ReachNow’s Launch Falls Short

[Clarification: the post states that carsharing vehicles have “the right to park…in any legal parking spot at no charge”. While users do not pay for street parking at the point of use, the city does charge a flat annual fee of $1,730 per vehicle, amounts are adjusted annually based upon actual usage, and such fees are built into member pricing. – Zach]

Back in 2013, when Daimler launched its Car2Go carsharing service in Seattle, I lamented the fact that the Car2Go service area (the boundaries where cars can be parked and left for the next customer) stopped short of serving West and Southeast Seattle—two areas with diverse populations and, tellingly, more lower-income people than the Central and North Seattle neighborhoods Car2Go did serve first. At the time, I expressed some incredulity that Car2Go considered neighborhoods like Mount Baker and Columbia City “new and developing areas,” which struck (and strikes) me as code for “places that aren’t mostly white yet.”

bmw-reachnow_100551694_m

Car2Go eventually expanded its service, and in 2015, the city adopted legislation that increased the number of “free-floating car share” permits that also required all new carsharing services to expand their service areas to include the entire city within two years. The implication was clear: If the city is going to give your members the right to park your cars in any legal parking spot at no charge [see note above], you have to serve the entire city, even the parts that may be less white—and less lucrative.

BMW’s new ReachNow service launch shows the wisdom of that rule. ReachNow, which costs 49 cents a minute (to Car2Go’s $0.41), has an initial service area virtually identical to Car2Go’s, excluding all of West Seattle and Southeast Seattle and stopping just a couple of blocks south of I-90, at S Lander St.  ReachNow has two years to expand its service area to include the whole city.

Continue reading “ReachNow’s Launch Falls Short”

Viaduct to Close for Two Weeks Beginning April 29th

In order to protect the life and property of those who travel on the fragile and decrepit Alaskan Way Viaduct, the structure will close early in the morning of April 29th to allow Bertha to attempt to tunnel 378′ underneath it. The machine will dive under a steel and carbon reinforced structure ($) in the vicinity of Yesler Way, and if all goes well the Viaduct will reopen as the machine approaches Western/Columbia.

For all of Bertha’s many woes, it remains underappreciated that each of its breakdowns have occurred in the best possible places: west of the Viaduct and adjacent to industrial land. With its Viaduct dive and its subsequent attempt to tunnel underneath Downtown, the stakes grow much higher and the cost and complexity of repair much greater.

WSDOT Image. You can follow Bertha's progress live here once tunneling begins.
WSDOT Image. You can follow Bertha’s progress live here once tunneling begins.

But the immediate concern for the 90,000 cars and 30,000 transit riders is successfully getting about the business of their daily lives, and to that end there are a number of reroutes and additional services in place:

  • Metro routes 21E, 37, 55, 56, 57, 120, 125, and RapidRide C will use 4th Ave S and 3rd Avenue northbound and will use 3rd/Yesler/Terrace/Airport Way/Lander/1st when traveling southbound
  • Metro routes 113, 121, 122, and 123 will use Spokane Street and the Sodo Busway northbound and will use 3rd/Yesler/Terrace/Airport Way/Spokane Street southbound
  • The Vashon Water Taxi will add 5 round trips (though at press time their website had not published the schedule)
  • The West Seattle Water Taxi will add 360 extra park and ride spots along Harbor Ave SW, though no extra service will be offered. A free and continuous shuttle will take passengers to Seacrest Park for Water Taxi service.
  • Bus-only lanes will be added on Blanchard and Lenora in Belltown, and SPD will be enforcing bus lanes throughout the Center City
  • Parking will be restricted on 4th Avenue downtown.
  • Unlike previous closures, vehicle access to/from the Battery Street Tunnel will be maintained from the Western Avenue ramps.

Though this is already being dubbed “Viadoom 2” – after the original 9-day Viadoom in 2011 – my suspicion is that these closures will be a bit anticlimactic, painful but not apocalyptic. Friday the 29th will be light as people overreact and avoid Downtown, then volumes will steadily build as the closure progresses. This urbanist’s fondest hope is that we hardly miss the Viaduct and would entertain never reopening it, but that’s likely too much to dream. Good luck out there everyone.

The New 48 is Ready to Go Electric

23rd Avenue under Construction
23rd Avenue under Construction

CHS:

The Seattle Department of Transportation, which is handling funding and construction for the King County Metro line, estimates the project will cost $14.6 – $17.5 million, with $9.4 million already secured through federal grants. Construction will include installing trolley poles, overhead wires, and traction power sub stations. The second phase of the project is expected to get underway next year, setting up the 48 to go electric in 2018.

Now that the 48 has been split from the northern half, electrification is much easier than it would have been for the 48 that ran to Loyal Heights. There are just two segments of 23rd Avenue, totaling 1.7 miles, in need of electrification.  We first wrote about the possibility of an electrified 48S back in 2011.  It looks like all the funding is coming together.  Happy times.

The 48 runs along SDOT’s RapidRide+ Corridor 4, which exends south to Rainier Beach, setting up a potential restructure that combines the 48 with the already-electrified 7.  That’s a long way off, however.  SDOT’s Bill Bryant told me that the “key for both the Rainier and 23rd corridor services is that they will become RapidRide lines.”  Combining them into a single route, Bryant said, would only happen after a good deal of analysis and public outreach.  As we’ve learned, messing with the northern half of the 7, from Mount Baker to the ID, could be difficult.

An electric, RapidRide+ 48 with BAT lanes and signal priority running on a newly-repaved 23rd Ave will be a big boost for the CD.  It’ll be even better once frequent connections to Madison BRT (2019) and East Link at Judkins Park (2023) open.

Metro, Sound Transit Agree to Short-Term Fix for Low-Income Link Access

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 9.45.41 AM
The new joint ticket, to be printed beginning in June.

Following the lead of the Transit Riders Union, we’ve written a bit lately about the pain points introduced when disjointed interagency fare policies meet an evolving system in which Sound Transit plays an ever stronger role. With the ULink restructure incentivizing transfers between agencies at a greater clip than ever before, much noise has been made about the ineligibility of Metro’s human services bus tickets with Link. (See previous writing on this here and at The Stranger.)

The basic problem is that while Metro and Sound Transit both issue deeply-discounted tickets for their own services to human service agencies, those service agencies do still have to pay for them. Given that Sound Transit’s tickets are good only on Link, and Metro’s are valid systemwide, agencies strongly prefer to use their limited dollars on Metro’s tickets. In a network being progressively restructured to rely on Link, that’s an effective service cut for those who can’t pay any fare at all.

While we await the interagency policy alignments necessary to fix the problem – we’ve suggested free ORCA cards, broader Lift access, the elimination of paper transfers, and fare alignment between the agencies – yesterday Metro and Sound Transit announced an interim fix. The two agencies will keep the same programs and policies, but will simply issue a single joint ticket, perforated with two Metro 1-zone passes and a Link Day Pass.  Service agencies will pay $11 for a book of 10 combo tickets. The internal administrative burdens of these programs will remain, as will the disparate fare policies, but this step should serve the immediate need while long-term solutions are found.

Congratulations to TRU for effectively organizing movement on this issue. Their planned protest for Saturday will still be held, morphing into a celebration and call for long-term solutions.

Sound Transit Opens New Sounder Platform at Mukilteo Station

Mukilteo Station South Platform opening - April 2016

After a delay of over a year, Sound Transit opened the south platform at Mukilteo’s Sounder station on Monday. The platform and accompanying pedestrian bridge wesre opened with a ribbon-cutting that afternoon attended by Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Everett City Councilmember and Sound Transit Boardmember Paul Roberts, and Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit Boardmember Dave Somers. The celebration was originally scheduled for Monday, March 28, but was delayed because of a mudslide earlier that day on the tracks between Mukilteo and Everett.

All northbound Sounder trains headed towards Everett now use the new platform, requiring alighting passengers to cross over the tracks on the new pedestrian bridge. The original platform, which will now only serve southbound trains, was opened in 2008 and was intended to be quickly supplemented by a second platform, with only temporary shelters installed. Instead, the project to build the second platform was delayed during negotiations with BNSF Railway over service time needed for construction, which began in the summer of 2014.

The $18.1 million project was originally scheduled to open in early 2015, but the date was pushed back—first to autumn of that year and later into 2016—because of a limited time-frame for construction imposed by BNSF and state inspectors identifying problems with the new elevators on the overpass in late October; it was declared complete in January and is not expected to exceed its budget despite the delay. The station is the last Sounder station to receive a second platform and to use a second track and is one of the last pieces of the 1996 Sound Move measure to be built and opened.

As of 2015, Mukilteo Station has an average of 142 boardings and alightings every weekday. It is located adjacent to the Mukilteo ferry terminal, which is planned to be replaced with a new terminal sited closer to the station by 2019, and is served by three Community Transit routes and two Everett Transit routes.

News Roundup: Demolition

This is an open thread. 

Suggestion of the Week: Train Length Announcements

Video by Oran

Pete Lorimer had an excellent suggestion in the thread about the arrival of peak 3-car trains last month:

If Link is running a mix of three and two-car trains, people won’t want to wait at the location of the third car in case the next train doesn’t have one. Then they will have to walk forward to the second car, thus overfilling that car compared to the first car. In fact, if you wait at the third car location and there isn’t one, you increase the chances of being left behind due to a fully loaded second car.

If our train arrival/announcement system was better, I would suggest they change the announcement to add info about the train length.

“The next train… Northbound… is arriving in… 2 minutes… It is composed of… 3 cars.”

Comments on all aspects of the service changes are welcome on this post.

22 Years to Ballard

ballard_dtAcross the region, everyone is talking about how long Sound Transit 3 projects are going to take, and there is no shortage of opinions about what the sources of delay are.

As it stands, the 7.1-mile segment from Ballard to Chinatown/International District, including 9 stations and a tunnel from Mercer Street south, would cost between $4.5 and $4.8 billion and arrive in 2038, or 22 years after the vote. It would attract an eye-popping 114,000-145,000 boardings per day, although “only” 60-74,000 riders would use the genuinely new service area north of Westlake.

So what takes 22 years? Sound Transit’s plan allows six years for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); five for final design, permitting, and Right of Way (ROW) acquisition; and 11 years for construction, including roughly two years for post-construction testing and float.

There is scope, in theory, to accelerate that timeline. 11 years of planning is conservative. For example, Lynnwood Link’s EIS started in 2011 and they expect to break ground in 2018. Sound Transit executive Ric Ilgenfrtitz noted that the length of this period “depends on the quality of collaboration between us, the City of Seattle, and the FTA [Federal Transit Administration].” He cited Lynnwood of an example of excellent collaboration, so consider that a floor for the potential length of these phases.

However, eliminating the four-year delay in planning requires not only a cooperative attitude from the City, but also a change in the financing plan. As money comes in, it shifts between subareas to focus on the projects currently underway, although the sums come close to matching subarea revenues over the life of the package. At the moment, Ballard and Downtown fall somewhere in the middle, ahead of Issaquah and Everett and behind Tacoma and West Seattle.

11 years is a longer construction period than previous ST projects. It’s hard to say at this point that there’s any fat to cut, because 11 years is believable given the scale of the project. The new tunnel will have more underground stations (6) than ST will have constructed by 2023 (5). Moreover, two of these stations (Westlake and 99/Harrison) will have to be mined, like Beacon Hill, because they will pass under key infrastructure that blocks cut-and-cover construction. The U-Link tunnel is a bit shorter (3.5 miles vs. 3.15 miles), has four fewer stations, and took seven years (2009-2016) to complete while famously being ahead of schedule.

So: Ballard/Downtown is projected to open in 22 years. It could be 18 under two conditions: that the planning and preparation phases go smoothly, and we reach a regional consensus to prioritize it in the funding plan.

Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler Suffers Heart Attack

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.46.58 PMThe Issaquah Press is reporting that Issaquah Mayor and Sound Transit Boardmember Fred Butler has suffered a heart attack Sunday evening and is in stable condition at the Issaquah campus of Swedish Medical Center. Mayor Butler, 75, is a jovial and well-liked advocate for Issaquah at all levels of government.

City Council President Stacy Goodman is serving as mayor pro tempore temporarily, and I have an email in to Sound Transit asking if she will be serving on the ST Board in his absence, if Butler will be able to participate remotely, or some alternate arrangement. I’ll update the post when I hear back.

STB wishes Mayor Butler the best in his recovery.

Who’s Got a Ticket to Ride?

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.42.40 AMLast year 138 social service organizations throughout King County distributed over 1.4 million bus tickets to the people they serve: low-income youth, the homeless, the unemployed, refugees, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities living off meager social security payments.

King County’s pioneering ORCA LIFT program is a welcome relief for low-income riders who can afford $1.50 per ride, or $54 for a monthly pass. Still, it’s important to remember that less than ten years ago the off-peak adult fare was just $1.25, and economic conditions for the poor haven’t exactly improved since then. For people who are living on very low or no income and depend on public transit, ORCA LIFT simply isn’t affordable all the time.

These are the people who rely on tickets. They number in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands. And as of March 26th, many of these people found another challenge added to their already challenging lives: Metro bus service has been restructured around the new light rail line, which they can’t ride because Link Light Rail doesn’t accept the tickets.

Since January the Transit Riders Union has been urging Sound Transit and Metro to come up with a solution that doesn’t leave some riders with a second-class transit system. And they’re taking note – since we announced a public action for April 16th, they’ve promised that a fix is on the way.

It’s great that our voices are being heard now, but light rail access for ticket-users has been a problem in South Seattle for years, and the transit agencies and elected officials have had years to anticipate how this year’s U-Link extension would make the problem more acute. One can’t help but notice the context of their sudden responsiveness: with Sound Transit 3 headed for the ballot this fall, they’re wary of public criticism.

It’s going to take concerted and ongoing pressure to make sure the needs of very low-income and no-income transit riders don’t recede into the background again. So, now that we’ve got their attention, there’s another problem that needs fixing: there are never enough tickets.

TRU hears this again and again from the people who run the social service organizations that distribute the tickets. Chris Langeler, the Executive Director of West Seattle Helpline, explains that although they received more tickets this year than last year, they still have to ration them carefully: “Even with that increase, we are still struggling to meet the need – many members of our community are struggling to afford bus fare for work, medical appointments, job interviews, or to access other resources and meet basic needs.”

Or listen to Caitlin Wasley, the Resettlement Support Manager at World Relief Seattle, who anticipates serving around 800 refugees arriving in Western Washington in 2016, the majority of whom will live in King County: “Folks participating in our Match Grant early employment program are required to come to classes at our office every weekday; but we are only able to provide them with bus tickets for about half of the month for each adult. This doesn’t even cover their children’s transportation needs at all!”

Why aren’t there enough tickets to go around? Social service organizations purchase the tickets for twenty cents on the dollar – for a single-ride ticket with a face value of $2.50, that’s $0.50. Even with this discount it’s a large expense for cash-strapped non-profits, and most don’t have the money to purchase enough tickets to meet the most basic transportation needs of the people they serve. King County also limits the number of tickets that can be sold in a year, so many organizations don’t get all they apply for.

This is artificial scarcity, and it can be easily fixed. King County should allow organizations to purchase more tickets at a lower cost, either by reducing the percentage of face value they pay, or by charging 20% of the $1.50 ORCA LIFT fare rather than the standard adult fare. Although Metro calculates their 80% “subsidy” as an expense for budgeting purposes, it needs to be acknowledged that, for the most part, the people who use bus tickets are not going to be paying their fare when they don’t have tickets — they are going to be riding without paying, or not riding at all. By making tickets cheaper and more plentiful, Metro will not lose significant revenue.

The bus ticket program may be clumsy in many ways, and the transit agencies should absolutely work toward new card-based solutions, disposable and/or durable, that could work well for many very low-income and no-income riders. But in the meantime, the bus tickets are what we’ve got.

Lowering the cost and making more bus tickets available should be part of any adequate response to our Homelessness State of Emergency. With over 4,500 human beings sleeping rough in King County and homeless deaths at an all time high, and with thousands more people losing their food stamps right now, we don’t need to be squeezing pennies out of the desperately poor. We need to be making sure that everyone can get to the places they need to go to sustain and improve their lives.

Katie Wilson is the General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union and a Member of the Seattle Transit Advisory Board

How Mercer and 520 Hurt Seattle Traffic

Graphic by the Author

Traffic in Seattle is notoriously terrible, and the most oft-cited causes are strong economic growth and lack of rapid transit. While both of those factors are at play, it’s underappreciated just how the details or our freeway construction actively contribute to our daily traffic headaches.

Put aside for a moment the myriad complaints about I-5 in Seattle  – that there is zero HOV priority between Northgate and Union Street, that the antiquated and unidirectional express lanes still freely permit SOVs, and that such SOVs are forced to exit in our fastest growing neighborhood (South Lake Union), etc. – there are also basic engineering reasons why our daily bottlenecks occur so predictably.

Consider just the area between NE 45th Street and I-90. In that roughly 4-mile stretch there are six overlapping 4-lane merges, four of which are attributable to Mercer Street alone. They are:

1. NE 45th Street to eastbound SR 520 (4 lanes in 0.8 miles)

Cars headed to the Eastside from NE 45th Street have just the 0.8 miles of the Ship Canal bridge to merge across 4 lanes to access the left-side exit to eastbound 520.

2. Eastbound University Street to eastbound SR 520 (4 lanes in 2 miles)

Cars using the University Street on-ramp are dumped into the left lane of northbound I-5 just as cars are merging left to access the Mercer Street off-ramp. Those headed for SR 520 have a bit longer (2 miles) to cut across all lanes of traffic to access the SR 520 on-ramp.

3. Eastbound Mercer to Eastbound SR 520 (4 lanes in 0.8 miles)

4. Westbound SR 520 to Westbound Mercer (4 lanes in 0.6 miles)

The Mercer-to-520 merges are the tightest in the city, 4 lanes in just 0.6-0.8 miles. Both merges dump you into the left lanes before requiring a quick merge to access right side on ramps.

If you wondered why Metro’s proposed Route 311 from Woodinville to South Lake Union would have used the express lanes via 42nd street instead of merging directly to Mercer, this is why. The merge is too short to be done safely by buses, and frankly cars have no business doing it either.

5. Eastbound Mercer to Eastbound I-90

Cars using the Mercer on-ramp to southbound I-5 are dumped into the left lane just as it again becomes an HOV lane for the first time since Northgateforcing all SOVs to immediately merge. Those headed from Mercer to I-90 have to merge further, needing to cross 4 lanes in 1 mile in to access the collector-distributor lanes where the I-90 ramps are located.

6. Westbound I-90 to Westbound Mercer (7 lanes in 2 miles)

Requiring 7 lanes in 2 miles, this is perhaps the most chaotic of them all. At the I-5 on-ramp from westbound I-90  (near Dearborn), cars merge into the right lane of the 4-lane “collector-distributor” lanes, and they have until Madison Street (1 mile) to merge all the way left to the through lanes. After Madison, the collector-distributor lanes rejoin the mainline in the center-right lane, requiring cars headed for Mercer to make another 3-lane merge in 1 mile to access the left exit at Mercer.

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Enough wonk. The gist is that our 60s-era highway engineers cut corners and didn’t anticipate today’s traffic levels, requiring most Downtown-to-Eastside traffic to merge across all lanes of traffic.  Cars using these pathways clog the highway with merging pressure, and transit can’t use these routes for safety reasons, further incentivizing those who need them to drive.

Short of tearing out I-5, we could clean up some of these traffic patterns, but it would require some pretty unpopular tradeoffs. We could restrict SR 520 access from Downtown Seattle to those using the right-side on ramps to northbound I-5 (Cherry and Olive) and prohibiting 520 access from the left-side on ramps (University and Mercer). Heading toward I-90 from Downtown, we could likewise restrict access from left-side on ramps (Mercer) and require such cars to use right-side on ramps (Yale, Spring, and James). We could also prohibit movements from NE 45th Street to 520, requiring cars to use Ravenna Boulevard or Montlake. In each of these scenarios, I-5 would flow a bit more smoothly and collisions would likely fall. Transit impacts to would be mixed, with the improved flow helping operations but with unknown traffic redistribution patterns possibly hurting transit too.

So if you ever wonder why I-5 backs up by mid-day 7 days per week (especially in the reverse peak direction), it’s often less about the total volume of cars and more about the merging pressure so many drivers introduce through no fault of their own. So when your traffic-choked bus finally gets onto I-5, you can direct a good portion of your ire not at the cars with their blinkers on, but at the shortsighted engineers who force them to do so. Mercer’s recent rebuild aside, the ghost of the Bay Freeway helps it keep making messes.

TCC Hosts ST3 Panel Tuesday

West Seattle and Downtown Seattle from the air (Wikimedia)
West Seattle and Downtown Seattle from the air (Wikimedia)

Have questions about ST3 and want to ask them directly of the powers that be? Tomorrow evening is your chance. Tuesday evening from 5:30-7:00pm in Union Station’s Ruth Fisher Boardroom, Transportation Choices Coalition will host its latest in its series of “Transit Talks”, this one devoted entirely to ST3.

TCC’s Director Shefali Ranganathan will join County Executive and ST Board Chair Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor and Sound Transit Boardmember Ed Murray, King County Executive and ST Board Chair Dow Constantine, King County Councilmember and Sound Transit Boardmember Claudia Balducci, and Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. The panel will be moderated by Erica Barnett.

Tickets are not required, but due to space limitations, TCC asks that you register on their website here.

Feb 2016 ST Ridership – The End is Near

Feb16WeekdayMovingAVGFebruary was the last full month of Original Segment ridership data. But we’re not quite finished. When the March numbers are released Zach will request ridership by day so there will be one last post before we shift gears to U Link ridership. Look for a more retrospective and even predictive post at that time. Also, since my last ridership post ST updated their 2015 rough monthly estimates which had the effect of smoothing out the wild swing in growth rates across the year.

February’s Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 35,875 / 23,513 / 17,300, growth of 11.3%, 33.4%, and 5.3% respectively over February 2015. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 13.6%. Tacoma Link’s weekday ridership decreased 7.3%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up .8%. System wide weekday boardings were up 5.2%, and all boardings were up 9.9%. The complete February Ridership Summary is here.

My charts below the fold. Continue reading “Feb 2016 ST Ridership – The End is Near”

Three Steps to Free Monthly ORCA Passes for the Homeless

Link day pass

Metro 250 ticket

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Sound Transit and King County Metro have been brainstorming ways to make their free-ride programs work for each others’ services, in response to a petition by the Transit Riders Union.

The county distributes paper tickets through non-profit agencies that serve homeless clientele. These tickets are honored on ST Express buses operated by Metro. Sound Transit distributes day passes that are only accepted on Link. The tickets cost the agencies 20% of face value, which is to say 50 cents for most tickets. The day passes cost the agencies $1.00. Naturally, most agencies opt not to get involved with the more expensive, less versatile, Link passes.

ST and Metro are considering a plan to offer a combo of a Link day pass and some tickets, for $1 cost to the agencies.

Multi-service day passes were offered back in 2012, but those passes went away after numerous complaints, including the use of erasable ink to fill out the dates, and failure by distributors to fill out a date. They were kept on Link because fare enforcement officers could take the time to check for fraud.

The free ticket program is the very definition of the acronym “PITA”. Agencies have to go through a one-year certification process to be allowed to give out tickets. The agencies have to collect personal information each time they give out a ticket. They have to pay the county 20% of face value to receive those tickets. They have to keep lobbying for more tickets as the homeless population balloons. For clients, having to get free bus tickets one at a time is the worst possible situation, next to no transit access at all. Often, there are no tickets available. Having the tickets not be usable on Link, when various trips now require using Link, is forcing a fresh round of pontification.

Trying to bring transit fare media distribution into the 21st century, through e-purse and/or pass uploads at hundreds of agencies, is far beyond what most agencies serving the homeless population are set up to do. Indeed, at all four locales in the US that have programs to give out free monthly or longer passes for the homeless population (Santa Clara County, Phoenix, Minneapolis / St. Paul, and Miami / Dade County), the job is shunted off to non-profits to deal with, and minimally advertised.

The ORCA LIFT program has served those who can’t afford to pay the full fare well, but it wasn’t designed to solve the problem of those who can’t afford to pay any fare. However it, along with the youth ORCA card and the Regional Reduced Fare Permit for seniors and riders with disabilities, may play a key role in solving the problem of homeless access to public transit.

Low-income "ORCA LIFT" card, now honored on all Sound Transit services; or maybe this is a youth ORCA card
Low-income “ORCA LIFT” card, now honored on all Sound Transit services, or maybe this is a youth ORCA card
The RRFP is also an ORCA card.
The RRFP is also an ORCA card.

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My suggestion:

First, give out paper monthly passes, covering the rest of the current month, at all the agencies currently offering free one-ride tickets. The passes would have the month and year clearly printed on them, and could be printed in a distinct color/design for that month. This solves the problem of invisible ink and failure to fill in dates that led to the demise of the free multi-modal day passes.

Second, when giving out a pass (or when telling a client that the monthly supply has run out), also provide a voucher that certifies that individual is eligible for a free monthly pass for the next month, and directs the recipient to locations (possibly Public Health, possibly Metro’s customer shops) where that voucher can be converted to a monthly pass for the stated month on an ORCA LIFT, RRFP, or youth ORCA card. The pass for the current month could also possibly be convertible to an ORCA pass, with proper identification.

Third, to make the concept of free transit access for the homeless more palatable to the general public, set a date for the elimination of paper transfers. Make ORCA cards widely available for free for a period surrounding the cut-off date.

Metro to Add Trips to Crowded Routes 28X, 62, 373, and 73

SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

One thing I neglected to mention in my recent suggestion for better span of service on restructured Metro routes was that Metro had already set aside a cache of service hours within the restructure to proactively respond to overcrowding and reliability issues. Several STB writers have seen Metro staff in the field tallying riders on key routes, and it appears they have enough preliminary data to start tweaking.

Beginning next Monday four routes – 28X, 62, 373, and 73 – will see a total of 6 additional trips.

Route 28X has seen the highest number of complaints of overcrowding, with the restructure retaining its midday frequency but cutting its peak frequency by 26% – going from 23 to 17 trips between 5-9am. The 28X will see two additional morning trips in the 8-9am hour, with the aim to retain 10-minute headways until 9am. One trip will be added in the 5pm hour to allow 6-7 minute headways in the peak of the peak.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.43.51 PM
Routes 28 and 28X (pink) before the ULink restructure (inbound from 85th/Greenwood)
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.43.23 PM
Route 28X after the ULink restructure (from 85th/Greenwood inbound on weekdays)

Route 62 has also received overcrowding complaints, though only for the southern half where it has taken over Wallingford-Fremont service from Route 16 and Fremont-Dexter-SLU service from former routes 26 and 28 local. Accordingly, Metro will add two morning trips between 7-8 am, originating at Ravenna/65th instead of Sand Point. This will provide 7-8 minute service between 8-9am from Green Lake to Downtown via Fremont.

Route 373 currently begins service from Aurora Village at 6:00am, and Metro has heard complaints from riders wishing to connect to Link a bit earlier, and has also observed “standing loads on all morning Route 373 trips.” It will add a single trip at 5:45am, arriving at UW Station at 6:30. Because the 373 and 73 live loop together at UW Station, Route 73 will see an additional trip also, leaving UW Station at 6:30 and arriving in Jackson Park at 7:00am.

Bravo to Metro for being responsive in adding trips just 3 weeks into the restructure, and let’s hope it’s the start of more tweaks to come as riders’ trip patterns settle over the coming months.

Driving for Urbanists – 15 Do’s and Don’ts

"Congestion on the University Bridge, 1957" – Seattle Municipal Archives
“Congestion on the University Bridge, 1957” – Seattle Municipal Archives

No matter how devoted we may be to a life of transit (or walking or bicycling), etc, most of us still find ourselves behind the wheel at least semi-regularly. After 7 years without a car, I’ve made peace with car ownership and am frankly very glad I again own one. Those of us who grew up in suburbia or rural America likely landed in Seattle with our lead foots intact, frustrated by what we perceived as the well-meaning incompetence of other drivers. We may have even nodded our heads at the Allstate report saying Seattle has some of the worst drivers in the U.S.

But the very things that draw many of us to Seattle– vibrant street life, narrow(ish) streets, density of people and services, bodies of water, and topographic variation – are often direct impediments to driving. So I’d like to echo this great post from from Tom at Seattle Bike Blog with 15 ways you can stand out from your lead-footed peers and drive like a good Seattle Urbanist.

1: Yield for buses. Every time. Period. If you see a stopped bus with its left-turn signal flashing, yield. If a moving bus is trying to merge into your lane, let it. Every time.

2: Yield for people. Every time. Treat every intersection like the legal crosswalk that it is. Be nicer than people expect you to be.

3: Give thanks for transit. Every time you get frustrated driving behind a bus, breathe, imagine 40-100 additional cars in front of you, and give thanks instead.

4: Check your mirrors obsessively. Expect a cyclist to be approaching every single time you open your car door, change lanes, or turn. Get used to never quite feeling relaxed when you drive. You’re operating potentially lethal heavy machinery, you should be a little stressed and at full attention.

5: Slow down. If driving on crowded arterials, resist the urge to speed even a little. Go ahead and be the annoying one going 25mph on Rainier or 40mph on Aurora. Wear impatient honks from other drivers like a badge of pride. If you’re cresting a hill and can’t see beyond it, slow to a crawl. If you’re driving into the sun and your squinting impacts your field of vision, lay off the gas. Anytime humans on foot or bike are nearby, ease off a bit.

6: Drive below the speed limit on neighborhood streets. Drive 15mph or less, or slow enough to evade and not kill 100% of distracted children who may run out into the street.

7: Relax about cyclists and red lights. Learn to differentiate between the risky behaviors that deserve your scorn and the harmless bending of the law. If a person biking in front of you runs a yellow or newly-red light, give thanks that they’re the last through the intersection rather than in front of you when your light next turns green. If they treat the red light like a stop sign (as is legal in Idaho), understand that people biking are operating a much more nimble vehicle. People on bikes sit higher than those on most cars, and unimpeded by glass or structural steel, they also have a much wider field of vision that you do as a driver, increasing their chances of maneuvering safely. Cut them some slack.

8: Own an ORCA card, even if you drive every day. Keep at least $20 on it. Be ready and able to take transit at a moment’s notice rather than feeling locked into driving for lack of cash.

9: Drive with a light foot. Accelerate slowly, brake steadily. Be boringly predictable. If you see a red light in front of you, immediately ease off the accelerator and coast to a stop. Learn the light timings of your most frequented streets (e.g. 20mph on 4th Avenue downtown) and drive just fast enough to clear every green light. Think more about average speed and less about top speed. A good shorthand rule: if you’re making Marilyn McKenna angry, you’re probably doing something right.

10: Don’t make unprotected left turns through busy intersections (think Broadway/John, Olive/Denny, etc). Not only will you back up traffic, but you’ll be tempted to punch through if you get a clearing, endangering crossing pedestrians. Instead relax, take an extra minute, and whenever possible either use a signalized turn or make three right turns instead.

11: Don’t circle for parking, ever. Make one pass at your desired street parking location, and if it’s full, use the nearest garage. Make peace with routinely spending a few bucks to store your large piece of property. Rather than pinching pennies, value your time for what it’s worth.

12: Don’t block the box, ever. Don’t proceed across an intersection until you have at least two car lengths in front of you, so that you won’t block the box even if another driver cuts you off at the last minute. When other drivers honk at you for waiting, ignore them.

13: Don’t honk your horn unless there is an imminent threat of a collision, and never out of frustration or anger. Don’t let your impatience cause noise pollution and stress to those around you.

14: Don’t look at your phone, period. Turn off the ringer and stash it in the glove box until you turn off the car. It can wait. Drive simple cars with the least amount of distracting tech. If you need to stay connected during your travel time, there’s this great thing called transit that allows you to browse and tap and text to your heart’s content.

15: Be on the way. To the fullest extent possible, arrange your life to give yourself transportation resilience. Even if you drive for everything else, don’t drive during peak hours. Even if you rarely take transit, treat it like basic infrastructure you need to learn. Know what transit routes are near you and where they go and how often, just as you know the streets around you.

TBM 1 Cutterhead Removed from UW Station

Northgate Link TBM 1 (Brenda)

At around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the cutterhead of TBM #1 (formerly known as “Brenda”) was lifted out of a 95-foot deep retrieval shaft just north of the University of Washington Link station. The 21-foot diameter cutterhead is the first part of the machine to be removed from UW Station, a week after completion of the northbound Northgate Link tunnel.

The cutterhead will stay put at the UW Station staging area, easily seen from the pedestrian overpass, until early next week, according to Sound Transit. Over the next few weeks, contractors will continue to remove other parts of the machine and transport them to a lot near Rainier Beach Station.

During that time, Sound Transit will inspect the TBM and determine whether or not it could be used to dig the last segment of Northgate Link’s tunnels, the southbound tube from U District Station to UW Station. TBM #2 (formerly “Pamela”) is still undergoing refurbishment and repairs at U District Station after arriving on March 24 despite suffering minor damage and figuratively limping to the station. Mining of the segment is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a hole-through at a further date.

In late 2011 and early 2012, Brenda was twice lifted out near Convention Place Station after the completing the Capitol Hill-Westlake segment of University Link.