23 Replies to “Podcast #30: Mailbag”

  1. I’ve been very busy this past week – mostly due to a non-transit item – and as such wasn’t able to slide in a question this time. That said, I put in my almost if not monthly donation to STB so we can continue to have these podcasts.

    Folks, you really gotta chip into STB. We need STB in the game to represent us.

  2. ST openings
    (ST3 library)

    2019-2024: Early deliverables: C, D, Madison BRT, Tacoma Rt 1 Pacific Ave, “bus on shoulder”, P&Rs
    2021: Northgate
    2022: Tacoma Link MLK
    2023: Overlake, Lynnwood
    2024: Federal Way (KDM postopned from 2023), Redmond downtown, 522 BRT, 405 BRT, first Sounder South capacity improvements (continuing through 2036)

    2030: West Seattle stub, Tacoma
    2031: 130th station, Graham station, BAR station
    2035: Ballard & DSTT2
    2036: Everett; Sounder DuPont
    2039: Tacoma Link 19th Ave
    2041: Issaquah – South Kirkland

    No details have been specified for RR C & D. I assume what Martin said: BAT lanes, queue jumps, signal priority, ORCA readers, maybe more buses. I interpret “2019-2024” as meaning the earliest deliverables will be in 2019, so it may be earlier than 2023.

    Metro’s long-range plan in 2025 has RapidRides C, D, 40, 44, and 120. In 2040:
    – The C is replaced by an Alki-Burien line
    – RapidRide 120 remains
    – Link replaces the D
    – The D is replaced by a line from Ballard Fred Meyer to 15th NW – N 85th – Northgate station – Northgate Way, Lake City
    – RapifdRide 40 is extended to SODO (approx Massachusetts & Airport Way). Is that the Hansen stadium?

    1. I would take the Metro Long Range plan with a grain of salt. I’m pretty sure they have made clear that a lot of the ideas are tentative. They don’t want people to think that it will necessarily work out this way.

      For example, there is a supposed to be a 1061 RapidRide bus that essentially replaces the 8. But instead of ending in lower Queen Anne, it goes to the Ballard Bridge, but doesn’t cross it. This seems silly to me. Once Link goes along Elliot and 15th, there will be no bus lane. So you are basically making the 8 slower and less reliable so that you can serve an area already served by Link. Meanwhile, east of 23rd, it doesn’t go south, like the 8 does, but heads to Madison Park. On the one hand that makes for a slightly straighter grid. But it makes for a huge mismatch in terms of ridership. Way fewer riders live out there (there is a reason why the Madison BRT doesn’t go out to Madison Park). That is a very weak tail end compared to heading south to Rainier Valley.

      The point being that these changes aren’t obvious, and who knows how they will shake out. It looks like the next big thing will be Madison BRT (surprised that it takes until 2019, but that is indeed the schedule). The Madison BRT project is done, that will definitely shake up the buses in the greater Central Area (which includes Capitol Hill). It will actually make the choices a lot easier than the last shake-up in the area (Link) because there will be lots of stops, not just one.

      1. Link can hardly be said to “serve yhe area”. It will have two stations between Ballard and LQA. If anything it should hook around to SPU.

        And who says Link has to go down the center of 15th West? It makes a lot more sense to run it on the surface next to Interbay. That would put the Dravus Station closer to East Magnolia which is much more likely to become more dense thsn Wedt Queen Anne eith its million plus view properties.

        It would also be cheaper than elevated and fit into the community better.

      2. Link can hardly be said to “serve the area”. It will have two stations between Ballard and LQA. If anything the RR should hook around to SPU.

        And who says Link has to go down the center of 15th West? It makes a lot more sense to run it on the surface next to Interbay. That would put the Dravus Station closer to East Magnolia which is much more likely to become more dense than West Queen Anne with its million plus view properties.

        It would also be cheaper than elevated and fit into the community better.

      3. @Richard — But those two stations are by far the most important stops along there. Otherwise, there would be more. Why spend billions on a rail system, but skip important, relatively cheap to build stops? Oh, wait, this is Sound Transit — maybe they did just that.

        But then again, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they managed to put stops at the most important areas, and we should accept that. The other stops are minor stops (hell, all stops between Ballard and Lower Queen Anne are minor stops) which is my point. You don’t want to have a major, RapidRide run be bogged down serving a very low service tail (on either end). If you want to serve some of that area, do so with a regular, much less frequent bus (like the 32, which serves it today).

      4. Richard – I like the idea of running a bit west of 15th, rather than along 15th; I agree the station location will be easier, and perhaps cheaper. You can also run at-grade with basically negligible at-grade crossing.

        As for serving SPU, that makes no sense, sorry. It would be a huge diversion for a minor destination. If you want to serve SPU, then why not serve Fremont? But you cant’ serve Fremont without missing Uptown, and Uptown is more important.

        Ross is right – everything between Ballard & Uptown are minor stations, so just serve what is “on the way.” But don’t move the line in a way that would hurt serve by dropping the Uptown station or by dragging the Ballard line east of 15th when most of Ballard is west of 15th.

        Thikn of it this way, there are three options to get between SLU and Ballard

        1) Go through interbay.
        2) Go under QA Hill; get a subway stop for upper QA. Very expensive, and serves a lovely but small, non-growing neighborhood. Doesn’t pencil out.
        3) Go along the East side of QA, basically Westlake. With this option, you add Fremont (and I guess SPU; I’d rather go to Felard, but either works). However, you lose not only Interbay, but also Uptown.

      5. ST studied #2 with QA, Fremont and Leary Way but rejected it as too expensive. (Remember, it was trying to fit in West Seattle….)

        Metro’s plan makes assumptions about the future economy, growth, and ridership. The reality will certainly be different but we don’t know how. To me 10-20% of the service appears excessive, so I assume it’s only for a best-case scenario if all the assumptions are met or exceeded. Things inevitably change in concrete restructures. Public reaction is not clear yet on e.g., moving the 62 to Wallingford Ave, a Fred Meyer to Fred Meyer line, terminating the 8 just short of the Ballard Bridge, whether anybody will really ride the QA/Magnolia – Aloha St – Garfield HS routes (especially if the areas remain single-family), deleting the 11 (now even more popular with the 10 off Pine), the one-seat RapidRide from KDM station to 132nd instead of East Hill or Covington, etc. We still don’t know which Express routes will really be half-hourly all day and which will be peak only. So I see the plan as more a general expression of which neighborhoods should be connected at what level of service according to Metro’s performance metrics, rather than a precise commitment to certain streets and termini.

      6. >> whether anybody will really ride the QA/Magnolia – Aloha St – Garfield HS route …

        Thanks for mentioning that bus route, Mike. Wow, very interesting. There are actually a couple bus routes that go on Aloha, and they are similar. One is for 2025 and the other is added in 2040. So the best way to see the route is to pick one of those buttons*, then select “Local” under Metro Services. You will see a yellow line and you can select this. A minor nitpick, neither actually goes as far as Garfield, but could very easily (just by heading south a bit).

        Anyway, this is very interesting for a couple reasons:

        1) The route goes on Belmont! When I proposed running the 8 on Belmont**, I had no idea if it was at all practical. Well Metro must think it is worth looking into, with a different bus. It is a little different, in that my proposal would turn on Broadway and Roy, but that is easy enough (the 9 essentially does that). It is possible though, that the bus route would be fine with smaller buses (a local) but not practical with an articulated one (which is what any form of the 8 would likely be).

        2) Service on Aloha is very interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens once Madison BRT goes in. I think it makes sense to get rid of the 12. This would leave a small hole on 19th, but with frequent bus routes on both 15th and 23rd, this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. By adding service on Aloha, you mitigate the problem even further, creating a grid with pretty close to ideal spacing. I personally wouldn’t run something like they proposed (unless you can move the 8). I would just extend either the 9 or 60 on Aloha over to 23rd.

        Interestingly enough, Metro does retain service on 19th, but as part of a local route that connects the U-District, Interlaken, and downtown. All this means that the restructure following Madison BRT should be very interesting given all the options.

        * Service map is here: http://www.kcmetrovision.org/plan/service-map/
        ** The red line shown here (ignore the section going through the Seattle Center) — https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-ReWm3Ug-B67LMavk7ELJb2pd4c&usp=sharing

      7. neither actually goes as far as Garfield”

        Ah. I was going from memory and confused it with one of the earlier #8 proposals. It terminates at the Madison BRT triangle (23rd-Madison-John).

    2. I hope something continues to serve the D line stops south of the Ballard bridge. Could be a local shadow of Link (with a “local” frequency rather than RR), or covered by a few different lines (might be what they are doing with 1061?).

      1. I think it is highly likely that there will be a shadow. There are huge swaths of 15th/Elliott/Western that deserves some service. It is hard to justify adding stops all the way along there, though. This is what makes it so different than Ballard to UW (urban stop spacing is quite appropriate for Ballard to UW). So at best (with a station or two) all you’ve done is reduced the need for coverage on a small section. This makes that corridor similar to Rainier Valley (which does have a shadow).

        Complicating matters is the lack of a stop at Emerson. This means it is more difficult to serve SPU. Assuming there is no stop there, the shadow should serve SPU, since it would have to go along part of 15th anyway. The simplest possibility is to modify the 32 so that it instead of ending the 32 on Lower Queen Anne, have it stick to the waterfront (which is what the 24 and 33 do). That allows you to truncate or modify the Magnolia buses.

        But there are other, more complex possibilities. For example, you could modify the 31 so that it uses Dravus instead of Emerson. Then have the 32 not continue to downtown, but instead loop around to Magnolia Village. That would mean both the 31 and 32 would go by Link (at Dravus) and end at the same place (Magnolia Village). This would also give riders in Magnolia an alternative to schlepping over the Dravus street bridge. Then you could keep one of the 24 or 33 buses to serve the section from the Magnolia Bridge all the way south.

        But my main point is that none of this shadow business is anywhere near the demand of the Metro 8, especially when it is freed of its biggest problem (slogging along Denny). It would be silly to put a bunch of money into a RapidRide section that shadows a light rail line. Shadows aren’t high demand (otherwise you wouldn’t need a shadow, but simply stops along the subway).

      2. Yeah the shadow(s) will be “frequent,” not RR. There are the existing D line bus stops that can be used so the line can have some RR amenities, but trying to run RR frequency along 15th Ave would be very duplicative.

        I like a solution that serves the old D-line by extending/modifying multiple existing routes, because that opens up more 1-seat and 2-seat ride combinations. For example, a 15th Ave ‘shadow’ that then serves SPU means everything along the Ballard to Seatac line is a 2-seat ride away from SPU. Lots of cool options to explore whenever that restructuring comes along.

  3. Haha, at 1:08:10, they sound like they are mostly frustrated that they keep having to try to pronounce my name. I do try to put as much into one comment as possible, but that time I thought of those questions at completely different times (sorry guys) good job though!

  4. RE: Federal Funding; If ST3 gets zero federal funding, won’t everything in ST3 still get built? It will just take longer to both build and pay off the bonds. That’s my understanding – Federal funding doesn’t enable incremental work, it just expedites work.

    1. ST3 assumes around 13% federal grants, which is considered small. So if no grants come in and everything else is as assumed, 13% of the projects will take longer or be deferred. There’s also the issue that grant worthiness is not proportional to subarea equity. Everett, downtown, and Ballard would presumably rate highest for grants, and the Eastside lowest. So what happens if grants don’t come in in one subarea while another subarea has full local funding for less-critical projects? Remember that the PSRC predicts a capacity crisis downtown (both regional trips and intra-downtown circulation) if capacity is not significantly increased: that’s one of the reason for the DSTT2, more 3rd Ave RapidRides, and getting most non-RapidRides out of downtown.

      However, ST3’s assumptions are very conservative. It doesn’t want to repeat the 2000 fiasco where costs were higher than expected. If the cities expedite permitting as Redmond has done and Seattle has promised, that will cut costs and time. If the stakeholders (us and the nimbys and businesses and cities) agree on one alternative to study in the EISes alongside ST’s perferred one, that would cut costs and time. South Bellevue had a dozen alternatives because of the disagreeing stakeholders, and that extended planning and costs by a year. ST3 assumes negotiations will be similar to ST1&2, so if negotiations are better then it would cut costs and time and lessen the need for grants. Also, if the economy keeps booming as it has, more local revenue will be available than expected.

    2. Also, ST could relax its asset-to-debt ratio and raise all the bonds at once rather than over 25 years. That would also lower costs due to avoiding inflation, although it would be partlt offset by higher interest rates. Seattle Subway is pushing ST to have a vote on this. So far ST hasn’t shown interest.

  5. Regarding infrastructure construction work hours, I am a lifelong Seattleite but for a short stint in NYC and grad school outside Chicago.

    I found that both the MTA and CTA both seemingly did ALL their work at night. The highway construction was done chiefly at night too.

    There was a segment of I90 that was under construction while I was near Chicago. They closed some lanes during but still had 4-5 in each direction (thanks to the express lanes). At night, they were down to one lane each way at the southernmost part of town and blaring din of jack hammers, large trucks backing up, etc. This included residential areas.

    This was 15 years ago but I cant imagine those practices have changed.

    Duke mentioned paying laborers time and a half as part of the problem. Labor costs are a fraction of the cost of major infrastructure. (What percent of the cost of ST1 was labor?) I imagine in many instances the time and half would be worth it to finish the project earlier.

    I think the real reason we only build during the workday is NIMBYism and our local sense of entitlement to be heard and obeyed by local government.

    One complaint here can derail a major project. Whereas in many parts of the nation, an army can complain and those in charge of the infrastructure might not even shrug. “Thems the brakes” is not a sufficient answer here.

  6. RE: 100 story building – it got killed because the FAA had a problem with the height, for planes flying in for landing. So there is a non-zoning cap on building height, probably somewhere a pinch under the Columbia Tower.

    RE: taxes rolled back after ST3 bonds are paid off – my understanding is all of the ST3 taxes will be rolled back by the ST Board, and it’s the ST2 (and ST1?) taxes that are now permanent to cover ongoing operations & maintenance. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. Columbia Center is at the FAA limit. Martin Selig wanted it taller but the FAA wouldn’t allow it. He wanted 76 stories for personal reasons (something about symbolizing his father’s age or such), so he squeezed the floors a bit to fit into the limit.

    2. Re ST taxes, each phase pays its own ongoing operations, maintenance. and fleet replacement. However, ST can doubtless choose any of the tax sources to charge it to: What the state is concerned about is the maximum tax rate of ST1/2/3 combined, not which source pays which expense.

    3. The only ST tax that is required to be phased out is the .3% MVT imposed by Sound Move, which is scheduled to expire in 2028 [I believe that that’s when the last bonds sold backed by that revenue mature; regardless, the ST3 enabling legislation says that they expire then.]. The other .8% VMT is perpetual. Other than that, any roll back is entirely at the discretion of the ST board, although once the authorized capital projects .are complete, and the bonds paid off, they can only spend the proceeds on operations of the authorized projects. On their web site they say

      ” Within seven years of the scheduled 2041 completion of the system authorized by voters, Sound Transit and an independent advisor, Piper Jaffrey & Co., have calculated that the entire taxes authorized in 2016 could be eliminated, along with approximately 11 percent of the sales taxes authorized in 1996 and 2008. This or an alternate mix of tax reductions could cut total agency tax collections in half.”

      That mix would leave us with a .8 % sales tax for operations.

  7. Thanks for answering my question! As someone who supports the much-disparaged* Lakemont stop, I’m looking forward to to the debate on the Issaquah Link. Factoria is a huge chunk of develop-able land, in theory it has just as much TOD potential as, say, Northgate if we can get the station location right. Will be hard to get right, but plenty of time to figure it out.

    *Yes, it definitely should be provisional. But people do live near it, and in multi-story MF buildings to boot.

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