68 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Who is Metrolinx?”

  1. I’ve heard video production in Vancouver BC is really cheap. SkyTrain is more of a metro, and Toronto has that. The closest light rail line to Vancouver is Link.

      1. If there were end credits visible, they were too small to read in on my iPhone screen.

    1. I wonder if they noticed that Toronto’s transit is already three or four times more comprehensive than ours.

      1. But our trains are so pretty! Seriously though, I do really like the colors. There was plenty of other train/bus pictures. I’m sure there are some transit experts that could pick out, but Link is obvious because we know it. It’s just like when you buy a car and suddenly you notice that model of car everywhere.

      2. I find it interesting how greater Toronto is pushing ahead with it’s aggressive transit plan & yet most US cities cant install bike lanes or BRT without significant NIMBY blowback. In NYC it’s even worse when you factor in the political machine that is still stuck in a 1950’s cars mindset & a certain segment of the population who still believe the subways are as dangerous today as they were 35-years ago witch they are NOT.

      3. I think it’s because light rail is a new mode to Toronto. They have streetcars with dedicated right of way (510 Spadina and 512 St Clair) but the stop spacing is still streetcar-like. The light rail they’re building is similar to Link (but with urban stop spacing): subway section in the central part and at grade segments further out.

      4. “I find it interesting how greater Toronto is pushing ahead with it’s aggressive transit plan & yet most US cities cant install bike lanes or BRT without significant NIMBY blowback.”

        That’s the pattern in Canada. Calgary is one of the most sprawling cities, like Denver, but it still manages to get two or three times the ridership on its light rail and bus network than similar US cities. Toronto is like Chicago, so it has extensive transit and high ridership.

      5. Calgary is one of Canada’s most sprawling cities, but if you look at the satellite image compared to a US city, it doesn’t look sprawled at all.

  2. Can someone explain to me who runs community transit? I’ve always assumed it’s KC but why would the county run metro and CT?

    1. That would be Snohomish County.

      CT’s service area and taxing district don’t cover the entire county. In addition to rural areas, CT’s taxing district excludes the city of Everett, which has its own transit agency. Many CT routes still serve Everett because destinations in Everett are important to CT’s riders, just as many CT routes enter King County, but local service within Everett is the responsibility of Everett Transit.

      1. Since 2003, an agreement has been in place allowing Community Transit to run its routes through Everett on a limited stop basis. It creates some odd situations like service patterns around Mariner P&R and other areas near the city limits.

      2. I don’t find it to be a good idea. The current setup, while it has flaws (transfers in southwest Everett are awkward, Everett Transit can’t keep up with CT, etc.), it outweighs the drawback to consolidation (higher fares in Everett, reduced service in some of the more rural areas to pay for Everett service, etc.).

        Everett didn’t want to join CT back in the 70s and refused to consolidate after the state legislature tried to get them together in the 90s. Maybe after Link is built out, consolidation could be seriously considered as CT’s role shifts heavily towards feeder service instead of commuter service.

      3. Yes CT and ET should be merged! ET provides horrible 1 hour service on a lot of it’s routes, their website is impossible (the schedule looks like a book and you have to turn the pages – really) and their routing isn’t that great either. For example you have two routes that drive on the same streets but they just go in reverse of each other and have different numbers… You take one bus to get to your destination and then a different one to return. Their real time information is by TEXT or phonecall!

        Having ET keeps CT from providing decent service in Everett. The city of Everett has this weird idea that it wants to be a big city so it has it’s own everything even when it makes no sense – HUD, transit, library etc.. They want so much to be a big city but they’re not nor will they ever be. It’s sort of sad in the same way as a dog with three legs trying to pee on a bush is.

      4. Grant;

        So I have to ask you this…

        What if say Seattle broke from King County Metro, would you support that?

        I do see a day where if Skagit Transit cannot adequately support its three-city urban core because it’s forced to use its sources serving all these “Sparseville” locales… the urban core breaks off.

        I do see your point of trying to get Everett Transit and Community Transit to merge. I’m all for merging all transit agencies from Snohomish County to Thurston County. Too many Boards, too many “Chiefs” and too few “troops”.

      5. I sketched out a combined CT/ET map of Everett a few months ago, because I was interested in this question and don’t think such a thing exists. Now that the two agencies collaborate on Swift, I actually don’t think there are obvious changes in the geography of routes that cross the city line if the two agencies consolidated. The ET routes that end at the city line mostly don’t have compelling destinations shortly outside of it.

        The two agencies seem pretty different, though, and consolidation would probably change Everett service over time, starting with schedules and then maybe routes later. IIRC ET taxes at a lower rate. CT seems to have been conceived to serve growing suburbs; it sends lots of express buses to Seattle and is trying to provide a general network with broad coverage and frequent corridors where possible. ET looks more like the legacy of a system belonging to a city that used to be more influential than it is.

        One geographic thing that might be different if the agencies consolidated is Swift II planning. Maybe Swift II would go to South Everett P&R for all-day connections in the I-5 corridor if 112th was in CT territory. Maybe not, maybe 128th is the next Totem Lake (i.e. a place slated for growth despite being pretty lousy in every way because it’s next to a big freeway interchange)… and maybe the connection to ST routes on I-5 aren’t important for ridership for some reason. A connection seems to make sense at first glance, though…

    2. Community Transit is managed by Snohomish County (the main county it serves, not King County) and operated by First Transit, a transit outsourcing company.

      1. Depends on what you think is a good idea.

        CT has a lot of far flung sprawl routes that are expensive to operate. Everett concentrates on what matters to Everett.

    3. Community Transit is a Public Transportation Benefit Area, which is a special purpose district authorized under state law. Unlike King County Metro, CT is not a unit of Snohomish County government. It has its own service area and governing board. The board consists of representatives from the member cities. CT originally started with seven cities and over time every city in the county (except Everett) joined. This is how most major transit agencies in the state are organized.

      First Transit only operates some CT service under contract, mostly the ST and downtown commuter routes.

      1. Pierce Transit is also a PTBA. I believe Everett Transit pays Community Transit for segments in Everett (Swift, 201/202). Swift was an integrated vision, so it would have been a shame for it to terminate at Everett’s border.

      2. Everett Transit only pays for Swift, per a 2007 agreement that granted them the right to serve unincorporated areas near southwest Everett.

  3. It’s weird seeing so much Sound Transit light rail in a promotion for the Toronto transit plan. It’s cool though. Basically half of the shots were all ST Link.

    1. Can’t use my sound system in this cafe. Don’t remember those LRV’s. They used to have trolleybuses. That in some places shared positive wire with PCC streetcars. The cars that replaced the PCC’s were made by Hawker-Siddeley. So, it seems, are our Sounders. New articulated ones are Bombardiers.

      They look like LRV’s, but are evidently used right now as streetcars. Is this correct? Good to see tht Toronto respects us. It’s comforting to find out from visitors, however, that those of us most critical of DSTT operations have a world population of about five.

      Everybody else wishes their city was imaginative enough to have any joint-ops at all. When trolleybuses were still on the streets in Toronto, I think two transit centers- I remember St. Clair North- had angled pull-ins for buses, and linear platforms for the streetcars whose wire looped around the bus bays.

      Does my memory serve me right?


      1. The newest streetcars in Toronto are variations of the Bombardier Flexity line. They are 100% low floor cars. Their top end speed is a bit lower than typical USA light rail cars.

        They are pretty much designed to be streetcars, only using a modern European design that is 100% low floor for fast boarding, in keeping with what everyone other than the USA is currently ordering for streetcars.

        For light rail, you probably want something exactly like this, only with a higher top speed. That usually means something like the Siemens S70 or similar that has passed UIC tests for operating on European main lines. Until the arrival of the 100% low floor Alstom car for Ottawa, the general thinking was that you couldn’t go fast in a 100% low floor car due to the bigger traction motors.

        There’s really not a very good deciding line between light rail and streetcar. Outside North America either would be called a tram, except when a light rail car switches over to operate on the main line rather than in the steet. Then everyone else uses the term tram-train but we say it’s impossible.

  4. If Forward Thrust had passed back in 1968, what do people think the Puget Sound area’s transit system would look like now?

    1. It would depend on a lot of things, starting with how much actual money came on-hand and how far it would go. It would also have depended what-all happened to the economy in general. I believe somebody asked last person to leave Seattle to put out the lights. Year?

      My old home town of Chicago had, and still has, very good public transit. But the suburbs around it sprawled an mall-ified (sorry, but somebody needed to invent a suitable term of distaste) pretty much like our region. I think the streetcars, including the PCC’s were gone by the late sixties.

      There’s a lot more route-length needing elevating or tunneling than in Atlanta. So my call? About the same as we’ve got now. Though our own staged approach left us better able to keep on providing good transit through bad times.

      The downturns of ’72 and ’92 would have left a lot of colored lines with dots, which would have carried a lot less passengers than the 550.

      Mark Dublin

    2. The early Forward Thrust light rail plans did not include service to the airport. Lines were planned to Lake City and Renton/Boeing. The trains likely would have been built by Boeing and ADA accommodations would have been minimal. In other words, we’d currently be spending billions on upgrades and refurbishments for the system if we had approved the bonds in 1968.

      Transit Oriented Development was also a virtually unheard of term in 1968. I can’t imagine what sort of land use development would have occurred near the light rail stations in the 1970s. Probably lots of parking garages and strip malls.

    3. Hard to say. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it would have looked like (and it might have changed if the proposal had passed) but here is the best map I have found: https://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/Images/Mullins%20images/1985system.jpg

      From a regional standpoint, it was quite extensive. It is hard to say what effect it would have on growth or development, but my guess is that it would have lead to more urbanization, not less.

      It is pretty easy to see some things that could be improved without breaking the bank. A Ballard to UW line wouldn’t be cheap, but it would be cheaper than the stuff we are thinking about now (for ST3). A line down Rainier Valley would make sense (Forward Thrust took a different route to Renton — via the freeways and industrial land). Maybe that Rainier Valley line would keep going, and make for a connector through the C. D. (thus providing something similar to the mythical Metro 8 subway). The Ballard line would probably keep going up Aurora a ways (I guess), You still have the problem you have now — no good bus connection from the north end. Thus I would think one of the lines (I’m guessing the Ballard one) would be brought to the freeway, maybe at the Northgate interchange (not to be confused with the Northgate Transit Center). There are HOV lanes in both directions there, so if you could build a Mountlake Terrace type station, all the Snohomish County (and Shoreline) buses could dock there. At some point the two lines might intersect, although I don’t that would be essential (a bus from Bothell/Kenmore would just go by the east and west terminus lines while connecting Northgate with Lake City).

      Very different than what are likely to build, and probably much better.

      1. If you zoom in on the linked map, the neighborhood at 23rd & Union is listed as “MODEL NEIGHBORHOOD”. I’ve seen that term used in prior Forward Thrust documents, too. I guess that was an early version of the walkable, sustainable neighborhood concept. I have some old FT documents stored in a box somewhere–maybe I can dig up some more info about the MODEL NEIGHBORHOOD concept.

      2. “Model neighborhood” was the term for urban renewal. Hopefully it would have been better than the slash-and-burn practices in the 1950s and 60s. The Central District was considered decaying, black, and unsafe. The term may even be a euphemism because “Central Area” might scare away voters. I.e., focus on its sanitized future rather than the thought that “those people” might bring crime to the suburbs.

      3. RossB, “….are likely to build…” should tell you that you’re talking about the future. Which means that you have a chance to bring about your idea of “better.”


      4. +1000, Ross. I came across the planning documents about the year it was supposed to be completed (1985) and was saddened we had not done this. 30 years after that completion date we would have added lines and extensions that would have opened up routes they couldn’t have foreseen back then, likely because–just like Link–when people actually get a chance to use it they start to want more. My Mom was heartbroken that we “turned down” a system like the ones she used all the time in her travels–she was so excited about ST and a line to her old Roosevelt neighborhood and loved hearing about the system’s progress, but unfortunately she never got to ride rail transit in her own city.

        Interestingly, the documents included options somewhat similar to what we are getting now and specifically came down hard about NOT doing what ST does — i.e. freeway running. The consultants’ reasoning was that development would be difficult at stations, traffic at interchanges/stations would worsen as people drove to the stations (bus service was not what it is now, and being the late ’60s it was assumed people would drive to most stations), and placing a line on the freeway would be duplicative rather than opening up new high-volume corridors. It’s one reason Aurora and Lake City Way were chosen, for example, as they would spread out coverage while I-5 could still be used for buses. Even today I’m impressed by their fairly urbanist outlook back in the heyday of sprawl.

        Of course, they did not have to deal politically with the huge expansion of the suburbs, but I am to this day convinced that starting with this system and expanding it would be a far, far better rapid transit network than what we will ever get here now. Lamentably, even winning by 10% at the ballot box in 1968 wasn’t enough to meet the supermajority rules for their proposed funding mechanism, which most undemocratically required a 20% margin.

    4. The immediate impact would have been an urban-spaced network in Seattle and subway extensions to Renton, Bellevue, and somewhere around Lake City/Kenmore. Notably absent is I-5 north and south: Northgate, Southcenter, SeaTac, Federal Way. This reflects the pre-freeway population and travel patterns. Although Burien was also a pre-freeway suburb. I-5, 405, and 520 were planned at the same time as Forward Thrust, yet they were in place by 1972, but the had not fully affected commute patterns yet. Southcenter was originally going to be buiilt in Burien, but with the freeways they decided to build it at the convergence of I-5 and 405 instead. The Kent Valley was farmland and small towns, but over the 1970s it was gradually converted to tract housing and industrial plants. Without a rapid transit system attracting people to the center and density, there was unmitigated sprawl along the freeways to south King County, Bellevue/Redmond, and Snohomish County to Lynnwood. In the 1990s it went further to Pierce County, Issaquah, and Mill Creek. Seattle’s population dropped from the 1950s to the early 80s with the suburban movement and the 1972 Boeing Bust, but then it started rising again with population growth. The back-to-the-city movement started slowly in the 1980s and was noticeable by the mid 90s.

      So what would have happened with the subway? Urbanists would have found it a lot easier to get around, and people in Renton, Bellevue, and Lake City would have found it a lot easier to get to Seattle without driving. That would have given an early boost to the back-to-the-city movement . The problems of displacement (gentrification, rising housing prices) may have gotten bigger sooner. However, it wouldn’t have stopped the suburban movement. So the question is, how much would it have had an effect in the 1970s/1980s mindset, which was more anti-density and pro-car than now?

      But… once we had a subway, we could have expanded it. And we could have set up frequent bus feeders. And suburbanites would have had another way to get to town besides driving to a P&R and taking a peak-only freeway bus. So I think we would have seen more subway lines and bus feeders in Seattle, and bus expansions in the Eastside, Renton, and northshore. And the subway may have expanded north and south, although it’s hard to say how far (most likely SeaTac, Burien, and Shoreline, perhaps Lynnwood). That brings us up to the 2000s. Assuming the housing boom in Pierce and Snohomish County still occurs, we’d need to do something for Tacoma and Everett. With the existing subway running to Des Moines and Shoreline, and their travel time set in stone and their riders not accepting any degradation in service, the region would evaluate extensions to Everett and Tacoma differently. Possibly Sounder South would become king, with full-time service like Caltrain, and separate passenger tracks. Perhaps something else would have emerged for Everett, since Sounder North is not a feasable substitute for Link (given its isolated location, limited track space, competition from freight trains, and mudslides).

      1. Maybe a high-speed subway tunnel like BART with limited stops for express service running alongside an extension of the older tunnels for local service?

      2. Excellent response, Mike. I tend to agree with your scenario as to what likely would have happened. I’ll always think we missed the boat (with the collusion of the state’s funding rules), although I’m very excited to use the Link extension on Saturday! It should be remembered, also, that the core system would have attracted 90% federal funding; extensions would have been difficult during the 80s but would have picked up again, as urban rail transit did, sometime in the 90s (albeit with much more expenditure having to be local).

    5. Much more BART like. Nobody was really thinking light rail type trains until Edmonton and San Diego were up and running.

  5. Open thread, open topic:

    Anyone here running the 520 bridge race on April 2? Anyone here want to run the 520 bridge race wearing “MORE LANES / MORE CARS / MORE CO2” shirts?

  6. Something my coworkers and I were pondering last night: what happens if the bike rack on a bus is full and it is the last run of the night, so no other service is available? For example, the final westbound run of the 545 back into town. It isn’t as though a rider could just take the next bus or another route since everything Eastside to Seattle closes up shop around then.

    1. I’ve seen drivers on counter-peak buses (where bikes are quite popular but standing passenger loads are rare) allow one or two people with bikes on board when the racks were full. I’ve seen that on 520 routes and a couple times at Lynnwood TC or Mountlake Terrace.

      I’m not sure what would be going on so late in Redmond to fill up both the bike racks and aisles of the last run of the 545.

    2. WTA (Whatcom County) allows bikes to use the wheelchair spaces if the rack is full and there aren’t any wheelchairs on-board. I don’t know what ST would allow. Maybe the driver would allow time for the bicyclist to lock-up their bike in a safe spot and ride without the bike?

      1. Two or three 545 drivers have given me a minute to lock up my bike when the racks were full, yes. I’ve also been allowed to take my bike on board once from Montlake.

      2. Suggestion. I wonder if the bicycle accessory industries have invented a lightweight, waterproof cloth cover, like for laptops, that can be carried in a pocket and then pulled over a bike so it doesn’t either snag or dirty anything else?


      3. @Mark: I have a bike cover!

        It has to be pretty big to fit over all the snaggy parts of the bike, so it doesn’t fit in a pocket folded up. A covered bike is still big and unwieldy in a space as narrow as a bus aisle.

        Folding bikes and their covers can be much smaller, of course.

  7. The Seattle Times business section’s main article today was on innovative solutions to housing affordability. They reported on the new Velocity apartment complex adjacent to the South Kirkland Park&Ride. The complex has 58 units and only 44 parking stalls. Even more impressive, though, is that only 35 are used:


    While adjacent to a transit center and the Cross Kirkland Corridor, this is hardly a mecca for car-free living; the closest grocery store I think is the QFC on Clyde Hill a mile away on the other side of 520. Kirkland itself has more options and would be accessible by the 255, but on weekends this route drops to half-hourly.

    If Kirkland can pull off having less than one parking stall per unit in what would otherwise be a car driver’s utopia, why is the lifting of parking minima in Seattle so controversial where we have some pockets of actual frequent transit?

    1. A more interesting question might be: Is the opposition to reducing parking minima, or to the particular developments that come with a reduced parking minima?

      1. At least in Wallingford, the opposition seems to come from the belief that buildings without parking will cause “free” public street parking directly in front of owners’ homes to be used by someone other than the owner, and also the fear that low-rent apartments might bring in “undesirables” (aka non-middle-aged upper-class WASPs).

        I’d be curious to know how the permitting process went for the building, as even market-rate apartments on arterials like 45th get intense opposition in Wallingford.

    2. I think it’s easier to cut back on apt building parking stalls when you’re next to a P&R.

      1. I could be wrong, but I don’t think you can leave your car at a P&R overnight. Maybe you’d park it there while you’re at work, but where would you leave it the rest of the day and on the weekends?

      2. I made my comment from first hand experience. I’m at the South Kirkland P&R several times a month, and I notice people walking from a car they just parked in the P&R lot, cross the busway, then disappear into Velocity. I’m not sure about the overnight rule. If it is a rule, I’m sure it’s the type of thing that’s rarely monitored or enforced.

      3. @sam It’s probably because Sound Transit security is busy patrolling all the P&Rs and doing other stuff- at the TCC P&R in Tacoma, security routinely busts people for breaking the overnight rule (although that might have to do more with TCC security keeping an eye on the parking lots, as well).

    3. If somebody commutes from Velocity to somewhere with a grocery store etc, maybe it’s manageable. Hardly a Mecca of walkability, but the building itself is great.

      The market rate building next door looks not to be doing well though. Low occupancy on the residential. Almost nothing happening on the retail. The sole retail tenant is a gym that relocated from downtown Kirkland because the TOD had so much more parking.

      1. The PCC and Metropolitan Market are about 2 miles north along the CKC. Perfectly doable by bike. Or jog there ( carrying nothing) and bus back.

    4. The complex has 58 units and only 44 parking stalls. Even more impressive, though, is that only 35 are used:

      How much do they add to the rent if you want a parking stall? Before they put up signs limiting parking to 15 minutes Velocity residents used all of the spaces across from the bus bays (like the white Trans Am). Now they use the P&R spaces. IIRC, you are limited to 24 hour parking in Metro P&R lots. They simply move the car to a different spot every day. What’s most impressive is that the majority of the residents not only own a car but are willing to pay to park it inside.

      The article linked to is very misleading. It says the “develop next to the park-and-ride lot.” when in fact it was built on the P&R lot land requiring the construction of a 523 stall parking garage. So for every one of the 243 units built there was an added cost of about $60-80k in parking mitigation. Only in government is that “affordable” housing.

  8. Who’s fired up for this Saturday’s victory party at 1500? Anybody recommend a victory drink and toast? Maybe a victory dance!

    Is this going to be a dinner jacket event? Any SeaGals? Any chance of getting on the STB Podcast?

    1. ST has quite the party planned, with five stages of bands at UW Station and four at Capitol Hill. I don’t understand how they can fit all those stages and how they won’t drown out each other.

      1. I know Mike but I want some pizazz from us. We really have had a tough slog against “Them Trolls” and need to let loose. Like sailors on liberty… Marines at a Bar… OLFers at OLF Coupeville…

        We’re brothers and sisters in this fight against Drumpf Fundamentalists, Anti-Transit Trolls and the like. If ever we needed a sense of brotherhood, it’s now.

  9. Glenn, sorry I couldn’t get this in here sooner. Stockholm. Term everything on grooved rail any part of its run is a “Tram.” This Flexity Swift tram is performing everything we’d call light rail- except no line of underground stations.

    But term for this service means, literally, “Link.” Because its purpose is to connect other points with heavy rail lines. So in one sentence: for our usage, both the 12 and 22 lines in Stockholm show my working definition of light rail

    Flexity Swift Tram

    Tram in Streetcar Mode

    Facing all street traffic

    And fenders

    And leaves street track…

    To become A Tram running on its own fully-reserved right of way.

    Station at foot of a bridge

    View from the Bridge

    Station stop


    Somewhere north of Kirkland

    Property Friendly

    Mark Dublin

  10. Random thought about UW Station. For the few years that it will be the line terminus, there might be 2 trains parked at the same time. Will there be signs indicating which of the 2 trains will be the next to depart for downtown? I ask because this information is currently not present at the airport station. At least accurate information is not present there. On multiple occasions at the airport I’ve seen signs saying that the wrong train is going to leave next which seems like a fairly easy and obvious piece of information to get right.

    1. TIDS has/had some signs that can be repurposed. But TIDS has separate north and south platforms. SeaTac and UW have a single central platform, so maybe someone “smart” decided that we don’t need the help as much there, since choosing badly just means you have to turn around. (I know that doesn’t answer your problem–I’m just making surmises about the agency that isn’t solving the problem either :-b)

      The times I’ve boarded at the airport, either there was just one train, or a nice security person was giving directions.

      And. of course, there are those sexy new information displays at UW. I’m looking forward to seeing how well they work. (And i’m really looking forward to seeing them retrofitted into every other station on the line.)

Comments are closed.