For Anti-Transit Writers, the Answer is “Always Less”: Spokane Edition

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There is a certain type of anti-transit writer whose perspective can be summarized as: “For every agency proposal n, the agency should instead do n-1.” When rail proposals are on the table, such writers often make substantive and seemingly pro-transit arguments for bus rapid transit (BRT) as a superior alternative for less capital cost. When BRT proposals are advanced, their arguments generally shift to either a defense of the sufficiency of traditional bus service, or to a more transparently anti-transit stance that focuses on impacts to general traffic.

In Spokane, the city is set to go it alone the Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is set to try again this fall after voters defeated a larger regional proposal by less than 700 votes last April, asking voters to raise the sales tax by .2% to fund transit improvements including the Central City Line. To many efficiency-minded conservatives, Spokane should be a model case; for years it has studied a higher-capacity transit service connecting its urban western districts (such as Browne’s Addition) with downtown and its University District (serving WSU-Spokane, Spokane Community College, and Gonzaga). The agency has dismissed light rail and streetcar options as prohibitively expensive, and has a solid plan for an electric trolleybus alternative that would carry 900,000 riders per year. What’s not to like?

Plenty, if you’re someone like the CATO Institute’s Randall O’Toole. Writing in the Spokesman Review, O’Toole describes the project as a deliberate waste of taxpayer dollars intended solely to win federal grants: Continue reading “For Anti-Transit Writers, the Answer is “Always Less”: Spokane Edition”

First Hill Streetcar Ridership Update

SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

Last week we wrote about technical problems delaying analysis of the First Hill Streetcar’s ridership. With the Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs) data transmission process broken, SDOT staff had noted that March ORCA data showed 50,000 boardings, or roughly 1,600 per day (though higher on weekdays and lower on weekends, of course).

Yesterday SDOT’s Norm Mah sent us updated APC data for the past 30 days, April 14-May 14, indicating that the data problem has been fixed.

The past 30 days have seen roughly 75,000 boardings, or 50% higher than the March ORCA-based count. The large difference is likely best explained by a combination of genuine growth, U-Link induced transfers, and a seemingly high rate of non-ORCA use (both via fare evasion and paper ticket purchasing).

A couple other things to note from the chart below. Sunday ridership is quite low, but it actually performs as well as Saturday ridership on a per-service-hour basis, as the streetcar operates a 20-hour (5am-1am) service span on Saturdays but only a 10-hour span on Sunday (10am-8pm). Second, the low May 1 ridership was due to suspension of service at 1pm due to May Day police activity. Finally, the recent free ridership promotions on Thursdays do seem to induce ridership, as the two highest ridership days in this data window were May 5 and May 12.


News Roundup: Growing Fast

King County Metro 2015 New Flyer XT60 4514

This is an open thread.

Yearlong Yesler Closure Begins Monday

Yesler Way Bridge in 1920, 10 Years After Completion (SDOT – Flickr)
Yesler Way Bridge in 1920, 10 Years After Completion (SDOT – Flickr)

Beginning next Monday, May 23, the Yesler Way bridge over 4th avenue will close for up to 16 months for a $20 million structural and seismic renovation, funded jointly by Move Seattle’s predecessor (Bridging the Gap) and by a Federal Highway Administration “Historic Bridge Replacement” grant.

The 1910 y-shaped steel structure is Seattle’s oldest bridge, covering Yesler Way from 3rd-5th avenues and Terrace Street from 4th to 5th Avenue. The desire to preserve the historic steel facades adds both to the timeline and to the cost, and after rehabilitation the bridge will look much like it does today.

Regrettably, Metro and the City have declined to fund the addition of trolley wire on Yesler, despite the closure being a perfect opportunity for concurrent construction. The Yesler trolley wire project was included in the original draft of Move Seattle, then dropped in later revisions without public explanation. Moving routes 3 and 4 to Yesler would allow riders to skip the interminable and unfixable jams on James Street, and make use of the precious commodity that Yesler offers, namely a street over I-5 immune from freeway queueing. We’ve also opined about other changes such a project would enable, such as moving Route 40 to serve South Lake Union, First Hill, and possibly Cherry Hill.

In terms of transit impacts, the closure will primarily affect Route 27 and routes that use the Terrace/5th pathway to access the I-5 Express Lanes, including Community Transit routes 412, 413, 416, 421, 425, 435 and Metro routes 304 and 355. Additional full closures of 4th Avenue on select nights and weekends will also affect Sound Transit routes 510, 511, 512, 545 and 594.

Continue reading “Yearlong Yesler Closure Begins Monday”

County Council Approves September Service Change

Supporters of new route 106 take a victory lap
Supporters of new route 106

The King County Council unanimously approved Metro’s September service change at its meeting Monday afternoon.

Public testimony is from 36:17-51:35 of the video. Debate and action on the item is at 1:07-1:10 in the video.

A line-up of eight speakers from various Asian immigrant communities testified in favor of proposed route 106, which creates a one-seat ride between Renton, Skyway, MLK Way, Rainier, and Jackson. Among their concerns and reasons for wanting a one-seat ride were the lack of sufficient shelter at transfer bus stops, safety, and avoiding jay-running to catch connections.

A couple points they raised were outside what the restructure accomplishes. One speaker mentioned Harborview Medical Center as a desired destination. Another talked about having more frequency along MLK Way.

Bruce Kelly, Principal of Raisbeck Aviation High School, testified on the utility of more frequency on route 124, which will be upgraded to 15-minute headway during weekdays. The school has 10 students and one staffer who ride route 124, and some of them have tardiness problems resulting from taking the bus.

County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said, “I was particularly struck [by testimony from Tukwila] about the value of increasing the frequency of route 124.” Route 124 has been toward the top of the list of routes needing frequency investment in Metro’s annual Service Guidelines reports.

Councilmember Claudia Balducci said “It was really important to do all the updates that the community had been asking for.”

The council then passed the service change unanimously.

TCC, Feet First, and Cascade’s Letter on the Waterfront Alternatives

Tiffany Von Arnim (Flickr)
Tiffany Von Arnim (Flickr)


Together, we believe that a waterfront rebuilt post­viaduct is an opportunity to shape the city into a more sustainable, safe, vibrant, accessible, and connected destination for people of all ages and abilities.

While we stand by our original comments on the previously published DEIS, we would like to respond to new information in the SDEIS. Our earlier comments commended the City for its work towards the creation of new public space and easy walking and biking access between downtown and the waterfront. At the same time, we collectively urged the City to maximize transit reliability along the southern portion of Alaskan Way while exploring ways to reduce the excessive number of lanes in this area, helping provide a safe and pleasant experiences for people walking and biking.

Although initial analysis in the DEIS projects less congestion on the newly designed Alaskan Way corridor, research suggests that expanding the number lanes on Alaskan Way could inherently stimulate travel demand, resulting in the same amount of congestion. We understand your model forecasts demand and travel time, suggesting additional lanes to theoretically improve congestion. However, widening roads typically leads to immediate growth of vehicle miles traveled on a corridor. This induced demand has the potential to negate all planned benefits of additional roadway capacity, which eventually will not accommodate the entirety of predicted increased travel demand. We cannot build our way out of congestion. Instead, the city should build for the waterfront experience we want today, investing in proven travel demand management initiatives to increase the number of people who take the bus, walk, and bike. We again urge the City to use multimodal LOS standards to measure the success of a corridor, prioritizing the movement of people and goods instead of only the movement of vehicles alone.

The SDEIS presents a new alternative for the southern portion of Alaskan Way Corridor that reduces pedestrian crossing distances at several crosswalks. While we appreciate the City’s responsiveness to requests to reduce right­of­way width and improve nonmotorized connections between downtown and the waterfront, we are disappointed that this alternative sacrificed transit reliability to do so.

We believe that the Alaskan Way Corridor should provide safe, reliable, comfortable, and pleasant transportation options for all users. Crossings in this area should be designed to encourage easy travel between the newly developed waterfront and Pioneer Square, one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Seattle. At the same time, the limited road space that we have should be allocated to modes that move the most people in the most efficient way possible, helping the City meet its climate and sustainability goals. Rather than analyze two alternatives that pit transit against walking and biking, we urge the City to develop an alternative that maintains transit priority and commits to Vision Zero safety standards.

Continue reading “TCC, Feet First, and Cascade’s Letter on the Waterfront Alternatives”

Support our Experiment in Local Publishing

Knute Berger recently wrote a great piece on the current state of Seattle media:

But even The Stranger, known for its criticism of the Blethen-family-owned Times, has concerns about what’s happening media-wise in this town. We are losing something with the twilight of the old media, like real journalism. Stranger Publisher Tim Keck tells me the “Seattle Times, a severely damaged publication, does more for our city in a day than Yelp and Craigslist (to pick up a couple of brands that have been around for a while) have done in their lifetimes.” In other words, surviving is one thing, but operating with a real news commitment and resources is something else. Seattle needs that more than ever, and not every new media iteration is going to fill that gap. “Cities are humans’ greatest invention. Cities don’t work without good local media,” says Keck.

Collectively, the local media are crowdsourcing a solution. New partnerships, experiments, cutbacks, all are the order of the day, but as yet there is no single answer to how to improve and grow substantive local news in the new media environment. Change, says Keck, is not just a reality, but has to become part of a media entity’s brand — the expected thing, not the resisted one. “The stakes are high, and local media has to figure it out,” he says.

Here at Seattle Transit Blog, we’re running our own experiment. Our theory is that if we put out quality, original reporting with deep expertise in a specific subject matter, we can build a community that will support a sustainable journalistic enterprise.  In just the last month, Zach’s met with everyone from ST staff, to activists, to elected officials, and reported from 5 public meetings.  We couldn’t do any of that last year.

You, our readers, are part of our experiment. It will only work if we hear from you.  We’re almost halfway to our goal of 100 new donors.  To put that in perspective, that’s fewer people than visited our site in the last hour.  Will you be one of them? A few bucks is all it takes.  If you’re feeling generous, remember that a printed version of Oran’s beautiful Seattle Transit Map is available to those who give $150 or $12/month.  If that’s more than you can swing right now, even just $10 is greatly appreciated. To those who have given, thank you! To those who are considering it, I can’t stress enough that whatever you can give is valuable.

Make a donation or click on the donate button above.  Seattle Transit Blog is a 501(c)4; donations are not tax-deductible.

13 Takeaways from ST3’s Public Comment Period

On May 5 at Sound Transit’s Executive Committee, Sound Transit Staff  presented initial results of the ST3 Draft Plan public comment period that ended on May 2, and EMC Research presented the results of a separate region wide phone poll. After a Friday the 13th weekend, here are 13 takeaways from that presentation.

#1: Huge Overall Response

Puget Sound residents and their governments were more than willing to take a few minutes of their time to weigh in on what is clearly a pressing issue in their daily lives. Sound Transit received 35,000 completed online surveys and 2,300 written public comments, had 1,200 meeting attendees, and received formal letters from 90 jurisdictions or stakeholder groups.

#2. Central Puget Sound Dominates Responses

For all the political importance of completing the spine, only 20% of responses came from Pierce and Snohomish County combined, and 65% came just from Central Puget Sound, namely Seattle (45%) and the Eastside (20%). South King County accounted for only 6% of responses, less than the number of responses from out-of-district residents (8%).

#3. Voter Optimism is High

Puget Sound residents generally feel that things are going well, with 53-55% of voters consistently saying we’re “on the right track”, up 10 points since the recession ended in 2011.

#4. People Like Sound Transit

Sound Transit has consistently had a better than 60% overall approval rating since 2004, with support down slightly from its all-time high of 69% on 2014.

#5. Transit Votes Better Than Roads

In the phone survey, only 38% preferred highway spending to transit when asked to choose between the two, while 70% said expanding transit was either urgent or extremely urgent.

#6. Voters Instinctively Support Sound Transit Expansion

76% of voters approve of Sound Transit expansion in the abstract, and all 5 subareas have supermajority approval, running from a low of 69% support in South King County to 81% in Seattle. However, this level of overall support is also down from an all-time high of 85% in 2014.

#7. The ST3 Draft Plan is Less Popular, But Not By Much

After being read a description of projects in the ST3 Draft Plan (but without a timeline), package support drops from 76% to 65%.

#8. People Care More About Time Than Cost

Overall polling support remained steadfast after a description of costs and annual taxes were read to respondents, dipping only slightly from 65% to 63%. When project timelines were read, support dropped more significantly, from 63% to 59%.

#9. East King <3 West Seattle

East King’s highest rated priority in the phone survey was Link to West Seattle, higher than any Eastside Project, edging out even the assured extension to from Overlake to Downtown Redmond.

#10. South King Looks North

South King’s phone survey respondents rated both Boeing Access Road Station and Link to West Seattle more highly than completing the spine to Tacoma.

#11. Pierce Cares More About Sounder Than Link

Pierce County’s phone survey respondents prioritized Sounder extension to Dupont over Link to Federal Way/Seattle.

#12. Snohomish <3 130th St Station.

Though Paine Field did quite well in the online survey (likely because politicians ably got out the vote), on the phone survey it barely edged out support for Sounder parking and building 130th Street Station.

#13. West Seattle Edges Out Ballard

Surprisingly, enthusiasm for Link to West Seattle outperformed Ballard in the phone survey, even though Ballard trounced all in the online survey. West Seattle got high marks from four subareas, while Ballard’s interest seems more confined to Seattle.

Rapid Ride Gets 24/7 All-Door Boarding

SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

In a win for efficiency, operational speed, and regulatory simplicity, beginning today all Rapid Ride lines will allow 24/7 all-door boarding. Until today, the lines have reverted from proof-of-payment to traditional front door boarding after 7pm, causing unnecessary complexity and confusion for riders.

The change comes after Metro management polled operators about the proposal, with the results coming back in favor of the change.

Metro’s blog post below the jump…

Continue reading “Rapid Ride Gets 24/7 All-Door Boarding”

Regional Funding for the New Downtown Tunnel?

Dave Honan (Flickr)
Dave Honan (Flickr)

At Thursday’s meeting of Sound Transit’s Capital Committee, staff updated boardmembers on both the latest concepts for expediting ST3 project delivery and modifications to the ST3 financial plan. It was an excellent and substantive conversation, and we’ll post video when it becomes available. CEO Peter Rogoff’s presentation on project delivery was a particularly good primer on how projects are developed and delivered in our region, one we’ll likely come back to again and again.

But the big news came later during a presentation on the financial plan, when ST’s Ric Ilgenfritz and CFO Brian McCartan led the committee through a discussion of subarea equity. While Sound Transit normally allocates project costs to the five regional subareas (Snohomish, North King, East King, South King, and Pierce) based on a determination of the proportional benefits that accrue to each, there is also a need to determine “systemwide assets” whose costs should be shared by all subareas. CFO McCartan gave the example of fleet and maintenance costs that should be equally shared between subareas even if the facilities that accommodate them are physically located in one subarea.

With that preamble by McCartan, Ilgenfritz then put up a graphic showing the future capacity constraints of the core segments underneath downtown Seattle, making the case that “All users benefit from core capacity expansion, and the core stations will carry the heaviest load.” CEO Rogoff then chimed in, saying “Ric put this in the positive frame, but it can equally be put in the negative. Absent new tunnel capacity, these regional lines will fail.

The upshot is that, if the Board approves, Sound Transit will seek to allocate the marginal cost of the new Downtown tunnel to all 5 subareas as a systemwide asset. As a refresher, the Draft ST3 plan allocated 80% of the new tunnel’s costs to North King (Seattle), and 20% to Pierce County since the planned Green Line to Tacoma would use the new tunnel. This would presumably free up additional financial capacity (potentially a few hundred million?) within North King to either expand project scope, expedite project delivery, or both.

The committee seemed warm to the idea, as there was little pushback. King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci particularly rose to its defense, albeit asking for transparency in cost allocation to appease the inevitable criticisms of suburban money funding “a Seattle tunnel.” But the benefits of the new tunnel to suburban riders seemed clear. A trip from Lynnwood to SeaTac, for instance, would use both Seattle tunnels even though the trip originated in Snohomish and ended in South King.

Several groups asked for regional funding of the tunnel during the comment period, including Seattle Subway and the Seattle Transit Advisory Board (disclaimer: I serve on that board). And it makes a ton of sense. Rogoff is right that the “regional spine” is impossible as as a single line concept, that new core capacity is essential, and that all regional users will benefit from it.

Without regionalization, Snohomish County in particular would be getting a free ride, as all 3 King County subareas paid for the original Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and Pierce County was already slated to contribute to the new tunnel. Recognizing the new tunnel as a regional asset would be good policy, and let’s hope the Board agrees.

Support Waterfront Transit Lanes: Comment Deadline May 18


Back in December we reported that the Office of the Waterfront would undertake a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) to study removal of the planned bus lanes on the future Alaskan Way. There was some confusion at the time because no organized groups were agitating for such an outcome, and that all parties had generally agreed on the merits of transit priority. But the number of understandable complaints about the overall roadway width from bicycle and pedestrian advocates exceeded a threshold that triggered SDOT to study a narrowed footprint. From our followup post:

Office of the Waterfront Director Marshall Foster said the total number of comments asking for a narrower roadway hit “a tipping point” that forced the City to formally respond to their request, necessitating a SDEIS that studied a narrower roadway. However, Foster said the funding agreement between the State and the Port explicitly codifies two general purpose lanes in each direction, effectively prohibiting the City from studying reducing those lanes in the SDEIS:

Section II, A, 5: The Central Waterfront from Pine Street to Colman Dock will have two lanes in each direction plus a turning lane; the segment south of Colman Dock will have 3 lanes in each direction plus a turning lane.

So the City is in the odd position of being required to study a narrower channelization because enough of the community asked for it, but since the only mode not explicitly protected in its right-of-way allocation is transit, the City will study eliminating transit priority even though neither the City nor advocacy groups see that as a preferred outcome. Isn’t process fun?

Well, that SDEIS has been published, and comments are due May 18. Read the full document here, or the Executive Summary here. And the results are a slam dunk. The SDEIS shows that removing the bus lanes would worsen travel times for transit, general purpose traffic, and freight.  Continue reading “Support Waterfront Transit Lanes: Comment Deadline May 18”

News Roundup: Huge Improvement

Link Light Rail Trains at Capitol Hill Station, Seattle WA

This is an open thread.

Center City Connector Takes Another Step Forward

1st & Pike in 1930 with Streetcar Tracks (Seattle Municipal Arhives)

The Center City Connector project took another step forward with the recent publication of its Environmental Assessment (EA) documentation. A 30-day public comment period began Monday, with emailed comment accepted at

The EA process is a slimmed down version of the more familiar Environmental Impact Statement. Agencies proposing projects unlikely to have significant impacts may opt for the smaller study, and assuming a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), the agency may proceed without further review.

If the proposed $75m federal funding contribution comes through (60% of the project’s cost) SDOT would begin construction late next year, with a 12-24 month construction period that is deliberately squishy at this point. The EA proposes breaking the work into 4 phases, working from Pioneer Square northward to SLU. The length and exact phasing of construction would be determined later in a delicate dance with major, concurrent impacts such as removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, uncertain timelines for the opening of the Deep Bore Tunnel, and completion of the Waterfront and Seawall projects. These challenges will also ostensibly be answered in the forthcoming Center City Mobility Plan, and like the increasingly delayed Center City Bike Network, it seems possible that construction mitigation and coordination needs have the potential to slow things down.

ST3 + CCC-01
Graphic by the Author

If built as planned, the two current streetcar lines would both be extended to overlap with one another for combined 5 minute headways (or more accurately, 12 trains per hour). Trains from First Hill would travel to SLU but stop short of Fred Hutch, returning via a new turnback track on Republican Street. Trains from Fred Hutch would terminate at 7th/Jackson, using the non-revenue access to the Charles Street OMF facility to turn around.

Given the U-shape of the proposed streetcar network, any trip longer than a few stations would likely be faster by bus or Link, but the project still has some potentially significant advantages. It would provide highly visible front-door service to Pike Place Market (and thus be a hit with tourists), it would provide a better transit connection to Colman Dock (currently awkwardly accessed by Link), and it would serve the heart of Pioneer Square (unlike the 3rd/Yesler “Pioneer Square” Link Station). Continue reading “Center City Connector Takes Another Step Forward”

First Hill Streetcar Ridership a Mystery

Joe Wolf (Flickr)
Joe Wolf (Flickr)

While ULink is already setting ridership records, it’s easy for this North Capitol Hill resident to forget about the First Hill Streetcar, the beleaguered line that opened in late January after a series of delays and technical problems.

Curious about the line’s ridership both before and after ULink, I asked SDOT for ridership data a couple weeks ago. Sadly, it appears that ridership data for the First Hill line is not available due to yet more technical difficulties. In a twist out of our robot overload future, it appears the computers know the answer but the humans don’t.

From SDOT’s Michael James:

Here is where we are with the data.  Our [automatic passenger counters] and servers are collecting data.  However, we are having technical issues transmitting it back to our source software program.  We are actively working to correct the technical issue.  As soon as we get and review the daily data, we would be happy to share it with you.

We did calculate monthly ridership using ORCA tap methodology for March 2016, which was 50,159.

So stay tuned for further stats and analysis, but if the ORCA data is reasonably reliable, it appears that the First Hill line is carrying roughly 1,600 riders per day. Though Link and the First Hill line are obviously very different services operating at different scales, a good shorthand appears to be that Link carries in a day what the First Hill Streetcar carries in a month. If 1,600 riders per day were a bus route, this would place the streetcar near the bottom of all-day routes within Seattle, in the same ballpark as Routes 31, 47, and 50. Given the short length of the line, other metrics such as ridership per mile would likely rank the streetcar a bit more favorably.

FHSC Ridership

Keep STB Going Strong in 2016


Last summer we held our first fundraising drive, and I honestly had no idea what to expect.  But many of you stepped up, and thanks to your support we were able to hire our first reporter.  In the last year, I think Zach and the rest of the volunteer staff have done a fantastic job delivering coverage and analysis that you can only get here at STB.  We’ve had live coverage at most major transit events, regular briefings with agency staff, and detailed reports on agencies and initiatives.   We’ve also filed public records requests and interviewed regional leaders.

It’s working: our readership is up 50% over a year ago.

We think there’s plenty more to do. This year we’re investing more resources in reporting so we can be sure to provide end-to-end coverage and analysis of this momentous time for Puget Sound transit.  Whether ST3 wins or loses in the fall, there will be plenty to cover next year and beyond.

Please make a donation in 2016 to help us continue our efforts.  Donors receive a monthly newsletter from yours truly, and we’re adding a special gift this year. For donors who give at least $150 or $12/month by the end of May, we’ll send you a brand-new, unfolded version of Oran’s gorgeous Seattle Transit Map, suitable for framing.

Instead of setting a dollar goal, this year hoping for just 100 new donors to step up.   That’s well under 1% percent of our monthly readership.  I know it’s a fundraising cliche, but it’s true: every donation matters.  Whatever you can give – $5, $25, $150.  It all makes a difference.  Donate using the PayPal link below.  If you’d rather give money another way, send me an email (frank at seattletransitblog) and we’ll figure something out.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!  It’s gonna be a great year.

Seattle Transit Blog is a 501(c)4; donations are not tax-deductible.

Editorial: Fix the SE Seattle Restructure

KCM Route 38 at Mount Baker TC

County Councilmembers Joe McDermott and Larry Gossett kindly offered some reasons for supporting more bus service in southeast Seattle last Thursday. STB supports adding more service in southeast Seattle that delivers real improvements to riders, which means avoiding wasteful duplication. The councilmembers’ arguments failed to explain why these specific route restructures (in particular, the extension of route 38 / proposed route 106 to the International District) are on the table.

For all the talk of unmet demand on MLK, the proposal has no additional service there. Indeed, by introducing reliability problems with no additional frequency, intra-MLK trips will likely get worse. Starting trips in the International District will scramble arrival times and degrade the transfer from Link to buses on MLK.

The councilmembers understand the advantages of replacing two routes (106 and 124) between eastern Georgetown and downtown with one (124) running twice as often, which is more likely to maintain proper spacing between buses. One alternative for the ID/Mt. Baker service hours would apply the same lesson to high-ridership route 7, potentially matching the peak frequency of Link.

Another alternative would actually improve service for the aforementioned communities on MLK Way by boosting its frequency beyond 15 minutes. This would also improve an already high-quality transfer at Mt. Baker Station. Either alternative is superior to running duplicate service which does nothing but avoid high-quality transfers between 7, 38, and Link. The Metro proposal effectively resurrects the 42, historically a poor performer. Continue reading “Editorial: Fix the SE Seattle Restructure”

How Puget Sound Will Escape DC Metro’s Fate

Saleh Damiger (Washington Post)
Saleh Damiger (Washington Post)

After decades of deferred maintenance and neglect that has led to crashes, fires, and in some cases killing its own riders, the DC Metro will soon rip off the band aid with a year of painful closures and single-track operations affecting hundreds of thousands of riders. View the full closure details here. The intensive work will replace infrastructure that in many cases dates back to the first days of the system.

Meanwhile, at Sound Transit’s Executive Committee meeting on Thursday, Boardmembers were getting their first chance to review the draft ST3 financial plan when CFO Brian McCartan read a new proposed financial policy:

The Board will maintain capital replacement and maintenance reserves and annual budgetary amounts sufficient to fully fund the system in a state of good repair. Sufficient funds will be set aside to fully meet these obligations and their funding will have precedence over other agency expenditures.

Pausing to ask if Boardmembers had any questions, CEO Peter Rogoff turned on his mic. Perhaps mindful of his experiences in DC, he said, “There would be no greater crime that we could do to our children and grandchildren than to not do this.” Dow then chimed in as well: “I’m super excited about this. This is exactly the kind of thing government ought to be doing…We’ve had challenges over the decades with our roads and bridges, with our parents and grandparents investing in infrastructure and then not doing the things needed to maintain it.

Acting WSDOT Secretary Millar – whose agency has come under frequent fire for prioritizing highway expansion over maintenance – agreed, saying “As the manager of legacy assets, I think this asset management is a wonderful idea.” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers was stunned that such policy language was so unprecedented both nationally and locally, saying, “I’m shocked and appalled we have to even adopt such a policy, and that it wasn’t done earlier. We’ve had significant discussions at PSRC regarding the difficulties we’ve had with our highway system by not having such a policy.” So at the committee level at least there was unanimous agreement that such a policy is necessary and prudent.

This is very welcome news, basically codifying Fix It First as official policy. Let’s hope the Board agrees in June, and let’s hope that WSDOT someday follows their lead.