This is an open thread.

27 Replies to “News Roundup: Pitches”

  1. So, in the absence of FHSC service, there is a shuttle bus, running peak hours only. It’s one thing to have the SLU streetcar temporarily running peak-only because there are other direct service that go the same places (like the C-Line). No similar service exists for the FHSC, the closest being the 9 (peak-only) and the 7 (Jackson street only).

    What I wonder is why is it even peak-only? Assuming that there’s not a drastic difference in running time of the streetcar versus the bus (and I mean, really, this is the First Hill Streetcar we’re talking about here, you can beat it on foot. A bus would probably be faster), couldn’t there be a 1-to-1 transfer of service hours from the FHSC to the replacement bus?

    1. I agree. I don’t get it. Why not just run a bus on the exact route, for the exact time.

      It may be that they simply can’t do that. They don’t have the buses or drivers to spare. But if that is the case, how can they afford it at rush hour, when just about every bus is in use, and drivers are in high demand?

      1. The streetcar is operated by King County Metro, so they can literally have the exact same drivers drive the exact same hours on the exact same route for a little more in diesel costs, and a little more in deadheading from the bus base.

        I… Don’t… Get… It.

      2. You just said it yourself almost. Lowering costs. If the First Hill Streetcar is mostly about the allure of a streetcar than about transportation, well, running a bus still isn’t giving people a streetcar so why bother. If it’s essential for mass mobility, then a 1:1 bus would be necessary. But if ridership is so low off-peak that there isn’t much mobility, then is it necessary? Metro doesn’t seem to think so. Metro never wanted the streetcar or its alignment in the first place, Seattle strong-armed them into accepting it. Metro would have done something else instead, like the 49-Madison and maybe a north-south bus. However, now that the streetcar is there, there’s hope it will gradually increase in ridership, especially when extended in the CCC. But that day is not here yet, and running a bus midday now won’t make it much sooner. That could be the thinking.

      3. By “a little more,” I mean probably a few percent? Diesel fuel is expensive, but mostly insignificant in comparison to the costs of having staff operate any vehicle (bus or streetcar), as well as maintenance for any vehicle. In fact, part-time work is much less cost efficient than full-time work, which is what the shuttle bus is vs. the streetcar or full-time shuttle. And the extra costs associated with a longer deadhead from the bus base is present even with peak-only service, so they are spending some of the extra cost difference for full-time service already, just throwing it all away at 9am.

        As for the ridership being so low as not to justify service, why the freak did we build a streetcar there? If the only purpose for a streetcar is the “allure of a streetcar” and not for mobility, then that seems like missing the point. We could have saved a lot of time if, instead of wasting all this money on a useless streetcar that doesn’t have high enough ridership for a bus, we simply donated the money to Tim Eyman.

        Though, with the 9 being moved to peak-only, in part probably because of the streetcar, I think there is a certain segment of new off-peak demand for the streetcar and it’s replacement route. That is, if you view the streetcar as a means of transportation and not an amusement ride.

      4. Though, as a personal anecdote, even though commuting from south King County to Seattle University, often transferring in downtown, I had exactly zero use for the streetcar. The time I tried it when transferring from the 150 at IDS, I regretted not walking or taking the 12 (or even the 3!!). 20 (or was it 26?) minutes from 5th and Jackson to Broadway and Marion, and literally every light was red. Plus, the streetcar takes so long to slow down and speed up. That’s why I said that a bus on the same route would probably be faster, and maybe I’ll test that theory next week sometime.

      5. “As for the ridership being so low as not to justify service, why the freak did we build a streetcar there?”

        1) Because First Hill activists demanded a substantial mitigation for deleting the First Hill light rail station, and they would accept nothing less than a streetcar because of that allure. A trolleybus was suggested but they didn’t think it was good enough, They were probably soured by the performance of the existing trolleybuses, which are abysmal at least east-west, and infrequent north-south, and too easily watered down.

        2) You can’t predict ridership with certainty ahead of time, because it depends on hundreds of people making decisions every day at the time.

        “with the 9 being moved to peak-only, in part probably because of the streetcar,”

        It was because of Capitol Hill Station. The streetcar and the 9 don’t overlap enough for one to replace the other. That was one of the problems with the Jackson-Broadway alignment: it can’t replace the 9, 60, 7, or 14 because the track turns away or ends in the middle of the route.

        So the streetcar was not the reason for the 9 cutback, but at the same time it was an alternate service that made the cut more feasable. If the streetcar’s availability is now in doubt, then Metro may have to rethink reducing the 9 to peak-only.

        Metro’s decision to not offer a mid-day replacement may have been too hasty. The beast way to get it to reconsider is public feedback to Metro, talking to your city councilmember about it, and getting your friends to do the same.

        If you had a choice between a streetcar replacement bus and more service on the 9, which would you prefer?

  2. How do people here feel about Trump’s proposed cuts to TIGER and other transit programs, plus rural transit and road funding and the Essential Air Service (which Trump’s 9% hike to defense (already the third largest item in the budget) could fund for decades)?

    The facts are that it’s going to impact his voters the most- lots of them are in areas the most deeply impacted by these cuts. Their travel times are going to increase by hours.

    1. Also, the draft budget defunds the FTA New Starts program. Assuming it makes it through Congress, how would that affect the ST2 and ST3 projects that were expecting some of those Federal dollars?

      1. Anyone know? I thought ST3 avoided federal funds? There is an article in today’s business journal but is behind a paywall.

      2. ST3 expected 10% in federal grants. So it’s not that much. The threats to ST2 are more serious because they’re more critical. If Lynnwood Link does not come in, then we’ll be hobbling along with the band-aid we have long-term, as traffic gets worse and worse on I-5. It also throws the far north Seattle and north King County restructure off kilter depending on whether nothing gets built past Northgate, or whether 145th and 185th stations make it. That also gets into North King vs Snohomish funds. Is it mainly Snohomish that’s depending on the grant, or is North King depending on it just as much?

      3. I have long complained about the end-to-end travel time of the E: it takes 45 minutes rather than the 30 or 35 it theoretically should with more transit lanes and a stop diet. But as I’ve started going to Edmonds recently, the first time I took the 512 to Mountlake Terrace and transferred to the 130. Midday and without significant traffic it took half an hour to get to Mountlake Terrace, which is not bad but it’s more than the 15 minutes you’d expect in a car on a good day. The 130 was fast to Aurora Village, a bit poky to Edmonds (unlike some other CT routes), although its biggest problem is being half-hourly. Coming back, I took the dreaded RapidRide E just in case there was freeway traffic. The second time I went to Edmonds I took the E both ways because at least it’s reliable and frequent: you’re unlikely to get into the extraordinary traffic jams you are on I-5 (and I have gotten in going from Northgate, Lake City, or 45th to downtown on the 41, 512, and 522).So if Lynnwood Link doesn’t get built and the express buses get less and less reliable, more people may start using the local buses even if it takes an hour or two to get somewhere. One expected hour is better than one unexpected hour you don’t know when it will end, or those occasional 8-hour backups like happened two weeks ago.

      4. Once, I was traveling from Issaquah to Fremont on a weekend when westbound I-90 was reduced to one lane for construction, with all westbound traffic forced onto the express lanes. Because of the traffic, I actually got off the 554 at Eastgate and took the 271, even though I was trading a freeway express bus I was already on for a local that stopped everywhere, and would require a 15-minute wait, and, yet another connection to the 31/32 would still be required, once the 271 finally reached the U-district. Following the 554 I was on originally via OneBusAway, it turned out that the pokey 271 made it all the way to the 520 bridge before the I-90 express bus (with a 15-minute head start) finally entered downtown. All in all, it was something of a wash – had the 520 bridge not also been backed up, we would have easily come out ahead. In general, a predictably slow route on quiet, local streets is definitely less aggregating that a 3 mph crawl on the freeway, with no option to get off, and no way of knowing when you’ll finally get there.

        Of course, if the 271 ran more frequently, it would have been even better. It would be great if whatever Eastside service restructure Metro is currently contemplating finally upgrades the 271 to a full-time 15-minute route (at least as far east as Bellevue or Eastgate; the Issaquah tail could be reduced to hourly, weekdays only, and hardly anyone would miss it).

    2. Most of the people that voted for him did so despite the fact that nearly all of his campaign promises (if implemented) would hit them pretty hard. I don’t think him shifting public transportation money to defense will change their minds. They’ll still blame those pesky Liberals for all their troubles and keep voting GOP, because the GOP making promises they can’t keep, like bringing back jobs, lowering taxes, etc, is more important to them.

  3. I think STB need to take a more active role in reporting on the Mercer Island Mess. The local news paper is getting everyone all riled up and probably going to delay east-link by a year or two.

    1. STB should seek a waiver from the USDOT re: the HOV lane issue so that Mercer Island can be placated. Trump’s DOT seems likely to be much more flexible on this type of stuff.

    2. The absolutely ludicrous form letter linked to in the MI Reporter story inspired me to write a rebuttal letter. Feel free to use it in its entirely or make whatever changes you like. If I’ve made any mistakes, plase let me know. The City of Mercer Island is recommending their letter be sent to Claudia Balducci, John Marchione, Fred Butler, Dave Somers, Dow Constantine, and Jay Inslee, so that would be a good place to start too.


      Dear [elected official]:

      As a resident of the Puget Sound region, I ask for your assistance in opposing the City of Mercer Island’s attempt to delay construction of the East Link light rail project until they are granted exceptional privileges relating to the use of HOV lanes by single-occupant vehicles. Not only do Mercer Island’s demands violate federal policy, they are based on either a complete misunderstanding or a willful misrepresentation of the 1976 agreement relating to the island’s use of the I-90 express lanes.

      The agreement clearly states that 1) single-occupant vehicle access to the express lanes for island residents is a tertiary priority, after transit vehicles and carpools, 2) that single-occupant vehicle access to the express lanes was intended only as a temporary measure, and 3) that the express lanes may eventually be converted to dedicated right-of-way for mass transit.

      It is a shame that Mercer Island’s access to I-90 will be impacted, but the City and WSDOT have had over 40 years to take corrective action and have done nothing. It is not fair for the City of Mercer Island to hold hostage a Sound Transit project that will serve tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of riders on both sides of Lake Washington simply to save a few minutes off the commute in their personal vehicles.

      With nearly a million additional people expected to move to this region in the coming decades, reliable, efficient high-capacity transit is needed now more than ever. Please stand up for the residents of the Puget Sound and oppose this spurious lawsuit intended only to maintain absurd privileges for a select few.

      [your name]

      1. (from the helpful Mercer Island page…) :)

        The Honorable Claudia Balducci
        King County Councilmember
        516 Third Ave., Room 1200
        Seattle, WA 98104

        The Honorable John Marchione
        Mayor, City of Redmond
        15670 NE 85th Street
        Redmond, WA 98073-9710

        The Honorable Fred Butler
        Mayor, City of Issaquah
        P.O. Box 1307
        Issaquah, WA 98027

        The Honorable Dow Constantine
        County Executive, King County
        King County Chinook Building
        401 5th Ave. Suite 800
        Seattle, WA 98104

        The Honorable Jay Inslee
        Governor, Washington State
        Governor Jay Inslee
        Office of the Governor
        PO Box 40002
        Olympia, WA 98504-0002

  4. “Issue: Councilmembers, as well as the planning commission, said there is a need for more parking at Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, which is currently filled by 7 a.m.”

    We arrive at the transit center around 6:45 and park on the same level as the pedestrian bridge to the freeway stops. I can’t imagine the rest of the entire garage fills up in 15 minutes.

  5. “The… vehicle operated as it was designed… and, at that speed, on that grade, the vehicle slid two and a half blocks.”

    Oy Vey! How do you fix proper operation taking two and a half blocks to come to a stop in an emergency?

  6. Those new locomotives for the Cascades trainsets look super euro-cool! I have always wondered why older US locomotives look so anti-aerodynamic, like they were designed by cubists. And, the cabs never looked like they were comfortable places to operate from.

    1. Curved sheet metal is more expensive than flat pieces. So, the 1960s cubism thing is pretty much spot on.

      I saw one of the test trains a week or so ago. The locomotives are fairly quiet at speed.

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