Bike lanes are clearly the problem. (5th Avenue, SounderBruce, Flickr)

A recent blog post by well-respected local meteorologist Cliff Mass, “Fixing Seattle’s Traffic Mess,” offered an anti-urbanist grab bag of bad ideas. Bemoaning the current state of traffic, Mass distills Seattle’s traffic woes to 9 problems:

  • Road diets that “promote congestion and substantially reduce maximum throughput”
  • Poor road conditions resulting from “Seattle Council members paying [less] attention to the traffic-producing bad roads than kayaking out to oil platforms destined for Alaska”
  • Excessive draw bridge openings
  • Sounder is too unreliable, and the trains are “less than half full”
  • Distracted driving 
  • Link serves the Rainier Valley: “It takes forever to travel that segment and sometimes the trains get into accidents with cars.”
  • Undersupplied parking at Link stations: “Folks need a place to park if they are going to use the train”
  • Bike lanes: “The only safe way to commute is to be totally separate from cars, not the side lanes of the “road diet” streets”
  • Continuing lack of bus service

Many local outlets piled on the criticism, including The Strangerbut I see no reason to single out Mr. Mass. His assertions are widely held, intuitive, and derived from common sense. They are also completely unsupported by data.

To wit, road diets haven’t greatly increased travel time or reduced throughput, drawbridges must open by Coast Guard mandate, Sounder is 95% reliable and carries 500 passengers per trip, Sounder mudslides have gone down markedly due to intensive work by WSDOT, a Duwamish Bypass for Link would cost $1B and only save 3-4 minutes, transit parking is a niche product that cannot scale, and our local and regional bus service levels are at historic highs.

Just as Mass’ diagnostic skills are lacking in his post, so too are his 3 prescriptions: passenger ferries, flexible app-based carpooling, and a Big Data approach to signal timing, etc. Perfectly reasonable sentiments, but none of them remotely sustainable. To the extent that app-based carpooling diluted transit ridership, it would make things worse. While Big Data can optimize flow at the margins, the fundamental use-of-space problem is immutable. And when it comes to passenger ferries on Lake Washington, King County’s official report showed that they would suffer from low ridership and would incur costs three times higher than Sounder.

Collisions Down, Traffic and Travel Times Flat. Road Diets Work.
From the Q4 2016 Ridership Report

But if you’re stuck behind the wheel, it’s reasonable that you’d think “two lanes would be better than one”. Link’s Rainier Valley deviation feels slow, even when it only costs a couple minutes for people like Mr. Mass who likely view it as an airport shuttle. If you would love to ditch your car but the park and ride is full,  you’ll wish there were more spots. In each of these cases, people’s lived experience contradicts what the data clearly says. Accordingly, we should cut such folks some slack, and do a better job of showing our work.

If you drive everywhere, it may well look like madness, and Seattle’s urbanist policies are a visible and convenient foil. But if bike lanes et al were to blame for traffic, you wouldn’t expect traffic problems in car-focused places such as Kennydale Hill, the Fife Curve, or Joint Base Lewis McChord. But we know that each of those places are equally choked by traffic. So if you find yourself thinking, without irony, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded,” it’s time to take a step back and learn to distrust your intuitions. It’s hard to get things right, especially outside one’s area of expertise. Mistakes are acceptable, but we shouldn’t assert without evidence.

144 Replies to “When Common Sense is Wrong, and Intuitions Fail”

  1. Well said. The irony is that Mass is often criticized by some folks (Mudede at The Stranger especially) because he refuses to acknowledge that a particular event (e. g. very hot summer) was caused by global warming. That is because he rightly points out that there is no evidence to support that case.

    Now the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. He is the one making claims, each one of which lacks evidence. Thanks Zach, for doing the work and pointing out that the evidence actually suggests the opposite.

  2. Whoa! Spoiler Alert! Some extremely dishonest criminal worse than Hillary Clinton and the whole US media just leaked the lid off the biggest coup in the history of Seattle entertainment!

    First sketch of the surprise revival of Almost Live will feature Cliff Mass re-enacting the brilliant depiction of a Seattle weather forecaster finally driven berserk by always being laughed at for getting the weather wrong, and ripping open a flip-chart to a whirlwind of fire also spewing snow-flakes.

    And yelling: “And tomorrow there’s going to be A Solar Tornado!” After which Cliff will solemnly deliver his analysis of the causes of traffic congestion. Whatever rat spoiled this for us, I hope they make LINK back into a left turn lane just after you move into a new condo in Columbia City.

    Mark Dublin

    1. First sketch of Cliff Maas on Almost Live will have him looking for STB’s magic traffic button.

  3. For a guy whose profession includes constant attacks from people making unsubstantiated and emotional claims, despite overwhelming studies and evidence, he sure made a lot of unsubstantiated and emotional claims, despite overwhelming studies and evidence.

    I do stand by his pushing for the RV bypass, but for very different reasons. While it would save less than 5 minutes, it would greatly increase reliability and allowed headways. How many times a year do we wake up to “Car runs into Link in Rainier Valley/Person hit by Link/Disabled vehicles on tracks. Link shut down during rush hour until further notice.”? Even once is too much. RV section should turn into more of a downtown to Sea-Tac shuttle rather than through-routing region trunklines, unless it’s grade separated.

    We can’t construct a $54 Billion system expansion that relies on an unreliable, at-grade, section.

    1. I’ve never believed the problems with Link on MLK could be solved with a bypass. You can’t solve a problem by walking away from it.

      1. There is actually a very, very simple way to solve the MLK issues: do not allow any cars to cross the railroad tracks on MLK. Wall off the line and force cars to go to one end or the other to move across.

        People would still be free to walk and bike across MLK, but cars should be banned from crossing the tracks at all times, 24/7/365.

        This would be enormously cheap and extremely effective at reducing car/train interaction issues. On the downside, it would make lots of people very, very sad.

      2. @Jort,

        Your suggestion would cut the entire neighborhood along MLK Way in half. You would also cut major cross streets and would prevent emergency vehicles from going to one side of MLK Way to the other side. But you would allow pedestrians to cross which means that you may not be aware that there have been pedestrians hit by the light rail trains because they didn’t pay attention to the red lights. One person crossing the tracks died after being hit several months ago. And lets be honest there are bicyclists who don’t pay attention to traffic lights or train warning lights.

        I don’t how serious you were with your suggestion but if you were it is a stupid suggestion and idea. .

    2. If you read the original post Zach links back to, he acknowledges there are a number of solid arguments for a Dwuamish bypass, including improved frequency and resiliency for the overall system. That said, most arguments for the bypass include “faster service between downtown and the airport,” and that simply doesn’t stand up to any reasonable analysis.

      1. AJ, from point of view of a passenger with an international flight to catch, “faster” is a half inch behind neck and neck with”absolutely reliable.” We’re one missed flight for somebody important from being forced into doing that bypass if it takes $ST-3 + interest.

        Jack, I don’t think adding an express line straight south to the Airport counts as walking away from MLK operations. Many street and light rail systems feature both reserved right of way express and limited stop local. Including grade crossings at major intersections.

        Jort, I think you’ve pretty much got the answer. I’d undercut at least Othello and Rainier Beach. And make car traffic turn at all other cross streets. Rush hour usually does that de facto. Pedestrians, have to think about. Including fact that fence or barricade can trap one on the tracks. Could be worth both bridges and tunnels, esp. as population increases.


    3. There is an important fact about ST3 that relates to this: the Tacoma-Ballard line demand through Downtown Seattle is predicted to be so high that the RV segment cannot handle all the trains that will be required to carry the Downtown demand.

      The only solution would seem to be to have two lines in the new tunnel through Downtown and SLU. Doing iothing is not an option because of this major capacity problem.

      What is the best way to end the second line?

      1. Turn it back in SODO.
      2. Extend it to the east, and end it at Kirkland or Issaquah (ST3 corridors).
      3. Extend it to West Seattle (ST3 corridor).
      4. Extend it using I-5 aka the bypass option or using 509 to Burien and TIBS (unfounded).

      The bypass would seemingly make more sense if a Renton extension was on the table.

      1. How difficult would it be to upgrade Mt. Baker so that Ballard trains could reverse there? (And would the higher frequencies for connecting buses at Beacon Hill and Mt. Baker be worth it?)

      2. Matthew,

        There’s no tail track at MBS, and adding one at this point would be pretty difficult.

      3. 1 & 3 are possible under ST3; it all depends on how the ID interchange is designed, which won’t be determined until after the full EIS is done for the 2nd tunnel.

        My vote is for #3, because I think East Link demand is going to be high enough to merit sub-6 minute headways at peak … that would allow for 3 minute headways for East Link and both north Seattle lines, and 6 minute headways for RV and West Seattle.

        2) could maybe happen, but ST seems to view the Kirkland-Issaquah line as an East King only line, so might be too late for that.

        4) would require a totally new funding package and is therefore decades away.

        RE: Matt – I think that would be very difficult … turnback at SoDo is probably the best options; Beacon Hill and Mt Baker are both low-ish ridership stations

      4. Turning around trains at high frequencies is hard on operations timing. A new tail track at the very least would be needed. That’s why it would probably happen in SODO where tail tracks already exist.

        Another unfunded option:

        5. Extend the second line east but turn it north as a new branch into a subway before Judkins Park Station that serves the CD then Capitol Hill (a Metro 8 version). After the ID stop, the next train stops could be something like 20th/Jackson, 19th/Cherry, 17th/Madison then end next to CHS platforms.

      5. Al,

        You can’t get out of the reversible roadway to have a junction to a Metro 8 headed north. It’s just not physically possible. You’d have to elevate the East Link trackway and then have a level junction a hundred feet in the air looming over the RV somewhere above Poplar Place. It would be a fustercluck of huge proportions.

        If the Metro 8 ever serves the north end of Rainier it will cross East Link, either above if elevated or below in a tunnel.

      6. Richard, what about under the area just east of the 12th Avenue bridge where the corridor is north of I-90 and there is ample land already owned by the public to allow for a branch to be created?

      7. Send it down through the Industrial District, Georgetown, South Park, NE Tukwila and meet up after TIBS. Maybe explore an opportunity to serve Boeing Field if the Port ever gets serious about a second airport.

      8. AJ says “RE: Matt – I think that would be very difficult … turnback at SoDo is probably the best options; Beacon Hill and Mt Baker are both low-ish ridership stations”

        If you taken the train, Beacon Hill actually has one of the higher ridership numbers in SE Seattle. Just see how many riders get off the train at that station.

        Beacon Hill residents would be opposed to being skipped totally.

      9. AJ,

        Ah, that might indeed work. The express lanes are pretty low there since they dip under the west to north main ramp, there’s a bit of room between the express lanes and the main lanes just east of 12th and plenty between the express lanes and Dearborn. Maybe when the tracks are installed for East Link they could be raised a bit above the existing roadway grade east of the west to north overcrossing and moved a little farther toward Dearborn. Then, later, the east to north track of a flying junction could dive down in the space between the Link tracks and main westbound roadway and make the curve northward, meeting the south to west which paralleled the drop on the other side of East Link. It’s all “all the way around Robin Hood’s barn” to get to First Hill but it very well might be worth it.

        However, I believe it should go much closer to the hospitals than you’re suggesting. Basically, write off the streetcar and run the subway right under Broadway with Spartan but frequent stations.

        Warren, AJ is not suggesting eliminating Beacon Hill station by all trains, just the extra Ballard-Downtown peak turnback service. Relatively few people are going to be riding TO Beacon Hill in the morning or FROM it in the afternoon. Calm down, not none! But not many either; they can certainly be accommodated by the base service on South Link.

  4. This attack on his perfectly reasonable blog post is a bit ridiculous. Even your own math shows that bypassing Rainier would save 7 minutes, including 2 stops. Mass’s suggestion didn’t include the stops, and just stuck to I-5.

    Putting bikes along parallel routes to major arterials is pretty reasonable. You have no particular argument against that except you just don’t like it.

    In general I feel like this post comes from a place of unearned superiority. You are acting like you are so much more rational and knowledgeable than this other guy, but your own arguments are paper thin.

    1. As a staff reporter for the Seattle Transit Blog, I think Zach can reasonably assert he is both more informed and has spent more time thinking about these issues than Cliff Mass.

      Zach’s counterargument for an I5 alignment with no stops is that it is both a political non-starter and a misunderstanding of Light Rail. Link is designed to serve people along the line, not maximize end to end speed.

      1. In response to: “Zach’s counterargument for an I5 alignment with no stops is that it is both a political non-starter and a misunderstanding of Light Rail. Link is designed to serve people along the line, not maximize end to end speed”

        I don’t see why the idea to implement express rail service from downtown to the airport is a “misunderstanding of Light Rail”. No one is suggesting that current Link service be taken away from RV to reduce travel time to the airport: the idea is to add express rail service from downtown along I-5 to supplement current service. An express line could generate more revenue for ST since commuters who enjoy its speed and convenience would be willing to pay more to use it. While commuters who don’t want to pay the extra fare would still have the option of taking the slower route through RV.

      2. The reason why is, on the long list of regional rail priorities, an express Link train to the airport is at the bottom.

        The diversion would not add revenue, because those riders who would have taken the train thru RV will just ride the express. Freeway alignments without stations wont add riders.

        Now if you add stops in Georgetown and Boeing Field to your magic express line then the project becomes economically viable at the expense of a quick trip to Sea-Tac.

      3. Jack,

        >>>”The reason why is, on the long list of regional rail priorities, an express Link train to the airport is at the bottom.”

        I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but that doesn’t mean the benefits and costs of the idea shouldn’t be considered.

        >>>”The diversion would not add revenue, because those riders who would have taken the train thru RV will just ride the express.”

        I don’t think this would be true. The express service would be more expensive, thus generating more revenue, and some riders would continue to use the route through RV to save money.

        >>>”Freeway alignments without stations wont add riders.”

        There would be a station at the airport. The purpose of the line would be for express travel to the airport.

        >>>”Now if you add stops in Georgetown and Boeing Field to your magic express line then the project becomes economically viable at the expense of a quick trip to Sea-Tac.”

        I do see the value of adding local light rail service to Georgetown and South Park, but if an express line could be designed to generate more revenue for ST, that money could be reinvested in expanding local light rail service.

      4. >>I do see the value of adding local light rail service to Georgetown and South Park, but if an express line could be designed to generate more revenue for ST, that money could be reinvested in expanding local light rail service.

        Um, transit service everywhere is subsidized. So unless I’m missing something huge or magical, an express line might at best have higher farebox recovery, but there is no way in hell it’s actually going to generate operating profits, let alone enough to cover its capital costs, let alone provide a source of funds to invest in more service.

      5. Thanks, Ken. That’s not surprising given the glacial pace of transit growth. I think I mentioned revenue, not profits, by which I meant money coming into the agency through ridership and fares. I think more revenue is a good thing for the agency regardless to what extent its losses are subsidized.

        I’m not a proponent of an express line. That said, I’m not satisfied with characterizations that the idea is “magical” and am curious why transit advocates on this site and The Stranger seem threatened to acknowledge it. There are practical obstacles and risks associated with any idea: shouldn’t they be considered?

      6. An “express line to the airport” wouldn’t just serve the airport. It’s the physical analogue to East Link’s long run across Lake Washington and North Link’s Husky Stadium to Westlake tunnel. Both of those lines have but one station between their primary catchment areas and the CBD. If — and that’s a big “if” given the hostility in DC and Olympia to Sound Transit progress — South Link ever actually reaches Federal Way, Fife and Tacoma, and if South King County along Link continues to boom a bypass would provide riders from those places an express trunk service similar to that riders on North and East Link will enjoy.

        The airport itself would never generate enough traffic to make running special trains for just it would require. And the ST Board bowed to the auto dealers’ lobby and didn’t run along SR 99 with high density blobs every mile along the road, so a potentially great development tool has been crippled. But there may be more riders from South King than currently envisioned given the coming Climate Change catastrophes about to hit the Sun Belt.

      7. Tons of long rail lines have express service. Especially lines as long as the Tacoma to Seattle line we are building. There is nothing special about “light rail” in this regard.

        The ST3 line to Tacoma is huge, and having a 30 minute detour through the rainier valley is a huge nuisance to most of the projected ridership. An express could shave 15 to 20 minutes off of the route for people coming from federal way and tacoma depending on the exact route.

        My complaint is the unjustified “know it all” tone. Having a blog doesn’t make anyone the foremost expert on anything. Everybody has a blog. The question is can you come up with a reasonable argument for your position? On some of these issues, I just don’t see one.

      8. Why do people act like adding a bypass would cost a trivial amount? Yes, there are obvious benefits from a bypass, both in Westlake-SeaTac and Westlake-Tacoma travel time, and a Georgetown station. But we just passed ST3 with a dozen large projects through 2041. ST can’t divert money from voter-approved projects to non-voter-approved projects; it would require another vote. And we’d have to decide what to cancel to pay for the bypass. Or we’d have to ask the legislature for more tax authority, which it won’t give. ST considered the bypass for ST3 and it didn’t even make it into the preliminary project list: there were too many higher priorities and it was considered unimportant. Not even South King or Pierce lobbied for it, and few activists did. After ST3 there are still higher priorities, namely Ballard-UW, Lake City, White Center, possibly Renton and that Metro 8 thing, etc.

        It’s not just the cost of building a track. If Rainier Valley’s service is not to drop to infrequent, it would require several more trains and operating them. And you’d have to figure out what to do with them when they reach downtown until the second tunnel is open.

        If the problem is Rainier Valley’s surface speed, the answer is to grade-separate Rainier Valley! That’s what ST should have done in the first place. The cost of surface accidents and lower speed limits over Link’s lifetime should have been quantified in the cost of the alternative, then surface alignments wouldn’t look artificially cheaper.

        And the bypass wouldn’t be express! It would have at least one station in Georgetown, and perhaps one or two more. And express fares don’t figure into ST’s distance-based fare model.

        Cliff could have simply said a Duwamish bypass would have some advantages, as i did above. But not this “Drop everything and do it now, the region is stupid for not doing it, the cost must be trivial because I’m not mentioning it.” We just voted on what to build in the next twenty-five years, the decision-makers are not stupid, and the cost of a bypass is not trivial.

      9. “The ST3 line to Tacoma is huge, and having a 30 minute detour through the rainier valley is a huge nuisance to most of the projected ridership. An express could shave 15 to 20 minutes off of the route for people coming from federal way and tacoma depending on the exact route.”

        That’s what the Sounder upgrades are for. Possibly hourly if negotiations go well. Sorry, Federal Way, but there will be a RapidRide to Auburn Station. Maybe you can spend your waiting time reflecting on the disproportional service you’ve gotten for decades, with all-day expresses when the rest of south King County had none.

      10. >>Thanks, Ken. That’s not surprising given the glacial pace of transit growth. I think I mentioned revenue, not profits, by which I meant money coming into the agency through ridership and fares. I think more revenue is a good thing for the agency regardless to what extent its losses are subsidized.

        Hey Dustin. You did indeed say revenue, but if you’re talking about “money could be reinvested in expanding local light rail service,” you’d have to be looking at net revenue (i.e., profits). 50 cents in new revenue that costs $1 to generate is just not going to provide any money to expand service.

      11. Tons of long rail lines have express service. Especially lines as long as the Tacoma to Seattle line we are building. There is nothing special about “light rail” in this regard.

        The ST3 line to Tacoma is huge, and having a 30 minute detour through the rainier valley is a huge nuisance to most of the projected ridership. An express could shave 15 to 20 minutes off of the route for people coming from federal way and tacoma depending on the exact route.

        You are conflating multiple arguments, and suggesting a magical solution. As was stated, the delay caused by serving Rainier Valley is minimal. The cost of building a brand new commuter rail line to Tacoma (an express) would be enormous. That is why very few cities do that. Go ahead, please tell me the cities that have built a brand new express rail line on a brand new railway (instead of leveraging an exiting one, like Sounder). There aren’t any. Cities simply leverage the existing rail, or run buses. Because everything else — even to serve areas many, many times bigger than Tacoma to Seattle — just isn’t worth it.

        Holy smoke, there are no plans on the table to serve Lake City, or the Central Area, or even Ballard to the UW, and you want to spend a billion dollars (or more) on a third line to Tacoma? Do you have any idea the cost per rider, or the cost per rider-minute saved? It would be enormous. It would be one of the most wasteful projects imaginable. It is really a ludicrous idea (similar to an underwater line serving Kirkland) and would be laughable if not for the fact that many smart but profoundly ignorant people often propose it as if no one else thought of the idea.

      12. Ross,

        Brendan means “limited stop” when he says “express”, not a separate facility. I think I’m right about that. If I’m not, Brendan can correct me.

        Now South Link is not being build with that in mind, and since it’s to be elevated all the way, adding bypass tracks later would be muy espensivo! But adding a bypass between BAR and the MF really isn’t a terrible idea and would allow the Rainier Valley line to be extended on its natural — and economic — heading to Renton and perhaps beyond. Of course there should be some service to the airport via the RV line, perhaps every twenty minutes, making nine trains per hour in each direction as far as Rainier Beach Station.


        Elevating the RV would be very difficult. Where do you put the supports? Is there enough room between the existing tracks? I very much doubt it.

      13. @ Brendan, I hear your comment about tone. The founders, moderators, and main commentators on this blog are all tech guys, and they have the tech guy… attitude. Not very friendly to the n00bs.

        On the other hand, they’ve been on the front lines of transit in this region since long before I moved here. Their attitude on these matters is roughly the same as communities of color have towards Trump – “been there, done that sh!t”. I think I have seen literally every point Cliff Mass raises in his article not only covered in a post, but argued to death from every angle in the comments, within the past 6 years I’ve been reading here. Been there, done that…

        The truth is, all the problems and constraints are already known. We know what the geometric problem is, and that the worsening of traffic is due to entrenched suburban land use patterns. We know what makes congestion rise exponentially (more people on a feeder road system vs. a grid) and we know what doesn’t fix it (literally everything aside from getting people off the poorly-designed roads). We know our political constraints (extreme, listing them would make this comment ten times longer, and Cliff sadly isn’t helping, though I appreciate the extra attention). We know – and the blog guys REALLY know – the difference between brainstorming ideas on a whiteboard and actually making a real, live transit connection. And we know how much of a miracle ST3’s victory was, akin to climbing Everest without an oxygen tank. But it ain’t over – just look at all these Republican legislators lining up to undo the will of the people out of pure spite, despite the fact that Seattle’s economy literally balances their local budgets.

        The good news is that there’s so much more to learn, always and forever, and this blog lays it out so well from our local perspective – you can read the archives endlessly, and the comments are actually worth reading too (!). If you’d like to expand your reading into general concepts, is also fantastic; if you’d like to know the financials of inefficient land development, the hidden, ultimate bugbear of our modern lives, is a national treasure. Also google “induced demand” – it’s good for you, like broccoli.

        TL;DR just because the people here have the arrogance of expertise does not mean they do not, in fact, possess said expertise. Consider that too please.

      14. Mike, OK, that’s certainly doable. But it can’t be like a roller coaster; Cleveland’s CTA does that where there’s a rail spur it has to cross. Up and down, up and down. It’s weird and makes a few people queasy.

        If MLK is trenched, it has to be trenched all the way from RBS to MBS, which means four expensive new subterranean stations. Now they don’t have to be sumptuous, but they won’t be cheap.

        That billion or so will buy you a LOT of safety and reliability and a half a minute reduction in run time (see above for the math). If the RV route does get pegged for extension to Renton/East Kent, then it’s worth doing. Otherwise, a 60% at-grade, 40% elevated run along Airport Way is a hell of a lot cheaper. And six and a half minutes faster than even a trenched MLK.

        Not saying it’s a bad idea, but it’s only a good idea if the cost is part of an extension southeast. IMO.

      15. I’m assuming a continuous trench where it’s surface now. The platforms would be like they are now, just lowered. That would require escalators to get to the platforms, but I doubt they’d be as expensive as full cut-and-cover or mined stations. But I’m not an engineer. The cross streets and sidewalks would be like overpasses. A lid over the remaining space would be optional; I don’t see a pressing need for it.

        Re comparing the cost to an Airport Way line, I’ll wait for an enginering study. Rainier Valley would certainly like to avoid a second MLK construction closure. On the other hand, a second line will require more trains. And I’m against cutting RV’s frequency or severing its good connectivity to the airport. Rainier Valley, south King County, and Tacoma are growing increasingly together as lower-income valleyites move south but still have ties to the valley, and that will increase the usefuless of a unified light rail line between them over time.

    2. “but your own arguments are paper thin.”

      Um, no. They are backed up by data. Quit trumping

      1. Wow! When you don’t agree with someone, just call them names. “Quit trumping” — that says it all, right?

      2. @incomplete

        When someone makes a reasonable response with actual data, you wilt and cry about it?

        That does say it all.

    3. Seattle is putting a lot of bike routes on side streets parallel to major arterials. You may have heard of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, they’re kind of a big deal.

      But the side streets weren’t designed to get people around the city, just the last couple blocks. Sometimes we get lucky and can build a reasonable side-street route for miles and miles. Often that’s just not the case; the side streets end with no way to continue but to get onto an arterial street. Or the side streets run some incredibly hilly course while the arterial was regraded to make through-travel practical. If you look at what it would take to build a connected bike network in Seattle for more than a few minutes you quickly realize a lot of it would have to follow the arterial street network, which embodies over a century of engineering effort around these exact challenges. And many of the parts of the arterial street network that need some space for bikes are near busy intersections, where other demands for space are greatest. So just using some of that space in those areas and doing wall-to-wall cars everywhere else doesn’t make any sense.

      So comments like, “Putting bikes along parallel routes to major arterials is pretty reasonable,” are as good as an admission that you don’t know about the subject in any depth.

      Oh, and the other thing: a lot of bike lanes in road diets weren’t primarily built to be useful for biking, they were built to put something in the road to narrow the traffic lanes so drivers would go slower. So you don’t have to complain about bikes, it was actually about cars all along.

      1. I think we should improve the bike network, but you need to be realistic that bikes are the LEAST used form of transportation in the city. Transit, cars, and even just walking all have far more users. So when tradeoffs need to be made, they should be made in favor of other forms of transportation.

        That doesn’t mean bikes bike don’t deserve facilities. I think the PBL’s through downtown make sense, as it is a safety issue. The westlake cycle track and the burke gilman both add routes that don’t negatively impact transit.

        However, if we look at the PBL on broadway and the planned ones on eastlake, they are both terrible for transit because they prohibit taking a bus lane.

      2. Without getting into the weeds on particular routes, if you don’t understand the following things, you’re commenting about something you don’t know about:

        1. Lack of connections between routes is the principal flaw in Seattle’s bike network today. Without these connections it’s not much of a network. To “improve the bike network” is mostly to connect routes.
        2. These connections overwhelmingly take place at congested points in the road network.

        If you believe that “when tradeoffs need to be made, they should be made in favor of other forms of transportation”, by rote, then you don’t believe in improving the bike network. I’d say you don’t even believe in having a bike network. If that’s your belief, that’s your belief, but you can’t have it both ways. Which you’d know, if you took the time to — which Cliff Mass would know, if he took the time to — which every editorialist would know if they took the time to.

      3. (For my part, I believe that when tradeoffs need to be made, the answer is almost always to accommodate fewer cars. But I don’t pretend to support making car commuting faster or more convenient.)

      4. Spot on, Brendan–pedestrian facilities should always come first, then transit a close second, simply because nearly everyone can use both modes of transportation. Transit should never take a back seat to bikes (or general purpose traffic, which should come last after bikes and freight/business-related traffic). In this city, with this topography and this weather, cycling will never be more than a niche form of transportation used by a fairly narrow demographic. It should be encouraged where and when possible because of its environmental soundness, but not at the expense of transit. That’s why I’m a supporter of road diets–the lanes taken for bicycles are from GP traffic, not buses. It’s also why the Broadway design is horrible; lanes that could have been used for transit only were taken when there were parallel alternatives available.

      5. @Scott: It’s sort of dumb that bike advocates are always on the hook for “defending” the design of Broadway, when using that part of the road for transit would have required much more expensive utility relocation. Once again, people complain about bike lanes that were hardly even put in for bikes in the first place! And lanes that hardly work great in the face of half-drunk or fare-chasing drivers breaking every known law across it.

        But, sure, let’s play: what “parallel routes” do you take to a destination on Broadway somewhere between Yesler and Pike? Keep in mind that with streetcar tracks and no bike lane on Broadway you pretty much shouldn’t ride on any part of Broadway. Compare to Westlake through SLU, where parallel routes are pretty easy to plot. Of course, people still have problems there because navigating on the fly isn’t always easy, and getting dumped on the ground is a pretty harsh penalty for taking a wrong turn, but there are reasonable options for getting to these destinations for people in the know. Even along Madison, where the BRT project isn’t including a bike lane (reasonably so!) there are plausible alternate routes to just about every block of Madison, and you can at least ride along Madison because there aren’t rails in the road. Not so much along Broadway.

        If your answer is, “Transit priority is more important on this stretch of Broadway than basic bike access,” that’s your answer. You can argue that point. But when you lose the argument, don’t misrepresent the argument you lost. It wasn’t a choice between bike lanes on Broadway and parallel alternatives (like it was along Madison or Westlake), it was a choice between bike lanes on Broadway and extremely poor basic access. This choice would be a hell of a lot less stark if it the FHSC wasn’t a streetcar. And, hey, if the FHSC wasn’t a streetcar maybe it could have followed a route that worked with the rest of the transit network instead of against it! So probably your beef is with the streetcar, not with the bike lanes?

      6. @Al – is 12th no longer parallel to Broadway? I couldn’t care less about the streetcar per se; I think it’s actually a rather silly mode of travel in that corridor and on that route. But there was an opportunity to provide protected transit access on a major north-south corridor through the narrowest part of the city, connecting with high-capacity rail transit, and it was not done at least in part to put a nearly unused bike path on Broadway. Bus lanes would have required little or no movement of utilities (again, I’m not in favor of what we had to do to get a streetcar). I walk daily along and across that path, and even at rush hour you will often see nobody on it. It is by far the most underutilized piece of infrastructure built on Capitol Hill, including any one of a number of back street sidewalks.

        Transit priority is ABSOLUTELY more important than any bike access anywhere in this city where they are competing for the same real estate. The number of people that bike in this town is infinitesimal compared to people who ride transit–or, as importantly, would ride transit if it were improved. It’s predominantly a sop to the 20-45 year old male who makes up the vast majority of non-recreational cyclists in this town, and who have a hell of a lobby. The argument is lost not by someone who wants better and more efficient transit for all of us, but–at cost to that–infrastructure for the very few. Take all the GP traffic lanes you want. I support, have supported, and will continue to support road diets. However, when the choice is between a bike lane and a transit lane, I will always back transit. Always. No different than when the choice is between a bike lane and a GP traffic lane my support will be for the bikes (which is one reason I think 12th would have been a reasonable alternative for protected bike lanes).

        Kudos for riding; it’s good for you and for the environment. I keep my bike at our place in another city where it makes more sense both weather and traffic-wise to use it daily when I’m there. But the vast majority of people in this city will never choose to do so either because of our weather or our topography, and there are no small number of transit patrons who couldn’t ride a bike if they wanted to. No small number of them are trying to access medical services on that very part of Broadway where we couldn’t bother to put a bus lane, and where buses (or the silly streetcar) get stuck on a major arterial sandwiched between the large institutions of Seattle U and Swedish because there is no alternative for them.

    4. @Brendan

      The arguments are not paper thin. They are backed up with research and evidence. It is Cliff Mass who is throwing out ideas without any evidence to support them.

      If you disagree, please, state your case. Please explain why any one of the theories that Mass thinks would be great make any sense. Don’t just say “it is obvious” because very little in the way of transit is obvious. If you didn’t know any better, you would assume the suburban stations at, say, BART, must be extremely popular. After all, there are just oodles of people who get stuck in horrendous traffic every day. And the trains are very, very fast (much faster than our trains). Surely there must be tens of thousands of people taking trips from places like Pleasanton or Richland (why would you drive)? But that simply isn’t the case.

      Look, science is based on refuting theories. It is what makes it work. As a scientist, Mass should know this. So if you propose radical theories, then you better be prepared to defend them — to have some studies to back them up — and Professor Mass does not. On the contrary (as Zach clearly stated) the studies suggest the opposite.

      1. To be fair, Cliff did decide that the liberalism of our city council members (kayaking instead of making Cliff’s drive faster) is partially to blame for automobile congestion. But, then again, Cliff has never been shy about how much he likes to blame the far left for our problems. This is the same guy who devoted thousands of words to blaming “environmentalists” and “liberals” for inaction on climate change. Not, you know, the political party actually obstructing meaningful climate policy.

        Cliff doesn’t like being wrong, and he REALLY don’t like publicly being told he’s wrong.

        With this issue, Cliff is wrong.

        Sorry, Cliff.

      2. He was probably wrong with the math books, too, but to be honest I never looked into the subject in great detail. Who knows, maybe he was right.

        The thing is, there are a handful of subjects that I actually know a lot about it, and transit is one of them. One of the key aspects of knowing a lot about a subject, is knowing when you are in over your head. I know way more than the average person about, for example, ultralight backpacking. But it has been a while since I’ve shopped for a tent, and so I really don’t know every tent out there, and if someone has an idea, I am open to it. Unfortunately, Dr. Mass jumped in with both feet on a subject he obviously knows little about. He made no mention of induced demand, for example, which would be front and center in any discussion about traffic.

        I just hope he doesn’t take that attitude towards his health. I would hate for him to disregard the advice of a doctor or nurse because, you know, he is a scientist, and thus smart enough to make his own decisions.

  5. I really take issue with anyone calling the Rainier Valley segment a “deviation”. Mt Baker Station is further west than TIBS! The UW Husky stadium alignment is a bigger “deviation”.

    The reason the segment seems slow is because of the reduced speeds and grade crossings. It’s a capital cost-saving measure that an anti-tax person should embrace!

    The deviation idea was imprinted by bad graphic design by ST that makes it look more like a deviation. The old diagrams and ST3 literature has that jog although the new diagrams at the station do not.

    1. For me, the real deviation is into Downtown Seattle, where our precious North-South spine buckles, the train goes way west, makes excruciatingly slow stops, and then heads back east again. From CHS to Beacon Hill is 16 minutes by Link. If we avoided this inefficiency with a bypass stopping at 12th & Jackson and then Beacon Hill, we’d probably save 10-12 minutes off of travel time. Surely if just one person from Northgate is able to make a flight they would have missed, this bypass would be worthwhile. Let’s do it!

      1. And that tunnel downtown is a silly old bus tunnel, it’s not optimized for rail traffic, a new tunnel under first hill would be so much better!

    2. I read the article more closely. Cliff Mass didn’t use the word “deviation”; Zach did.

      Mass just said it was too slow and dangerous.

    3. But RBS isn’t. The biggest deviation is between TIBS and to-be Boeing Access Road, and it makes the hill climb steeper than it would have been along PHS.

  6. Sorry, I don’t think you have refuted his comments. +1.5 minutes for a street segment that is 1.5 miles long is certainly adding to travel time, including for Route 41. You don’t even show travel time changes for 3 of your 5 examples and the other 2 are increases.

    Where is the data about park and ride lot usage? I know some lots must be close to 100% full.

    Where is data about maximum Sounder load by trip (and number of cars per train so we can see if 500 boardings is a load factor of 1.0 or a load factor of 0.5 or something else).

    1. The fact that most P&R lots are already 100% full supports the assertion that structured parking is not a scalable solution.

  7. As much as I dislike the business model of rideshare services, and how frequently they are used as political tools against transit spending, they’re very good as “last mile” services- I’ve always thought that ST partnering with Lyft to include a quick “ride to closest Link station” button would be a great idea.

    1. The ridesharing services work ok for last-mile service, and they’re great for occasional oddball trips, like coming home from the airport with luggage at 11 PM and getting picked at the UW Station. One trick I’ve started doing is ordering the ride while I’m still on the train to minimize the wait time. With a bit of experimentation, I’ve found ordering an Uber/Lyft to pick me up at the UW Station about a minute after my train has left Capitol Hill Station tends to work about right.

      That said, they are still too expensive to be used for everyday commuting, and the pick-up and drop capacity at most Link stations wouldn’t scale well enough for that, anyway. Imagine a trainload of 100 people emptying out at Lynnwood Station, with 100 driverless Lyft’s being summoned to take those 100 people home – all, every 5 minutes. The result would be something akin to the pick-up line at a major airport – long lines, lots of waiting, and most people not really getting home any faster (including wait time) than they would with an old-fashioned frequent connecting bus (provided that the bus didn’t have to wait in the car line, of course).

  8. If this guy actually used transit more (or at all), his number one transportation gripe would be the escalator and elevator situation. There are not enough if them (especially down escalators) and the breakdowns are frequent. It’s quite telling that this isn’t on his list!

  9. It appears this blog is getting more exposure in the mainstream media.

    One thing to keep in mind as the argument progresses to a more public forum,


    Debate the merits in an open forum.

    1. Jim, I’m glad you brought up mike control. Because it’s now 5:45 PM. Since Metro lost and found is closed, STB won’t be able to get its gavel back ’til too late for tomorrow morning’s posting. Leaving us all to spend today day responding to something that, given Cliff’s reputation, is most likely the world’s fakest opinion essay. Was dateline by any chance April 1? Quit laughing, Milo. Your make-up’s cracking.

      For real, there’s indisputable scientific evidence that the world’s aggregate fossil fuel powered car fleet is responsible for a major change in our climate. Fact that the atmosphere could be warming without it is no reason to tolerate human activity that makes it worse.

      But difference how we handle the few dozen miles of light rail on any alignment between Downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport is not going to raise a ripple when Harborview becomes beachfront property. Or affect its arrival by a flat calm splash.

      May not be any special effects scenes for decades. Which for transit, means direct opposite of doing nothing. We’re as tectonically quake prone as Indonesia, and as close to an ocean as a lot of other mass casualty sites. And getting closer by the ripple.

      If we’re both smart and lucky, we can use the wealth of this region, and nation, to start a lot of much overdue civil engineering while we still don’t have to put the machines on barges. Which should pretty much put an end to unemployment for the rest of the life of anybody reading this. Who should all be discussing the hell out of it.

      Budget? Watch some heavy-weather footage from poor countries, and tell me quakes, winds, floods, and deferred maintenance aren’t worse threats than (you name this week’s villain with a bad accent.) Anything an enemy will target, it’s a defense measure to put in top condition. How do we KNOW ISIS didn’t perfume Magnolia? Which isn’t fixed yet. Or alone. Or designed by whoever did our elevators.

      For our politics, I see situation nothing but positive. Huge amount of present self-inflicted misery results from the lack of the caliber of emergencies to which our people always respond with natural energetic action- without orders. Dead serious, it’ll be a fine time to be working in every sector of public service- which we’ll now regenerate to survive.

      Getting LINK from Boeing Access to Tukwila International….Anybody remember those rides where passengers rode in floating logs though airborne troughs and down chutes? Okay, Cliff, you got us this time. But somebody’s gonna have to collect those sugar-candy sticky ORCA cards!


  10. This is a great post. The climate change analogy is spot on–and it’s clear that like what’s happened to climate science, ST3 is about to face some serious backlash. The only way to respond is with facts and irrefutable hard evidence. The critics will jump on any perceived flaw in transit studies, and they are plenty of flawed transit studies out there. Advocates need to be ready to respond.

  11. Actually somewhat agree on the bike point. Some paint on the road does not a good bike system make. And “shards” are the biggest bullshit ever.

  12. To echo Chris, the road diet chart proves Cliff Mass’s point, not yours. AADT is relatively flat (down in some cases, up in others), but AADT is just a raw number of how many cars are on the road. Since the number of lanes has gone down, we’re looking at approximately the same number of cars squeezing into less space, thus more traffic.

    But more importantly, you state travel times are flat, but that’s simply not the case. Only two data points are provided, and it’s up in both cases. (You don’t give a source or a legend, but it seems like a safe assumption that N/A and “No change” do not mean the same thing, otherwise it would just say “No change”.) Even 32 seconds on Fauntleroy is probably about a 5% increase, which is small, but not so small as to be insignificant.

    But what the chart does show unambiguously, is that road diets make the road safer. Which is good, because that’s what the goal of road diets are, far more so than easing traffic. Traffic benefits to road diets are pretty much limited to left turns (both in terms of making the turns themselves easier, and moving them to the center lane and out of the thru lanes). It’s not terribly surprising that it would make traffic slightly worse for end-to-end traffic.

    1. Yes, but frankly, why should Seattle worry about “end to end traffic” which mostly consists of suburbanites zipping through historic Seattle neighborhoods?

  13. I know I am impinging on an orthodoxy regarding how to deal with local traffic, but sometimes a fresh view is useful, particularly from someone who knows some statistics and modeling. The fact that traffic in our area has become critical is clear. The “solutions” offered (more cycling, road diets, etc.) are not working. After reading a few dozen studies on road diets, my conclusion is that this is an “emperor without clothes.” Many of the Federal and Civil E. department studies show little benefit when the stats are done right (including using nearby comparison roads, which is crucial). Much of the stats from SDOT are wrong or poorly done. Folks…you lose capacity when you go from 2 to 1 lane. You promote congestion when you do this on busy streets (this is in Federal studies by the way). Left turns a problem? Don’t diet the road–forbid left turns across roadways…only at intersections. You are too quick to reject the use of boats to help move folks between very densely populated areas. Why not try it and see? We can have safer streets while maintaining less traffic and more throughput. The economic impacts of the traffic are huge. The loss of time is huge. I wish you folks would pay more attention to that issue.

    1. The first and most important thing we all need to know is the traffic cannot be solved. Go to any major city in the world and you’ll see the same. Congestion is here to stay and is not ever going away, barring a significant drop in the region’s population. I think that’s the biggest challenge. People remember a time when the traffic wasn’t there and reasonably think “why can’t we go back to that?” The answer is because millions more people live here now.

      That is why the *only* answer for getting people to move around this city and this region is to build more transit, so people don’t have to get stuck in traffic. Grade separated rail is the best because it’s fastest and doesn’t impede roads. Look at SF or New York or London and we’ll see the same.

      You may say that we lose capacity when we go from 2 lanes to 1 lane, but in reality (and SDOT numbers show this) there’s a huge amount of unused capacity. So you can go to 1 lane and not see a significant delay as a result because the street didn’t need to be 2 lanes in the first place.

      But this is all just nibbling around the edges. There is only one solution to traffic and that solution is transit.

      1. I agree we need more transit…but that takes time. What do we do until it is place? Allow the city to lock up, with all kinds of bad implications? And transit will not be everywhere….that will allow be a problem. And don’t think cars are doing away…driverless cars will be around and dominant in 50 years to get people from their homes to mass transit hubs. There are plenty of roads that DONT have unused capacity during rush hour…that is the problem.

      2. Improving bus corridors is that solution that can be implemented quickly with a much lower cost than light rail. It’s a win-win: cost savings in terms of bus service hours and more people likely to use the bus because it’s more efficient.

        Projects like the Madison BRT corridor need to be bumped up on the priority list. Other low-hanging fruit like Route 44 through Wallingford should have been dealt with years ago. For every arterial street with a road diet, there are a half dozen where converting the street parking to a transit lane could make a tremendous difference. Plus it gets the buses out of the way of the cars.

      3. Road diets can also be harmful to transit as well. Buses run on the roads. If we take out lanes, there is no room for a bus lane.

        It seems like a safety/speed tradeoff. The city is moving more in the direction of safety, which I think is right overall. However, it’s important to consider the traffic impact.

        In general, I think we should focus on building out transit rather than road diets.

        However, some people when they say “road diet” they mean removing a general purpose lane and replacing it with a bus lane. Bus lanes usually carry more people than general purpose lanes, so really that is adding capacity.

      4. There are ways to speed buses on rechannelized streets that don’t have bus lanes. Bus bulbs are the best, although we need some design changes and more driver education to reduce the number of attempted unsafe passes. Well-thought-out transit signal priority can help too. One thing that is clear from the SDOT experience is that rechannelizing 4 car lanes into 3 doesn’t hurt bus travel times overall.

      1. The Port of Kingston tried a Kingston-downtown Seattle passenger ferry. They shut it down after losing a million dollars in two years. There weren’t enough riders to make it worthwhile.

    2. Cliff: it’s not “orthodoxy,” it’s science. If you claim to be a scientist ([ah]), then you might want to defer to those who have actually studied these methods, rather than your anecdotal evidence.

      [ah], when you say that road diets aren’t “solving” congestion. They were never meant to “solve” congestion, they were meant to make the roads safer. In that regard, they are immensely successful. No city in human history has ever “solved” its congestion issues. Seattle won’t be the first. Some cities HAVE learned that you can provide alternatives so that people aren’t relying on their private automobile for all transportation.


      1. Rechannelizations (road diets) generally keep about the same amount of traffic moving on the streets and significantly reduce injuries and collisions (which as we all know, also cause congestion):

        Ditto what Robert said about induced demand. We can get people out of traffic, but eliminating traffic itself is impossible unless one of two conditions are met
        1) Major economic recession (Detriot’s highways are moving freely! what success)
        2) Heavy congestion pricing (which seems to be a political non-starter in the USA)

    3. You are completely ignoring the safety aspect of the rechannelizations. By far the clearest thing to come out of SDOT’s rechannelization work is the reduction in both frequency and severity of accidents. Why should roads compromise the safety of the people who reside along them to save a few seconds (and it is literally a few seconds) for people who are going somewhere else?

      I cross a recently rechannelized street, 23rd Ave in the Central District, almost every day on foot as part of my commute. Before the rechannelization and addition of several pedestrian signals,, either crossing it or walking along it was a terrifying experience. Now it’s more or less safe, and a far more suitable environment for those who actually live and work in the area instead of just passing through.

    4. “Why not try it and see?”

      Because it was studied, and it was determined to be more efficient to just set taxpayer money on fire.

    5. I suggest Prof. Mass have a conversation with Prof. Mark Hallenbeck in the CEE department.

    6. “The economic impacts of the traffic are huge. The loss of time is huge. I wish you folks would pay more attention to that issue.”

      This is the key to the argument to how transportation issues are ‘solved’.

      This is what is included in a cost/benefit analysis.

      If all C/B analysis was done using the same parameters, then we could have meaningful comparisons.

      This was one important issue with the I-405 Corridor Program analysis.
      It was built into the analysis that “Time is money”, and the key element is that time spent commuting was time wasted, therefore, less time commuting meant the ‘benefit’ was more productive time.

      At the presentation by the analysts involved, one member of the public, a Microsoft employee made the observation that with today’s technology (i.e. wireless and laptops, etc), that productive work can be done on transit, therefore that calculation was not valid for transit.

      In effect, picking and choosing the parameters in defining the scope of your c/b analysis gives you the answer you want.

      Cliff Mass reflects the popular perception that mobility via only the automobile is a given.
      Ask the question the same way each time, and ‘more roads’ will be the same answer each time.

      That is where the public needs to be given all the information.
      In particular, just exactly how much the roads cost, where the money comes from, and how it gets distributed.

      The key word is mobility, not traffic.

    7. Cliff, didn’t you once work with John Cleese and Michael Palin as a notorious Cardinal Richelieu impersonator? Because NO ONE expects the Spanish Inquistion! Keep up the good work. When the Sound Transit Board becomes goes Elected, you’ve got my vote. So long as I get a patronage job that isn’t being a bathroom gender monitor.


    8. Anybody remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer seizes control of a stretch of road he’s volunteered to keep clean, and personally paints out lane lines so that four lane highway becomes two lanes soon as it enters his territory?


    9. > The “solutions” offered (more cycling, road diets, etc.) are not working.

      Excuse, me, those are not the only solutions offered. Mercer Street underwent a massive reconstruction in order to help solve congestions and…. we spent millions and saved 3 seconds. People like Cliff Mass and the Seattle Times make it sound as if cyclist and transit activists are getting everything they want while SDOT and WSDOT pay no attention to the needs of cars. Yeah right! We can argue about what those agencies *should* be doing, but lets not confuse ourselves about what *is* happening.

  14. The question is more than volumes. It’s more about signal delays.

    I just visited LA. There, most of the protected left turn lanes that go first are mostly missing. Many signals don’t have that extra phase for left turns at all. Others only activate at the end of a green light when there are two or three vehicles waiting to make a left. Of course, others that have lots of cars have early phases like here.

    Seattle could really benefit if they applied more signal thinking like this. All of the time cars and buses wait now seems very inefficient.

    1. In general, protected lefts are much safer for cyclists and pedestrians than unprotected lefts. To illustrate why, imagine you’re getting ready to make an unprotected left turn and there’s a big truck going straight in the opposite direction. You wait for the truck to go by, then stomp on the gas to make it through ahead of the next car, behind the truck. But, little did you know, that right as the big truck entered the intersection, a person started crossing the street, but you couldn’t see him because the big truck was in the way. When the truck clears, the person is right in the middle of the intersection, but it’s too late to stop, and you now have an accident on your hands.

      By contrast, a protected left turn is much calmer. You wait for the green arrow, and when it comes, you go and nobody is in your way.

      1. Totally agree as a pedestrian and cyclist (& transit rider and driver too) that protected lefts are best.

        I’m trying to not make any left turns as a driver, in the spirit of UPS drivers. I’ve found for recurring trips I drive (grocery runs, visiting friends/family) I can save time and be safer avoiding lefts as much as possible. I’m down to 1 or 0 on most of my regular trips, and those lefts are all but unavoidable.

        Unfortunately, I very often see pedestrians assume that the walk signal is malfunctioning and start walking during the left green arrow / red hand phase. That ruins the whole point of phase-separation. I saw a near-crash at Leary/39th in Fremont when two pedestrians stepped right in front of the first car turning left on the green arrow. Lucky for them the driver was hard on the brakes.

  15. Evidence is good, but evidence doesn’t persuade. This is the most difficult thing for most readers at this blog to accept, but it’s true. Most people who vote for transit are already voting for their values and their own intuitive common sense.

    The goal should be to push our own “common sense” intuitive narratives that are rooted in evidence.

  16. Zach, you’re wrong on the Duwamish Bypass. It would not “cost $1 billion” because most of it can be at-grade but separated if a single lane of Airport Way is taken south of Georgetown. There’s even a flying junction already prepared at the north end: the MF loop track, and a ready made underpass beneath Spokane Street leading almost directly to it on an abandoned rail spur. Yes, it’s wide enough for two tracks.

    More to the point, it most assuredly would save more than “3-4 minutes”. This route is a mile and a half shorter, which by normal computations comes out to 108 seconds at 50 miles per hour.

    But it isn’t 50 miles per hour all the time, or even most of the time. The trains are limited to 35 miles per hour for the three and a half miles between RBS and Mt. Baker. Slowing from 50 to 35 produces a 42% increase in travel time (50/35) for half the total distance for an addition of 21 seconds. Especially after Graham Street is added — and it’s an planned enhancement, no longer on the wish list — there will be six stops on the “local” route and no more than one on the “bypass” if that. Each stop consumes takes at least a minute longer than running at 50 through the station location because of deceleration, and probably 45 seconds longer than rolling through at 35. That’s because dwell time is at least 30 seconds with the delay for the request and grant operating methodology.

    So you’ve got one station stop, Beacon Hill, adding a minute (60 seconds), and the five along MLK each adding 45 seconds each (225 seconds) for a total of 285 seconds. Adding in the extra travel time for the difference in distance (129 seconds) gives a grand total of 414 seconds, very nearly seven minutes.

    And that of course assumes that the trains are able to keep up with the signal timing when granted. They usually can, but if one gets delayed by a door being forced or has to big hole for an illegally turning car, especially in the long run between MBS and Columbia City, it can get stabbed by a red light for an additional minute.

    No, of course it’s not needed at this time. But it was foolish for the ST Board to remove it from the long-term plan, because Renton and East Hill in Kent are going to need/want/demand service sometime within the foreseeable future and using the RV line to get to them makes eminent good sense.

    1. It can be put back into the plan at the ST4 update if a larger number of people start supporting it, and a Seattle-Renton line.

    2. Richard, I think this line is inevitable. Because I can’t think of any other city of our size that wouldn’t have opened the system with it. But the Rainier Valley Line was a decision same order as starting the project with dual-power buses.

      Until we could build rail beyond DSTT portals, we used buses. Because our only really heavy south-end passenger corridor was Rainier Valley, the Valley passenger load justified also carrying airport passengers until their numbers began to justify an express line in addition.

      Which they do now. Your strongest argument, though, is not speed, but reliability. A missed flight can turn victim into a hard core transit hater. Or a die-hard Lyfft lover. Or make Tim Eyman heir to the world’s largest corporation.


    3. The south sound already has an express to downtown Seattle that bypasses the Ranier Valley. It’s called Sounder, and ST3 invests in adding more Sounder service. Before building a billion-dollar bypass, we should see first how Sounder service we can add. Yes, Sounder does not serve Federal Way, but anybody that can drive to Federal Way can just as easily park their car in Kent or Auburn, so that argument doesn’t sway me much.

      1. True, but it mostly runs at peak hours, and getting even 30 minute headways between the peaks and hourly say to 9 pm would require at least a dozen new two way “slots”. At $50 million per slot, that’s a billion two for something with very high priced per boarding costs.

        Even if it were a billion to build the bypass — and it doesn’t have to be if it’s at-grade alongside Airport Way for half the distance– isn’t it better to invest the money in something with $3 hoardings that serves more people and is nearly as fast? Sure Sounder has a higher operating speed and fewer stops, but it’s nearly 10 miles longer than a “bypassed” Link.

      2. ST has already budgeted for it. It serves Kent, Auburn, Sumner, and Puyallup, which Link won’t.

      3. Mike,

        Yes, both things you state are true. But asdf was saying that Sounder would be a substitute for express service on the inner segment of Link. It wouldn’t. Absent a significant improvement in speed, it’s not that much faster out of Tacoma. Scheduled run time is 59 minutes pretty much across the board. Yes, it probably arrives in Seattle early many times, because of padding. However, it can’t arrive anywhere south of TSS early and abide by the departing times in its schedule. South of Tukwila the stations are too close together to get more than a minute or two early, and then the train just has to lay for time before departing.

        Supposedly Link will take 82 minutes from TDS to Westlake if I did the math right. That’s 23 minutes longer than Sounder, but of course Sounder dumps you at KSS where it takes from six to ten minutes to get over to IDS and get on a train. So say 66 minutes as a fair median elapsed time. Suddenly the difference is only 14 minutes, and the bypass saves seven (not “three or four”). (See math above)

        Now we’re down to only seven minutes for the vast majority of trips between Tacoma and downtown Seattle. If the trip is within walking distance of KSS so the six minute transfer is avoided, well then, it’s a better route.

        Of course there’s no doubt that Sounder is more comfortable than Link; it’s a better technology all around for a 40 mile journey. So there’s no reason not to aim to get “all-day Sounder”, but it really doesn’t help the folks along I-5/SR 99 and a reasonably priced bypass would.

        If, of course, South King and northeastern Pierce grow in the next couple of decades.

      4. Why did South King never ask for it then? They didn’t think it was as important as extending Link to Federal Way and Tacoma, or upgrading Sounder further east.

        I’m still not clear on what timeline/priority people are thinking about: right now (cancel everything else), after 2041, or a theoretical ideal that won’t happen. But in any case, asdf2 was talking about the South Sound as a whole, not Pacific Highway in particular. Sounder serves South Sound as a whole faster than Link would with the bypass, and while it won’t serve FW or Des Moines directly, you’ll be able to drive or RapidRide to Auburn or Kent Stations.

        The baseline for Tacoma-Seattle is 60 minutes. Sounder gets 59. The 594 gets 48-72. Link gets 82 by your calculations (and my recollection is somewhere between 70-80). So Link is worst, but South King and Pierce knew that and wanted it anyway, to bring people from South King County and the airport to Tacoma. Remember to subtract 5-10 minutes from Link’s travel time when buses leave the tunnel.

        Mark Dublin will point out that that Sounder has restrooms. John Bailo (R.I.P.), will wish Sounder had snack/dinner service. (Which is completely impractical with Link.)

        It all comes down to the cost of the bypass, and of twice as many trains if both the Georgetown line and the Rainier Valley line are to keep their 6-10 minute frequency. Yes, a surface or elevated line is relatively inexpensive, and there’s poential public ROW in the industrial district. But it’s still more than spare change, so we can’t just fit it into ST2/3. And we just made a regional decision to build other things first. The existing 38 minutes to the airport is reasonable (soon to be 28-32). Federal Way is not the largest city in south King County that requires extraordinary service like it thinks it does. Tacoma’s travel time is eyebrow-raising but it’s not the worst thing to happen to the region. The bypass makes sense sometime but I still don’t see it as a priority or urgent.

  17. Ignoring Road Diets & Bike Lanes for a moment, I’d say Cliff is right-on with several complaints:

    1) Poor road conditions: buses are slowing down substantially because of ruined pavement. Cars are swerving dangerously to avoid potholes, which are huge hazards for cycling as well.

    2) Excessive bridge openings: Coast Guard rules favor rich sailboat owners over road users all but 20 hours per week.

    3) Distracted driving: seems like 30-40% of drivers are looking at phones. I’m amazed there aren’t more crashes.

    1. People will be always be distracted to some degree, though banning hands-on device use while driving can cut down on a lot of it. There are many more crashes and fatalities here in FL where the roads are designed outright dangerously–maximum driving speed and minimal driver engagement required. Road hypnosis at excessive speeds! When you design roads like this, that human distraction factor just leads to more crashes and it slows everybody down even more, and too many people have to die in the process. So ironically, not doing road diets would result in (3) causing even more mayhem and carnage than it currently does.

  18. “Tragedy of the Commons” is a good description of the fundamental geometrical limitation of relying on “rideshare” vehicles (a.k.a. taxis) each transporting 1 person (OK, it’s often 2-4, but then again, it is also often 0!). Or the fact that Key Arena seats each hold only one person. Just like with land use in cities, there is ultimately no solution except putting a price on it. This is a concept we all learned in high school, and yet roads are the only remaining situation where we still don’t charge for using the limited available land.

  19. The impact of road diets on transit will vary based on the utilization of the road. If there really is a lot of excess capacity, it may be possible to do a road diet and not harm transit–especially if the bus is given signal priority, far side stops, bus bulbs etc. But on a busy street that’s near capacity road diets can indeed slow the bus down, and, worse, make it unreliable. I’m not sure that the transit agencies think indiscriminate road diets are so benign.

  20. It would be a relief to find out that the original essay attributed to Cliff Mass the respected weatherman was datelined April 1.

    Because speed with which topic of climate change devolved into a heated argument about five miles of easily modified light rail carries the pre-Jimmy Dean whiff of a recent political campaign.

    So a word to the elegant and graceful performer who really did write it. Love your sweater, Milo, and the jewelry is gorgeous. But your perfume is a disgrace to the House of Yiannopoulos!


  21. While I think an express airport Link line is a much lower priority than other needs, I would love to see Metro bring back a downtown-airport express bus. As Link gets more crowded with people making non-airport trips, giving people and their luggage another option is a good idea.

    1. The problem with the bus is you don’t know what time to leave to make your flight because traffic jams happen without warning.

      1. Cars deciding to run into trains happen without warning as well. Giving people an option, especially one that will be faster in the average case than Link, would be valuable. Certainly more valuable than yet another bus line that runs between ID and Rainier Valley.

      2. “Cars deciding to run into trains happen without warning as well.”

        Not every week.

  22. Great post and I think people are finally realizing a livable city is not focused on serving the car as the exclusive way to get mobility. Road diets, protected bike lanes wider sidewalks, woonerfs, more and better transit plus higher residential density and mixed land use will make for healthier and safer citizens and more importantly happier citizens.

    Cliff is living in the city of the past and not the city of the future.

  23. If folks out there want an airport express line, get private dollars to pay for it.

    Public dollars are much better spent dealing with corridors where buses struggle to carry the passenger loads.

    1. Also, as far as airport routes go, downtown to the airport for $3 in 35 minutes is one of the best deals out there.

      Most major cities take more time AND cost more.

      We’re fortunate that our airport is close, but even when you compare local options, its hard to beat it.

      Time-wise a taxi could win in when traffic is light, but even a full taxi (assumIng 4 riders) is not price competitive ($35~$50 per cab ride) and is probably only saving 10 mInutes at best.

  24. Folks… I have read several your comments (and I note that a few are kind of rude). There seems to be some confusion among a few…I love transit. I want more of it. I love bike commuting…I do it all the time. I am not a car advocate. But it will take time to build the system we all want and in the meantime we need to make our transportation system as effective as possible. Cars, buses, and trucks are not going away and traffic is crippling the city. You can’t choke off vehicle traffic because you would prefer there be less cars. Create the alternative and encourage folks to move over. But there is reality. A family with kids will be using cars. Older folks will often be using cars. Most people are entirely unwilling to take several buses to get somewhere….you have to be realistic. So build the transportation system of the future, but don’t cripple the city today. And I think if we are innovative and clever, we can do this. …cliff mass

    1. The problem is the horrific damage to our urban environment even more car infrastructure does, we do not need the noise, pollution, space consumption that follows from making cars travel easier. Families can use electric cargo bikes on the new protected bike lanes, they can ride the new $70 billion dollar light rail infrastructure and the $500 million dollar a year Metro transit system. They can move to more transit friendly housing and save tons of money by not owning a car. They can even retire earlier by not owning a car.

    2. Traffic is not “crippling the city.” Many cities in the US and around the world have worse traffic, and if you travel any time other than the peak of rush hour it’s not bad at all. Even at the peak of rush hour, trips only take a bit longer unless they are covering a horrendously long doistance. It’s just worse than it used to be, which is absolutely inevitable with more people.

      Don’t sacrifice safety to nibble around the edges, at best, of what is normal city traffic.

      1. New York City has one of the best, most comprehensive transit systems in America, and is even quite good in comparison to other systems around the world. It also has some of the worst automobile congestion in America.

        Alas, New York City, just like Seattle, isn’t “crippled” by this congestion. In fact, last I checked, it appeared the city is doing quite well.

        As for the “crippling” effects of traffic in Seattle, we seem to be adding thousands and thousands of jobs and residents, with increasing property values and, by all measures, a thriving and bustling economy.

        All of this in spite of the “crippling” problems that traffic is causing here in Seattle.

        Sitting in your car longer than you’d like to does not equal devastating impacts to the city.

        Other cities around the world have found ways to provide alternatives to driving your own car for transportation. Seattle is not a delicate flower that simply can not adopt these alternatives because “reasons” from a blog post. Yes, the trade offs will likely result in the gradual de-prioritization of single-occoupant vehicle travel, but there is no sustainable transportation system anywhere on the planet in the history of human civilization that has succeeded by making sure every person who chooses to drive anywhere can do so as fast as they like, without obstruction or delay.

    3. What your missing, Cliff, is that adding lane capacity and creating hostile pedestrian environments building out intersections to fight LOS (Level Of Service) degradation is HARD-WIRED into the system.

      These ‘Improvements’ happen regardless of whether the public thinks they are a good idea or not.

      When was the last time there was a vote on any major intersection upgrade?

      When was there a vote on funding mega-road-projects in the region.

      This is all happening under the radar.

      All that needs to be done is that road capacity/intersection improvements be put to a vote.

      Now being as it was my old stomping grounds, I’m familiar with the Bothell Proposition 1 years ago to ‘improve’ downtown by creating an 6 lane boulevard, and 6 more lanes of parking/driving corridors. This is the area where the state handed over control of the SR-522/SR-527 interchange to the city.

      It was billed as a green space/park type proposition, but most people saw through that, noting that the lion’s share of the funds would go to that roadway.

      It lost, but the City of Bothell said they would find a way to fund it even if it did lose.

      When I lived there, Bothell pined for a direct connection to Bothell Landing.
      I don’t see evidence of that wish anymore.
      I see lots of pavement, dedicated to the throughput of vehicular traffic.

      You are aware that the project to add 4 more GP lanes to I-405 is up to around $10 Billion now. (Lanes, interchanges).

      I haven’t seen anything that I can vote yay or nay on for that project.
      The legislature raised my gas tax ~10 cents, without going to the people.
      Even then, it’s still not enough, hence the Express Lane Tolling.

      You see, I’ve always been a transit supporter, too.

      And I used to believe the same popular opinion as everyone else.
      “It doesn’t pay for itself”. “Do it for the children” “Do it for the environment”
      “It’s subsidized”.

      And I didn’t question it. Just thought that established cities that didn’t chase LOS and lane capacity seemed so much more livable.

      Until I got to see the numbers in detail.

      Pavement dedicated to the auto

      IN REAL MONEY – $.

      All you have to do is apply the same analysis, substituting the nomenclature (ridership vs. vehicles, fares vs. gas tax burned (a toll is a true user fee))

      Roads aren’t a very good deal.

  25. And Cliff, let’s take your idea that road diets are somehow a chief cause of congestion. Let’s create the ideal road for vehicle travel. This will be a fun experiment.

    Let’s make a road that takes away the lane buffers, and makes it two lanes in each direction. Heck, why not make it three or four lanes wide? Then let’s remove those pesky, slow bike lanes and then maybe remove all the bus stops too.

    Oh wait, we have that kind of road, it’s called a freeway, and it’s congested 90% of the time too.

    The future of transportation will not center around the private vehicle because, geometrically and realistically, it will be impossible to do so. It never has before, and it never will in the future, and Seattle will not be the first city to magically solve this, somehow. The actual scientists who have studied this, know this. Read up.

  26. San Francisco’s planning director once said that parking is not a problem. If drivers had trouble finding a parking space that meant that people wanted to go there. It’s similar with congestion. To eliminate congestion in Seattle you’d have to turn it into something like Houston. “We had to destroy the city to save it.”

    1. That’s similar to Paris. Paris has been converting car lanes to BRT without regard to cars. And it has a policy of removing a quota of parking spaces every year to make the city less car-centric and more people-centric.

  27. Folks…. I am not talking about ADDING lanes, but NOT REDUCING THE NUMBER OF LANES WE NOW HAVE. This is an important distinction. Why not reduce I5 to one lane each way? There will be less accidents, guaranteed. Folks here seem willing to reduce road capacity BEFORE you have the transit solutions in place to take over some of the load. And the city is not maintaining properly the bicycle infrastructure (like the B-G trail) or the roads we have now. Some folks on this blog don’t seem to understand why many folks have to use cars at this point in time. Some folks don’t think we have crippling traffic. I belong to groups that have ended early evening meetings due to the traffic. I can’t tell you how many meetings I have been at when key individuals were late or unable to attend because of traffic. There is a severe problem, whether some want to accept it or not…cliff

    1. Cliff, review the literature on induced demand. Really. This has been empirically demonstrated ad nauseam, no matter how unintuitive you find it. Reducing capacity causes drivers who can do so relatively easily to change routes, consolidate trips, or switch to alternate modes. It generally does not increase congestion. That is part of why delays on rechannelized streets are relatively minor at peak of peak and nonexistent 22 hours a day. The other part is that it is often not number of lanes, but intersection capacity, that determines vehicle throughput.

      Many 4- (or more) lane arterials in Seattle are simply unsafe for pedestrians. The fact that they have been that way for years does not excuse their lack of safety. Again, is the city there for people who live and work in it, or for people who are traveling through it to somewhere else? Pedestrian safety should be a very high priority, even where it does cause some delays to through travelers. It has not historically been, and SDOT’s efforts to change that are most welcome. Your example of I-5 shows your windshield perspective — there are no pedestrians on I-5.

      And if you think we have a “severe problem” around traffic, you have never commuted in New York, LA, or DC. Our traffic is a pussycat, except when there is a major disruption like the tanker accident. About the worst delay we see on a consistent basis is I-5 southbound into the city. From Lynnwood, that delay may be 20 minutes above the normal trip time. That is easily manageable, especially since it’s so predictable. If anyone is getting caught out by it, they are planning poorly. Try getting across the Hudson in a car at peak of peak and you will see what real traffic delays mean.

      1. I know about induced demand. THAT IS NOT THE ISSUE here. There is a certain amount of current demand and road diets are REDUCING CAPACITY NOT ADDING LANES. I agree there are a lot of intersection problems. Instead of wasting huge amounts of money on road diets, FIX THE INTERSECTIONS. How? Smart timing will help a lot. Create safe cross walks with lots of active lighting and clear delineation. If necessary, use mechanical traffic signals like at rail crossings. Most national studies put us in the same traffic leagues as NY, DC and SF. I drive regularly in all of them. We are in the same traffic “league” as them. ffi

      2. Induced demand works in both directions. Part of the “certain amount of current demand” is induced. Reduce capacity, and you will reduce demand, usually without many adverse consequences. This has happened everywhere it has been tried.

  28. I read the comments.

    Sounder ontime 95%, it might look that good on paper..

    Try relying on it every day to line up with PT bus times to minimize your end to end trip time with that ideal goal of leaving the car at home, you know because we care about the planet..

    If Sounder is under 5 minutes late then it works. It sometimes manages that achievement. PT recently made 402 run every 30 minutes during the day, this would be good for Puyallup station, but come peak commute time its back to once an hour :-)

    Link to the airport. Conversation with someone visiting our office from Denver a couple weeks ago – Them: “How long does it take to get to the airport?” Me: “If traffic is good a taxi might be what 30 minutes or so.., you could take Link but you’ll want to allow at least an hour for that” Them: “I’ll take a taxi I think, maybe try the train out next time” (or never).

    1. Weasel makes a very good point. A huge weaknesses of the current light rail system is access from the south end. Are we REALLY going to push all the airport and south-sound rail traffic through the clunky, slow surface street light rail corridor along Rainier Ave? It makes no sense….

      1. No, we’re going to invest in our existing heavy rail line to improve service to the South Sound region. Why on earth would we build a third rail connection southward before we have a single one going north or east?

      2. South/north rail balance is irrelevant as long as Subarea Equity remains policy; each subarea chooses its own projects within its proportional budget. The south end has three times as many highways as the north end, and doesn’t have the extreme everyday congestion the north end has. The south end actually has more rail coverage because Sounder runs in the middle through the center of major cities, rather than along the shore through small cities where it’s barely relevant. That allows many people in the south end to live near Sounder or approach it from both sides.

        The most fundamental problem for Federal Way and Tacoma is their distance. Lynnwood is as close as north Kent, and Everett is as close as south Federal Way. The longer the distance, the greater the discrepency between a 35-55 mph train and a 55-65 mph bus. The Rainier Valley detour adds a small fixed overhead, but it also adds major ridership and destinations. Metro plans to take over the all-day express buses between Federal Way and downtown, and Pierce Transit could do the same from Tacoma if it wanted to.

  29. Andres…check out the ST3 plan for south sound. LIGHT RAIL is extended to Tacoma. You see the problem? Adding a straight shot along I5 would cut 30 minutes off the trip!

    1. Light rail’s job is to serve people every mile or so along a corridor, not to be an express between two large cities 15 miles apart. A freeway line would have stations along the freeway. Have you seen the Kent-Des Moines P&R? Would you want to walk from Highline Community College or the future urban village to the freeway to get to the station? If not, then it will lose ridership, because light rail works best when it goes to the center of neighborhoods.

    2. What Mike said. Highway alignments are generally considered poor transit policy because they significantly curtail the walkshed around stations. If Sounder trains can achieve fast, frequent service between Seattle and Tacoma, there is no need to duplicate that service with light rail. Let light rail be what it’s designed for (mobility between neighborhoods), and let heavy rail do the heavy lifting of rapid intercity travel.

      Are you aware that Sound Transit studied almost exactly what you’re proposing here, determined that it would cost $1b, and that is should be low enough on the list of regional priorities not to be included in ST3?

    3. Europe built its city centers around train stations, and often has a supermarket or retail complex right at the station, like Duesseldorf Hauptbahnhof and Liege Gare. Some suburban stations like Duesseldorf-Benrath or Ratingen-Ost are in the middle of nowhere but that’s where the straight line goes. Kent and Auburn sort of did that although the station areas are underbuilt (thus having unfulfilled potential). So mainline and local (commuter) trains should stop in major city centers, and ideally in neighborhood centers along the way although that’s not always possible. Metro rail, aka light rail or subways, has an even greater need to stop at neighborhood centers and every mile or so because it’s a different service. (Some people say half mile, others say 1-2 miles, but in any case closer than commuter trains.)

      AndresSawant: Did ST study a Georgetown bypass in the ST3 corridor studies and make a cost estimate? I don’t remember it. What I do remember is ST deleting it from the Long-Range Plan in 2013. But the LRP has no cost estimate; it’s just things that ST might want to study and build in the next hundred years.

      1. Mike, I think you’re right. I read the $1B number and thought I remembered it from a few years ago, but I think the estimate was based on the per mile cost of a different line, not an actual study. Sorry for the misinformation.

        I do remember discussing this idea exhaustively years ago and it seemed there was a pretty good consensus that a bypass would be neither politically viable nor cost effective.

      2. Duesseldorf-Derendorf, not Benrath. That must have been another station. The S-Bahn and bus both went from Duesseldorf Hbf to D-Derendorf, and then the bus got on an autobahn to Ratingen where I was staying. Ratingen is a suburb like Kirkland and the S-Bahns skirted the sides of it so you had to take a bus. But now it has a subway according to Google maps! This is just like Germany putting in streetcars with downtown tunnels in all the small cities, like Bielefeld in the 80s. There there would be no question about putting light rail in places like Kirkland, Bothell, Renton — of course we should.

  30. Sounder trains will not go to Seattle Tacoma Airport…only the light rail will. And so many folks have told me don’t/won’t use it because it takes so long. And to get frequent service on the Tacoma line you have to deal with scheduling on an essentially freight line….will that ever happen?

    1 billion for a line along the I5 right of way seems crazy high. I checked the costs from a variety of sources.

    Finally, there is something that should be talked about her….filling up roads with traffic can be social good, since folks are traveling places for business or personally important tasks. Having less transportation is NOT a social benefit. Before you jump on me, I should note it would be better if folks use transit to the max extent…but that is not always possible…

  31. 100% agree with everything Cliff Mass posted. I support every transit initiative and love Sound Transit and the system we are building. It provides a new separated corridor of capacity that we desperately need. I can’t wait for the day when the train goes more places. I’ll be there opening day when the line to Northgate opens. But this notion that people can’t use their car anywhere or at anytime is absurd. Cars are an integral part of the overall transportation system and must be blended into the overall solution.

    Unfortunately, many of the more extreme (and loud) activists in this city aren’t trying to build a better transportation system that gets people from point A to point B faster, they just hate cars. Their goal appears to be 100% transit use or nothing. Whereas the goal should be to increase the use of transit.

    Driving a car to the nearest park-and-ride and taking the train into town instead of driving the whole way is a win. Transit use is up – car use is down. There were many times when I lived in the southend that I wanted to take the train into town, but the park-and-ride was full. So we just drive the whole way. Artificially restricting park-and-ride capacity has the opposite effect of what is desired…transit use stays down – car use stays up.

    Road diets, overall, make congestion worse. While some streets with light traffic may not suffer congestion afterwards…most do. 125th is a good example. It may not be what some activists want to hear, but it’s true. I often see hear people say get the facts….it doesn’t cause congestion. But I’ve never see them. Even this site posts lofty goals of road diets but no facts on the negative consequences. Where are the studies that show 125th didn’t get worse? Most studies tout generalized national analysis not specific to our hilly rainy city or any specific road. And if there are local studies done, I often suspect they are taken in July when the weather is good, school is out, and everyone is on vacation? Real world experience driving these roads shows road diets back up buses and cars which causes more pollution and delays. Taking away lanes on Sand Point Way, foe example, for bike lanes is silly. The Burke Gilman parallels the road.

    I’m not suggesting we build more roads. We don’t have the space or the money. But let’s not reduce what we have. We have so little to begin with. Many of activists and city officials today remind me of the insular officials of the 60’s and 70’s who tipped the scale way too heavily towards freeways and refused to build a balanced transportation system…which we are paying for today. Now we have the same problem at the other extreme. Unbalanced policy against cars.

    1. Turning a 4 lane road without a protected turn lane into a 2 lane road with turn pockets at intersections and a protected turn lane in-between can reduce congestion because drivers don’t change lanes to avoid stopped turning vehicles. Road diets also reduce accidents because people aren’t passing unsafely on the right or making blind turns at intersections.

      Think of road diets as reducing turbulence in the traffic flow.

    2. It’s about externalities. Driving has many times more negative impacts on the surrounding community than any other mode of transportation. If it were just you it wouldn’t be a big deal because you’d only need a one-lane road and on parking space at your destinations. But when hundreds of thousands of people drive, it creates a whole lot of impact. The roads and garages are expensive to build, they take up half the cities’ land, that pushes everything apart and makes them harder to walk to and isolates people, there’s pollution, etc. What cities can provide is a comprehensive transit system. What they can’t provide is an all-driving network because it doesn’t scale to hundreds of thousands of people, much less millions.

      So we provide some car capacity, and hope that people use it judiciously, only when needed, and not when they could take transit. But a lot of people use it even if a bus goes door to door and they’re not carrying anything heavy, and they fill up the P&Rs and parking spaces and highways so that people who need them more can’t use them. We tried to offer some car capacity, but that’s the tragedy of the commons.

      The thing is, bigger P&Rs don’t come free. It’s $35,000-70,000 per parking space. You could provide a lot of transit for that money. And that space benefits only the lucky person who occupies it, while everybody pays for it. Many urbanists realize that P&Rs are a necessity in the suburbs until they can fix their street grids/density/feeder buses. So again, we provide some P&R capacity. And ST has gone beyond that and offered the most it can within its budget.

      “Their goal appears to be 100% transit use or nothing.”

      Ideally, only people who need to drive would drive. Emergency vehicles, delivery vans, laborers with bulky tools, disabled people who can’t walk to the bus stop, etc. Feeders and efficient transit would be everywhere, like in New York or Canada or Europe. There would be some additional capacity for choice/recreational driving. But not so that everybody can drive everywhere all the time: that just has too much environmental and land use impact. The reason we don’t have comprehensive transit is politics, but that’s no reason to just give up and turn into Silicon Valley or Atlanta, which by the way aren’t paradises either.

      SDOT has the evidence on road diets: it measures the roads before and after. Four lanes theoretically offers more thoroughput than two lanes+turn lane, but a lot of that is lost by people switching lanes and passing, which intrinsically slows cars down. Avoiding those lane changes and passing both optimizes cars’ speeds and reduces accidents The main purpose of the road diets is “Vision Zero”: to try to get the accident rate down to zero. Not to slow down cars or punish drivers, but to keep children alive. The 4-lane streets are not so full that they need four full lanes, and SDOT’s measurements show that cars are flowing as well or better after the diet than before it.

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