With the current ORCA system “near end of life,” upgrading the ORCA card system is estimated to cost roughly $125m, according to Scott Gutierrez, a King County Metro Transit spokesperson.
The ORCA agencies are predicted to share the entire cost, with $95m predicted to be the region-wide cost with the other $30m related to agency-specific costs for implementing next-generation ORCA. Gutierrez said the sharing formula is mostly based on ridership projections through 2021. Exceptions include products that apply only to certain agencies, such as paratransit-specific fare products which will be shared only among the agencies that offer paratransit services.
In comparison, the current ORCA system cost $88m in today’s dollars to implement in 2009, according to ORCA documents. Brittany Esdaile, a program manager at Sound Transit, said at the November 13 ORCA Joint Board meeting “the cost is fair and reasonable” and implementing the new system will be “a bigger effort this time around as the region has grown.”
The concept and design for Next Generation ORCA (ngORCA) has not changed from when it was announced as ORCA2 in 2015 but we now know in greater detail how it will work. Specifications for Next Gen ORCA have been published on the project’s website for people who want to dive deep into the system. As the document is intended for the vendor that will implement and operate the system, it covers every aspect imaginable. I have selected a few notable features that will make you look forward to Next Gen ORCA when it launches in 2021.
Accounts and Credentials
Next Gen ORCA is an accounts-based system. I explained what that means and how it differs from today’s ORCA in the ORCA2 post. The key feature of this change is eliminating the 24-hour delay between purchasing fare online and being able to use it. The delay is eliminated thanks to real time communication between validators in the field and your account in the backend.
On Monday, the King County Council unanimously approved a fare simplification proposal for King County Metro Transit which eliminates higher zone and peak fares — establishing a flat rate of $2.75.
In August at a press conference Dow Constantine, King County Executive, announced the agency’s intention to streamline fares. Constantine said this change would speed up boardings. According to King County Metro, this change will not affect 65 percent of riders. Changes are set to take place July 2018.
Also approved Monday was $400,000 in additional funding for the Human Services Ticket Program, bringing the total to $4 million a year. This program provides subsidized bus tickets to human service agencies serving low-income residents. With 44 percent of these subsidized tickets used during off-peak hours, Metro said this additional funding will help offset the higher cost off-peak riders would pay under the new fare.
And the council approved eliminating the card fee for Regional Reduced Fare Permits, a regional transit pass for seniors 65+, riders with a qualifying disability, and Medicare cardholders that works on several systems within the region.
Beyond 2018, Sound Transit plans to stop expanding ST Express and Sounder services to focus on light rail expansion and bus route restructures, according to the recently released 2018 Sound Transit’s Service Implementation Plan (SIP) draft.
“The extensions will be the catalyst for changes in the bus network around the light rail extension and its stations,” according to the 245-page plan. A major restructuring of buses that cross Interstate 90 and SR 520 are planned for 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The SIP includes in-depth route and corridor performance data across the agency’s system. Here some highlights.
ST Express Bus Routes Sound Transit operates 28 bus routes in the region and the 2018 SIP analyzes each route, ranking them by boardings per revenue hour, boardings per trip, subsidy per boarding, and passenger miles per platform vehicle mile.
Route 550, Bellevue to Seattle, was the agency’s top-ranked bus route, while route 560, Westwood Village to Bellevue, rounded out the list in last place.
Sound Transit said the agency uses these rankings to determine what routes might receive service enhancements, if funds are available, or be considered for elimination or restructuring. Sound Transit, which added 15,000 service hours to ST Express in 2017, currently has no plans to invest any more in the coming years, according to the SIP.
On Route 550, which has an average of 10,754 daily weekday boardings so far in 2017, ridership has increased 11.5% since 2014. Weekend ridership hasn’t changed much since 2014, growing roughly 2.5% on Saturday and less than 1% on Sunday.
The average subsidy for the route is $3.03. According to Sound Transit, only one eastbound afternoon trip exceeds capacity.
In 2014, Seattle voters approved a $60 annual vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax increase to fund bus service in the city, using the framework of a “Seattle Transportation Benefit District” (STBD). Originally intended to avoid deep service cuts, by election day the revenue picture had improved enough that the package instead improved service on crowded routes. This measure, dedicated to operating funds, is not to be confused with the 2015 “Move Seattle” measure that funded capital improvements in roadways to create more transit priority, among other things. Late last month SDOT released its “Year Two Performance Report“* to promote all the things this money had accomplished.
The measure generates about $50m per year, funding over 300,000 annual service hours, the Youth ORCA program, and greater outreach on low-income ORCA LIFT. Those hours revised the night owl network, and raised the percentage of households a 10-minute walk away from a frequent (< 10 minute headway) bus from 25% to 64%. However, this is a somewhat peculiar definition of 10-minute headways, as SDOT Transit Director Andrew Glass-Hastings explains:
Our definition (for this metric) is an average of at least 10-minute service over a span of 13 hours (6:00am to 7:00pm). .. While some runs may have slightly more than 10 minutes the average is 10 minutes or better, which is a very high level of frequent service.
So the C and D lines, with 12-minute headways mid-day, have enough 6-minute spacing during the peak to allow each to average 6 buses per hour over 13 hours. Hastings added that SDOT could reach its 2025 goal of 72% of households as early as next year, using “about 30,000 hours in the Routes 41, 45, 49, 70 and 120.”
Another part of the STBD was “regional partnership” funds to allow other jurisdictions to combine with Seattle to fund mutually beneficial service. As one might expect, suburban cities have been a little less excited about finding tax dollars for this. However, Mercer Island has partnered with Seattle to fund Route 630. King County Metro has helped fund 11 routes that aren’t sufficiently contained in Seattle to be solely funded by the STBD.
See the report for tons more detail on exactly which routes got what, what routes have improvements still to come, and other statistics (like ridership) that are clearly related, but cannot be directly attributed to STBD improvements.
The STBD concludes in 2020. It will be up to Mayor Durkan’s administration (and voters) to determine what replaces it, if anything.
* Written by many people, including STB alum Adam Parast.
Last week, Geekwire broke the story that the developers of Renton’s Southport office project will fund a foot ferry pilot program from its Lake Washington location to South Lake Union. Estimated to take 45 minutes, this would be competitive with driving (30-60 minutes) and considerably faster than current transit options (about 1:15). The service would begin in 2020.
The article says key details are, uh, incomplete:
The water taxi project is still in early phases, so details like timing, capacity, funding, frequency, pricing and stops have yet to be decided, [Project Planning Director Rocale] Timmons said. The company is considering 149-passenger catamarans similar to Kitsap Transit’s new fast ferry.
Seco is planning to arm the boats with amenities sure to please commuters, such as high speed internet, bike storage, standing desks and the ability to order coffee and snacks via smartphone. Seco doesn’t want to focus purely on commuters, and the service will likely have an entertainment and tourism element as well.
Timmons told STB that connection 20,000 jobs in the Renton Landing area with 50,000 jobs in South Lake Union would convert the lake from “a barrier to a predictable and eco-friendly connection to jobs, affordable housing, and shopping and entertainment opportunities – without adding to the congestion of our roads.” And indeed, SLU won’t see high-quality rail until the 2030s, while any service to the Landing is entirely hypothetical.
He added that Seco Development hired KPFF Consulting Engineers to develop an implementation plan for the ferry. Locally, KPFF has done many projects familiar to readers, including Tacoma Link’s Commerce St infill station, Edmonds and Lakewood Sounder, East Link in South Bellevue, U District Station, the Pine Street stub tunnel, the First Hill Streetcar, and Kitsap Fast Ferries. Timmons pointed out that they have also done work for most major North American ferry operators.
Timmons wouldn’t say how much Seco was willing to budget for operations, which will govern how frequent (and therefore useful) the ferry can be. He did suggest that positive reactions from local politicians (see the article) might mean local government might chip in to enhance the service.
There are many questions about this ferry. Most importantly, the frequency will govern how useful it is for a wide variety of trips. A good interface with other transit, like the C Line, Eastlake BRT, streetcar, and Renton’s ST Express buses, will mean the difference between heavy ridership and a handful of people in the right place at the right time. Meanwhile, the focus on amenities seems like the kind of thing Jarrett Walker warned us about.
Until we have those details, it’s hard to say if this will be a link of regional importance, a useful shuttle for a tech industry tenant, or merely a line on a map to lure a lucrative tenant that may not grasp the nuances of useful service. But done right, this could be the kind of innovation that binds our communities closer together in a traffic-independent way.
Yesterday, the City of Seattle published the final Environmental Impact Statement for its citywide Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) rezone proposal. Citywide MHA is the key to the “Grand Bargain” at the center of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). In a nutshell, Citywide MHA would upzone many of the more urban parts of Seattle, in exchange for requiring developers in the upzoned areas to build (or pay for) a modestly higher amount of affordable housing as part of their projects.
The city describes the key objective of Citywide MHA as “increasing housing and jobs near frequent transit.” That’s a laudable goal, and absolutely necessary for the city’s continued growth. Many of Seattle’s roads are at capacity and we don’t have room for more. Geometry requires that further transportation capacity must come from transit, walking, or cycling. People only use transit if it’s easily accessible to them. Allowing more people to live near frequent transit will boost both transit ridership and total transportation capacity. For that reason and also for the affordable units it will generate, Citywide MHA is a positive step that we should support.
But it doesn’t go nearly far enough. We have the transit infrastructure to support much more housing than Citywide MHA anticipates, and thereby accommodate more of our new arrivals with less displacement of existing residents. Given the crisis of unaffordable housing prices in Seattle, we owe it to ourselves to do so.
Our transit infrastructure is much better than it was just three years ago, because city residents stepped to the plate. Seventy percent of city voters approved Sound Transit 3. When King County voters rejected a 2014 bus service measure, Seattle voters plunged into the breach, decisively approving their own. Bus restructures accompanying Link light rail brought even more frequent transit. SDOT’s report on the first two years of Proposition 1 has an amazing map (at left) showing the improvement. (We’ll have more to say about this Monday.)
And that’s not all. If funding allows, Metro wants to add yet more frequent corridors in connection with future Link openings. By 2040, Metro would blanket nearly the entire city in frequent service, as shown at right.
But Citywide MHA takes relatively little of this into account. A plan to “maximize housing and jobs near frequent transit” ought to upzone all along these frequent transit routes. Instead, the city’s interactive map shows lots of places directly on current or future frequent transit that remain stubbornly single-family. These areas ought to be upzoned too.
The case of Northeast Seattle is particularly instructive. A combination of a Link restructure and substantial city funding created two amazing frequent corridors along Roosevelt Way (route 67) and 35th Ave NE (route 65). These corridors now have buses running every 10 minutes, six days a week, and every 15 minutes until late at night. But the map shows how little Citywide MHA changes along the corridors (highlighted in yellow). There is barely any increased zoning, and lots of territory directly along the routes remains stubbornly single-family. Frequent transit capacity will go to waste.
A look at the Citywide MHA map reveals many other corridors throughout the city that have similar potential. Corridors like route 36 along Beacon Av S, route 62 in View Ridge, and RapidRide C in Fauntleroy represent potential opportunities for people to live car-free. All frequent transit corridors should have much more color on the map. Even after Citywide MHA takes the first baby steps, the city should keep moving further, so we can make the most of our newly expanding frequent transit network.
King County Spokesperson Scott Gutierrez has provided some additional information relevant to the fare restructure and card fee proposals working their way through the county council process.
One of those pieces of information is the revenue for the county from charging $5 for the youth ORCA card:
Our total card fee revenue for youth cards in 2016 was $125,000. Most of our youth cards — about 17,000 — are issued through school district Passport programs. Another 8,000 cards in 2016 were issued outside of our Passport accounts, so about $85,000 of the total $125,000 is revenue from school districts.
The ORCA LIFT (low-income) card has been free since the program rolled out in 2015, after human service agencies identified charging for the card as a potential barrier. The Regional Reduced Fare Program card fee is $3, but is slated to become free, pending final approval from the county council. The youth card fee has been waived for children whose parents/guardians have qualified for ORCA LIFT.
County Executive Dow Constantine proposed reducing both the regular and youth card fee from the current $5 to $3 back in August. The County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee voted to table that portion of the package at its most recent meeting on October 31, over concerns that the $700,000 that would be forgone annually on card revenue could be better spent on additional service.
The county waived the youth card fee for a period this past spring and summer, while lowering the electronic fare. The county is expected to provide data from this program soon.
With the first batch of ballots counted, Jenny Durkan has a commanding 61-39% lead over Cary Moon in the race for Seattle Mayor. Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena González also lead their respective city council races, 62-38% and 68-32%, respectively. King County Executive Dow Constantine also cruised to re-election.
Meanwhile, over on the Eastside, Manka Dhingra, the lynchpin of the Democratic party’s grand plan for West Coast domination, seems to be cruising to victory, 55-45%.
The Seattle Times has called the race for Jenny Durkan, who will be the city’s first woman mayor in almost a century. The new Mayor-elect will have just three short weeks to transition into office.
In the races for Port Commissioner, Peter Steinbrueck and Stephanie Bowman both have strong leads, but the tight race between John Creighton and Ryan Calkins probably won’t be called anytime soon.
It’s that time of the year, again. We here at STB will be posting results for races in which we endorsed (or have a general interest in) in this thread and on Twitter. Make sure to get your ballot in a box or postmarked by 8 p.m.
Races to Watch (STB endorsed candidates listed with bold text):
The Stranger has compiled a list of election night parties in Seattle and the Eastside, broken down by candidate.
Turnout so far is estimated at 20 percent for King County, with the final turnout expected to reach 48 percent. According to The Everett Herald, Snohomish County has seen 14.8 percent of its ballots returned and expects an overall turnout of 34 percent. Pierce County expects to see a total turnout of 33 percent.
Since the 1990s, Regional Growth Centers (RGCs) have played a central role in the growth strategy of the Puget Sound region. There are now 29, along with nine manufacturing/industrial centers (MICs) and other local or county- designated centers. Centers are a mechanism to focus growth and prioritize transportation investments. But the performance of centers is varied. Some, including the six centers in Seattle and downtown Bellevue, have far outperformed others where growth is anemic or non-existent.
This has prompted a revisiting of the regional center system that recognizes variations between centers. The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has released a draft proposal for comment (through November 8). It envisions a two-tier system of ‘urban’ and ‘metro’ centers. Metro centers must meet more stringent criteria. They should have existing density of 30 activity units (population+employment) per acre, vs. 18 for urban centers. Planned targets are also higher at 85 activity units vs 45 for the urban centers. Transit service at metro centers should generally be light rail or equivalent BRT, whereas frequent bus service may suffice for an urban center. That threshold would designate ten metro centers in King County, and one each in Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap Counties.
Beyond the regional growth centers, there are new criteria for manufacturing and industrial centers (MICs) which will also see a two-tier classification. The MICs process creates a new path for designating MICs, not only recognizing the largest centers, but also preserving industrial land from encroachment. There is a more consistent process for countywide centers, where King County currently has stricter standards than other counties. There is recognition of military installations. Military bases operate outside regional plans, but several are large enough to have important transportation impacts.
Updating standards for centers across four counties is politically fraught because every city is closely watching the prospects for their local centers. The King County centers (81% of center employment, 78% of center population) are far ahead of their suburban counterparts. The PSRC disburses $250 million in transportation investments annually, and the suburban counties wouldn’t stand for such a lopsided share of funding.
To avoid disruption to underperforming centers, several compromises have been made to delay impacts. The preliminary framework does not recommend revisions to the funding priority for different types of regional centers at this time. Neither is there any imminent prospect of de-designating existing centers. The first evaluation of existing centers will take place in 2018-2020 as part of the VISION 2040 update. Centers have until 2025 to achieve consistency with new standards, and the PSRC board has flexibility in evaluating existing centers after 2025 if they are close to meeting the criteria. Continue reading “Reforming the regional growth centers”
Two weeks ago, I criticized Seattle Times Olympia reporter Joseph O’Sullivan for reporting irrelevant spin about Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund’s position on climate change, while entirely ignoring the actual impact of an Englund win on state climate policy. So it’s only fair to point out that he did a much better job in a followup article that is formally about fundraising ($).
Suffice it to say that fossil fuel interests are not confused at all about the climate change stakes in this race:
In recent years, the GOP-held Senate has made sure that such Inslee proposals as a carbon cap-and-trade scheme and low-carbon fuel standards went nowhere. Inslee, meanwhile, has opposed a proposed Tesoro oil terminal in Vancouver, Washington.
Phillips 66, which owns a refinery in Ferndale, Whatcom County, has given $250,000 to a spending group supporting Englund called Citizens For Progress Enterprise Washington. A handful of oil companies have also contributed to Enterprise Washington’s Jobs PAC.
Andeavor, which owns the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, has given $290,000, which was split between Enterprise Washington’s Jobs PAC and The Leadership Council.
Anyhow, credit where credit is due. O’Sullivan did a great job laying out the stakes in this election in Saturday’s piece.
King County Metro Route 60 has received at least twolarge investments from 2014 Seattle Proposition 1 funds that extend span of 30-minute-or-better headway all the way to 7 am to 11 pm seven days a week and, as of this September, now provide 15-minute headway from 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays.
Route 107 has also seen good investment from Metro since it was rolled out last fall, with 30-minute headway all the way from 7 am to at least 9 pm, seven days a week, and a perfectly-placed layover spot that allows it to round the corner to the southbound bus stop across from Beacon Hill Station.
Both serve the corridor on 15th Ave S from Beacon Hill Station down to Georgetown, with whichever bus comes along first picking up the bulk of bus riders at any of the stops in that corridor.
However, the two routes are not timed to provide coordinated headway on the corridor, producing a painfully wasteful service pattern.
During weekday evenings, routes 60 and 107 pass Beacon Hill Station southbound at almost the same time. Northbound, route 107 is scheduled to arrive at Beacon Hill Station 11-14 minutes before route 60.
On weekend afternoons, the two routes are scheduled to pass by the station southbound roughly two to three minutes apart. Northbound, they are scheduled to arrive roughly eight to eleven minutes apart.
With cleverly-coordinated timing during evenings and weekends, routes 60 and 107 could provide roughly 15-minute-or-better headway on 15th Ave S between Beacon Hill Station and Georgetown from 7 am to 9 pm or later, seven days a week.
But even if that is easier said than done, having at least 10 minutes between each bus would mean that 2 out of 3 trains going each way would have a bus to which to transfer to head down 15 Ave S, and riders headed to the station from 15th Ave S would be able to catch the next train 2/3rds of the time, the following train 1/3rd of the time, for most of the evening and weekends.
Unveiling the $2.2 billion 2018 proposed budget, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff told the board the potential elimination of federal grants, specifically a $1.17 billion grant for the Lynnwood Link extension, is one “key challenge” to Sound Transit’s future financial plan.
Other funding in peril includes $3.3 $3.7 billion in grant money for various Full Funding Grant Agreements and $500 million for the Federal Way Extension. Federal uncertainty aggravates proposals by State legislators to revise the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) rate. ST Executive Director of Finance and IT Brian McCartan said new legislation could eliminate $2-12 billion from Sound Transit’s budget.
Despite federal and state concerns, 2018 marks the agency’s strongest revenue year, as a full year of ST3 taxes is combined with ST2 taxes in a strong economy. Sales and use tax will account for 62% of the $2 billion of revenue to be collected in 2018, by far the largest source. 16% of revenues are predicted to come from MVET, 9% from federal grants, 7% from property taxes, and passenger fares contribute 5% or $93 million. In 2018 passenger fare revenues are projected to be 6.2% higher next year than in 2017.
Country music star Garth Brooks will be in Tacoma for three nights—Friday through Sunday—for concerts expected to draw over 100,000 fans. To accommodate the influx of fans, who have sold out all three days at the Tacoma Dome, Sound Transit will run special Sounder service on Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4. In addition to these runs, regular service on Sunday, November 5 for a Seahawks game will give Sounder one of its rare weeks with full seven-day service (albeit with limited service).
Denver RTD cuts weekend frequency on two suburban lines to 30 minutes. Examples like this should, but probably won’t, preclude the argument that rail services are uniquely immune to cuts, in the face of low ridership and fiscal constraints.
car2go replaces ($) its Smart Cars with Benz sedans. They’ll be harder to park on Capitol Hill, but you’ll look like a baller when you step out.
Times’s David Gutman discusses ($) transpo issues in the 45th race. It’s pretty well reported, unlike the Joe O’Sullivan hack job from last week.
Skanska plans apartment tower on Fourth Avenue in Belltown. This project will “have a particular focus on the retail and ground-floor experience in this location;” I hope their architects look at the retail layout in Via6 down the street.
LA Times ed board likes Metro’s proposed mini-transit service.
North Broadway extension, and the highly desirable bike infrastructure that would have come with it, appear to be dead.
Times op-ed proposes ($) a cross-sound car tunnel. That’s obviously nuts, but the PPP model of funding infrastructure seems to work very well in Europe and Scandinavia, and I would love to know why it never seems to happen in the US.