Frank and I will be taping soon, so if there’s a question you’d like us to answer, please leave it in the comments over the next couple of days.

41 Replies to “Podcast Listener Mailbag #4”

  1. I have read in your blog that has ST people have remarked that, should funding become available, there is room in the plan for the Ballard line to hook over to the UW or for the new downtown line to hit First Hill.

    Are there any other potential “bonus” places within the wiggle room of the proposal should the feds write a big check for it?

    On the flip side, are there areas from which ST may wiggle out? (e.g. ending the ST1 line in Montlake instead of the UD as there maps showed when we voted on it.)


  2. I have some questions :D

    1) Why did the 41 stop serving the 6th / Atlantic stop and now is in the tunnel full time? Is that in preparation for how the service pattern will look when Northgate Link opens?

    2) I see a lot more comments on here about “oh please can’t we have a train-only tunnel yet?” But, if my memory serves, the buses are going to get kicked out before the replacement train service (at least for routes 41 and 550) is ready. What about the capacity crunch that will inevitably happen on those routes since 3rd Ave is over maximum as it is?

    2b) Do you see any kind of medium-term hope for bus-based transit service being more reliable? So far, I’ve not seen that SDOT or the Council are willing to make the big political push to improve bus-delivered service and it’s starting to feel like if someone doesn’t live within walking or biking distance of a train station (to be built within the next five to thirty years), taking transit is going to get more painful, not less. Can you “change my view,” as the redditors say?

    (As an aside, this is why I don’t think that the “most important segment” of Metro 8 is actually the one that will be served by Ballard Link.)

    1. “I’ve not seen that SDOT or the Council are willing to make the big political push to improve bus-delivered service”

      … or keep Move Seattle from being watered down.

    2. re: 2) An additional question to this is why is the Washington State Convention Center (through its expansion and early closure of Convention Place Station) able to totally upend transit planning in the City of Seattle? In addition to the CPS closure before light rail expansion and the transit nightmare that creates, implementation of the Bike Master Plan is being delayed while SDOT tries to figure out where to fit more buses onto already overcrowded downtown streets. Why is Seattle bending over backwards to accomodate this totally unnecessary, and poorly timed expansion?

    3. Similar to Wes’s 2b:

      You live in North Seattle, are politically aware, know that the 41 should be reborn and want to work Metro and ST on the next bus reorg. Advice?

  3. What rural and tourist oriented transit would you like to see in the Puget Sound area and in the Pacific Northwest?

    What good one day trips (both urban and rural) are available with transit in the Puget Sound area now?

    1. The suburbs have really gotten into trails, especially Issaquah and Redmond. Take the 554 to Issaquah City Hall, one stop past the transit center. It’s a historical building, and going north-south is The Rainer Trail, a linear park along a former railroad track. Go north two blocks to the 1920s depot, and south four blocks to a small park with a map of all the forest trails in Issaquah, several of which start from there. Take the 554 further to the Issaquah Highlands P&R and admire the new urbanist village, and at the far side is another woodsy trail. Or take the 208 to Snoqualmie and visit Snoqualmie Falls and a larger railroad museum and vintage trains. From there you can take the Snoqualmie Valley Transportation Shuttle north through Fall City and Carnation to Duvall. (Weekdays only, every 90-120 minutes, $1 donation.) In Duvall there’s a timed transfer to the 224 to Redmond. I wrote about my Snoqualmie Valley bus trip in December.

      In Redmond west of the transit center is a downtown park with artwork between the library and city hall, and the Sammamish River Trail beyond them. In east Redmond are other trails I haven’t been on, and the trail from Redmond to Issaquah. Kirkland’s Cross

      Kirkland Trail starts a block north of the South Kirkland P&R. The south part is woodsy and seemingly remote, then around 52nd are many McMansions, then you go through the middle of Google, then cross Kirkland Ave just east of downtown. Downtown Kirkland has a nice waterfront park and boat launch, a promenade going south (Lake St/Lake Wash Blvd), and an old 1920s neighborhood going north (Market St).

      Bellevue has two interesting parks. Take the 240 to SE 8th St & 118th, and walk south on 118th past 1970s towers-in-the-park hell to the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center. The Bellefields/Mercer Slough trailhead is behind the building, and just south of it is a small waterfall and salmon creek. Take the trails southwest through the forest to the boardwalk causeway and blueberry farms, and continue to the South Bellevue P&R. But is the P&R closed now? If so, I don’t know where to catch the 550. Or take the B to NE 8th Street & 124th and walk south to the school administration complex, and go through the parking lot to the trailhead that goes to a small woods and then, after a few blocks of street, Kelsey Creek Park which is a pretty large woods and has a farm.

      In Seattle you can walk through the UW campus, go south across the Montalke Bridge, turn left and go down to the canal level under the bridge, turn right to the Foster Island trail, and end up at the Arboretum with flower displays. At the south end of the Arboretum is a Japanese garden, and from there it’s a 10-minute walk south to Madison Street and the 11. Or go from the arboretum west up Capitol Hill to Volunteer Park and the water tower and conservatory, the old mansions on 16th Avenue and Federal Avenue and others, to Cal Anderson Park and Broadway. Or from the UW campus go east to another botanical garden. Or take the Cheshiahud loop (the trail around Lake Union).

      Or go to Eastlake & Blaine on the 70 and walk west up the hill to the mountain-bike park under the freeway, cross Lakeview Blvd, and go up the long stairs through the middle of a beautiful garden to 10th Ave E, and admire the white house with a hedge at 10th & Howe, and the mansion with a gazebo and hedge at 10th & Blaine. Take the 49 from there or a long walk to Capitol Hill Station.

      For breathtaking views of the Sound, take the 24 to the end, which is the south entrance to Discovery Park. Go straight north past the parking lot and meadow to the bluff. If you have an hour, go all the way through the park to the 33 at the east entrance.

      Or take the D or 28 to the end and go to Carkeek Park. You can go in via the southern panhandle, but I like to go north to the Viewlands elementary school at 3rd Ave NW & 105th and there’s a trailhead there. That goes down to the main Piper’s Creek trail and the apple orchard and woods and eventually the beach.

      Or take the C to West Seattle and stroll around the Junction neighborhood and have a sandwich and pastry at Bakery Nouveau. Or take the C further to Lincoln Park (the station before the ferry). Or go to Alki on the 50 or the water taxi.

      1. An additional West Seattle possibility: Water Taxi to Seacrest Park.

        Here, you can walk south to Joe Block Park if you want a slight diversion with a view of Port of Seattle activity, or continue west on the walkway around Alki Point as far as you feel like it. The trail along the water has good views, and there is no crossing road traffic. There are scattered parks and viewpoints all along this walkway. There’s even a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.

        Once you get past the Alki Point Lighthouse, there is a park along Beach Drive SW called Constellation Park, and the sidewalk here has star constellations cast into the pavement.

        There are several different bus routes that you encounter along this area that could return you to Seattle. Two of these (#773 and #775) are operated as a tourist extension of the Water Taxi and therefore cease service in late October. Route 37 only operates weekdays.

      2. The easiest way to get back from Alki is to take the 50 at Alki Point, which is near the Statue of Liberty and Pegasus restaurant. (half-hourly daytime, hourly evenings & Sundays.) It stops at Alaska Junction where you can transfer to the C to downtown, or stay on the 50 to SODO station, Columbia City station, or Seward Park and Othello station.

    2. What time and distance constraints are there? I once did a Seattle to Port Townsend loop via Poulsbo and Island Transit.

      Port Townsend has bus service out to Fort Worden State Park, and you can get to Deception Pass State Park on Island Transit.

      However, those types of trips are not for the faint of heart due to distances and the fact that they are best done on weekdays due to the lack of weekend service.

  4. As rush-hour buses on Third Avenue become more crowded and additional capacity is needed, is there a case for allowing buses in one of the two downtown tunnels that the city will have after ST3? Or would a second bus-corridor street at surface be a better solution?

    1. The number of bus routes going down is going to decrease significantly over the next few years, and ST 3 would decrease it further, by allowing light rail to replace the C and the D lines. Metro’s long range plan even shows Magnolia buses truncating northwest of downtown, with a rail connection, further reducing the number of downtown buses. I think long-term, 3rd Ave. will be mostly sufficient.

  5. What is that countdown clock for between the tracks at the Mount Baker Station as you face South?

    1. Somebody said it’s for the drivers. Link was originally headway-based, so drivers were supposed to wait until the interval after the last train, and the clock tells them whether they’re early or late. But the public made a big fuss that 10-15 minute frequency was not frequent enough for headway-based service when you’re transferring to half-hourly buses, so ST finally published a schedule and went to schedule-based service. I’ve seen the southbound clock at Mt Baker station several times. There’s a northbound clock in Rainier Valley somewhere but I’ve never been able to find it.

      Most cities that have real-time signs tell you the minutes to the next train. But in Russia the platforms have a count-up clock like this one, only meant for the passengers rather than the driver. It gets reset when a train leaves the station. The next train normally comes in 2 minutes daytime, 5 minutes evening, so you can tell from the clock whether it’s due soon.

      1. NB countdown clock is at RB Station. As originally planned, drivers were to wait until the flashing stopped before proceeding.

  6. 1) What, in your opinion, is best transit system in the Pacific Northwest Regional? Why?
    2) Why does State or counties allow Sound Transit to take over local transit system?
    3) Why does Community Transit operate their own commuter routes into Seattle instead Sound Transit?
    4) What is likely percentage of ST3 passing? If it fails when do you see ST3 going back to the ballot?

    1. The problem with 1 is that there are assorted budgets and purposes, and land use practices around which the transit system has to work. Resources are scarce at Tillamook Transit and the population very spread out. TransLink has done great, but they have very different land use planning to suppoor transit.

    2. Regarding your third question: Community Transit runs some of its commuter routes outside the Sound Transit district to places like Marysville and Snohomish, and ST would not be able to serve them without an agreement similar to what keeps the 592 to Olympia afloat.

      CT has had a pretty long history of running its own express service to Seattle, taking over those routes from Metro in the 80s and switching to a private operator. Overall, it works a lot better for them, as commuters in Snohomish County are able to hold more control over these routes than they would under ST.

  7. Why does Sound Transit put the Link ORCA readers on the mezzanine and street levels but not the platforms (DSTT not withstanding because of bus transfers)? I realize that they decided to make Link platforms a fare-paid zone, but couldn’t they just make the Link train itself a fare paid zone and put the ORCA readers on the platform?
    This makes it very inconvenient for when I second guess whether I remembered to tap on, and I am left with the choice to go up and down 1 or two flights of escalators and miss the train, or stay and hope I tapped.

  8. I would be curious to hear a discussion on how to add diversity from the transit rider perspectives of the STB commenters as well as diversity into the general transit feedback process used in Seattle. I notice that most appear to be white males, and that isn’t the standard demographic of many transit users outside of commute times. Perspectives from other walks of life would be quite insightful, hopefully revealing whether some observations are universal or not, or whether there are issues that go unmentioned because they don’t register with the standard commenters.

    I’m also curious whether there can be posts presenting not just the numbers of riders, but also information about the actual riders themselves. Even time-of-day ridership information isn’t widely presented or discussed on the blog, mainly because agencies don’t typically report this, For example, is there research on what percentage of Link riders are carrying things or have mobility issues that make stair use difficult? Are some routes more crowded at 6 AM or 7 AM or 10 AM, or what percentage of riders on a route are riding during peak times versus middays, evenings and weekends? What transfer points perceived as more dangerous than others by those who are more fearful about safety, and does that affect how people make route choices?

    1. Some of this could be done mechanically: add a counter to the lift / ramp / kneeling function. Use location / travel speed and boarding counts to calculate dwell time per passenger. Get the ratio of cash fares / all fares — we’d omit folks using paper transfers, unless there’s a footstep tracker.

      Surely this is tablestakes for transit analytics — if such a thing exists. Or maybe I’m blithely describing an unconscionable level of surveillance.

      And yeah, multi-spectral diversity is tough. Did STB’s 2015 Reader Survey ask about demographics, how frequently someone comments, and how frequently they read the blog?

    2. They touched on this in the last podcast or so, the differing perspectives of STB and the Transit Riders’ Union. The TRU focuses more on issues related to the poor, especially poor bus riders, which have a large minority component. STB has de facto become, as Martin said, the voice of the “transit-riding middle class”. That’s a unique niche that no other group or forum is addressing. (End of Martin paraphrase.) Seattle Subway focuses high-capacity transit. The West Seattle Blog and others have some transit articles but focus on non-transit issues and are limited to one neighborhood. STB focuses on all aspects of transit throughout the region and occasionally looks at other parts of the state.

      STB and the TRU are often allies in supporting a frequent local-bus grid, low-income passes, and eliminating the $5 ORCA fee. They sometimes disagree on how much emphasis to give light rail, eliminating paper transfers, or restructuring certain routes. (Cavaat: I’ve only been to one TRU meeting and have limited knowledge of their positions, so these examples may not be fully accurate.)

  9. What can we do to get transit lanes on Aurora for the E? As Brent said, “How the heck do a couple hundred car parkers get priority over 15,000+ daily riders?”

  10. First, thanks for the recommendation to Talking Headways! Loving it so far!

    What sort of technological “future-proofing” has been done on the Link lines implemented so far? I mean in terms of providing for potential system expansion or technological improvements built into the system today for use some day down the line.

    Meta-question not for podcast broadcast: In the last reader Q&A segment, it seemed like you folks were reading the questions for the first time on the podcast, and often would say that you’d “look into it.” Would it be possible to look into these questions before showtime? I understand STB is a volunteer dealie-o, but if you’re going to read a question on the air, wouldn’t it be better to have an answer ready?

    1. While we do read the questions before the podcast, the timing of it generally means we won’t get an answer by recording time if we have to ask someone. More importantly, the podcast is pretty much a minimum-effort product. If we’re going to do substantial research on a question, it’s because it’s good enough that we want to turn it into a post.

      That may not be a terribly satisfactory answer, but it’s the truth.

      1. I appreciate the reply. I sent the comment because despite being a minimum-effort podcast, it usually doesn’t show – you two almost always have something interesting to say. The last Q&A was the only time I can recall said low-effort-ness showing through.

  11. Three Car Trains!!! Are the Sept. Mega Days a sign that ST is softening their position?

    Anybody know if UW is promoting Link to football fans?

  12. Would it be feasible to convert the DSTT to center platform once the buses leave? I imagine it would require closing stations individually for a year or so each in order to rebuild the mezzanines and allow through trains simultaneously.


  13. I drove to Olympia recently and noticed construction on the Point Defiance Bypass. It looked to me like the line was only graded for one track. Will the bypass be single-track?

  14. How does the northgate link timeline compare to Ulink? Are we building faster (per underground mile) in north link than u link?

  15. Is there a good reason that Sound Transit isn’t opening Angle Lake station at the same time as agency service changes? From what I can tell, they have been testing regular operations since August, and could open any time they want.

  16. Any recommendations for a real estate agent that is in line with the STB cause (or how to find one)? All the ones I’ve found so far keep telling me to buy a car and are pushing single family homes in Kirkland/Redmond.

  17. Do you guys know why retail doesn’t exist to serve park-and-rides (not even a rush-hour coffee cart)? Is this something that citizen advocacy could affect, in your opinion?

    1. There are a few scattered examples of transit-oriented retail. Lynnwood TC and Renton TC both have small coffee stands, Everett Station has a cafe open during commuting hours, Tacoma Dome has the entire Freighthouse Square mall…

  18. Any word yet on Saturday Link ridership; first Husky football game after UW Station opening. Any post-game congestion issues getting to the platform? Were the 3-car trains and 10-minute headways adequate?

  19. I didn’t read through all the comments, and apologies if this question was posed already.

    I totally accept that a core strategy to address housing affordability is to increase the number of housing units, i.e. Seattle needs to become a denser city. But then I look at Vancouver, BC which is a pretty dense city and seems to be a place that has bought into the need to allow for the adequate production of housing units. Yet from my understanding it’s a place that has extremely high housing costs. Can you give your perspective on this?

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