Tear Down Key Arena for Housing

Google Maps
Google Maps

The last time we had a civic discussion about a new basketball/hockey arena, let’s just say it didn’t go well. There was politically convenient fear mongering about our Working Waterfront and industrial jobs. There was the hypocritical HIGHF (Hey! I Got Here First!) form of corporate NIMBYism from the Seattle Mariners. There was charmingly predictable concern trolling about traffic, where disaster is always around the corner if only _insert project_ is built. To top it off, many arena supporters then poisoned the well by bitterly gendering their disgust.

While we’re still no closer to bringing leather balls and wooden sticks back to Seattle, the recent proposal by developer Chris Hansen offers us the welcome chance of a civic redo. In one fell swoop, his offer to plug the funding gap for the Lander Street Overpass protects Port interests while improving traffic outcomes; and his proposal to build the new arena without public funding relieves us of another reason for (legitimate) infighting.

A contestable premise: Stadia don’t belong in urban neighborhoods, they belong on the urban-industrial edge.  Stadia are infrequently used, special purpose structures that fragment neighborhoods. As the most egregious example, Husky Stadium is used less than 10 times per yearOn account of those select fall Saturdays, thousands of bus passengers have to walk farther to transfer every day, thousands of students and faculty cannot live nearer their university, and hundreds of acres of asphalt lay mostly idle.

If we build a new arena in Sodo, we should tear down the Key and return housing to Seattle Center. Seattle 2035 calls for “Uptown” (Lower Queen Anne) to be an Urban Center, the same designation as Capitol Hill, Downtown, or Northgate. Just a mile from downtown, LQA currently only houses about 10,000 people in predominantly low-rise structures, or only 1.5% of the city’s population. If ST3 passes, a subway station will be located two blocks away at Queen Anne/Mercer, with quick access to Ballard, South Lake Union, Downtown, the Rainier Valley, and SeaTac. Lower Queen Anne needs people, not occasional large events.

Key Arena sits on 48 historic parcels covering most of 4 city blocks, and it’s only used for 18 Storm games and every 3 weeks or so for concerts and other events. If there were a successful renovation and if that were to draw a team, you could add another 40 days a year of activation. But that would still leave 280 days a year in which people would walk, bike, bus, train, and drive around it as an obstacle, rather than to it as a destination.

Stadia on the periphery are much better for a city and its residents. Upper Sodo is perfect for sports, acting as a partially-activated and aesthetically pleasing bridge between an urban core and heavy industry. LQA and the Mercer Mess will never work well for SOV access, and if we build the neighborhood for people that’s kinda the point. The subway station we hope to build should be accessible to as many Seattleites as possible as often as possible. Since the top of Queen Anne is set to be ossified as a Single-Family Zone, the four blocks of Key Arena offer precious mid or high-rise capacity. And with a 135′ arena already on site, tall housing is already ‘in scale’.

Sodo will never be good for dense housing, but LQA will. LQA will never be good for SOV access, but Sodo will. And while Sodo is less transit-accessible than LQA will be, better to solve an occasional problem than limit an everyday social good (housing). Mr. Murray, tear down this Key.

Station Design Open Houses for Lynnwood Link Coming Next Month

The current bus bays at Lynnwood Transit Center, future light rail terminus (photo by author)
The current bus bays at Lynnwood Transit Center, future light rail terminus (photo by author)

The Lynnwood Link Extension, which will bring light rail service to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, is seven years away from opening and is preparing to break ground on construction in 2018. Sound Transit is holding a series of open houses in November on the final station designs, including renderings and concepts for new stations, at three locations in the three cities. Each open house will focus on the specific stations in the area, but an overview will be available at an online open house at Sound transit’s site  beginning November 15.

Sound Transit staff will be present at the three open houses to answer questions and respond to feedback from the public on a variety of issues, including designs, project plans, station names, potential impacts, public art, and related projects from other agencies.

Continue reading “Station Design Open Houses for Lynnwood Link Coming Next Month”

Transit Report Card: Mexico City

Skyscrapers along Paseo de la Reforma, Chapultepec Park behind, and the high-rise suburban Santa Fe District in the far background.
Skyscrapers along Paseo de la Reforma, Chapultepec Park behind, and the high-rise suburban Santa Fe District in the far background.

Last week I spent a few days in the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, Mexico City. While walking its colonial streets and riding its expansive Metro, I was reminded of something I wrote shortly after ULink opened:

Done well, transit is is a public utility that improves life for the many but excites the passions of the few (sorry, fellow nerds). Good transit readjusts our baseline expectations onward and upward […] Transit’s highest compliment is when the magical becomes ordinary. Far better to be necessity than novelty.

Ordinary magic is indeed a good way to describe how it felt to move around Mexico City. On the one hand, the city has everything going against it. The compact colonial core is choked by endless sprawl on the periphery, with 8 million city residents surrounded by 16 million more in the suburban State of Mexico.  The city’s anti-urban boulevards – such as the 14-lane Paseo de la Reforma – rival in their hostile sterility the worst of the Champs Élysées. Cars also drive fast and with little regard for Vision Zero type sensibilities.

But in the context of the chaos on the surface, the Metro is a priceless gift to Chilangos, 140 miles of fully grade separated transit, with 195 stations on 12 lines. It is the 2nd largest Metro in the Western Hemisphere, behind only NYC. But though 2nd largest, it is the most densely ridden. Despite having only 60% as many track miles as NYC, the Mexico City Metro has 90% of NYC’s  ridership, nearly 5 million riders per day. I found it to be an effortless, cheap, fast, and reliable way to see the city, and I can’t imagine my trip without it. Here’s my report card. Continue reading “Transit Report Card: Mexico City”

News Roundup: A Good Choice

3-Car Night Sound Transit Train at Columbia City Station

This is an open thread.

Community Transit’s Proposed 2017 Budget: More Buses and More Swift

CT 9165 at Everett Station
Likely to be replaced in 2017, under the proposed budget

Community Transit has released their proposed 2017 budget, which estimates $19 million in additional sales tax revenue thanks to the passage of the 2015 ballot measure, for a total of $172 million in operating revenue and $134 million in operating expenses.

CT plans to use the additional funding to increase bus service by 6 percent, building on recent expansions and service improvements. More detailed plans will be released closer to planned implementation in March and September, but the transit development plan from May proposes 6,000 service hours spent mostly on evening service for the Swift Blue Line and routes 101, 113, 115, 201, 202, and 222. Routes 119 and 120 would also see an increase in mid-day service. Conceptual plans for a South Snohomish County route restructure in the September service change would come along with additional weekend service and additional trips on commuter routes. A final plan for the September service change will be released early next year for public comment.

CT placed an order for at least 57 buses from three different manufactures in August, and plans to operate new service and replace older vehicles with the new fleet. The 2017 budget allocates $63.4 million for the new buses, taking a plurality (but not majority) of capital funds; the rest is spent on upgrades to transit centers and building the Swift Green Line ($50 million), machine upgrades and new security cameras ($13.6 million), and other costs ($4.7 million total). The entire Green Line will cost $73 million, but operations will be funded by an expected $50 million in federal grants; the project will be CT’s largest, surpassing the Blue Line when it opened in 2009 for $29 million.

One possible route for the Swift Orange Line: Edmonds-Lynnwood-Mill Creek

Of the leftover funds, including routine administrative costs and wages for employees, $4.4 million is allocated towards planning and development. With planning and design work on the Green Line about to wind down, CT will fund early planning of a possible Swift Orange Line that would open in 2023 to feed Link light rail at Lynnwood Transit Center, likely to serve southern Snohomish County. CT expects Swift lines to open every few years, with a goal of a complete network by 2030, extending to Edmonds, Marysville, eastern Mill Creek, and Arlington.

A public hearing on the 2017 Proposed Budget will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, November 3 at the monthly Community Transit Board of Directors meeting at 7100 Hardeson Road in Everett (accessible on Everett Transit route 8). Written comments can be sent to riders@commtrans.org or Community Transit, 7100 Hardeson Road, Everett 98203.

Twilight of the Bredas: Last Ride Thursday

Oran (Flickr)
Oran (Flickr)

With the (60′) trolley replacement project now complete, the last of the Breda trolleys will take its final in-service ride tomorrow afternoon with a ceremonial trip from Beacon/Spokane to Atlantic Base.

The lovably awful buses – dubbed ‘Frankenbuses’ by many – have a complicated and storied history in Seattle. Originally a “DuoBus” of electric trolley and diesel power, they began service with the introduction of the Downtown Transit Tunnel in September 1990, running as trolleys underground and where there was wire, and as a standard diesel bus otherwise.

They were difficult or impossible to source parts for, and generally recognized to be a disaster. The imported Italian parts were so scarce and expensive that Metro began hiring sheet metal workers to make replacement doors themselves. In the late 1990s, nearly a third of the fleet needed an engine or transmission rebuild annually. 

Peter McLaughlin c. 2002
Peter McLaughlin c. 2002

Metro plodded along through their 12 year service life, eventually replacing them with the sort of diesel hybrids familiar to the tunnel today. Metro repurposed 59 of the 236 coaches as trolleys between 2004-2007, their diesel engines removed and their current collection system overhauled. As a Capitol Hill resident who moved here in 2009, they were all I knew until Link came along, and would be familiar to any recent rider of Routes 7, 36, 43, 44, 49, or 70.

They were notable for their poor ride quality, their pavement-destroying weight (8 tons heavier than a standard bus), their frequency of dropped wire (Bellevue/Pine anyone?), their distinctive musty smell, and their old-timey ‘Stop Requested” bell. But the fact that they lasted 26 years, and the amount of sweat equity put into them, has made many nostalgic about their sendoff.

No matter how much we can justifiably complain about transit policies here and there, we should also recognize genuine progress and bullets we’ve dodged. We could have lost our trolley fleet after a 2009 audit found the aging fleet cost more to service and operate than running diesel hybrids instead. Thankfully Metro persevered and purchased a sleek new generation of trolleys, adding purple to Metro’s color palette and much-needed off wire operation to its bag of tricks. When I stand at Broadway and John today, I have a 2-minute subway and brand-new trolleybuses coming more frequently than ever. Things are getting iteratively better all the time, and it’s time to send the tired ones off.

Metro’s event release after the jump.

Continue reading “Twilight of the Bredas: Last Ride Thursday”

Metro’s Private Parking Pilot


One of the most practical objections to agency-built parking is that it is a very expensive way to lure a rider to the system. The tens of thousands of dollars spent to build a space could fund other capital improvements that would also build ridership, while using the land more intensively would cost nothing and also bring riders.

Metro’s new Multifamily Park & Ride program is an attempt to address those issues while also connecting Metro with more of the voters that pay for the service, at least those don’t have good options besides their car. Funded by a $543,900 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant and Metro staff time, the program will change the agency’s role from providing parking to connecting riders with under-used, privately owned parking spaces near frequent transit. The total cost is $777,000 including the contributed staff time.

The first lots will open in the first quarter of 2017. Multi-family and mixed-use (at least partly residential) buildings must have at least 20 spaces and be within 1/4 mile of a frequent (every 15 minutes or less) transit line or an existing park-and-ride.

According to Project Manager Daniel Rowe, although Metro wants the price to compare favorably with driving and parking downtown, there are no formal limits on parking rates and there is no direct subsidy to reduce parking costs. “There are more challenges involved with managing daily parking so most properties offering parking in this pilot program will probably offer monthly parking,” Rowe said, but they “would like to have at least one property offer daily transit parking” to explore that more flexible business model in the pilot.

Residential lots are the target because that’s where spaces are available during commuter hours. Rowe added that “other types of parking (church, commercial, city owned) are being explored through our lease lot program.”

ORCA integration is not part of this project, but Rowe said “there is potential to integrate ORCA with our next generation work.”

Though this is not quite in Metro’s core mission of driving buses, the under-used parking spaces in apartment buildings are a product of bad zoning laws and market failure due to the difficulty of managing a parking program. Brokering a connection between parking supply and demand seems like a low-cost way to better use the region’s land while cheaply netting some new Metro riders in the process.

New (and New-to-Washington) Voters Can Register In Person Through Halloween

If you haven’t ever registered to vote before, you still have time. If you turn 18 on or before November 8, you are eligible to register and vote.

If you are registered in another state, and want to vote in Washington State instead, you still have time to register here.

But you have to go to your county’s elections office during regular business hours, by close of business Monday, October 31, and register.

In King County, new voters can still register at the King County Administration Building at 500 4th Ave, or at the election headquarters in Renton.

The King County Administration Building is just a block east of Pioneer Square light rail station. Voter registration is open there 8:30 am – 4:30 pm through this Friday, and then next Monday.

The county elections HQ is at 919 SW Grady Way, in Renton. Normal office hours there are 8:30-4:30 Monday through Friday, but the office will be open through 6 pm this Thursday and Friday and next Monday, and will be open Saturday 9 am – 3 pm. Metro’s F Line stops at Lind Ave SW and SW Grady Way three long blocks east of there. The F Line also serves Tukwila International Boulevard light rail station.

In Pierce County, you can still register at the Pierce County Elections Center, 2501 S 35th St, accessible via Pierce Transit route 3.

In Snohomish County, you can still register at the Snohomish County Elections Office, 3000 Rockefeller Ave, in downtown Everett, 1st Floor, Admin Bldg West.

If you are on the fence about registering here, consider that Regional Proposition 1, a major regional expansion of light rail and other transit service, is on the ballot.

Those who have already registered have dozens of ways to return your ballot. You can also vote in person at your county elections office (but not at the King County Administration Building). More walk-in voting locations will become available a few days before the election.

Interim No More, Rob Gannon Selected to Lead Metro

Metro GM Rob Gannon (LinkedIn Photo)
Metro GM Rob Gannon (LinkedIn Photo)

Eight months after Kevin Desmond’s abrupt departure for Vancouver, BC, Metro again has a General Manager. Later this morning, County Executive Dow Constantine will name Interim GM Rob Gannon as the permanent General Manager.

By deciding against a wider candidate search and going with an internal hire, Gannon represents a choice for continuity. Metro appears content with its progress and trajectory and has chosen the least disruptive path. The politically complex nature of the GM position may also have dissuaded many from a larger candidate pool and made an internal hiring process more attractive. Whereas Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff reports directly to the ST board, the Metro GM has two layers of interim management – County Executive Dow Constantine andd KCDOT Director Taniguchi – between himself and the King County Council.

Speaking briefly with Gannon yesterday, he charted a safe and steady course for Metro, unwilling to elaborate on specific changes or directions other than those already contained in the Metro Connects Long Range Plan. He emphasized safety, customer service, and interagency partnerships, but understandably held his more detailed cards close to his chest.

Not a transit wonk by training, Gannon’s background includes a decade of upper level Human Resources Management, first at the University of Montana and then at Metro. Though having someone with more explicit transit chops would be desirable, executive HR skills will serve Gannon very well as he manages relationships between Metro’s 4,500 employees, ATU 587, intergovernmental partners, and the general public. And with smart minds like Ted Harris newly at the helm as Operations Manager, Gannon’s skill set and experience may provide well-rounded leadership.

STB congratulates Gannon and wishes him the best.

UW Releases Draft of 2018 Campus Master Plan

Illustrative UW West Campus Green
Illustrative UW West Campus Green
On October 5th, the University of Washington released its draft Seattle Campus Master Plan (CMP) along with an accompanying Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Plan governs the University’s future development on campus between 2018 and 2028. The document is particularly important because pursuant to the City-University Agreement signed between UW and the City of Seattle in 1998, “University development within the University’s [Major Institution Overlay (MIO)] boundary is governed by this Campus Master Plan, not the underlying zoning or land use code. This Campus Master Plan replaces the underlying zoning, development standards, and land use control ordinances for development within the MIO boundary.”

The last campus master plan, completed in 2003, laid out the development of 3.0 million gross square feet, of which all but 211,000 square feet currently remains to be built. The 2018 Plan calls for 6.0 million square feet of net new development which the plan describes as completing “full build-out” of the Seattle campus. 85 potential development sites are identified with a maximum buildable allowance of 12.9 million square feet altogether. The formation and refining of the CMP is especially timely considering the proposed U-District rezone which is directly adjacent to campus and is slated to create up to 5,000 new housing units. Both rezones are critical to accommodating the projected 8,675 additional students UW will enroll by 2028. The CMP may need to get more aggressive with growth with the news that the most recent tweaks to the U-District rezone have scaled back total developable capacity.


Still there are causes for urbanist concern. One of the core standards guiding all development on campus is to “provide adequate light, air, access, and open space [and] conserve the natural environments and historic resources.” Accordingly, many of the graphics in the CMP illustrate plans for buildings that use up much less space than the maximum buildable envelope through tower spacing rules and required setbacks in order to maintain “pedestrian scale daylight & views.” Encouragingly, though, new developments will aim to have “public-facing ground floor uses” to create active corridors. One of the main reasons given for restricting building heights, especially in East Campus, is to preserve waterfront views from Central Campus.

The plan divides campus into four main sectors: Central, West, East and South Campus. The 2018 CMP envisions intensive development in the three sectors outside Central Campus in order to preserve “historic assets,” existing open space and “campus character” in the core. This presents a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges unique to each sector which are explored below.

Continue reading “UW Releases Draft of 2018 Campus Master Plan”

STB November 2016 Election Endorsements

These are STB’s endorsements for this November’s General Election. As always, candidate endorsements are meant to only reflect their positions on transit and land use.

Ballot Measures

st3mapYES on Sound Transit Proposition 1Our full endorsement is here, and much more material is here. This measure, informally known as Sound Transit 3, would build 62 miles of fully traffic-separated transit right-of-way, in addition to Bus Rapid Transit and enhanced Sounder Commuter Rail. Plausible alternatives are dramatically inferior.

YES on Spokane Transit Proposition 1After failing by a whisker in April 2015, Spokane Transit (STA) is back with a smaller transit expansion package. Instead of .3% increase in sales tax, STA will try for .2%, phase it in over 3 years, and sunset the tax in 2028. The plan would begin implementation of Spokane Transit’s impressive Moving Forward plan. The measure would boost service hours by 25%, build 6 new transit centers, build Bus Rapid Transit from Browne’s Addition to Gonzaga, add peak commuter routes, and expand service past 11pm for the first time. Even the Spokesman Review is on board this time around.

YES on Initiative 732. A carbon tax will encourage less energy-intensive forms of living, which generally involve density and transit, and discourage the opposite. Its cut in regressive sales taxes will reduce the tax burden of ST3 on low-income households. Opposition on the right is fundamentally opposed to taking action on the climate, and opposition on the left claims the legislation is not sufficiently inclusive of other progressive interests. But climate change is an emergency, and requires emergency action instead of hairsplitting over implementation details. For progressives hesitant about the breadth of the measure, we’d argue that building on this framework is a better goal for 2017 and beyond than trying again from scratch with no guarantee of success. Vote yes.

YES on Bellevue Proposition 2Prop 2 is a remarkably progressive measure. The emphases are new bike infrastructure (including 24 miles of protected bike lanes), 84 traffic calming projects, and maintenance. “Congestion reduction” is limited to things like adding traffic signals, not an excuse for large car capacity adds.

YES on Issaquah Proposition 1This $50m bond vote (which requires 60% to pass) adds some lanes and intersection improvements for drivers, but has surprisingly urbanist priorities for a suburban city. Newport Way between the Issaquah Transit Center and Sunset Way would get 3 roundabouts, and the street would get better sidewalks, new bike lanes, and traffic calming measures. Sunset Way in Olde Town Issaquah would get a center turn lane, better sidewalks, and a new off-arterial neighborhood greenway connecting the Rainier Trail to the Issaquah-Preston Trail.

YES on Kenmore Proposition 1. The “Walkways and Waterways” measure improves north/south non-motorized access in Kenmore, making it easier for people to access existing bus service on SR522 and the BRT line likely to succeed it. The plan would also separate walkers, cyclists, and drivers on Juanita Drive, a key part of the Lake Washington Loop.

YES on Bothell Proposition 1. The “Levy for Safe Streets and Sidewalks” funds pedestrian and traffic safety improvements with a particular focus on sidewalks near schools, connecting existing sidewalks and crosswalk safety. It also supports prudent road preservation work.

YES on Kitsap Transit Proposition 1The series of fast ferries to Downtown Seattle from Bremerton, Kingston, and Southworth must look to the residents of those cities very much like North Sounder does to Edmonds and Mukilteo: middling ridership, but faster than any alternative. Except that this alternative is way faster. A 60-minute ride to Bremerton can be done in 28, and there is no road grid or bus alternative that can hope to compete with that. We are far more excited about Bremerton, which has a real downtown around its ferry terminal, than quiet Kingston and Southworth, which would appear to basically be limited by the onsite parking. But there are also about 23,000 additional bus hours that can help out with that.

Statewide Offices

Continue reading “STB November 2016 Election Endorsements”

Better Park-and-Ride Lots

South Bellevue Park & Ride
South Bellevue Park & Ride

Whether you think of park and ride lots as a necessary service for suburban transit or a sprawl-inducing evil, we can hopefully agree that maximizing utilization of existing parking capacity near transit is a good thing.

With that idea in mind, WSDOT conducted an interesting evaluation of park and rides (via KIRO). They visited 17 lots in the Seattle region and interviewed riders. The results won’t surprise you: Most lots are full by 8am, almost everyone drives alone to get there, and almost everyone is going to work.

There were some interesting bits in the rider survey however:  46% of respondents were willing to pay for a “guaranteed” spot at the lot, but only 28% were willing to pay for a general spot in the lot.  If people are going to be asked to pay for something that used to be free, they want something in return.

The survey recommendations include some ideas around incentivizing carpooling to park and rides.  The initiative is laudable, and Sound Transit is working on something similar, but it’s hard enough to get people to carpool, even all the way to work. Going through the hassle of organizing a carpool just to get to a bus stop seems like a lot of effort for little return.  It seems like a better idea to just charge for spaces and let people organize a carpool if they want to save money.

Whatever program takes hold, increasing the utilization and/or revenue generation from park and rides is a good thing.  Folks will complain and threaten to just drive to work, but the reality is that a monthly spot in the Seattle CBD costs $288/month, the 7th most expensive in the country.  Paying for parking and an ORCA card (assuming your employer doesn’t provide one) is still a better deal.

Bellevue’s Transportation Levy

Representative projects to be funded by the transportation levy. Map: City of Bellevue

Bellevue has a progressive transportation levy on the ballot next month that will step up investments in neighborhood safety and connections. The levy augments baseline spending in Bellevue’s Capital Improvement Plan, accelerating local projects that would otherwise wait many years for funding.

Bellevue is growing quickly, and the growth has been accompanied by increasing public demands for better non-motorized connectivity as well as local congestion relief. The upshot is an $800 million deficit between the 20-year list of capital projects and projected revenue, much of that in transportation. A particular need for funding to accelerate safety, connectivity, and neighborhood congestion projects was identified.

The proposed tax rate is 15 cents $1,000 assessed value. The median Bellevue homeowner would pay $96 annually (on an assessed value of $640,000). The measure yields $6.7 million, or an estimated $140 million over 20 years. A second, similarly sized, levy for fire facilities is also on the ballot.

While not a very large program (about one-third the size of the Move Seattle measure in per capita/year terms), the mix of projects is impressive. There are no large highway expansions. Major planned efforts to extend the arterial street system in the BelRed area to coincide with the completion of East Link (where the City will seek TIFIA funding) are not included.

This measure, rather, supplements baseline capital funding to address the backlog of small locally-oriented projects that would otherwise be built over decades. 223 projects are identified as candidates, and the city’s interactive map shows projects spanning every neighborhood in the city.

Some story boards from the Bellevue Transportation Department illustrate the range of what would be funded. Priorities include:

  • New sidewalks and trails will be accelerated. Bellevue’s CIP has a 30-year backlog of identified high-priority projects, many of which will be supported through the levy.
  • Neighborhood safety. Candidate projects include 84 locations for traffic calming, 12 school safety projects, and 55 pedestrian crossings.
  • Bicycle facilities with 52 identified projects to provide 57 miles of new or upgraded bike facilities citywide. Funding Bellevue’s Bicycle Rapid Implementation Program would expand the city’s network of bike routes from 107 to 128 miles, but more importantly would improve the quality of these routes, reducing unmarked shared facilities (wide lanes and shoulders) from 65 to 35 miles and adding 23 miles of separated bike lanes.
  • Enhanced technology, including LED streetlights, video monitoring and analysis of accidents and near misses, parking and driver information systems.
  • Neighborhood congestion, largely signals and intersection improvements. Notably, capacity is not being increased via added lanes or new roadway.
  • Sidewalk and trail maintenance. This mostly comprises repairs and maintenance to defective sidewalks and trails due to root heave or aging. The city would also sweep trails and streets more frequently.

The measure is City of Bellevue Proposition No. 2, “Levy for Neighborhood Safety, Connectivity, and Congestion”, and deserves your support.

Times Surprises No One, Misinforms Its Readers

st3mapIn a move that will surprise no one who has been paying attention, The Seattle Times endorsed a NO vote on ST3 ($), apparently less interested in quality transit than the Tacoma News-Tribune, among others. It is fundamentally insincere and dishonest about why they oppose the package. As usual, they apply arbitrary and vague objections they wouldn’t apply to non-transit projects. For a more authentic (but wrong) objection, see their 2007 anti-ST2 screed ($) that says rail is pointless and we should just widen highways. The current complaints are too incoherent to be real:

Voters should say no to this measure — appearing as Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot — which would commit them to a lifetime of taxation for a $54 billion project with unclear benefits and little accountability.

If only one of the largest concentrations of reporters in the state could have somehow, some way, figured out what voters would get from the ST3 package. What would constitute “clear” benefits? What’s the proper level of accountability? After all, the Times backed a giant highway package with zero public votes, and a deep-bore tunnel run amok with no voter “accountability”, so there’s no way they’re just expecting yet more votes?

Because ST3 establishes permanent tax authority, voters would lose the opportunity to periodically say whether its funding should continue or its course corrected.


It is not good practice to stop giant capital projects in mid-stream, and default on all the bonds, at whatever moment the agency is least popular. Not a great way to get things done! If one doesn’t like how ST is going, one could always vote against the County Executives most responsible. But most of those Executives — and Sound Transit — are popular, so anti-transit forces would like to add as many veto points as possible. There is no real ideological commitment to “accountability.”

And by the way: the permanent tax authority is only what’s needed for operations and maintenance. But they won’t tell you that, because the Editorial Board of our city’s largest newspaper exists to deceive citizens and make them less knowledgeable about issues. Or perhaps the Times objects to operating and maintaining rail lines we’ve already built?

Yet ST3 would provide little direct benefit for most residents. Many won’t be around to enjoy the system’s full benefits, which wouldn’t come until around 2040.

ST3 will start delivering real benefits in the early 2020s, but apparently nothing’s worthwhile until rail gets to Issaquah. Benefits to young people and future generations are, of course, simply irrelevant. But yeah, it takes a long time. Better hurry, no time to pause!

Pressing pause would not doom the region to traffic hell nor would it kill transit.

Well then! Traffic is solved, everyone! Never mind, South Lake Union!

Continue reading “Times Surprises No One, Misinforms Its Readers”

Ballot Drop Boxes Open Today

Ballots for the November 8 general election have been mailed out. Numerous drop boxes open today, as do a limited number of accessible voting centers. Be sure to sign your ballot envelope and include contact info in case the county questions your signature. If you mail your ballot, put postage on the return envelope worth at least 47 cents in King and Pierce County, and 68 cents in Snohomish County.

The Secretary of State’s website has a markable online ballot, along with a lot more information regarding accessible voting.

ballot drop boxKing County has 43 drop boxes. Among them are ones at:

  • Schmitz Hall on the UW campus between University Way NE and 15th Ave NE on the south side of NE 41st St (a block north of NE Campus Pkwy). The box is at the north entrance of the building.
  • Seattle Central College a block south of Capitol Hill Station. The box is at the northeast corner of the main building on the west side of Broadway.
  • the King County Administration Building, 500 4th Ave, a block east of Pioneer Square Station. The box is at the west entrance on 4th Ave.
  • Uwajimaya, just southeast of International District/Chinatown light rail Station. The box is on the east side of the store / west side of 6th Ave S, a block east of the station.
  • Beacon Hill Library a block south of Beacon Hill Station.
  • Ballard Library, at the corner of NW 57th St and 22nd Ave NE. The box is on the west side of the library.

All are open 24/7.

Continue reading “Ballot Drop Boxes Open Today”

News Roundup: Lukewarm

Commute Times at 8:34 AM, 13 Oct 2016

This is an open thread.

Vancouver’s “Vine” BRT Begins Service January 8

Vancouver’s C-Tran, one of the largest suburban transit agencies in the state, will open its bus rapid transit system, “The Vine“, on Sunday, January 8, during a weekend of celebrations.

It is the first bus rapid transit system in the Portland region, and has been over a half-decade in the making. The $53 million project was funded with a $38.5 million federal grant, state contributions, and $7.4 million in local funds from C-Tran, using reserve funding after a sales tax increase was defeated at the ballot. Opponents tried to stop the project with a lawsuit, arguing that BRT did not meet the legal requirements of high-capacity transit that was specified in the ballot text. Next City has a nice write-up of the project’s troubles and general history.

The Vine will operate more like Community Transit’s Swift than Metro’s RapidRide, featuring a wider variety of traditional BRT features. Stations are spaced a third of a mile apart, with only 17 pairs on the 6.7 miles from Downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Mall. Platforms are raised to be level with buses, which have three doors for boarding and three interior bicycle racks for roll-on boarding through the back door. Payment is done off-board, with ticket vending machines at all stations; the Portland region’s new Hop Fastpass fare card will debut next year and C-Tran is one of the launch agencies, so integration with The Vine is expected soon. Sections of Fourth Plain Boulevard, where The Vine runs, will have transit signal priority to help speed up bus travel through the corridor by as much as 10 minutes, despite remaining in mixed traffic.

Fourth Plain is currently served by route 4, and formerly by route 44, which will be replaced by The Vine in January. Replacement of the two routes, among the agency’s most popular, is expected to cost less to operate for C-Tran. The two routes also continued to a transfer with the MAX Yellow Line across the river at Delta Park, which will instead be served by a “frequent cross-river shuttle” from Downtown Vancouver.