Metro Transit Buses after a Seattle Friday Rush Hour and a night with the Seahawks playing against Kansas City

This is an open thread.

65 Replies to “News Roundup: You May Have Heard”

  1. Is the city in the business of “bringing in more money?” Plazas aren’t used because people don’t walk anywhere. Or they don’t like being outdoors. People talk about density this and that, but when you’ve used up all space for “more density,” try going back from the concrete jungle.

    “The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle” will be lyrics from a bygone era when you could actually get outside, sit in an open space and see the sky.

    Trees are even disappearing in Seattle.

    1. With the right plaza design, people will use them. It has to be pleasant and human-scaled, with small spaces. People like to sit or stand at the edges of spaces, not in the middle. A short wall or plant or something can break up a large space psychologically into smaller spaces that people will more likely use.The furniture also has to be human-scaled: small intimate benches placed at conversation-distance angles, not massive geometric slabs made for giant robots like in Freeway Park. And the current wave of flimsy chairs is just ridiculous; who would want to sit in those if they didn’t have to? The flimsy chairs may be a start to put something there — that’s what the waterfront people did and Westlake Park, but they also did things with paint and activities to attract people.

      Another kind of worthwhile open space is a nature preserve. I used to hate unused open spaces with grass and a row of decorative plants until I realized the problem isn’t the space; it’s the landscaping. The new bioswales are doing the right thing, with native plants that absorb and clean stormwater. Replacing lawns with shrubs and other active things and pollination/resting places for little critters is also worthwhile. Metropolitan Park, the trio of office buildings at Howell & Minor just renovated its boring lawn and token decorative plants into something more shrub-like and terraced and active-looking, and it’s a better open space now.

      1. It’s not just a matter of aesthetics, it’s also a matter of function and surroundings. University quads and pre-auto-age town squares that actually provide direct access to buildings on most sides are well used and well loved. People go through in the course of daily business, so that you don’t need much furniture to break up the space.

        Seattle largely gives plazas a bad name by sticking them between buildings with no public access function and busy streets. But even we have some open public spaces that work, at least during hours when surrounding destinations are popular. Seattle doesn’t have a whole lot of all-day-all-week blocks. Seattle Center’s wide paths and lawns are pretty well used, the lawns limited to seasons when the grass isn’t soggy, and all limited to times when the surrounding buildings are in use. Westlake Park and Pioneer Square each have just one single face fronting actual buildings and they’re full of life. Every time I run through the UW campus or the Seattle U campus I see more people walking through than on the nearby streets, and I rarely do so during school hours. Red Square is an ugly expanse of red brick, but there are always people in it! Why? Because it’s surrounded by useful buildings!

        What I’d ask about any plaza: how many people would walk diagonally across it on their way somewhere?

      2. Great points all, Mike and Al. Opposite of Martin here: Often agree with Sawant, strongly disagree with her on this. A good public plaza is a valuable urban amenity. The question, as with everything, is design. My favorite newer public plaza is the “indoor” plaza at the Linkedin headquarters in San Francisco, a beautiful space that goes open-air with enormous two-story windows and doors when weather permits. Has a cafe, public restrooms, lovely artwork, and free wifi. Have spent some time humping it around that neighborhood in the last year or two and it is always the perfect place to rest the feet, maybe send off a document, take care of a bodily need. Most always well used when I am there, too.

        http://ww1.hdnux.com/photos/61/02/15/12854124/3/rawImage.jpg

    2. Next time you’re in a plaza at the foot of a very tall building, what happens to your hat if you don’t hang onto it pretty well tells the story.

      Problem isn’t a matter of density or other spatial use. It’s aerodynamics. Skyscrapers disturb a lot of air.
      Any human space at the foot of them has to be either indoors or underground.

      Mark Dublin

    3. Plazas are a good idea at first, until you see the reality. Windswept, cold place that’s in the shade most of the day, and quickly taken over by the homeless unless there’s a significant ongoing effort to keep it lively and bring people in… which I doubt there will be. If it was, for example, surrounded by restaurants and bars with outdoor seating, etc., then that may be a game changer as opposed to some soulless open space.

      Unfortunately we can’t really have nice things in the US because of the homeless problem.

      1. If they’re full of vertical plants like shrubs or the kinds of gardens that some houses have, they won’t be havens for the homeless, and they’ll be good for the environment. Have you ever seen a homeless person sleeping in a bioswale?

  2. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only urbanist to read about the hole in front of city hall (which I can see as I type this) to a) agree with what Sawant was arguing and b) be surprised to find myself doing so.

    1. As an urbanist who believes that density and public open space have to go hand in hand, I still disagree with Sawant on this one. I’d have been just as happy to see the whole lot turned into a city square with no tower too.

  3. SDOT FAIL!

    The Judkins Park Station will be on 23rd Avenue at the I-90 lid, opening in 2023. It should be presented as part of the redesign as a major bus-rail transfer point, as well as a place where there will be lots of drop-off and pick-up activity! It deserves great treatment.

    If transit is so important at SDOT, why is this overlooked? How can we take a generic “mobility playbook” seriously if these kinds of basic things are not considered in practice?

    1. six years to go.
      a bit early to state “SDOT fail”.

      On the other hand, its reasonable to be pessimistic if you ever travel through mt baker on any mode.

    2. It’s not too early to call SDOT out on this. Construction on this project won’t end at the earlier until late 2019 or 2020. The station entrance will be visible by then.

      How are all these new technologies going to be incorporated at Judkins Park station? Texting, GPS, Uber, Lyft, car-sharing companies and even possible driverless cars are all much more population and they will create a looming congestion point at Judkins Park on 23rd Avenue just after SDOT narrows the street in front of the station. Add to that the proposed creation of a 23rd Avenue BRT corridor, hopefully paired with Rainier Ave, with no major bus stop in front of the entrance — and the likelihood that this bus stop will be the highest activity stop on the corridor..

      1. Until there is an actual station, there isn’t a need for a bus stop on 23rd Ave directly on the lid. When the station entrance is built in a few year, they can just add a bus stop then. I don’t think its a problem that bus stop isn’t being added now?

      2. The problem is that the street is being narrowed. That means that if vehicles (including buses) are not considered, there will be stopping in the main lane of traffic. Consider how this supposedly embracing of new technology creates more drop-off and pick-up activity, and SDOT is designing things to make that more difficult. If SDOT just left the street at its current width, they could restripe the entire segment on the I-90 lid for drop-off and pick-up and for the bus services headed there.

        In other words, people are going to be hopping in and out of cars in front of buses and other moving vehicles. It creates both congestion and safety issues.

      3. Adding/moving a bus stop takes years. How long was Capitol Hill station in planning, under construction and now open and yet the westbound John Street bus stop hasnt moved closer to the station yet. These super simple paint-and-signs transportation fixes cant be taking this long.

      4. Thanks for the link, David. Clearly SDOT and ST have different plans for 23rd Avenue. This is exactly the problem I’m referring to with the current SDOT 23rd Avenue plan to narrow the street and not plan bus stops in front of the station as part of the street redesign project.

      5. The ST Project will involve completely rebuilding the west curb of 23rd Ave, which (according to the doc) will include a widened bike path, drop-off spaces, and a new bus stop.

        The SDOT plan includes a parking lane on both sides of the lid, so I think Al’s concern about ROW is unfounded. The road will remain 4 lanes wide for the stretch that matters.

        So, the SDOT project will fix the center roadway & the east curb of 23rd Ave, but the west side of the road will be rebuilt (again?) when ST comes it. So hopefully SDOT doesn’t spend money on a nice sidewalk on the right side, but other than that, I think we’re good.

        (thanks for the links, David)

      6. I just noticed something in that map: the station will be closer to 23rd, meaning a 450-foot walk eastbound from Rainier Avenue to the station platform. Too bad.

      7. Thanks David! This does not match their generalized public diagram shown in the SDOT web site, by the way.

        I would actually prefer that a turn-around for buses at maybe drop-offs was included in the design. Forest Hill station in San Francisco isn’t the best example but it works pretty well. It’s could be a very similar citcumstance to here, with a two through trunk routes and two other lower-frequency routes that turn around at the station and serve hilly nearby neighborhoods.

      8. Well isn’t that a classic Catch 22, Mike? Without some initiative, Metro will assume that they can’t turn around buses and won’t end routes there. ST and SDOT will assume that no bus turn-around is needed because no Metro hasn’t proposed ending bus routes there.

        Of course no buses turn around there today! There’s no station entrance!

        Metro has yet to have a discussion with the neighborhood about whether to serve the station and how to serve the station. Certainly, Route 48 will serve the station. I’ve talked to several neighbors near the station who are quite excited about the station, but who are trusting that Metro will serve the station well. The Station will also have restrooms available, which makes it a much better end-of-line, bus layover point than a stop in the middle of a residential area like the current ends of Route 27 or 14 or 4.

        Candidate routes which could someday turn around at the 23rd entrance include:

        — Route 4, connecting Cherry Hill and Seattle U with the station could end there if a turn-around is provided (new trolley wire would be required for the turn-around)
        — Route 27, which could be deviated from Yesler up and down 23rd to the station entrance, creating direct connections to Leschi and Pratt Park from the station.
        — Route 27, which could be extended down Lake Washington Blvd to Lake Park Drive, McClellan (already proposed by Metro) and then serving the south of 90 parts of Route 4 (if that southern on Plum and Walker Street loses service), ending at the station entrance.
        — Route 14, which rather than operate on the Hunter Blvd loop (if Route 27 takes up that service as Metro conceptually proposes) could swing back to this 23rd Avenue station entrance and end there, providing direct service between 31st Avenue and the station.
        .
        I would also note that a turn-around has utility even if no bus routes turn around there. Seattle is committed to future technology uses in transportation. The one major change that technology has recently given us is a pretty dramatic increase in drop-off and pick-up. thanks to Uber, Lyft and texting for rides because the bus doesn’t directly run to Leschi or Seward Park or North Beacon Hill from this station (and routes east of Rainier or MLK have horrible frequencies to boot). All those people headed to and from the station will be circulating on narrow streets like Judkins and Massachusetts to get to and from the station if no turn-around is provided. If a turn-around on 23rd is available, then they would be more likely to stay on 23rd and off of local streets.

  4. So glad that Pat Murakami sounded the alarm on Link station crime in the RV. I had no idea people were literally having jewelry and electronics ripped from their bodies upon leaving Link. I can’t believe anyone would ride on such a crime infested system, especially since you’re basically risking your life after dark (at least according to Pat Murakami). This public safety coverup must go clear to the top!

    1. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to read STB and use One Bus Away on my phone when on Link. I’ve never had any problems or seen anyone else do so. In an era where 80% of people have smartphones, thieves don’t need to signal to each other about who does; they can just mug anybody and they’ll probably have a phone.

    2. My grandson and his friends were mugged at gunpoint getting off transit in Rainier Valley, and relieved of all their phones, wallets, and laptops. Nothing to be cavalier about!

  5. Murakami, wow!

    ” Why not just put all the density up against the freeway, not affect the views, and just go much higher than you were planning to along the freeway? Then they get a view and everybody down the hill maintains theirs.”

    One teensy weensy little problem. Freeways are loud; you have to keep your windows closed to avoid the noise. At the Carolina Court on Eastlake, it’s so loud in the courtyard that you can barely hear people on the door phone. This policy would result in apartment dwellers getting all the noise, and since an apartment holds a lot of people like a bus does and the number is quickly growing, it affects a lot of people.

    I’ll skip the most-common controversial things she says…

    “I really think that our low-income housing providers, like SHA, should take all [ex-criminals] as tenants initially,”

    SHA has a six-year waiting list.

    1. About the idea of putting high rise properties at the crest of the north-south ridges, I say generally “Yes!”. It does increase shadow problems somewhat, but if it’s not a solid wall, the neighbors down the hill won’t suffer too severely. The good thing is that the ridges are north-south, so the folks on the sides of the ridges already have more than half a day of (clouds allowing) of sun and somewhat less than half a day of shade. Raising the elevation of the crest will only modestly shorten the sunny half of the cycle. If the hills were east-west raising the crest would plunge some new people into all day shadow.

  6. Ms Murakami sounds like one of the “Crime Train” paranoiacs around here.

    She’ll get crushed, and rightly.

    1. And yet Link is one of the cleanest, well managed and safest light rail systems in the country, it is way better than Portland MAX.

    1. Picking on two sentences of Yglesias’ post was a weak sauce rebuttal, tbh.

      I’ve written before about how Seattle’s performance compares well to built-out cities.

      But to highlight what was really Yglesias’ main point, we are leaving a lot of capacity on the table by failing to zone permissively over much of the city. This isn’t controversial, is it?

      Although Yglesias didn’t address the suburbs, suburban housing growth in King County is mostly very slow, with only a few cities on the central Eastside pulling their weight.

      1. Goldman’s schtick is to deny we’re leaving meaningful capacity on the table, or that there’s a general shortage of housing in Seattle. The moves he makes to reach these conclusions are….the way to describe them most likely to avoid and [ad hom] deletion is probably “counterintuitive.”

  7. best guess is that a floating log may have damaged the hull,

    Gosh, who would have suspected there might be a log floating in the Puget Sound? Seems Kitsap politicians haven’t learned the definition for

    boat noun \ ˈbōt \ 1. A hole in the water into which you throw money.

  8. Throwing this out to the horde: if you were going to be Seattle mayor for only 2 to 3 months, what would you do to improve transit?

    1. 1) eliminate the cycle track on 2nd
      2) start a new dedicated transit division of SDOT
      2a) Take over all control of on-street bus stops and facilities from partner agencies
      2b) Start a service planning department, starting with focus on the downtown core and other neighborhood centers at first, improving transfer points, and connections with LINK
      2c) Using the leverage gained with control over on-street facilities to help make progress on implementing plans for service. Sometimes it will be good, sometimes…
      2d) Improve the facilities you have inherited from the partner agencies, maybe implement a more unified regional branding of stops and facilities, more real-time information, off board payment, better bus connections at LINK stations, etc.
      2e) Work with partner agencies to better connect SLU to the rest of the transit system, such as extending suburban routes to start in the area to better serve major employers.
      3) Work with partner agencies to provide better connecting service to major transportation hubs in the city such as Coleman Dock, King Street Station, etc.
      4) Work with Sound Transit’s Service quality department to address overlooked and meaningful shortcomings in signage, announcements, etc. Plus work with Sound Transit to implement real-time LINK information.
      5) Work with Metro expand use of trolley coaches to all urban routes that are clean, quiet, and much more environmentally friendly than the current battery bus fad that is going on.

      Ok this may take more than 2-3 months but…

      1. Why eliminate the cycle track on Second? I could understand doing it on Broadway, but there, when buses are on the other side of the street?

        And why freeze urban routes in amber with trolleybuses?

    2. Ride the public transportation system as widely and intensively as you can, local and regional, bus and rail, and including Amtrak to Portland and Vancouver BC, and the ferry system. Until you have a good mental picture of where it goes, what it’s like to ride, what needs fixing, and how fast.

      If you don’t have personal friends in these positions, get to know first line operating people, drivers, supervisors, and maintenance, and have them detailed to show you around the system throughout your term. Any of your own trades before you became a politician, find similar advisers. Get with the School District, and go along on transit-using museum and other field trips.

      When your term’s up, start your campaign for Mayor.

      Mark

    3. Nice try Bruce Harrell ;)

      Really though, if I were the supreme dictator of Seattle, it’d go something like this:

      1) Car tab/gas tax increase for transit fund, irrevocable for 50 years.

      2) Increase bus-bike-rail connections including increased bike parking at all bus/rail stations, improve bike access to bus/rail stations, improve connections to bus from rail (looking at you Mt Baker/UW), implement STB recommandations for UW Station, widen sidewalks to stations, TOD up the WSU

      3) Once again, ~TOD~. I don’t care if there’s a hundred year old building across from that station, TOD is happening. All streets close to major bus corridors are majorly upzoned and if passing through a commercial zone the upzone gets wider by 3 blocks. All new development in these types of regions is permitted to have commercial.

      4) Downtown congestion charge. All downtown street parking is removed, and parking in First Hill, Capitol Hill, and LQA onstreet parking is removed on commercial streets, and elsewhere in street parking is dramatically reduced. Citywide parking minimums are removed, and parking downtown is taxed at 40 bucks per month per spot on top of a citywide parking tax of 20 dollars everywhere else. Capitol Hill, LQA, etc have a 20 dollar additional parking tax as well. SFHs are exempt, and parking spots built before the time of writing get a 50% discount on the tax, except on parking garages. Pegged to inflation of course. All taxes flow towards transit.

      5) On street parking is no longer free. Parking permits for onstreet parking run for 20 per month, except along bike greenways. Onstreet parking in Capitol Hill/First Hill/SLU/LQA etc is illegal for residents on streets perpendicular to a business district. All commercial streets parking is delegated to perpendicular side streets, and is priced depending on demand. Otherwise, parking in those neighbourhoods is reduced and ROW is given to pedestrians, transit, cyclists, greenery, cars, and new development, in that order.

      6) #NoNewRoads

      7) the urbanist’s plan for E line replacement is implemented as rubber tire metro running down the center lane using parking funds. All new development on Aurora is mandated have exits on the second floor, second floor retail, and contribute to building a network of grade separated pedestrian/bike overpasses that allow for connection with the metro and over the street. First floor can be anything except residences/commercial along Aurora, though parking tax is 20 dollars more per month per spot along Aurora and up to 2 or 3 blocks in.

      8) the monorail authority is expanded and using parking funds, expanded car tabs, gas tax, and other taxing venues, we build the metro8 and 44 replacement subways. The anything south of the base of QA hill to the base of Beacon Hill is now rezoned to high rise. QA hill and Magnolia are now LR3. Bus lanes everywhere in the city, of course. Trolley wire too.

      9) SODO is annexed into downtown. Parking construction is banned. Construction is 15 stories minimum.

      Oh this will take a little longer than two or three months though

  9. One reason that development has been slow at Rainier Beach Station is–look up!–those high voltage power lines running overhead. Most of the property close to RBS is height restricted. It’s unfortunate, but the area around RBS will always be less developed than many other stations. Any time I fill out a survey with ST or Metro, I always recommend that they focus development and transit service on Othello Station rather than RBS.

    There is plenty of property in the Rainier Beach area that could be developed. In particular, the property within the loop around Rainier Beach that the 7 Rainier Beach follows (not the 7 Prentice St.) should be a prime target for developers. I’m not sure why it still is mostly asphalt and weeds. But within a few blocks of Rainier & Henderson there is an abundance of educational and recreational resources that would make Rainier Beach a great location for transit and family oriented development.

    1. My friend who lives down there says it’s starting to take off on Rainier Avenue south of Columbia City. Even if construction isn’t visible it will be in a couple years.

      1. For whatever reasons, there seems to be more development along Rainier than MLK. Currently there are plenty of small scale development projects happening throughout the valley, but very little of it is visible from a light rail train.

      2. Guy,

        It’s because Rainier has trees and existing attractions. It’s a neighborhood arterial. Somebody needs to tell the clueless drivers from South King who use Rainier like their grandfathers did about Martin Luther King. Now there’s a roadway!

      1. Most vacant land around Rainier Beach Station is City Light R-O-W and can’t be built upon. But it could become park-and-ride lots.

  10. Seattle’s scariest bus stop might be on route 101 across from Creston Point at 68th Ave S. Riders have to walk a fair distance along a 50 mph road without any sidewalk or curb for protection.

    1. That’s the one I woulda picked, too. I don’t think it’s in incorporated Seattle, but I don’t think it’s in any other city, either, and I think it’s in an area that uses Seattle mailing addresses.

      The stop along West Marginal is the sort I’m less likely to worry about. Its physical characteristics are very bad, and we should improve them. But it’s only served by a handful of trips per day and should mostly be used for pickups (only served by evening trips heading back to Tukwila Sounder), so anyone that’s physically unable to access the stop won’t be stuck there, they’ll use a different stop instead. The stop on the 101 is served by a lot more trips and surely gets more usage… and people don’t have very good options to avoid it.

      Also in the category of bus stops I’m more concerned with than this one on East Marginal is the stop outside the National Archives building on Sand Point Way. West Marginal ought to have sidewalks, but I’d prioritize Sand Point Way higher. The 101 stop would be higher-priority than either, just because the area has such a weak street network generally that even if you plan ahead you might lack good options to avoid walking along the highway.

  11. Does anyone else get the impression that KUOW leans NIMBY? I just heard their segment about Wallingford homeowners trying to prevent development. The best part was when they implied that duplex construction that brought in “teamsters and UW students” ruined the neighborhood until brave homeowners got new duplexes banned.

    1. I’m not sure if there’s a NIMBY bias but the Region of Boom reporters focused on the exurbs for months and I didn’t think they’d ever get to Seattle. That anti-student attitude was bad and the word “teamsters” was surprisingly archaic (who did they mean?). But it was a completely different housing and job environment in the 1980s. Seattle’s population was lower in the 70s, 80s, and 90s than it had been in the 1950s, so those students could have easily found a house anywhere in the city or an apartment in the northern U-District. So it was snobbish but it wasn’t endangering the students’ housing security. Nowadays a student can’t even afford an apartment in the U-District, and forget about a house anywhere within 20 miles of Seattle, so we really critically need more housing immediately. The duplex issue wouldn’t have played out quite the same now: there’s some recognition that more apartments on 45th is inevitable, and single-family zoning may not remain forever even if the current city government isn’t ready to move on it yet.

      1. Why would KUOW be anti-student? They’re so deeply involved with UW. They trained UW broadcasting students, and hell even their name stands for UW

        K
        University
        Of
        Washington

    2. They aren’t particularly consistent, I think. I’ve certainly seen much more NIMBY-skeptical reporting from them then that sorry segment.

    3. I heard that piece. However, lot of facts of labor history we don’t know. Just theoretically, suppose the neighborhood had been mostly longshoremen, and Teamsters muscled their way in and took over. Or maybe ATU lost a contract in old Seattle Transit days?

      In same vein, maybe Methodist Seattle Pacific University kids kept getting it on with Young Lutherans straying east along the trolleywire from Ballard? Assuming trolleywire was there before it got taken down and put back up for the 43.

      History could hold even more closely-held information. Maybe the influx of the current Complaining Class rendered Wallingford so boring, as it is to this day, that students and teamsters helped each other pile all their belongings on top of their cars like in Grapes of Wrath, and fled for California, where the Teamsters, depending on age, became either hippies or beatniks, and the students founded IT.

      Movie re-make, right? Now, in another movie besides IT, children of millionaire Teamster officials and UW athletic directors could property tax their successors into a lot with an Interstate ramp number for an address. But more likely comeuppance is that Wallingfordian Boredom gets into the soil like at Hood Canal, rendering their homes immune from both encroachment and, having no value, property taxes.

      So maybe advancement is best served by leaving this neighborhood where it is, as is. Some first-hand experience here. If my neighbors and I had been allowed to stay in our elevator-deprived, coin-machined laundry, and walls whose age encouraged the landlord to let us paint them…

      As long as my 1969 Pontiac station wagon whose name should’ve been Christine was on the streets, Ballard was safe for the unthreatening. Cost control problem for the future, though. Since cars are made out of plastic, their appearance can’t lower home values a penny.

      Mark

    4. It wasn’t ROB being anti-student. They were recounting an event in the 1980s where residents opposed allowing duplexes because it would bring “transfers and students”.

      Today’s episode was also about Wallingford, and the first half fell into the trap of saying that new buildings cause rents to rise in old buildings, and quoted an elderly couple in an old building saying we need to slow down the number of new buildings to stop the rents from rising as fast. In the second half the reporters mentioned that a lot of people are coming to Seattle and need housing, and that you also have to look at what would happen if we didn’t build more housing, but then they didn’t really answer that question.

      Tomorrow’s episode is Yesler Terrace.

  12. Where does ST3 Link rank among American rail-based transit networks? It’s not the best but it’s not the worst either, so where does it fit?

  13. Pierce Transit isn’t the brightest crayon in the box with its failure to serve the Puget Sound as a whole.. PiercePay, doesn’t integrate with anyone else, just like it doesn’t integrate bus timetables with Sounder after 17 years and counting to solve that puzzle.

  14. I was just about to enter UW station when it said, “Station is closing; please evacuate.” The real-time display at the bottom has a red flashing “EMERGENCY”. There is a triple beep like a fire alarm…. I’m taking the 48.

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