MV Suquamish under construction

The MV Suquamish, photo by SounderBruce

This is an open thread.

97 Replies to “News Roundup: Suquamish”

  1. The Bellingham waterfront plan has been in development for literally as long as I can remember. In my opinion they should learn from Tacoma and devote as much space for the university as they can. Development will naturally follow. Education is always a good investment and Bellingham should embrace their status as a college town.

    1. “As much as they can” is a bit vague. The waterfront site is 200+ acres. Last I heard, WWU was planning on acquiring 6 acres for future growth. Has this changed? Think they should acquire more?

      1. Well I don’t know how much space WWU wants or needs for projected growth but it should be planned for. The master plan for UW Tacoma is about 46 acres total for 10,000 students so a 6 acre site seems pretty insignificant in comparison.

  2. Sydney’s “three city” plan to reduce commutes isn’t gonna work. Anyone in Seattle can tell you that, since that’s pretty much what we got (with Seattle, Everett & Tacoma)

    1. I’ve never been to Australia so I don’t know what exactly Sydney is like, but its population is 5 million and I assume its layout is like a larger Chicago. So it’s not Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett thirty miles apart from each other but more like Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond, and even closer together if there’s nothing like Lake Washington between them. The Eastside is mostly self-contained: more people travel within it than to Seattle. It’s just that when you have 1.5 million people total, even a minority traveling is enough to fill freeways, trains, and buses. New York showed that a century ago: may people stay within their borough but others go to Manhattan for various reasons. Also, it says only one of the cities is fully developed: the second is halfway and the third is for future expansion. So there’s an opportunity to design them well, unlike with Tacoma and Everett where we have to work around existing development (and the US’s scattered single-family ownership and decentralized political power, which gives low-density homeowners in the outskirts disproportionate clout).

      It could be a good thing depending on what exactly they do. If each city has a full range of services, jobs, and housing then there will be less need to travel to another city every day. In Germany people more live and work in their city units because the cities are designed as practical cities, not as paeans to a libertarian, car-dependent, single-use theory that ignores centuries of experience. The reason people commute between cities in Pugetopolis is (1) the housing shortage in areas with jobs which makes working-class people commute long distances, (2) people’s demand for a 2000+ square foot house with a yard and 2-car garage. Australia is said to be the second-most sprawling country in the world after the US, but it also seems to have a greater willingness to fix things like that, to act more like Canadians than Americans. So Sydney may have large dense areas like Los Angeles and Toronto do — I don’t know. And it could use that as a model for its new self-contained cities.

      1. Sydney’s’ version of Lake Washington is the Parramatta River & the harbor.

        A better comp might be LA, as Chicago very much only has one CBD that everything else orbits around. LA has multiple job centers – downtown, Hollywood, “silicon beach,” etc.

      1. I consider Bellevue more like a well built out edge city, while Tacoma and Everett are freestanding cities unto themselves. NYC as to Jersey City versus Boston and Providence.

        That said, I’m no academic, and I’m probably mistaken here as to the urban theory and planning concepts.

      2. Bellevue is definitively a city center. It’s downtown is significantly more of a transit node & job center than Everett. Bellevue is nothing like an edge city … and edge city would be something like Sammamish, Frederickson, and Marysville.

        The NYC comps are apt for Bellevue – similar to a Newark or Long Island City, it’s a standalone downtown with anchor corporations, while clearly in the orbit of the larger urban center. The Boston-Providence comp is a good one for Tacoma, though Dallas-Fort Worth might be a better example of two still independent cities whose suburbs have merged into a single agglomeration.

        Boston-Providence is ~50 miles, and they don’t really share suburbs … it’s more like an Olympia – close enough for an easy day trip for a business meeting or a big event, but too far for a regular commute for most people.

      3. Sammamish and these places aren’t much of “Edge Cities” because they aren’t much of cities. Proper “Edge Cities” (as in, say, Joel Garreau’s book) are distinguished from other suburbs and exurbs by being major employment centers without being historic pre-auto age city centers. Parts of Redmond along 520 certainly qualify; Silicon Valley is one of the most famous examples. They are true cities, economically more interdependent than dependent, with urban forms built by and for mass automobility.

        Bellevue is a weird “edge case” here. Before the first floating bridge was built it was just plain out of the way, effectively farther from Seattle than Bothell or Renton. Even with I-90 in place it was hardly closer than these places for much of Seattle. But then after 520 was built (in the 60s) and as residential and job balance moved east, late-growing Bellevue found itself centrally located! So by the time it really grew into its current prominence we were well into the auto age, and it bears the marks of that: the massive roads, interchanges, and parking garages typical of edge cities. With this background, instead of, say, Kirkland’s, with its historic downtown and preservation focus, Bellevue was willing to grow big. But, of course, it was more central than typical edge cities, a natural central hub for eastside mass transit, and close enough to Seattle that buses could provide adequate travel times.

        So Bellevue does have some edge city to it, but some center to it, too. We haven’t seen too many places like it and probably won’t: most edge cities are not so central (so they won’t have Bellevue’s clear location advantage over their neighbors) and most central suburbs were not so late to develop (so they have major tendencies to preserve rather than grow).

      4. Good point – I read up on Edge Cities a bit more and I agree with Al. The Bellevue-Redmond corridor east of 405 is textbook “suburban activity center,” but both Bellevue & Redmond have totally rezoned that area for it to be completely redeveloped into a proper urban space around the various East Link stations.

        West of 405, while Bellevue was developed all post-war, I feel pretty comfortable arguing the downtown core (Main to 12th, 112th to Bellevue Way) is a true CBD, even if it initially developed as a 1960s edge city.

        To add to Al’s history lesson, old Bellevue originally a tiny suburb with ferries running from Meydenbauer Bay … you could take the ferry to Leschi and take the streetcar into Seattle, and an auto ferry ran until I90 was built. It was more 2nd homes than commuters – rich people had homes on the east side of Lake Washington like people today have homes in Whidbey. “Old Main” Bellevue still has a bit of the bones of this city (they do a good historical walking tour). When I- 405 was built, the commercial district was built on what was previously strawberry fields.

    2. The Sydney planning process, as documented on a YouTube video sent to the STB staff some time back, is to try to make it so nobody had to travel more than 20 minutes to get to employment, shopping, etc.

      Obviously this will not work for everyone but the effort is to try to move away from sprawl.

    3. Bellevue is inside the wedge between I-90, 520, and 405, which Christopher Leinberger says is the most likely place fot a region’s favored quarter where business executives live and planted their companies, and an edge city is usually along the peripheral freeway near a radial freeway. Bellevue is smack dab in the middle, Medina is where executives live, and Microsoft is further out on 520 where the executive could reverse-commute to it against traffic. So it’s a perfect example of an edge city, even though it may have grown into something bigger since then. It still meets the definition as “a newer postwar city outside the traditional core city”; however, it has arguably grown so large that it has taken on the attriutes of a core city. Redmond is maybe an edge city, although it grew later after Microsoft, and it’s essentially the border between the suburbs and the exurbs, so maybe it’s a newer definition of “edge city” now.

      1. Bellevue is an edge city if you define an edge city by its historical provenance, though I’d argue it has evolved beyond that designation.

        Downtown Redmond is definitely not an edge city – that was a real town that existed well before the automobile, just like a Bothell or Issaquah with their historical town centers. The Overlake district of Redmond, which includes Microsoft, it a textbook edge city.

  3. I love the weekly news roundup post. However, I could do without the editorializing in the entries. Case in point: “While the author is not wrong, the original sin here is post-war zoning and the built environment it has given us; last mile problems are mostly a symptom.”

      1. That’s what the commentary section is for. The news roundup listings should be just the news bites and their appropriate links (imo).

      2. A little opinion at the top is a nice conversation starter for the comments. Not hard to ignore if it bothers you.

    1. “I like the signature burger, but I could do without the special sauce or the bacon.”

    2. Tlsgwm, there’s a provable truth about the “post war” part, and it’s extremely important for land use and transit strategy from here on. Present pattern began as thousand of young soldiers, and the workers whose wages the Second World War lifted out of the Depression, could for the first time in their lives own cars.

      And whom this country’s 360 degree-horizon empty space showed that the farther more of them could scatter (sprawl meant shrapnel avoidance) to get away from the density they loved as much as STB readership loves sprawl worse than the GI’s did the above kind- the better.

      Now- exactly like Chief Pennsylvania Avenue tenant trying to revive coal, it won’t be repentance of wrongdoing but pretty much same motivation to transit-orient: nothing can move, and every highway expansion is going to need some expensive homes to destroy.

      Young people, meaning longest-lived, with money or rich parents, are starting to get LINK rides, and in my observation, are going to develop freeway appreciation ’cause they can laugh at all the trapped cars they’re wheeling (and squealing) rapidly by.


    3. It once was a good “weekly news roundup” and the only reason I read this blog. Now the entire site sucks!

      1. Good thing the remedy is so easy, les. Start submitting postings that don’t suck. It’s very likely that everybody else has forgotten how.

        About fifty postings from you should bring back the ghost of Frank Sprague himself. I’m serious that his contribution to transit is something that Seattle Transit Blog really needs to know. Looking forward to it.

        Have to sign off, now. Truth of tonight’s comment is proven by fact you couldn’t help commenting here tonight. Causing editorial content to start unravelling my sweater.


      2. That’s why I stick to Fox News. Blogs editorialize far too much. I prefer to get my news from an unbiased news organization.

  4. Tenth floor archive room in the Downtown library has at least one Kaiser Engineering study showing possible extensions of the Waterfront Streetcar. There are one or two suggestions that could have Queen Anne-South Lake Union applications.

    Idea was for Waterfront cars to ramp over the BN tracks, and join the South Lake Union line via a subway- thinking cut and cover, and elevated over SR 99. And the DBT. I’m thinking possible north extension of the Connector.

    Maybe worth checking out. If only for amount of planning to extend the Waterfront line both north and south. First Avenue great place-holder ’til we’re back on track for that. If it’s a streetcar, does it maybe count as non-light rail?

    One thing monorail advocates aren’t seeing, while they lose elections very largely on account of it, is the sheer ugly massiveness of the structure required. Makes the Chicago ‘El around the loop look like fine lace.

    Great scene never would have happened if Elwood Blues had to sit on the windowsill with rubber-tired trains- which are noisy as freeways- going by on a giant horizontal concrete block.

    Even worse, Carrie Fisher (she really would make a great Mayor of Chicago) would’ve never been able to get that anti-tank round into the fleabag hotel where the scene took place.

    Could have to go home in a barrel myself if I’m wrong, but anybody who’d vote for anything with the word “Mono” in front probably thinks it means Mononucleosis. But might like to buy the Deep Bore Tunnel, special sale price, limited time only.

    MD (Fields)

  5. Throwing this out to the horde– the urbanist/Seattle Subway talked about using the monorail authority for RR E using a rubber tired vehicle. Would such a thing work for Ballard to UW (like one of the commenters on the Urbanist post suggested)?

    1. Sure, once we dig the tunnel, we could put rubber-tired trains in it, and that would technically qualify as a monorail. But the main cost is the tunnel, and Ballard/UW only benefits half the city, so there’d be a lot of opposition.

      The Urbanist’s proposal is a lot cheaper per mile because it’s elevated/surface-running. Unfortunately, you can’t do that around 45th St.

      1. William, while they’re usually elevated, technically and literally, “Monorail” means operating on one rail.

        There are two main types. Wuppertal, Germany uses “Suspension.”

        First opened in 1901. Seems to be a beautiful, graceful way to travel, with terrific views for everybody aboard.

        But note the setting: a river evidently located exactly where the line needs to go.

        And a population that’s been used to it for 116 years. Which could be a problem from Golden Gardens to Montlake Cut.

        Mumbai, India, and Seattle, use “Straddling Beam.” Straddling Beam

        Note- as everybody finding themselves scheduled to have one go by their home notices first- the mode requires a massive structure. Same with every switch.

        Reason the world has so few monorail passenger lines is that by the time you’ve got the structure and equipment, it’s cheaper and easier to give it the second steel rail.

        However, most important lesson from Seattle’s last monorail effort is something every transit proponent, and responsible elected official needs to keep in mind: Civil, structural, and mechanical engineering are not matters of personal belief.

        What do 14-10, the square root of 16, and 12/3 all have in common? Somebody into math, has whole spectrum spectrum of same correct answer even been calculated?

        Because however forward-thinking the promoter you’ve just appointed project chief without a talent search, you’d do better with somebody stuck hopelessly in a past whose math at least gives same answer as 2+2.


      2. >> Ballard/UW only benefits half the city, so there’d be a lot of opposition

        That is more than West Seattle rail benefits, and it passed. I realize ST3 had a lot more to it, but in general, Seattle support for rail has hardly anything to do with whether someone will personally benefit. For example, support was high in Fremont, even though they don’t really get anything out of ST3. Along with support from folks that will support more rail (of any sort) you would get support from those who judge projects based on their overall merit. In that regard, Ballard to UW rail would be very popular.

    2. Technically it could work, but it would raise four practical problems:

      1. It would require a maintenance base along the line if the trains are incompatible with the Link track. Forget about UW offering land; it would have to be in south Ballard.

      2. Can’t share Link trains for bulk orders, maintenance, and outages.

      3. Can’t interline with other lines such as Ballard-downtown.

      4. I read that rubber-tire metro is slower than steel-wheel metro. The monorail was limited to 35 mph, a fact that most people didn’t notice or didn’t realize the implications.

      1. On Aurora Avenue, (4) might be significant, but it really wouldn’t matter on a line as short as UW-Ballard. And with ST’s resolute avoidance of forward thinking, (3) won’t matter there either.

        Then again, (1) and (2) are worth thinking about. Maybe we could build the maintenance base around U Village?

      2. How legally plausible for it to be that:
        1) City monorail authority contracts with Sound Transit (or does it itself) to build a monorail that happens to be also future-proofed to light rail conversion
        2) City fully/irrevocably sells/transfers the monorail to Sound Transit, who may choose to convert to light rail
        3) Repeat

        I’m not an attorney, but I’m amused by this idea

      3. I was thinking the same thing as CT. As mentioned, the big cost is for digging the tunnel and building the stations. You could build the whole thing, including a non-service connection to Link. Put one monorail on it (just for kicks) and then immediately switch it over to light rail.

  6. The Mercer Island kickback’s ruling that “bus volumes will be comparable to today” is a death blow to Eastside transit. If frequency won’t increase, there’s next to no way to convince people to go along with truncating the lines. So, buses will continue to trundle into downtown right next to our shiny new expensive light rail, being legally prohibited from stopping on Mercer Island to let people off.

    And if threats of lawsuits are what it takes for Sound Transit to hand out money to solve station access issues, maybe I should lobby Bellevue and Redmond to pony up for some of those payoffs too?

    1. The whole settlement is weird to me. Why would no bus facility be built on the 80th Street bridge? There’s so much bridge and potential there without requiring changes to the substructure of the bridge.

      Seems like a bargain for MI — whine for a little bit, get $10MM in money for short-term stop-gaps.

      1. I’m perplexed too on the prohibition of bus stops on 80th. Prohibiting buses on 27th seemed more reasonable, if MI wants that to be nice local street with lots of storefronts, etc., but I’d be curious to hear MI’s reasoning.

      2. I’m willing to bet 90% of MI’s “traffic and safety improvements” slush fund is going to roads and car stuff. So Sound TRANSIT is paying for car stuff, some of which busses are prohibited from using! The art of compromise can be quite ironic.

      1. South Bellevue is not as fast or convenient to get to for HOV traffic on I-90, whereas for Mercer Island, there’s an westbound HOV exit and eastbound HOV entrance that would stop right by the station.

    2. They can truncate buses at South Bellevue. ST and Metro haven’t decided which one they’ll truuncate them at. But the approach to South Bellevue is more out of the way from some directions, which would add to the travel time. I’m not yet convinced that limiting Mercer Island buses is the end of the world.

      We could sue ST for better station access in Seattle and Shoreline.

    3. The plan is still to have zero buses running between MI and Seattle once East Link opens. The MI settlement may make it slightly difficult & divert some (but not all) routes to truncate in South Bellevue instead of MI, but I’m with Mike, I don’t think it will be the end of the world.

      I think MI’s beef is really with buses laying over or idling in their town center, which is somewhat reasonable. If ST simply live-loops some routes through MI with a single stop by the station, that should be much more amenable. If you look at the text, it basically says 1) no bus stop on 80th and 2) no driving on 27th … if you look at the proposed options, I think scenario 4 is still very much eligible, with ST likely paying for the roundabout.. It’s a bummer the clever scenario 5 is off the table, but whatever – Sc 4 might allow for a bit more flexibility, with multiple buses able to linger for a few minutes simultaneously before departing, which would give N Mercer Way more of a real transit center set-up.

      Finally, the text says “not to exceed current volumes” … which would include all of the ST 550s that current trundle along N Mercer Way every day. That’s a whole bunch of buses … when the 550 disappears, that opens up oodles of bus trips to increase frequency on other routes. Basically any route that going along I90 already stops at MI anyways, or at least all the ones I’ve ridden on.

      1. You’re correct, though again I’m not sure it matters. Those routes are really peak only buses that add peak capacity along the ST 554 route, while serving various tails in Issaquah & Sammamish that deviate from ST 554 slightly. I think 100% of those routes can be truncated at MI, effectively “consuming” most of the ST550 bus slots.

        Initially, I thought that If ST simply boosts the 544 frequency, KCM can just delete those routes & put those hours elsewhere. But I think having those different tails is helpful, especially for peak only commuters. Those routes will become much cheaper for KCM to run once they are truncated.

        If we find ourselves up against the MI cap, I’d actually argue for keeping those KCM stops at MI and trimming frequency away from the ST554 outside of peak and offset that by boosting frequency on the ST555. 555 serves South Bellevue, and the 555 should run just fine between Issaquah and Bellevue outside of peak. The transfer advantage of MI over South Bellevue is key during congestion, but with no congestion on I90/Bellevue Way, it’s pretty much a wash.

    4. Its not nearly as bad as it looks. 346 buses per day, if evenly spread out over a 20-hour operating day, averages 17.3 buses per hour, or a bus every 3.5 minutes. There’s obviously no reason to be running buses to Issaquah/Eastgate/etc. every 3.5 minutes at midnight (and I-90 service is heavily peak oriented right now), so even though peak volumes are limited to 34 per hour, that’s still a bus every ~105 seconds (1.75 minutes). Yeah, you’re serving multiple destinations, but if demand from Issaquah and Sammamish, etc., requires 2-minute headways then I think that’s a good problem to have.

      Most of the current service will or should go away when East Link opens. The 550 goes away; that’s 181 trips (seriously). The 554 should probably be deleted in favor of the 555/556; that’s 97 trips. So we’re cleared up 278 trips worth of service just through some easy service revisions. The current 216 along with existing MI service (201, 204, 630) and a couple of random things (Lakeside School custom bus routes, MI High School routes – not sure if these count) are the balance, and under the settlement the MI-only routes don’t count, so that’s at least 38 more trips. So we can easily accommodate the ~150 current I-90 trips that don’t stop on MI (212, 214, 217, 218, 219) with plenty of room to spare for service expansion.

      The layover restrictions are more cumbersome since ideally you want outbound buses to be sitting waiting for trains and not forced to live-loop. They can probably side-step this a little bit by not calling it a layover and giving a 5-minute (or whatever) scheduled stop, but it is not ideal.

      As to the lawsuit threat, Mercer Island was in the unique position of having a contract with ST, WSDOT, etc. (the 1976 Memorandum, along with subsequent amendments) regarding the configuration and use of I-90, so this gave them leverage that no other community has.

      1. Also, the transfer advantage of MI over South Bellevue is key during congestion, but with no congestion on I90/Bellevue Way, it’s pretty much a wash. The ST554 is crush load during peak hours, so you can indeed run 2 minute headways during peak and cut back pretty dramatically in the evenings. I would argue for keeping the ST554 during peak & midday, though perhaps that route could simply stop running after, say, 7pm, with the 555 providing span of service into the evening.

        I think you keep the ~100 trips from the 554 and add the ~150 trips from the KCM I90 buses (212-218). You can even boost frequency on those routes and stay under the 346 limit. I’m guessing frequency will go up all basically all these routes – with the exact same service hours, # of trips will go up because the truncations will allow a given bus to make more trips in a shift.

    5. Good comments everyone. I was initially with William, but the more I read about it, the less worried I am. I assume AJ is right, and what they really object to is buses laying over. That being the case, this makes things pretty easy. Simply run the I-90 buses to Mercer Island and then send them up the hill, to serve the neighborhoods. This sounds like the ideal situation for a Mercer Island resident who happens to work in Factoria, Eastgate or Issaquah. That is a one seat ride *from their neighborhood” to their work. So rather than drive all the way to the transit center (where all the congestion is) they simply drive a few blocks to one of the major north-south arterials. Meanwhile, the same bus serves as the Mercer Island connection to Link.

      I would think buses like that would be extremely popular. It puts Mercer Island in a very powerful position going forward. If Metro or ST at some point wants to increase the number of buses beyond the limit, Mercer Island can basically say “Sure, as long as they keep going, and serve Mercer Island as well”.

      1. I love the idea of direct Factoria/Eastgate connections from MI station. Much better than having to go to downtown Bellevue and catch a bus there. Which to me means having to get a Uber or a Zipcar.

  7. The justification for road dieting arterials such as 23rd can only be to make driving so miserable as to reduce its occurrence. There is no question, however, that people like me will increasingly drive through the neighborhood streets instead of using 23rd. This is not good for the neighborhoods or for bicyclists.

    1. The article literally says that it’s “an effort to reduce accidents and make roads safer for pedestrians.” If you drive through the neighborhoods more safely than on 23rd without the Vision Zero improvements, then that is probably a net gain for safety.

    2. Not at all. I know some of the engineers who worked on this and who deal with vision zero. The road diet prevents a lot of unsafe passing when you have two lanes which lead to more accidents and less aware drivers. They only will diet a road if the volumes are not too high because they are aware of the fact that a large volume arterial isn’t a good candidate for it such as Denny.

      What it comes down to is that the data shows it works for medium volume streets and reduces accidents. Even if you personally end up using other streets, that doesn’t mean the goal was not achieved. Plus if some people end up not even using their car by being infuriated, that’s one less car that could cause dangerous accidents using the road, still a win for safety.

      1. Even with the road diet, 23rd is still going to be faster than neighborhood streets, absent unusually bad traffic. If it becomes a problem, the city can install speed bumps and diverters as necessary to prevent cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets.

      2. I really like the diverters, and think they are way more effective than speed bumps to reduce cut through traffic. I’m sure it is annoying in many cases (people have to approach their house in a round about way) but they work. If this really does become a problem, then I could see adding a handful and the problem would pretty much go away.

        In general, if it isn’t a big problem now, it won’t be a big problem in the future. This is a four lane to three lane change. In almost all cases, you don’t see a significant increase in congestion when you do this, because four lane traffic rarely moves well. All it takes is a car turning left, and you effectively have one lane each direction. Except it is worse, because people weave back and forth, which is not only dangerous, but caused people to speed up or slow down (which is a major cause of congestion).

    3. Never understood Seattle’s belief that side streets should be devoid of non-local traffic. That’s not how a street grid is supposed to work, and is the grid’s great advantage over suburbia’s collector road model (OK, *one* of its great advantages).

      1. Walking and biking, I prefer streets with as little car traffic as possible. Much quieter, much less stress trying to cross the street. Restricting cars from “thru” traffic on neighborhood streets is not just about the local residents, it’s about anyone who passes through the area on foot, or on a bike.

        In general, the capacity of neighborhood streets is tiny compared to arterials, and if non-trivial numbers of people diverted to them, the neighborhood streets would very quickly get clogged up. This is already starting to happen in places without traffic diverters, now that so many drivers have waze. A “grid” system is fine for arterial streets, but for neighborhood streets, it just doesn’t work, at least not for cars.

      2. “A “grid” system is fine for arterial streets, but for neighborhood streets, it just doesn’t work, at least not for cars.”

        I would encourage you to look at a map of, say, Chicago. “Non-trivial numbers” of people divert to side streets in cities all over the country, reducing congestion and pollution without “clogging up” side streets. In most applications diverters are anti-urban and evil.

        I’m as pro-transit/-ped/-bike, greenways, and complete streets as anyone, but this notion that “neighborhoods” (as if arterials are not part of neighborhoods) should be “protected” from through-traffic is the height of Seattle preciousness and provinciality.

      3. Perhaps because our side streets usually have only 1 travel lane with cars parked on both sides. If too many people try to drive on them then no one will get anywhere.

      4. Seattle’s streets are more gridded than newer cities, especially in the Central District where the residential grid really jumps out at you. North Seattle and Magnolia are also well gridded, and southeast Seattle and west Seattle are as gridded as the hills allow, without going to extrreme San Francisco measures as just marching up steep hills as if they weren’t there.

        Also the nature of arterials is different in different cities. Seattle’s arterials are 2-4 lanes. The small ones like Bellevue Avenue are barely larger than a residential street and are spaced every 5-10 blocks in the inner areas. The 4-lane arterials like 23rd are still pretty small compared to many other cities, and even those we’re road-dieting to 2-3 lanes. The only six-lane roads are a couple highways like Aurora, freeway approaches like Mercer, and formerly 1st Avenue South although it’s been restriped to four lanes. Compare Dallas where arterials are six lanes wide every mile, one after another after another. That’s the kind of street hierarchy that’s soul-depressing and leads to huge traffic.

        Seattle really cannot make every street a small arterial because there are shorelines and cliffs everywhere. In east Seattle, 23rd and Broadway are really the only streets that can go across town because otherwise you’d need more Ship Canal bridges. And east of 23rd it would be rather silly to add more arterials because you can’t go very far without hitting a shoreline, and it’s only houses so not many people, and it’s a dead end so outside people don’t go there unless they’re lost.

      5. Hey Mike. Not advocating that we “make every street a small arterial,” I’m advocating we allow side streets to serve their traditional functions as shortcuts and congestion dispersion — that we allow grids that exist to serve their function as part of the street network. I’m not pulling this out of thin air, it is one of the oldest and most widely accepted tenets of new urbanism.

        In the p.m. rush it sometimes takes 10 minutes to drive from McGraw to Galer on Queen Anne Ave. The idea that I shouldn’t do everyone (including the two buses behind me) a favor and scoot over to 1st N. or 1st W. and cover that ground in two or three minutes because “neighborhoods” is bananas.

      6. It’s because when drivers cut through neighborhoods they drive like reckless maniacs trying to save a second while blowing through stop signs and pedestrians in the crosswalk.

      7. Pretty hyperbolic, Poncho. If anything Seattle drivers have the opposite reputation.

    4. The justification for road dieting arterials such as 23rd can only be to make driving so miserable as to reduce its occurrence.

      Exactly. It’s not like cars are dangerous or ever kill people or anything. The idea that we might engineer roads to reduce their deadliness is to absurd to even consider.

  8. the agencies can maximize transit ridership by connecting Eastgate and Issaquah with East Link at Mercer Island. South Bellevue is out-of-direction. Eastgate and Mercer Island is center to center via I-90 center HOV lanes. Speed and wait time are both minimized at Mercer Island.

    1. It depends where you’re trying to go. South Bellevue is out of the way if going to downtown Seattle. Mercer Island is out of the way if going to downtown Bellevue (and more so than South Bellevue for going to downtown Seattle). Peak-hours, there ought to be plenty of demand to justify Eastgate/Issaquah having both a bus to South Bellevue and a bus to Mercer Island.

      1. I think he is making the case that it is way out of the way *for the bus*. In other words, it is much faster for the bus to serve Mercer Island than it is to serve South Bellevue. I could be wrong, but I think this is the case. With South Bellevue, you have to move from the HOV lanes to the general purpose exit lane, which can be congested. It is a little farther to Mercer Island, but during rush hour, I think you can get there faster, for that reason.

        Sending buses to both places is an option, as you mentioned. As long as all the buses serve Eastgate, that becomes your transfer point. That could work itself out over time. If serving South Bellevue really is a pain, then folks will avoid it (or at least not switch to it). Metro (or ST) can also run the numbers and decide it is just a lot cheaper to serve Mercer Island.

        The big question in my mind is how Link connects to East Side areas south of I-90. From Renton and Newcastle, you could go to South Bellevue. That would enable you to connect to Link as well as the I-90 buses. So if you are trying to get from Renton to Eastgate, you simply transfer at South Bellevue. That makes the case for sending at least some of the I-90 buses there.

        The other option is to just send the Renton bus to downtown Bellevue. That works great if that is your destination, but is an extra 5 minutes if you are headed to Seattle (over South Bellevue). It also means that a trip to Eastgate isn’t likely to happen, since it would involve taking the train back to South Bellevue, then a bus headed east. Someone in that situation would likely just drive to Eastgate.

        That is one of the tricky parts about East Link — there is no obvious connection point for the rest of the system. The only good freeway connection is Mercer Island, but if I’m not mistaken, there is no 405 HOV to I-90 HOV connection. That, along with the extra distance from the freeway, make it a tough connection from the south end of 405.

        The best solution would probably be to build HOV ramps to South Bellevue (from both the east side of I-90 and the south end of 405) and use it as the main terminus for both I-90 and 405 buses. That should have been part of the last roads package (that the state approved) or ST3, but I don’t think it was.

      2. It probably doesn’t matter a great deal whether an Issaquah-Seattle rider gets to transfer to rail at South Bellevue or at Mercer Island. Ditto for other through-riders looking for a transfer to get to Seattle or Bellevue.

        The people who are more significantly harmed by Mercer Island’s actions are those traveling to and from the Island. Many workers on the Island who arrive by bus will make a wholly unnecessary transfer to get there. Mercer Island has capped permanently the number of direct bus connections between the Island and everywhere else.

        Having the greatest number of buses to the Island would be great for anybody travelling via transit from a place not on East Link. But the people who use the buses don’t figure very large in Mercer Island political discussions.

      3. “In other words, it is much faster for the bus to serve Mercer Island than it is to serve South Bellevue.”

        Maybe, peak hours. But, off-peak hours, congestion at the Bellevue Way exit isn’t going to be a problem, and from I-90/405, it’s half a mile to South Bellevue P&R, and about 2 miles to Mercer Island.

      4. Agree with asdf2 – the advantage of the MI truncation over South Bellevue is only when there is congestion, which would be all peak hours. I can support a schedule that leans more heavily on S Bellevue for non-peak hours, e.g. late in the evening, to ensure we stay under the MI cap. For example, ending the ST554 at ~9pm but running the ST555 later.

      5. Yes, definitely — I thought I said that. The main advantage Mercer Island Station has is at rush hour.

        As you wrote, we can simply run commuter based buses to Mercer Island, and run the all day (including rush hour) buses to South Bellevue. It is likely that you will get complaints from folks who want more of one versus the other (at various times of the day), but it doesn’t sound like a terrible problem. In the middle of the day, getting to South Bellevue is roughly 90 seconds faster than getting to Mercer Island (the mile and a half distance is all freeway). It is five minutes between the stations. So that means that if someone from Issaquah is headed to Seattle, their trip will be three and a half minutes slower, which isn’t exactly the end of the world. They would actually come out way ahead (six and a half minutes faster) if their trip is to Bellevue.

        As mentioned, the people who lose out are the folks in Mercer Island who want to use transit in the middle of the day. Not only will a trip to Issaquah or Eastgate be a lot tougher, but they likely lose frequency with their circulator. It is quite reasonable to send buses every 15 minutes or so from Issaquah to Mercer Island and then up the hill on Island Crest Way. But if you eliminate the first part (Issaquah to Mercer Island) then you will cut down on the second part as well.

  9. STB may wish to interview someone from Alstom. They are in the process of combining business operations with the former Siemens rail division. While ST’s new light rail cars were to be Siemens S70 variants it may be useful to rethink what is desirable now, since whatever car is delivered will come with Alstom builders plates.

  10. London’s pollution charge isn’t just for diesel; it’s for any car before the Euro 4 standards, which took effect in 2005 – including gas-powered ones.

  11. Why do buses like 65 and 48 slog though the sadness that is 15th at rush hour? I guess 48 doesn’t want to make the turn from 45th onto the ave, but 65 doesn’t have that issue. Turning right onto the ave and following the 71/45 routing until the station seems like it’d get a whole lot of time savings.

    Also, how much does NE 15th/pacific need bus lanes?

  12. Any comments on what “pretty selectively” means for “Barnes dance” crossings?

    I actually think eliminating conflicts with turning vehicles, especially left turning vehicles which tend to be at higher speeds and impatience, is the most important aspect. No right turn on red, restricted left turn arrows, and pedestrian “head starts” can be used where a full blown “barnes’s dance” is not practical.

    Or better yet–roundabouts which eliminate left turns entirely.

    1. I was wondering what Barnes dance was. The most recent term I’ve heard for a four-way walk phase is a scramble.

      1. Yeah, I looked it up, and found the Wikipedia article, which has several names for the same thing.

    2. The only common intersection layout where I’ve seen a scramble reliably outperform a standard crosswalk setup are T-junctions with lots of pedestrian traffic in all directions, e.g. 1st & University, 1st & Cherry.

      1. Right. They make sense when there are lots of turning cars, and lots of pedestrians. A downtown T-junction is exactly that.

  13. The article about 23rd is very interesting. I had assumed that there was little that SDOT could do to make buses run faster, but it actually looks fairly promising. Backing up a bit, as I see it, there are two big pinch points:

    1) By the freeway (and bridge). Hopefully WSDOT will add a bunch of bus only lanes there to help the situation.

    2) Southbound in Montlake, as you approach Madison. This is a very reasonable way to get to First Hill, or even downtown. Just head south on 23rd, then right on Madison.

    Interestingly enough, the project deals with that congestion, by adding a southbound bus lane between John and Boyer. I have a few concerns about the improvement, though:

    1) It seems like traffic will just back up north of Boyer. You have two lanes going into one. This means a bus will be stuck getting to Boyer and only then be able to move at a decent speed. I think it makes sense to extend the southbound bus lane farther north, all the way to the bridge. There really is no reason to have two southbound lanes from Roanoke to Boyer. There is no major east-west corridor between Roanoke and Boyer (the area that will have two southbound lanes). It may be that SDOT doesn’t want to see congestion close to 520 before the 520 work is done.

    2) The bus lane is on the right, which means that it is a BAT lane, and cars turning right will use it. That doesn’t matter for most of the line, but it matters a lot at Madison. Maybe that won’t be an issue, since you have limited the number of those cars upstream. But it might make sense to look into a handful of center running stops there. This would be pretty easy, because all you need to do is take part of the turn lane. This would be part of the RapidRide+ project.

    3) For the same reason, it might make sense to extend the bus lane beyond Madison (to Denny). Once clear of Madison, I would imagine there is a lot less traffic.

    The nice thing about these changes is that we have a chance to see how things work out initially, and then improve it. If there is a big backup southbound on Boyer, then we can look into extending the bus lane to the bridge (when WSDOT is finished with their work on the 520 project). If there are a ton of people turning right on Madison and a lot of traffic, then we can look into running southbound buses in a center lane from at least Boyer to Madison, if not the bridge to Madison.

    1. Cars and buses already share the right turn lane at Madison. It seems to work ok. The right turn has its own light cycle, meaning that it acts as a quasi queue jump for buses heading straight on 23rd.

    2. Madison to Denny is about 50 feet, and is now an extra wide lane so that buses using the “right turn only except buses” lane southbound at Madison can continue through and then merge. Personally I wish the merge arrows were the other way so that cars had to merge into the bus lane, but in practice it seems to work pretty well for the 48. At first bus drivers were trying to merge left from the stop at John, missing the queue jump light, but I haven’t been seeing that as much lately.

      North of Boyer, SDOT seems to be taking a “we don’t want to do anything until 520 is done” approach. This is what initially prevented any changes from happening north of John. I’m glad to see that they’re at least tackling the part south of Boyer now.

      Just for reference, 23rd & Madison is most definitely not Montlake, which has Interlaken as a southern boundary. It’s kind of a neighborhood no-man’s land between Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, and the Central District. Technically it’s the “Madison-Miller Urban Village,” but I’ve never heard anyone but a planner actually call it that.

      1. Having lived in the CD in the late 80s and early 90s (27th off Cherry and long before the roots of gentrification were planted), we always referred to the area around Madison and 23rd as simply East Capitol Hill. For all intents and purposes, the neighborhood I lived in considered that nearby area as part of Capitol Hill and not part of the CD.

      2. And Madison Valley didn’t exist until realtors dreamed it up in the 1990s. Before it was just the CD. However, I always thought of 23rd & John as part of Capitol Hill. The physical hill is wildly misnamed. The cultural center of Capitol Hill is Broadway & John or maybe 15th & John, but the physical top of the hill is 17th & Madison, which is right on the boundary between Capitol Hill and the CD. And the hillside east of 23rd is also part of the physical hill but often not considered such.

    1. I saw that when I watched the board meeting online last evening. I always wondered why Chair Somers has allowed this gentleman to continue speaking during the public comment section when he was in clear violation of the rules of conduct each time.

      Still, more alarming to me was the board’s attendance, with only ten board members physically in the room. And to top it off, acting Chair Strickland only stuck around for the first hour of the meeting. Really? The full board meets once a month and they can’t adjust their schedules accordingly? Pathetic.

      1. As if mayors don’t have other boards and committes to attend to. Once a month can actually get kind of crowded if it happens every month. And maybe she has a sick child or something.

      2. Mike. Nonsense. I’m sure that they’re all busy people, but that alone is not an excuse. To me, the accumulated absences reflect poorly on the individual members and, in this scenario on Thursday, on the board as a whole. (Strickland stated at the beginning that she had a meeting at 4:00 and was going to have to leave by 2:30 since it was going to take her 90 minutes to DRIVE back down to Tacoma. That’s just poor planning/scheduling on her part.)

      3. I don’t know about accumulated absences but you don’t know where Strickland was right before the ST meeting or where her next meeting is, and whether transit would have been feasible for them all, especially since we don’t have a comprehensive system right now. She more than anyone in Tacoma knows that Sounder is next door, the comparative frustration of driving to Tacoma in the afternoon rush compared to STEX. Maybe she’s a “drive everywhere” person but I at least don’t know that. I know Joni Earl took Sounder from Puyallup when she was CEO.

      4. Board member attendance for the nine month period Jan – Sep 2017 (in the board room as reported by published minutes):

        9/9 (Perfect Attendance) —
        Dave Somers, Sno Co Executive
        Fred Butler, Issaquah Mayor
        Roger Millar/Alternate, WSDOT Sec
        Dave Upthegrove, King Co Council

        8/9 —
        Tim Burgess/Ed Murray, Seattle Mayor
        Dave Earling, Edmonds Mayor
        Joe McDermott, King Co Council

        7/9 —
        John Marchione, Redmond Mayor

        6/9 —
        Claudia Balducci, King Co Council
        (2 absences, 1 teleconference)
        Rob Johnson, Seattle City Council
        Mary Moss, Lakewood City Council

        5/9 —
        Dow Constantine, King Co Executive
        (3 absences, 1 teleconference)
        Bruce Dammeier, Pierce Co Executive
        (3 absences, 1 teleconference)
        Paul Roberts, Everett City Council
        (2 absences, 2 teleconferences)
        Peter von Reichbauer, King Co Council
        (2 absences, 2 teleconferences)

        4/8* —
        Kent Keel, Univ Place Pro Tem Mayor
        (2 absences, 2 teleconferences)

        4/9 —
        Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma Mayor
        (2 absences, 3 teleconferences)
        Nancy Backus, Auburn Mayor

        *joined board in Feb 2017

      5. I hold the view as the civil libertarian around here – and all around fanatic of British Commonwealth parliaments – that it’s time for Alex Tsimerman to be told to stick to germane issues or come back to the Sound Transit Board with a court order in hand. That’s precisely what the Seattle City Council did.

        Sound Transit should relish this fight, not shrink from it. The parliamentary chamber of the Seattle Seahawks of public transit should have some reverence.

    2. Unbelievable. Is Tsimerman mentally ill? I’ve seen him at other meetings but this was the most incomprehensible. Why didn’t he use his last ten seconds before security came to make whatever point he was trying to make. Speaking of which, what is his point? The only substantial thing I’ve heard is taxes. But while others complain about the size of ST’s projects, the MVET burden or fairness, or flaws in execution, Tsimerman doesn’t say any of this. He seems to be offended that ST collects even $1 in taxes and has a bureaucracy. That makes them totalitarian nazis? If not ST, then what? He doesn’t say. I was surprised when he supported Trump. Is this what the rest of the Trump base is like? Is there a Bannon-esque soul underlying Mr Ts? He’s starting to sound like the symptomatic nerve-gas guy, who walked around UW and the U-District in the 80s saying, “Symptomatic nerve-gas”, whatever that was, as if to warn that the government was using some kind of mind-control gas on people, I guess.

  14. Any men commenters here have any insight they’d like to share re: the WaPost article about people (women) being groped on public transit? 93 comments on this article as of no, 0 comments about that one.

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