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51 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Happy Birthday ULink!”

  1. Seattle times just posted an article about why sound transit is so expensive vs comparable US lines. (http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/seattle-area-spends-most-per-capita-to-build-transit-heres-why/) . They missed a big point that I have read on this blog many times, that our line is much higher in quality in terms of station sizes, frequency and grade separations.
    It felt like the authors kind of filled their word quota and stopped reporting.

    1. Link has many advantages over other light rail systems in the US&A. I wouldn’t list “station size” as one of them, unless you are referring to platform length, and consequentially train capacity.

    2. It’s not just Link or Sound Transit, it’s all Pugetopolis transit capital spending combined. That includes any ferry replacements, passenger ferries, dock reconstruction, RapidRide and Swift, Metro trolleybus replacement and fleet turnover, the SLU streetcar, Sounder, and Link. This comparison is on everything transit-related whatever it is.

      However, Link comparisons in general do get the short end of the stick because analysts consider all light rail the same. That analysis overlooks the value of grade separation. Either that or the analysis considers grade separation a luxury for transit riders that taxpayers can’t afford or be expected to pay. All of this views transit riders as a minority that taxpayers (predominantly non-riders) are giving something to. Whereas we should look at the mobility needs of the city. The city’s economy, cultural life, and health improve when residents can go where they want, when they want, in a non-energy-intensive manner and without the burden of $10K a year in car maintenance and storage and the stress of driving in traffic.

      1. Two major forces combine to influence transit-building in Seattle. Most commonly mentioned is terrain in tight spaces. But we’re only now starting to develop the tax-paying population to pay for excavation and elevation.

        Whose sheer numbers (added to their cars’) create motivations like being regionwide suddenly trapped for eight hours by one overturned truck. Let alone a half inch of snow.

        Reason I don’t put flowers on The Forward Thrust Memorial is that even with the Federal money offered, good chance that evolving LINK from dual power carried us more passengers over same number of years. We might not have had the numbers to take rail any farther.

        Different day now. Good data for future pro-transit votes would be combined car-count on all our freeways end to end, which also expands hour by hour. ST Express bulletins featuring delays up to an hour on every route with a “5” in front of it also counts as campaign research.

        Mark

  2. So if cartabs get reduced and no federal funds, which North King projects get delayed?

    And if Ballard to downtown gets delayed, would they consider building Ballard to UW instead, or would that require another vote?

    1. “So if cartabs get reduced and no federal funds, which North King projects get delayed?”
      MVET is the smallest ST tax source, and they didn’t want to use it at all because it’s so unpopular, but with the overwhelming public demand for more and larger projects now they had to use it. Still, because it’s the smallest, it will have the smallest effect. And even smaller because the state’s move would only shrink it, not eliminate it. A bigger issue is the federal grants, which would make a much bigger hole. ST might as well consider all those holes simultaneously when it becomes clearer how certain they are. As for MVET affecting the schedule, the most expensive construction projects won’t even start until 2023 when the tax streams get clear of ST2 spending, so there’s plenty of time before then to decide what to slow down, downscale, or cancel.

      “And if Ballard to downtown gets delayed, would they consider building Ballard to UW instead, or would that require another vote?”

      Ballard-UW does not have an EIS yet. ST clearly made a strategic decision to prioritize Ballard-downtown over Ballard-UW. It won’t even cancel Sounder North because voters approved it in the past. If it won’t do that, I can’t see it postponing a voter-approved project (Ballard-downtown) to pursue a non-voter-approved project (Ballard-UW).

      However, we don’t know who future boards will be or how they might change things. And if the cities start singing a different tune in a different economic environment, that could cause ST to change its mind, because ST listens mostly to the cities. The main reason we lost on the Paine Field detour, the Everett extension, canceling Sounder North, and the Aurora alignment that no city or county backed those positions. In contrast, if I remember the story right, Lorena Gonzales called or wrote Dow “every day” to advocate for 130th Station and ask if it was in yet, and that finally succeeded.

      But switching to Ballard-UW would certainly require a revote. If things become that drastic, there will probably be changes in other subareas too, and they can all be voted on at the same time.

      1. If the MVET is such a small revenue source, why is Mike Lindblom (one of the Times’ most credible reporters) calculating that reducing it could cost ST $6 billion?

      2. $6 billion out of out or 18, 25, or 54 billion, depending on what he’s comparing it to. In any case it’s a third or less.

      3. It’s a time-and-energy wasting mistake to keep pitting the two Ballard corridors against each other as political rivals. More likely is that North-South route gets priority because it’ll include lower Queen Anne into the system.

        Another calculation is that since tunnel boring equipment is rapidly improving, intervening years could make Ballard-UW a lot faster and cheaper than it is now. So best approach is to think of both lines as part of the same project.

        So that whichever direction progress goes, benefits get delivered to whole NW street and avenue signage.

        Mark

      4. “Ballard-UW does not have an EIS yet.”

        Oops, none of the ST3 corridors do. I was thinking of Ballard-downtown’s more extensive study as an EIS but it’s not.

      5. MVET change itself is costing only 2 billion. Issuing new bonds at a higher interest rate is another 4 billion.

    2. I think it’s about time we all came to terms with the fact that Ballard-UW is extremely unlikely to happen until ST4, and certainly not before any of the routes laid out in ST3.

      1. I certainly agree. But why is that so bad? If the City were really worried about transit between the Ship Canal and Greenwood/Green Lake to UW, it would paint those red lanes on 45th.

        But it’s not, because the buses serving the area are the best local service in the Metro service area. The collector streets on which the buses run are only congested where they cross 45th and 50th, and even if people were transferring to a subway at 45th they’d have to deal with the same congestion.

        Once they get to Aurora they have a bus lane which will soon extend to Denny Way. Sure, the 62 and 28 have to struggle through Fremont, but the 28 has an Aurora express at the peaks. Add three per hour for the two peak of peak hours in each direction to the 62 and problem solved. Two transfers are going to take more time than sitting in the seat down Aurora, because regardless of the short headways on U Link, Ballard-UW would have a lowest headway of ten minutes.

        And who’s to say people transferring from a Ballard-UW train could always get on a downtown-bound U-Link train.

      2. There literally was never a time when the 62 and the 28 were in Fremont at the same time. The 28 doesn’t go to Fremont.

      3. @Breadbaker, the 28X now runs on 39th in Fremont. It doesn’t share the same streets as the 62 (except when the Aurora Bridge is closed) but it does run through Fremont.

  3. I was at Northgate TC taking a bus home after a walk in the sunshine today, and noticed something odd: there are three bus routes that go downtown (26X, 40, 41), one of which is signed as EXPRESS (26X), but is certainly not the fastest route downtown (42 minutes). The 40 is signed “BALLARD DOWNTOWN SEATTLE” and takes 49 minutes, while the 41 is clearly the best choice (if you’re in the know, at least) at 19 minutes. It seems to me that Metro ought to sign the 41 as an express route between downtown and Northgate, and only sign the 26 as an express between downtown and Wallingford since it’s very much a local route (down to deviations through parking lots to serve NSCC) except for the segment on SR-99.

    1. Metro’s definition of express is “skipping at least one bus stop along its route”. In the 26’s case, it’s stops on Aurora that the 5 makes. The 66 was Eexpress because it skipped some stops on Eastlake. Merely going on a freeway does not make it an express, which is why the 41, 101, 150, 255, C, and 120 are not expresses. That seems unintuitive, but the argument is that if it says Express that’s a warning to check if it makes your stop.

      The most nonconforming route was the 372, which was express because it skipped some 68 stops on 25th. Those stops were closed when the 68 was deleted, but I think the 372 still said express for a while after that. The online schedule doesn’t call it express anymore but I thought I saw some bus signs recently that did.

      1. Of course, pretty much all the Rapid Ride routes do the same thing, and they aren’t signed as Express… I’d change that definition; it’s useful in one use case, but not in others.

        (Also, I’d have the 26/28 make those stops along Aurora, and turn the 5 into the stop-skipping route.)

      2. Yeah, I would support a definition along the lines of being faster getting to a common destination than the surrounding routes. In the Northgate TC case, you could go downtown, hop to the other side of the tunnel, and be back in Northgate before the 26 “Express” was even downtown.

        As for making the 26/28 local along Aurora, I kind of like the actual express nature. I know there’s other people in Wallingford that treated the improved trip time downtown as a consolation prize for the drop in frequency from the 16. There would also be a new signage problem at peak times, since there’s already a 5X. Dunno what would be better – 5XX (hope Metro doesn’t take that one too far), 5P (for Peak)? :)

      3. Metro confusingly uses both “X” (on bus signs) and “E” (in timetables/OBA) to indicate express service. On the New York City subway, some of the train signs actually tell you which section it will skip stops like 4 Bronx Local, 4 Lexington Av Express, then the last stop. So a sign for the 26 “Express” would read Downtown Seattle, Wallingford Local, and then Aurora Express

    2. Metro also doesn’t distinguish between a limited-stop route that stops every half-mile or mile like the 9X or former 7X, from a true express that has a large nonstop segment for two or more miles. Several of the local routes have become borderline limited-stop, including the C, E, and 372.

      1. I’d suggest that exactly those two words, Express and Limited, should be used to distinguish such services:

        Express = fastest routing (highway when possible) with few or no stops in the middle section of the route.

        Limited = skips some stops along a regular route

      2. I think Limited/Express could work, as long as Metro is consistent with their usage. In this case, then, I guess 41 would become 41X while 26X would become 26 Limited. Whatever they choose needs to solve the problem of an “express” route taking over twice the time to get to the same signed destination as the non-express route.

      3. I think that wording is a bad idea. Express is a commonly understood word. Limited is much less common. I doubt it’s obvious to the average rider which of those 2 words is “more express”. I think Metro does need to evaluate which routes are labelled express. The 372X is the only route on its road from UW to 92nd st. And from 98th to 170th it’s a local relative to the 522. If the ‘X’ means something to Metro I doubt it’s obvious to the average rider.

        Also Metro should distinguish better between routes that end early like the 41 to 125th vs Lake City.

      4. Even the B-line skips a couple of stops that other routes serve. I think even the F-line does also. That doesn’t make either of these routes particularly fast. For example, whatever time the B-line saves over the 245 by not stopping at Northup Way, it loses in the Overlake Village detour, which the 245 doesn’t do.

      5. San Francisco Muni uses both “limited (now rapid)” and “express” in the way Crunchy describes. Two years ago they replaced limited with rapid. Muni also adds letter suffixes to identify multiple express variants of a route. Using a Seattle example, there would be a 5 local, a 5AX (current 5X), a 5BX (current 355), and a 5R (hypothetical 5 RapidRide).

    3. So that’s why. I always found it hard to understand why a route such as the 26 could be designated ‘express’ when it does a lot of neighborhood milk-route meandering and has to cross and turn on 65th, a very busy arterial, without the aid of a stoplight, like it has on 50th. It would be very helpful if it could be given at least a 20-minute headway, as had the old 16 that it partially replaced on the Ravenna-Northgate section. This would be of tremendous help to the passengers bound for North Seattle College, the many social services in that area, and the Northgate shopping center itself. Transferring from this route to others on College Way today is also extremely cumbersome, compared to what it was on the old 16, in one instance requiring a two-block walk.

    4. How about “41 Downtown via I-5”?

      Given that the problem has a shelf life of under 5 years, Metro may not find it worthwhile to go through the process to update the signage.

  4. Somewhere on the web, there’s a metro ridership report that breaks out the performance numbers for all the different routes. It’s been linked to here more than a few times. My google skills are evidently weak I can’t seem to find it via search, or internal navigation of the KC Metro site. Does anyone have that link handy?

      1. @djw: Not a dumb question at all!

        IIRC “service hours” or “revenue hours” are something like the hours the bus is operating service on the scheduled route (i.e. the farebox is open, collecting revenue). “Platform hours” are something like the hours that the bus (and its driver) are away from base — so it includes stuff like deadheading and layovers.

        The ratio between platform and service hours can differ route to route, and the reasons aren’t the same in every case. Broadly, you might say a large ratio indicates that the route isn’t being operated very efficiently, and broadly, you might say that sometimes this is due to the agency’s choices (where it’s invested in bases, decisions about headways and bus allocations) and sometimes it’s due to a route being difficult to operate with this kind of efficiency (an example would be peak-direction-only routes that deadhead back to base — they need to run quite full in the peak direction to achieve good per-platform-hour efficiency). So you might look at per-service-hour ridership as a measure of popularity, and per-platform-hour numbers as a measure of efficiency.

  5. In the Rant and Rave column in today’s Seattle Times there was a rant that is so familiar to many of you on this forum.

    The rant was about the continual breakdown of escalators and elevators on Sound Transit stations and the inconvenience it causes and especially for those who have mobility problems.

    1. This evening was especially bad. All the “up” escalators coming out of the UW Station from the mezzanine were broken. The only way out was either stairs or elevators.

      1. If only they could rely on the elevators for down traffic, since riders going to the station arrive in a steady stream, and let escalators clear the arriving crowds. That seems safer than risking a bottleneck trying to get out of the station.

  6. Recently, I’ve encountered some overzealous bus drivers at Montlake Freeway Station who stop to let people with bikes get on if the bus is out of service, but refuse to allow a person who does not have a bike to board the bus, even if the bus already stopped and the person is headed to the same destination that someone with a bike is allowed to go (Evergreen Point/Yarrow Point).

    I guess this is all going to become moot in a few months anyway. Will buses even bother to stop at Montlake at all, on the way to the base, once the bike path across 520 finally opens?

    1. The Montlake Flyer Station will close in its current form before the 520 bike path opens. I’d be really surprised if deadheading buses exited and went through a stoplight on the lid to pick up cyclists after construction is done — and I’d be somewhat surprised if bike demand was high enough to warrant it.

      For an somewhat analagous situation… sometimes counter-peak bike demand overwhelms in-service rack capacity to/from Snohomish County on nice days. As of the last time I used it that was fairly rare… and cyclists were saving a lot more distance catching those buses than they save by catching buses from Montlake to the Points.

      1. I believe demand is pretty high. I sometimes transfer from the 311 to a Redmond-bound bus at Yarrow Point. In the mornings, I’ve sometimes had to wait for the third or fourth 541/542/545 to get space on a bike rack. In between those, you’ll also get a few deadheading buses with one or two bikes each.

      2. “The Montlake Flyer Station will close in its current form before the 520 bike path opens.”

        I don’t believe that to be the case. The 520 bike path is expected to open later this year. The Montlake Flyer Stop would presumably close once construction on the Montlake Lid begins, tentatively scheduled for 2018.

      3. @David: Demand is pretty high now, but the path isn’t open yet. It’s only a few miles on the bridge, so I think most people will just ride across, like most people do on I-90, and to/from Snohomish County (which is a much longer ride).

        @asdf: Huh. Things must have changed since last time I looked.

    2. The SR 520 bike shuttle program was made for cyclists and “other transit customers” to use out-of-service buses. I’d imagine the would rather have paying passengers board regular buses, rather than take the free shuttle meant primarily for bikes.

      I’ve had a few out-of-service drivers let me on the shuttle (sans bike) because traffic was backed up or other buses weren’t appearing.

      1. Does WSDOT compensate Metro/ST for providing the bike shuttle service? I doubt it, but it seems they should since they’re the ones who produced the deficient bridge design (no pedestrian/bike path) that requires it.

      2. The out-of-service buses are still capable of collecting fares, and I’ve tapped on them several times. Technically, the free rides are only to Evergreen Point, and if you’re going to Yarrow Point, you need to pay regular fare. In practice, only about half the drivers enforce this, and it’s hard to imagine anyone with a bike choosing a $2.50 ride to Yarrow Point over a free ride to Evergreen Point, except of course, those with passes, making the $2.50 ride effectively free, anyway.

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