Skagit Transit Route 717 in the Snow

Catching up with Human Transit:

This is an open thread.

36 Replies to “News Roundup: Atrocious”

  1. I’m a big fan of ferries and there are some good thoughts in the Human Transit article.

    I do think he is little overly dismissive of the walk shed in Seattle. Yes, Seattle is steep, but the connecting transit tunnel is a fairly convenient connection to Coleman Dock. We still have several communities which are arranged around their historic docks including Bremerton and Bainbridge Island. But then much of our inter-island ferry service is auto-oriented. There is nothing to speak of in the walk shed on Vashon.

    HIs comments about crewing bring to mind how the local ferry service between Port Orchard and Bremerton went downhill when it was taken over by Kitsap Transit. They provide fewer service hours at a higher fare. I imagine the smaller operator had more flexibility with respect to crew size, shift lengths, and certifications.

    1. I was a rider on the last attempt for a ferry between Kingston and Seattle. After unfortunate events that put both boats out of service for weeks and scared off many commuters, they cut costs with fewer runs and reducing fuel consumption by slowing the boats down to the point that the morning run was 10 minutes longer than they continued to advertise. They had no control over reducing employee costs because the Coast Guard dictates the minimum crew size and their training.

    2. Point of accounting on crew size. What’s the total public cost of every productive, well-paid skilled worker permanently either dropped from the work-force, or kept in it with permanently dropped compensation?

      Every remark about oversized public workforce and wages, let’s have another one, both financial and philosophical about the idea that while cutting pay to workers increases efficiency, top performance also demands hundreds of times higher paychecks to top management.

      Even worse being “politically correct” (somebody tell me why term doesn’t fit here) idea that running public companies on cost of wages and operations is somehow more expensive than having taxpayers pay profits as well as costs.

      Unless shareholders can really handle special-work and always make a 3AM sign in. Good experiment: have worker-owned cooperatives bid. Whose shareholders have a very sharp stake in efficiency and performance.

      But worst-missing cost column is hundred percent correlation since 1980 or so between plummeting wages and employment and the whole roster of “THE” ailments.
      THE drug problem. THE gang problem. THE psychiatric problems. THE domestic violence problem.

      Really not fair all my fact-checkers on this are dead, but I don’t remember platforms and hallways blocked with “Waiting for Repair Grant” sandwich signs.

      At least not in front of elevators run by a generally elderly man in a stately uniform, black visor hat and all, who could, with two moves of a brass wheel, drop a car thirty stories to a smooth stop dead level with a brass-edged carpet.

      Volunteering for an experiment: Hat. Wood fold-down seat. Brass controller handle. Month training. One year contract. Wages matching hours and skill. Public Option health plan. Let’s see what the balance sheet says when I’m paying into SSI instead of collecting it. And the other taxes my work generates.

      Then let’s talk “THE” s.


    3. I don’t think he was talking about Seattle’s auto ferries at all. The examples he cited are all extra service like an express bus. The Vancouver SeaBus is like if we had a frewuent ferry across Lake Union.San Francisco’s ferries are a minor alternative to the bridges. The Staten Island ferry has been around for over a century; it’s as quirky as NYC’s subways, there’s a large population on Staten Island, it has a railroad as frequent as a subway, and people are used to taking the train on both ends and the ferry in the middle because that’s what their parents and grandparents did.

      The Pugetopolis situation is very different because, as asdf2 put it well, the ferries go to remote rural areas that either don’t have a bridge at all, or you have to go fifty miles out of your way to get to it. They aren’t sixteen-lane bridges a few miles away that most people use and thge ferry riders could use if the ferries weren’t there. So our ferries are more of a coverage service. The high-profile riders are the commuters, children also take the ferries to school, goods supply the islands’ supermarkets and restaurants and gas stations, people take the ferry to Seattle/Snohomish hospilals, etc. Asdf2 also pointed out that highway money pays for the ferries, money wouldn’t be available for transit.

      However, Jarrett’s comments are more applicable to the recently-approved Kitsap foot ferries, and proposed ferreie across Lake Washington. There there are alternatives most people use, the ferries aren’t really necessary, and their cost/benefit ratio is high compared to practically anything else.

      But in the West Sound environment people like the idea of subsidized ferries; they think they’re worth paying taxes for; they look forward longingly to the comfortable, beautiful, relaxing ride on the foot ferry. The situation has parallels with Community Transit’s peak express routes. In 2008 CT had to make big cuts and it asked the public whether to keep the commuter runs, keep Sunday service, or build a better local network. The majority said to keep the commuter runs. Because that’s the only kind of transit many suburbanites use, it’s an alternative to driving in horrendous I-5 traffic, and it’s what they think is the most deserving of transit tax dollars.

      1. I think his critique of ferries is definitely applicable to the West Seattle shuttle, the Port Orchard ferry, and any proposed Lake Washington ferry, but I think it breaks down when applied to the Kitsap ferries because of the complete absence of competing services (transit or otherwise). The time advantage of a ferry from Bainbridge or bremerton to Seattle verses driving to Seattle is so extreme the ferry can charge a premium that transit typically cannot. The lack of competition combined with the economic support (jobs in Seattle, cheaper housing in Kitsap) means a Kitsap foot ferry can work in cases a typical ferry cannot.

        The auto ferries are definitely a different story. Bainbridge is an excellent foot ferry because of the high frequencies, but those high frequencies are driven by (and mostly paid for) auto demand. In theory, WSDOT could kill off the auto ferry and run only foot ferries, but that’s only because the existing demand has been developed over decades of people choosing to structure their commute around the ferry.

        While the transit coordination between Metro and Colman docks is pretty non-existent, I get the impression Kitsap coordinates a number of buses to be timed with the WSDOT ferries, at least at Bainbridge?

      2. “it breaks down when applied to the Kitsap ferries because of the complete absence of competing services (transit or otherwise).”

        The competing service is the auto ferries.

        “WSDOT could kill off the auto ferry and run only foot ferries, but that’s only because the existing demand has been developed over decades of people choosing to structure their commute around the ferry.”

        Well, if Kitsap gets its basic supplies via Tacoma rather than Seattle, I guess that could work. Bremerton is right in-line to Tacoma. For Bainbridge it would be some backtracking. It would create jobs in Tacoma, which Tacoma would like.

    4. Does anybody remember a horizontal tunnel into the Columbia street bus tunnel Station from the Coleman dock overpass? It was either temporarily there for a short time when the bus tunnel first opened, or I had a very vivid dream.

      1. Are you thinking about the University Street station between the time they tore down the old buildings on that block, and before they built Benaroya Hall?

        For a time there was a ‘tunnel’ of sorts there where you could walk into the station from 2nd Ave.

      2. The entrance is still there, but it used to be in the middle of the block and now it’s at the southwest.

    5. Would love to see the West Seattle/Alki Water Taxi terminal area greatly developed so that there is a lot more in its walkshed. Its an otherwise great service but seems underutilized thanks to very little in its proximity and needing retirement center shuttles to bring a few people to each ferry run. Build something like Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver there

    6. The jobs on the new ferry route are undoubtedly better than the jobs under the private owner with higher benefits, better hours, etc. And probably the private owner/operator was simply breaking even on the service for decades. But, the perception, and actual reality, of the situation is that the public service requires a subsidy, charges higher fares, and offers fewer service hours than what it replaced.

      And then so much vitriol about the passenger ferries! Drive times to Seattle from the West Sound are not trivial. It’s about 70 minutes from Bremerton or Southworth. It’s about 100 minutes from Kingston or Bainbridge. Yes, commuters will use these ferries. Are commuters really a dirty word for transit?!

    7. Jarrett right right in that waterfront stations sacrifice half their walkshed, but in the case of our ferries and North Sounder, the station location is picked because of the existing Right of Way.

      East Link will help boost the walkshed from Coleman Docks, as it is a reasonable commute to take the ferry to the docks, walk to Link, and ride the link to Bellevue or Redmond. I have coworkers who do that right now with the 550, but the time savings (and improved reliability to catch a ferry) of Link should induce a decent amount of demand.

      Toss in the downtown Streetcar and the walkshed from Colman Docks is quite strong.

  2. Per the Northgate article – 1,000 buses a day carrying 6,500 riders reads like a typo. I only wish that there were only 6.5 riders on my 41.

  3. 1. This last campaign’s focus on the Presidency worse than weird. In addition to shifting our country’s agenda fifty separate ways in the wrong direction, the right-wing takeover of State legislatures could easily result in a Constitutional Convention whose agenda is the death of the Bill of Rights.

    2. Jared Walker is a hundred percent right on flexible approach to transit-building. As long as it’s part of the necessary-sized project, under good leadership that can keep future goals in sight. While steering around unforeseen obstacles. Like running a Tunnel Boring Machine itself.

    The beginning of our own regional light rail system with dual-power buses progressing to joint rail-bus operations and eventually trains only provides an excellent example. Provided that mistakes be documented, remembered, corrected, and most important, avoided.

    Most troubling thing I’m hearing about present LINK and joint-ops combination is that “post mortems” -ok, exaggeration unless you miss an international flight- either don’t happen, or not enough. Meaning constant repeat of avoidable mistakes.

    Time for anybody with a LINK controller, hybrid steering wheel, radio, wrench or mop for a work tool to either confirm, correct, or call BS on details.

    3. Cost comparison essay is leaving out some real howlers. Any chance US costs owe mostly to preponderant private political power in this country. Please don’t tell me that real estate “costs what it costs”. It costs the public what a weaker bargaining position always delivers.

    “The depth of the line itself is probably a more telling issue. The route along Second Avenue doesn’t cross other subway lines and thus doesn’t strictly need to be at extraordinary depth. But a deep tunnel minimizes conflicts with existing utility infrastructure.

    To build a shallower tunnel would require a lot of coordination between the MTA, which is a state agency, the city of New York, a bunch of different utility companies with different regulators, and perhaps the state itself.”

    In flying, higher is safer. Less to hit, more time to recover. Same in tunneling, just opposite direction. Many factors in earthquake damage, but I’ve read that a ‘quake generally rolls the surface like an ocean wave, leaving contents of a deep tunnel safely contained under the rubble rather than part of it.

    Including trains carrying whole payroll of every agency in the world. And:

    ” Whether or not you think transportation infrastructure deserves more political support or military spending deserves less, the facts are what they are.” Boy, I hope my little teenage “Well Duh-uh!” eyeroller is on twitter right now as she reads this.

    Unless you’re including the fact that in neutral Sweden and Finland, every subway is designed, built, supplied, and financed as bespeaks a very different relationship with Russia than our own President-Elect’s.

    Hence difference in President Putin’s approach to his near-neighbors than to Syria. Ruthless doesn’t mean either stupid or forgetful of the painful facts of your own military history. Facts of Canada on one border, Mexico on the other, and a giant ocean other two sides are main reasons transit is not in our military budget.

    As, given other world facts, it had better start to be.

    Mark Dublin

    1. 1. That’s what they want, a Constitutional Convention whose immediate goal would be a balanced budget amendment or a ban on abortion, but by the way people would also propose other amendments and it could be a wholesale restructuring of the country. Just the way to implement a Koch Brothers or theocratic or xenophobic dream all in one stroke.

  4. Has anyone ridden the Redmond LOOP shuttle in its first several months? How is it, and how full is it?

    1. Nobody said so when it was asked a couple times before. I guess that Redmond transit fans don’t use it, and outside transit fans don’t want to wait 45 minutes for a small shuttle loop. The city of Redmond may have some numbers on who is using it. It’s unclear to me whether is was created due to a transit need or a political need. (In the same vein as streetcars: “Streetcars will improve our city’s image and transit” — without looking at whether the frequency and speed is enough to attract passengers.) Redmondites have cars, and those who don’t know to live near the 545 or the B and not depend on a 45-minute shuttle that may be cut next year. It’s possible that seniors are riding the shuttle, as in North Bend, but you’d have to ask somebody who would know.

      For transit tourists, the Snoqualme Valley Shuttle is more interesting. It has a toimed transfer in the north end with the 224 (Duvall-Redmond). It’s not coordinated with the 208 so there can be an hour-long gap in Snoqualmie. (During which time you can peruse the railroad museum, falls, and small-town shops.)

      The SVT has a rather opinionated announcement about another route: “Unfortunately, SVT had to cancel the afternoon service for the Cedar Falls Loop. Vehicles trying to get up Cedar Falls Way are being turned around by police at Riverbend. Perhaps this will help the city put pressure on King County to plow this road and the Wilderness Rim/Riverbend entrance roads in the future. ” Cedar Falls is southeast of North Bend, south of I-90. It’s hard to imagine one of our public transit agencies exhorting a county to do something better. But SVT is private, run by a senior center.

  5. Before making Northgate vibrant, I wish they could just maintain Northgate TC until it closes for the new facility. We’ve lost basically everything except the shelters: no more schedules, or coffee shop, or even ORCA machine. Heck, it seems like the trash collection and cleaning has been cut back because there’s litter everywhere.

    (Convention Place Station is no better though at least the ORCA machine still works. I know that investing in basic services in “doomed” stations is seen as low-hanging fruit but come on, some of us are still using those facilities and will do so until the day they close.)

  6. Clover Park Technical College now has subsidized bus passes for students (the email announcing this is right below here):


    The Office of Student Involvement, in partnership with Associated Student Government (ASG), is excited to announce the opportunity for CPTC students to purchase a Pierce County Monthly Bus Pass at the discounted rate of $35 (reg. $72), a discount of more than 50 percent!

    For those of you who already use the bus system frequently, purchasing a monthly bus pass could prove to be an opportunity for huge savings. To purchase your discounted monthly bus pass through the Office of Student Involvement, please follow these steps:

    Visit a cashier in Building 17 and inform them that you’d like to purchase a “discounted monthly bus pass.”

    If you are first-time purchaser and do not possess an ORCA card, you will be charged a one-time $5 fee to cover the cost of the ORCA card.

    Once you’ve paid, your ORCA card will be loaded by the Office of Student Involvement. You will be contacted when the bus pass is ready for use.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here are a few of the most asked questions about this program:

    Is my monthly bus pass valid 30 days from my date of purchase?

    No, Pierce County operates by calendar month, meaning if you purchase a December bus pass it is only valid for the month of December, no matter when you buy the pass. We recommend purchasing your pass as early in the month as possible, or even before the start of the month, to gain the most value from your buss pass.

    What is the deadline each month to purchase a pass?

    The deadline to purchase a pass for the current calendar month is the 15th. This is the cutoff date established by Pierce County, not CPTC.

    Can I purchase bus passes in advance?

    Yes, in fact, we recommend this to gain the most value from your bus passes. You can pay in advance for as many months as you’d like, and the Office of Student Involvement will automatically load your card each month.

    What if I have my own ORCA card, can I load a pass to it?

    Yes, although there will be an additional delay the first time that we attempt to load your ORCA card because we must associate your card to our business account, which takes a day or two. This delay is one-time and would not affect the purchase of future bus passes.

    Please stop by the Student Leadership and Service Center in Building 23 if you have any further questions about the Discounted Bus Pass Program.

    Dominic Viola
    Student Leadership and Involvement Coordinator
    Building 23, Rm. 111B • 4500 Steilacoom Blvd. SW • Lakewood WA 98499 • T: 253-589-5734 · · ·
    Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce

  7. Love the idea of selling P&Rs to the local municipalities. P&R still exists for people to access transit, and ST can redeploy those capital dollars elsewhere in the system.

    MI is the best example, but are there others? I don’t think Bellevue or Redmond would be interested, and most of the giant parking garages serve a larger area than just one city.

    1. I am curious to understand this issue better. Martin says “If a reasonable price, ST should absolutely sell it to them.” Could anyone unpack that a bit? Is the thought that the City would start charging people (non-Islanders) for parking, incentivizing more transit use? Or is it just that ST would be the dollars to better use?

      I tend to think restricting the P&R to Island residents only raises equity concerns in terms of system access.

      1. I think the idea is that once the city has paid for the P&R, it’s not longer a ST public asset, it’s a municipal public asset, and the city is free to restrict usage. In this case, MI would likely simply limit the parking to only MI residents.

        This is similar to, say, only Seattle residents can get a library card for the Seattle public library system.

        If your policy preference is that the MI P&R should be a public asset accessible for non-Islander, then yes you should oppose this move. I’d imagine some cities like Newcastle might oppose this move for that reason.

        My policy preference is that P&R are a poor use of ST funds and I’d rather see the funds invested elsewhere in the system (which would benefit more people, answering the equity concern). MI is singled out because the city & residents complain about ST frequently, so transferring the asset has political benefits.

      2. You have to have a little sympathy for Islanders here: theirs is the last P&R before Seattle, so if their P&R is full the only way they can go is out-of-direction by the freeway (the most dangerous and stressful road to drive on). Additionally, their P&R is near downtown MI, and major parks, schools, and community centers. Simply expanding the P&R is unpopular due to the impacts of increased traffic on these places.

        Whether people are angry about not being able to find parking or about impacts on their local destinations, ST can’t really answer their concerns in a satisfactory way, so they’re just angry at ST with no constructive recourse. Local elected officials would be well positioned to speak to the specific tradeoffs involved, to propose, implement, and stand by solutions. ST has an interest in providing system access to people all over the region, but it can do that in locations other than downtown MI.

      3. Islanders asked ST to make the parking for island residents only. ST can’t do that. At the same time, driving to the P&R closest to Seattle is an abuse of the system: people are supposed to use the P&R closest to their house, and that’s what the P&Rs are sized for. Mercer Islanders are especially vulnerable because there’s no other P&R they can use; they’d have to drive off the island, and that would add traffic to the bridges, which is what the P&Rs were supposed to prevent. The only way to reconcile all these is to sell the P&R to an entity who can restrict it.

    2. I feel like Seattle doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel regarding P&Rs. There are plenty of examples of P&Rs being restricted to residents completely or partially especially in the northeast. ST (and local municipalities) just need to strike the balance of how many spots are open vs. requiring permits, and how many spots are for city residents vs general public, and if any of those restrictions are 24/7 or just weekdays or rush hour. That’s just bargaining at that point. But it’s not like this is the first region in the country to have this sort of problem.

      1. Those P&Rs are built by the cities, aren’t they? So that’s like if Mercer Island had built the P&R originally. If they’re built at train stations, there’s existing demand for the train (or the train wouldn’t have been built), and the P&R allows more people to take advantage of the train (or use the train more conveniently,or free the city from having to provide more bus feeders).

        The northwest’s situation may reflect its history. Highways were always free and unrestricted. When the first P&Rs were built, they were built by Metro, to entice people to use buses. So they weren’t as much meeting an existing demand as trying to create a demand, so restricting them would be counter-productive. And everybody paid for them through their transit sales tax, so they couldn’t restrict taxpayers in the transit district from using them, no matter which city they live in.

      2. Come to think of it, the Mercer Island P&R was not part of the first generation. The first generation was earlier than I said, in the 1970s, and included South Bellevue. It may have included South Kirkland, Totem Lake, and Overlake although my memory is fuzzy. I think the 255 went to Kingsgate and fizzled out in a residential area without a P&R, but at the same time in hight school I remember a freeway station circa 1983 that I think had a P&R. The Mercer Island buses stopped at “Island Crest Way” and there may have been a smaller parking strip. But that area was rebuilt with the I-90 project and ST may have built the current P&R from scratch,

  8. Marysville wants an industrial center too. It would be in agricultural land within the urban growth boundary, and allow Marysvillites to work without commuting to another city.

    The radio piece also describes a previous failed attempt at revitalization. In the 80s they replaced part of historic downtown with a mall. It’s now a bunch of big-box stores.

    They could restore the historic area rather than just lamenting its loss.

    There is a pattern. Both Everett and Marysville tried to revitalize their downtowns and mostly failed. Are they too far out to succeed? Does the population increase mean it will work this time? Oh, there’s light rail coming, so that will be a new factor. But with both Everett and Marysville trying to attract manufacturers simultaneously, will there be enough companies to go around? Why exactly would a company locate in Marysville if it can afford Everett?

    1. For a smaller town like Marysville, the jobs in a revitalized downtown are not big corporate. It’s better retail jobs than a mall, or smaller local businesses. Think historic Issaquah – a few law firms and tax offices along with restaurants and shops – rather than downtown Kirkland.

      That said, an anchor tenant would do wonders … a North Sounder station could be a great anchor, especially if people are already commuting to Seattle? Marysville still has good bones – urban street grid, current commercial zoning – to go with a clear community identity, so I commend them for trying.

      When Marysville tried in the 1980s, not only did they do it all wrong (building a mall rather than preserving what was there), but they were ahead of the times. The revival of American urban centers, especially in medium to small cities, didn’t really take off until almost 2 decades later.

      As for the industrial park, that’s light industry, so it’s not just traditional manufacturing like around Paine Field but also also logistics. Anyone from Amazon to Safeway might be interesting in a distribution center there to serve the northern half of Pugetopolis, especially as previous locations like SoDo or Bel-Red become more expensive.

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