A Fair Fare

Oran/wikimedia

Metro’s ongoing survey about the fare structure will generate as many different ideas as there are respondents. In his story about it, Zach observed that there is a tradeoff between fairness and simplicity. However, that greatly undersells the complexity of the tradeoff, because there is no single definition of “fairness.”

To illustrate, we’ll totally punt the issue of complexity, and assume there is no limit to it. Metro is equipped with omniscient fareboxes and farecards that can implement any fare policy that we can imagine. So which of these models is a “fair” framework for fares?

  • Ability to pay: each boarding is a fixed, tiny percentage of your income. This will make riding the bus massively uneconomic for many people. If it’s a pass from a big employer — look out. There is a strong financial incentive to overserve rich neighborhoods and underserve poor ones.
  • Time on the bus: This penalizes people suffering through milk runs, and incentivizes Metro to make buses slower.
  • Distance Traveled: This penalizes long-haul freeway expresses that may be cheaper to provide than local milk runs.
  • Cost of Service: Each bus trip’s cost is the cost of service of the minutes you are on the bus, divided among all the passengers in that interval. Riders on long and agonizing routes, and those traveling at odd hours, are most penalized.
  • Cost of driving: Trips to places where parking is expensive, and long enough to take a lot of gas, are more expensive, thus extracting maximum revenue from economically rational riders.
  • Congestion Pricing: Charge people more when capacity is at a premium. Buses, in particular, become much less efficient when overcrowded.
  • Time Penalty Over Driving: Give riders a break when the bus is massively slower than driving, soak riders that are whizzing by stopped cars. In general, you would generally get a mild rebate for having to transfer.
  • Maximize Revenue: There is a sweet spot where the fare – ridership product is at a maximum. Find the spot and use it to put as much service onto the road as possible.
  • Maximize Profit/Minimize Loss: Truly running Metro like a business would create many outcomes offensive to those concerned about social justice and economic opportunity.

Many of these values come up in a discussion of system fares as if they are all the same thing, but they lead to vastly different conclusions. Metro’s current system nods to several of these items while trying quite hard to be simple. ORCA Lift, youth, disabled, and senior fares address ability to pay. Peak fares address Cost of Driving and Congestion Pricing. The two-zone structure is a proxy for time and distance. We can all agree that it does all of these things haphazardly. Meanwhile Link fares simply reflect ability to pay or Distance/Time (which amount to almost the same thing for traffic-separated transit).

So when you’re providing Metro with public input, please think hard about what you think is important, and what you’re giving up in pursuit of that objective.

2016: Did Growth Outpace our Willingness to Build Homes?

Growth accelerated in 2016, with more suburban markets leading the way

Census data released last week showed yet another acceleration of regional population growth. King County maintained a high growth rate, added another 35,700 residents in the year ended July 1, 2016. But neighboring counties saw higher growth rates.

Pierce added 18,600 residents, more than twice the average of the preceding five years. Snohomish added 17,500 residents, vs an average 10,900 per year between 2010 and 2015. Constraints on development in King County may be diverting new residential growth into the suburban cities of Snohomish, Pierce, and beyond.

Outlying counties also grew. Thurston County added 6,000 residents and Kitsap 4,300. Both were significantly higher than most recent years.

Measured as growth rates, King County grew 1.7% in 2016 (same as 2015); Snohomish grew 2.3% (vs. 1.6%); Pierce 2.2% (vs. 1.5%); Thurston 2.2% (vs. 1.3%.) Kitsap expanded 1.6%, well above recent norms though lower than a spike in growth in 2015.

Where did the growth come from? The Census breaks down the sources of population change. Natural increase (births – deaths) is predictably stable and contributed 28% of last years growth. Net international migration declined slightly and accounts for 25% of growth in 2016.

Domestic migration rates shifted dramatically toward suburban counties in 2016

47% of growth is domestic migration which grew spectacularly in 2016, everywhere except King County. The Census defines domestic migration as moves between US counties, and has not reported whether the increases in Snohomish and Pierce represent moves from King County or from elsewhere. Even if from elsewhere, many of these new residents may have preferred to live in King County. Both Snohomish and Pierce added more residents via domestic migration than King in 2016, and both more than doubled the pace of domestic net migration over the previous year. Thurston almost tripled.

There’s a clue in driver license data. New driver licenses issued to out-of-state drivers are a measure of gross migration from other states, whereas the Census measures net flows from other counties. The driver license data indicates a continued increase in gross migration to King from other states, but stable migrations from other states to neighboring counties. Follow the math, and it suggests migration from King to adjoining suburban counties. The shift toward suburban growth is local displacement of former King County residents.

It’s hazardous to read too much into one year of data. We also lack the city-level data for a finer analysis at this time. We’ll report on that next month. But the trend of the last few years – that King County would grow at a faster pace than its neighbors – decisively reversed in 2016.

We’ve reported before about the centralization of growth around Seattle and some of the central Eastside cities. High home prices and rents suggest no slowing in demand for housing in close-in communities. But the numbers hint demand for housing in King County has run up against outdated growth targets and other barriers to accelerating construction of more homes. Housing prices and rents are increasing regionwide, with large increases reported in once-peripheral markets like Issaquah and Marysville.

Growth has not slowed in King County. Central cities like Seattle and Bellevue have been rocketing through outdated growth targets for several years. But cities face no penalty for not increasing capacity as long as they are “meeting GMA requirements”, i.e. planning for a growth forecast that predated the boom. Zoned supports as many housing units as the GMA requires, but fewer than the market needs to supply. Easing barriers to market rate housing is politically fraught. The process of adjusting growth targets upwards is likely to work slowly through another comprehensive planning cycle.

Even though the region’s worst traffic is on long commutes from the far north and south, concerns about local traffic congestion can defeat efforts to create more housing in centrally located suburban inner suburbs. Will we look back at 2016 as the year exurban sprawl returned?

Several more charts after the jump: Continue reading “2016: Did Growth Outpace our Willingness to Build Homes?”

News Roundup: The Trouble

Trolleybus and streetcar on Jackson Street

This is an open thread.

Tunnel Cell Service Is Live

In an afternoon tweet, Sound Transit announced that cell service has finally come to the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) between Westlake and International District. Previously delayed by finite staffing resources, Sound Transit says that T-Mobile customers have full service starting today (March 28), Verizon customers will have service beginning Thursday (March 30), with ATT following in “early April”. All networks have 911 capability beginning today.

The staffing and resource limitations also meant that the work had to be done more sequentially than initially planned. This delayed the rollout of service to Beacon Hill, where work will now begin. Service to Beacon Hill is expected later this year, but a more specific timeline remains elusive.

So now you can listen to STB’s podcast, or check bus transfers, or scroll Twitter, or have (quiet!) phone conversations to your heart’s content.

Metro Wants to Serve Lots of New Places

Map of Metro's 2040 network showing Renton, east Kent, and east Auburn.
A part of the Metro Connects 2040 map with some dramatic expansion in coverage. Map by Metro.

We’ve devoted considerable coverage to Metro Connects, the long-range plan that Metro first published in 2016 and the King County Council adopted in January.  We’ve focused mainly on the massively expanded frequent network Metro envisions, with 26 RapidRide lines and frequent service slated to serve most King County residents.  But the plan’s vision goes well beyond adding more frequency and red buses to the busiest parts of the network.  Separately, Metro also hopes to expand service to lots of places (and people) that don’t have it today.  That includes places that lost service in Metro’s multiple rounds of cuts, and also many places that have never seen a Metro bus.

We talk a lot about the frequency versus coverage tradeoff that’s inherent in designing transit networks.  Maximize frequency (and therefore transfer feasibility) for the most riders, and you inevitably leave riders in less dense areas—including youth, seniors, and riders with disabilities—without needed service.  But if you run buses to everywhere, there likely aren’t enough resources to provide enough frequency to make transfers easy.  Without spontaneously usable transfers, transit for everyone is much less useful.  Metro clearly hopes that it can marshal sufficient resources over the next two decades to avoid this tradeoff altogether, a dream which many transit advocates share.  But until the past couple of years, when the region’s newfound wealth has enabled service expansions, that seemed like a fever mirage, not a plausible solution.

Metro 2040 map of east Bellevue and Sammamish
Sammamish, slated for major growth, gets a lot of new coverage. Map by Metro.

In 2013, I proposed a network that cut coverage service heavily to improve frequency and transfers for most riders.  Many of Metro’s restructures have done the same thing.  That choice of priorities is correct in a low-resource environment, but the result is unfortunate: coverage is less expansive than it was three decades ago, even as high-ridership routes have seen major improvements.

It’s nice to see Metro dream a bit more about expanding coverage.  Land use changes and further development will be necessary to make most of Metro’s proposed routes work—but, for the most part, the new routes would be in places where municipalities are planning more development.  We can hope that credible transit proposals from Metro will encourage developments that are transit- and walking-friendly, allowing for transportation options beyond cars.

Below the jump, a long list of areas that would see new coverage (either on conventional buses or alternative service) by 2040 under the Metro Connects plan. Again, this list is only new coverage — improvements to areas that already have service are not the subject of this post.

Continue reading “Metro Wants to Serve Lots of New Places”

One Center City Fare?

Mobile ticketing provides another option to avoid annoying your fellow passengers by fumbling cash. Perhaps it should be cheaper than paying with cash.

Part of the low-hanging fruit that could help transit move more smoothly when Convention Center Annex construction and other projects reduce throughput in the Central Business District would be streamlining the fare collection process on all buses.

Among the causes of longer dwell times are:

  • zone resets
  • fare disputes
  • passenger questions
  • failure to fully use rear doors
  • all the change fumbling, change fumbling, change fumbling, change fumbling, change fumbling
  • .
    Both Metro and the monorail are collecting input on fare change proposals. Metro’s is focused on moving to a flat fare.

    This author has long been a proponent of express fares based roughly on distance. However the likelihood that there will be no express bus routes entering downtown from the north end or I-90 after Lynnwood Link and East Link open changes the calculus. If only South King County express routes are left, trying to charge premium express fares to the portion of the county with the lowest average income seems pretty pointless. Moreover, with One Center City bus re-reroutes right around the corner, drastic actions have to be taken to keep buses moving. Fare simplification is overdue, and now desperately needed.

    The current fares for the myriad downtown transit services require multiple cheat sheets. But for purposes of this analysis, we’ll ignore ferries and Sounder. Continue reading “One Center City Fare?”

    Rapid Ride H Kicks Off, Comment by March 31

    King County Metro RapidRide 2013 New Flyer DE60LFR 6089

    Photo by Zack Heistand on Flickr

    SDOT has kicked off design for Rapid Ride H, the planned upgrade of the Route 120-Delridge corridor. The work area stretches 4 miles from the West Seattle Bridge to the southern city limits at Roxbury Street. Route 120 is one of the top-performing routes in Metro’s network, with 6,300 boardings per day. Comments on early concept designs are due by March 31, and you can view the proposals here.

    There are a few unique things about this corridor relative to other Rapid Ride corridors. First, it will be the first route improved with SDOT funds that also extends past Seattle – into White Center and Burien – meaning that improvements south of Roxbury will have a separate (and not necessarily simultaneous) Metro-run process. If White Center annexes into the city during the project timeframe, it is unclear whether this will increase SDOT’s scope of work or not.

    Topography and development patterns have meant that Route 120 is already relatively fast, averaging 15mph between Roxbury and the West Seattle Bridge. There is little transfer activity along the line due to a broken grid and steep hillsides, and the corridor is primarily residential or small-scale commercial development. This means there is little to get in the way of the bus.

    But aside from a short Business Access and Transit (BAT) lane approaching the bridge, there is no transit priority on the corridor today, and bike facilities are limited to two disconnected (but generally high quality) greenways flanking Delridge on both sides.

    SDOT is proposing two broad concepts for the corridor. Option 1 is the more aggressive for transit priority, with BAT lanes from Andover to Alaska and from Graham to Holden Street. Parking would be removed to make way for these BAT lanes, but between Alaska and Graham Street parking would be retained and buses would run in general traffic. Throughout Option 1, the center turn lane would be replaced with a landscaped median wherever roadway width permits.

    Option 2 would only provide BAT lanes between the West Seattle Bridge and Alaska St. More parking would be retained, and a continuous southbound Protected Bike Lane (PBL) would be built from the uphill stretch from Andover to Holden. A northbound PBL would be built for a short 3-block stretch between Webster and Orchard. Where the corridor narrows south of Holden Street, both options would retain the current look of street parking and general purpose traffic, but with center turn lane/median improvements.

    Beyond the channelizations, both options would invest heavily in resurfacing the street, removing a handful of stops to bring the stop spacing up from 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile, adding shelters and off-board payment, and improving east-west connections from Delridge to the adjacent neighborhood greenways. The primary tradeoffs, once again, seem to be between bicycle and transit facilities, but these improvements would enable a big boost to frequency and reliability, and an 8-12% improvement in speed.

    Time for a Fare Overhaul? Metro Seeking Comment This Spring

    Photo by Oran

    We’ve come a long way since the 38 fare zones of 1973, but our current fare systems are generally an overlapping mess. In the context of Sound Transit 2 and 3, potential bus restructures for One Center City, as well as its own Long Range Plan, Metro is looking at a potential overhaul of its fare structures, and through the end of March they are conducting a survey of riders’ fare priorities. This is a sort of meta survey; it doesn’t ask you to respond to any proposals, but instead will inform what they will propose in April. After that, another round of feedback begins. This project has a relatively short timeline, with Executive Constantine hoping to submit a proposal to the King County Council in June.

    The background materials presented to the Advisory Committee convened for this project show that Metro is primarily focused on two goals: in the short term, potential elimination of zone and peak surcharges, and in the longer term, moving gingerly toward cashlessness and/or universal off-board payment. Please take the survey, and we’ll keep you updated with additional feedback opportunities as the project progresses. You may also email comments to Metro’s DeAnna Martin.

    Continue reading “Time for a Fare Overhaul? Metro Seeking Comment This Spring”

    JOB: Engineer II or III at King County Department of Transportation

    This is a sponsored post

    King County Metro is seeking highly motivated, detail-oriented individuals to join King County Metro Transit’s Speed and Reliability unit to fill Engineer II or III positions. This position represents Metro on technical matters pertaining to transit planning, capital project development, transportation engineering solutions, and traffic operation analysis.

    The ideal candidate has knowledge of traffic engineering principles and is great at problem solving. We are looking for individuals who are detail- oriented and results driven who can work collaboratively with others across the organization and comfortably in a team environment. Project management skills and experience are a plus. The successful candidate will initiate and support transit projects to keep pace with unprecedented ridership, employment, and population growth in King County.

    Apply Online

    Job closes April 7. Salary info and more below…

    Continue reading “JOB: Engineer II or III at King County Department of Transportation”

    Help Name Lynnwood Link’s Stations

    Mountlake Terrace TC entrance sign
    Will Mountlake Terrace still be named as such after 2023?

    Even though federal funding for Lynnwood Link is up in the air, Sound Transit is continuing to work on final design of Lynnwood Link and its four stations in Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood.

    Sound Transit has posted this survey asking the public to help name the stations at NE 145th, NE 185th, Mountlake Terrace TC and Lynnwood TC. The options were selected from over 650 suggestions placed during last November’s design open houses, but there is also a write-in option for other suggestions.

    Sound Transit’s criteria for station names was laid out in 2012 and includes the following guidelines:

    • Reflect the nature of the environment: neighborhoods, street names, landmarks and geographic locations.
    • Be brief, easy to read and easy to remember.
    • Avoid commercial references because they may change and prove confusing to the public.
    • Avoid similar names or words in existing facility names.
    • Limited to 30 characters (spaces count).
    • Comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and requirements.

    The survey closes on April 5, and a final decision from the Sound Transit Board (who are the final authority in naming stations) is expected in spring or summer of this year.

    Might O’Ban’s Antics Jeopardize Ferry Funding in His District?

    Steilacoom Ferry Dock
    photo by William Ward / Wikimedia Commons

    Sen. Steve O’Ban
    Sen. Steve O’Ban (R – University Place) has been on the warpath against Sound Transit, prime sponsoring a series of Eymanesque bills.

    Substitute Senate Bill 5001, as reported on at length on this blog, would replace the Sound Transit Board with a directly-elected board, gerrymandered so as to get an anti-transit majority on the board.

    Senate Bill 5854 would allow cities and counties within the Sound Transit district to withdraw from Sound Transit’s property tax by action of their councils, or by petition of 8% of residents followed by a public vote.

    Senate Bill 5893 would order the Department of Licensing to stop collecting taxes for Sound Transit.

    O’Ban’s anti-tax zeal may not help him bring home the bacon.

    O’Ban is the prime sponsor of Substitute Senate Bill 5403, which would allow ferry district money to be used to fund car ferries, as reported by Daniel Person at the Seattle Weekly. Currently, ferry districts can only fund passenger-only ferries. O’Ban’s district has a car ferry — between Steilacoom, Anderson Island, and Ketron Island — which has to be funded out of Pierce County general fund money. Pierce County does not yet have a ferry district.

    To borrow a quote from O’Ban, if a countywide Pierce County Ferry District is set up, and is allowed to spend money on car ferries, it could “tax and spend forever”, without a public vote, and without ever having to go back to the legislature to get authority for more projects like Sound Transit has to do.

    The bill passed out of the Senate and is scheduled for a hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Thursday at 3:30.

    If you wish to weigh in on O’Ban’s bill before the hearing Thursday, you can contact your legislators using the district-finder tool.

    In Defense of Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes

    Traffic on 5th Avenue (Sounder Bruce – Flickr)

    A perceived tax burden is often less about the amount owed than it is about matching one’s prior expectations. In the recent Sound Transit Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) controversy, relatively little has been made about the quantitative burden – people generally aren’t parsing dollars – but much has been made about rate fairness. Sound Transit’s use of a traditional depreciation schedule based on the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) sufficiently differs from one’s everyday experience of their vehicle’s value that it feels like a punitive taking. But if ST3 had proposed raising the same amount of funds via a steeper depreciation schedule and a higher authorized rate, I am confident that the number of changed votes would have been negligible. People generally vote on the perceived merits of the projects in question, period.

    Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes (MVET) have two strikes against them. First, their annual lump sum payments feel more viscerally punitive than property or sales taxes. Biannual property taxes are often embedded in rent or mortgage payments, and sales tax is a drip drip of a few dollars here and there. Second, using vehicles as a tax source intuitively feeds the War on Cars narrative, but it is little different than using gas taxes to pay for HOV/bus lanes. An excess of motor vehicles is a major reason for transit capital projects in the first place, and most of us who ride transit also own those cars. It is eminently fair to use one to help us transition to the other, and moving away from cars and toward transit is a spatial imperative if we are to continue to grow as a city.

    My own car’s MVET cost $150 this year, and it admittedly was an unpleasant experience to pay it. But rationally I know that the total amount is fair, I voted yes with the majority, and that that’s the way democracy works. I also know that if I spend more than $8,500 this year on taxable goods, I will have contributed more in sales taxes this year than I did in MVET.

    Sound Transit’s MVET is also surprisingly progressive. If through ‘defeasance’ we reverted to a 2006-era depreciation schedule, owners of cars less than 11 years old would see a tax cut and owners of cars greater than 11 years old would see a tax increase. So any populist uprising is a lot of smoke and mirrors. The dynamics nicely emulate the current healthcare debates in the other Washington.  It may play well for legislators to stoke the fire, but reversion would be an effective tax cut for the rich, done in the name of the little guy. 

    Discussions floating around about a low-income MVET rebate are valid and promising, and Seattle provides the precedent with its $20 car tab rebate. The hit to ST’s revenue would not be severe, and those hardest hit by ST3’s taxes would get a welcome reprieve. But those of us who can pay should pay. Expensive vehicles are luxury goods that reflect our income status, and in a regressive state that already disproportionately taxes the poor, MVET is one of the most progressive sources available. It is progressive and fair for the Lexuses of Laurelhurst to pay more than the Toyotas of Tacoma.

    UPDATE: Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D – Seattle) introduced SB 5906 Tuesday night, which would allow a low-income rebate from Sound Transit’s portion of the MVET and property tax. It is the companion to HB 2148, by Rep. Kristine Reeves (D – Federal Way) that was introduced a couple weeks ago. Senators have the rest of today to sign onto SB 5906.

    Monorail Proposes Fare Increase Without Integration

    Historic photo from monorail website

    On March 1, Seattle Monorail Services and the Seattle Center proposed a fare increase for the Seattle Center Monorail.

    Current Proposed
    Adult 13-64 One-Way $2.25 $2.50
    Youth 5-12 / Senior 65+ /
    Disabilities / Active US military
    One-Way
    $1.00 $1.25
    Adult 13-64 Monthly Pass $45 $50
    Youth/Senior/Disabilities/Active US military
    Monthly Pass
    $20 $25
    Low-Income not available not available

    All fares will remain cash only. In addition to not accepting ORCA cards, the monorail does not accept debit/credit cards or checks.

    The monorail is celebrating its 55th birthday this Friday. It has been operated by Seattle Monorail Services since 1994 as a quasi-private specialty transit line, catering to tourists and event crowds willing to pay a premium to avoid slower local buses between downtown and the Seattle Center. Previously, it had been operated directly by the City of Seattle. The City still owns the line and funds the maintenance, while SMS makes an operating profit on the line. A portion of that profit goes to fund programming at the Seattle Center, which oversees SMS.

    SMS won a 10-year contract to continue operating the monorail at the end of 2014, with a 10-year extension option that can be approved by the Seattle Center without coming back to the city council. After last-minute discussions about accepting ORCA, stipulations were added to the contract to complete a study about fare integration with the public transit system by the end of the 2nd quarter of 2015. That study led to an additional ridership study that was scheduled to take a year to conduct, and is still not available to the public. Seattle Center did not respond to questions about the study by time of publication.

    UPDATE: Per Denise Wells at the Seattle Center, the ridership study will be available some time in the second quarter of 2017. Debit/credit card payment may become available this summer, and the age ranges of the payer categories will be aligned with the public transit agencies (i.e. 6-18 for youth fare). A Disparate Impact Analysis will be done on the fare proposal before it is enacted.

    One of the stipulations is that if the City insists that SMS accept ORCA, then SMS will have to accept ORCA, but gets time to renegotiate fares or possibly opt out of the contract. If the monorail accepts ORCA, it would automatically have to have a low-income fare category, and extend its youth fare to age 18, due to the ORCA Joint Board’s agency sponsorship rules.

    The new higher fares are scheduled to take effect May 1.

    A public hearing on the fare proposal will be held at the Seattle Center Armory Loft #3 at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, April 12. Comments will also be accepted through Friday, April 14, via email at denise.wells@seattle.gov and via phone at 206-615-0258.

    Podcast Listener Mailbag #6

    You know the drill by now. We’re taping in a couple of days. If there’s something you’d like Frank and me to answer, leave the question in the comments. If the thread turns into extensive discussion of that question, you’re just making it harder for us.

    ST Produces Initial Estimates of MVET Hit

    wikimedia

    The media are full of stories of people mad about car tabs. Even though voters just approved them, and ST is applying them in accordance with existing law, there is no shortage of people that never wanted to pay higher taxes for transit in the first place. Olympia is anxious to respond, partly because their electorate is considerably more conservative. Also, a future revenue reduction is offset against “spending”, rather than any particular project or bus route that people care about.

    In response to legislative staff inquiries, Sound Transit staff have finally produced an initial estimate of the impact. Unfortunately, it’s too vague to make the connection to real projects that would successfully counter the rhetoric. Nevertheless, we get a sense of the scale of the problem.

    There are a lot of bills out there, so the memo covers a few different possibilities.

    The most extreme case is “defeasance”, which is the technical term for, in effect, replacing the existing stock of bonds with a new set of bonds tied to the alternate, 2006 car valuation system.* This would immediately eliminate the 0.3% MVET from Sound Transit 1, because the legislation related to I-776 would apply once the bonds are gone. Borrowing costs would likely rise. ST assesses the overall revenue reduction as more than $6 billion.

    As longtime readers know, in a long project it’s hard to know how much $6 billion is without knowing what year suffers those costs. The memo isn’t particularly clear on that point. But it’s about 11% of the entire $54 billion project budget. To get a sense of the limits, the whole segment from Ballard to Chinatown is $4.4 billion in 2014 dollars. In dollars from the opening year of 2035, that’s $6.6 billion assuming 2% inflation. So $6 billion is Ballard-Chinatown money, roughly speaking.

    A more moderate legal outcome would require using the 2006 valuation system on all future bonds. The memo expects higher borrowing costs without being specific at all.

    Finally, a 40% rebate for low-income households would not impair the bonds at all. ST has asked Seattle for the financial models from the city’s rebate and does not have more details at this time. But the memo seems particularly optimistic about this option.

    Except for the draconian defeasance scenario, we still don’t have good impact estimates. Ultimately, though, Sound Transit has significant project risk buffers, and cutting ST’s revenue increases risk rather than immediately canceling projects. Of course, if there’s a time in the next 25 years where that added risk threatens project delivery, the same people who were so eager to hack at the taxes will be the first to condemn Sound Transit’s “mismanagement.” They certainly won’t take responsibility for their own recklessness.

    * I was tempted to call the 2006 Kelley Blue Book system the “lower valuation” system, but as the memo points out “Owners of vehicles that are less than 11 years old would receive lower bills under the 2006 depreciation schedule while owners of vehicles older than 11 years old would receive higher bills.” Yes, Olympia’s strike for the common man would make the MVET less progressive.

    Sounder Service Returns for Select Sounders Matches & Mariners Games

    Photo by Sound Transit

    Sound Transit has released its list of Sounders football matches and Mariners baseball games that will be served by special Sounder trains, through early July.

    Leading off will be rare late evening service Sunday to the Sounders’ home opener against the New York Red Bulls, which will feature the raising of the MLS Cup Championship banner. This Sunday’s South Sounder departs Lakewood Station at 1:15, arriving at King Street Station at 2:28. North Sounder departs Everett Station at 1:45, arriving at King Street Station at 2:44. First kick is scheduled for 4:00. Return trains depart 35 minutes after the final whistle. (Thankfully, regular-season football matches can end in draws rather than going into extra sessions. Baseball, with its extra innings, wasn’t designed with transit in mind.)

    Be sure to check out the Sounders’ new clear bag policy. Don’t get stuck having to pay $10 to store your daypack.

    For those coming by Link Light Rail, my standing advice is to stand toward the tail end of the platform and board the third car, which is always the most spacious. Sound Transit runs 3-car light rail trains all day on most weekends, especially ones with a Sounders match, Mariners game, or other special event.

    This year, you can buy your train or bus ticket before getting to the stop / station using the new mobile ticketing app. Try it now, as the mobile ticketing pilot project may go away at the end of the year if it doesn’t get enough use. If you buy your ticket at the station, be sure to get a day pass and skip the ticket line coming back.

    The special Sounder schedule only runs through early July, so more games and matches may be added as the seasons progress.

    Today is Transit Driver Appreciation Day: Tell Your Driver a Quick Thank You

    Metro photo

    If you work in an office, you probably take for granted the little things. Standing up to walk to a coworker’s desk. Multiple runs to the coffee machine. Off-site meetings to stretch your legs. The ability to use headphones. Availing yourself of legal pot.

    But being a transit operator affords you none of those things. Imagine sitting for 4-8 hours at a time. If you drive a bus or streetcar, your bathroom breaks depend on the whims of traffic. If you’re really late on one run, you may not get a break at all in order to keep your next run on time. Your daily work life consists of hundreds of micro interactions with strangers, asking random questions as you navigate a 40′ or 60′ machine through tight city streets. For many part-timers who work only the peak periods, think about it: you hate traffic, but traffic is what they do for a living.

    The pay is decent and the benefits are top-notch, but the work is hard and often thankless. They work hard for you every day, and are far more often the object of scorn than praise, as angry people lash out at them as a captive outlet. Just about anything you’re tempted to be mad about on a bus ride isn’t their fault.

    Today is Transit Driver Appreciation Day. As you board a bus today, give your driver a quick thank you for freeing you from having to drive yourself.