Back in 2014, Seattle voters approved a $60 license fee and 0.1% sales tax for a Transportation Business District (TBD) that would fund bus service through 2021. Originally conceived as a way to avoid bus cuts after a countywide measure failed earlier that year, before the election this was re-framed as an opportunity to increase bus service on overcrowded and/or unreliable corridors that mostly lie within the City of Seattle.

So far, so good. But Metro doesn’t have the bus base capacity or drivers to run all the service Seattle wants to pay for:

Today, the STBD buys about 270,000 annual service hours, equivalent to 41 buses running 18 hours per day, every day. Non-service expenditures include fare discounts, equity programs, the low-income rebate on the VLF, planning and administration, etc.

Given this problem, or opportunity, the Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee on June 5th endorsed some amendments to the STBD to allow several new initiatives:

  • Reduce the threshold for the definition of a “Seattle” route from 80% to 65% of stops. This makes the 106, 120, 124, 345, 372, 373, and E Line eligible for funding by Seattle voters. While these routes have significant suburban tails, most reasonable observers would agree that they are important to Seattle residents. Some of these routes use different Metro bus bases and are therefore not as constrained.
  • Extend free ORCA passes from 61% to 100% of Public High School students, plus “Seattle Promise” college students.
  • Funding capital transit improvements, both correcting the worst deficiency in the original measure and shoring up troubled projects from Move Seattle.
  • Most controversially, fund “contract pilot transit services” — small, privately-operated transit vehicles to serve markets with unusually high SOV shares (read: Uptown and First Hill) and solve last-mile problems in the Rainier Valley and Alki.

The changes sailed through the committee with only minor amendments, but Committee Chair O’Brien postponed the scheduled June 11th review by the Full Council. Kevin Schofield reports that the two-week delay is because labor has some concerns about the fourth provision.

It’s probably not surprising that a town like Seattle would have second thoughts about partially privatizing transit services using non-union vendors, even when there is no alternative. However, one might also wonder how effective these services will actually be. It’s hard to scrutinize a concept with essentially no details, but there’s a reason Metro doesn’t send many smallish vans buzzing around second-order demand lines: it’s a very expensive way to serve a small number of people, however much it improves the lot of a handful of riders. Indeed, some of discussion in June 5th’s meeting cast doubt as to whether the new routes would even make up the 3,000 car trips the city is looking to eliminate during the period of maximum construction through 2021. One hopes that this program would provide reasonably direct and frequent routes while remaining extremely well-integrated with the network of Metro buses. If it does, it would be a worthy augmentation to our transit system.

60 Replies to “Seattle May Revamp its TBD”

  1. The fourth proposal sounds like a city-run version of the Microsoft Connector to Lower Queen Anne, SLU, and First Hill. It will be interesting to see how many people use it. But with small’ish vehicles and high deadhead/service ratio, even if the vehicles fill up, it many still end up costing more tax dollars per rider than regular metro service.

    Of course, the elephant in the room is the real reason why Uptown and First Hill have so many SOV commuters is that many large employers still give their employees free parking spaces. If we really wanted to get people on transit, we would institute taxes on free parking near the city center, to discourage this. As far as I know, Seattle’s existing parking taxes apply only if the parking is paid.

    1. You are mistaken. From the city web site:

      The commercial parking tax must be paid for people who park in your lot at a discounted rate or for free. This is often the case when a company leases office space and charges its employees a discounted rate to use the building parking garage. In other cases, employees receive free parking as a job perk. In these cases and others like them, the measure of the tax is the fair market value of a typical parking stall in the lot or as determined per Seattle Rule 5-925(3)(e).

    2. Well, in First Hill’s case there are also a lot of patients driving from places where transit isn’t very feasable, or they’re in no condition to ride a bus, or they work night shift when few buses are running. And how well did they count the “S” in SOV? Did they exclude people driving patients who couldn’t make it there alone, and rideshares that look like cars?

      1. Ambulances don’t like being stalled traffic either, Mike. And considering how that kind of traffic affects somebody in any degree of driving condition, I doubt the medics would fight against measures to speed up patients’ arrival.

        Not to say they’d be literally ready to paint the lane with blood to make it rosily reserved for transit. Just that they’d be just fine with reserving it the fastest way possible. Incidentally, just remembered:

        The Sikorski Skycrane helicopter I logged under in the Cascades one summer could lift a ten ton log How much would a loaded 40′ trolleybus with a standing load weigh on its flight to either Harborview or the park across from Pioneer Square Station?


      2. I was talking about friends and relatives driving people to appointments, not ambulances.

  2. It’s probably not surprising that a town like Seattle would have second thoughts about partially privatizing transit services using non-union vendors, even when there is no alternative.

    What’s surprising to me is that Seattle does privatize a major portion of it’s transit; school buses. Whereas the eastside (Lk WA, Belleuve, M.I.) all use union district employees, Seattle offshores it’s bus service to Student First. FWIW, dirvers are union although the same parent company uses non-union employees providing transportation services to Microsoft.

    Question, are all/any of the contracted Hopelink/Access drivers union?

    1. (with the assumption that the City will continue not to partner with Metro on efforts to enable faster bus movement on 3rd Ave, such as red-painted 24/7/365 bus lanes, thereby freeing up a peak E-Line bus or two)

    2. Metro doesn’t have to use red buses. It sometimes uses regular buses when it doesn’t have enough red ones. It would have to order red buses so it’s not using regular buses long-term, but it’s planning to do so anyway as part of its 2025 network.

      1. OK, Mike. Rapid Ride paint job features the yellow pattern that makes every bus look like a giant Oscar Mayer weiner (Talk about “Branding!”) with mustard on it. Hope the ad revenues still cover costs.

        But the red paint I was referencing refers to fastest possible means to start assuring that patients’ families and visitors have one less unfair hardship in their lives. Maybe for a couple of kegs we can get some UW fraternity whose members’ families are so rich they can rent a Tiny House for their frat to buy a truck and some paint as a party gag.

        After six months of City Council debates as to which body part should be taxed next- will go Viral to watch the Council try to explain to the new Chief of Police how many of their officers’ lives it’s worth to put those lanes back to parking, I mean traffic.


  3. Two suggestions from a user of the 5 and E buses, and lately from the much better 36 route. For the later I see no need for improvement.

    E buses are frequently too crowded to stop for more passengers. One Bus Away drivers should notify transit, and that information relayed to OBA. Second if the bus is regularly too full for passengers some runs should be started at midpoint.

    #5, One Bus Away is frequently unable to be accurate. Just providing better location One Bus Away could be a much better tool. There seldom is a problem getting aboard, and almost always standing room available. I still question running those buses all the way from Shoreline CC to West Seattle. Just too much opportunity to get caught in traffic, and hopelessly off schedule.

    1. The 26/28/131/132 also suffer from notorious unreliabilty every day. It’s hard to say where the specific bottleneck is, but it seems in general that long routes that cross the Ship Canal are the most unreliable non-freeway routes.

      The 36 has been increased many times over the years, so it’s not surprising that it’s now so frequent it’s about at its ideal. Whenever I take the 7, 14, or 26 from Pine Street or Intl Dist to somewhere they all go or one of them goes, I of course see a lot of 7s, every few minutes. What surprises me is how many 36s I see: almost as many. That’s a far cry from when I was a teenager and the 36 ran every 15-30 minutes.

  4. The south end gets first/last mile connections to light rail stations. Bring ’em on. If union operators are available, move them to the front of the bidding line. It doesn’t have to be sketchy dangerous rideshares. But the fares should be affordable to everyone, and rides should be requestable on our old-fashioned phones. I’m not sure how to make this available to the non-phoned, but that’s not a reason not to do this.

    First Hill ignores Capitol Hill Station and gets long Uber and Lyft trips. Hmmm. It’s too bad we don’t have a streetcar from Capitol Hill Station to the western half of First Hill running every 6 minutes during peak (and eventually every 3.75 minutes during peak), with transit signal priority and dedicated lanes. Or is there not enough space at the streetcar barn to have that many streetcars? If the Center City Connector doesn’t get built, don’t cancel the streetcar order. Just roll them into useful frequency on the First Hill line.

    In the meantime, does route 49 really need to run downtown? Could having it continue straight on Broadway be done without much service-hour investment?

    Three-seat rides with U-Link in the middle will remain competitive with one-seat taxi rides because I-5 remains a parking lot during rush hour, and will only get more clogged.

    For connectivity to eastern First Hill, that would mean an upgrade on route 60. As a rider of the southern portion of that line (with the break in the middle at Beacon Hill Station), I’d be fine with splitting the route in order to put more service on First Hill. Anecdotally, I regularly see most of the riders on route 60 alight or board at Beacon Hill Station.

    First Hill has an unsurpringly large number of SOV trips because it is a frequent/rapid transit desert, especially to Capitol Hill Station.

    1. “does route 49 really need to run downtown?”

      Well, yes. It’s the primary route on Capitol Hill, the primary route on Pike/Pine, and the primary route between downtown, Broadway, and the U-District until Northgate Link opens. If Metro moved the 49 from downtown it would have to revise the U-Link restructure to replace that segment.

      1. Mike, would you accept this? Keep the 49 and the 7 as they are. But add a lot more buses to the present 49 Express, which starts at the top of the Broadway District and skips Downtown on the way to the Valley via 12th and Jackson.

        Express routes always really do need local service all the way along their routes. It’s not wasted. Incidentally, about hospital traffic, planning for lane adjustments on First Hill definitely needs to include parking measures for passengers so far from transit they have to drive all the way in.

        Because now, I think that many people really just miss the visit rather than get stuck in that really horrible traffic. Which can really defeat a lot of promptness. At the beginning, express lanes can be in force only at rush hour, so visits can be scheduled at off-peak times.

        My point in all this kidding around is that the traffic around that whole hospital district of First Hill is choking the life out of the neighborhood itself. I think many of not most of the motorists would gladly leave their cars someplace they can be driven- when a working transit plan finally gets drawn. Regular drivers will be the first to vote yes.


      2. That’s the 9X. It’s named after a former 9 local that went from the U-District to Broadway and Rainier Valley to Rose Street. I believe there should be a unified route along the entirety of Broadway, and when I lived near Harborview I had to deal with the schizophrenic service patterns there. The 9X frustrates me because it terminates at Broadway rather than continuing to the U-District, meaning that often when I might use it I can’t. Its other problem is infrequency and short span, but that’s what you want to improve on.

        The 9X has been in an ambiguous situation ever since Capitol Hill Station opened. How much is it redundant with Link vs how much does it complement it? Metro may have ambiguous feelings too, because I think it wanted to delete it but the community convinced it to leave some minimal service in place, and then I think it added a few runs. I may be remembering wrong. I guess it’s a stopgap until the north-south route comes into place.

    2. Some excellent observation and thinking, Brent. You could also have been on First Hill at rush hour week ago Friday, and collect your posthumous Congressional next week, which convinced me Boren and Madison Station has been overdue since LINK left out First Hill.

      But let’s get to the worst, which is key to the whole problem. “SOV trips” is understatement from the English social class that keeps the “h”in the word Hell. Between Pine Street and eastbound I-90, pm rush the length of Boren continuing to I-90 is a parking lot better left to Joe Diamond than transit.

      Crossed by similar East-West traffic, whose mix does include more trapped buses. And where they’re needed most, arterial streets are too narrow to hold reserved lanes for either vehicle type alone. Boren Avenue should be diamond-laned and three-minute trolleywired from former Convention Place Station the whole length of First Hill. As is- capacity allows three rush hour only routes into the jam.

      Not doom by any means. Fact that for several hours nobody on four wheels can move at all could create “a teachable moment”. With 49 from Capitol Hill Station to Prentice Street being good starter course. While we talent-search for faculty.

      Local and express. Easy for the buses to share reserved streetcar lanes all the way south. Lane-priority change from cars to buses, zero capital. Political fight: any choice? Not sure about Broadway’s popularity as a through arterial. Any input?

      Little-known piece of Ohio Brass history, though. Wire is still alive though unpolished from from the switch on Seneca all the way down Ninth to Harborview. Routes 2, 3, and 4- if memory serves- gained First Hill and Madrona while Third was cut, covered, and dug for DSTT.

      Like all else about the hellacious intersection of with James at Harborview, southbound Ninth Avenue traffic backs up at rush hour- but not whole length, and one direction only. So I see a chance we could reserve one direction per rush hour for cars, and one for trolleybuses only. Like single-tracking.

      With James Street intersection and rest of Ninth back to Madison controlled by repurposed current garage exit help, badges, uniforms, tasers and all. Replaced in South Lake Union by building-owners’ choice of their own building maintenance employees.

      Pretty sure Connector will get built, because both Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market say so. But since First Hill streetcars will no longer rust to the rails on Broadway, may not need that many more cars.

      But as every authoritative lady middle school class president will “Well Duh-uh!”…..who’s going to lead this whole thing? Answer: Conference with her, her little brother, and their parents about financing their technical education, and also lifetime streetcar and LINK rides for the brother, if she’ll take over immediately.

      Remember, if she’s twelve now, she’ll be chairman of the House Transportation Committee in Olympia in six years. Also, get it on Twitter ASAP that in Washington State, everybody, obviously with no qualifications, can be in the legislature at 18. Which is best self-interested reason that transit give everybody a free ORCA card first day of kindergarten.


    3. Agree 1000% about the streetcar frequency. It should mirror Link frequency, or better, regardless of city center connector expansion. Even with the city center plans, I believe the First Hill “tail” still doesn’t run better than every ten minutes, and that’s a shame. CCC should really be run as a single line running at worst every 5 minutes peak. Nobody’s riding from Capital Hill all the way to Lake Union, but simplifying things make it both simple and more reliable for short hops along the corridor.

      Side note: I’ve been noticing more people walking to/from the Yesler station, as the first of the new apartments have opened up. So First Hill is not just about serving the hospitals!

    4. I think the greater Central Area (parts of Seattle with an “East” address) should have a major restructure after Madison RapidRide starts. They tried to do something after Link was added, but since there was only one stop, it wasn’t a big enough improvement to make it work.

      With Madison BRT though, a corridor will be changed. The 11 and 12 will be changed significantly, and the latter might just go away. I think it is quite possible for the 49 to keep going straight as suggested.

      No matter how you do it, though, it is a tricky proposition. Do you double down on the streetcar, or basically just ignore it? If the 49 goes to Beacon Hill, does that make much of 60 redundant, and if so, what do you do with it? How exactly do incorporate the changes to the 3 and 4 that have been discussed for a while? What about a bus from Rainier Valley up Boren to South Lake Union?

      There are a lot of possibilities, but trying to solve the problem with one-off buses (e. g. a bus from Crown Hill to First Hill) is really not the way you do it. That puts us right back to where we started with this mess. We lack an effective grid, which means that some trips are fast (e. g. trips to downtown) but other trips are slow, and too expensive to serve effectively. We’ll always have that problem is we try to build a point to point network. You need an effective grid to provide mass transit to the masses.

      The greater Central Area is very close to a tipping point right now in terms of service. There is enough demand and just about as many buses as you need to provide frequent, straightforward service for the entire area. It just needs a better network, and a little more service. It is quite possible the latter may flow from the savings that come from Madison BRT (assuming they are applied there).

      1. The 12 will be deleted because RapidRide G replaces it. The 19th Ave tail could simply go away (it gets so much service simply because it’s an available trolley terminus), but Metro has proposed incorporating it into what David Lawson calls “a 43 with ADD”.

        I have often struggled with which of the routes from Broadway, 23rd, and MLK should be connected to Beacon, Rainier, and MLK south of Jackson or Mt Baker, and I haven’t been able to find an obvious answer based on trip patterns. Probably both Beacon and Rainier want to go to Broadway because that’s where the hospitals, business, and nightlife are, while 23rd and MLK are residential. But something needs to serve 23rd, and it has a surprisingly large number of on/offs at almost every stop at least weekdays.

        The about-face in SLU with both Seattle and ST suddenly considering it must-serve for Link, and the recent round of activism for First Hill makes one think that First Hill has all the reasons SLU has to be must-serve, and has had them all along. The transit network would have been better if all of downtown, First Hill, and SLU had been considered must-serve from the beginning int the 1990s, rather than the assumption that 3rd Avenue was all that was needed. But that ship has sailed. Meanwhile, First Hill should have downtown-like bus service, and the western CD could piggyvback on it because it’s so close. I haven’t heard of densification in the eastern CD (east of 23rd) so I can’t see it having downtown-like service, but on the other hand the CD has been atrociously underserved for decades. I live at Pine & Bellevue, and to get to Swedish Cherry Hill or Swedish central or Harborview pretty much requires walking because no buses go that direction. That seems like a transit hole in the midst of plenty. Maybe a transit doughnut hole. A Boren Avenue route would partially help.

      2. Yeah, I agree. I think there are several issues:

        1) Like anything close to the core of the city, the streets have two competing patterns, because Manyard, Denny and Boren couldn’t agree on a layout. This makes it difficult to create a real grid.

        2) Density drops off fairly quickly east of MLK. But it is still bigger than many suburbs, and it is physically close to downtown.

        3) As you mentioned, there is a difference in both density and demand between First Hill and an area like 23rd. First Hill and Belltown are really both part of downtown, whereas 23rd is not.

        4) The current bus layout is complicated and messy. People get used to going a particular way, and don’t want it to change. A lot of the routes have wire, and that is expensive to move. The streetcar (arguably the messiest route in the region) is extremely difficult to move.

        5) I-5 thrashed the area — destroying both the transit and pedestrian grid.

        Of all the problems, I would say the second and third are minor. It isn’t that hard to deal with a grid that has different demand patterns. The closest we have to a grid in this city is north of the ship canal and west of Green Lake. Buses travel north-south every half mile or so (pretty much ideal). But buses barely go along 32nd, while they go quite often along Aurora. In the case of the Central Area, it really isn’t much of a problem. The eastern corridors (the ones you would expect to have low ridership) are doing just fine. The 48 and 8 are top performing buses, despite not going to downtown. The far eastern end may get excessive service, but not horribly so (and the alternative would be pretty bad and probably get you little).

        On the other hand, the lack of a street grid and the old bus/streetcar routes are a problem. The 60, for example, seems crazy, and the type of thing that gets “straightened out” with a restructure, as overall service in the region improves. It looks like the type of detour that low demand buses often do, in an attempt to pick up a handful of riders (like the 50 circling the VA parking lot).

        But this not a normal detour — it detours because of the layout of the streets, and because 9th doesn’t even go through. So you can’t “straighten it out” by sending it north up 9th — nor can you send another bus on 9th. If you want to serve that section of town with buses that go perpendicular to Madison (i. e. form a grid), you have to zigzag west of Boren*.

        That makes it challenging. It means that it is likely that we will keep some of the existing routes, and can only do so much when it comes to building a grid.

        * One possibility for the 60 is to dogleg over to 8th, via Seneca, and then head to South Lake Union as well (like so: I would also add a bus on Boren, which could be considered redundant, but not in the grand scheme of things. This is essentially downtown we are talking about. Service every few blocks is a good thing (as long as the buses can move). For the riders of the 60 it would mean a two seat ride to Broadway, but that could be achieved easily by making a transfer or just walking to Broadway and taking the streetcar (or a bus that happens to run along Broadway).

      3. I like that route, and I do agree that it is ridiculous how two dense neighborhoods so close to the city center, with a direct road connection between them, don’t have a direct bus connection. The whole system is designed with the assumption that everybody only wants to go to/from downtown, with “downtown” being the downtown of the 1990’s. Routing-wise, I’m a bit concerned about Boren, it that it could cause buses to get stuck behind cars queuing up to get onto I-5 at either Olive or Howell. 8th/9th is slightly further from the freeway, therefore less attractive for cars trying to get on the freeway, so should move a little bit better. It also does slightly better hitting the big hospital destinations, and comes within a couple blocks of Westlake Station.

        After Dearborn, the route needs to continue on south to Beacon Hill, rather than just end in no man’s land. I like the idea of implementing it as a modification of the 60

      4. @asdf2 — Yeah, I agree with all of your points. The general bus layout is poor because it assumes that everyone is trying to get to downtown and its notion of downtown is outdated. First Hill and South Lake Union are downtown.

        I agree about Boren. It would be great during the day, but get bogged down horribly during rush hour. Of course you can say the same thing about the 8. As I said above, personally I like both. I would have a bus on 8th (likely the 60) and a separate bus that just went from South Lake Union to Mount Baker Station. As a change to the 60 (with the southern end exactly the same) it would be less disruptive. It also means that the bus (and bus driver) is already nimble enough to make some turns. The other bus would be a straight shot, like so: The northern half of that is very high density, and crosses several very popular bus routes. The southern half fades out a bit, but is all about connections (to Link and future RapidRides). It would share whatever improvements are made for the 7 along Rainier Avenue (hopefully a bus lane both directions).

        The only drawback to having both of those is that we might spread ourselves too thin. I doubt it, and think that this is precisely the type of thing that Seattle voters wanted. If you add both and make a few changes here and there, you could have an excellent grid for a very popular part of town. Both buses would likely have high ridership, even if the Boren one got bogged down during rush hour. Ironically, the only bus that runs on Boren right now is the 309, that *only* runs during rush hour.

      5. Here’s an idea. Combine the tail of the 12 with the head of the 2E, for a half-hourly trolley route going 19th/Madison/Union/Seneca/3rd. In return make the 2 go from Madrona to downtown via Pike/Pine, as envisioned in the LRP. You get one good grid route and one passable coverage route, and both can be trolleys.

      6. RossB: should that be qualified? Given fiscal constraints, should the Madison line be implemented as planned? Did the former SDOT properly consider fiscal constraints? There is probably a more cost-effective network design for First Hill. frequent lines going near Link should get right next to it for short transfer walks.

        SE Seattle: could the Seattle TBD fund the electric trolley bus overhead on South Henderson Street; that would directly connect Rainier Avenue South with a second Link station.

  5. I would like a decent amount of the funds to go for capital things. That includes down escalators at Mt Baker and wherever Downtown stations could reasonably put them, new sidewalk and stairs to transit stops, strategic pedestrian bridges and more ways to go and down steep hills like funiculars or escalators. We will get more transit productivity if we think of access as a three-dimensional barrier rather than just a two-dimensional one; funding niche services could easily reduce general public transit productivity.

    1. Oh, please, not more pedestrian bridges under which most pedestrians will just jaysprint. Most pedestrian bridges (like the one at Rainier and MLK) are designed to get pedestrians out of the way of cars, so cars can speed. Most (like the one at Rainier and MLK) fail at the first purpose and unfortunately succeed at the second.

      I don’t care whether there are down escalators at any station, so long as there are plenty of elevators, which is sadly not the case at Mt Baker Station.

      Adding more elevators at Mt Baker, TIBS, and Airport Station ought to be a high priority, and funded by ST, not the City. Maybe the City can front the money for retrofitting Mt Baker Station, and eventually get reimbursed by ST. A single elevator between two station levels, only required to work 95% of the time, is an ADA fail.

      When said elevators are installed at Mt. Baker Station, putting them at the north end of the platforms will increase the station walkshed and directly serve more kiss & ride space.

      1. Why not add those additional elevators (and adjacent) stairs and build them to go higher, enabling a new pedestrian bridge above the tracks to lower Beacon Hill. Making riders walk down the hill only go get up to Mt Baker platforms seems like quite a deterrant to using the station. The right design could also be used by Kimball Elementary students (where many live along MLK on the west side of the street) and Franklin High students that live on Beacon Hill).

      2. “I don’t care whether there are down escalators at any station, so long as there are plenty of elevators”

        So much for saving electricity by not using elevators. Of course, the state of the escalators at UW Station makes even those who don’t normally use elevators use them, just in case one of the escalators in their path is broken or hasn’t been fixed. The problem is, once people have started using the elevators it may be hard to get them back to the escalators when they are fully fixed.

    2. The Mt Baker bridge was designed decades ago when there was no station and pedestrians were assumed to be a species close to extinction. If it were built or rebuilt now it could be much better, and feel like an extended station entrance from the east side of MLK and the west side (or both sides) of Rainier Ave.

      As for Al S’s other bridges, it depends on what they are. There may be a few other 5-corner intersections adjacent to stations that could benefit from bridges. But I don’t think much of the recent Henderson Street bridge proposal, because the street is not that wide or high volume so few people will be willing to both up and down stairs to avoid a stoplight. MLK and Rainier are both wide, high-volume streets, and the station is elevated so people would potentially only have to use stairs at the east end rather than both ends.

      1. A pedestrian bridge that functions as an additional station entrance is the best way to go. If you already have to change levels, it doesn’t matter as much where you change levels, but making it be three changes of levels is just playing Lemmings. It’s a bit unfortunate that the Northgate bridge across I-5 won’t be better integrated with the station.

    3. I’m a little more out-of-the box when it comes to pedestrian bridges. I’d suggest looking at where hillside highways pose a barrier, and building pedestrian / bicycle bridges that are ground-level on the upper side and connect to elevators on the lower side.

      An example is I-5. A level walkway over the highway at First Hill (at Harbourview Park) to Downtown, or from north Capitol Hill to South Lake Union (at Thomas or Republican would connect urban neighborhoods. I’m sure there are other hillsides near Link or RapirRide stations that prevent them from being easily accessed.

      They may not be apparent on the resulting impetus on densification, but better connectivity could even spur denser development in underdeveloped blocks across town, including parts of Beacon Hill, Queen Anne and West Seattle. We shouldn’t assess their value strictly on what’s there today, but what an area could be in the future if it was made walkable to Link.

      As far as ST’s responsibility goes, Seattle should be willing to augment station access with City funds. Link riders are Seattle residents, after all. Link design clearly has a suburban bias to station design and ST doesn’t seem interested in changing that; Seattle will need to make Link function better for urban situations and that includes incentivizing pedestrian access with funds.

    4. For all its faults, the pedestrian bridge at Mt. Baker station is, in fact useful, as it is much faster to go between the station and Mt. Baker Blvd. by walking across the bridge than by waiting for that mess of stoplights. Sure, it would have been better if it had a level connection to the track platforms, or if the northbound 106 stopped at the bridge, rather than next to the transit center, but what we have is a whole lot better than not having the bridge and forcing everybody to wait what seems like forever at the crosswalk lights.

      “I’d suggest looking at where hillside highways pose a barrier, and building pedestrian / bicycle bridges that are ground-level on the upper side and connect to elevators on the lower side.”

      I like the idea of using the hillside, so that the bridge doesn’t add any more vertical climbing beyond what the hillside would require anyway. But, relying on elevators adds a huge cost to the construction of the bridge, and imposes delays on all users waiting for the elevator – including those who are capable of just walking up a flight of stairs. Finally, elevators are not 100% reliable, and you can’t just make everybody detour around for months on end, every time the elevator is in need of repair.

      For instance, here are some examples of pedestrian bridges that work well:
      Woodland Park over Aurora. This bridge uses the hillside well, and efficiently connects two parks over a highway.

      This bridge connects the Westlake Trail to Dexter and on to Queen Anne. The vertical climb is necessary by the hillside anyway, and an adjacent building presents an elevator alternative for those who can’t climb stairs (at least during weekday business hours).

      Not so good bridges:
      This bridge connects a neighorhood to an elementary school, but the whole design of the intersection encourages you to cross Holman Road at grade, and not use the bridge at all. Note the curb ramps on the street, and median refuge. And, that the entrances to the bridge require you to walk right next to the at-grade crossing in order to use the bridge. Yet, the at-grade crossing contains no marked crosswalk, and people tend to drive fast, which makes crossing difficult. It is clear that what’s really needed is a crosswalk signal, and the bridge is mostly about shoving pedestrians out of the way, so that cars don’t have to stop. It also doesn’t help that the bridge is completely unusable in a bike (or wheelchair), with no nearby safe detour, even though the underlying terrain in the area is mostly flat.

      1. I agree. The devil is in the details. Quite often they seem to ignore the fact that pedestrians really aren’t out for a stroll, but want to get to their destination as soon as possible. It isn’t just the elevation gain (and loss) that make people avoid some pedestrian bridges, it is often the approach. That last one is a great example. Approach that from the park (a logical direction) and you have to walk all the way to the street, then back. Same with the other side. It isn’t the end of the world, but it is annoying. If there were stairs outward, it would feed into the neighborhood a lot better. The bridge over Aurora at 102nd is similar ( It connects to the street and to a parking spot. If you just finished shopping at the store, and want to walk over to the other side, you walk right up to Aurora, and begin the giant spiral (only to do the same sort of thing on the other side).

        In contrast, this is a great example of a pedestrian bridge: From the UW campus, people access the bridge easily, from various directions. To the west, it isn’t as good, but it is still logical. Only if you are coming from the south does it become irritating. From the north or the west, it is great. The best location is from the other side of Schmitz hall, where a pedestrian can curve around the big overhangs (on wet days) and then easily go up the stairs and over the bridge. As mentioned, it works especially well since there is no elevation penalty.

      2. The Campus Parkway bridge is not great if you want to cross 15th Avenue, or if you get off a bus on the east side (like the 48) and want to go to the west side (to catch the eastbound 75 or to go to one of the destinations on Campus Parkway). You have to cross at 40th or 41st, which is a block out of the way and requires crossing three or four stoplights instead of one. Or you walk up the stairs to the bridge, and both ends are as indirect from 15th as that Holman Road example, if not more so. The bridge is great if you’re going from Red Square to the Ave or further west, but not if you’re going to or from 15th.

      3. @Mike — It really isn’t designed to do that, and the problem you describe is more of a failure of the bus stops and the lack of crosswalks, rather than the bridge. There really is nothing but a wall on the east side of 15th there. The only building to the west is Schmitz Hall. In other words, if someone wants to cross there, the first question you would ask is “What the heck are you doing there?” The answer, of course, is Metro put a bus stop there. I understand why they run buses on 15th (there just isn’t enough room to run them all up the Ave.) but hopefully they will move them over to the Ave once Northgate Link is done. That would make the transfer you describe trivial.

        Of course the east side wasn’t always the wall you see now. If memory serves, before they added the parking garage, there was a way to enter the campus over there, and a crosswalk there as well. I also don’t understand why there aren’t crosswalks there, especially at the southern end of Campus Parkway. Even if they made that bridge do more (connected it directly to 15th on the east side) it would be a lousy option for short trips like that, as it would represent a classic “up and over” bus that people hate. It is only for a longer trip (more than one block) where the bridge makes sense. That represents the bulk of the pedestrians (or should, anyway).

  6. I’ve driven for van service, and think it’s the worst of both private and public transportation worlds. Like it or not, small vehicle service is taxicab service. So might it not be better done by the people already in that trade? I’ve had very good experience with Orange Cab.

    And Brent, dead-spot-on about the reserved lanes. Every single word from the City on this whole question needs to be met with a demand for these, and their signals, before this discussion goes any farther.

    Police-assisted private parking? Can’t anybody find- or write- legal language forbidding it? Am I wrong that the City is letting sworn police officers “moonlight” as private guards while still keeping their police authority and protection? If the building owners can’t afford their own parking attendants now, maybe it’s time for Seattle to start attracting their replacements as Company Town CEO’s.

    By experience transit driving is hard, and other work is said to be plentiful. But judging by NPR since one of the Koch brothers joined the governing board, very little mention about wages and benefits. Any reliable hearsay about chief reason candidates are so scarce?

    Ugly symptom to me is how dirty and badly-decorated DSTT stations have gotten over these last few months. Graffiti could really have a legit claim to being art. If transit can’t do it anymore, could Seattle Arts Commission start selecting artwork and artists?

    And remind me which agency owns the Tunnel now. Because whether it’s ST or KC Metro, there’s obviously something the matter with it that’s highly visible from every LINK window and platform. Anything we transit advocates can help with?

    Mark Dublin

    1. “And Brent, dead-spot-on about the reserved lanes. Every single word from the City on this whole question needs to be met with a demand for these, and their signals, before this discussion goes any farther.”

      That’s an idea. We could answer every city proposal with “More red paint first.” But if the city refuses to budge on that like it usually does, then we’d would end up stalling any other improvements.

      1. If we let ourselves be buffaloed out of something that could actually make up for the capacity Metro is missing…why would you think any of those other improvements will ever happen either?

        Though if you think the paint color is the city’s sticking point, I’ll give in on rose, but whatever the damage, no way I’ll accept pink.


      2. Because they do happen. Since 2011 there has been a lot of increases in frequency and better routing.

  7. Now Seattle is funding routes that are only 65% in Seattle? And adding expensive boutique service that only serves a few riders at high cost?

    Personally I’d rather just have them use the surplus to extend the service past 2021. Because this smacks of spending freely just to get rid of the money.

    If this comes up for renewal in 2021 I will vote “No.” I’m tired of games like this.

    1. You do have a point – perhaps they could fund short-turn service on routes like the E and 372, if Metro doesn’t have money to match it?

    2. The E, 120, and 372 serve a lot more Seattlites than just a few elites. The first two are some of Seattle’s biggest corridors. Short runs that end at the city boundary is a step backward: buses should connect places, not go to the edge of a jurisdiction and end in the middle of nowhere.

      1. I think the “expensive boutique service” Lazarus’s talking about is the vans to First Hill and SLU; he does have a point there.

    3. Upon more thought, I’m inclined to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to any additional frequency on 3rd Ave until the City agrees to paint it red. Buying more service on 3rd Ave without the red carpet is clearly wasteful.

  8. Further irony on route 106: If 106 gets a frequency boost, future efforts to truncate it at Mt Baker Station would jeopardize that frequency due to changing the in-Seattle stop ratio.

    I think the City should make an exception for route 106 and say it will add funding and improve frequency, but only if we get route 106 out of downtown.

  9. The second and third items seem like the best value, by far. Giving students a free ride on ORCA is relatively cheap, and can be done fairly quickly, without much work. Not only does this give students a valuable service, but it speeds up the buses (less fussing with change).

    The third item is huge, as the Move Seattle budget is in serious trouble. There wasn’t enough money for transit improvements to begin with, so any help in that area will again speed up the buses. Faster buses means less time spent driving buses, which means we wouldn’t need to hire so many new bus drivers.

    The first item might be justified, but it doesn’t really make sense. The big problem is that we can’t hire enough bus drivers. Hiring them for other routes doesn’t help the situation. Finally, I’m dubious of the last item. Much of Rainier Valley doesn’t have a “last mile problem”, it just needs faster service for the 7, along sending the 7 to Rainier Beach Station — both of which are part of the Move Seattle projects.

    1. “The big problem is that we can’t hire enough bus drivers.”

      I have to disagree. We could do more with the same number of drivers if we had more dedicated bus ROW. A one-time expenditure for red paint on 3rd Ave is a much better investment than hiring more drivers to drive slowly through downtown, when we have the capability to enable them to drive through faster.

      1. I agree (and said as much in the second paragraph). The point is that without making the buses faster, we don’t have enough drivers to provide the service we promised. Trying to improve the E instead of the D (for example) won’t solve that fundamental problem.

      2. “The big problem is that we can’t hire enough bus drivers.”

        But the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough money or enough qualified applicants. The problem is Metro’s own bureaucratic hiring process. If Student First can hire enough drivers to keep the yellow buses running there is no excuse for Metro which pays better and arguably provides better working conditions to have more than enough trained drivers. The hiring process hasn’t changed in decades but the job market has.

      3. @Bernie — Yeah, sure, but even if we magically reformed the Metro hiring practice, how does that change anything? If Seattle can spend all the money on Seattle specific routes (as we said we were going to do) why spend it on buses that the county should improve?

        Either way, it makes sense to spend it on (Seattle specific) service or capital improvements. The latter would help with the former.

      4. Because you get into the classic situation that if the county won’t improve them, and Shoreline and Burien won’t step up (and Burien claims it’s a poor city and can’t afford to), then the net result is nothing. Or more specifically, that heavily-used routes that happen to extend to the suburbs get left out when just-as-heavily-used routes that don’t happen to have a city just beyond get extra service, thus punishing people who live on corridors like Delride or Aurora.

      5. Short-term buses add their own complications of maintaining even schedules with the full route: they may not be as efficient, depending on the exact length of the route.

      6. William is right. First of all, the problem with the E is not that it lacks sufficient frequency. As much as I would love 5 minute headways all day long on the E (or any of our bus routes) it really isn’t worth it. If we are going down that road, why the E? You are obviously getting diminishing returns when you go from ten to five minute headways. Sure, it is a nice improvement, but consider all the various routes that could use just a little bit more in terms of frequency. How about a couple runs on the 27 so that Yesler gets 15 minute service. Throw in a run every hour on the 14 so that it gets the same. Add in a couple more runs on the 73, and the 26, just to fill in the gaps a bit. Now every bus east of I-5 between Shoreline and Columbia runs at least every 15 minutes all for the price of reducing the headways on the E by 5 minutes.

        Or how about the new bus I suggested earlier. Run a bus from South Lake Union to Mount Baker (via Boren) every ten minutes. That is a stellar bus route that barely leaves the urban core, yet does something no other bus route does. That is a much better value than reducing the wait time for the E a little bit.

        The issue with the E is not that it lacks frequency, but that it lacks capacity during rush hour. If the buses were bigger, it wouldn’t be a problem. But they aren’t, and it would be nice to do something to deal with the crowding.

        That is why a smaller, express version of the E would be just fine. Run it only during rush hour. It would run from 145th to the same terminus as the existing E. The only difference is that it would skip the ridiculous Linden detour (and optionally a few other stops). Someone waiting for a southbound bus would simply take the first bus available. Someone waiting for a northbound bus would either take the E (if they are headed to Linden or somewhere north of Seattle) or the first bus available. Timing isn’t an issue, because at that hour, the E runs every five minutes anyway. They can bunch, they can leapfrog — it doesn’t matter. You aren’t trying to minimize the waiting, you are simply trying to deal with the crowding.

        There was a lot of discussion about this whole project when it was first proposed. There was worry that this would lead to Metro simply ignoring the city, and letting Seattle deal with the needs there. To a certain extent, even this proposal does exactly that. If Metro has extra money, then spending it on the E makes a lot of sense. It is one of the more crowded runs. But if Seattle fixes the problem, then they could turn around and spend money on a run that is a lot less urban (and a lot less crowded).

        So even this is not in keeping with the spirit of the original proposal — nothing like the South Lake Union to Mount Baker line I proposed. But a Seattle only bus to deal with the crowding on the E is perfectly reasonable, and a good compromise for all involved.

  10. What a confusing headline! Sounds like Seattle’s going to revamp something (to be determined).

    Don’t use acronyms in the headline (especially if they are obscure and have other more commonly recognized meanings). Better yet, don’t use acronyms at all unless it’s a well recognized agency name or so widely used that it’s basic knowledge (like USA, FBI, NASA, etc.)

    From the AP Stylebook:
    “A few universally recognized abbreviations are required in some circumstances. Some others are acceptable depending on the context. But in general, avoid alphabet soup. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms that the reader would not quickly recognize.”

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