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.

36 Replies to “Podcast Listener Mailbag #6”

  1. OK got a few questions:

    #1. Do you think electric buses trump streetcars?

    #2. Why isn’t Sound Transit selling swag?

    #3. Do you think it’s appropriate for the CEO of a transit agency to host a fundraiser for transit board members?

    #4. If you had a choice between paying fare on your smart phone or carrying an ORCA Card, which would you use?

    I’ll stop there.

  2. Kind of a philosophical question maybe: Seattle is supposed to be one of the best cities in the country in terms of its progressive approach to transportation and land-use policies, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that great on a day-to-day basis. How do you stay motivated when progress feels really slow?

    From reading STB and other transit and land use websites, blogs, etc., it’s easy to see the vision for what the Seattle area could be. However, that clashes pretty drastically with real-world experiences walking, biking, riding transit, and even driving around the area. Cars are still prioritized heavily, people get hurt walking and biking, transit is slower than driving in many cases, and land use decisions feel heavily weighted towards preserving single family zoning. I see the progress being made: Link is great, Seattle/SDOT are investing somewhat in bus lanes, road diets, upzones, etc. But overall it feels like that progress is very slow, and that public opinion is overwhelmingly against many changes that would help make Seattle a better place as we understand it. How do you stay positive and motivated to keep working on these issues day after day and year after year?

    1. +1 to this. With the passage of ST3, my hopes for a citywide rapid transit network have receded into the unknowably distant future, and it’s hard to see what difference I could possibly make in the meantime.

  3. Sounder, will cut slack. Doing passenger rail’s best on a freight railroad’s track. But every single week-day rush hour, Sound Transit bulletin is a litany of express service delays up to 60 minutes on every freeway. Ever-worsening, more rapidly by the day.

    Fact that grade-separated parts of LINK reliably work proves its strength as a mode. But I think a lot of resentment over car-tabs is an understandable belief. That not only will voters not see LINK in their lifetimes, but that they won’t see anything through their windshields but stationary tail-lights.

    Car tabs? If next three years are like past three, no way either enemies or presently-undecided will permit ST-3 to exist in present form and schedule. So those of us who support it had better start connecting the name and its budget with some vehicular acceleration.

    Martin? Frank?

  4. Discussion of the exact technical issue that temporarily halted the FHSC, the fix, and how this issue may effect the 1st Ave streetcar.

  5. Please thoroughly discuss/address the drawbacks of any proposed 2nd Ave subway line; exclude costs, include urban impacts, incorporate regional development aspects of land-use affect on this regional rail transit system. Consider smaller buses and vans matched to light rail routes. Consider a low-floor paratransit van replacement with low-emission hybrid drivetrain. Current paratransit vans are 1970’s tech our seniors, disabled and poor ride. How can we get GM/Ford to step up to the plate and build them?

  6. Assuming that ST3 gets pared back because of car tabs and federal funds dry up, where do you cut (or delay, etc)? Assume that the pain is spread across the sub-areas equally.

  7. Think there is any chance the Convention Center construction can be delayed (or canceled) to alleviate the worst of One Center City until the next wave of train cars arrive?

  8. Why the hell is Link signage still so shitty at the airport? Why is Northgate station placed where it is, and why didn’t Sound Transit try to move it north closer to N 105th St. so crosstown transfers don’t suck so, so much. What is keeping ST and/or Amtrak from negotiating a better deal with BNSF to improve rail service or speed (why can’t we tax the land under the track at current real estate valuations and use that money to improve service)? Why can’t we fix the outrageously ridiculous boarding process on Amtrak? Why are kids on my lawn.

    1. Lack of signage sucks at UW station as well. Took me a while to figure out that the fastest way to catch the 45 was to take the elevator from the platform up to the bridge, then walk across the bridge and catch the elevator on the right down to street level, which is right by the first stop of the 45 (also 44, 73,373). This is so fast and easy. When the bus arrives at the next stop, across from UW Medical Center, there are often tons of people waiting to board, many having had to schlep heavy suitcases a long ways and also having to wait quite a while for the stoplight to cross Montlake Blvd.

      1. I find that It’s really a wash – going up and down the stairs/elevator and waiting for the stoplight to cross Montlake take about the same amount of time.

  9. Could we use the Monorail taxing authority to build the Ballard Spur as a gondola?


    1. Considering last thing this taxing authority got us, any ideas about what we can trade it in on?


  10. Do you believe the transfer-fee plan in urban villages the city is currently implementing and shopping around the city (where developers either build 9% of their units as affordable housing, or pay a fee to the city which will do the building of affordable units) will result in more affordable housing near transit, OR do you think it will merely yield more density, and affordable units will get build by the city on the fringes of more attractive sites near transit?

  11. Maybe you guys have talked about the arena debate enough already, but there was an article in the Times this week where Tim Lieweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, pitched the monorail as a neglected and promising method for moving people to and from the Seattle Center site. Is this for real? Could we actually see the monorail pressed into service for gameday crowds at a revamped Seattle Center Coliseum?

    1. The monorail serves the much larger Bumbershoot crowds and Womyxn’s March, not to mention the World’s Fair, so I don’t see why not.

  12. What’s the deal with Tacoma Link?
    Is it supposed to link up with the spine some day? Why is ridership always falling?
    Does anyone like it?

    1. The Spine will meet it at Tacoma Dome. The long-term plan for Link is to continue southwest to Tacoma Mall. That didn’t make it into ST3, and who knows if it will be prioritized in any future measure, but that was Pierce’s goal as of 2014. Tacoma Link will supposedly expand into several lines, that all meet at Tacoma Dome to feed into Central Link. ST2 will extend Tacoma Link north to the high school stadium and south on MLK Ave. ST3 will then extend it west on 19th Street to TCC.

      Beyond that, Tacoma Link’s long-term plan is to expand into several lines like MAX. I think they’ll all meet at Tacoma Dome to feed into Central Link. I’m not sure how a line from Pacific Ave or south Tacoma could get to Tacoma Dome and back to downtown without a clunky detour or leaving people several blocks away. Maybe Tacoma Mall Station will come to the rescue? Extending Central Link to downtown Tacoma has been suggested by some outsiders but never by ST.

      As for Tacoma Link’s ridership and likeability, no comment. Ridership could be low because it’s so short. The planned extension is not wonderful for those on 19th who will have to go north and south to get to Tacoma Dome, but maybe it will make more sense in a Tacoma context with people just going downtown or glad they don’t have to walk the steep hills.

  13. If for some reason the U.S and Canada agreed to an open, no customs or security border, how would that impact transportation and development? Would Blaine become a suburb of Vancouver?

  14. Why Does it take so long to build light rail stations? According to Sound transit it will take 3.5 years to build the 3 stations for Northgate link. If we can build a 500 ft tall building in 18 months, why does it take 2 years longer to fill in a 90 ft hole that is already dug? there are only two underground stations, are these not being built concurrently?

    Sound transit provided a link to explain the long time it takes but didn’t actually explain WHY it takes so long.

    “Station work goes from deep down to high above
    Meanwhile, construction on three stations that will serve Northgate Link will take place while work in the tunnels continues. Two of these stations, U District and Roosevelt, will have street-level entrances that will take riders to platforms 80 – 90 feet underground. The Northgate Station is elevated. Trains will transition from the tunnels to an elevated guideway to reach Northgate by way of the Maple Leaf Portal just south of the station. We estimate that each of the stations will take nearly 3 ½ years to build.”

  15. Someone brought up this question in the Monorail article. What would it take to move control of the monorail to Sound Transit? And would Sound Transit even want to be responsible for the monorail?

    1. I should have added King County Metro in there as another option besides Sound Transit.

  16. What are your thoughts about this blog’s coverage of “transportation” versus “land use” issues (this is referencing the blog’s about spiel). It makes sense that a transit blog is going to slanted towards transportation coverage, but are you satisfied with the current level of coverage of land use issues on the blog/Page 2?

  17. Do you have any thoughts on how to make Metro’s use of deadheading buses (those reading “To Terminal” or “_____ Base”) more beneficial to riders? Drivers are instructed that technically they are still in service while deadheading, but since there is no clear arrangement with riders what that means (with the exception of cyclists on the 520 bridge), it is a seldom utilized service. I’m both a Metro driver and rider, so I have experienced this on both ends.

    For example, if I were driving an outbound D Line as my last trip of the day, I would then have to drive back inbound with my sign displaying “Atlantic Base”, and driving along a good chunk of the regular route.

    Trolleys generally operate in service all the time time because they can’t take much of a shortcut back to the base. That’s why, for example, after a driver’s final outbound trip on the 36, their return trip will be displayed as “36 International Dist” and travel the regular route as far as 5th/Jackson before veering away to the base.

    The obvious pro to maintaining the status quo is that this saves Metro a lot of money by expediting drivers’ return to base, rather than having them run in service, which would add another 20-60 minutes to their schedule. But I’m just wondering if there is a better use for these buses that drive miles and miles unused around the city.

    1. They’re technically in service? I’m surprised. Just last Thursday at Alki, I was turned away from a previously Route 50 bus that’d flipped its sign to say South Base, forcing me to wait 40 minutes for the next in-service bus. Should I report this?

      1. The South Base-bound 50 coach wouldn’t have taken you anywhere along the 50 except Admiral/California. It would have proceeded on Admiral straight onto the WSB, then onto I-5, exiting for South Base at Boeing Access Road. If you were going to Admiral/California, then the driver should have let you on, but many drivers don’t want to get into long debates about where they’re going. Passengers often ask for detours off the base route, too — which are themselves against Metro policy.

      2. Well, looking at the schedule for the 128, taking that bus up the hill to California and then transferring to get to the West Seattle Junction and then the C over the bridge would’ve actually worked. I guess I see your point, but drivers should be trained to ask.

        Also, going off the number of people waiting at Alki along with me, Metro should probably turn a couple of those early-evening deadheads into short-turn trips to Delridge or at least the Junction…

    2. Deadheading buses are supposed to accept riders where feaable. In practice that only works well in a few cases. It works on the 44’s inbound because the trolley wire makes their route obvious, and it gives extra service to dense John-Broadway which is arguably underserved. In other cases if a bus is sitting at its terminus at an isolated location, or at a bidirectional stop like a P&R, where there’s already some confusion about which bus is going where, sometimes deadheading drivers will offer rides, or sometimes there’s an opportunity to ask the driver where he’s going. Passengers in an isolated location are sometimes willing to go anywhere they can transfer to a trunk route and go on from there. The reason drivers don’t do it all the time is it takes time to explain where they’re going, and for the passenger to decide whether it works for them, or even just to make some riders understand what’s going on. A bus can’t stop everywhere and explain that to everybody or it would never get to its base. So for instance when I’m at Costco wanting to take a bus a mile north to Lander Street for Link, or even the SODO base for Link, the deadheading drivers pass by without stopping and I don’t flag them down because it’s arguably too much overhead on both sides to confirm where they’re going and that the trip is feasible. But if you’re at the Alki terminus, then it seems like the driver should have engaged you a little more and it’s worth reporting to Metro. But first, is South Base the one at 133rd? That’s so isolated, where would you go from there, and where could he let you off at? And if it’s North Base at 175th, forget it because the only way out is via the freeway and there’s no place to stop short of it so drivers won’t take you there.

  18. Why can’t we call a second elevator at Beacon Hill station? It’s not unusual for three elevators full to get off an afternoon train.

  19. Just got back from a trip to the bay area and noticed that there is now a little golf cart running between the footbridge that leads to parking at SeaTac and the gates to the light rail station. Is this a SeaTac airport or a Sound Transit creation?

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