King County Metro RapidRide 2015 New Flyer XDE60 6206

This is an open thread.

45 Replies to “News Roundup: Catching Fire”

  1. The U-PASS issues help to show that the parking tax isn’t a magical pot of gold that generates revenue without consequences. The parking tax has been pushed to a very high level (similar to alcohol, cigarettes, cell phone service, rental cars, and airline tickets). The expected result is smuggling, but that’s illogical for parking, so demand has to fall instead.

    That being said, surely raising the prices for both parking and U-PASS is the easiest solution. Considering I pay $297 for 3 months of $2.75-value passes, $150/quarter is a heck of a deal for all transit services.

    1. Unless you are a student who doesn’t leave U District more than once per week. When I was in college, it was rare to leave the college neighborhood. My friends all lived there. The vast majority of my time was spent studying or chilling with friends. $150 per quarter: a bargain for somebody commuting daily. A ripoff for a kid using it once a week to go to a bar. My wife always mailed her UPass back. That was money in her pocket that bought Top Ramen!

      1. U-Pass fee is only $80/quarter for students. The $150 figure is for faculty and staff. Considering that 97% of UW students choose to activate their U-Pass is pretty good evidence that your wife was in the extreme minority of students who didn’t/don’t find it worthwhile.

      2. I remember when U-Pass was just a sticker on the Husky Card, recent UW graduates who had just entered the work force would buy unused U-Passes for cheap. It was a lot cheaper than $54/month for a 1-zone, peak Puget Pass, plus it was good on even the Sounder! Not that I could ever condone such blatant theft.

    2. The UW has to think about its total transportation needs and impact on the surrounding community, not just what’s best for one person. What other quarterly fees were smaller than $150? Is transportation a basic necessity for the U or an extra? Is there a refund available for dormies who don’t think they’ll use it enough? Does an unlimited pass give freedom and convenience beyond the cash value of the trips? People outside the U can only wish they could get a tri-county-level pass for $50 a month.

      1. Mike, the fee is mandatory and the only way to get a refund is to withdraw from classes. With all students paying the fee, you’ve got the infrequent users subsidizing everyone else. This thing falls apart if you make it optional.

      2. Mike, not sure. The current system has only been in place I believe for less than ten years, so maybe they were students in the 90’s or early 2000’s when it was something a student had to opt in to. Just checked one of my grad student tuition statements from 2013 and it literally says “Required Fee” next to the U PASS charge.

      3. When I was there in 2009, the U-Pass was automatically included each quarter, but you could return the sticker for a refund on the fee. It later became mandatory for all students.

      4. I don’t know if it’s different for faculty and staff but it’s mandatory for students at least. I just gave Engineer the benefit of the doubt that it might have been different in the past.

      5. It was opt out. You returned the pass to get the fee removed from the bill. The “required” part is probably to make it eligible for financial aid grants.

        Opt-out is a psychological trick: many people won’t opt out because they don’t realize they can or they don’t get around to it before deadline. With opt-in, people don’t opt in for the same reason. So the fees for U-Pass, WashPIRG, and Washington Student Lobby were intentionally made opt-in to get money from the large number of lazy people.

      6. Background to the universal U-PASS, which took effect in 2011 after community discussion in 2010:

        https://seattletransitblog.com/2011/05/17/uw-u-pass-cheaper-no-longer-optional/

        https://seattletransitblog.com/2010/12/03/universal-and-orca-powered-u-pass-delayed/

        tl;dr:

        The original funding model of U-PASS was unsustainable. At the time transit fares were rising rapidly (3 years in a row), which caused the U-PASS prices to double, leading to people opting-out, further reducing revenue to the program. This downward spiral of participation would’ve destroyed the program. So the pass was made mandatory for students.

  2. Love the NYC Instagram page Subwaycreatures, where you get to see pics of:

    – A public transit customer clipping her toenails.
    – A passenger dragging a pee-stained, queen size mattress into the subway car.
    – Train rider getting a bj by a woman.
    – Rail passenger masturbating while sitting next to his blowup doll.
    – Two men about to bring a refrigerator onto the train.

    https://www.instagram.com/subwaycreatures/

    1. Bad news, Sam. You’ve just hacked into the last effort to defend the American people from NSA spying.

      Every one of those links is not only patched into every single surveillance instrument in the nation, but also into everything electronic in every black-uniformed storm trooper’s office, home, motorcycle, car, laptop and toaster. Pity is wasted. Every target had this one coming. One person’s terrorist is another one’s avenging liberator.

      You’ve described what you’ve seen already, but this is just the beginning. Real horror starts when cats start doing all these things, and not only on videos. Because by posting this comment, you’ve now clicked yourself into a permanent target. With Fluffy having already joined the rebels.

      Would commiserate further about these images being set loose in your brain, but you’ve probably had several decades to get used to those.

      Mark

  3. Actually, that MAX line goes to a parking lot in a high end shopping mall that is just sort of close to Tualatin. The closest community of any name is Durham, but there is so little there they are using the Tualatin name because nobody knows where Durham is.

  4. SeaTac article was a bit confusing. Sounded more like they were trying to align existing rules across the city.

    What is Sound Transit doing to prevent park & fly elsewhere in the system? Are there limits to overnight parking in the P&Rs? As Link extends north and east, people are going to consider driving to a P&R and take the link to the airport, especially if those P&Rs continue to be free.

    1. At P&R’s, 24 hour maximum is my understanding. This is a fair enough rule and have utilized it in the past to avoid drinking and driving on a weekend. Certainly could be used for a one-day fly out-fly back business trip, which in all honesty, is not too much different from a traditional work day except that you are sacrificing a lot of personal time on a plane. (I’ve done this a few times for trips here in the Pacific NW. Not fun.)

      I’d say SeaTac is trying to make better use of its land for its residents rather than being a perpetual airport park & ride. Can’t say I blame them.

    2. Preventing “park and fly” is not related to park-and-rides. SeaTac is considering a prohibition on new privately-run off-site airport parking adjacent to Angle Lake Station, as they already prohibit at their other station. An example of this would be WallyPark, who operates several long-term parking lots and garages in the city.

  5. Comparing the relatively good experience of the ST ULink launch with flustercluck of the 520 bridge party made me smile. You get what you pay for.

    1. Concur. The ST event was head-and-shoulders above the WSDOT event. ST’s only mistake was in not getting corporate sponsorship.

      But even if they had, it wouldn’t silence the likes of Fimia. She is idelogicall driven and won’t let facts get in her way.

  6. ‘Tis an ill wind, SDOT. Every obstacle to surface transit operations, especially taking out existing signal pre-empt where it’s most needed, gives me a larger constituency behind a major goal of mine:

    Keeping buses in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel until all their former passengers can ride trains. With signalling, supervision and instruction increased accordingly. I don’t think question is money. The dollar amount of operating time wasted by 26 sloppy years would probably buy us ST-5.

    Truth is, the DSTT was never intended to work. It was designed to be made to work by people not forced into their shifts by low seniority. And managed by similar people up to the Mayor’s and the County Exec’s office.

    Sadly, only thing on my side now is an impossible situation above ground. So from the bottom of my heart, thanks for everything that makes streetcar, and buses, not move. Preventing lots of cars from doing the same. Desperate times, desperate measures.

    Mark Dublin

  7. A thought I had the other day:

    To address crowding problems in the DSTT, couldn’t ST build a center platform once the buses are out? I could see something like an exit only small center platform and then the side platforms would be enter only. When a train pulls into the station, a train could open its left doors to allow people to exit, then ~10 seconds later open the right hand doors to allow people to board.

    This could help in the 10+ years in between Lynnwood/East link opening and the completion of the second DT tunnel. It would be even better during the few years between the opening of West Seattle link and the new tunnel. In any case, it would help in the long run as ridership continues to increase, even past the opening of the second tunnel.

    1. How would people move between the Center platform and the sides? Would they have to cross the tracks, or exit the station from the center platform directly?

      1. I would imagine they could install escalators from the center platform to the mezzanine. To board a different train one would have to go up to the mezzanine and then down to one of the side platforms.

      2. Why would you need to move from the center platform to the sides? The idea is to provide more passenger movement by opening doors on both sides of the train.

        If someone is moving from one line to the other, they just stay on the middle platform if they need to change directions, or either platform if going the same direction. They just have to get out of the way while the great masses are getting off in the center platform.

    2. QA, as I understand it, any new or rebuilt platform at a subway station is a hard piece of architecture. A fortunate decision during design engineering for the DSTT assisted by a new vehicle design for both buses and trains, got us off unexpectedly easy.

      First decision was between elevated platforms, requiring buses with that capacity, and essentially street-level platforms- with stairs at all doors, and wheelchair lifts used like on surface streets. Transit Director Ron Tober chose the second.

      A bus able to board from both sidewalks and platforms isn’t a standard machine. And lining up the side of a freely-steered bus with a high platform has added complications. But I think also, this official had some advanced knowledge that the industry was about to introduce low-floor buses and trains that could run 60 mph.

      So we could spec out LINK cars with low floors. Raising platforms even the foot or two these cars needed for level boarding would have cost a fortune. Not in paving. Every single elevator and escalator would have had to be replaced- probably major consideration in new center platforms.

      We leveled our vehicle floors with our platforms by skill sawing and jack-hammering the track-bed itself down a foot at every station. Saving us a fortune, and probably several years if we’d had to raise the platforms to level of a BART-car floor.

      Look at the balcony on every mezzanine, and imagine installing elevators and escalators from them to the platforms. Good chance DSTT service will have to be suspended for the duration. We can and maybe should do it. But it won’t be either easy or cheap.

      Mark

    3. This is a relatively common topic of conversation in STB threads – there’s a name for it that I can’t remember (the Spanish method??). You’d have to build escalators connecting to a mezzanine level, and train people to enter from one side and exit the other.

      It reduces dwell time, which improves speed and reliability, but it doesn’t really change capacity, as that’s a function of headway and train sizes. It can also make for easier transfers, which would be helpful for trips like Bellevue to Seatac, but that messes a bit with your ability to assign one side for entering and one for exiting.

      1. Not really that hard to train people to use it. You just need signs and the down escalators go to one and the up escalators go to another. Also, the train doors on the exit side open about 3 seconds before the boarding passengers side.

        Only place I saw it has been São Paulo metro Sé station, which is truly astoundingly busy. The times I rode it they only had the two main lines finished, and it was the busiest in the world in terms of passengers carried per mile of track.

      2. Yup, Spanish Solution is the term.

        I haven’t seen it in transit implementations much in the US. I have seen it in airport people movers though – considering airport passenger traffic can be very peaked when many arrivals occur simultaneously, separating traffic flows makes a lot of sense. Regrettably that isn’t how it works at SeaTac.

  8. Funny question – is there anything stopping me from using northgate mall parking lot as park&ride?

    1. I was implying the same question above – apparently there is a 24 hour max parking rule, not sure how that’s enforced.

    2. The Northgate Mall parking lot is private property, and parking there for any use other than mall access is unauthorized. Enforcement of this is up to the owners and operators of the mall. There are probably signs posted around the parking lot listing consequences if they catch you using it for unauthorized purposes. Typical language I’ve seen on such signs includes, “Unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense,” i.e. you’ll be towed, and effectively fined. They might try to get you charged with criminal trespass if you really pissed them off by repeatedly offending… I don’t know whether they’d get anywhere with that or not, but I’ve seen threats like that on signs within parking lots.

      1. Bellevue mall is similar – in theory they’ll tow you for parking there and not using the mall, and there are signs says so, but unless they notice car repeatedly in the same spot, or a car left there overnight, they won’t do anything to the cars because they don’t want to risk towing a customer’s car.

  9. I have to agree with the assesment of Lynnwood. They appear to be the Spring District (or better?) of Lynnwood Link. I wish other cities would emulate this model.

    I also wish Northgate had similar plans…

    1. Some are! Redmond’s Overlake plans are very similar to the Spring district, and don’t forget the great TOD going on in Redmond & Bellevue’s downtowns. Issaquah is planning something as ambitious as Lynwood in their PSRC growth area, which is why Issaquah “won” a line rail station, and Tukwilla has grand plans for Southcenter. There is even grand private plans like Wells Point (http://pointwells.com/), and Totem Lake has some decent development in process (http://www.djc.com/news/re/12090125.html)

      There is opportunity for more. Everett is starting to get around to rethinking the area around it’s rail stations, and cities like Federal Way and Renton could be prodded to be more ambitious in some of their urban zoning.

      What’s super interesting was in today’s Seattle Times, the front page was about some small towns being TOO ambitious in their formal plans:
      http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/eastside/regional-council-warns-5-king-county-towns-theyre-growing-too-fast/

      1. Reflecting on the Seattle Times article – it’s an interesting dilemma. On one hand, the PSRC clearly needs to be a mechanism to prevent sprawl, and some of this development is bread & butter suburban sprawl. On the other hand, these cities mentioned are “real” cities that have downtowns, and if they want to growth those downtowns in a sustainable, dense manner, then the PSRC should to support that by updating the regional plan and incorporating those centers into the transportation network … but will that divert transportation funds away from some already approved growth in the locations I mention above?

      2. Both Duvall and Covington are outside the Sound Transit district so they won’t get anything unless that changes. Metro has no money for additional service in the suburbs. It has a long-range plan but the upgrades are unfunded. So either cities will contract with Metro for additional service, in which case Duvall has just as much right to as any other, or a countywide measure might pass, in which case it’s unclear what these newly “large” cities might get.

      3. Multistory mixed-use growth in a downtown is not really sprawl. Sprawl is like Sammamish where houses overrun the land without a downtown. Upzoning Duvall does not really displace people from Seattle or the inner-ring suburbs because somebody will live in both houses; it’s not like the inner one will remain empty. It’s not Duvall’s fault that the inner cities won’t upzone enough for two units on the lot instead of one.

        There is a danger if cities like Duvall underzone to keep its growth quota down. It could lead to a two-story building when the market would have supported a four-story building. That occurred at Broadway & Roy where a four-story building went up; two years later the zoning changed to allow six stories but it was too late for that building. Four-story downtowns doesn’t put the cities on a fast track for HCT; it would more likely lead to RapidRide. And the ironic possibility that downtown Covington might become denser than downtown Mercer Island or Kirkland! But that’s not bad on Covington, it’s shame on Mercer Island and Kirkland.

      4. @Mike – From a land use, zoning, and housing prices perspective, yes definitely. But I don’t think that’s true from a transportation network perspective. Building housing stock, even densely, contributes to sprawl insofar as it is not in the intended growth corridors. Duvall could build a great, walkable downtown, but if 3,000 people more there and there is zero investment in transit, all that does is put 3,000 cars on 522 driving to work each morning.

        PSRC is putting up a stick because these areas are not growth areas, and so long range plans, for both transit and roads, do not anticipate growth in these areas of this magnitude.

        Now, dense development will support future transit investment, and a case can certainly be made that Duvall or Covington should be allow to grow if they integrate into the Sound Transit district or commit to contracting with metro for service. But because they aren’t PSRC growth centers, the onus is on these cities to create the transit service, not the regional planning centers.

        Something similar is happening with Wells Point – the developer is arguing that they don’t need to worry about traffic impacts because adding a North Sounder stations will work great! But the planning agencies say, “Nice try, but no” because they won’t recognize that transit solution unless it is coming directly from Sound Transit. So the onus is on Wells Point to get ST’s attention and get a Sounder station into a long range plan somehow (in this case, probably with the developer ponying up the capital dollars).

        It’s interesting in this case because it’s one government agency bickering with another government body.

    2. I wish Northgate would emulate Metrotown outside Vancouver. Amazing the amount of development there, like 20 towers.

  10. Okay, so I know it’s a DE60LFR that caught fire last week… But any ideas what coach number that was?

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