Metro and PT bus stop flags in Federal Way

This is an open thread.

45 Replies to “News Roundup: Farewell”

  1. That photo is across the street from the future Federal Way Link light rail station. I used to wait for the 193 and 177 at that stop to avoid transit center crowds (and also to get a $1 coffee at Mickey D’s before heading to Seattle).

  2. I have a great “founding member” Pronto t-shirt, unfortunately I wore it once or twice, not pristine. Maybe it will be a collector’s item someday?

    1. I still have my monorail first-day ticket refrigerator magnet.

      Considering all the things we considered junk and useless in the 1970s and 80s that are now collector’s items, it could have a small niche.

      1. Aw, c’mon, Mike. Can’t we even keep it as a horizontal elevator between Westlake Station and Seattle Center? Pretty sure its reliability record is better than a lot of our other elevators.

        Mark

  3. I’m going to call my representatives and have them put a rider on Orcutt’s bill that says that all counties that spend more WSDOT money than they generate, shall pay for the cost difference. Let’s see how fast Orcutt withdraws his DOA bill.

    Seems fair.

    1. There’s a difference between spending more money than your county produces and the sheer waste of money, much of it due to poor decisions and planning. The tunnel was a waste from the start and a complete budget-overrun project from the start. The tunnel never should have been approved out of the proposal stage.

      I have the complaint also of mega projects going way over budget. ST3 is going to be one of those projects also that costs way too much for the end result. I’m 100% behind ST3 except for the budgeting, which is way over funded. Where is the money going? Definitely could use some efficiency, but that’s how government projects work. It’s easy to be under budget and look good when the original budget was sky high!

      1. The money is going toward guaranteeing there won’t be any unanticipated expenses. The original ST1 budget was the opposite, it was too optimistic and didn’t have a buffer for difficult soils or unknown problems, and ST1 almost fell apart because of it. Joni Earl’s reforms switched to conservative budgeting, so that the budget would cover any conceivable problem or delay. The ordeal taught ST that cost overruns or late delivery are worse than all-inclusive budgets and long timelines.

      2. GK, Here’s a review of a book called “The Chunnel”, by Drew Fetherston, required reading for every STB reader and commentor discussing civil engineering “budgets.”

        http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8129-2198-4

        The Waterfront Tunnel won’t carry Car #1 for several years. ST-3 has a 30 year time frame. And its predecessor has years to go before completion. So the most nit-picking auditor would probably hold off final negative report for another twenty years.

        But since you support ST-3…tell us how you know it’s over-funded. Do that, and I’ll definitely consider your salary a major efficiency item.

        Mark

      3. @GK: Seattle didn’t want the tunnel, it was foisted upon us by the state. So why should we have to pay for cost overruns?

        And Mike hit Sound Transit on the nose. They might even be a little TOO conservative, but their budgets, schedules and even ridership projections have been on par in ST2. It really makes the ST haters dig deep to find cannon fodder.

    2. Rapid, I’m telling my State Representative that since Seattle and the State of Washington now in fact have an upgraded highway under a major city, argument should shift from who gets the blame for overruns to a healthy brawl over how we divide a coming half-century or more of benefits.

      And sue Whoever’d be responsible if the cutter had woke up the fault-line under Dearborn, and Who already inflicts unacceptable traffic blocking avalanches around Snoqualmie Pass. But Who made up for those slides of His by seeing to it Bertha missed that World War I freighter by a good three feet.

      This is mostly the kind of problem that historically politics have actually been for. Get a conference room someplace really old in the Capitol. Dress half a dozen legislators in late 1800’s suits and watch-chains, and have them relax around a table in leather-seated chairs. They don’t have to light the cigars, just flourish them.

      After five minutes, Representative Orcutt emerges from the meeting with tight collar buttoned, flower in his lapel, top hat at a jaunty angle, and his vest pocket stuffed with papers and wherewithal to put his whole constituency to work on Sound Transit’s most expensive project.

      With a whiskey-confirmed agreement that none of his employees will actually touch anything mechanical, starting with shovels. Believe me, this’ll not only be the cheapest way out of this news cycle, but set a historically validated example, for distinguishing real politicians from clients of attorneys.

      Who’ll all be given complimentary train tickets (they didn’t have airplanes yet!) back to Philadelphia. Where the song says they all come from.

      Mark

  4. So that’s what Gregoire has been doing. ‘Christine Gregoire, former Washington governor and Challenge Seattle CEO. “We’re not going to sit here and promote that everyone have a driverless vehicle,” she says. “To the contrary — we’d like more ridesharing.” Gregoire says Challenge Seattle has been talking with Uber and Lyft to start developing ridesharing programs before personal AVs flood the streets. She imagines that one day, driverless buses could be a part of the local transportation equation.’ (Robot Cars article)

  5. Interesting article about small apartments: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-30/america-needs-small-apartment-buildings-nobody-builds-them

    Some key items:

    Smaller apartments tend to have cheaper rents. Probably because the landlord can’t afford to have vacancies. If you rent out 100 units and a couple of them are empty, it is no big deal. But if you rent out 8, then it really cuts into your income.

    Second, zoning is the key reason for the shortage in small apartments. Building apartments in general is difficult, and it doesn’t make sense to go through the bother to just build a small one. If the zoning laws were changed, we would see more small apartments, and more affordable rents.

    1. I was under the impression that small buildings are more expensive to build because you still need elevator shafts, emergency stairwells, etc… all the expensive amenities of a larger building but less units to make up for the cost.

      I sincerely wish there were more incentive to build smaller buildings. Personally I think those block-long bread loafs are the McMansions of the urban environment and the retail they attract is even worse.

      1. There are different height cutoffs for construction price. Generally the big difference is at 6~7 stories because above that you can’t build with wood frame, and a steel/concrete frame is much more expensive than a wood frame.

        Also keep in mind most 2~3 story apartments or townhomes don’t have elevators, etc.

      2. Yeah, there are definitely economies of scale that are a factor. But the paper mentioned two that can be dealt with. One is financing and the other regulatory. By the way, the paper itself (reference in the article) is fairly small, and the “Key Policy Takeaways” section has only three items, and each is just one paragraph long. I recommend reading it.

        Keep in mind that apartment construction often can occur in piecemeal fashion. Someone sells a small house on a big lot that would be perfect for an apartment, but the neighbors on either side have no interest in selling. Or if they do, those neighbors ask a much higher price (for less land). Thus it doesn’t always make sense economically to “go big”, especially if the recommendations the paper mentioned were taken.

        My neighborhood — a SFH part of Pinehurst — would be perfect for this type of development, if it was allowed. There are lots of old houses on huge lots, that get subdivided into big houses on smaller lots. But the new lots sizes are still very large (9600 feet if I’m not mistaken) which means you only add a couple of new houses. You could easily add apartment buildings under 50 units there (what they consider to be small). Just converting a house to an apartment would be considered small, and according to the paper, one of the most affordable options (which makes sense, given how cheap the construction is).

      3. As I wrote in the growth thread, different developers have different scales of cost-effectiveness. Large developers with Wall Street financing are interested only in large towers and breadboxes in choice locations, which generate the returns their shareholders demand. When those locations are used up, those developers are gone. Small local developers, ma and pa homeowners, and nonprofits can build only small buildings: a converted house, a duplex, a 4-8 unit apartment building like the one I lived in at 65th & 15th NW on just one or two house lots. These are the least expensive to build and operate because they’re small and wood-framed, so they can charge a lower rent and still generate enough profit for a family owner. Whether having 1/4 of the units vacant is a devastating blow depends on the owner’s situation.

        The problem is that it’s illegal to build these buildings in single-family zones, which are the majority of Seattle’s residential land. Ma and pa could theoretically buy a lot in the remaining multifamily areas, but that’s where large developers are competing for the same lot, and they’re hopelessly outbid in that.

        If you upzone the entire city, or at least the parts between urban villages, then there would be so much unused capacity that the large developers could fill only a small fraction of it. That would leave an opening for small developers to build small things around them, and meet the needs of lower middle-class and working-class tenants, as well as those who don’t want to live in a breadbox or tower with concrete all around.

    1. Yeah, Danny Westneat once again writing amusing bullshit. And bullshit it is. For example:

      There was no good answer, said Bob Messina, a 37-year Seattle resident

      who doesn’t know shit. Sorry for the profanity, but I just get tired of this feel good, “oh well, it all worked out” nonsense. That Pollyanna, “let’s build another stadium, just for soccer now, because we have to” attitude is insane. Sorry, Bob, there were alternatives. And if you were paying attention, you would have noticed them. Both of them would have been much better than what we bought. Better for cars, better for freight, better for transit.

      Oh, and here is what Danny himself says (which again is a load of BS):

      Sounds great on paper, but they would have had to drill a tunnel for that project, too. And it wouldn’t have solved the riddle in the middle. We’ve still got freight and heavy industry. We still would have had to do a multibillion-dollar project to replace the crumbling six-lane viaduct highway with … something.

      Yes, Danny, except if you haven’t noticed, this does nothing for freight, because there are no ramps on Western or downtown. Freight will move along the waterfront, as if there was no freaking tunnel.

      And yes, we would have to build a tunnel if we built the WSTT. Except that such a tunnel would hold WAY MORE PEOPLE! So many people that some have argued that we should fill it with trains from the get go. That is the something you replace this with. Or you replace this with what the focus group proposed in the first place: either a new viaduct or a combination of transit and I-5 improvements.

      Oh, and the fact that buses can ride in it is meaningless. So what? They will be stuck in the same damn traffic! It won’t actually connect South Lake Union to the rest of downtown, despite the fact that it is built literally right under it! At best you have a handful of runs (like the 355) that skip over the main part of downtown and act as an express. You get a bus that runs six times a day serving a handful of people, while stretching our already too stretched bus system even further. Yippee!

      Honestly, it is just like HALA. A group of experts sit down, study and discuss a subject for months, come up with a solid set of proposals and then just like that, the whole thing is rejected, and the mayor decides to go a different direction. That is bad enough, but the profound under-reporting and resulting ignorance that leads some people to believe “we had no choice” is what really bothers me. It suggests that we will continue to make those same mistakes, and when we struggle to solve the problems that really shouldn’t be that hard to solve, we blame it all on our “unique situation”. Just like Pronto, we will blame the weather, or the hills, or lack of bike baskets, instead of actually listening to the experts in the field, who would have told us, once again, we are doing it wrong.

      1. So Ross, is the tunnel going to be an embarrassing failure that nobody uses because “nobody makes that kind of trip!” OR is it going to be stuffed to the gills with cars making it impossible for a bus to move? You’ve argued both sides at one point or another. Have you made up your mind yet?

      2. At times it will be filled to capacity downtown just like every other road downtown. Except that the capacity of that road (two lanes) is so small, and the cost (in the billions) is such that it will be by far the least cost efficient road project ever built by the city.

        Oh, and the lack of ramps will mean that traffic will be pushed around to other streets. For example, there will be people that cut through, then double back, thus saving themselves a few minutes, but doing nothing to alleviate traffic. Other streets, like 39th in Fremont, will see increased traffic as well. It really isn’t that hard to figure out what is going to happen. Just take the existing viaduct, reduce the capacity 50%, eliminate the lanes and then figure out where people will go. Now consider that it be over ten times the cost to build this one small roadway than it did to fund the entire RapidRide+ set of projects, and tell me if you think it was a good value.

        Oh, and I never said “nobody makes that kind of trip!”. I simply said that relatively few would make a particular bus trip if it was added. There is no contradiction there. For example, I used to drive I-5 every morning, just like tens of thousands of people. Yet a bus route from my house (in Pinehurst) to my work (in Fremont) would not be that popular a bus, and thus not justified. There will be plenty of people who go from all over the south end to all over the north end on that viaduct, just not nearly enough to justify the high cost of the tunnel. Nor will there be any particular combination that would justify additional bus service (which is why Metro doesn’t add the bus service now, despite the fact that the road exists now).

  6. Personally, most important piece of Bertha history is how to avoid getting a giant machine destroyed by a small piece of steel that its crew knew was in its way. Wouldn’t waste a dime on capital “i” investigations.

    Just cut the pipe into thousands of little cap-badges for everybody in the cab of a TBM on every Seattle transportation project.. And a mandatory tie pin for every company exec.

    But every public eye should now be on the transit system that should’ve been programmed into the Waterfront project with its first key-board click. Or touch-screen tap.

    Considering how much it’s cost us to give motor traffic its own transit-free run down the Waterfront, private cars shouldn’t need any room at all on the surface. As LINK expands, parked at stations along the line. Or in their owners’ garages. From here on, The Deep Bore Tunnel Project has no moral authority to put one more wheel of jammed motor traffic in the way of a single transit vehicle between Pioneer Square and Myrtle Edwards Park.

    But I don’t think the Washington State Department of Transportation, or the City of Seattle, or the transportation world, should close its books on the project. As we should have done with the Viaduct, we should already be working on what to do with that tunnel over same space of lifetime. It not only should but can easily repay its all costs with interest.

    Mark Dublin

  7. I’m getting so tired of seeing breathless quotes in the local news from Rep O’Ban (R), and Rep “three time loser” Rossi (R). Their fight against Sound Transit is anything but news, and every time they’re quoted again saying the same thing, it just feeds the negative news cycle.

    A point I find especially galling about Rossi’s constant pitchfork waving quotes is that his position is counter to that of the representative who’s seat he filled, former Rep Andy Hill. Rep Hill voted to pass the ST3 authorizing legislation.

    We can’t know what position Hill would take now, but on the surface it strikes me as just a touch faithless.

  8. I’ve seen people make statements like “If we had pushed for the 130th St Station earlier, it could have gone into ST2” or “We should have pushed ST into planning for a Ballard Spur earlier so that U-District Station could have been designed and built to accommodate interlining with or transferring between a future U-District-Ballard line”.

    What details and expansions (if any) should we be encouraging ST to examine and plan for early on during the process of designing ST3?

    1. Market Street/15th: needs to be able to continue North and facilitate transfers to an underground North Seattle crosstown line, probably including a non- revenue connection to obviate having to have a maintenance facility on the crosstown line. First is pretty much guaranteed, second should happen given that Ballard-UW-Kirkland is a pretty likely ST4 project.

      Westlake/Denny: as another commenter noted, would be best built as a stacked station. That way, would be easy to make it an interline station serving a central Seattle crosstown line as well as the downtown line. This seems like the toughest lift as it isn’t in the current LRP and ST seems to hate junctions.

      Alaska Junction: needs to be able to continue south to Burien/Renton. Will happen, that’s South King’s most likely ST4 project and i don’t know how you’d screw up a linear extension like that.

      1. Market/15th – agree. I

        Westlake/Denny – what is this “central Seattle crosstown line” you speak of?

        Alaska Junction – I actually think West Seattle to Burien is a terrible line. The topography is difficult and there simply isn’t much density that merits rail between the Junction and White Center. I’d much rather put the money into good bus service within WS. Rail here only make sense if you think Morgan Junction is going to turn into the next Ballard

        Looking at South King, building the Burien-Renton segment (interlining at TIBS) serves a far denser part of the county and has much better TOD potential. Sure, I think in the long range plan you can eventually connect West Seattle to Burien and should design the junction station accordingly, but I think it’s a low enough priority that it shouldn’t be on any ST4 package.

      2. AJ,

        You can’t interline at TIBS. Immediately east (northbound) from the station the supports are twenty five to forty meters in the air. Building any kind of flying junction in that environment would be stupendously expensive.

        The west side is more practical because the elevation is just high enough to clear large vehicles on SR99 and SR518.

      3. Not to mention that Rainier Valley has a headway limit because of the surface alignment, and it’s already at that limit.

      4. Going via the west side won’t be a big hardship. Renton-Westlake travel time is 37-47 minutes based on ST’s corridor studies June 2014, which matches the 101 daytime. Going through West Seattle will be faster than going through RV and SODO, so that will make up for the longer distance.

      5. @Richard – ST’s alignment studies specifically considered interlining at TIBS, so I believe it’s technically feasible. And I don’t see why an elevated junction would be particularly expensive, as I don’t think there needs to be a flying junction – the 6 minute headways in RV actually make it easier to interline.

        Would it be hard? Certainly, but the benefits of interlining, in terms of both transferring and interesting Link routes (Tacoma to Renton?) seems to make it certainly worth it to me, regardless if it’s a stub line or part of a longer WS to Renton line.

        (With the junction in ID with East Link involve a flying junction? I don’t believe so, and if not there, it’s definitely not needed at TIBS. ?

        @Mike – RV headways won’t be relevant to any Burien-Renton line, interlined or not. And yes, end-to-end travel might be better going via West Seattle, but my critique was that corridor was a poor corridor for rail given the lack of ridership and destinations in between the Junction and Burien. If the goal was to minimize end-to-end travel for people coming from south and east of Tukwilla, the Dwamish bypass would be much faster, cheaper, and serve more deserving neighborhoods.

        https://www.seattletransitblog.com/2014/05/10/sound-transit-presents-some-options-for-west-seattle-south-king/
        https://www.seattletransitblog.com/2014/06/02/in-defense-of-burienrenton/

      6. Yeah, what Ron said about 15th and Market.

        It isn’t nearly as important as the possibility of a spur junction at Brooklyn and 45th, but unfortunately, that ship has sailed. The value of a spur junction is that you could have very efficiently served pretty much everything north of the ship canal with a split line. It is rare that you have a case where a split makes sense, but this was a perfect example. Demand for the shared section is roughly double each split piece. In other words, six minutes from Lynnwood to the UW, six minutes from Ballard to the UW, and three minutes from the UW to downtown.

        Other than that, we should be thinking about a future Metro 8, since that remains the biggest swath of density not covered by Link. A Metro 8 subway will be a challenge, no matter what route it takes (if it is ever built). It would make sense to start at Mount Baker, cross at Judkins Park, then intersect Capitol Hill station. But from there, things get challenging. It makes sense to intersect the ST3 “South Lake Union” station (whether a new station is added between there and CHS). You could end there, or keep going and serve Belltown and Westlake. Again, you could end there, but it would be better to just keep going, and continue as one of the other lines. That means that eventually we would need a split at Westlake from the new ST3 line to Ballard. That works out reasonably well, as you would have three pairs merging downtown. So, for example, Ballard to SeaTac every six minutes, West Seattle to Belltown/SLU/Metro 8 every six minutes, and Bellevue to Lynnwood every three minutes. Works for me.

        As far as Ballard to UW is concerned, it is ridiculous that it is tied to a line to Kirkland. There is no place in Kirkland with anywhere near the density to justify a rail line, and of course, the cost per station would be extremely expensive, since there would be no stops on 520 (fish don’t ride transit). The cost per rider east of the UW would be astronomical, and the speed benefits non-existent. What makes way more sense is to simply build the Ballard to UW line, along with a 520 busway right into the station at Husky Stadium. Even an underground busway from Montlake (on 520) to the station (which would be a big overkill) would be a much better value than building a rail line, and would (of course) save a lot more people a lot more time than a rail line. Hopefully it won’t come to that, and the connection will at least be reasonable once 520 is finished.

      7. “ST’s alignment studies specifically considered interlining at TIBS, so I believe it’s technically feasible.”

        The option is an east-west line that joins the existing track for one station and then splits off again. I didn’t know that was called interlining because I’ve always heard interlining as referring to a bus that does one route and seamlessly continues as another route, which would be more akin to a Renton-TIB-downtown line.

    2. The ST3 is actually quite specific about future corridor planning. I’d recommend going back to the interactive map and clicking on all the dotted yellow lines to read more details. These projects, combined with the long range plan, basically lay the framework for a future package.
      http://soundtransit3.org/map#map

      EIS:
      1) Bothell to Bellevue via Kirkland. HTC study so will look at both extending the Kirkland light rail and BRT options.

      Future Investment study:
      1) Everett to north Everett
      2) Northern Lake Washington … likely Ballard-Kirkland, but not necessarily. Includes using SR520, SR522, and anywhere in between.
      3) West Seattle-Burien-Tukwilla-Renton
      4) Tacoma Dome to Tacoma Mall
      5) Commuter rail to Orting

      Looking at this list, I’d reckon that ST considers the Redmond downtown station a permanent terminus, but all other line will be built to be extended. Ballard-UW is very much in play, but depends on the results of the study.

    3. Phillip, in 2010, did anybody imagine that three years of real estate speculation would obliterate three decades of land use planning, and turn all three directions of our freeways into 60 mile long impound lots?
      So watch-words for this project are “Flexibly Fast.”

      Getting passengers aboard and moving as fast as we can by whatever mode we can. If jet-boats along the shore Everett to Olympia won’t work or cost too much…won’t say”freeway bus lanes” to save everybody trouble of saying why we can’t.

      Joint-use Amtrak-Sounder busway from Lakewood south? Don’t mind making necessary officials afraid to discuss it. But Sounder to Lacey and ST Express to Olympia, low-capital example of ST-3 Just Do It. Last three years’ refugee vote could swing Thurston County.

      But best serious example of right approach is to give Rapid Ride its own lane-reserved (center, not BAT) signal pre-empted busway up SR99 to LINK’s current southern terminal. Where ever it is next. I-5 Diamond lanes should work between Federal Way and Tacoma Dome. And wherever else we can do similar.

      Summing up, however better the system could have coordinated DSTT service, we held a regional transit system with a 30 year promise of rail. Through more than one business cycle and a major Crash. Not advocating DSTT 2 or any unreasonable facsimile. Just the line of thinking behind the project.

      Mark

  9. UW atmospheric science professor and local blogger Cliff Mass recently called out road diets as a contributor to “Seattle’s Traffic Mess.” http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2017/04/fixing-seattles-traffic-mess.html

    Specifically, he cites NE 125th St as an example of a road diet gone wrong. Personally, I find his diatribe misguided, but I don’t use the streets he’s writing about.

    Anyone up that way have thoughts/observation on NE 125th and its road diet?

    1. I live up in that area, and use the 41. The only time I have ever noticed that traffic backs up on 125th is on 15th NE, where the Safeway is. Backs up to Roosevelt Way, slowing the 41. But I’ve only noticed it during evening commute times and only east toward Lake City. West out of Lake City is fine. The 125th/LCW intersection has ALWAYS been congested, road diet or not.

      I do notice a car or two on 125th, frustrated, pulling out of the lane, passing on the parking lane, foot full on the gas because someone is ahead of him. Perhaps that was Cilff himself. Or maybe Cliff shops at the Pinehurst Safeway.

      I think traffic flows far better because there is no jockeying between lanes,

  10. WIN A FREE APARTMENT FOR ONE YEAR IN SEATTLE, WA

    Framework: To conduct an essay contest with the prize as free use of a one bedroom apartment for one year. Rents have increased quickly in Seattle and it has created a strain on many budgets. We can’t ease everyone’s housing budget, but hopefully someone’s situation could be drastically improved.

    Question:
    How would a free apartment for one year allow you to give back to the community?

    This is a real deal. I heard on the radio they are extending the deadline until April 8th because they have only received 25 essays so far. So, if you could spend one years rent to improve transit in King County, what would it be?

    1. Easy. In return for a years’ rent to the landlord who motivated me to move to Olympia, I’d immediately give the community the unlivable open floor plan with which replaced my home.

      Which, since the 44 finally has buses that aren’t from Breda, would at least give transit a passenger grateful enough to live with a kitchen that doesn’t have walls. Even if they’re not allowed to paint them any color besides off-white.

      And if terms of this contribution will allow me to pick the recipient, I’ll find somebody who wants to displace a boutique with a machine shop. Something that, above all else, will start recreating the Ballard that Seattle desperately needs.

  11. With respect to the article on curb ramps, it’s important to appreciate that curb ramps are not just about the disabled (even though the law may act that way). Anybody walking the streets with any kind of wheeled apparatus – be it a stroller or a suitcase – benefits. Bikes use curb ramps also – especially on streets where riding with the cars is too dangerous.

    And, those large bumps in the sidewalk that are un-navagable by wheelchairs pose a tripping hazard for the rest of us – especially at night, when they’re more difficult to spot. So, even as someone who is not disabled and does not use a wheelchair, I welcome the settlement.

    1. I agree. If you push around a kid with a stroller, they are essential. Of course, simply adding sidewalks for much of the city would be nice, too.

  12. “Because [self-driving cars] would make it easier for people to travel in their own vehicles, they could put more cars on the streets and actually make traffic worse.”

    I’ve been saying this for years. Congestion pricing could handily solve this problem.

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