Frank and Martin discuss the opening of the First Hill Streetcar, a rail tunnel for Ballard, the upcoming U-Link meetup, and whether the proposed Renton Transit Center is a good idea.

34 Replies to “Podcast #9: Impossible Means Hard”

  1. The “low floor issue” exists at SLU. SLU Cars do have ramps in the same spot as FH cars and are deployed the same way. SLU and FH vehicles and stations are very similar in the aspect of boarding and design, such as non level boarding.

    James Street traffic is the main issue for Broadway traffic. Find a fix for James/Broadway, Broadway would move better. TSP would def help with quicker movement thru many locations, but I have heard they have been actively riding and making notes of signal timing issues. Not TSP, but can be helpful in some aspect.

    1. All of the Inekon Trio and Škoda 10T type trams use the ramp deployment button. Besides SLU and FHSC, Tacoma and Portland are other local examples. My understanding is that doing so made the construction tolerance on the tram suspension less restrictive, and thus less expensive to build.

  2. For the Pronto situation, I hope this serves as a pivotal point to assess what they can do to improve, mostly station location, prior to being bailed out. I would like them to relocate the lowest performing stations and relocate them to better suited areas. Lowest hanging fruit would be to relocate stations directly at light rail station entrances. Next, I thought it was absurd that the Burke Gilman wasn’t utilized in anyway during the initial launch. Perhaps this could be a good time to relocate some of those stations to Fremont, SPU, Ballard, and Gas Works. This would leverage the best biking infrastructure we have in this town and will have an easy connection to downtown with the upcoming completion of the Westlake bike trail.

    And the hills… The only people willing to bike up the hills will be the dedicated bikers who already have bikes! Pronto is too much of a cruiser bike aimed at casual riders and tourists. The only way Pronto users will go up the hills will be with external assistance. That could be in the shape of motor assisted bikes, Gondolas (SLU to Cap Hill), or installing bike lifts up hills such as in Trondheim, Norway (http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/04/bike-elevator-take-you-steep-hills/8774/). I’m partial to implementing Gondolas and Bike Lifts before Pronto investing in motor assisted bikes, as they will serve far more people than just Pronto users.

    1. I agree about a Gondola. A well built E-W Denny Gondola would be cheaper and better than a metro 8 subway.

    2. On earlier posts, I’ve mentioned that an aerial funicular (which is functionally like a gondola) would be great for First Hill bicycle trips. My idea is to run it from next to Harborview down to Pioneer Square Link, with a possible intermediate stop at County facilities. Imagine something like four large elevator cars tied together as a train with each at a different elevation running on the track. It would almost perfectly link the bicycle tracks on Broadway with Second Avenue (assuming some last block connectivity).

      I’d think Denny would be great too but I’m nor so sure of it’s usefulness since bicyclists could go from a station on the Ballard line from Denny Park to Westlake, and then transfer to Capitol Hill.

      1. 1. Pretty easy train ride down to Ballard, so we’ve got an excellent source of information relatively close by, from machinery to operations.

        Over however many years it will take for us to even start construction, a good close relationship with a work force with this much experience will be worth a lot to us.

        Also good chance right now to ride the Orange line and see the new bridge, that does some interesting things with joint use operations. Glenn?

        2. Considering another underground matter – in sight of the upper floors of the hospitals- I wouldn’t write off to politics some hesitation about some extra caution for another underground section through questionable ground. It’s worth more thought than a sneer.

        Just think about digging a boring machine out of the ground beside- or out from under Swedish Hospital. And like some other unpleasant material also starting with an “s”- sinkholes happen.

        3. I wouldn’t write off a streetcar line down Leary from Ballard, across the Canal at Fremont, and down Westlake to join the South Lake Union Streetcar. The current Fremont Bridge still has street tracks built into it, for a lot heavier cars than the ones on SLU.

        I think there’s room for a reserved track like the ones in Melbourne. A marina owner close to the Aurora Bridge told me that the Ship Canal is 40′ deep at Fremont.

        A tunnel would doubtless save a lot of time- but communication with the bridge crew and some signal pre-empt could make that bridge less of a delay. Another possibility with this segment will be possibility, in addition,with a track along the north side of the canal to the U-District.

        For years, streetcars ran along the east side of Westlake, and crossed the bridge to Fremont. Where their car barn was located, And where a chocolate factory is now. Is the brewery and cafe still there too?

        4.

    3. There’s so many obvious connections that ought to be made, but it’s diifficult to overstate the stupidity/insanity of not serving Fremont, and not connecting Fremont to the UD.

  3. For me, I think the Metro 8 subway is important is to allow actual service to SLU in its heart as well as allow the new DSTT to serve Belltown. Serving a few more Cap Hill stops + CD is icing on the cake!

    1. Also, re: the 7th: Besides ST3, there’s not much political stuff to do this year. I think it would be well worth our time to volunteer for Brady, who actually believes in the housing shortage and is super pro transit. Though I wish he ran for mayor against Murray next year!

      1. “Besides ST3, there’s not much political stuff to do this year.”

        There are also statewide initiatives on labor standards and a carbon tax, elections that will determine control of the legislature for the next two years, and all the state executive offices are up, all of which is more important than which particular progressive represents the 7th in DC.

        Also, I have to point out that because we don’t actually have partisan primaries in Washington, the general election for the 7th will almost certainly be between two Democrats, likely Brady and Pramila.

    2. There was a comment looking for why Metro 8 makes some sense. Here are a few notes on that:

      1. I don’t think that the corridor should not be perceived as literally following the Metro 8 route. I think there have been comments questioning its utility east of 23rd, and generally I also feel that 23rd is about as far east as it should go if one was studied. The only exception to that is that MLK is extremely wide south of I-90 so a surface connection by taking lanes between the Mt. Baker Transit Center and I-90 that could turn west on the lid to connect with the 23rd/Rainier station seems like a low-cost solution for this segment. I would favor something under about 17th-20th Avenue so that it could serve Cherry Hill and be walkable for everything between 12th and 23rd Avenues..
      2. I think part of the Metro 8 reaction is the basic negligence of the ST planning, the RapidRide program and the TMP to have an east-west corridor through the heart of the CD. I would even mention that the original streetcar destination on Jackson was 23rd, and that was removed when FHSC got conceived. Meanwhile, Madison BRT is barely in the CD, and seems over-engineered and over-priced. I think that simply extending the D or E route over Yesler, and connecting it to Harborview, Seattle U and Cherry Hill as well as the 23rd/Jackson or 23rd/Jefferson area would seem really easy to do.
      3. Metro 8 subway hits all the east-west bus routes so that regional connectivity is possible from all places. Rather than do something that runs directly into Downtown, this makes a loop but it would get people to Downtown. That gives it some broad appeal.

      1. Thanks for the reply Al!

        1) I gathered that it’s not a literal tracing of the 8, but then that makes it hard to assess what the proposal is. With slight edits the SDOT proposal covers LQA, Belltown, SLU, and First Hill, and in practice would be much easier to realize. People who prefer an 8 subway instead are in fact arguing for subway service substantially east of 12th.

        2) Seattle Subway would like to see rail to lots and lots of neighborhoods, and in that framework the CD is as deserving as any other. I have no quarrel with that. But many commenters relentlessly attack any proposal that isn’t Ballard/UW and isn’t Metro 8, and that seems like an odd pairing to me.

        3) Your suggestion of a partial surface alignment makes things much more plausible, in my view. I’m also sympathetic to complaints about the general lack of capital improvements in the CD aside from 23rd. But the first reaction should not be to go to ST to fix it; the first responsibility falls to SDOT, and then to Metro.

      2. But many commenters relentlessly attack any proposal that isn’t Ballard/UW and isn’t Metro 8, and that seems like an odd pairing to me.

        Hi Martin,

        I imagine that the reason for this is that getting crosstown in this city, whether north of the Ship Canal, through SLU or in the South End, is and has for decades been abysmal–whether by transit or by car. Most of the travel routes in the city go N-S, meaning that any attempt to build HCT E-W will of necessity intercept nearly every major transit line. We’re (thankfully) not able to increase E-W auto traffic, and that means providing alternatives that will nearly always be faster–there’s no better way to get people out of their cars.

        People latch on to ideas that will help to mitigate these problems, problems that are clear to anyone attempting to get from Lake City or the U District to Ballard, or LQA to Cap HIll and the CD, and I’m sure there is a latent frustration that there is little attempt by the various agencies tasked with such things to fix the problem–or even provide more than a cursory study in most cases. It’s akin to what many feel about Congress — we don’t care who’s responsible or who’s to blame, just fix it.

      3. I imagine that the reason for this is that getting crosstown in this city, whether north of the Ship Canal, through SLU or in the South End, is and has for decades been abysmal

        What he said! As an eastside bumpkin I’d much rather see digging for dollars happen in Seattle than trains to nowhere. For me the next great thing now that U Link is complete would be an east/west line to the U District; way more useful than East Link! The so called Metro 8 could be a close second. Start a social media campaign, #gridLink not gridlock.

      4. East Link is primarily about the decades-long hassle of crossing the bridge, which has gotten significantly worse the past twenty years and will continue to get worse if we do nothing. That acts as a bottleneck between the region’s two biggest jobs centers (meaning all of inner Seattle and inner Bellevue-Redmond). It’s not just the “jobs” but what the companies do, and what the governments do (services and community centers), and what the nonprofit organizations do. All that functions best and benefits society the most if people can easily cross the lake whenever they want, to make the two jobs centers into one.. That’s more important than any other suburban extension, really. As to whether it’s more important than the 8 subway, there are arguments both ways on that I guess. People in the CD would benefit from a line that whisks them to SLU and Uptown, but they would also benefit from a line that takes a little longer to get to but whisks them to Bellevue and Redmond.

    3. Hi Zach,

      Thanks for the clarification. There’s no reason in principle the SDOT alignment couldn’t enter the heart of SLU. I don’t think we can assume that some other subway line would place its stations to optimize the walkshed. Organizationally, it’s certainly a lighter lift to tweak the SDOT station placements than push for something entirely different.

      Similarly the SDOT proposal does put all of Belltown within 1/2 mile of a station. It’s not optimal, but there’s no optimal way to serve SLU, Belltown, and LQA simultaneously.

  4. I hope we can have at the meetup you guys set up the podcast gear so we can have a roundtable… oh yeah baby.

    I can’t wait to toast you guys at STB and put faces & handshakes with handles.

    I also got something I want to say from my heart to you guys in front of as many of you as I can.

    1. Faces and handshakes are a great way to moderate ones response to statements we take issue with. Everyone has an opinion, and none of us have a perfect score on being right.
      I remember meeting Ben S. for the first time in Olympia during a lobby day some years ago. We met after many exchanges on STB and I introduced myself saying ” I’m not sure if we should shake hands or just arm wrestle.” It broke the ice.

  5. Noted around the 4 min mark Martin taking the SC because he had a stroller and didn’t want to deal with a bus. I think this is a huge reason the FHSC is important. Martin isn’t feeble and could muscle a stroller onto a bus. What I saw riding it opening day is that a huge portion of the ridership isn’t a 20 something fit crowd. And as far as “disappointment” about the ramp, I saw it deployed and it’s fast! Having missed my transfer more than once because of a bus ramp deploy on the 249 (takes about 3 years) the tiny ramp on the SC takes not much longer than it takes the doors to open.

    1. My only issue with the ramp is that if the doors have already opened and you press the ramp deployment button, the doors have to first close, deploy the ramp, then re-open, adding additional time even if the ramp itself comes out relatively fast. I’m guessing this is so that no one tries to board during the process and gets jabbed in the toes by the ramp coming out of the vehicle.

      1. I’m actually surprised that the ramp doesn’t just deploy by default at every stop. Where’s our “Mind the Gap” announcement?

  6. Frank, “buses crossing” works in Seattle where you have decent bus service. On the eastside you need transit centers so that you have more than, if you’re lucky, two buses crossing paths less than 15 minutes apart.

  7. I agree that Renton should be in the South sub area rather than “eastside”. Eastside is Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland. As far as “historic” DT Renton, that was part of the coal rush when rail brought in black gold from places like Black Diamond. At least the mayor is realistic enough to want to create a transit facility that isn’t future fantasy. He could be like the Kirkland City Council and be pushing for electrified mass transit on the Green River Trail.

    1. Renton wouldn’t necessarily be better off in South King. It may be a bigger fish there, but South King has a lot of transit needs and relatively little money. It’s also a large area geographically, so one line down 99 doesn’t do much for Renton and Kent, and one line from Burien to Renton doesn’t do anything for Federal Way and Auburn. Also the area has 800 thousand people — more than Seattle — with many transit-dependent people everywhere. So Renton couldn’t expect to get a lot.

      1. It’s true that South King doesn’t have much money, but its transit dreams are also much cheaper than the Eastside’s. Moreover, Renton itself would significantly shift the economic balance between the subareas.

      2. “Its transit dreams are also much cheaper than the Eastside’s.”

        How is that? There’s ST’s official proposals:
        – Link to Federal Way (cheap because elevated on highways)
        – hourly Sounder (expensive I presume because of BNSF extortion)
        – West Seattle Burien Link (inexpensive once you get past the West Seattle hills)
        – Burien-Renton Link (somewhat expensive because of going up over the I-5 ridge and back down).

        But those alone don’t solve South King’s regional transit problems, and transit fans have made other proposals that may have South King support (it’s unclear):
        – Rainier Beach – Renton – Kent Link (presumably more expensive because of narrower roads and nearby single-family houses demanding mitigation)

        How are these less expensive than Kirkland-Issaquah Link, Kirkland-Issaquah BRT with off-ramp changes, and/or 405 BRT?

  8. Down to BALLARD, Mark? Maybe it’s because Portland is actually closer, and I’ve got my compass of 180 degrees! Or more likely, Mt. Rainier sends out gravity and direction waves, as well as the electrical ones that marine charts in this region actually warn about for navigation!

    So, 4. In Europe, every political party has a “youth wing”, whose efforts can win or lose an election. 30 years ago, Governor Mike Lowry invited me to a political breakfast in the State Capitol- whose star guests were officials in high school student governments.

    One girl asked the Governor what use her efforts were, since she couldn’t vote. Somebody voting age asked the Governor what difference he thought it would make if every high school student went to work on one of his campaigns. Answer: “I could take any election in the State.”

    And after they do that, after 30 years of habitual political activities for transit and much else, as in Europe- they’ll help get us ST3. Or not. Lot on the line here. Know bars and taverns generally have room for gatherings.

    But might be a very good idea to find spacious Meet-Up places where a lot of very-soon-to-be-voters are welcome. A lot of hard, demanding trades- the technical kind that hold a country together literally, not philosophically or politically- have to be learned young. For public transit, if there isn’t one it’s long past time to start one.

    With Meet-ups where they sit at the same tables with us.

    Mark Dublin

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