• 0:00 – intro
  • 2:19 – CCC to Trolleybus
  • 9:19 – ORCA
  • 10:50 – Gondola
  • 15:41 – Montlake transfers
  • 22:48 – Northgate truncation?
  • 27:04 – Strategies for advocacy
  • 31:15 – Rainier BRT
  • 32:25 – CCC’s future
  • 33:39 – link transfers
  • 40:09 – Colman dock
  • 42:10 – escalators in link stations
  • 43:53 – advocacy for HOV lanes
  • 50:06 – miderm elections
  • 52:04 – Sounder expansion
  • 54:44 – Northgate Link restructure

Apologies for the audio quality on my end… Skype wasn’t cooperating.

26 Replies to “Podcast #63: On an Optimistic Note”

  1. In my personal experience, I can walk from the Stewart/Denny stop served by the 255 & 545 to anywhere in SLU within about 10 minutes. That includes places like SCCA and the Hutch, most of Amazonia, the UW Med research building.

    There is no proposal that I have seen regarding truncating or redirecting Eastside routes at Montlake that improves access to SLU. The forced transfer to Link essentially would change reaching SLU from a 1-seat ride (no transfer) to a 3-seat ride with two transfers required.

    Evenings and weekends and even weekday mid-days, outside of Husky stadium events, there is little traffic on the 255 or 545 that is destined for the U-District. That’s why the 540 failed miserably and was continuously cut back to a peak only route, and the 542 carries little traffic outside the peak. The ridership is headed downtown. Google Transit shows that using the 541/542 and transferring to Link is approx 10 minutes slower than staying on the 545 or 255, even with I-5 and downtown congestion. And Montlake offramp and bridge congestion and openings are unpredictable and frequent. Returning from downtown in the evenings, especially when Link drops to 15 minutes, the transfer penalty is likely to be even worse than the 10 minutes that Google Transit shows – timed transfers will be difficult to successfully schedule

    There may be a problem during construction, if the Flyer stop has to close before the lid is in operation, but once the lid is in operation I believe that 255/545 headed downtown will be able to serve the lid stop and then continue downtown.

    1. Thanks for the Fourth of July gift of a podcast.

      The 545 situation is several different issues.

      1. Off-peak ridership to UW is suppressed because the buses don’t go that way. The Montlake flyer station is an unpleasant concrete jungle to wait in and a significant walk to UW Station, and the 48 is now truncated so it goes no further than 45th. This causes people going between the Eastside and north Seattle to drive, and when habits become ingrained or they don’t know much about transit in the first place, they forget that a bus option even exists.

      2. The unpopularity of the 540 is consistent with the general unpopularity of transit in Kirkland. Kirkland’s restrictive zoning downtown and along 108th means that only the wealthiest people can live there, and they generally drive and have little concept of effective transit. Students and those with lower-paid jobs are pushed to Redmond and Crossroads where they have more choices.

      3. I don’t know about the 542’s off-peak reidership but Ill take your word for it. The 545 also has lopsided demand, it’s just that its peak hours are more skewed late and spread out than usual: it gets 10-minute packed buses between around 8 and 11 AM, and I don’t know PM. But evenings and weekends it’s pretty empty.

      4. The 545 has major reverse commute. If not 50%, at least 35-40%. So peak-direction transit lanes aren’t a total solution for it. If, after East Link, Link absorbs most of the Microsofties, then maybe the 545 can become a peak-direction supplement. Although I don’t know if the 545 is even needed after East Link opens.

      5. You can’t transfer from the 255 or 545 to a UW route when the 540, 542, 555, and 556 aren’t running. The 271 goes through Medina and doesn’t serve Evergreen Point, Yarrow Point, or Montlake Stations. The entrance ramps don’t allow it. 520 has BRT-like service peak hours but it drops to almost nothing evenings and weekends. There has been talk of moving the 271 to 405 or extending the span of the 555/556, but none of those are in Metro’s long-range plan.

      6. Service to downtown may be tolerable now but it will get worse.

      1. Anecdotally, I’ve ridden the 545 on weekends a few times. There’s typically about 20-30 people on board, maybe 5-10 getting on/off at Montlake Freeway Station. Not bursting at the seams, but not empty either. (But, still very low passengers per hour compared to rush hour, since there’s so many fewer buses per hour).

        As Mike said, if nothing changes, the transfer option at Evergreen Point, outside of weekday daytime hours, simply does not exist because the 271 doesn’t stop there. Even if the 255 restructure happened, the wait time to go to Redmond would still be excessive, since you’re transferring between two half-hourly routes (hourly on weekends after 7 PM), which cannot be well-coordinated due to unpredictable traffic in downtown and random Montlake bridge openings. If buses are truncated, a connection to Link is going to involve much less wait time. For one, Link is frequent all day. Two, a bus that starts right at the Link station can be timed to meet it.

        It is also ridiculous to see every cross-lake route except the 550 drop to hourly on weekends as early as 7 PM. Even local routes on the eastside, like the 245, are running half-hourly, while the B-line is running every 15 minutes, while the cross-lake service has almost disappeared. If push to shove, local routes can be substituted with Lyft/Uber for around $10/ride, but using Lyft/Uber as a substitute for the cross-lake routes costs around $30 (assuming no traffic on the freeway). So, avoiding an hour-long wait on those corridors is far more expensive.

      2. Yes, on Sundays I take the 15-minute B to the transit center and wait for a half-hourly 550. The 271 doesn’t help because it leaves with in a minute of the 550.

  2. I don’t know whether this is an open thread. But the Seattle Times Op-Ed last Sunday was disappointing: https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/dont-upzone-seattle-neighborhoods/

    It basically defended single family zoning and parking requirements. And went against allowing accessory dwelling units.

    It was selective with its facts. Saying that only half of Seattle’s land area is zoned single family. I would assume that they included parks, roads, industrial, institution, open space, etc. in the other half. What would have been more relevant is to compare land used for residences or that is buildable for residences.

    And it appeared to argue somehow that more construction would cause gentrification and rising prices. Like they don’t believe in supply and demand setting housing prices. No new supply raises prices, more supply restrains them…

    1. The Times’ editorial board and target readership live in single-family houses, so of course they would say that. It’s like when the Wilder family in Little House on the Prairie said, “There’s nobody [or no people] there, just Indians.” They have a blind spot in that their single-family solution does not work for everybody, and a city should focus on housing everybody, not just those who are rich enough or lucky enough to have single-family houses already. Studies of more housing usually aim for 10,000 or 20,000 more units: of course that’s not enough to make a difference. You need 50,000 or 100,000 more units to turn things around substantially. There’s a danger in the opposite direction: if you don’t build more units, rents and house prices won’t remain stable: they’ll skyrocket due to the overwhelming demand. That’s what happened to San Francisco and San Jose, they essentially followed the Times’ advice. Single-family land may be 50% of the total land but it’s 70% of the land where housing is allowed. The remaining 30% is not enough to accommodate the rest of the people without gentrification and displacement. Small, inexpensive apartment buildings aren’t being built because they’re not allowed in single-family land, and they get outbid by large developers on the lots where they are allowed.

      “Tripling residential density with upzones will also reduce the number of starter houses to buy as they’re snapped up by developers.”

      There are no starter homes! The former starter homes are now above starter price, and so few of them are on the market that the turnover is less than a month, most favorably to those who can pay cash. Even fixer and uninhabitable houses are going for above starter price. And what’s wrong with a condo for a starter?

  3. Good research trip for a posting. Somebody. get on Routes 3 or 4 at James and Third. Around four on a Friday afternoon.

    Headphones better than even a small paperback. Take water, because you die of thirst a lot faster than hunger. Calendar better timepiece than a watch for upward trip even slower than a LINK elevator.

    And when you get to Ninth and Jefferson…you’ll get my point. The badly-needed LINK land station has some company under the Cloak of Invisibility. If ever there was a transit line howling to be born! Just friggin’ go look!

    It’s the Portland Aerial Tramway’s little twin brother from Harborview Hospital to the park south of the King County Courthouse. Cars modeled on Portland’s, size and polished steel like an airstream trailer with a cable-grip above the roof.


    Who’s going to pay for it? Whoever needs two buses to handle the passengers presently trapped about halfway up the hill on James east of I-5. Whose latest color scheme is yellow and purple like an Easter egg.

    Hardest thing will be the landing at Harborview, which could take a walkway and a platform at Harborview, a large balcony at the top of the cliff. Landing at the park- which happens to be right across Third from Pioneer Square Station should be easier.

    Counter-argument should be an easy Forget-It! too. The ground a few blocks south of what killed recent First Hill LINK station might not hold a cable-way tower either. But if you’re really looking for a free-way burying park across I-5


    And while you’e at it:


    Could help with the Route 8 too.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The 3/4 are expected to move to Yesler-9th-Jefferson at some point. SDOT and Metro have signed off on it conceptually; they’re just waiting for somebody to pay for the trolley wire. It wasn’t included in Move Seattle for some reason.

      1. Thanks, Al S. Still like the idea of the cable-mounted flying Airstreams. Though the view in Portland definitely more striking.

        Though funicular probably much easier and likely cheaper. I think this is the approach for the Route 8. Still tempting to let the buses themselves ride the platorms.

        Small pic shows a horse and wagon on board along with the streetcar. Wouldn’t do that with a horse I didn’t know.

        But of all the cable-drawn systems, this one has always been my favorite. Triested. Which is now in northern Italy, but formerly in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Which doubtless made it the most powerful streetcar power in Europe.


        But also: Bet me that Queen Anne Avenue can’t handle both trolleybuses and a counterbalanced First Avenue Connector.

        Extended to Connect with Seattle Pacific University on its way to Fremont, and up Leary Way to Ballard?

        World of precedents. And doubtless some gears and wheels still under Queen Anne. Was I reading somewhere that the weighted car got junked? Maybe we can replace it with a bike-rack trailer.


  4. A number of things frustrate me about the FHSC, but certainly one of them is that it provided a basis for Metro to cut the 9 to peak only. Sometimes I try to take a shortcut from MBS to Rainer Freeway station, and in that case a 7, 9, or 106 will work, but what I really want is a 9. And it’s worse when I take my occasional trip from Bellevue to Seattle U, where I miss the 9 at Rainier Freeway station, and am forced to take the 7 and the streetcar, which takes an incredibly long time.

    And it’s weird because the 9 makes sense in the grid pattern of rooted that metro is moving toward. Go a little bit east, and that version of the 9 is called the 48 and runs every 10 minutes 6 days /week, 15 minutes Sundays and evenings, has night owl service and will be converted to RapidRide. And the priority is to run the 106 to IDS which makes no sense.

    1. It was Capitol Hill Station that caused the 9 to be reduced. I think Metro proposed deleting the 9 but the community argued to keep some service. Judkins Park Station will have East Link in 2023. Rainier Freeway Station will close next year or so for Link construction, and the buses will exit on Rainier to Jackson or Dearborn, for whatever that’s worth.

      A north-south grid route makes sense, but it’s not as clear which of Boren, Broadway, 12th, 23rd, or MLK should be connected to Beacon, MLK, or Rainier. Metro has suggested a variation of the 60 (10th-Bwy-Denny-12th-Beacon). The 48 has gone on and off being a 23rd-Rainier route or just a 23rd route (and earlier it was 23rd-MLK). The 106 extension is a sop to a few squeaky wheels in north Rainier. The issue is which routes best complement Link without duplicating it too much. I don’t have a sense of whether Broadway-Beacon or Broadway-Rainier is better.

      1. The presence of a Link station isn’t a good rationale for cutting a good grid component. In fact, it makes for a good frequent bus to frequent train connection. That’s why the 48 makes so much sense, and will do so even more after Northgate and East Link open.

        As for which routes to connect to Broadway, I’d argue that anything is better than nothing. But the 8 left a gap in MLK that was ripe for filing.

        I think it would make a lot of sense to run the 9 down MLK like the sort lived 38 of 2016, then continue on Rainer and Boren, then turn on Broadway. It would be local on MLK, express on Rainier (like the current 9, except without the turn on Jackson and 12th), then local on Broadway, and the 106 ends at RBS.

        The dumbest part of the 106 today is the tail to IDS. As originally implemented, it was nonstop from MBS to IDS which is 100% duplicative with Link and slower nearly all the time. Literally the only people it helps are people on the 106 going to exactly IDS, and they just get a one seat ride. It’s like the 42 but worse, because the 42 at least served Dearborn street.

  5. I was on Portland’s busy streetcar the other day which stopped in front of a clients office. On return trip the sc stopped a few blocks from my Yellow line which I used to complete my trip. It was nice not having to drive or board a bus which I would have avoided had it been the only public option.

    I can only image if mayor Dorken was in charge of Bertha during its time of impending doom. The tunnel would have ended up being filled with surgery drinks and paid for with the successful head tax, oh I forgot, that blunder failed. The Bertha fiasco accrued overages of 100’s of millions and took a year to resolve, lets see if Dorken can complete her minor owie in less than that time.

    1. I’m more interested in the ‘surgery drinks’ ?

      Computers (heck, auto-predict alone), make our lives easier, if not most entertaining.

    2. les, Portland has done a good job with its street rail systems these last years. But I can’t see anything whatever in Seattle’s efforts that’ll prevent us from doing as well or better.

      Jenny Durkan has not canceled the Connector. Even on the best civil engineering project, people miscalculate. And costs go up unexpectedly- something very much expected very soon on a much larger scale- until the problem’s author gets FIRED!
      Or pushed into the Shark Tank one channel away from FOX news.

      Pioneer Square is called that because it’s a very old part of the city, which used to be part of the same bay whose remains Bertha also got stuck under. Possibly with a sunken steam-boat or two a couple stories down. Definitely an underground wash-room or two.

      So far none of the Connecting streetcars has had to be dragged out of several stories of mud by its nose because somebody though the cutter could chew its way through a piece of steel everybody knew was there.

      Different argument than whether the project should’ve been done at all. Understand that the digging is done. Over the time that hole will be there, when it stops working for cars, we can give it tracks.

      Involuntarily relocated 60 miles south, I don’t get all the Seattle news. Just a strong impression that Mayor Durkan has a lot less contact with her constituents than her last two predecessors did.

      I don’t see any reason at all why the Connector won’t get built. Even if it gets wrongfully paved over, jackhammers only improve over time. Those hundreds of millions- is it really that much? spent now could easily recoup themselves with compound interests over coming decades.

      Same for the opposite if we hadn’t spent them. I do think that the people of Seattle should start politely demanding some serious and regular public conversations. Some genealogical research a minute ago reveals some noble lineage out of Ireland on Jenny’s part.

      In old Gaelic, “Durkin” (“a, “i” sound the same in a war-cry) means “Pessimist.” So don’t make her Destiny any worse. However savage, aggression in those days was never passive. Except main cause of a chieftain’s death was being poisoned by his brother.


      1. She should use the million for cost accrued for holding up the project and putting businesses along the route out of business for homeless housing or something meaningful. The city has screwed up with the financing, lets not throw more money away. Studies are suppose to be pre-construction not post.

        Cons of changing at this point:

        “the bus option would lose $75 million in federal grants”
        “Connecting two disconnected streetcar stub-lines has real value that a bus line cannot easily replicate. Only by decommissioning the other two streetcar lines could one create a single efficient rapid bus line.”
        “It would also continue the pattern of short-changing First Hill.”
        An equivalent bus alternative “will likely cost nearly as much as a streetcar”
        “Center-running transit-only lanes require redesigning the street and purchasing new buses with doors on both sides”
        “the Madison Street’s RapidRide G Line project which is budgeted at $120 million for 2.5 miles. Recreating Seattle’s planned streetcar loop as a rapid bus line may end up costing more than $200 million”


    3. And another thing about the Connector. Broadway, Jackson, First, Pike/Pine….it’s all trolleybus-wired. So if worse comes to hold-off-on-the streetcar, center reservation can still be done electrically.

      If traction power will handle it- not sure what’s possible- both modes could use same positive wire. Several lines in San Francisco. Slight modification on pantograph. So make Jenny say all that too, Something else to actually hold her to.


    4. >> It was nice not having to drive or board a bus which I would have avoided had it been the only public option.

      Why would you have avoided a bus if it happened to go where you wanted to go? That sounds pretty silly to me.

      1. This isn’t just an American thing.

        In Potsdam the buses move relatively few passengers compared to the trams, even though the buses cover a larger area and through places as dense as the tram lines.

        Some of this is attributed to the low floor trams being easier to board than the low floor buses due to the platforms.

  6. There are a lot of “May’s” and “Might’s” here. But if I lived where I could vote for Jenny, or not, there would’ve been some visible public action in favor of the streetcar, starting with some insistent demands to meet with her face to face and in public.

    Just to let her know that if she cancels the Connector, it’s going to cost her. Where’s the Transportation Coalition and the Transit Riders’ Union. And at least one political party- can’t see the Democrats opposing the Connector.

    And the other thing we’re not getting. Some point by point answers as to exactly where she thinks money is being wasted, and as pointed out, some discussion of costs of not building.

    And an interview with her posted in Seattle Transit Blog. Would at least lift off the gloom of waiting helplessly for something to happen- either bad or good. les, tomorrow call her office.

    And write to her. Like the great Swedish radical IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) said with an early-Ballard accent: “Workers of the World Arise! You’ve got nothing to lose but your chairs!”

    Let us know what the Mayor or her office tell you. And while you’re at it, your city council member too.


  7. Strategies for advocacy: get progressive individuals elected in swing districts. Our state legislature controls SO much. We need progressive voices to be elected to represent our suburban and rural districts, as a Democratic or Socialist representative WILL listen to concerns about transit and work through logical solutions, whereas their conservative counterparts will chalk transit up to just another item to use tax dollars, regardless of the benefits for voters.

    I look forward to re-districting in 2020, as it will shift power away from rural districts and into the Puget Sound coast. Until then, we need strong outreach and a good GOTV effort in the following key Puget Sound districts:

    LD5: Issaquah-North Bend
    LD28: Lakewood-DuPont
    LD30: Federal Way
    LD42: Bellingham
    LD44: Snohomish-Lake Stevens

    Keeping the Democrats here in office and flipping the Republican seats could really shift conversations in Olympia to one that is at least open to improving access to public transit.

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