Blast Levels Greenwood Buildings, Transit Service Disrupted

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 7.15.21 AM

A blast shook Greenwood early this morning, destroying 3 local businesses (Quick Stop, Mr. Gyros, and Neptune Coffee) while causing heavy damage to nearby businesses such as G&O Family Cyclery. KOMO News reports the cause as a natural gas leak that had been reported roughly 40 minutes prior to the explosion. 9 firefighters have been treated for burns and abrasions, and thankfully no one appears to have been more seriously injured.

Metro has announced that routes 5, 48, and 355 will be detoured away from 85th/Greenwood “until further notice.”

Community Transit Announces Plans for Service Expansions in September and Next March


At its monthly board meeting held earlier this Thursday, Community Transit unveiled its proposals for its first Proposition 1-funded service expansions, scheduled for September 2016 and March 2017. The two expansions add about 38,300 hours of service, fulfilling the promise of transit service on the State Route 9 corridor (in the form of two new routes) and adding incremental improvements to existing routes throughout the system. CT states that this expansion will add 14% more service over 2015 levels and will be part of a gradual increase of 40% more service to be achieved by 2021.

September 2016: 32,000 new hours

Proposed routes 109 (left) and 209 (right)
Proposed routes 109 (left) and 209 (right)

The new routes, coming in September, form the backbone of service on State Route 9, a major north-south corridor serving the eastern parts of the county. Route 109 runs from Ash Way Park and Ride along Ash Way, 128th/132nd Street in Mill Creek, Catchcart Way, through Downtown Snohomish on Avenue D, to Lake Stevens Transit Center. Route 209 runs from Lake Stevens Transit Center north along Highway 9 to 64th Street, turning west and continuing through Downtown Marysville and under Interstate 5, and north on 27th Avenue to Quil Ceda Village, ending near the Tulalip Casino and Seattle Premium Outlets mall; route 209 roughly follows the former route 221, which was cut in June 2010. Both routes will have 30-minute frequencies during weekday peak and 60-minute frequencies midday on weekdays, and all day on weekends. Community Transit planners stated that the two routes were split to increase reliability and to prevent overworking drivers on what would be one of the longest local routes in the system.

222proposed Guide small-01
Proposed changes to route 222 in Marysville

To complement the addition of route 209 through Marysville, existing route 222 (Tulalip to Marysville via Quil Ceda), will be rerouted through the eastern half of the city. Instead of turning south on 67th Avenue, buses will continue east on Ingraham Boulevard to serve Marysville Getchell High School and turn south on 83rd Avenue NE. From there, buses make another turn at the city’s Walmart store onto 64th Street, sharing stops with route 209, before turning north on 67th Avenue and west onto Grove Street, passing by the city’s library, and terminating at State Avenue (where it meets routes 201 and 202) near the Marysville Cedar & Grove Park & Ride. The change was spurred mainly by the introduction of route 209 service on the 64th Street and 4th Street corridor, allowing for that tail to be eliminated in favor of restoring service to Grove Street and the city library; as a result of these changes, a short 0.7-mile section of 67th Avenue will lose all of its transit service, but was determined by CT planners to be a low-preforming section of route 222 and well within reasonable walking distance to the new stops.

Seattle commuter routes will also see small improvements in the September service change. Route 417 (Mukilteo) will now skip the Lynnwood Transit Center, opting to stay on Interstate 5 and State Route 525 instead of taking a slow diversion through the transit center and city streets. Other routes will receive additional trips, mostly southbound in the AM peak, as well as trip time adjustments to increase reliability and schedule accuracy.

Full list of changes:

Continue reading “Community Transit Announces Plans for Service Expansions in September and Next March”

What Would Annexation Mean for White Center’s Transit?

Downtown White Center (Google Maps)
Downtown White Center (Google Maps)

Long planned but also long delayed, Seattle’s annexation of North Highline/White Center received new life last week when the legislature agreed to redirect $7m in state sales taxes to Seattle to cover the transitional costs of annexation. Three sequential process steps remain for annexation, namely the approval of the King County Boundary Review Board, approval by the Seattle City Council, and then a public vote by the 18,000 citizens within the annexation area. The earliest a vote could take place would be 2017.

Mark Nowlin – Seattle Times
Mark Nowlin – Seattle Times

Sandwiched between Tukwila, newly-annexed parts of Burien and long-established Seattle neighborhoods such as Arbor Heights and Highland Park, the area has long been an exclave of lower taxes and fewer services, with urban policing falling under the otherwise rural mandate of the King County Sheriff, and road, transit, and bicycle projects subject to the overburdened KCDOT, which has often proposed unpaving roads to ease their maintenance backlog.

Though annexation is politically complicated and by no means guaranteed at the ballot box – with higher taxes and a generally more severe regulatory burden competing with benefits such as higher wages and more robust social programs, etc – it’s pretty clear that bringing the area within Seattle would greatly benefit transit and mobility in the area. The area would need to be incorporated into the Transit and Bicycle master plans, concerns about feeling ‘left out’ could be mitigated by new Council District representation, and jurisdictional continuity would help keep street improvements from dead-ending in White Center. Continue reading “What Would Annexation Mean for White Center’s Transit?”

Jan 2016 ST Ridership – Rumors of a growth slowdown are greatly exaggerated.

Jan16WeekdayMovingAVGJanuary’s Link weekday ridership was 15.6% higher than the year before. In the last 4 months (Oct 15 – Jan 16) Link has averaged 13.9% growth.

It’s becoming quite apparent that the October 2014 to September 2015 ‘slowdown’ (for the first time ever Link wasn’t growing by double digits) was in fact simply a reaction to the massive growth rate of the prior year. From October 2013 to September 2014, Link grew an incredible 15.9%. A significant portion of that was likely due to the Mariners having a great season boosting weekday ridership on game days. When the Mariners quickly returned to form the next year those ‘lost riders’ partially masked the sustained steady growth of Link that was still chugging along underneath. Link has now returned to its regular double digit growth.

January’s Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 34,956 / 21,237 / 19,472, growth of 15.6%, -1.3%, and 3.4% respectively over January 2015. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 16%. Tacoma Link’s weekday ridership decreased 3.7%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 2.4%. System wide weekday boardings were up 7.6%, and all boardings were up 2.4%. The complete January Ridership Summary is here.

My charts and some commentary below the fold. Continue reading “Jan 2016 ST Ridership – Rumors of a growth slowdown are greatly exaggerated.”

Housing Preservation Bill Dead; 5 Other Housing Bills Likely to Pass

Five housing bills made the Friday deadline to get voted on in their second house, with two now headed to the governor’s desk, and three going back to their original house to try to get agreement on final language. Unfortunately, Sen. Joe Fain’s (R – Auburn) housing preservation bill, 2nd Substitute Senate Bill 6239, did not make it.

Details of how 2SSB 6239 died were covered by Josh Feit at Publicola, so I won’t rehash his narrative.

The killing of 2SSB 6239 may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory for opponents of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. To make up for all the affordable housing that could have been preserved through that bill, housing advocates may now double down on pushing to get rid of more single-family housing zoning.

Another irony is that for those who like to punch developers in the face (metaphorically speaking), killing 2SSB 6239 did nothing of the sort. It was a bill to reward owners of multi-family housing for keeping it the way it is, but just make sure at least 25% of the units are set aside for low-income renters with a cap on the rent. It would have been an incentive to not sell to developers or redevelop. We could argue whether 25% was high enough (and I, for one, would have liked to see the number higher), but the one-dimensional argument was simply against landlords making a profit at taxpayer expense.

But enough about 2SSB 6239. It’s dead. Let’s look at the bills that will probably become law.

Rep. Kevin Parker
Rep. Kevin Parker

HB 2929, by Rep. Kevin Parker (R – Spokane), would require a liberal and non-retroactive interpretation of the State Building Code and the Washington State Energy Code, in the case of religious institutions housing homeless people, to err on the side of providing shelter. It would also ban cities and counties from retroactively requiring sprinkler system or other structural modification requirements in buildings that complied with the laws at the time they were built, or rescinding a building’s certificate of occupancy. This is in response to various efforts to block homeless encampments on, and shelters in, church properties.

HB 2929 passed 96-0-0-1 in the House on February 11 and 48-0-0-1 in the Senate Friday. It is headed to the governor’s desk. Not a single legislator took the side of letting NIMBYs tell religious institutions what they can do on their own property. This may be the single most impactful bill this session in providing human beings with a roof of some sort to live under.
Continue reading “Housing Preservation Bill Dead; 5 Other Housing Bills Likely to Pass”

37 Transportation Bills Have Finish Line in Sight

Friday was the cut-off in the state legislature for bills to get out of their second house. 37 transportation bills did so.

Six of them were detailed in the list of transit-related bills that at least made it to their second chamber’s Rules Committee. Among those, HB 2516, EHB 2745, HB 2815, SB 6299, and SSB 6358 are headed to the governor’s desk, while SSB 6614, as amended in the House, heads back to the Senate for possible concurrence in the House striker amendment. The seventh transit-related bill, HB 2639, a school bus safety study, did not get voted on in the Senate, and is essentially dead.

27 of the bills are headed to the governor’s desk, while 10 of them were amended in their second house, and have to go back to their first house to get agreement on the final language.

Bills necessary to the budget, such as ESHB 1581 described below, are exempt from Friday’s cutoff.

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2524 and Substitute Senate Bill 6307 are the dueling 2015-2017 supplemental transportation budgets, which will be covered in a future post.

Rep. Brady Walkinshaw
Rep. Brady Walkinshaw

Engrossed House Bill 1409, originally by Rep. Brady Walkinshaw (D – Capitol Hill), and amended in the House Transportation Committee, would update the circumstances under which the owner of a boat may be disclosed by the Department of Licensing. In particular, law enforcement would be granted access at will.

EHB 1409 passed in the House 96-1-0-0 on February 10, and 43-3-0-3 in the Senate on Wednesday. It is headed to the governor’s desk.

Rep. Jake Fey
Rep. Jake Fey

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1581, originally by Rep. Jake Fey (D – Tacoma), amended in the House Transportation Committee, and amended again on the House Floor, would change the distribution of the $30 car tab to $28 to the State Highway Patrol Account and $2 to the Puget Sound Ferry Operations Account. Currently, $20.35 goes to the State Highway Patrol Account, $2.02 of each initial registration and $0.93 of each renewal goes to the Puget Sound Ferry Operations Account, and the remainder goes to the Motor Vehicle Account.

ESHB 1581 passed 80-17-0-1 in the House Wednesday. It heads to the Senate, and remains alive despite the cut-off, as it is part of budget deliberations. Continue reading “37 Transportation Bills Have Finish Line in Sight”

Take Transit to Sounders FC Matches This Season

King Street Station from CenturyLink Field

March is nearly here, bringing with it the arrival of spring, minor and major service changes, two new Link stations, and the return of Major League Soccer after the winter off-season. Sound Transit is continuing its annual tradition of offering special weekend Sounder round-trips to and from King Street Station in Seattle (a short walk from CenturyLink Field) for 13 total Sounders FC home games, a slight increase from the 10 trains offered in 2015. Only one weekend home game, the September 17 match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, will not be served by Sounder; instead, the BNSF crews will be busy serving the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on that day.

Sounder trains arrive at King Street Station approximately 1.5 hours before kickoff and depart 35 minutes after the end of the match. Sound Transit has published a full schedule with departure times from each station that correspond to the listed kick-off time.

Continue reading “Take Transit to Sounders FC Matches This Season”

Preview of the Seattle Transit Map #Bus2Link Edition

snippets from v1603d2 map

The near final draft of the Seattle Transit Map featuring U Link and Metro’s new bus service taking effect on March 26 is ready for your review. Thank you to everyone who gave their feedback on the first set of drafts. Comments on this map are due March 6. The priority is to finish the map for print.

Download PDF (1.7 MB)

We are aiming to have printed copies of the map available for free beginning on U Link opening day (March 19). Details on where to get a map will be confirmed as we get close to the big day but I will have maps with me at the meet up. If you’re on Twitter, follow @SeaTransitMap for updates and peeks into the making of the map.

7 Transit Bills Reach Final Stretch

Seven bills in the state legislature related to transit survived Monday’s cut-off to get to the Rules Committee in their second house. They have through this Friday to get voted on in their second house.

One controversial bill that did not make the cut was Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5343, by Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D – Renton), which in its original version would have made Sound Transit pay for free parking permits for all residents of restricted parking zones around light rail stations.

Another controversial bill, Substitute Senate Bill 6152 by Sen. Andy Hill (R – Redmond), which in its committee-amended version would have opened up transit/HOV/toll lanes on I-405 to general traffic on evenings after 7 pm, weekends, and holidays, failed to get out of the Senate.

The seven surviving transit-related bills are detailed after the fold. Continue reading “7 Transit Bills Reach Final Stretch”

News Roundup: Inevitable Losses

New Link map at Westlake Station

This is an open thread.

Four ST3 Letters We Missed

Angle Lake Station in December 2015 (SounderBruce – Flickr)

In our summary series of Sound Transit 3 community feedback letters, four letters fell through the cracks, as they were not included in our original request for letters from Sound Transit and were not published by Sound Transit’s website until last week. But without further ado, here they are!

Sierra Club

The Sierra Club’s comments are detailed and exhaustive, with a 12-page letter that comments on nearly every Candidate Project. Unbeholden to regional consensus or political considerations, it’s also a wonderfully consistent application of urbanist values. Go read the whole thing, but in summary, the letter supports:

  • Reduced reliance on Park and Rides through better multimodal access
  • Priced parking
  • Non-freeway alignments
  • Project phasing explicitly focused on maximizing ridership
  • Redirecting 522 BRT to Lake City and 130th St Station
  • Lynnwood-Everett via SR 99, with Paine Field served at a later date either via rail spur or BRT
  • Mode-neutral electrified service on the Eastside Rail Corridor
  • Selecting alignments that maximize TOD potential
  • Canceling the Edmonds Permanent Station project “as long as Sounder North [generates] anemic ridership”.
  • Canceling all parking expansions, especially at Mountlake Terrace and Tukwila International Boulevard
  • Ballard-UW, interlined with the Downtown-Ballard line as “one of the main proposals, not relegated to a second tier”
  • Downtown-Burien via Alaska Junction, with RapidRide+ on Delridge
  • Building Graham Street Station by scaling back Northgate parking
  • Letting SDOT and the feds fund Madison BRT instead of Sound Transit
  • Higher-capital I-405 BRT to maximize stations and access
  • Totem Lake-Issaquah Link, but interlined between Wilburton-South Bellevue
  • Interim BRT on the Eastside Rail Corridor between Totem Lake-Bellevue
  • All-day and weekend Sounder service, explicitly prioritized ahead of completing the spine
  • Revising Link to serve SR99 between Angle Lake and Tacoma
  • Building Tacome Dome-Tacoma Mall Link before completing the spine, seeing it as primarily a Tacoma project
  • Exploring DMU options for mid-day Sounder, with the possibility of DMU service between DuPont and Tacoma with locomotive service from Tacoma-Seattle

Seattle Subway

Continue reading “Four ST3 Letters We Missed”

ST3 Infill Stations

centralIn addition to the vast new stretches of track Sound Transit will consider for a November 2016 ST3 ballot measure, there are a number of infill stations on existing track segments that ST is considering for inclusion. In December, they presented cost and ridership estimates for these infill stations.

All figures are in 2014 dollars, and boardings are estimated for 2040.

North Stations

N-04: 130th Street. $79-85m; 2-3,000 riders. This is the rare station that receives strong support from Seattle and highly negative response from others (Shoreline and points north). It has also been the focus of organizing. These numbers are both more expensive (up from $30-50m) and lower in ridership (5,100) than the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) ST released last year.

ST spokesman Geoff Patrick says that the increased costs are due to the difficulty of constructing the station during revenue service. The project also has access and sustainability allowances, as well as a pedestrian plaza, which were not in ST2 planning. Ridership is lower due to updated PSRC land use targets, and a ridership model with 2014-2040 projections as a base instead of 2011-2035.

N-05: 220th Street. $86-92m; 1-2,000 riders. Compared to last year’s study, ridership remained steady but this got much more expensive (from $50m). As Lynnwood actively opposes this station and even Mountlake Terrace considers it a secondary priority, its prospects are doubtful.

Central Stations

C-08: Graham Street. $66-71m; 4-5,000 riders. A priority for the City of Seattle, and the big carrot for people in Southeast Seattle to vote for ST3. The approved “Move Seattle” measure envisions $10m for this project, perhaps reducing the load for Sound Transit.

C-09/10: Boeing Access Road, Link and Sounder. $124-129m; 3-4,000 (Link) + $94-100m; 1-2,000 (Sounder).  The City of Tukwila’s stated top priority, building both segments of this relatively expensive project would provide a superior transfer point between South Link on the I-5 corridor and South Sounder in the SR 167 corridor, enable potential development in the area, and arguably address some of the time penalty of truncating buses from South King County (although see some skepticism here). The Link station alone would break up the longest nonstop stretch of Link, which would alleviate some egregious trip planning issues (e.g. Rainier Beach to the Museum of Flight via TIBS.) The ridership estimates assume both are built together.

Also, two of the “Green Line” Link stops that SDOT requested in its letter didn’t make it into the base analysis of a line to Ballard. The study instead evaluated them as infill stations:

C-01e: 99 & Harrison. $367-393m, 3-4,000 riders. As an underground station, this is a higher order of cost. It’s unclear how this might interact with the nearby Deep Bore Tunnel portal, but this station would preserve urban stop spacing in the urban core below Mercer. It also improves the walkshed in South Lake Union and is critical to ensure that virtually all of Belltown is within a half-mile of a station.

C-01f (Interbay): $90-97m; 1,500-2,000 riders. The 15th & Newton station visualized here would be at-grade. The study suggests fewer than 1,000 new riders. Most curiously, the study assumes a 200ft., 2-car station because the concept assumes surface light rail through downtown, which limits train length. For that reason, determined partisans for this station (if there are any) would probably dismiss these results as insufficient.

In a Big ST3 Package, a Ballard-UW Line is Essential


SounderBruce (Flickr)
Standing Room Only Route 44 – SounderBruce (Flickr)

The Sound Transit Board is now seriously considering a larger package for the next big regional transit expansion, ST3. Our understanding is that the most likely timeline for the finance plan is at least 25 years, up from 15 years. This means at least an 84% increase in funding for North King projects. Considering the increased scope of the package, it’s essential that a Ballard to University District (Ballard/UW) line be included in ST3 – for reasons that go well beyond the line’s end points.

Seattle Subway wrote about Ballard/UW in June of 2014 in response to the first round of ST3 study work. In response Sound Transit improved their station locations, however, their analysis still lowballs the performance of the line by treating it as a standalone segment. Ballard/UW must be looked at both as an extension of Ballard-Downtown and in the context of the transit restructures it could enable.


If a Downtown to Ballard line turned east at Market Street and continued to UW, it would have several advantages including:

  • 14 Minutes from Upper Fremont to Downtown and 16 Minutes from Wallingford to Downtown, both of which are highly competitive with the E-Line and Route 16 (62).
  • Remove virtually all buses from crossing the Aurora bridge, a significant safety and traffic improvement. Currently over 550 buses cross every day.
  • The ability to remove most buses from the Aurora corridor south of 46th, which has a limited walkshed, overly narrow lanes, antiquated infrastructure, and heavy traffic.
  • Relieve pressure on downtown surface streets while still serving the same trips more reliably.
  • A single line reduces costs by not requiring an inefficient standalone maintenance yard.
  • A single Ballard station can adequately serve both Downtown and crosstown lines.

The importance of the bus transfer for transit users along the Aurora and Greenwood Avenue North corridor cannot be overstated. These areas have high concentrations of people who are transit dependent and adding this fast connection to the regional system will greatly improve the rider experience and reliability for the tens of thousands of E-Line and Route 44 riders.

Ballard/UW has many other advantages that have been well documented on this blog, for example, traveling from Ballard to the University District in 7 minutes across a 3.5 mile stretch that is already one of the most congested corridors in Seattle and one of the least likely to see substantial surface improvements due to severe right of way limitations.  

Sound Transit has long assumed ST3 would have lines to Ballard and the West Seattle junction via Downtown Seattle, back before the likely package size was increased by 84%. An increase this large means that both Ballard/UW and an extension from West Seattle Junction to Burien must be included in the ST3 package for the November ballot. The board has the tools it needs to achieve this goal and the city needs both lines.  

The region needs the Ballard/UW line to ensure that the positive energy of a broad coalition around ST3 continues. More than 200,000 people live in Seattle Districts 4 and 6 close to a proposed station in the Ballard/UW corridor. Add in improved transit access to the regional system via transfers for a large portion of the 30,700 people who ride the Aurora bridge buses every day and it becomes clear that we can’t leave this line out of ST3.

In short, Ballard/UW votes and gets people excited to make ST3 happen. If you think the Ballard to UW line is essential, as we do, it’s now or never. Speak up or prepare for this essential transit infrastructure to be punted for another generation or more.  

Ballard/UW crosses districts represented by ST board member/city councilmember Rob Johnson ( and city councilmember Mike O’Brien (, whom we are sure would like to know about their constituents’ support for this extension. Also, and let them all know how you feel.