While Olympia Threatens ST3, Trump Threatens ST2

Sorry, Tacoma. You’ll be waiting a long time if Olympia and D.C. have their way. (Kaizer Rangwala – Flickr)

The news out of Washington Thursday morning was terrible for urbanists and transit advocates. President Trump’s 2018 budget request intends to pay for his priorities – increased defense spending, border wall construction, etc – partially on the backs of cities. Worse than percentage cuts to grant formulas, Trump’s budget goes further to propose wholesale federal disinvestment from transit projects. The proposed 13% cut to DOT’s discretionary budget represents a paltry $2.4B – or approximately 0.06% of a roughly $4T total – but it falls almost entirely upon cuts to Amtrak, and elimination of TIGER grants, Essential Air Service subsidies, and worst of all, New Starts and Small Starts grants for large transit projects:

…limits funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program (New Starts) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements (FFGA) only. Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.

This is a very, very big deal for Puget Sound, and especially for Sound Transit. ST2 projects such as Lynnwood and Federal Way may seem secure, but they are both at the penultimate step to construction, just short of a signed FFGA and technically still in Project Development. After years of design, environmental work, planning, and taxes paid by all of us, Trump’s proposed budget could easily pull the rug out from both the Lynnwood and Federal Way extensions. Since ST3 extensions are obviously physically dependent on ST2 completion, pulling these grants also threatens the entirety of Snohomish and Pierce County’s ST3 Link projects.  The expected loss would be $1.17 billion for Lynnwood and $500 million for Federal Way, nearly half the funding for those projects. (East Link, funded by taxes, bonds, and a low-interest TIFIA loan, is not threatened at this time.)

Sound Transit’s taxing authority and its adopted System Plan would remain, of course, and the ST Board would follow established procedure for delaying or cutting projects. From the ST3 financial plan:

For those cases in which a subarea’s actual and projected expenditures exceed its actual and projected revenues and funding sources by five percent or greater, and/or where unforeseen circumstances occur that would result in an inability to substantially complete projects within such subarea’s plan, the Board must take one or more of the following actions:

• Correct the shortfall through use of such subarea’s uncommitted funds and/or bond capacity available to the subarea

• Scale back the subarea plan or projects within the plan to match a revised budget

• Extend the time period of completion of the subarea plan

• Seek legislative authorization and voter approval for additional resources

It is important to remember that part of the Federal Way extension (to Star Lake/272nd) was already deferred this way when the 2009 recession dried up revenues, only to be later promised it would be next in line when revenues revived. A second deferral would be a devastating blow to ST’s perception in South King County, through no fault of its own. Other projects that are threatened include the Tacoma Link extension to TCC, Rapid Ride G, the Center City Connector streetcar, Community Transit’s SWIFT II, and Spokane’s Central City Line. Cities across the country would see their capital budgets gutted, and only Los Angeles would emerge relatively unscathed.

Simultaneously, Olympia continues its assault on Sound Transit for daring to successfully ask voters to enact the taxes Olympia itself authorized. The Motor Vehicle Excise Tax has admittedly led to sticker shock among mostly high-value car owners, but it is also the most progressive of the three sources authorized for ST3. The faux populism of an urban Manhattan developer-cum-President is bad enough, but Olympia Republicans – and crucially, a handful of Democratic allies – are throwing a one-two populist punch with the drive for a directly-elected board.

So 5 months after a historic yes vote on ST3, the agency is facing a three-pronged attack. First, the gutting of federal funding would slow timelines, cancel projects, and/or increase borrowing costs for Sound Transit. Second, Olympia’s proposals to modify the MVET evaluation method would reduce revenue significantly. Third, if Olympia succeeds in creating a directly elected Sound Transit Board, we will lose subject expertise in the middle of a huge capital program and create gerrymandered districts that devalue urban votes.

The result of all this would be a disaster: more adversial transit politics, higher costs, slower timelines, and increased urban-suburban divides. It would be a functional chokehold on Seattle, far and away the region’s primary job center. It would be a double injustice to the suburban poor, pushed out of the city by our unwillingness to build enough housing and stuck in traffic through our inability to build transit. It would be economic sabotage at both the federal and state level.

Please contact your Olympia representatives and let them know you want to maintain robust funding for Sound Transit. If you’d like a form to work from, TCC and other partners have developed one here.

It would also be a good time to let your federal delegation know how much you value transit funding, including Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Pramila Jayapal, Dave Reichert(!), Adam Smith, and Denny Heck.

News Roundup: Pitches


This is an open thread.

Sound Transit’s Governance is Key to Its Success

Crowded Link Train in August 2016 (Flickr – SounderBruce)

By Marilyn Strickland and Rob Johnson

Sound Transit’s current governance framework – based on the appointment of elected officials from county and city governments who have huge stakes in making regional transit work – is a huge part of the agency’s success. Unfortunately, this framework is currently under threat; the proposed SB-5001 would replace these structural incentives for success and unity with representatives from 11 Balkanized districts chosen through direct elections.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland
Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4)

We believe it’s critically important to have locally elected representatives serving on the Sound Transit Board. There is a nexus between local government, regional government, and having a regional transportation system that benefits all of us, from Tacoma to Everett.

This level of connectivity and regional integration ultimately ensures we get projects that are built faster, cheaper, and that benefit not just the districts we represent, but the entire region. And that’s not only good governance, it just makes sense.

Here are eight reasons the governance structure for Sound Transit proposed in SB-5001 would hurt regional progress toward achieving a 116-mile light rail system that reaches Tacoma, Everett, Downtown Redmond, West Seattle, Ballard, South Kirkland and Issaquah:

  1. As elected officials serving on the Sound Transit board, we hold a body of knowledge that allows us to make transit decisions with the awareness of how it impacts land use, housing, and economic development. These big transit investments we make involve so much more than just moving people from point A to point B; we need board members with comprehensive knowledge and the new proposed governance structure puts this at risk.
  1. The new structure would likely result in higher costs for taxpayers. For example, Sound Transit has a track record of obtaining highly rated bonds with low interest rates. Bond rating agencies look at stability of revenues and stability of leadership. Moving away from our current structure of elected officials with finite terms and extensive knowledge would put us at risk for receiving lower rated bonds – the burden of which would be felt by taxpayers.
  1. As elected officials, we are good partners with Sound Transit and we pave the way for projects to happen more quickly. For example, we are able to have the necessary conversations at the city level to expedite permitting processes. By removing elected officials from the board, the proposed governance structure would likely result in projects that are built more slowly, and thus, at higher cost.
  1. Sound Transit has passed 22 consecutive clean audits. Having locally elected representation with accountability to our voters plays a big role in this impressive track record; changing the governance structure puts that at risk.
  1. As with all projects, big or small, sometimes things don’t go the way they should. The ability for a mayor serving as a board member from one jurisdiction to speak to his or her counterpart in another jurisdiction gives us the ability to address issues more quickly and keep projects closer to schedule. The proposed governance structure would hinder this effectiveness.
  1. Utilizing the professional expertise of in-house city staff helps us as elected officials make better, more informed decisions as Sound Transit board members. This would be lost with the new governance structure.
  1. As elected officials, we are regional colleagues and bring these good working relationships to the Sound Transit boardroom. The new governance structure would negatively impact the current camaraderie and institutional knowledge that facilitates efficiency.
  1. Lastly, and very simply put, changing the governance structure in the middle of very complex projects that are underway creates a high degree of instability and risk.

A hallmark of local government is our ability to be close to our constituents and respond accordingly with more and better infrastructure. Last year, as plans for ST3 were getting finalized, the message we heard from constituents loud and clear was “do more – and do it faster.” We’ve proven time and again that we can deliver on those requests, and to get people out of traffic and connected to their communities.

Marilyn Strickland is the current Mayor of Tacoma. Rob Johnson is the Seattle City Councilmember for District 4. Both are Sound Transit Board members. 

Rapid Ride G Coming Into Focus

SounderBruce (Flickr)

Slowly zooming in and dialing up the resolution, SDOT is out with its latest designs for Rapid Ride G (formerly Madison BRT), and is accepting public comment through March 22nd.

Assuming the ink dries on a finalized Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant, construction on the $120 million project should start in February 2018, with start of service targeted for mid-summer 2019. With new five-door trolleybuses coming up to every 6 minutes, the line will provide a huge boost to First Hill and improve transfers to the future Center City Connector streetcar, 3rd Avenue and Link light rail, the future ST3-funded Green Line tunnel, the First Hill Streetcar, and the eventual Rapid Ride corridor along 23rd Avenue.

This design update gives us clearer indications of SDOT’s thinking on multimodal tradeoffs – conflicts between buses, cars, parking, and people walking and biking – as well as a draft construction schedule. The project is tentatively phased as follows:

  • Early 2018: Arthur Place layover, and protected bike lane on E Union Street between 12th and 14th Avenue
  • Mid 2018: Madison Street from 1st to 6th Avenue, and Spring Street from 1st to 9th Avenue, including a left-side bike lane on Spring from 1st to 8th
  • Late 2018: Madison from Boren to 11th, including most of the center-running right-of-way
  • Late 2018-Early 2019:  Madison from 17th-25th, in a section where buses will run in mixed traffic
  • December 2018: Trolley wire work and other improvements on 1st Avenue to allow Rapid Ride G to share a stop with the streetcar
  • Early 2019: Madison from 11th-17th, and one additional block of protected bike lane on Union between 11th and 12th
  • Mid-2019: Construction will wrap up in the congested stretch of Madison between Boren and 6th.

Rather than walk you through all the changes since the 30% design level, as this wonk blog would customarily do, we’re going to stick to a descriptive treatment of the entire route so that those new to the discussion can more easily follow along. Let’s start at on 1st Avenue and head east.  Continue reading “Rapid Ride G Coming Into Focus”

Link Connections on SR-520: take the survey

ST 545 is among the routes that may be rerouted to UW station in Fall 2018 (Image: Atomic Taco)

King County Metro and Sound Transit have begun an outreach process to transit riders in the SR 520 corridor. Transit users and community members are invited to take a survey, running through April 2. Town halls will be held at University of Washington, in Redmond, and in Kirkland.  This will be the first of several opportunities for public input planned as service proposals evolve.

Six Metro routes (252, 255, 257, 268, 277, 311) and six Sound Transit Express routes (ST 540, ST 541, ST 542, ST 545, ST 555, ST 556) may be affected. Generally, the agencies are interested in truncating most service on SR 520 to the University of Washington light rail station. Several of those routes already serve UW, so possible service changes go beyond simply truncating the remaining routes to downtown.

Candidate routes for truncation at UW serve Kirkland, Redmond and Woodinville. A final proposal is also expected to include more frequent service on many routes, along with more service earlier or later or on weekends. New service between the Eastside and South Lake Union will be considered.

The immediate impetus for service changes on SR 520 relates to several construction projects in central Seattle including the anticipated closure of the bus tunnel and Convention Place Station by the end of 2018. Absent other changes, bus performance through downtown will be slowed significantly. The One Center City proposal truncates many bus routes at rail stations outside of the downtown core. Some of the changes are temporary remedies until Link extensions to Northgate and Bellevue are open.

On the other hand, changes to SR 520 bus service offer permanent benefits to riders if executed well. Rail to downtown is faster and more reliable than buses on I-5 and surface streets. The service hour savings can be redeployed to more frequent service on Eastside buses or service to more places. But understandable concerns about the efficiency of bus to rail transfers at UW remain.

Continue reading “Link Connections on SR-520: take the survey”

SPONSORED: Pedal Anywhere: Bike Rental for the On-Demand Generation

Pedal Anywhere: Bikes Delivered on Demand

Imagine going to a car rental counter and being told that all they have available are SmartCars and Ferraris, and nothing in between. Ridiculous, right? That’s how bike rental has been in North America for decades. Cheap beach cruisers abound in tourist hotspots, and specialty shops provide high-end carbon racing bikes for those willing to pay up.

But where are the ‘Toyotas’ of the rental bike world? Where are the high quality, everyday bikes you can rely upon for commuting or touring? That’s where we come in. At Pedal Anywhere, we exist to bring you a bike in your size and in your style, just like you ride at home. We deliver bikes on demand.

We want you to step off a plane or a train, push a few buttons on your phone, and be riding an hour later. We bring you a bike, and you ride it anywhere you want for as long as you want. When you’re done, you lock it up, text us, and walk away. That’s it. We’ll take care of the rest. Rates begin at $39, and delivery and pickup are free within Seattle. Long-term rentals are as low as $6/day.

We deliver bikes by bike. Carbon-free bike delivery!

The Ubers and Amazons of the world have raised our expectations for instant service, and we want to bring the best of that on-demand revolution to the bicycling world. We want to enable anyone, quite literally, to Pedal Anywhere.

We want to complement, not compete, with city bikeshare systems. Where bikeshare serves the short point-to-point trip very well, sometimes you just want a nicer bike you can ride anywhere at all without restriction. Are you one of our customer types?

  • You’re in town for a week at an AirBnb, and you want a bike to call your own from the moment you land to the moment you leave. No traffic, no waiting for Ubers, no learning an unfamiliar transit system. Just pure mobility.
  • You want to go on a long bike tour but dread the pain and expense of boxing your bike for air travel. With us you can show up with just your panniers and be off and riding within an hour.
  • You’re thinking about becoming a bike commuter, but you want to rent a variety of bike styles for a few weeks so you can buy your first commuter bike with confidence.
  • You bike everywhere in Seattle already, and you have family coming into town. You want to help them see the city the way you do, so you rent them bikes for the week.

Whoever you are and no matter why you ride, we want to help you get onto two wheels. We’re beginning our 4th year in Seattle, and we’re ready to take our concept to the next level. We are now undertaking a crowdfunding campaign so that we can be funded by YOU, our customers. With the support of our local community, we believe we can make Pedal Anywhere a regional or even national reality. Portland? Vancouver? San Francisco? It should be just as easy to get a bike no matter where you are.

Want to help us make it happen?

Disclaimer: Seattle Monthly Bike Rental LLC (“Pedal Anywhere”) is offering securities under Regulation CF and Rule 506(c) of Regulation D through SI Securities, LLC (“SI Securities”). The Company has filed a Form C with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with its offering, a copy of which may be obtained here https://www.seedinvest.com/pedal.anywhere/pre.seed/filing. This Company’s profile and accompanying offering materials may contain forward-looking statements and information relating to, among other things, the Company, its business plan and strategy, and its industry. These statements reflect management’s current views with respect to future events based information currently available and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause the Company’s actual results to differ materially. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements as they are meant for illustrative purposes and they do not represent guarantees of future results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements, all of which cannot be made. Moreover, no person nor any other person or entity assumes responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of forward-looking statements, and is under no duty to update any such statements to conform them to actual results.

The Future Alaskan Way: Wide Now, Narrow Later

WSDOT Photo of Partial Viaduct Demolition in 2011

Erica Barnett had the scoop late last night that an agreement has been reached in the dispute over the future Alaskan Way surface street. Prior conflicts included those wanting a narrow roadway (bike/ped advocates), fewer or no bus lanes (Alliance for Pioneer Square), and/or more surface parking (Historic Waterfront Association). Appeals to the Final EIS threatened to drag out approval and construction, so the new agreement clears the way for construction to begin in a couple years.

The new agreement between the Alliance for Pioneer Square, SDOT, WSDOT, and King County accepts the preferred design for a 102′ surface highway – consisting of a bike path, wide sidewalks, 2 general purpose lanes, a landscaped median, and bus lanes in the southern half of the corridor – but explicitly requires the city to narrow the roadway to 79′ upon the opening of Link light rail to West Seattle in the early 2030s. Despite our shared distaste for a new anti-urban Mercer Street on the waterfront, we argued for this same outcome late last year:

I’d suggest two ways forward: 1) work hard to expedite Link to West Seattle to shorten the window in which the waterfront will be an anti-urban mess, and 2) agitate for explicit commitments from the City of Seattle to narrow the roadway upon Link’s opening. An MOU between Metro, the City of Seattle, and WSDOT should require designs amenable to narrowing and commit all parties to shaving 20-40′ off the width south of Yesler Way. Even though urbanists lost the battle for a narrower street, we can still win the war.

As Erica notes, the agreement is nonbinding and future designs to narrow the roadway would still require the alphabet soup of agency approvals, giving lots of veto points for failure. The agreement also unfortunately caps Metro service on Alaskan Way at 195 buses per day, which is less than Rapid Ride C provides on the Alaskan Way Viaduct today, and only about a third of current Viaduct service levels. So the bus lanes we fought so hard for will be preserved but also underutilized. Accordingly, creating a new, reliable Sodo pathway for the remaining two-thirds of Viaduct buses is now the more important issue.

[Edit: as commenters have noted as as Metro has confirmed, the agreement limiting buses to 195 a day is a post-Link plan, whereas in the intervening decade buses will be capped at 650 per day, roughly the current level of Viaduct service. The remaining 195 buses could accommodate one frequent route, such as Route 21 or Rapid Ride H, or more likely a new local waterfront service,  given that there will be no transit lanes. We apologize for the error.]

It’s worth remembering that the worst of the problem will be roughly a decade long, during which the Waterfront will be a truly terrible, hostile highway for pedestrian and bike crossing. The post light rail vision is fairly decent, with a wide bike path, wide sidewalks, grade separated transit, no viaduct, and most cars hopefully out of sight in the underground tunnel. But the remaining 6 lanes south of Yesler (4 GP plus 2 ferry queue lanes) are likely permanent, as is the 79′ ultimate width. It could have been a lot worse, but the color of Alaskan Way will match the winter skies: lots of concrete gray.

Nine Little Housing Bills

At least the federal government is funding transit and thinking about housing.

Nine bills related to housing supply survived Wednesday’s cutoff to get out of their original chamber, from the list of 24 that survived the first committee cutoff.

All bills are technically still alive, but if they don’t defund or otherwise knee-cap transit, they are unlikely to get much interest for having the rules waived for them. Some bills dealing with the McCleary contempt-of-court order might even get consideration some time before the legislators go home for the year.

Bills passed out of House

Rep. June Robinson
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1514, originally sponsored by Rep. June Robinson (D – Everett) et al, would require, with limited exceptions, that a landlord under the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Act provide 18 months notice of closure or conversion. Exceptions would include when the property is taken through imminent domain; when the property is sold to a tenants’ organization, a local government, a nonprofit, or a housing authority that preserves the housing; or the landlord compensates the tenants for the loss of their homes at their assessed value prior to a change of use or sale of the property.

ESHB 1514 passed out of the House 54-42-0-2 on February 27. It now awaits a hearing in the Senate Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee. The companion bill, SB 5520, failed to get a hearing in that committee.

Reps. Kristine Lytton
SHB 1532, by the House Finance Committee, and originally sponsored by Rep. Kristine Lytton (D – Anacortes) and Dave Hayes (R – Camano Island), would amend the property tax exemption for real property owned by a nonprofit entity for the purpose of developing residences to be sold to low-income households to include single-family dwelling units where the land is leased for life or 99 years. This could include single units that are part of a multi-unit dwelling. A committee amendment has the exemption from property taxes expire for the land value, once the lease is executed.

SHB 1532 passed out of the House 79-18-0-1 on March 7. It is now waiting for a hearing in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee. The companion bill, SSB 5143, made it out of the Senate Rules Committee but failed to get a vote in the Senate.

Rep. Joan McBride
HB 1616, requested by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, and sponsored by Rep. Joan McBride (D – Kirkland) et al, would expand the type of allowable land that loans may be made for, under the Affordable Housing Land Acquisition Revolving Loan Fund Program, to include land that already has structures on it, not just vacant property. Purchasers would then be able to tear down the structures to build new housing, or convert the structures into housing.

HB 1616 passed out of the House 79-16-0-0 on February 28. It is now waiting for a hearing in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee.

Rep. Cindy Ryu
HB 1627, requested by Washington State Housing Finance Commission, and sponsored by Reps. Cindy Ryu (D – Shoreline) and Joan McBride (D – Kirkland), would expand the definition of “nonprofit corporation,” for the purpose of eligibility to receive lower-cost financing through WSHFC’s Nonprofit Facilities Program, to include any public development authority and organizations eligible to receive assistance through the Department of Commerce’s Affordable Housing Program.

HB 1627 passed out of the House 68-30-0-0 on February 28. It is now waiting for a hearing in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee.

SHB 1763, by the House Finance Committee, and originally sponsored by Rep. Robinson et al, would expand the property tax exemption for nonprofit organizations providing housing to low-income individuals with developmental disabilities to include adult family homes for individuals with development disabilities in which at least 75% of the residents are low-income, removing the current requirement that all residents be low-income in order to qualify. A committee amendment sunsets the exemption in 2028.

SHB 1763 passed out of the House 90-7-0-1 on March 7. It is now waiting for a hearing in the Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee.


Bills passed Senate

Sen. Jan Angel
Substitute Senate Bill 5077, by the Senate Law & Justice Committee, and originally sponsored by Sen. Jan Angel (R – Port Orchard) et al, would allow the Department of Corrections to provide rental vouchers for up to three months to persons released from the Washington Corrections Center for Women or the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. Per testimony, 16 women were released from custody into homelessness last year.

SSB 5077 passed out of the Senate 49-0-0-0 on February 27. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee on March 15.

Sen. Tim Sheldon
SB 5615, by Sen. Tim Sheldon (D – Potlatch) et al, would permit counties to establish manufactured housing communities outside of urban growth areas in the same manner as fully contained communities.

Both Futurewise and the Association of Manufactured Home Owners testified against the bill. They pointed out the high cost of providing services to new developments in rural areas. They also suggested that zoning an area as manufactured housing community be a requirement for permitting a manufactured housing community, in order to give residents assurance they would be able to stay there long-term.

SB 5615 passed out of the Senate 30-19-0-0 on March 1, and is now in the House Environment Committee. The companion bill, HB 1846, didn’t get a hearing in the House Environment Committee.

Sen. Mark Miloscia
SSB 5657, by the Senate Local Government Committee, and originally sponsored by Sens. Mark Miloscia (R – Federal Way) and Ann Rivers (R – La Center), would prohibit county, city, and town ordinances from placing undue burden on religious organizations providing housing or shelters for the homeless, but would allow ordinances requiring 3-month breaks between hostings, and would require a hosting religious organization to enter into a written agreement to provide residents of temporary shelters access to public health and safety assistance.

SSB 5657 passed out of the Senate 49-0-0-0 on February 28, and is scheduled for a hearing in the House Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs Committee on March 5. Its companion bill, SHB 2044, failed to get out of the House Rules Committee.

Sen. Guy Palumbo
SB 5674, by Sens. Guy Palumbo (D – Maltby) and Joe Fain (R – Auburn), would allow the legislative authority of cities, towns, and counties to, by ordinance, delegate final plat (subdivision) approval to an established planning commission, planning agency, or other authorized administrative personnel in accordance with state law and local charter.

Planning commissions review all plats for their conformance with the relevant comprehensive plan, and then send their recommendations to the legislative authority for preliminary plat approval. The plats then go back to the planning commission to confirm the final plat meets its recommendations. Even noncontroversial plats can then get gummed up by having to wait for a spot on the legislative authority’s agenda, which tends to add a few months in the middle of budget season. If there are no changes, this requirement for another vote by the legislative authority adds unnecessary cost and delay to housing construction.

SB 5674 passed out of the Senate 44-0-0-5 on March 3, and is now waiting for a hearing in the House Local Government Committee. A substitute version of its companion bill, HB 1862, passed out of the House Local Government Committee on February 15, but failed to get out of the House Rules Committee.

Community Transit Proposes Next Round of New Service

Community Transit, heading into this weekend with a minor service change to add late night and midday service, is proposing the addition of 21,000 bus hours of service (a 6 percent increase) in September 2017 and March 2018. The service proposal includes new service from Lynnwood to the Boeing Everett plant, as well as extensions and modifications to existing routes to improve connections at transit centers. Both service changes are funded by the 0.3 percent sales tax increase passed by voters in November 2015, which will also fund the next Swift line (between Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mill Creek).

Continue reading “Community Transit Proposes Next Round of New Service”

News Roundup: Finally

UW Station at night

This is an open thread.

Seattle-Vancouver High Speed Rail Part 2: Everett to Bellingham

San Juan Islands from Chuckanut Drive south of Bellingham (Photo by the author)

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the Seattle-Everett segment of a potential high speed rail (HSR) service between Seattle and Vancouver B.C. We looked at the paucity of available right-of-way, the likelihood of repurposing the I-5 express lanes, and the topographical challenges involved in descending from 500′ in South Everett to a sea-level Everett Station. In Part 3 we’ll look at the approach into Vancouver, and in Part 4 we’ll look at inland routes and ideas for suburban terminals. But for today’s Part 2 let’s look at the middle third of the trip, from Everett to Bellingham.

For HSR trips between major cities, the highest speeds are usually reached in the intermediate rural areas, with slower approach speeds to the anchor cities being relatively common. So we would reasonably expect to fly through the farmlands of Snohomish and Skagit Counties. How would we do it? Continue reading “Seattle-Vancouver High Speed Rail Part 2: Everett to Bellingham”

Pierce Transit Debuts Improved Frequency and Routes on March 12

PT 223 in the Dome District
Route 500 is among several Pierce Transit routes slated for frequency improvements on March 12.

After approving the restoration of 59,000 annual service hours in April of last year, Pierce Transit took a long and hard look at its existing route network, with some help from the public. The result is a service change scheduled for Sunday, March 12, which will affect 31 routes and add 35,000 service hours that were cut during the recession, building upon a service change from September. Some routes will be deleted and replaced with re-aligned routes, while others will see frequency bumps and later weeknight service. To make sense of the overhaul, Pierce Transit has released an interactive map of major changes that can be sorted route-by-route or by the type of service improvement; individual routes also have dashcam videos (example: Route 53), showing the drivers’ view of modified routes.

With Pierce Transit lagging behind peer agencies to the north, and a real need for better transit service to serve Pierce County’s growing population, the change will be yet another leap forward in our regional transit system. Pierce Transit is also jumping on new transit technologies, mostly funded by FTA loans, like rideshare partnerships, on-board Wi-Fi, electric buses, and better security. An additional 10,000 service hours could be added in the September 2017 service change, to complete Pierce Transit’s goal of 59,000 restored service hours in 2016 and 2017.

The full list of changes is below, after the jump.

Continue reading “Pierce Transit Debuts Improved Frequency and Routes on March 12”

Seattle Times Editorial Board Flunks Geometry

The Seattle Times wants your neighborhood arterial to look like this. Photo by Bruce Englehardt.

In recent years, the Seattle Times has published many editorials and columns skeptical of transit, or any transportation mode except private cars.  STB hasn’t usually responded, because events have shown amply that every day the Times gets more out of step with citizens’ increasing desire for alternatives to sitting in traffic.  And the Times gets credit for consistently excellent news coverage of transportation topics, led by ace reporter Mike Lindblom.

But the Times’s latest ($) finally warrants a response, because it distills so many myths and bad ideas about transportation into a few words.  The idea is not to get into a fight with our local paper, but to explain why transit investment is the only way to free people from congestion.  The Times’s core request — to provide so much capacity for car traffic that a complete closure of I-5 would have little effect on car travel times — is geometrically impossible.  Worse, any attempt to make it happen would cause profoundly destructive consequences for the city and its residents.  And the reasons (below the jump) show exactly why support for transit, not more car capacity, is the best way forward from our congestion woes.

Continue reading “Seattle Times Editorial Board Flunks Geometry”

Our Subway Plan, Rejected 105 Years Ago

What could have been: A subway from Magnolia Bluff to Madison Park (with a few transfers), among other neighborhoods.

On March 5, 1912, some 40,000 Seattleites filed into voting booths across the city to decide whether its future would be directed by a 273-page comprehensive plan designed by civil engineer Virgil G. Bogue, a practitioner of nationwide “City Beautiful” movement.

The plan was bold and ambitious, fitting for a newly-christened city that was in the middle of a massive period of growth following the Great Fire of 1889 and the Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exhibition of 1909, capitalizing on recent public works projects by city engineer R. H. Thomson (for whom the R. H. Thomson Expressway was to be named). Thomson’s ongoing regrade of Denny Hill would provide 38 acres of flat land for a grand, European-style civic center in modern-day Belltown. The civic center would feature a central train station (replacing the then-new King Street Station) and a city hall designed in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, resembling Paris more than New York (with a strict height limit on buildings, advocated for by Bogue).

Continue reading “Our Subway Plan, Rejected 105 Years Ago”

Clallam Transit to Introduce Bainbridge-Port Angeles Service

Clallam Transit Route 14 from Port Angeles to Forks Eric C. (Flickr)

On Labor Day Weekend 2010, my partner Sarah and I traveled to Nanaimo, B.C. the cheap and lengthy way: via the Bainbridge Ferry, Kitsap Transit #90 to Poulsbo, Jefferson Transit #7 to Four Corners, Jefferson Transit #8 to Sequim, Clallam Transit #30 to Port Angeles, the Black Ball Ferry, and the former VIA Rail Malahat. We returned to Seattle via the BC Ferries and Amtrak. The experience was luckily seamless, but it really was only for the insane among us. Ever since that trip, we’ve done the sane thing and driven our car anytime we’ve gone to the Olympic Peninsula.

But there may soon be a much easier car-free way to reach it. In an email late last week, Clallam Transit Operations Manager Steve Hopkins revealed that the agency intends to start twice-daily bus service from the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to the Port Angeles Gateway Transit Center this summer.

Clallam Transit Route 123 – branded as the Strait Shot in honor of the Strait of Juan de Fuca – will turn the 5-seat ride of old into a simple 2-seat ride, a ferry and a timed bus connection. The bus will make very limited stops, including Poulsbo and Sequim (see map).

The service will run twice daily on weekdays and Saturday, with a morning and evening service in each direction, and one evening trip in each direction on Sundays. There will be timed connections from the Bainbridge Ferry to the bus, and also an onward timed connection to Forks, turning the former 6-seat ride to Lake Crescent and Forks into a 3-seat ride with timed connections.

There is already a one-seat ride between Seattle and Port Angeles, the WSDOT-subsidized Dungeness Line from SeaTac Airport to Port Angeles via Downtown Seattle, Edmonds, and Kingston. Including the respective ferry trips, The Strait Shot will be slightly faster than the Dungeness Line from Downtown Seattle, 2 hours and 50 minutes versus 3 hours.

The proposed $10 one-way fare may seem steep, but as an out-of-boundary service, Clallam Transit intends to run it at 100% fare box recovery. As a 75-mile trip in just 2 hours, the service will be very competitive with what is usually a 1 hour and 40 minute drive. The Strait Shot will also be considerably cheaper than the Dungeness Line, even though the latter includes the ferry fare within its fare.

Clallam Transit is holding a public hearing on the proposal on March 20 in Forks, and online comments may be submitted to info@clallamtransit.com by March 15. If this comes to pass, Sequim, Port Angeles, Lake Crescent, Forks, La Push, Neah Bay, and more will be far more accessible than ever before. Quick car-free weekenders will be a convenient reality.

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2016 Ridership Wrapup + Jan 2017

Sound Transit has released their fourth quarter ridership data which wraps up 2016 as well as the January 2017 numbers.

Average daily ridership for Link in January was:

  • Weekday: 66,060 (+89.0%)
  • Saturday: 49,853 (+134.7%)
  • Sunday: 31,741 (+63.0%)

Other weekday modal ridership stats:

  • Sounder: 17,057  (+2.5%)
  • Tacoma Link: 3,072 (-7.2%)
  • ST Express: 63,144 (+0.7%)
  • Sound Transit Systemwide, +27.0% Weekday, +34.7% Total Boardings

The complete January Ridership Summary is here. The Q4 numbers are here.

Also released were station ridership stats for Q4:

  • University of Washington: 9,300 daily boardings
  • Capitol Hill: 6,800
  • Westlake: 10,200 – up 37.8% over Q4 2015
  • University Street: 5,100 – up 88.9%
  • Pioneer Square: 3,900 – up 85.7%
  • International District Chinatown: 5,300 – up 65.6%
  • Stadium: 1,100 – up 37.5%
  • SODO: 2,000 – up 53.8%
  • Beacon Hill: 2,700 – up 35%
  • Mount Baker: 2,300 – up 15%
  • Columbia City: 2,400 – up 33.3%
  • Othello: 2,400 – up 26.3%
  • Rainier Beach: 1,900 – up 26.7%
  • Tukwila/International Blvd: 2,700 – No change
  • SeaTac/Airport: 5,200 – down 10.3%
  • Angle Lake: 2,800

My charts below the fold.
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