Interstate 5 in Seattle at night

This is an open thread.

83 Replies to “News Roundup: Finally Over”

  1. Minor correction: The condo site is north of Jackson St which technically makes it Japantown, not Chinatown.

  2. Thanks Fairwood -.-

    It’s friggin’ impossible to get that municipality to agree on anything that’d be good in the long-term for their constituents. Can’t believe that failed, and now we’re stuck with another “senior housing” zone.

  3. I get why people want to ditch helmets for larger numbers, but a little piece of me dies every time I see reasonable people go this route when I think of the friend who was saved by a helmet in Magnolia where as a friend of a friend was killed because they forgot it. Anecdotal but you know, I value the lives of people I know.

    1. It’s a nuanced issue (perfect for discussing on the internet!)

      Do I wear a helmet? Yes. Do I encourage others to wear them? Yes. Do I think a helmet law is effective and good policy? No.

      1. This. I tiny, tiny fraction of helmet law critics, in fact “want people to ditch helmets” and it’s disingenuous to suggest otherwise. And the public health costs and benefits of helmet laws have much, much better data to evaluate them with than “I knew a guy once.”

      2. Does anybody know anybody who ever even received a warning over a helmet law violation, let alone a ticket?

        But the law enforcement connection I think would really work in Seattle would be to encourage our bicycle patrol officers to speak with anyone they see riding a bike without a helmet, about stats and possible injuries.

        These officers seem to be mostly young people in terrific physical condition who are also intelligent and well-mannered. I think their advice would have stronger influence than the threat of a penalty.

        Mark

      1. But the new bike share bikes have motors. Even riders who haven’t spent the time building leg muscle riding will be able to go fast. I’m not for the helmet law, but slowness of bike share will not be a reason

      2. I believe the new bike share bikes will have speed limits attached to the motors. They’ll allow you to go uphill at a speed that a reasonable person could pedal at on flat ground, but they’re not motorcycles.

        If you really want to go fast, your best bet would still be to descend a steep hill and not even use the motor.

      3. I think it’s been effectively debunked that helmets killed Pronto. There are probably about a dozen things on the “What Killed Pronto?” list. Helmets would not be on that list.

      4. @RapidRider: There are indeed so many things that may have contributed to Pronto’s ineffectiveness that it’s pretty hard to reason about every combination of counterfactuals, leaving us with Internet arguments. Essentially nothing has been debunked by these arguments.

        I’d like to claim that the common Internet idea that we should have launched with no stations in or around downtown has been debunked, but I’m not even sure that silliness has been totally swept aside. The idea that the helmet law has contributed is certainly still alive. It will be hard to debunk until we can identify a large group of cities that have effectively grown cycling and made it safe for the masses by adding equipment to bikes and cyclists instead of by implementing (hashtag) car control.

  4. “Tacoma Link ridership sliding”

    When will we give up on at-grade streetcars? This thing and the FHSC are complete wastes of money at this point. The fact that the FHSC replaced a theoretical First Hill Link station is a damn shame that will be regretted by the next generation as that neighborhood grows.

    The decision to run the Tacoma Link streetcar in an absurd U-shape instead of run it down 6th to TCC will ruin any potential of usability that line had.

    1. Picking nits, I’d make the distinction in terms of ROW rather than grade separation – it’s the struck in traffic bit that really kills streetcar ridership. Grade separation is of course better, but depending on line length and stop spacing, can end up worse on a $/rider metric (whereas skimping on ROW saves political capital, but not as much real money).

      What is absurd is that Tacoma link, built in a city with ample parking and minimal traffic, didn’t get its own right of way. Tacoma isn’t rich – it would be a big bet to grade separate, and ridership could easily disappoint. But they’ve got plenty of street space. Pity they aren’t taking advantage of it.

      1. I spent a week in Potsdam, Germany. Their tram line is entirely at street level, but is only in the street for short distances or in places where the street isn’t very busy.

        For example, there is a street that is a busy shopping area, but it doesn’t serve as a through street so through traffic doesn’t exist.

        In other cases, they have put the tram line into decicated segments that go well beyond dedicated road lanes, and are closer to the SoDo busway in terms of the separation from other traffic.

        The trains move along extremely well, and are quite popular.

      2. Look at that first picture. If you proposed a train in a similar American courtyard/parking lot, people would complain that trains would “ruin the character of the neighborhood”.

    2. “When will we give up on at-grade streetcars?”

      Hopefully never; why give up rider convenience for automobile convenience? (And, really, do you think that a 1.6 mile elevated/subway would get any better ridership than having the cars right there on the surface? The problem isn’t that Tacoma is at grade, the problem is that the line is really short)

    3. What is killing Tacoma Link is that it’s too short and the Sounder almost always (it seems) arrives exctly as the streetcar leaves freighthouse square.

      I ride Sounder in the evenings several times a week from Seattle to Tacoma, then transfer to the streetcar, and walk up the hill to Stadium District, where I live. When they extend it, it will be much more convienant than it is now.

      At grade in Tacoma actually works, by the way. Tacoma Link gets signal priority and there’s not as much traffic as Seattle. Better frequency and extending Tacoma Link would be a success I think. And, incidentally, the U-shaped route makes sense; it’s not absurd if you actually know the area.

      1. I lived in the area for quite a while. The U shape serves less dense areas in Hilltop with fewer businesses. They would do better to follow the most popular PT route 1 down 6th, which is far denser in population and business. Finally, the U shape means that going from one end of the line to the other is really only practical for people with mobility issues. Anyone else could walk faster.

      2. The streetcar can’t exactly follow PT Rt 1 because the hill west out of downtown is too steep for streetcars. I think that explains the U shape. Kind of like the U on the First Hill Streetcar.

      3. Except, unlike First Hill, the U shaped route seems to have more activity along it than the straight line route.

        Obviously, it is a vastly different situation due to land use density, but take a look at the U shaped route the Potsdam tram takes between Potsdam HbF and Babelsberg.

        It’s not a fast, direct route, but that isn’t the market it is serving.

    4. Yeah I don’t think at-grade is the issue with low demand. Full grade-seperation wouldn’t boost ridership all that much.

      Strong transit ridership requires a vibrant neighborhood. Tacoma is slowly getting there.

    5. It’s not a matter of giving up on at-grade streetcars. It’s a matter of abandoning short routes at slow speeds regardless of transit mode. It’s a matter of planning and execution, and of possessing the fortitude to prioritize transit, whether bus or rail.

      1. Agree with you, Mike. As I said above, it’s about treatment and prioritization, nothing inherent to the mode choice.

    6. Streetcars are only appropriate in very limited cases. If you have existing infrastructure to leverage, then they make can make sense. If you have a very densely populated city (e. g. Paris) then they make sense. But in most cases — and especially in Tacoma — they are a bad idea. Tacoma is hilly, which means one of the big drawbacks is that you are limited in options for routing (as Oran pointed out). But the main issue is that Tacoma simply lacks the density for big streetcars.

      In contrast, consider Vancouver, BC. The 99 B-Line carries a huge number of people (it is one of the most popular bus routes in North America). It will eventually be replaced by an underground train. But assume for a second that they couldn’t afford such a thing. The buses are already running every two minutes and they are full. In that case, an above ground, high capacity train — call it a streetcar if you want — would make sense. But situations like that are rare. Most cities, when they get to that point, simply pay the extra money and make it grade separated.

      1. You don’t have to look to Paris. Most major American cities have more than sufficient density for streetcars to make sense.

      2. It depends on the quality of the line. Seattle/Portland style streetcars are below the minimum standard in Europe because they operate in mixed traffic with no signal priority. Those need to die. A good streetcar should be like BRT with full transit lanes and signal priority. It carries ten times the people as the cars its space takes up, so it should have ten times priority. People are looking for something that’s as good or better than driving, not something that crawls slower.

      3. Agree with you, Mike. As I said above, it’s about treatment and prioritization, nothing inherent to the mode choice.

    7. I used to ride Tacoma Link daily from Sounder to UWT and it rarely if ever got stuck in traffic. It’s basically a parking shuttle from the massive parking garage at Tacoma Dome. For that, it actually works pretty well.

      If anything is killing Tacoma Link ridership it’s the fact that Tacoma is losing jobs. Maybe also the parking garage is getting fuller with Seattle commuters instead of downtown Tacoma workers.

  5. Okay, I just was thinking of something. Given the recent post on how Link can increase capacity by eliminating the unused cabs on their cars, I was thinking–with 3- and 4-car trains becoming commonplace, would it be practical for the intermediate cars on 3+-car consists to be cab-less “boosters” (like some of the early “B-Unit” diesels of yore)?

    1. As long as you have a control stand in the car that is hidden in most circumstances, just as the MAX S70 cars have at the non-cab end, I don’t see why this would be that difficult to work with.

    2. It was interesting to see Light Rail have 3 cars on most of their trains during the day today and I am thinking that Sound Transit did so because of the heavy passengers loads at SeaTac Airport that are expected today and Friday. It will be interesting to see if they do the same tomorrow.

      1. ST’s facebook post this afternoon indicated they’d be running longer trains through the next several days.

  6. Answer to low ridership on Tacoma LINK is same answer as to question of why Downtown Tacoma is probably the ghost town with the world’s best urban infrastructure, including a college campus and three great museums. And has been that way since I first saw the place. Forty years is a weird length of time for a condition that weird to persist.

    In long overdue response to legitimate demand for references, go to YouTube. Tara Thompson is young cousin to coal-country singer Loretta Lynn, and a total little howl. A girl visits her boyfriend’s trailer park, only to find his trailer, and him, gone. “I’d like to tell the neighbors, that it was just a TORNADER, and I’ll tell the police it was a UFO!”

    Forty years ago Mt. Rainier must have given Tacoma a precision earthquake that warped space-time a few thousandths of a degree so people, including maintenance staff, are really there. But connection with Tacoma LINK is handled by same company that handles our escalators.

    But having personally just acquired another favorite cafe named the Corina Bakery, same building as Grand Cinema, a couple of blocks downhill from Wright Park, and an easy climb uphill from the 10th and Commerce Tacoma LINK terminal, I think fault lines may be narrowing.

    LINK routing is debatable. There’s at least one avenue with a shallow grade and a lot of density leading up from UW. But either one would require a separate track from there. Tenth and Commerce, a block from the old theater, tucks into the base of a reviving cafe district on a stair-case of sidewalks heading up to cinema, bakery, and park as well.

    Continuing the line straight would give a fast (maybe beside the point scenic) ride up to the adjoining Stadium District, before swinging back to Martin Luther King Jr. Way and the hospital. Complemented by existing local bus lines. Fact that these developments are increasingly attractive and prosperous has only one downside. A lot more deserving people than me can’t afford to live there.

    But Tacoma LINK has already got street rail’s historic dream situation: some energetic new neighborhood development at the other end from the main passenger entrance to the city. With likely future of the Broadway District and upper Jackson Street, same prospect for First Hill Streetcar.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The big problem is that Freighthouse Square management is chasing away customers, and that is really the only thing along the current segment that is worth riding to since everything else is within walking distance.

      1. A week or two back, the Freighthouse Square manager suddenly taped signs to all the glass doors ordering Sounder Passengers not to go through the building if they weren’t going to buy something, because traffic was causing unspecified (and also both invisible and non-existent) added costs, and suddenly didn’t have an easement.

        A situation ignored both by disembarking passengers, who really should buy something, and those of us who already in there and eat Indian and other great food, and Belgian waffles. And are still saving to buy an owl skull or two, and a really vicious-looking spooky hand-made walking stick.

        And who ride the streetcar every chance we get, like if we have to catch the last IT bus to Olympia, which doesn’t generally stop at Freighthouse Square, and leaves 10th and Commerce at ten to nine. Or take a coffee break at the Anthem Cafe in the History Museum between bus arrival and Sounder departure.

        So I’m not sure the landlord’s efforts, which are obviously directed toward some bargaining advantage or other with ST, really affect the streetcar ridership anywhere near as much as other things. Like and increasing shortage of parking spaces in a clean and well-patrolled garage at one end, and at the other end a city finally, barely, in positive transition.

        Wonder if Sound Transit can’t just buy the building and put it into best shape possible for the existing businesses, and transition it into a an train station where passengers will eat curry, and buy badger teeth jewelry, without being threatened.

        Mark

      2. Nice dig. Probably doesn’t account for the loss of more than a few dozen trips, but nice dig all the same.

      3. Not intended to be a dig, but an expression of reality.

        The main part of downtown Tacoma has everything within walking distance of everything else. Other than the freeway, there isn’t anything really that unpleasant about the area.

        At the other end of Tacoma Link there is a transit hub, several parking lots, and Freighthouse Square.

        Other than Freighthouse Square, there just isn’t that much at the other end of Tacoma Link.

    2. Why not upgrade the Tacoma Link line to accommodate Central Link trains and actually have the mainline regional light rail trains run into downtown Tacoma (gasp!)?!? Somehow apparently there is a mentality that its more important to run them to the Tacoma Mall than downtown, its this same mentality that might explain why Downtown Tacoma is dead and the mall isnt.

      1. Downtown Tacoma is not threatened because Central Link doesn’t go there. It’s threatened because it’s thirty miles from where upper-middle-class people want to live/work/shop. Eventually the total population and jobs will be large enough that companies and hipsters will have to spread out into south King County and Tacoma, but it’s not there yet, and few people are choosing to go ahead of the pack. Tacoma is unique geographically, with downtown in a “dead end” and a button hook. I can’t say definitively whether Central Link should turn northwest or continue southwest. It partly depends on what land use and institutions emerge between Tacoma Dome and Tacoma Mall. Tacoma could build a “second downtown” there and move some institutions to it or replicate them, the way the U-District is a second downtown in Seattle. There’s no reason the historic downtown has to be the center of everything. But if Tacoma is going to, it should be serious about it and build a good one.

        Also, Tacoma Link is still just a stub. Its medicre performance does not reflect how well a multiline network running several mile would perform. Since Tacoma Mall is a proposed anchor for Central Link, it would be wise to plan for a Tacoma Link corridor between downtown and the mall, utilizing the planned MLK segment. That would complement Central Link, and could form the core of a Tacoma Link network in western Tacoma, and go all the way to Lakewood. (It wouldn’t address eastern Tacoma, but something from Tacoma Dome could.

        (I don’t know if there’s a flat enough surface alignment possible between 19th Street and 56th Street. If not, it may require an elevated segment.)

      2. Poncho,

        Do we have a route map for the LINK main line through Tacoma? But looking at Mapquest right now, I can see that the big line could have its Downtown Tacoma stop at Freighthouse Square, to complete the transit center.

        If necessary, Tacoma LINK could be upgraded to match passenger loads. Maybe double track. But I’m not sure standard LINK LRV’s would be best use of equipment. If Downtown Tacoma were an easy diversion from he main line, could be desirable.

        Works in Karlsruhe, Germany- through a town and railroad map completely different.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karlsruhe_Stadtbahn

        ttps://www.google.com/search?q=karlsruhe+germany+rail&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjY9PLcx4nRAhWqjlQKHX9sDSgQsAQIUg&biw=1024&bih=503#imgrc=kkVDhK27_aiA0M%3A

        But as is, would be a waste of time and capacity for a sixty mile an hour train to run twenty minutes at street speed every run. No way either South Lake Union or First Hill streetcars would interline with LINK, even if DSTT portal were in the right place.

        Remember also that by the time LINK arrives, Downtown Tacoma will have densified and extended itself to completely fill in the now-empty blocks between the History Museum and Tacoma Dome.

        One reason I think that LINK and Downtown Tacoma will grow into each other is that if a large and energetic city isn’t there, LINK will doubtless put its funds and effort elsewhere until Tacoma gets the ridership and tax-base to make it worth serving.

        Mark

      3. Perhaps another problem with Tacoma Link is that it competes with tons of buses traveling the exact same corridor. Granted, each individual route runs only once or twice an hour at best, but when you’ve got ten different routes, each running once or twice an hour, the combined frequency starts to add up.

      4. “But as is, would be a waste of time and capacity for a sixty mile an hour train to run twenty minutes at street speed every run.”

        A waste of time and capacity for whom? The riders who would otherwise have to walk, drive, or take a connecting bus to get to the high speed terminal, or the transit agency that would need to put on additional trains to keep service frequencies up? (Sure, I can see the argument that it’s a bad idea to put a terminal loop in the middle of your interurban line like Portland does with their through-routing of basically everything through the city core; when I worked in the western suburbs and commuted from the SE the 20 minutes of slow running and waiting for transfers got really old, but if the city loop is at the end of the line it’s not going to add transit time to anyone.)

  7. Here are the general transit rules of Joe. Pick them apart please:

    The Transit Rules of Joe

    #1. [please hold the references to staff, Joe].

    #2. More transit, more places, more often – that’s my general goal.

    #3. Listen to all points of view, then make the best decision. Then fight vigorously to implement the best decision.

    #4. Those whom pay the transit taxes (mostly sales) deserve good transit service – e.g. business centers, museums, malls. Odds are there’s some density there.

    #5. Commuter rail is a boondoggle – see Sounder North, see Trimet’s WES. Shut it down or at least stop the expansion of.

    #6. Light rail is a great tool for bypassing congestion but only if light rail is grade separated instead of sharing streets. Relieving congestion? Let’s see how Lynnwood Link works out.

    #7. IF you can do BRT, do it right and do it right now.

    #8. Streetcars are just a stupid use of public transit dollars. If streetcars are used for economic development, have the streetcars paid for by the economic growth. Better still, just use electric trolleys. It’ll be cheaper & faster.

    #9. Be situationally aware of the best transit you can get – very few Washington State legislators truly care for transit. Most transit boardmembers have no clue what transit is and supposed to be.

    #10. Learn. Always learn not just what is great but what is NOT great.

    #11. Ideology is great, but idealism is better.

    #12. If the gas tax is a tax, charging a fare on transit is EQUALLY a tax. Place advertising instead if you can.

    #13. Tax increases should face voter approval as the LAST option, not the ONLY option.

    #14. Elected transit boards are best, see the BART Board fully of happy transit advocates.

    #15. Criticism of transit inside the transit tent is a 1,001 times better than outside the transit community in the lamestream media.

    #16. Transit is cool, but we can make transit more cool.

    #17. Find the most cost-effective first mile-last mile solution.

    #18. Each rule is NOT intended to contradict. But if so, err on the side of mission completion, reverence and strength.

    1. Joe, please stand down on all references to non-executive staff (at any agency). If you’re deliberately misspelling staff names to circumvent comment filters, you should already understand those comments aren’t appropriate.

    2. I have no opinion on item number one (now redacted). I agree with many of your points strongly, and most of the other ones enough to just let slide.

      My only disagreement is with #5. Commuter rail has it’s place. The big advantage of good commuter rail is that it is cost effective. It can provide a very good service for the money — if done right. So North Sounder is a mess — it just doesn’t work. But South Sounder, on the other hand (like so many commuter rail systems) is just fine. To be clear, it isn’t perfect. Like most commuter rail systems, it is simply leveraging what is there, and what is there is not great. Other cities got a bit lucky in that they simply built themselves around the railway, or had a lot of flat land to work with (or both). That is why commuter rail in say, Chicago, is straight and fast. An express from one of the suburbs is just as fast as driving, and thus very popular (for commuting). But the Puget Sound, unfortunately, has big hills, and the rail really wasn’t designed to connect those cities, but rather connect each city to the water, or to the rest of the country. That means that a ride from Tacoma is a lot slower than a midnight drive to Tacoma. Of course commuters don’t drive at midnight, so it is reasonably competitive with our (horrible, no good, unusual) HOV 2 lanes. But Tacoma isn’t the only stop, and the other stops are quite competitive with an HOV trip. South Sounder works.

      But North Sounder doesn’t. It isn’t cost effective. Way too few people ride it, and way fewer will ride it in the future (once Link gets to Lynnwood*). I agree, there is no point in trying to pretend otherwise. If the main advantage of commuter rail — cost effectiveness — doesn’t exist, then there is no point in continuing it.

      * Once Link gets to Lynnwood there will be express buses from Everett to Lynnwood. These buses will transport people much more quickly to downtown (and other places in) Seattle than North Sounder, even with the transfer.

      1. RossB, thanks for the pleasantly surprising kind words.

        I agree with ya RossB, it should be cost-effectiveness. I mean Trimet’s WES is just as problematic as Sounder North – plush but very expensive per rider.

        To quote the Cascade Policy report, “Daily boardings are still far below the opening-year forecast, and taxpayers subsidize each rider by nearly $35 per round trip.” Furthermore, “As for the hope that WES would provide “another transit option,” there were already two TriMet bus lines providing over 4,000 boardings per day in parallel routes prior to the opening of WES. Commuter rail simply replaced inexpensive bus service with a massively subsidized train.” Finally, “The WES operating cost/ride in January 2016 was $15.95, roughly five times the cost of bus service.” Same sort of issues we’ve seen with Sounder North.

        Now I’ve rode the WES. In part because I believe if I’m going to slag a transit system, I should ride that transit. But also to see how one of Sound Transit’s comparable peers was providing commuter rail. At least Sound Transit charges a premium fare versus buses.

        Folks, I’m going to turn in V2 after the Christmas Holiday. I just might dramatically change rule #1… and being a fan of F/A-18s & EA-18Gs I’ll keep the rules at 18.

      2. “Puget Sound, unfortunately, has big hills, and the rail really wasn’t designed to connect those cities, but rather connect each city to the water, or to the rest of the country. That means that a ride from Tacoma is a lot slower than a midnight drive to Tacoma”

        For decades the cities and neighborhoods on the rail lines were the largest cities and neighborhoods. Passenger rail in the 1920s in some parts of the country reached a whopping 120 miles an hour. The 1950s vintage streetcars in San Francisco are as smooth and quiet as Seattle/Portland modern streetcars. We could have leveraged and improved this land use and uinfrastructure rather than abandoning it.

        The Interurban went directly to downtown Lynnwood, Kent and Auburn. If a greater percent of the region’s people lived in Kent and Auburn, the rail line to Tacoma wouldn’t matter as much. If Seattle-Tacoma Sounder had reached 90 mph by 1950, that would have taken care of the rest of it. It was Highway 99 that made Federal Way possible and bypassed downtown Lynnwood. I-5 reinforced Federal Way, and the concentration of express buses there furthered it. (The Federal way Transit Center has more transit of anywhere in south King County.) There was also a rail route from Seattle and Renton and on to the Eastside. We could have improved that and made Renton bigger.

        If we had taken the Forward Thrust subway plus the Interurban route and concentrated transit/housing/jobs along those, we’d have a lot better outcome. When Forward Thrust was proposed, Southcenter and Kent were still farmland, air travel was less common (Sea-Tac), malls were less significant (Northgate), so it didn’t feel the need to address those areas. Over half the population arrived after 1965, so it could have gone anywhere. We chose to channel it to freeway exits and hard-to-reach areas rather than along the existing and proposed rail lines.

        Micro transit in Seattle is another thing. The northeast Seattle railroad went along the Burke-Gilman shore because it’s the only flat place. Wallingford, Lake City, and Maple Leaf would need something else instead. But the “spine” was alreay there along the Interurban. It could have been quadruple-tracked for local and express trains, and crosstown buses/streetcars to connect it to the other neighborhoods. That’s what Link is essentially doing, although along I-5 rather than the Interurban.

        (This would raise the question of how 30,000 regional students would get to the UW. It would require further thought on the entire education approach after WWII. Possible solutions might have been branch campuses, another location for the main campus, a 45th subway, or a downtown-UW subway.)

    3. 2. The goal of transit expansion is to reach the level that meets people’s mobility needs and desires. A community’s economy/health/cultural life is maximized when people can go where they want when they want, without extraordinary hardship (waiting 30-60 minutes or no evening/Sunday service) or extraordinary expense (a car). This is a two-way commitment. To get the service people people have to live in minimally-dense areas or provide their own last-mile solution, and accept a reasonable number of transfers. The government must provide adequate grade-separated paths and signal priority and operating funds to make transit competitive with driving. When compromises must be made (e.g., limited tax affordabilty), they should be in the direction of serving the widest cross-section of the community (i.e., the most people’s trips). Examples of “minimum density” might be Seattle N 130th Street, Kent 104th Ave SE, Lynnwood 200th St SW. of Highway 99 between Everett and Federal Way, although we can debate what the precise cutoff should be.

      4. Rail/BRT should serve places with large concentrations of pedestrians: malls, stadiums, airports, train stations. That may not necessarily mean “every sprawlin’ mall” (e.g., Everett Mall, Tacoma Mall) or isolated train/ferry stations (Fauntleroy, Tukwila Sounder). Obscure malls can have local buses, and obscure train/ferry stations ban have timed buses.

      4A, Beware that “I’m paying taxes and demand service” can lead to overservice in places like Orting.

      5. Sounder South is great and should be expanded. The problem with Sounder North is its poor alignment, not the concept of commuter rail. (By “commuter rail” I mean something with Sounder’s speed and stop spacing, not a peak-only schedule. Good commuter rail like PATH, Metra, LIRR, S-Bahn. and Caltrain run full-time, some every 30 minutes.) Lynnwood/Everett is obviously populous enough for commuter rail to Seattle and Bellevue. I can’t comment on WES.

      6. There’s a maxim in there. “You can only bypass congestion if you bypass congestion”. This should be engraved on a plaque in the WSDOT and SDOT boardrooms and the various governments’ legislative chambers. If they really did this we wouldn’t have buses crawling on I-5 at 20 mph.

      8. The problem is not the streetcar concept but its local implementation. In Europe streetcars are like MLK Link. That would be fine for much of Seattle, Bellevue, and Lynnwood outside the “spine” and downtown Seattle. A German city would have a few surface streetcars across the city going down to a tunnel between Mercer Street and Jackson Street, and it would be called an U-Stadtbahn (“streetcar with downtown tunnel”) or a Tram.

      9. The legislature’s deprioritization of transit is obvious. and it’s all based on connecting rural counties, and occasional grants to extend local buses to exurban areas (e.g., Maple Valley weekends). But saying metropolitan transit boardmembers don’t understand/use/care about transit requires analyzing each person and what they do and believe — a blanket statement is inaccurate and unfair. There’s als9o a general gap between a walkeresque transit utopia and what our public’s priorities are. The misunderstanding is not just in the councils but in the public that elects them and expects them to do certain things. All of that needs to be improved, and it’s a long-term project.

      11. Not sure what that means.

      12. Interesting idea. I*’m not sure it’s quite ready in its current form, but something along those lines might be worth pursuing.

      13. Not sure what that means. How could we afford something like Link or commuter rail without a tax increase? You can’t just delete all local buses to pay for it

      14. Elected boards have mixed and unknown consquences. There’s no evidence it would definitely be better than the current ST structure, and in a worst-case scenario it could undermine ST’s service. Having an elected board because propriety is an ideology, which you disrecommend in #11.

      17. Subsidized taxis could be a last-mile solution in borderline-density areas (my #1).

      1. Mike;

        Great stuff. I’m going to respond by quoting you in blockquote:

        2. The goal of transit expansion is to reach the level that meets people’s mobility needs and desires. A community’s economy/health/cultural life is maximized when people can go where they want when they want, without extraordinary hardship (waiting 30-60 minutes or no evening/Sunday service) or extraordinary expense (a car). This is a two-way commitment. To get the service people people have to live in minimally-dense areas or provide their own last-mile solution, and accept a reasonable number of transfers. The government must provide adequate grade-separated paths and signal priority and operating funds to make transit competitive with driving. When compromises must be made (e.g., limited tax affordabilty), they should be in the direction of serving the widest cross-section of the community (i.e., the most people’s trips). Examples of “minimum density” might be Seattle N 130th Street, Kent 104th Ave SE, Lynnwood 200th St SW. of Highway 99 between Everett and Federal Way, although we can debate what the precise cutoff should be.

        True, I’m thinking you have a good means to flesh out my Rule #2.

        4. Rail/BRT should serve places with large concentrations of pedestrians: malls, stadiums, airports, train stations. That may not necessarily mean “every sprawlin’ mall” (e.g., Everett Mall, Tacoma Mall) or isolated train/ferry stations (Fauntleroy, Tukwila Sounder). Obscure malls can have local buses, and obscure train/ferry stations ban have timed buses.

        I made this point because the #1 tourist destination in Snohomish County is not served within .5 mile of a Community Transit route. I’m all for scaling that transit service as appropriate, as you are. I do NOT think the Future of Flight nor even the Museum of Flight (which I just bought a membership to) by in themselves justify light rail. BRT or buses 15 minutes or less to feed the ST light rail spine => yes.

        4A, Beware that “I’m paying taxes and demand service” can lead to overservice in places like Orting.

        I think one of my 18 rules should be to prevent overservice.

        5. Sounder South is great and should be expanded. The problem with Sounder North is its poor alignment, not the concept of commuter rail. (By “commuter rail” I mean something with Sounder’s speed and stop spacing, not a peak-only schedule. Good commuter rail like PATH, Metra, LIRR, S-Bahn. and Caltrain run full-time, some every 30 minutes.) Lynnwood/Everett is obviously populous enough for commuter rail to Seattle and Bellevue. I can’t comment on WES.

        I’m not so sure Sounder South should continue. I believe both Sounder North and WES should go-away…. but this rule might be junked completely by V2.

        6. There’s a maxim in there. “You can only bypass congestion if you bypass congestion”. This should be engraved on a plaque in the WSDOT and SDOT boardrooms and the various governments’ legislative chambers. If they really did this we wouldn’t have buses crawling on I-5 at 20 mph.

        Maybe, but I wrote this rule to justify light rail’s raison d’etre in the Central Puget Sound (Everett-Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma). ;-)

        8. The problem is not the streetcar concept but its local implementation. In Europe streetcars are like MLK Link. That would be fine for much of Seattle, Bellevue, and Lynnwood outside the “spine” and downtown Seattle. A German city would have a few surface streetcars across the city going down to a tunnel between Mercer Street and Jackson Street, and it would be called an U-Stadtbahn (“streetcar with downtown tunnel”) or a Tram.

        Maybe, but I’m very soured on streetcar expansion here.

        9. The legislature’s deprioritization of transit is obvious. and it’s all based on connecting rural counties, and occasional grants to extend local buses to exurban areas (e.g., Maple Valley weekends). But saying metropolitan transit boardmembers don’t understand/use/care about transit requires analyzing each person and what they do and believe — a blanket statement is inaccurate and unfair. There’s als9o a general gap between a walkeresque transit utopia and what our public’s priorities are. The misunderstanding is not just in the councils but in the public that elects them and expects them to do certain things. All of that needs to be improved, and it’s a long-term project.

        Might change my wording to, “Be situationally aware of the best transit you can get… most folks aren’t educated on transit.”

        11. Not sure what that means.

        Basically don’t be stuck on one mode of transportation or one worldview.

        12. Interesting idea. I*’m not sure it’s quite ready in its current form, but something along those lines might be worth pursuing.

        Thanks.

        13. Not sure what that means. How could we afford something like Link or commuter rail without a tax increase? You can’t just delete all local buses to pay for it

        By last option, I mean all inefficiencies have been wrung out of the agency and the need is truly there for more revenue.

        14. Elected boards have mixed and unknown consquences. There’s no evidence it would definitely be better than the current ST structure, and in a worst-case scenario it could undermine ST’s service. Having an elected board because propriety is an ideology, which you disrecommend in #11.

        I think an elected transit board would have transit advocates on it, instead of the roll-the-dice and hold-your-breath we see now.

        17. Subsidized taxis could be a last-mile solution in borderline-density areas (my #1).

        Agreed. I think taxi scripts make sense. I think having paratransit focused on feeding fixed routes makes sense to keep paratransit sustainable too.

      2. 5. Berlin S-Bahn can run every 10 minutes. It’s basically a longer distance subway system running above ground.

        PATH is a bizarre case because it is a subway line. Because it runs between two states, it fell under administration by the old Interstate Commerce Commission rules. The current fleet at PATH is essentially a modification of New York City Subway cars.

        I’m not sure how it is now, but at one time they had to follow certain Federal Railroad Administration rules because they operated interstate, and thus fell under a different set of regulations than a normal transit system did. This does not mean they need to have huge, heavy mainline trains though.

        So, even though PATH winds up on the “commuter rail” list sometimes due to its odd history and relationship to our odd regulatory framework, it really belongs in the “subway” category.

      3. 2 [Goal of Transit]. Someday I’ll finish overhauling my stagnated-in-2008 website and articulate my best ideas there.

        4 [Concentrations of Pedestrians]. The fact that CT does not have a 15-minute bus from a 512 station to the Future of Flight and times buses from the Mukilteo ferry is a crime. Chicago has several outlying tourist destinations, and each one has a frequent bus. Seattle’s outlying parks also need the same, since they’re a substitute for a Central Park.

        4A. Joe: “the #1 tourist destination in Snohomish County”. To me that’s still not much. Could you compare the number of visitors to the Future of Flight/Boeing Tour with some King County destinations to put it in perspective?

        6 [Bypassing congestion]. Joe: “I wrote this rule to justify light rail’s raison d’etre in the Central Puget Sound (Everett-Seattle-Bellevue-Tacoma)”. Either light rail or commuter rail could fulfill the need. North and south would be along the Interurban route or I-5. East would have to be along I-90, so East Link is close to ideal, although Bellevue Way would be a better option.

        6A. I still like a Seattle-Renton-Eastside corridor, but it implies a different Eastside development pattern than what emerged. I.e., the “Bel-Red and Redmond density” would be around Factoria and Coal Creek Parkway on the way top downtown Bellevue. That was perfectly possible because Bellevue/Redmond was all farmland and small towns until 405 and 520, and growth could have been channeled anywhere.

        9 [Politicians and transit]. Joni Earl took Sounder from Puyallup. A few city/county councilmembers have said things suggesting they commute be transit at least some of the time. McGinn was a bicycle/streetcar fan. ST staff include our own Matt Johnson, and who knows how many other transit fans and walkerites. Oran and Matt took their skills and transit enthusiasm into the transit industry, Rob Johnson took his into politics, and I’m sure there are others. The problem is the attitudes of a few people in key positions, and the intrinsic tensions between a walkeresque ideal and the political/public expectations that must be accomodated. If we had a Vancouver/German politic/government, we’d have a Vancouver/German transit network. But the US’s car+parking privilege, suburban privilege, anti-density sentiment, historical “cities are the devil’s playground” sentiment, and voting on transit projects all hinder that.

        14 [Elected boards]. Joe: “I think an elected transit board would have transit advocates on it.” That’s a dangerous assumption. Many transit advocates have incompatible jobs, conflicts of interest, lack of desire, lack of skills, or family priorities that preclude running for transit boards. Even if they run, they’d have to be elected. A suburban candidate who doesn’t support parking garages won’t get anywhere, A suburban candidate who proposes a BRT/TOD corridor from downtown Bellevue to Bellevue College instead of a freeway-substitute won’t get elected, because people perceive their problems as I-90 and 405 congestion. The city/county governments understand what their cities’ economy and employers need even if their solutions aren’t 100% the best. So the existing ST board is about what you’d get under another system, and city/county politicians have the advantage of understanding how transit relates to the rest of the city’s/county’s needs and functioning.

      4. “PATH is a bizarre case because it is a subway line.”

        I would have called it a subway, but my Jersey City friend who uses it calls it “commuter rail”, so I guess that’s how other locals perceive it. He also said that New York doesn’t advertise the fact that it can be used as a quasi-subway between 34th Street, 14th Street, and Christopher Street because that would generate competition with the higher-priced subways and lead to questions like “Why are the MTA subways more expensive than PATH?” So the maps and stations minimally show where it goes, but it’s marketed as “The way to get to New Jersey”, not “A way to get from Midtown to lower Manhattan”.

      5. Joe: “I think an elected transit board would have transit advocates on it.” That’s a dangerous assumption.

        I forgot to say why it’s dangerous, although I’ve told you before. It’s dangerous because it puts you on the same de facto side as those who want top eviscerate transit. If our governor, mayor, and councilmembers are elected, who cares which other positions are elected? There’s no reason for a nitpicking necessity that everything be elected, and promoting it to prevent the transit opposition from making it an issue is doing their work for them. Their goal is not elected boards, their goal is to change transit policy and tax policy. They think elected boards will bring in more people like them. If they’re not anti-transit, they can dispel that accusation by pointing to actual pro-transit proposals that they support, and activism theyve done to try to get them passed by agencies/legislatures/voters depending on whom they proposed them to. BRT advocates always appear when there’s rail on the ballot, but they’re nowhere top be found when there’s a BRT proposal. Only one person I know of who pushes for elected transit boards also pushes for transit proposals that would pass the STB/Walker/Germany test. The other’s have proposals that are either ineffective or destructive.

      6. Mike;

        About the elected boards thing – a) I’m sorry I’m late responding and b) I’m going to be brutally honest: My feet are cooling about supporting this.

        I’m not too happy how when I ask that ALL transit boards be elected I get the run-around and the excuses from proponents of making the ST Board elected… and I am deeply concerned how the low compensation being talked about may preclude many transit advocates from seeking a ST Board membership. Even if the meeting times were changed to 7 PM or later… the salary & benefits need to encourage quality representation. Otherwise, we could get Alex Tsimerman and Maggie Firmia and other deplorables on the Sound Transit Board.

        I too, BTW, noticed how Maggie Firmia and “Smarter Transit” with their professed love of BRT were not backing CT Prop 1 but went all out to try to sink ST3.

        Joe

      7. I can’t remember everything; I forgot about the “all agencies” part. Metro is a county department, so it would be odd to have one department elected and not the others. Community Transit, I suppose it doesn’t matter much. I haven’t heard much against CT, so I guess it would be pretty safe.

  8. The helmet law is *not* bad for bike share as long as it is well worked into the design of the bike share program. There are several reasons Pronto didn’t do very well (the primary one is the limited number of — and poorly placed — stations; other reasons are minor but real), but anyone who has regularly ridden Pronto knows that their method of distributing helmets to members was on point and helmets deterred no numbers of significance. “Experts” cited in this story know nothing of Seattle or Seattle’s program, by their own acknowledgement.

    1. The helmets didn’t come free. The infrastructure for the helmets cost money which either cut into the bottom line of the system or increased the charge. Higher overhead for stations may be one reason why there were so few and the per ride charge is always going to be a factor in ridership.

      I’m not for letting car drivers off the hook for killing bicyclists. I’d rather see us go the other way. The driver of the larger vehicle is always liable for the accident except in extreme circumstances.

  9. Helmets save lives. A “fender bender”, either between two bikes or a car and a bike, can kill a cyclist, but especially a cyclist without a helmet. If we’re going to make it legal to ride without a helmet, then cyclists that choose to ride without one need to be legally responsible for any injuries that could have been prevented with a helmet.

    1. This is true, but I’m not sure what it has to do with helmet mandates. Your proposal is unconstitutional.

      1. Chris I, I think there’s a reason the Second Amendment says nothing about helmets.

        Well into the 1600’s, average combat headgear was called a burgonet. It would not only deflect blades, arrows, and rocks, but would make the wearer look like a dude no carriage driver would ever dare knock off his horse.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgonet

        Make these out of Kevlar, and whole bicycle community will probably write an amendment into The Bill of Rights that everybody get one free. Not advisable to leave South Lake Union in blazing ruins. Just dress to suggest it. And now and then pour fake blood down the grooves of the streetcar tracks.

        Google “Border Reivers’ Images.” And you’ll see why our Founding Fathers’ immediate forebears invented the rifles and cannons that rendered burgonets useless ’til Kevlar was invented.

        Mark

      2. Single-payer healthcare is more efficient than carving out areas where people are expected to pay for all of it. It also means that the entire concepts of workman’s comp and accident litigation become irrelevant.

  10. As we near New Year’s Resolution time, I’m going to also enter a gripe into the record. Why is there not a true grassroots pro-transit campaign firing on all cylinders all 12 months of the year?

    The Washington Policy Center is always lobbing something. Transit agencies are reluctant to invest in marketing themselves and be anything but neutral in tone. Kemper Freeman is always that stalking horse in the background.

    IT would be so nice to go on offense and push forward!

  11. They removed two busy transit shelters for everyone at a major transit hub because some crackheads and junkies use them?

    1. Yep – in a conservative almost lily-white community within the city limits, 12-15 minutes by RapidRide from the Seattle CBD. Politics by those who showed up, repeatedly to bemoan the demise of their perhaps once Norman Rockwell-like ‘hood. Full disclosure: I lived the first 22 years of my life there; would never move back.

      1. Doesn’t anybody who lives in the neighborhood ride the bus? Here it is winter, even wetter and rainier and cold than Seattle generally is. And these people pay both taxes and bus fare for shelter while they wait for their bus.

        Seems to me they’ve got some legal remedy coming. Bet that bus riders numerically outnumber the people who’ve left passengers where a ride to work can send them to Emergency with hypothermia when they’re supposed to show up for work.

        Who’s County Council rep for that stop?

        Mark

      1. All night lighted advertising panels for shelter walls both discourage misbehavior and make the whole transit at night idea a lot more appetizing. And make money for the system. Hopefully enough either get some wraps off bus windows or at least get them relocated to County office windows.

        Replace old West Seattle shelters, which were really kind of ugly, with these, don’t ask anybody’s permission, and make opponents face you on TV and in court. Get the business community’s input too- I don’t think they’ll fight you.

        Especially if you give them a panel or two for free. It’ll be worth it to everybody involved.

        Mark

      2. RobC, the shelters & seating at 3rd and Pike (southbound) were removed at least a couple years ago in response to constant problems in that area. In fact, the stop was even relocated a block south for a couple months. When it was moved back, there were no seats or shelters. There were, however, some odd tubular “butt-rests” that only work if you’re very tall or have very long legs.

        I think the shooting happened across the street, near the McDonald’s. at a bus stop that never had shelters or seats.

      3. Thanks for the info.

        The McDonald’s and 7 eleven has a group of shady characters in the morning. I usually wait for my bus by Macy’s but sometimes it is running so late I will walk over there and take the D instead even though the walk at my destination is longer. I wait the last seconds for the D to pull up before getting near that crowd.

    2. West Seattle Blog has covered the shelter removal in more depth. There are several different “bays” around Alaska Junction with varying levels of usage. The shelters being removed had seen declining usage due to shifts in which routes served the adjacent bays. I don’t know the specific details, but my impression was that Metro reacted appropriately to the specific situation there, that it wasn’t just some knee-jerk reaction to complaints, and that most of the blog-comment arguments about it were, as usual, just blog-comment arguments.

  12. On commuter rail, Caltrain runs frequently at the peaks, but only once an hour midday and on weekends. Their funding situation is very parlous, they have to get annual appropriations and don’t have a dedicated funding source. It’s a shame because they’re ridership (and their bike usage) has been growing steadily, and there’s TOD around the stations in the cities that will allow it. Caltrain might be the best case scenario for commuter rail, with destinations at both ends (San Francisco, San Jose) and in the middle in Silicon Valley.

    1. The high-speed rail plans and Caltrain electrification plans will increase it to half-hourly off-peak. The timeline may be in question. Caltrain is at capacity so it must be expanded.

    2. I think there are only three partially-direct funded transit operators in the Bay Area: AC Transit, SMART and BART. Almost all transit operators like Caltrain and the ones above get money from state sources, regional bridge tolls and multi- modal countywide transportation agencies.

      Frankly, having to annually ask for money makes transit operators coordinate things better. Our region could benefit from better coordination incentives among the operators.

  13. Recall that Tacoma Link went from 10 minute headways to 12 minutes in 2011 after Commerce Street Station opened. At the same time, Pierce Transit lost a lot of service hours. We’re coming back out of that hole, but Tacoma Link headways remain at 12 minutes until the extension is completed. Less frequency, means less ridership by default.

    I wasn’t a fan of the alignment chosen, either. Hilltop and Stadium were chosen for future density considerations. Due to the geography, that means that most of the commute benefits will be concentrated in the Stadium District at the North End of Downtown.

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