.

    That article points to a November report by the Congressional Research Service that also seems to have a bit of hand-wringing about transportation security policy at the federal level. It isn’t clear which congress critter requested this report. The release date of the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving weekend makes me suspicious that it was timed to fly as much under the radar as possible. The article has a lot about airline security but also gets into surface transportation (including subways and buses) on page 12.

    A key challenge Congress faces is balancing the desire for increased rail passenger security with the efficient functioning of transit systems, with the potential costs and damages of an attack, and with other federal priorities.

    The challenges of securing rail passengers are dwarfed by the challenge of securing bus passengers. There are some 76,000 buses carrying 19 million passengers each weekday in the United States.

    I really don’t like the direction this is going. We already have enough obstacles to people using transit. The Paris attacks were conducted mostly in open air on the street and in restaurants. Is anyone proposing restaurants install metal detectors?

    In an interview some months ago, one of the current leaders of the magazine Charlie Hebdo was asked about how their publication would change after the attacks last year. When told of some of the self-imposed limitations on publications here in the USA, her response was “Then that means the terrorists have won.”

    I sort of feel the same way about some of the attempts at trying to increase security on ground transportation. Some precautions are desirable, but at some point it becomes an exercise in spending too much money and passenger inconvenience for too little benefit. At some point it becomes a defeat of the attackers and a victory for the terrorists.

    In any event, there is stuff going on in the realm of surface transportation security that could impact the convenience of transit as well as Amtrak, but no specific proposals from congress that I have seen so far. At the same time, pressure from congress could be put upon TSA to do something without any official paper trail.

    1. There’s already the “security stop” at both ends of the DSTT. Even buses exiting the tunnel have to stop, which is ludicrous. And when they enter the tunnel, what can the inspectors do while it stops for five seconds that they can’t do while it’s moving? Is it just to prove the bus is willing to stop? Won’t explosive-laden fake buses stop too?

    2. Regrettably this is how the “anything to keep us safe” crowd ruins it for the whole country. Reactionary fear-mongering instead of sensible threat assessment and cost-benefit analysis.

      Somehow we never propose highway checkpoints, since those might be unconstitutional (although CBP runs interior checkpoints “near” the border with Mexico, and theoretically could open one in downtown Seattle), but it is ok to impose them on every other mode?

      1. I doubt it would unconstitutional, since there’s no constitutional right to ride your city’s public transit. I do agree it’s a bad idea – esp. that it would mean we would have to install turnstyles for ticketing.

      2. Turnstyles would be a good idea anyway to get rid of proof-of-payment, forgetting to tap, not being able to look at the card and tell if it registered your tap, having to go to a reader and tap again to verify you tapped the first time (and tap a third time if the second tap canceled it), and the fear of never knowing what the fare inspectors’ reader will think your card’s state is. Turnstyles have been blown off as too expensive for the amount of fares they’d recover, but if the feds force us to install expensive turnstyles anyway, then they’ll be done.

      3. Turnstyles would be a good idea anyway to get rid of proof-of-payment,

        Didn’t they try turnsyles in NYC; how’d that work out? :=

      4. CBP can stop you or set up a checkpoint and stop anyone, without probable cause, anywhere within 100 miles of a border. This includes seacoasts. Now take a look at a map of the United States and see what percentage of the US population lives within 100 miles of a border or the coast.

      5. It’s well past time for someone to relitigate that unconstitutional behavior by CBP. One rogue court ruling is not necessarily going to stand.

        However, CBP only harasses the poor, which is why this hasn’t been relitigated. If they pulled this crap on a rich lawyer the results would probably be different, but they don’t.

    3. First question I’d have about any piece of machinery in the name of “security” (or, good cautionary example is elevators)”: Are we designing it, or is the whole thing in the hands of somebody with something to sell?

      Ever since the 9-11 attacks, a giant industry has grown up on the accurate calculation that they can sell anything with “security” in its name. Without anybody taking the time to examine whether the thing will work at all for anything, let alone its purpose.

      As if the term “security” even has a definition. Look, whether it’s for criminal attack, fire, earthquake, or anything else that hurts or kills people, every “security machine” purchase has to be weighed against measures that can protect people in any event.

      What’s the condition of the emergency room at Harborview and every other hospital in the area? How well are the EMT’s staffed and trained? What shape are our communications in? When the Twin Towers went down, some agencies’ communications equipment didn’t work with anybody else’s communications.

      Frankly for every security-machine rep I talked with, I’d interview a kennel next. Dogs can find explosives and casualties, and also give people a sense of real security for their just being on-scene- again, for a whole spectrum of incidents.

      Any kind of barrier has this consideration: that people concentrated in one place, with their attention distracted just by being in line and being searched, are terrific targets. Better that people in normal motion have some good training and habits in vigilance and observation.

      From grade-school up, every citizen should be learning first aid to get into effective medical action by reflex. Anybody who’s been an army medic: what does pretty-well-everybody need to know?

      Like any transit driver, constantly moving eyes, and practice in instantly memorizing locations, directions, who all is around in any direction, what they’re wearing- for use by first-responders and also judges. Behind the steering wheel, it’s route, run, bus number, location, and direction of travel. Then: firearms or other weapons in sight?

      Reason, incidentally, why company policy is for driver to stay in the seat rather than intervene in the “action”. Severe judgement call if a passenger is being hurt. But somebody’s got to be getting real-time information to police coming on-scene.

      One night on the 7, a routine fist-fight in thirty seconds involved a showdown between an amateur revolver-owner and a drunk passenger- neither of whom had anthing to do with the original fight. With armed plain-clothes officers rapidly coming on-scene- in civilian clothes. Security equaled a trained observer on the phone, with too-rare radio skills. Though a trained brown lab might have defused part of it.

      All, I think, greater security for the money than elevator-grade machinery. Speaking of which, if LINK can clear its security gate at full speed- why do buses have to stop and then climb over a barrier? In addition to delay and nuisance- any stationary target grows a bulls-eye.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Each time I read one of these things (our company designs electrical equipment for railroad cars, and some computer somewhere decided that must mean we want junk e-mail about this kind of thing) that’s exactly what I get worried about:

        It seems like this is a market that is partially being manufactured by those with something to sell and not necessarily an interest in the long term benefit to the passenger transportation industry.

  3. ‘“It’s really the value of the land that is driving prices higher for detached properties and widening that gap,” said Darcy McLeod, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.’

    That’s very true. Identical quality units cost significantly different in Seattle, Renton and Tukwila, Kent, and Auburn. Capitol Hill prices don’t fly in Rainier Valley or Lake City, because people won’t pay the same price for a more isolated location with fewer neighborhood amenities; they expect a discount proportional to the inconvenience of the location or they’ll look for someplace else that’s less of a ripoff. I might choose an apartment in Lynnwood that’s significantly less expensive than one in the U-District or Greenwood, but I certainly won’t choose it if it’s the same price.

    The other issue is the demand relative to the vacancy rate (for renters) or inventory available (for homebuyers), at the various locations, unit qualities, and starting prices. If a lot of people are looking in locations where the vacancy rate is low, then prices will go up the fastest there.

    1. Odd that there is no mention of square footage. The numbers don’t really many anything unless you account for the huge difference in sq ft between a detached house and a condo.

  4. Just tried (and failed) to buy a Rail Plus ticket at the Pioneer Square station TVM. Is that something that only works at the King Street Station TVMs? How far in advance can I purchase one?

    1. Probably. It’s an Amtrak ticket, not a Sound Transit ticket. I think you also have to have an ORCA card with a monthly pass of at least the Everett-Seattle Sounder fare.

    2. I know that a rail plus ticket can be purchased in Edmonds, because I can see it as an option when I reload my password there.

      But your issue is, yes, you do need to have a monthly pass that covers the entire amount of the fare to purchase a rail plus ticket. A passenger plus e-purse won’t do it.

  5. Watching SDOT and ST try to get their respective “start of service” announcements out is like watching the Mariniers try to get a base hit with the bases loaded.

    Enough already. Get er done.

    1. Yep. It’s been frustrating to watch them almost announce dates a few times, and also frustrating to not be able to say anything about why.

      1. Nowhere near as frustrating as watching the M’s try to get a base hit with men in scoring position. Maybe the FHSC will usher in a Mariners dynasty. That’s the thing with us baseball fans; there’s always next year.

      2. @Bernie,

        Just as long as SDOT doesn’t apply the “there is always next year” adage to the FHSC. That line is already late enough already.

        In regards to U-Link, we know it can’t possibly be later than March 26th since that is the day of the Metro service change. So at least ST has a hard date they can’t slide past. They just need to pick a date and do it. If it takes extra effort to keep things running smoothly until the 26th when the service change takes effect than so be it.

        @zach,

        Concur 100%.

      3. Why can’t you say WHY? Do you know but are bound to secrecy, or just don’t know like everyone else. I can’t imagine SDOT hasn’t been asked repeatedly why the infinite delay is a big unknown.

  6. I wonder if the SODO “storage lot” for PT operated ST Express buses will be able to be coupled with upcoming mid-day Sounder service to shuttle drivers back and forth?

  7. Sound Transit will store buses from Pierce County in a Sodo lot during the day, save $500,000 annually.

    It took how long to figure this out? And why to they need to spend “about $1.18 million” to build mid-day storage? But ST has more money that they can spend so a capital project like parking… it’s all good. In the middle of the day there are tons of KC Metro buses out running routes. Gosh, I bet they could even figure out where the gas tank is and re-fuel them. Hopefully this is just a first baby step “the new guy” is implementing.

    1. ST was allowing PT to park mid day trippers in the employee parking lot at Central Link OMF across the street from the new location for several years before the move to the new lot which was on a small parcel that ST acquired for construction of the Beacon Hill tunnel. The emergency power generator for the Beacon hill tunnel sits on a corner of the lot today.

      Recent increases in employees at Central Link have made it necessary for ST to move PT buses elsewhere – thus the construction of the new staging parking lot.

      The expense, no doubt, was due to required storm water runoff and extra sturdy concrete needed to support modern buses plus nice security gates, appropriate landscaping and lighting. The new lot really fits in nicely with the surrounding properties. (Really it does!). I am not being sarcastic. I doubt that there is a better use for the mini parcel anyway unless Seattle Water needed to expand their lot just north of this location.

      1. “Recent increases in employees at Central Link have made it necessary for ST to move PT buses elsewhere – thus the construction of the new staging parking lot.”

        I guess the possibility of employees of a transit agency using transit to get to work is unthinkable…

      2. asdf2 – blue collar jobs even at ST don’t pay enough for Seattle area housing prices. I live in Skyway and the last transit option for me leaves twenty minutes before my shift ends.

    2. I had the same question regarding the parking lot, why not just lease a lane from King County Metro? I doubt ST/PT buses need to be fueled, they just need to be put somewhere.

      Instead of paying $1.5million, ST could’ve sold the lot or kept it for other uses.

  8. So how would a Clipper ferry run between Victoria and Vancouver work? Call be skeptical, their prices are so high to begin with for Seattle-Victoria and Victoria-Vancouver by water is indirect as it has to go into and out of harbors to get to the city centers. Vancouver-Victoria already has the Pacific Coast Lines bus on the BC ferry option. I just don’t see this penciling as many public high speed passenger operations between Vancouver and Vancouver Island have failed.

    1. The prices are high because that is what people are willing to pay. When I bought tickets well in advance and during the winter months, I got Seattle to Victoria for $45 each way. Today, you are looking at $145 for this trip.

      If they do something like the Friday Harbor trip where they combine it with a marine life / whale search trip they will probably get more traffic.

      1. Exactly hence fewer ride it, if it was cheaper there would be more Seattle-Victoria travel. Obviously they are in a business, I don’t expect them to operate at a loss, but the high cost turns away a lot of travel, the question is whether the Vancouver-Victoria service can attract enough riders willing to pay the high fare especially when its competing with the BC Ferries car ferry which is a cheaper, and more direct and shorter ferry ride than a passenger only harbor-to-harbor service that has to go around peninsulas to reach deep into the harbors.

        I just looked now and any weekend during the winter starts at $112 rt, before taxes and fuel surcharge. That’s steep, and then there’s a good chance the day I choose to go so far in advance is pouring rain.

  9. Renton’s mayor wants to move the transit center that was installed only 15 years ago. Where does he want to move it to? The location ST wanted 15 years ago which was vetoed by the city.

    http://www.rentonreporter.com/news/365446361.html

    I understand some of the justifications, like being closer to the freeway. However, the real reason driving this is because they still like to think the transit center is only a hub for crime and criminals. Subsequently, they blame transit for every problem in downtown.

    1. Cities need to either live with their shortsighted decisions, tax themselves to fix their shortsighted decisions and most of all, stop micromanaging transit decision. I’m looking to Bellevue and their subway tunnel with no station

    1. Some sort of announcement this afternoon. Occidental Mall has no parking signs out for tomorrow from 8am-1pm.

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