Metro, SDOT Keep Two Benson Streetcars for Future Use

Streetcars Undergoing Maintenance in 2005 (King County – Flickr)
Benson Streetcars in 2005 (King County – Flickr)

King County Metro announced Friday that it has officially sold three of the five George Benson Waterfront Streetcars to the city of St. Louis for $200,000. The vintage streetcars have been idle since construction of Olympic Sculpture Park in 2005 razed their sole maintenance facility.

Metro has been looking to sell the cars for some time, and St Louis first expressed interest back in 2012. Metro is looking to expand its Sodo bus bases to accommodate a rapidly growing fleet, and they are also on the hook to repay $205,000 in FTA grants if the streetcars are not returned to service in some form.

In the agreement announced yesterday, Metro will retain ownership of the two cars but SDOT will store them elsewhere (location TBD) for an additional two years to buy time for a private venture called “Friends of the Benson Trolleys” to fundraise enough to retrofit them for a potential return to service. Though the waterfront alignment is likely permanently closed – and some of the Pioneer Square trackage has been removed and/or paved over – SDOT has indicated a willingness to mix vintage and modern cars if/when the Center City Connector is built. The high-floor, non-ADA compliant streetcars would need significant work to be able to share platforms with the South Lake Union and First Hill lines.

The private group Friends of the Benson Trolleys is led by a high-power group of current and former executives, increasing their chances of fundraising success. They include:

  • Tom Gibbs, Former Metro General Manager
  • Ben Franz-Knight, Executive Director of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority
  • Don Blakeney, Vice President of Economic Development at the Downtown Seattle Association (and former Executive Director of the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area)
  • Tomio Moriguchi, Chairman of Uwajimaya
  • Frank Shrontz, Boeing CEO from 1986-1996

At press time the group did not have a fundraising page that I could find. Stay tuned.

The full release from King County Metro is below the jump… Continue reading “Metro, SDOT Keep Two Benson Streetcars for Future Use”

Martin Luther King Jr Day Service Reductions

Martin Luther KingMonday, January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Many transit agencies reduce their service levels that day, and some that do not run on Sundays, like King County Water Taxis, also take this day off. The South Lake Union Streetcar is usually open on most holidays, but is closed Monday due to street work, and since there is no “peak” period on a holiday.

If you are used to your bus route flying along in a peak-only bus lane, do not be surprised to find cars parked in them Monday, slowing down your commute. As Zach pointed out, the City’s bus lane policy has not kept up with its transit investments. In that way, even if no runs are being cancelled on your route, the level of service on your route is being reduced Monday if it has peak-only lane priority.

This is on top of WSDOT’s decision to make everyone suffer through gridlock on Aurora every day during construction periods instead of giving everyone an option to fly past the gridlock with a bus lane, as Martin pointed out.

Agency Day Before (Sunday) MLK Day (Monday)
Clallam Transit No Service No Service
Community Transit Commuter No Service Routes 402, 413, 421, 855
Community Transit Local Sunday Weekday
Everett Transit Sunday Weekday
Greys Harbor Transit No Service Weekday
Island Transit No Service Weekday
Intercity Transit Sunday Weekday
Jefferson Transit No Service Weekday
King County Metro Sunday Reduced Weekday/UW
King County Water Taxis No Service No Service
Kitsap Transit No Service Regular/No PSNS
Link Light Rail Sunday Saturday
Mason Transit No Service No Service
Monorail 8:30 AM – 9 PM 7:30 AM – 9 PM
Pierce Transit Sunday Weekday
Skagit Transit No Service Weekday
Sound Transit Express Sunday Weekday
Sounder No Service Weekday
South Lake Union Streetcar No Service No Service
Tacoma Link Sunday Sunday
Twin Transit No Service No Service
Washington State Ferries Sunday Weekday
Whatcom Transit Sunday Weekday

Republican Anti-Tolling Bill has One Democratic Sponsor: Bellevue’s Sen. Habib

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 7.56.07 PM

A Republican bill to eliminate two of the four express toll lanes on I-405; eliminate tolls in the evening and early morning hours; and get rid of all HOT lanes on 405 in two years if they fail to maintain a speed of 45 mph 90 percent of the time, has a single, somewhat surprising Democratic sponsor: Sen. Cyrus Habib (D-48), a Bellevue resident who also happens to be running for lieutenant governor.

Habib (who prefaced his email response, “I was wondering when I would be asked about that!”) says he’s backing the bill because his “district is directly affected, and so I decided it was important for me to have a seat at the table as we take a look at what works and doesn’t work with the current express tolling dynamic there.

“I likely wouldn’t vote for the bill in its current form, but I do think we need to revisit how the program is being implemented. I hear more about this from my constituents than any other issue,” Habib says.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Andy Hill (R-45) in the senate and Rep. Mark Harmsworth (R-11) in the house, was introduced in response to a rash of complaints by 405 drivers about the amount solo drivers must pay to use the HOV lanes (up to $10 at peak hours), and about the perception that the lanes haven’t reduced congestion on the freeway.

“[HOT lanes are] not working; anybody who drives that corridor will tell you that,” Hill told the Senate transportation committee at a hearing for the bill yesterday. “People are very, very upset. They are experiencing increased congestion, despite what any stats might say.”

About those stats: As Josh reported yesterday on PubliCola, according to data collected by WSDOT, travel times on 405 have gone down, on average, 14 minutes for express-lane users, and 7 minutes for general-purpose lane drivers, since the lanes opened last September. Much as Hill may scoff at “stats,” and much as his house cohort Helmsworth may have testified yesterday about the “thousands and thousands” of complaints he said he has personally read about traffic on 405, it’s always helpful to remember that the plural of anecdote is not data. And the data, if it’s correct, says the lanes are doing what they’re supposed to do.

However, Habib says his constituents complain about another impact of the tolls: They’re regressive. “The absence of light rail and inadequate state of bus rapid transit has made it, combined with the 520 toll, financially difficult for the working poor and students, who have the least flexibility and resources,” he says. Habib says he’d like to explore the idea of converting one of the two existing HOT lanes to HOV-transit lanes “to give the program a chance to first develop on one lane. Express tolling without increased transit is regressive.”

Of course, WSDOT’s original proposal was to give drivers two years to get used to the new HOV lanes; if the bill Habib has signed on to were to pass in any form (its path to a hearing and vote seems far shakier in the house), it would upend that schedule and render HOT lanes on 405 an incomplete experiment.

North King Governments United in Support of Bus Rapid Transit

The city councils of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, and Bothell (photo by the author)
The city councils of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, and Bothell (photo by the author)

On Tuesday night in front of a joint meeting of the city councils of Bothell, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, and Shoreline, Sound Transit presented ST3 options for the SR 522 corridor. The tag team of Ric Ilgenfritz and Karen Kitsis presented the lone proposed projects for the area, planning money for light rail on SR 522 (Project P-08, page 18), and BRT from Woodinville to the NE 145th St Link station (Projects N-09 and N-10).

The meeting began as so many of these meetings do, with electeds and staff trading war stories of how long it took them to drive there, with Fred Butler’s drive from Issaquah taking the provisional title for bragging rights. But even these anecdotes often serve as useful icebreakers, creating a unanimity of purpose among officials to build better transit not to solve congestion, but rather to give people a way out of it.

And unanimity there was. There was neither disagreement nor controversy, with the joint councils all expressing strong interest and support for bus rapid transit on SR 522 and a seamless connection to Link at NE 145th. Kenmore Mayor David Baker expressed the four cities’ intent to write a joint jurisdictional letter to Sound Transit, saying they should be unified on their “3 key asks”, namely BRT in the corridor, light rail planning, and structured parking (ST’s proposal includes three 400-space parking facilities). Lake Forest Park councilmember Phillippa Kassover noted her city’s historically high voter turnout of 80-90%, quipping to Sound Transit (paraphrased) “I suggest you have us on your side this November.” A Bothell councilmember described the county line that separates his city’s transit services as “our own DMZ”, expressing hope that Sound Transit’s regional mandate can fix the service gaps inherent in having Community Transit serve half the city and King County Metro serve the other.

The general feeling in the room was one of composed eagerness to get new investments in their respective cities. The 522 Transit Now coalition also had a strong turnout, with roughly half the public attendance being composed of their bright yellow shirts. Mark Abersold from the coalition spoke to the meeting, and councilmembers repeatedly praised their group for their effective and positive organizing. Consultants Fehr & Peers also praised the coalition (and Seattle Transit Blog) for informing their corridor analysis.

The 522 Transit Now Coalition
The 522 Transit Now Coalition

Councilmembers seemed particularly keen on the lower capital version of BRT, which ST models as only taking 1 minute longer than the more aggressive option, while reducing capital costs by $30-85m. In some sense, however, this is a relatively painless ask for these councils, as the BRT project would in many places widen the roads to accommodate buses without the loss of any general purpose capacity, going from two lanes to three in each direction.

Notably absent from the discussion was Lake City. With neither a station at 130th nor a BRT connection to Lake Forest Park and Woodinville, the southern half of the 522 corridor gains little from these proposals. If enacted, Lake City will depend on Metro for a good network of connections, likely including long-term investments in the Route 41 and 372 corridors for connections to Link at Northgate, UDistrict, and UW.

ST3: Kirkland-Issaquah Light Rail


Not so long ago, prospects for an ST3 investment in rail from Totem Lake to Issaquah seemed remote. There were too many competing priorities within a 15-year ST3 program, making a deferral to ST4 likely, and motivating examination of BRT between Bellevue and Kirkland. In an extended program, it’s suddenly feasible, but the proposed alignment has weak connections to the most important destinations.

The project is a 17.5 mile rail line from Totem Lake to Central Issaquah connecting nine stations. From the north, the line generally follows the Eastside Rail Corridor, briefly interlining with East Link near Wilburton station. This is also a transfer point to East Link trains serving downtown Bellevue or Seattle. Near the historic Wilburton trestle, the line transitions to the east side of I-405 and then to I-90 in Factoria. Beyond Factoria, the line generally follows the I-90 median to a terminus in Central Issaquah.

There are eight new stations, four each on Segment A (Totem Lake – Wilburton) and Segment B (Wilburton – Issaquah).

Segment A serves four stops in the Kirkland area. An added stop at NE 112th St means this is one more than the previous studies, improving access within the southern part of the Totem Lake neighborhood. Other Kirkland stops are at NE 128th St (adjacent to the freeway BRT station), at NE 6th St (southeast of downtown), and at the South Kirkland P&R.

Segment B also serves four stations (after Wilburton); in Factoria, at Eastgate, at Lakemont Blvd, and in Central Issaquah. The Factoria and Lakemont stops are new to this study. The Factoria station, near Richards Rd on the north side of I-90, will improve access along the Eastgate/I-90 corridor which seems too sprawling to be well served via Eastgate alone. While the location isn’t ideal for Factoria riders, it’s perhaps as close to Factoria as the line can get while avoiding the environmental and engineering challenges of Mercer Slough and the I-405 interchange. The added stop at Lakemont would be a park-and-ride facility.

Kirkland may not be impressed by a Kirkland-Bellevue rail segment lacking walkable access to the downtown of either city. Issaquah, on the other hand, intends to concentrate future growth within the Central Issaquah area adjacent to  the planned station. Travel from Issaquah to Seattle via Wilburton may appear circuitous, but no more so than express buses terminating into Bellevue Transit Center.

Continue reading “ST3: Kirkland-Issaquah Light Rail”

News Roundup: Nominations

CT 15809 in Downtown Seattle

This is an open thread.

North King ST3 Meeting Tonight at Kenmore City Hall

SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

Four separate City Councils – Shoreline, Bothell, Kenmore, and Lake Forest Park – will gather jointly tonight at 7pm at Kenmore City Hall to discuss ST3 projects within their respective cities, including planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on SR 522 connecting to NE 145th Street Link Station (Projects N-09 and N-10) and planning studies for SR 522 light rail (Project P-8, page 18). Sound Transit’s Ric Ilgenfritz, ST Boardmembers Claudia Balducci and Fred Butler, Kenmore Mayor David Baker, and the 522 Transit Now Coalition are confirmed as speakers, and their presentations will be followed by council discussion by the 4 cities.

Though there is likely little to learn from a project standpoint at this point in the process, these meetings are fascinating for the glimpses they provide into suburban cities’ thinking and priorities for ST3 on a number of issues, including station access, parking, TOD, bus/rail integration, and more. If you live in Shoreline, Bothell, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Jackson Park, Bitter Lake, or Lake City, it is well worth your time to show up in support of quality projects and connections.

Kenmore City Hall can be reached via the Burke Gilman-Trail, from Seattle (Routes 372 and 522), and from Bellevue/Kirkland (Route 234). Unfortunately, Route 331 from Shoreline to Kenmore stops running in time to be workable for this meeting. Apologies for the late notice.

From the Archives: A Bus from MLK to Downtown

ACRS from the bus stop (Photo by the Author. 2011)

It’s too late to submit comments to Metro about the Southeast Seattle restructure, but this old post from 2011 remains relevant although the route numbers have changed. In particular, it takes a close look at the claim that a new bus providing a one-seat ride from Little Saigon and Downtown is necessary to adequately serve the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), three blocks south of Mt. Baker Station.

Events in the interim have deteriorated this claim further. The Capitol Hill restructure in March will split the 8 and new 38, and the 38 will be a reliable transfer, with minimal walking from Link and zero walking from the 7. The 38 will also address the much more legitimate complaint from people and organizations around Orcas St. that they had no reliable means of accessing the train, due to essentially random southbound arrivals on the 8.

Ironically, sending the 38 downtown (as a 106) would kneecap that improvement, once again subjecting southbound buses to schedule randomness mere months after freeing it from the chaos of Denny Way.

Rethinking Free Parking on Minor Holidays


Now that Seattle is in the business of purchasing bus hours thanks to Prop 1, one of the many benefits is that Seattle’s dollars now ensure full service on minor holidays . In the post Prop-1 world, Metro’s “Reduced Weekday” schedules are a thing of the past for Seattle, only applying to suburban routes numbered 100 or higher. (The “No UW” reduced schedule remains, however.)

Yet transit on minor holidays still remains second-class in one important but overlooked respect: street parking remains free and unrestricted on holidays such as MLK Day, Presidents Day, and Veterans Day. Most peak-only bus lanes are not in force and are often open to parked cars. Major Center City arterials such as 2nd and 4th Avenues, Olive, Stewart, Howell, etc all lose their transit priority on these holidays, yet with many routes still asked to provide full weekday peak frequencies. Overall volumes are reduced, of course, with the cancellation of suburban routes such as 114, 304, 308, 316, etc, but Sound Transit operates a full weekday schedule alongside all of Metro’s Seattle routes.

I would love to see our City Council’s new Sustainability & Transportation Committee take this on as a simple administrative fix that catches our parking policy up with newly-enacted transit policy. Transportation Committee Vice-Chair and new Sound Transit Boardmember Rob Johnson would have a double mandate, helping maximize the City’s investment in Metro while improving Sound Transit’s operational bottom line.

But the desired policy seems clear: if we have are to have free parking and no peak-only bus lanes on Sundays and select holidays, we should only do so on days in which transit is likewise on a Sunday schedule.

Aurora Under Construction, No Bus Lane

Click for the animation

After I linked to the notification of SR99 lane closures with a fine whine about (lack of) transit priority, there was a fun twitter exchange between WSDOT, some loyal readers, and Zach on the STB Twitter account. As the animation above shows, during daytime left lane closures, WSDOT will open the bus lane to general traffic to maintain two lanes for cars. In a later phase, bus lane closures will force transit into general purpose lanes.

WSDOT said that the corridor carries about 37,000 cars and 740 buses on an average weekday. All else being equal, then, if there are 1.25 people per car then each bus would have to carry about 62 people to mean that transit was more important than cars, and by implication worthy of priority.

The E, 5, 16, 26X, and 28x carry about 31,000 people a day, or 41 people per bus, or about a third of the total volume in the corridor. Of course, that’s one-third spread out through the entire day, and the peak share of transit riders is higher, perhaps near 50%. So even if the mode shares remain constant, the idea that half the road capacity should go to transit is hardly outrageous.

Moreover, the idea that the mode shares must remain constant is unfounded. Regardless of WSDOT’s fears, there will be “huge backups” regardless of how many lanes are available. Retaining the transit lane would provide a congestion-free alternative. Not everyone will use this option, but WSDOT would provide a rapid means of travel for those who are willing. Some people will take it and improve transit’s share. Instead, WSDOT is forcing everyone to sit in traffic regardless of choice.

Furthermore, private vehicles are able to switch to alternate routes, while transit must continue to serve people that live all along the route, further increasing the likely proportion of transit riders on the roadway.

It’s common, during construction closures, for the authorities to urge people to alter their trips or take transit. With the basic time penalties associated with transit compounded by a total lack of priority, anyone who respects that request is either a fool or has little choice. Enough people are either transit riders, or willing to change given the proper incentives, that transit deserves half the road space on Aurora.

Closures begin next Monday, January 18.

Support “Full BRT” with Roosevelt HCT

The Seattle Department of Transportation is in the midst of planning a new high capacity transit (HCT) corridor from Roosevelt to downtown. The route would connect some of Seattle’s most populous neighborhoods: Roosevelt, UW, Eastlake, South Lake Union and downtown.

The latest official document lists three options. The first is based on the current Metro RapidRide service and is called (of course) RapidRide. This has some stop consolidation, off board payment and transit priority. North of Denny, it would lead to a 26% increase in peak hour (i.e., rush hour) speed. The second option is called “Targeted Investment” and involves all of that plus “Minor roadway geometric changes that may include use of queue jump, business access and transit lanes, or dedicated transit lanes”. North of Denny it would be 38% faster.

But the most exciting proposal is called “Full BRT“, which would revolutionize transit it in the area. It would have center running buses and have “major roadway geometric changes that may include use of queue jump, business access and transit lanes, or dedicated transit lanes”. The result is extremely fast rush hour speeds:
Roosevelt BRT

An average speed of 21 MPH may not sound like much, but that is fast for the city, and blazing fast for urban transit (the NYC subway and Toronto subways average less than that). It is also, as the chart shows, a dramatic improvement — south of Denny it is over 10 times as fast as today! To get an idea of the possibilities, here is a chart showing travel time from stop to stop:

Roosevelt Timing

These numbers are rounded up to the nearest minute from the rush hour estimates. The stops are the ones that SDOT recommends. This obviously represents a dramatic improvement in transit mobility.

But this won’t happen unless enough people support it. Please let SDOT know that you want “Full BRT” on this important corridor.

The Future of ST Express: Frequent Feeder Service

January 2016 O&A Handout ST Express
Click to view all 3 slides

The future of Sound Transit’s express bus services has long been unclear. Will express buses continue indefinitely as a peak layer on top of Link? Will they truncate at major Link terminals at increased frequency? Or will they disappear entirely in corridors served by Link? Sound Transit staff have long noted – relatively opaquely – that ST Express is legally an interim service to be discontinued upon introduction of high capacity transit in a corridor, but the details of service truncations or discontinuations has never been clear.

Yesterday at Sound Transit’s Operations and Administration Committee, we got the beginnings of an answer. Staff presented a report that outlined options for ST Express funding levels going into Sound Transit 3 (ST3). Today, ST Express consumes 754,000 service hours annually in 8 major corridors (I-5 North, I-5 South, I-90, SR 520, SR 522, I-405 North, I-405 South, and 2 Sounder Connectors).

Staff outlined 3 service hour options for ST Express in 2024: 490,000, 610,000, and 820,000 service hours. The Sound Transit 2 finance plan, adopted prior to the 2008 vote, assumed that service hours would be pared back to 490,000 annually once Link opens to Lynnwood, Des Moines, and Redmond in 2023, or roughly a 35% cut. This would result in mostly status quo service levels, with Link taking over major routes such as 511, 550, etc. Confusingly, the 610,000 hour option, though a 20% cut from today’s service levels, would require the Board to allocate 25% more funds to ST Express than assumed under ST2. Lastly, the 820,000 hour option would be an 8% increase over today’s service hours (and a 67% boost in funding over the 490k baseline), on top of Link every 8 minutes from Lynnwood-Des Moines and every 8 minutes Lynnwood-Redmond.

For the first time, all options explicitly assume aggressive bus truncation at Link terminals, taking ST Express out of Link-served corridors (and out of Downtown Seattle). Buses would truncate at Lynnwood Station, 145th Street, UW Station, Bellevue Downtown Station, and Kent/Des Moines Station.

In both the 610k and 810k scenarios, service hours saved through truncation are reinvested in frequency improvements throughout the system, with the more aggressive options being particularly attractive. During peak, service could run every 5-10 minutes between Everett-Lynnwood, Woodinville-145th, Lakewood-Des Moines, and Issaquah-Bellevue.  In a huge step up for ST Express, service would also be frequent 7 days per week everywhere in the system except the two I-405 corridors, which would only see frequent service during peak.*

These proposed truncations apply only to ST Express, and though it was stressed that service planning will be much more integrated between agencies going forward, the future of Metro and Community Transit’s peak-only services in these corridors will be considered by their respective agencies.

Lastly, though unremarked upon at the committee meeting, the I-90 plans all assume truncation in Downtown Bellevue with Link transfers at South Bellevue Station. It would seem that Mercer Island is winning their battle to keep transit off the island.

*It’s also important to note that these options are agnostic about the existence of an I-405 BRT System, which could swing the service hour needs by ~50,000 hours.

The Seattle Transit Map and Guide


[UPDATE March 25, 2016] the March edition of the map is now available at Paper copies of the map are also available from SDOT, Transit Riders Union and Sound Transit. Please contact them for details on getting a map. Maps and posters will be available for purchase from the map’s website in the near future.

Not since the early days of Seattle Metro has there been a definitive map of transit in the city of Seattle. As Metro’s map expanded, the city became a smaller part in an expansive countywide network. Details were lost as the city was scaled down to make room for the county. Metro’s latest maps tried to correct that by creating larger scale subregional maps but there still is no single rider-oriented map that shows the city’s transit network in its entirety… Until now.

Today I am proud and excited to introduce to you a draft of my latest work in progress: the Seattle Transit Map and Guide, a map of transit for the city of Seattle. The Map features the entire network of frequent service, regular all-day service, and peak-only commuter service in the city, all on a single stylized-geographic map, plus a few specialized maps showing detail of busy areas or certain services. The Guide summarizes the frequency and span of all service in a few tables. Currently the Map and Guide depicts service effective September 2015; a draft depicting March 2016 service will be released when it is ready.

You can view the draft Seattle Transit Map in a mobile-friendly website. There is also a PDF for offline viewing. I am collecting your feedback on the content and design which may be given in the comments below or on the map’s feedback form. Your feedback will help refine the map to make it ready for publication in March.

Unlike the Frequent Map, it is not designed to be printed at home because I wanted to show more detail without making everything too small. In a pilot project with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Transit Riders Union (TRU), we are aiming to distribute paper copies of the map for Metro’s big March 2016 service change in conjunction with the opening of U Link. In the meantime, TRU has paper copies of this draft available for anyone who would prefer to give study and give feedback on a handheld copy. Though to be clear, this is not an official SDOT transit map. Not yet anyway.

The map was a long time coming. I made a concept in 2009 that went nowhere until late 2014, when TRU approached me with their ideas of more accessible and easier-to-read transit maps. Encouraged by their support and in collaboration with CHK America where I work, I spent a lot of my free time in 2015 creating a city transit map that I hope is a pleasure to use and look at. There are a number of design features that I would like to highlight.

Continue reading “The Seattle Transit Map and Guide”

SE Seattle Restructure Comments Due Sunday

Link near Rainier Beach (Photo by Oran – Flickr)
Link near Rainier Beach (Photo by Oran – Flickr)

The comment deadline for Metro’s SE Seattle restructure proposal has been extended until next Sunday, January 10. As a refresher, the proposed restructure would primarily change Route 106 between Rainier Beach and Downtown, severing its connection to Georgetown while providing new connections to local destinations along MLK Way while also extending it to the International District along the path of Route 7. The plan would also extend Route 107 from Rainier Beach to Beacon Hill Station and reduce Route 9 to peak-only.

We made a public records request on November 30 to King County for documentation of how this proposal was developed and prioritized relative to other documented service needs, and we expect to have those documents in the coming days (but likely after the comment deadline). The impetus for developing the proposal goes back to 2012, when Metro deleted the remnants of Route 42 against the opposition of community groups in SE Seattle. This year, Metro formed a community advisory group to analyze and propose these changes, and addressing local bus service on MLK was sure to feature prominently in any proposal, and rightfully so. Current services on MLK have been among the most unreliable in the city, as MLK’s Route 8 suffers badly from upstream congestion of Denny Way every weekday.

I believe we should be constructive and strongly supportive of quality local connections in SE Seattle, while also demanding data-driven and transparent service planning processes. Here at STB, our writers applaud Metro’s efforts to achieve more frequency and reliability in SE Seattle, while also being wary of new duplicative services that effectively push other riders’ needs to the back of the queue.

To that end, this proposal is decidedly a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is much to like. New local connections between Rainier Beach and Beacon Hill are needed and welcome. Frequent, all-day service between Renton, Skyway, Rainier Beach, and Mount Baker would knit together similar communities in a much more intuitive way.

Yet there is also much to dislike. The 106 extension to the International District adds another 15-minute route to the already 10-minute Rainier/Jackson corridor, ahead of 51 other corridors that the 2015 Service Guidelines Report (pg. 12-13) targets for priority investment. The new 106 would still see only half-hourly service on evenings and Sundays. Georgetown also would get a service reduction, losing half its frequency on Airport Way, ironically when three routes serving Georgetown (routes 60, 124, and 131) are in the top seven routes on the priority list for service investments to meet target service levels.

In your comments, we’d suggest effusive praise and support for:

Continue reading “SE Seattle Restructure Comments Due Sunday”

News Roundup: How to Fix Gentrification

This is an open thread.

Recently on Page 2: Transfer Bonuses, Electric Buses, West Seattle LRT

Those of you who follow us on channels like Twitter or Facebook may not be aware of Page 2, our community page.  If you haven’t been reading Page 2, below are a few recent highlights.  If you’re interested in writing for STB, Page 2 is a great way to get your feet wet. Sign up for an account today.

Jason Schindler had a novel idea to essentially pay people to transfer:

The idea is to give people who transfer a small ($0.25 or $0.50) reduction on the cost of the overall fare. It should be significant enough that people notice the difference but not enough that it encourages people to transfer for no other reason than to save some money. Metro could make it almost revenue neutral (or even revenue positive) by hiking regular fares by a similar amount. This would not apply to cash transactions, because — Metro shouldn’t still be doing paper transfers in the first place!

John Strick looked at Metro’s new Proterra electric buses:

One thing that stuck out was that the bus body was made out of composite materials and not sheet metal. This significantly reduces the weight which helps increase the range of the bus. The interior of the bus has 40 seats and can accommodate 37 more standing passengers for a total capacity of 77 passengers. 28 seats are forward facing while the remaining 12 face inwards towards the center aisle. All interior lights are LED which also help efficiency.

Finally, Troy Serad took a critical look at West Seattle light rail:

Rail infrastructure best serves areas that look and feel quite like Alaska Junction, or are even more urban, and whose importance as a key neighborhood center is undeniable. These areas are dense and likely growing, featuring healthy development patterns. Rail infrastructure links such centers into a system that builds the foundation for a greater city.  As an isolated case, Alaska Junction is precisely that: important, urban and growing properly. The context of Alaska Junction in the regional picture, however, upends the model that otherwise would support rail investments to the neighborhood.

Check out Page 2 and sign up for an account if you’ve got something on your mind.

ST3: Bus Rapid Transit on I-405

I-405 BRT Corridor Options

There has long been a regional consensus that I-405 Bus Rapid Transit would be a part of the ST3 program. But that general agreement has hidden a fuzziness about the form it would take. The December 4 workshop saw a range of options presented. The studies make a compelling case for a low-cost version of I-405 BRT, but complicate the case for doing much more. The eye-popping conclusion is that a range of investment levels between $340 million and $2.3 billion all produce the same ridership.

Staff presented “low capital” and “intensive capital” representative models. In between are a long list of a la carte options. There are two alternatives for a southern terminus; one at Angle Lake, the other at Burien TC. The “low capital” model leans heavily on existing infrastructure, and is less ambitious than any of the options examined in the previous set of studies in 2014.

Low Capital BRT

Staff analysis helpfully breaks out cost and performance by segment. Segment A, Lynnwood TC to Bellevue TC, is the most productive with up to 10,000 riders, about 60% of all the ridership on the BRT. 10 of the 19 miles are served via general purpose lanes on I-5 and I-405 (other than limited shoulder-running southbound on I-405). Only the portion between Brickyard and Bellevue can be served via HOT lanesSegment B, Bellevue to Renton, runs entirely in HOT lanes, but achieves fewer than 1,500 riders. That would include a deferred project to build HOV direct access ramps at N 8th St in Renton.

Beyond Renton, there is little new investment. Segment C, Renton to Tukwila International Boulevard Link Station, would run in HOT lanes on I-405 and general purpose lanes on SR 518, achieving a respectable 3,500 riders with little cost other than vehicles. From TIBS, the service could continue to Angle Lake via BAT lanes on SR 99 (Segment D1), or to Burien Transit Center via general purpose lanes on SR 518 (Segment D2).

The total capital cost under $350 million is modest for the ridership, mostly because the highway infrastructure is largely existing or funded through WSDOT. 28% of the cost is for parking.ST3_i405BRT_Elements2

Intensive Capital BRT

The ‘intensive capital’ option adds several stations and upgrades others. It eliminates much of the interaction with general purpose lanes via added ramps in the north and BAT lanes in the south.

Continue reading “ST3: Bus Rapid Transit on I-405”

CORRECTION: Service Hours

I made several mistakes in Friday’s 2016 preview:

  • CT will add 3,300 service hours in March, not 33,000. September will be 30,000-35,000 hours.
  • Although the Mukilteo Park and Ride will break ground this year, it won’t open till 2017.
  • Pierce Transit will add service hours in September, not March.

I regret the errors.