What You Missed This Holiday: 2 Weeks of STB

Broadway and Pike, Seattle, 1913

If you wandered out of town, and somehow didn’t remember to check your main source for Seattle area transit news and advocacy, here are some highlights of what you missed:

Auburn Steps Up for Sounder Access

auburn mapIt’s a common refrain, particularly in the South Sounder corridor, to complain to Sound Transit about parking availability in general, oppose any parking fees that might make more efficient use of those spaces, and sometimes demand special privileges for city residents at the regionally funded facility. Rather than complain, the City of Auburn is doing something about it: they’ve gained use of some downtown lots, are charging for permits, and limiting those permits to Auburn residents and downtown businesses.

At Lot #1, closest to the station, permits will cost $70 per month. The other three lots will cost between $30 and $45 per month, and customers at these three lots can earn lower-cost permits if they fall under one of several protected classes. At all four lots, full-rate payers are also eligible for 10% and 15% discounts for 6- and 12-month permit purchases, respectively.

Permits are only required until 6pm, Monday-Friday. They are only available to residents with a verified Auburn address and businesses that have a current Auburn license and fall in the “Downtown Urban Center” zone.

I applaud Auburn for taking the initiative to increase parking availability and allow more of their residents to access Sounder, one of the highest-quality transit lines in the region. There’s no reason Sound Transit has to shoulder the access burden itself. In places where ST is already subsidizing uneconomic service (hello, Edmonds and Mukilteo), the least the cities could do is fund access improvements to make the service a little more productive.

SLU Streetcar Peak-Only Through March

SDOT Photo – Flickr
SDOT Photo – Flickr

No later than March 26th, ULink will be open and the big ULink restructure will be in place. Lost in the glamor of that event, a major restructure of service on South Lake Union will occur the same day, with southbound Route 40 switching to Westlake Avenue and Rapid Ride C extended into South Lake Union via Blanchard/Lenora and Westlake. With a bunch of intensive work to be done to make that a reality just 3 months from now, effective January 4th the South Lake Union Streetcar will run only during weekday peak periods, with no off-peak, evening, or weekend service. In addition, the streetcar will also not run during Friday PM peak. Service hours will be Monday-Thursday from 6-9am and 3-9pm, and Friday from 6-9am only.

When the streetcar is not running, SDOT and Metro crews will be busy restriping Westlake, adding RapidRide stops and amenities, improving sidewalks and waiting areas, and more. With roughly two-thirds of the streetcar’s ridership occurring during peak periods, the loss of off-peak service will impose only a small and temporary burden relative to the service improvement it affords. When full service resumes, Westlake will have 20 buses or streetcars per hour per direction during peak, and with unprecedented transit priority. With South Lake Union’s drive-alone rate (46%) more than double that of the traditional commercial core (22%), these improvements can’t come soon enough, and with the passage of Move Seattle we can only look forward to more projects like this.

What To Watch For in 2016

UW Station

This is going to be the biggest transit year in a while:

  • University Link opens, adding two hugely important stations to the system, sometime in the first quarter.
  • Metro massively revises service in Northeast Seattle in March to take advantage of Link and radically increase the number of frequent corridors.
  • Metro tweaks Capitol Hill routes in March to respond (halfheartedly) to the new Capitol Hill Station.
  • Sound Transit opens Angle Lake Station, with 1,050 parking spaces, in Late 2016.
  • Community Transit adds 33,000 3,300 service hours in March as a result of last year’s Prop 1, with a bigger one to come in September.
  • Pierce Transit adds at least 30,000 service hours in March September.
  • SDOT pays to split the RapidRide C and D lines, introducing new service to South Lake Union.
  • The First Hill Streetcar opens, sometime this year, we think – but SDOT won’t confirm anything.
  • The Edmonds Community College (S. 200th St.) Swift station opens in January or February.
  • Cellular service goes live in the Link tunnels.
  • CT opens a new park and ride west of Paine Field sometime this year.
  • ST Express and Sounder jump on the ORCA LIFT low-income fare bandwagon — joining Metro, Link Light Rail, Seattle Streetcar, King County Water Taxis, and Kitsap Transit — on March 1, one year to the day after the ORCA LIFT program went live.
  • Tacoma Link fares begin in September.
  • SDOT begins a ridership study to project the impact of integrating the monorail into the regional transit fare system, which would include honoring the PugetPass and a low-income fare.
  • The Sound Transit Board will almost certainly send Sound Transit 3 to the ballot in November.
  • A Seattle housing levy in November should expand the City’s housing stock.