Chrome Train Panorama at University of Washington Station

This is an open thread.

68 Replies to “News Roundup: Selling Out”

    1. I noticed on the U District earthcam that the contractor hadn’t cleared the way to her next leg. Should we interpret that as a sign that Pamela is not going to dig that leg and that Brenda’s coming back?

      1. Whichever TBM digs the next leg, they will dig it from U-Dist to Husky Stadium. It is not possible to dig the other direction with the current construction infrastructure.

  1. The new transit lanes on Westlake have been open now for a few days. I rode the 40 inbound on Monday and still got stuck in a pretty bad backup, and I’ll probably do the same today; fortunately I only have to go as far as Aloha. Have daily riders, people going farther south, or streetcar riders noticed a difference with the new lanes?

    1. (The comments in the Urbanist article, comparing the treatments along Westlake to ineffective ones along Bell, are interesting. Signage on Bell doesn’t get cars out of the way of buses or make the street safe for pedestrians and cyclists; drivers get confused and block traffic figuring out what to do before either darting across straight or abruptly turning. But Westlake isn’t like Bell, which has a severe identity crisis. Westlake is clearly a major artery, and one that’s rarely congested outside of fairly narrow commute peaks. So I’d expect drivers, who are largely repeat users, to figure out how to either follow the rules or break them more efficiently in a few weeks. The thing that was really obvious Monday was that the southbound transit lanes didn’t extend far enough north from Mercer to cover the length of the backup, so the buses got stuck like they always have; next week they’ll take Westlake across Mercer instead of 9th and have the benefit of transit lanes there, but the backup extended to Highland, so…

      I didn’t check whether the stop at Westlake and Aloha, in front of the Courtyard hotel, is getting deleted, as my personal use of that stop goes away at the end of the month. I’m guessing it will be deleted/moved, which would be bad for me if I still lived there, but I don’t! If I did I’d probably exit at Highland and walk down to Aloha rather than sit in congestion most of the way to the new stop, then suffer through the stupefying wait to walk back across 9th.)

      1. I’ve been trying to say this all along. The southbound changes on Westlake will make very little difference because the problems are all caused in at the Mercer and 9th intersections. Moving the southbound 40 from 9th to Mercer without a bus lane north of the 9th intersection and a dedicated signal at 9th does pretty much nothing good. The bus has to merge across 2 lanes of traffic, which is always backed up.

        And then where they did add the southbound bus lane is really only going to add value between 9th and Mercer. South of Mercer southbound Westlake is completely free running at all times of the day except for cars taking right turns (which have only been restricted at 2 intersections).

      2. If we wanted to extend southbound bus lanes north from 9th/Westlake/Aloha we’d have to either make the southbound left turn to stay on Westlake bus-only (cars would stay on 9th), or turn the left lane into a second, bus-only, turn lane, which could be extended to just south of the Highland stop. But every block you extend the bus lane that way you extend the general-purpose-lane backup.

        Alternately, because northbound traffic north of Aloha isn’t really a problem, maybe we take a northbound lane to make a southbound bus lane? I might hang around a bit around there tonight — though I lived really close by until a couple days ago I mostly got around on Dexter.

    2. What’s going to happen on 9th, between Westlake and Broad, now that the southbound bus lane is unnecessary?

      Here’s hoping for some dedicated bike lanes on both sides to connect to the dedicated bike lanes continuing further south on 9th.

      1. I think there’s an actual plan to do that this year. I’d forgotten (until walking around yesterday) that that bus lane already existed, because, again, I essentially never used that block despite living right next to it. That actually clarified for me SDOT’s bike plan for the area, which I’d thought was going to require removing a general-purpose lane or some full-time parking.

        I think a bike path on these blocks of 9th would get some use; they’d be useful for travel between the Westlake Cycletrack and some parts of SLU. But there’s a significant number of people heading to destinations east of Westlake, who will continue through the park (on grossly inadequate paths). The best route downtown from the ‘Track, which many savvy riders will eventually stumble upon, will be to exit the Cycletrack at Highland, turn left onto Westlake Ave at the signal there, immediately turn right to (recently resurfaced!) 8th Ave N, right on Roy, left on Dexter. The main advantage of this is that you don’t have to wait nearly as long to cross the main stream of traffic at Highland as you do down at the split.

      2. A slight tangent: I’ve noticed with the new light at Highland, they’ve increased the time it takes from trigger to light change. It’s still insanely quick and you can trigger it with a bike.

        The other option is to continue on the current trail and future cycle track to the 9th/Westlake light, but it takes forever for that light to trigger and continue southbound on 9th.

  2. UW students are getting a pretty sweet deal at $240 a year for unlimited rides on every public transit service in the region except the monorail and Washington State Ferries.

    Employees are still getting a good deal at $600 a year.

    A year’s worth of monthly ORCA LIFT passes covering $1.50 trips costs $648, and does not cover the full cost of trips on ST Express multi-county, Community Transit commuter routes, Sounder, and the water taxis.

    The reason for the cost difference is that the charge is mandatory for all students (as voted on by the student body to tax themselves). If the student body voted to get rid of the Associated Students’ transit subsidy, students who depend on transit would see their transportation costs go waaaaaaay up. Those who drive to campus would have a little more change in their pocket, but they are the few, and the transit riders are the many.

    If I were a UW employee, I would be pushing my union to be offering free U-Passes to employees as a benefit of employment, during contract negotiations. Then, any increase in pass costs would be absorbed by UW. That would work better for both sides, as UW has more leverage when bargaining with ST and Metro.

    1. This is just from memory, but I think the U-Pass originated when the U wanted to build a bunch of new buildings and the city made them do stuff to mitigate the traffic that the new buildings would create. For employees, They raised the price of parking unless you were in a carpool and offered subsidised U-passes. Students got a much bigger subsidy.

      1. The U-Pass program is the UW’s way of complying with the state commute-trip reduction act, which was passed in 1991.

      2. It was both, and I don’t think it was a specific set of new buildings but the general expectation that the campus would grow, and the state insisting that it could not expand without reducing its proportion of drivers. The U-Pass is a bulk discount on transit, and because all students are charged it whether they use transit or not, the cost is even lower. Although I think you can opt out by returning the pass, and that works because few people bother opting out of anything. Although now that it’s ORCA-ized and integrated with the student ID, the option of opting out may be gone.

    2. If the student body voted to get rid of the Associated Students’ transit subsidy, students who depend on transit would see their transportation costs go waaaaaaay up. Those who drive to campus would have a little more change in their pocket, but they are the few, and the transit riders are the many.

      What about the walkers/bikers? There are more students besides drivers who choose not to use transit very much; how else do you explain the steep discount for passes?

      I know when I was a student in another state I lived within walking distance of campus, so I rarely used transit. It always kind of bugged me that I was forced into helping subsidize the lifestyle choice of students who rented places far enough away from campus that they needed to take the bus, while I was stuck paying for the higher cost of nearby housing myself.

  3. Some other it’s-not-necessarily-news from here:

    In Wednesday’s Willamette Week there was mention that the City of Portland might finally be listening to everything that demonstrates forcing developers to build parking is a significant source of high rent prices.

    TriMet has proposed a 2017 budget that makes some modifications and maintenance replacements to MAX blue line, among many other minor tweaks. Bus service hours will increase 4.3 percent.

    Local television personality Drew Carney learns how to drive a MAX Train. At one point he actually gets his train instructor to smile.

    The Eastmoreland Neighborhood is fighting potential upzones caused by MAX Orange Line construction by increasing required lot size.

    Certain local merchants are upset about the Foster Road diet which was designed to improve safety along one of the more dangerous roads in southeast Portland.

  4. So much good news this week!

    It’s time to start advocating to add pronto to Orca. The city owns pronto and Link connects to the busiest part of one of the most popular biking trails in the country – we should be able to pay for both with the same card. Ideally with some $ worth of transfer, too.

    Or a bike valet at UW station. The current shortage of bike racks, the likelihood of getting your seat stolen or some obnoxious thing like that, and having to carry a bike lock are all serious disincentives to do a bike-rail transfer there. With pronto and/or bike valet, there would be an enormous number of trips that you could complete without having to worry about hills or traffic.

    1. Speaking of cycling to the new UW station, I took Link south from UW and noticed that someone had a Pronto bike hanging in the bike space. I couldn’t really come up with an explanation for why someone would do that.

      1. Maybe the person tried to return the bike at the Montlake triangle, but all the docks were either broken or taken. If so, I can totally understand taking the bike on the train and returning it in downtown or Capitol Hill. Considering how far the next closet station is, that’s what I would do.

    2. The city owns Pronto. ORCA is a coalition of transit agencies. So the coalition would have to approve it. And the city would have to crunch the numbers to make sure it doesn’t require a large subsidy, especially if it would honor transfers. If it requires a large subsidy, there’s probably much better ways for the city to spend the money. (Like Pronto capital improvements, bus service, or affordable housing.)

  5. Erica C. Barnett
    Sources say Graham St. station will be built in ST3, but 130th in N Seattle sacrificed for now to build rail to Ballard, W Seattle.

    (Later on, she indicated she doubts Ballard to UW gets in)

    1. From STB twitter: Ballard to downtown opening 22 years from now.

      Tacoma would be completed before Ballard, and “Red Line” trains would likely run Tacoma-Lynnwood from 2033-2038 while 2nd tunnel is built.

      Seattle Transit Blog ‏@SeaTransitBlog 2m2 minutes ago
      West Seattle would open 5 years before Ballard, presumably as a stub line to the International District. #st3

      Seattle Transit Blog ‏@SeaTransitBlog 3m3 minutes ago
      And now the big letdown…phasing. West Seattle in 2033, Ballard in 2038. Two decades. #st3
      0 retweets 0 likes


      1. I can see commuting in the 2020’s becoming sheer hell until more light rail starts coming on line. In the present, it’s just a pain in the neck.

        That’s what decades of half measures and head in the sand prevarication of right of way transit from the political structures and some of the natives got us.

      2. If this is what ends up on the ballot, it will be an easy No vote for me. Personally, I’m skeptical of the value of light rail to West Seattle, and I’d prioritize a Ballard U-District line over a Ballard Downtown line, but I could possibly hold my nose and vote for West Seattle Downtown and Ballard Downtown lines if the Ballard line was opening by 2030 or so, but taking taking 22 years to get to Ballard, 20 years to build an at-grade infill station at Graham St, and apparently eliminating the 130th St infill station is insulting to Seattlites who are the heavy transit users.

      3. It would be great if STB could do a financial breakdown by sub-area, particularly since it doesn’t seem like ST will issue anything like that until June. The ST FAQ claims sub-area equity is still in effect, but if you look at East King (what I’m mostly interested in), you have 405 BRT ($2 billion at most – it appears to be a slightly scaled down version of the intensive plan), 522 + 145th St ($0.5B), East Link to Redmond ($1.1B), and link to Issaquah ($2.3B). That’s $6B. Let’s increase it to $10B to cover other improvements, overhead, etc… That’s 20% of the plan, but I thought East King (and North King) both had a more than 20% share of the revenue? So where is the extra money going?

      4. @ Phillip — My feelings exactly. To be fair, it looks NE 130th is “provisional”. To quote the docs:

        This project would require identification of additional funding not currently included in the Draft System Plan in order to be built.

        Fair enough. That basically means Seattle will pay for it, unless some savings will happen somewhere. Fine by me. By the time it matters (7 years from now) Seattle will find a way to pay for it, since it is very cheap. But by making this provisional — by essentially saying that Seattle will probably have to pay for it by other means — it makes it even easier to oppose this measure.

      5. The problem is both finding the money and getting it built before Lynnwood Link opens, both to keep costs down and to avoid interrupting operations. With the federal grant in jepordy if Lynnwood Link is changed, it’s not clear to me when is the earliest the station could be constructed if funding were found for it.

  6. Ecstatic one of my photos made STB again! :-)

    Gotta say I had so much fun last weekend, I wish I could keep editing photos at the rate I have this week, but I had some Skagit Transit CAC business to attend to and a meeting tomorrow to prep for on a mostly non-transit matter on Whidbey Island.



  7. On the national front:

    The FRA is asking for public comment on if they should change horn blowing requirements at public crossings. If you’re annoyed by how much horn blowing has to happen at your local Sounder and BNSF crossing, now might be a good time to speak up.

    Railway Age columnist William C. Vantuono has two pieces of possible interest:

    + Let’s Keep Spinning Our Wheels about a sounds good in the headlines only attempt to get more high speed rail progress in the USA.

    + So Where’d You Learn How To Park about ongoing problems with streetcar lines in some cities and badly parked cars.

    1. Good god yes! Please everyone flood this feedback form. I live on Beacon Hill (on the eastern slope even) and there are some nights where horns from SODO just blare and blare at like 4am. The horns might be fine out in the middle of nowhere, but in major urban areas they should have nighttime restrictions similar to airport ‘quiet hours’ where planes reduce power and change their flight path.

    1. I don’t understand why ST said comments are limited to the day’s board actions (which was a set of wonky construction contracts) and yet they allowed these irrelevant comments to proceed. If ST3 was off-topic, why were these things on-topic.

      In any case I’ve seen both of them speak before, and I still don’t understand what Zimmerman is talking about. He rails about ST being a fascist entity. I guess he doesn’t want them to propose any taxes, even though he can vote on them. And Queen Pearl talked about some problem on the 32, which is not even under Sound Transit’s authority to do anything about.

  8. Open thread – so then how specific will the projects in the ST3 measure be? Will, for example, light rail to Tacoma in the measure say it’s on I-5, or will it say on I-5 or SR-99 or other route? Would the ballot measure have Kirkland light rail, but not restricting it to the eastside rail corridor?

    I wasn’t in the area back in 2008, so I’m not familiar with how that works.

    1. I haven’t read the documents, but based on the discussions on STB it sounds like they’ll be pretty specific when announcing projects, including details about alignment and station placement

    2. It will be a preliminary preferred alternative but not limited to it. ST wants to avoid the monorail’s mistake of requiring specific streets and stations when the engineering studies, EIS, and stakeholder comments haven’t been done yet. Lynnwood Link considered a variety of alternatives from Aurora to Lake City Way, and East Link considered Bellevue Way, 112th, and the BNSF corridor, some with an extra or missing station. What the ballot map does is change the burden of proof: ST has to justify deviating it. But justification just means writing up a statement with its reasoning: there’s no external approval. In the case of South King County, the board made a decision for an I-5 alignment, so it’s unlikely to reverse that in the EIS. In the case of all the other corridors, ST has not made a decision but just indicated a working assumption.

  9. When will trip planners start to send transfers through the new light rail stations? I can’t seem to force metro or google to offer a 44 to light rail connection at Husky Stadium.

    1. I was planning a NE Seattle to DT trip yesterday, and it was 75–>Link, so I don’t know what the matter is.

  10. In light of the tweets from STB– is it now time to shine the bat signal and have Seattle Subway use the monorail authority to build the Ballard to UW line?

      1. I have asked this before, but can STB try to interview someone in the city (I was going to suggest Kubly, but he isn’t doing so great right now) to explain Seattle’s role in this, and now, why Seattlites should vote for this.

        I live in Ballard and have supported the increased development and density (including apodments), with the understanding that better transit was on the horizon. This is a hard pill to swallow.

      2. STB says on Twitter:

        If you’re disappointed, remember that packages are the minimally mutually acceptable sum of political constraints. Sad but true.

        I don’t care. This package might be marginally better than nothing thirty years down the line, but it is not worth the cost. Voting it down and spending a tenth of the money on buses would probably get at least as good results. What’s more, voting it down would change the political constraints significantly. Just like defeating Roads And Transit got us a much better ST2, defeating ST3: Mirages of Grandchildren’s Transit might get us a much better package next year.

    1. The way may be promising but is fraught with perils. I’d like to hear more from Seattle Subway members and political experts on when such a proposal might be feasable and what the likely ramifications would be. Of course, nothing is stopping individuals from drawing up their own proposals for consideration.

    1. That’s good news. Although I wonder if they will be able to build as high as they want (I thought there were seaplane issues that close to the water). In any event, it is nice to see tech companies locating their businesses in downtown areas (and yes, South Lake Union is downtown now). Not Kirkland, not even Fremont, but downtown. I think at some point you will see more and more companies cluster around the south end of downtown as well (Pioneer Square and farther south). That is a bit limited because it industrial, and there is no lake to make up for all the cars like there are around South Lake Union.

    2. It’s also ironic because Allen is from Microsoft, and now it’s preparing to be Google’s landlord (or seller, whichever it is). But Allen retired from Microsoft before Google was founded.

      It makes me realize how little I understood the transformations that would come to South Lake Union. I thought it was just going to be some ho-hum office buildings, not much different from the ones at Northgate or such.

      1. It makes me realize how little I understood the transformations that would come to South Lake Union.

        Remember, Paul Allen originally bought up all this land with the idea of creating Seattle’s version of NYC’s Central Park. Seattle voters said, “No way! it will displace all the low income housing and businesses (like car dealers) in the area.” One Seattle vote I’ll never understand.

      2. The Central Park was also about his buildings on the edge of it. I voted no because I didn’t want a developer making a profit like that. Now I realize that the city needs density and the public benefits when Allen builds his buildings, so I don’t oppose developers’ profits.

  11. STB on Twitter:

    “#ST3 does tons of good things, and our quibbles should be phasing, contingencies, and grade separation. Let’s go win this.”

    Which good things? Are they worth the price? Can they be done ten times better by bus for a tenth the cost? I want to see a list. “Winning” things starting from such a travesty is so unrealistic that we’d be far better served putting our energy into a monorail initiative.

  12. “HCT Study: Northern Lake Washington ” is included. This is great news. It wraps Ballard/UW line into a complete integrated line for North Seattle instead of a weak ridership, highly subsidized short segment from Ballard to UW. However Fremont appears to get the shaft but there is bound to be some losers. No 130th station is a win for Lynnwood and any person that is stuck with this extremely elongated system. However, too bad Graham is included. Also, Sounder is getting some love and Burien will get looked at as a WS extension; Otherwise WS on it’s own shouldn’t occur.

    1. Why would a short Ballard-UW line be highly subsidized with weak ridership when every study has shown the exact opposite? Sound Transit’s own study, despite handicapping Ballard-UW with a lack of intermediate stations, showed it was much more cost-effective (so, lower subsidies) than Ballard-Downtown.

  13. Feed Truck Hit Track Before Amtrak Accident
    I know, old news
    Redmond is rearranging its roads: What will happen to parking?
    One way street, you no cheat
    San Francisco tech workers are hustling to move to Seattle

    “In December, a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was averaging about $3,620 a month. In Seattle, one-bedroom units averaged $1,660, a relative bargain.”

    Quadruplets: 40-story towers planned for downtown Bellevue

    “You’d better hope you like life between tall towers”

    1. The Redmond two way street article is bizarre. How does making a street two way make more parking and make it more pedestrian friendly. Besides the impossibility of the parking notion, having to dodge both left and right turners at every crosswalk is definitely not pedestrian friendly

      1. I can’t figure out the 2 way vs 1 way schizophrenia. Redmond did the one way loop years ago because traffic modeling tools all showed it was the best way to move cars through DT. Woodinville built the same thing with the by-pass but then decided to not implement the 1 way loop. Consequently you have a fast DT four lane bypass and a slog through the business district that is bad enough to keep people away. All I can figure is the one way whiners are vocal enough to trump the traffic planners. How’s that 2 way Mercer working out? Maybe 2nd and 4th should be 2 way streets. Or just use the Mexico City approach where traffic demand determines which way any given lane goes.

      2. I haven’t looked at the specific Redmond plans, but two-way with only one through-lane in each directions should provide traffic calming overall (particularly if other design elements support that), compared to a one-way loop with multiple through lanes. The pedestrian benefits may be overstated, hard to say.

        Two-way Mercer is fine. It’s not a silver bullet for moving cars, but nothing short of grade-separation (i.e. more grade separation than the Aurora underpass) would be. The benefit is that Roy (west of Aurora) and Valley (east of it) don’t have to be highways. And that the awful gash of the Broad Street underpass can be removed. All that stuff will pay off in a decade or so when dust has largely cleared over all the construction.

  14. No links on this news roundup to ethics investigations into Kubly’s Pronto relationship or its newly revealed lower ridership numbers? Come on guys. From SLOG:

    City Ethics Commission to Investigate Transportation Director Over Pronto: The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission has hired former King County Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman to investigate Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly, KING 5 reports. The exact details of the investigation (and the complaint that led to it) are unclear. Kubly was formerly the director of the company that operates Pronto, the bike share system the city council recently bailed out for $1.4 million.

    1. As I’ve pointed out in previous comments the whole thing stunk of rotten fish. People above Kubly have to be complicit which means the cover-up will probably stick.

  15. The real-time displays in Capitol Hill station are gone, replaced by the traditional 2-minute announcement. I first noticed this yesterday and confirmed it today. UW station still has the minutes-to-next-train numbers, and they’re as bogus as ever. I arrived northbound and it said 1 minute till the next train, but there wasn’t another train in sight. Unless the train was going to turn around immediately, which they don’t usually do and would deprive the driver of a break.

  16. TOD at Tacoma Dome would be wonderful. It would erase the problem of not being able to live near the station and it being such a depressing car sewer. If Sounder and the potential Link terminus can’t move to downtown Tacoma, or downtown Tacoma can’t move to it, then this is the next best thing.

    What’s happening with Freighthouse Square? There was some kerfuffle about it a month or two ago, I think the owner and Amtrak not being able to come to an agreement on an Amtrak station. Is it just to deteriorate?

    1. What? The construction in Roosevelt is for the light rail station. Roosevelt BRT doesn’t have a final plan yet, much less started construction. The first open house and public comment period ended just a month or so ago.

      1. The street rebuild (which is what the linked article is about) covers all of Roosevelt from 65th to the U-Bridge. That’s not for the light rail station.

Comments are closed.