Westlake transit lanes

This is an open thread.

84 Replies to “News Roundup: So You Don’t Have To”

  1. The May Sound Transit ridership report is now online. It was held back two weeks to coincide with a delayed committee meeting.


    It’s the first month that shows Link average weekday ridership topping 80k! Congrats!

    There are no other single-line light rail systems in the US with this demand. It may be the highest single-line light rail ridership anywhere in the US — places like Boston and San Francisco have much higher systems demand on busy multiple line segments so it’s hard to parse the actual data to individual lines.

    Feel free to remove this comment if STB posts a separate story.

    1. That is interesting, but in some ways trivial. It is like talking about Bonanza Peak, the highest non-volcanic peak in Washington. There are plenty of higher peaks in Washington; there are higher non-volcanic peaks in surrounding states; but in terms of non-volcanic peaks in Washington, Bonanza is the highest. So what?

      The difference between light rail and heavy rail is somewhat arbitrary. There are heavy rail systems that carry way less than many light rail systems. In general, light rail systems usually cost a lot less to build. But not always — sometimes an agency will spend just about as much to build a light rail line as they would to build a heavy rail line. That is true in our case. From a practical standpoint, it wouldn’t change anything if Link was heavy rail. It would carry exactly as many people and cost roughly the same to build. Yet it would suddenly be placed in a different category, and seem less impressive.

      Likewise the choice to build only one line. That is unusual, especially when investing as much as we have in our system. This puts us in a weird category, so being the best in that regard is hardly impressive.

      Even having a particular line carry 80,000 is really not that special. L. A. has two light rail lines that carry more (the red and purple carry about 150,000 people a piece). The Green Line in Boston carries over 200,000 people. Yes, it branches, but it is still one line (service degrades because of the branching). Even if you eliminate the service on the branches you get somewhere around 150,000 riders. Would a simple branch to serve, say, Renton suddenly disqualify Link from the single line contest?

      That is all within the U. S., and ignores Canadian systems that have been far more successful. That is also only measured in terms of ridership. At a minimum you would want to look at ridership per mile. In that regard we are doing well for an American city, but rank well below Boston in terms of light rail, and well below other cities in terms of rail. Ideally you would look at ridership per dollar spent or better yet, time saved per dollar spent, but in both cases, that gets very complicated. Nonetheless, we can take a guess and say that we are probably doing better than most (with everything being built as part of ST1 and ST2) but are nowhere near the top (even in the U. S.). It is hard to say, since most of the transit systems in the U. S. (and many in Canada) were built on the cheap.

      The sad part is that by most meaningful measures we will due worse with ST3. The Ballard line will be very good in terms of investment per rider (or time saved) but everything else will water it down. Ridership per mile will actually go down as the system gets farther and farther out, and covers less densely populated areas. Very few systems do that, and it is much worse that we will be in that category, even if we manage to have high ridership for a U. S. light rail line.

      1. The Red and Purple Lines are classic Heavy Rail transit. They have high level platforms and cars and gated stations throughout, are not articulated, every axle is powered and the trains receive their power from a third rail, not catenary. There is no attribute they exhibit which could be called “LRT”.

        The Green Line is of course LRT. The Riverside Line is a converted New York Central passenger line similar to Westside MAX, but the other three lines are all converted streetcar lines, much like Muni Metro in San Francisco. That excludes the Third Avenue line which was purpose-built to LRT standards and will soon have its own subway.

        Link as it is being extended now is halfway in between; it’s like the part of the Muni Metro which runs in the new BART-built subway on Market Street. Stations are widely separated and the trackway is separated from traffic except through Bellevue and in the Rainier Valley. There’s a word for such a hybrid: “Light Metro Transit”, because it seeks grade-separation wherever possible.

      2. In fact, one could call the three Green Line routes, “tram lines” rather than LRT. Ditto the Muni Metro lines. That’s because they all have street-level “car stops” which makes them still very much like streetcars in the outer stretches of trackage. The at-grade stations in the Rainier Valley are veritable palaces compared to the skinny strip asphalt poured alongside the tracks in the median of Commonwealth Avenue.

        The only difference is that they now use longer, articulated low-floor vehicles which hold more people.

      3. Boston Green Line has four branches.

        The bigger question is this: Why does Sound Transit hate the idea of branching and short-turning? With demand like this, three branches are not a big problem and can easily combine for 10-minute headway’s. Except for two lines for Northgate-Lynnwood and a three-station overlap in Bellevue, ST is planning only single lines.

        Also, ST plans lines that run 30 miles or so! ST never reports the loads at the most crowded segment on this report. That means that while the ends may be empty and the middle could be overcrowded.

        Heavier ridership is generally a good thing. It just requires reporting and operating things differently.

      4. Al, I was referring to the three lines I described as “tram lines” in the immediately previous post.

        The Riverside Line is a converted, all grade separated speedway, very unlike the other branches.

        So far as turnbacks, absolutely. Run ’em, especially during the peaks when the homeward journey is going to present longer waits for short riders than is necessary. Plus, it gets more revenue for the same number of operator hours.

      5. Oh, I think it should be noted that the Muni Metro subway was built by BART as compensation for not having BART branches in San Francisco.

    2. The categories influence politicians’ decisions, in the sense that if it were a different category they might have made a different decision. When Link was built there was consternation that it was the most expensive light rail system per mile in the US. Most of that cost was tunneling and being more grade separated than other light rails. But that’s what makes it faster and more useful, and the greater ridership is a corollary of that. So now we’re finally getting the benefits of our investment. That’s something. The fact that heavy rail could have done more is partly beside the point because if it had been heavy rail it might not have been built and we’d have nothing. It’s something like if you buy the best fiberglass car, then it’s the best in its category but it’s still not a steel truck, which is supposedly more durable.

      1. These ridership numbers really validate the design of Link and the path the region has chosen to pursue in the future. As they say, “you can’t argue with results,” and these results are stellar.

        Link is a highly productive system, no matter how you try to slice or dice it. It really got a bump from U-Link because U-Link provides a service that clearly can’t be duplicated with buses stuck in traffic. Expect another similar or larger bump when NG-Link opens.

        It’s interesting to note that with 80k current riders and moderate ridership growth over the next 3 years, and with the improvements in Link that will occur when the buses leave the DSTT, it is reasonable to assume that the 2019 ridership numbers will be somewhere north of 90k.

        That means that when NG-Link opens Link as a system will be on par with Portland’s Max as a system, if not better. That is an incredible thing when you look at the 2 systems.

        But good news all around. Keep up the good work ST.

      2. I agree, Mike. It really doesn’t make much difference that this is light rail or heavy. The point is it was expensive. That is why comparing it to most light rail lines is kind of silly. You have to compare it to similar subway systems. In that regard, it is nothing special. It is not “stellar” and likely never will be. Ridership suffers because of key policy decisions that were made that had nothing to do with choice of mode. The lack of stations between downtown and the UW (which not only fails to pick up thousands of potential walk-up riders, but fails to work well from a bus intercept standpoint) along with failed station location (at Mount Baker and the UW) hurt ridership. It is by no means the worst system in the U. S., nor even the worst value, but it isn’t exceptional — I would say for the money spent it is a disappointment. We could have done a lot better if we had people in charge who knew what they were doing (or were willing to defer to others that did).

        It is unrealistic to compare our system with places like L. A. or Chicago. But we are building a system that will be much bigger than what Boston has, yet will likely have several times less riders. Boston is roughly the same size as Seattle, has roughly the same density, yet has over 750,000 riders a day on the combined rail system. We will be lucky if we have a third of that. Likewise, Vancouver BC has close to 400,000 riders a day, and will likely get well over that as soon as they add a few stops between Artubus and the Millennial Line. Speaking of which, the much maligned Canada Line, which suffers from station problems, and a lack of connections to the rest of the system still gets over 130,000 riders a day.

        But the problem isn’t just ridership — it is the nature of the system. When it is all done — when will have spent more than all but a handful of subway lines and built something as big as the Chicago ‘L’ — we won’t have the sort of transit system that exists in cities with similar investments. In New York, Chicago, D. C., Boston, Vancouver, even San Fransisco and increasingly L. A., folks just get around without a car. Taking transit is the default. That isn’t the case now in Seattle, and unfortunately won’t likely be the case ever. It will be nice for folks headed downtown and Bellevue, and it will be nice for some headed to the UW (just as it is with the current bus system) but for lots of very popular trips, the train just won’t work.

      3. Mike, the point of emphasizing the different classes of vehicles and the infrastructure to support them was to emphasize the magnitude of the error in the incorrect statement made above about the Red and Purple lines. For someone to write SO MUCH about transit and not know that the Red and Purple lines are classic HRT and have to be corrected more than twice that the Ballard line was not going to be through-routed with the West Seattle line brings into question much of that voluminous writing.

        Caveat lector.

      4. @Richard: The entire point of Ross’ argument is that the HRT-LRT-tram distinction is a detail that obscures truth, not one that illuminates it. Its aptness is illustrated beautifully by your posts that apply these distinctions rigidly and arrive at the absurd conclusion that Link is incomparable with transit systems, old and new, that provide similar kinds of service to their cities.

      5. [ad hom] Yes, I didn’t realize that the L. A. Red and Purple line were heavy rail (a failure on my part due to following Wikipedia Links).

        The point I am making — and have made repeatedly on this particular thread — is that in most cases, it REALLY DOESN’T MATTER if a line is heavy or light. It just doesn’t. Again, I ask, what would be different if Link was heavy rail? Would it carry more people? Of course not. Would it be faster? Yeah, marginally. Would that increase ridership? Of course not.

        Yet folks obsess over the fact that we have 80,000 riders, as if that is somehow made more impressive because our rail line is light. Never mind the fact that even within that arbitrary subcategory (light rail) we aren’t even top ten in North America (we are somewhere in the teens). But again, that is an arbitrary subcategory. How about measuring us against systems that have downtown tunnels? How about measuring us against systems that share a tunnel with a bus? (We’re number one, we’re number one).

        Or how about making a meaningful assessment of the system, and ask yourself how it compares to others. How much would it cost to build other subways (whether light rail or not) and how do we compare? By that standard, I don’t see how you can be impressed — if anything it is the opposite (the choices we have made in the past are depressing). It is pretty easy to imagine a line that is about 20 miles long, costs about as much the current Link, and carries twice as many people. Politically difficult? Absolutely. Physically difficult? Not at all.

        I get it — you are an expert when it comes to the vehicles. [ad hom] Again, I really don’t care what vehicles run in the tunnels. What I care about is what is important — which is station placement and route alignment. Building a second subway line through downtown and *not* running it perpendicular to the existing line is quite unusual from what I can tell. It may very well be unprecedented. But please correct me — please show me all the examples of when an agency ran the second line through downtown, but didn’t try to maximize *coverage* but instead put every station within a couple blocks of the previous one, running the same basic direction. I await your response.

      6. @Richard B,

        I once had an engineering professor who said, “The skill of an engineer is inversely proportional to the amount of paper he uses.” That phrase could be updated for modern times, but I think of his statement often.

        I concur with pretty much everything you said.

      7. Other than the Canada Line all of the other systems noted have been open for decades, giving the cities a chance to grow up around the stations and their ancillary transit lines years and years of opportunities to feed the stations (something admittedly that ST and Metro as of yet have not done terribly well, but the point is they’ve only had a decade to do so).

        As noted, Link is not necessarily exactly where it should have gone (in a political vacuum) nor does ST3 have the best routings for serving the maximum potential number of riders (again, in a political vacuum) – but we don’t live in a political vacuum and to get the funding a lot of system compromises needed to be made.

        A fair comparison between systems would take how long the line has existed into consideration. Certainly the Canada Line excels in that regard.

      8. Some differences between light rail (catenary) and heavy rail (electrified rail).

        Light rail tracks can be crossed, allowing for at-grade intersections and crosswalks. That saves capital costs.

        Light rail requires bigger tunnels because of the caténaires. It requires more steps to go to and from lower platforms too. That increases capital costs.

        Most importantly, light rail too speeds are slower than heavy rail. That doesn’t matter much for short distances — but the very long eventual Link lines will take about 25 or 30 percent longer to ride from end to end as light rail.

      9. Sorry, guys, it DOES matter if a line is true heavy rail or light metro. The idlers in the articulated sections have no axle; they limit top speeds because they hunt badly. LRT vehicles are typically six to eight inches narrower than HRT cars, and that comes right out of the aisle. Narrow aisle ==> slower loading and unloading. Since HRT car sides are typically more than half door (3 per 60′ car), they also board and deboard several more people simultaneously than do LRT cars.

        True HRT can manage 30,000 people per hour per direction. Few do this more than an hour or so for short stretches in the morning and the evening simply because true bi-directionality is extremely rare. There’s almost always a “peak” and a “peak direction” at that peak.

        A Light Metro like Link with “standard” articulated LRV’s can manage about 14-16,000 people per hour per direction, or roughly half.

        Now I fully understand that Seattle has light-rail technology. It’s stuck with that probably forever. And in the absence of a decision by the powers that be in Seattle, Bellevue, Shoreline and Lynnwood to say, “Sorry, but you have to get out of the way” to the people who insist on living in SFH within a third of a mile of the unfortunately too-rare stations on Link, it will probably be enough.

        But where did I say that Link is “incomparable” to other transit systems. All I said is that it is NOT true “light rail” except in the Rainier Valley and just north and south of downtown Bellevue. Heck, ST has bought into grade separation so strongly that they’re going to place an elevated station in Redmond at the end of a line that has an at-grade section. That’s where a true LRT system would be on the ground.

        Nor, obviously, is it “heavy rail” for the reasons I enumerated.

        It is a hybrid which unfortunately incurs most of the costs of heavy rail without garnering the capacity efficiencies that it brings. Those costs are certainly necessary because of the topography and all the water in and around Seattle. There aren’t any opportunities to repurpose a long rail right of way like Westside Max or the Riverside Line. There aren’t old streetcar lines to upgrade and host long trams. Link will end up with two excellent regional metro lines with stations sited far enough apart to make achieving 65 to 70 miles per hour between them possible and efficient with relatively short stretches of at-grade running with grade crossings which will limit frequency and overall speed significantly.

        So it’s a shame that LRT was selected in order to suck up to Washington D.C. bureaucrats. Of course, HRT couldn’t have shared the tunnel with buses for the past several years.

        So, when people start complaining about its cost and lack of “efficiency” the obvious rejoinder is “this is what people demand”. They won’t get everything that they envision because the technology matters. But at least they’ll get grade-separation throughout most of the system.

        But by the way, where would you folks who talk about how much Link has disappointed have had it go to be “more efficient” EXCEPT via the University of Washington and on north through the built up area. (I agree Lynnwood is plenty far enough but it’s Snohomans’ money).

        Oh, right, across 45th where there are seven buses per hour during the peak periods.

      10. I’m not sure “heavy” and “light” designations are really a matter of vehicle weight. I’ve always looked at difference as how thoroughly right of way is reserved. Whatever the cars weigh, BART will always be “Heavy Rail.”

        And to the degree that their right of way is allowed to be compromised or affected by other traffic- LINK still classes as “Light Rail.” Though a friend of mine who was one of our project engineers classed LINK as “the heavy side of light.”

        Least lost time: Just explain how the railroad is going to work, and go from there.


      11. Of course there is a difference between heavy and light rail. If the New York subway or BART was light rail it would be disaster. But for Seattle, it is a distinction without a difference, especially when you are talking about ridership and cost. The differences are so minor that it really doesn’t matter. Do you really think we would have substantially higher ridership if Link was heavy rail?

        >> But by the way, where would you folks who talk about how much Link has disappointed have had it go to be “more efficient”

        Good question. The problem isn’t the overall line, it is the details. It is crazy that we only have one station between the Westlake and downtown (which is oddly enough how many the bus tunnel had). At a minimum, I would serve First Hill, and also include a SR 520 bus interchange station. I would also try and work in a station on 23rd and Madison (similar to the Forward Thrust plan — https://www.flickr.com/photos/sounderbruce/17013207411). I would move the Husky Stadium station inside the triangle, with tunnels connecting to the campus and the hospital (the latter already exists). A station serving NE 130th shouldn’t be an afterthought. To the south I would move the Mount Baker station over as well, to serve the so called transit center. This would make transferring much easier, and be closer to the high school (and people in general, instead of the greenbelt). That seems like little things (except for the First Hill/Central Area stations) but they all add up. Just the lack of a good interface for SR 520 has Metro reluctant to terminate buses there. That severely hampers our system.

        But that is nothing compared to the failure in the next round to deal with the weaknesses of the system. Failing to serve Belltown and (most likely) First Hill while dealing with secondary (or tertiary) locations like Interbay and West Seattle is nuts. Failing to connect the UW with Ballard (and everything in between) is a major failure that ignores the basic geography around here. A Metro 8 subway, a Ballard to UW subway and a new bus tunnel (WSST) would have been a much better value. Even if all three couldn’t have been built, building two of them (e. g. WSTT and Ballard to UW) would have much better served the areas.

        But that is all speculation. The problem is that ST has always just speculated. They have never actually studied these ideas in detail. That isn’t how they operate. That is how we get things like Issaquah to South Kirkland rail.

      12. @Ross,

        Enough. Please stop with the spreading of fake news. If anything the problem with ST is that they study things too much.

        That is why they aren’t on board with Ballaed-UW (because they know the travel demand from Ballard and Fremont is to DT).

        And that is why they aren’t on board with a second bus tunnel (because we already have one in the DSTT and nobody in their right mind would do that again).

        And that is why our current Light Rail system is performing so well. Because ST’s choice of Light Metro and routing really hit the sweet spot. You just don’t get stellar ridership like this from poorly thought out, poorly designed systems. Again, compare Seattle’s system to Portland’s.

        If there is a problem with ST it is the regional focus and with the addition of such things as 130th and BAR stations, and on the spine. But those are political issues/decisions forced on ST, and that is a lot more difficult problem than just following the data.

      13. Oh please. These ridership numbers are not stellar by any stretch of the imagination. I could explain this position in detail but I would essentially be regurgitating @Ross’ points. The only thing I might add to what he has previously stated is to point to the timeframe. For all of us who have been in the area since Sound Transit was formed, we have seen first-hand how little ST has built in the two plus decades since Sound Move was passed. Look around. It’s 2018 and we have a single line that goes from Husky Stadium to just south of SeaTac. It is now reportedly carrying an average of 80,000 riders on weekdays. Big whoop.

        We are still a long way off from the 105,000 weekday riders that ST estimated that the initial segment would reach by……..wait for it……2010!

      14. @T,

        Yes, I’d say stellar. This is pretty darn good ridership from such a young system. But hey! Let’s have a little fun and do a comparison!

        Portland: 5 line’s. Link: just 1 line.

        Portland: 97 Stations. Link: just 16 stations.

        Portland: 145 LRV’s. Link: just 62 LRV’s

        Portland: 60 miles of track. Link: just 20 miles of track.

        Portland: 32 year’s of operation. Link: just 9 years of operation.

        Portland: 120k riders. Link: 80k riders (latest).

        So after all Portland’s advantages, Link is only 40k riders behind, or about 30% behind. That is pretty darn good.

        And Link should be about tied with Portland when NG Link opens.

        I’d call 5at stellar.

      15. @RossB

        “Building a second subway line through downtown and *not* running it perpendicular to the existing line is quite unusual from what I can tell. It may very well be unprecedented.”

        Both of Chicago’s downtown subways–State Street and Dearborn Street–run parallel to each other downtown. The loop is also effectively parallel, since people won’t transfer to get to another part of downtown.

        Most of NYC’s subways are generally parallel to each other, of course.

        The Orange/Blue/Silver Line was DC’s second downtown tunnel. It runs parallel to the first–the Red Line– for most of its route through the CBD (sometimes within a couple of blocks of the Red Line). The two do intersect at a right angle because the O/L turns south under 12th St before returning to an E/W orientation on the south side of the mall, but for purposes of travel in downtown, they are parallel. Most of us–for the record, I’m a DC local–won’t transfer to go one stop if we can walk. It’s obviously very situational, but you wouldn’t take the Red Line to go to Gallery Place from the Orange Line, for instance, or to go from Gallery Place to Foggy Bottom. I would think twice before getting on the Blue Line to go to Union Station from Federal Triangle, since the Red Line is just a few blocks away at Metro Center. And exactly zero people will transfer to the Red Line to go to Farragut North or to the Silver Line to go to Farragut West. Likewise, trunk line number 3–the Green/Yellow Line–is definitely perpendicular to the Red Line, but parallel to the Orange/Blue/Silver for some trips (while perpendicular for others).

        Finally, like DC, while LA’s two downtown subways will cross at 90 degrees, from the perspective of passenger flow through downtown, they run parallel to each other, and I suspect that few people will transfer to the Red Line to get to Pershing Square when they could walk from the Regional Connector.

        London also started with parallel lines (sort of, it’s not the best example). The first two subways in Tokyo and Beijing definitely ran parallel in their CBDs. The first, second, fourth, and fifth lines in Seoul were also parallel downtown.

        In all of these cases, the lines are sometimes perpendicular for some riders (particularly those whose final destination isn’t in the CBD), but they are parallel for most riders who are traveling to the CBD itself (which is a lot of riders!)

        Long story short, there are lots of cities whose first two subway lines share substantial amounts of their walkshed. It’s my understanding that the transfer penalty is relatively high when passengers are transferring near their destination because you’re adding 2-5 minutes to a trip just to go one stop, which is why transit agencies won’t divert a line away from an important area just to avoid overlapping walksheds or parallel services.

    3. I do miss the STB posts on ST ridership with the conveniently put-together YoY graphs. Are those coming back?

    4. It is true that Link is the highest-ridership single-line urban rail system in the US & Canada (I have a spreadsheet I update). This includes streetcars, light rail and heavy rail. It is mostly true because there aren’t many single-line systems left. I think it is valid to evaluate single-line systems apart from systems with multiple lines, since network effects increase the value of each line in a network.

      Most cities started building rail a few decades ahead of Seattle, and are onto their 2nd or 3rd line by now. The formerly highest-ridership single-line systems, Edmonton and Miami, each added branch lines that double the frequency on one side of the trunk (similar to the ST2 system). Edmonton still exceeds Seattle at 104,000 riders while Miami Metrorail lags at 54,000. The closest single-line competitor to Link is now Phoenix, with 45,000 riders (on a longer track).

      On a ridership/mile basis, a good way to evaluate transit investments, Link is now at 3,900 weekday riders/mile, in the same ballpark as heavy-rail systems like Atlanta’s MARTA and BART, but still far behind the highest ridership density partially-at-grade system (i.e. light rail), Edmonton, at 6,900 riders/mile.

  2. Mayor Durkan won’t meet with broad pro-streetcar coalition; not a good sign.

    Well I’ll be, there’s enough supporters of the streetcar to form a coalition!?

    Coalition supporters include some big names like Uwajimaya, PEMCO Insurance, Seattle University, Vulcan, Argosy Cruises, and Washington State Convention Center…

    One of those companies is owned by a man so rich, he could wiggle his nose and make a streetcar appear out of thin air from the loose change in his couch. He’d probably make the money back from his investments by lunchtime.

    I wonder if these businesses would still be in support if Seattle proposed a “streetcar benefit zone” tax on businesses instead of residents footing the bill.

    1. Question, Rapid. Does Mayor Durkan meet with anybody at all, like for instance the Seattle City Council? What she’s doing, I think, is absolutely right, coming into a situation not of her making, where a lot of “interested parties” are making contradictory claims. None of them out in the open about it.

      But can’t see what she’d lose by telling people that’s exactly what she’s doing, and why. Even if there are people on the council making these claims. Remembering the way the Waterfront Streetcar was gradually crayoned out of the plans, if she really meant to murder this one in its cradle, she’d be having a lot more “stakeholders” meetings- anybody ever read actually read “Dracula?”

      Guy who finally got him was a brave American who naturally used a Bowie Knife for a stake.


    2. The biggest problem with her not meeting with streetcar advocates is she’s giving lots of time to streetcar opponents.

      I wasn’t a fan of the CCC in the slightest but this is about the worst way possible to go about stopping it, by risking damage to our other local and regional projects getting federal funding. At this point, it should be built. Even if it’s a collossal disaster, we can mothball the streetcars and run buses in their right of way. Is that an absurd waste of money? Yes, but it’s less bad than kneecapping all of our other transit projects.

  3. Munich’s gondola proposal. The mayor wants you to know, it’s not a tourist attraction! “The proposed link would connect two subway stations (at Oberwiesenfeld and Studentenstadt) that sit 4.5 kilometers apart on a major road. Despite being close to each other, it’s time-consuming to travel between them, requiring a five-stop subway trip toward the city center, a transfer, and a five-stop trip back out in a different direction.”

    The “road” is an 8-lane divided boulevard between the stations.

    1. If there’s an 8 lane wide boulevard, it would seem that the appropriate solution would be BRT, not a gondola. Just claim two of the eight lanes for buses and run them frequently with off board fare payment. Problem solved.

      1. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Gondolas generally make the most sense when there is a physical barrier in the way (whether man made or not) as opposed to simply a very wide, congested street.

    2. Mike, no. The big wide road is a circumferential boulevard which happens to connect two subway stations on two separate lines making a “V” with the point in downtown Munich. and It is an obvious candidate for a BRT line. But from the illustration, it looks like they already have such a service; there are both an articulated and a normal twelve meter bus using the circumferential roadway. Presumably one is a “regional” service (e.g. Germany’s version of “BRT”).

    3. I prefer “aerial tramway” to “gondola” because it allows for wider range of vehicle sizes. But to me, you start even talking about it when your service area, and passenger capacity, looks like this:



      But until we get our First Hill subway, just put a “3” or a “4” on the vehicles, trolleybus or streetcar, and we can avoid duplicating the Queen Anne counterbalance between Pioneer Square Station and Harborview. Terrific “Extra” – whole STB Board, maybe?- will be Seattle’s permanent place as Number One in movie scenes.


      Except for that Unfair and Dishonest one that put the 302 into University Street (Or was it Pioneer Square Station), on the way to Colman Dock. Which probably disoriented Michael Douglas into having an affair with Demi Moore who seized control of the company by being “Serious Cute.” It was in the script. Sad.

      Notice carefully how well-behaved draft horses are as passengers. Vehicle maintenance will doubtless demand a diaper changing premium by contract. There’ll be a lot of historic themed breweries on the Waterfront!


  4. No matter what you think about the CCC (I think it’s a critical investment), it’s a terrible idea to return federal funds for transit when we have a bunch of Link projects that are/will be relying on federal funds to be completed. Durkin could jeopardize many years of work and greatly set us back. The completion of the CCC needs to happen.

    1. The Trump Administration would love Seattle to give back the money. They will shout from the rooftops “hey, even lefty Seattle doesn’t want federal transit money!” and use our example to justify refusing to disburse funds to other cities. And the FTA will look very skeptically on future grant efforts from our city, including for in-city ST3 lines, and our federal delegation will say “well why should we ever help you again, Seattle, when you just give up the money anyway and make us look like chumps?”

      Durkan appears to be personally and ideologically opposed to rail, and that may be true of buses too. Seattle having an anti-transit mayor is a catastrophe.

      1. Giving money back to PSRC is different than giving it back to FTA. When federal funds go back to PSRC, they go to other projects in the region.

    2. If Democrats hold the legislature this year, it would be a very good idea to allow secession from the Sound Transit District in trade for allowing individual Sub-Areas to vote for higher tax rates for themselves. If Trump is re-elected in 2020 and appoints a pair of new Justices, I would not be surprised to see the Supreme Court nullify the Urban Mass Transit Act which allows federal fuel taxes to be used for transit and alternative transportation projects.

      Now it’s absolutely true that the 20% that is allocated to transit is less than the amount that the fuel tax is topped up from the general fund. But without the mandated 80/20 split, in the current climate in Washington, transit projects will just be eliminated everywhere except in the Northeast Corridor cities. Even the Republicans understand that they cannot function without rail transit, and they understand the necessity of New York City to the nation’s economic vitality.

      I believe that the same is true of Seattle and San Francisco as they have evolved, too. But they dislike us much more than they dislike the BosNYWash cities.

    3. If this refusal to spend the money succeeds it may not matter.

      “Even the Republicans understand that they cannot function without rail transit, and they understand the necessity of New York City to the nation’s economic vitality.”

      Do they? What have they done that indicates this?

      1. The Second Avenue Subway is largely being funded by the FTA. The DC Metro was entirely built by the Federal government. Yes, maintenance has been neglected, but that’s because the UMT Act expressly forbade use of fuel taxes for operations and maintenance. That was to be the responsibility of the local jurisdictions.

        However, Congress is so nannyish about Washington City’s government that it has forbidden WMATA from having taxing authority, and Virginia has been pretty parsimonious with its contributions.

      2. And, what about the important thing: making changes to ST’s enabling legislation which will allow North King to continue taxing itself until its needed system is built regardless of what the rest of the District thinks and does?

      3. I agree, Richard. If the state changes the way that taxes can be raised within each subarea (or even just within each city) then it would be a game changer. You wouldn’t have to worry about the RapidRide projects at a minimum, and the possibility exists that we could build Ballard to UW or even extend the Interbay/Ballard line.

      4. Since the 2010 election when they lost Congress in a mudslide- what have the Democrats been doing to fight back?


    4. it’s a terrible idea to return federal funds for transit when we have a bunch of Link projects that are/will be relying on federal funds to be completed.

      So you are saying that if we decide to not spend federal money on a project because an alternative is a better value that the feds will then get mad at us, and deny us money for Link? That seems highly unlikely. If anything, they would look favorably towards us and the standards we set for transit (i. e. those folks in Seattle aren’t willing to waste federal money on BS projects — my guess if they ask for federal matching funds it is for something that is a good value).

      1. The time to study alternatives that may be a better value was BEFORE construction of the starter system, BEFORE getting the Fed grant, and most definitely BEFORE ripping up the street.

      2. What starter system? Are you saying the powers that set out to build a short, squiggly and looping line using an inferior mode from the very begging? Seriously? They wanted to violate every principle when it comes to good routing (http://humantransit.org/2013/08/translink-high-and-low-performing-routes.html) all so that they could run slower, more dangerous, yet no more capacious vehicles? Such brilliant planning!

        Seriously though, give folks some credit. The SLUT (sorry, SLUS) was just something Paul Allen came up with. He figured it would jump start the area as it became a major biomedical center. Wrong on both fronts, of course, but since the Seattle tech boom occurred a little while later, it didn’t matter. Like all rich people, it is better to be lucky than good (actually, just about anyone could have predicted that the area between the UW and downtown was way underdeveloped, so Allen does deserve some credit for recognizing this, even if he thought the development would take a very different turn).

        The First Hill streetcar was meant to placate folks on First Hill. People who think that community leaders know a lot about transit should take a good look at that line. It is terrible — and would be terrible even if it was a bus line. But it it is what the community representatives wanted, and Sound Transit (never one to consult transportation experts) just went ahead with it. There was never any plan to connect the two lines, or even extend the South Lake Union line (which, unlike the First Hill section, will actually gain value from the extension).

        As for the work that has been done on First Avenue, that needed to be done anyway to fix the very old sewer system.

      3. And all indications based on history and what we’re hearing now is that the FTA will be very skeptical about future grant efforts from our city (including for in-city ST3 lines) if the funds are returned.

        Which, contra Ross, makes a lot of sense (and not just because of the current administration). The process to apply for and eventually get these grants is long, laborious, and technical. THere are always more potentially fundable projects than can be funded. Why waste years of time and effort on a city whose politics are so volatile that they can’t commit to a project across several administrations? So that all our work will be for naught if the next mayoral election goes the wrong way?

      4. djw, Exactly. Politics has gotten so “winner take all” that it’s becoming impossible to build anything at all. We’ve become a NATION of “BANANA’s”

    5. Shouldn’t be hard to get forgiven for giving back our Federal money.


      In return for ongoing use of the new Convention Center for Summits, we could probably get some more joint use for the Tunnel.

      Remember, Stalin created the 50 mile long trans-mountain trollebus route in….Crimea! Proving that Ukrainians begged to be taken over so they could come to Seattle and ride one. So now the new Route 7 can make Ellensburg into a subarea!

      And guess who’ll get to smash a bottle of vodka over the front bumper!



  5. 25,000?
    Portland’s completed system is running 17000 in summer months. Seattle ride area, my guess, draws 10 times the visitors. Seattles current segments are at 6000.
    I can see 20000+..

  6. It seems mayor is playing petty politics. You guys screwed me with the Head Tax so ill be damned if I pay for your business generator.

    1. In order to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. (I would have asked ST to study how much money would be saved if the Amazon folks didn’t have a stop and had to walk from the Gates Foundation stop).

      1. And you’d get a subway as useless as Baltimore’s Green Line. That would be especially true if as so many here demand the Madison Station is moved up the hill. The CBD is where you need stations clustered tightly together but the Green Line would have exactly ONE station in the Central Business District of Seattle.

      2. add to last sentence: “unless a horizontal tunnel is built from the lowest Mezzanine level of the uphill station opening onto Fifth Avenue either at Madison or, better, Marion.

      3. I think the CCC will do more to generate business for the smaller businesses than any benefits to Amazon. Amazon already has their connection to Westlake. If I remember correctly, the head tax exempted small businesses.

      4. The key word is “study.” Perhaps Amazon won’t be willing to throw its weight around the next time the city needs money.

        Just be thankful Richard Dailey (the elder) isn’t running things here, he might have had told the police to let the homeless park their RVs without being ticketed near Amazon HQ in order to get his point across.

    2. It seems mayor is playing petty politics. You guys screwed me with the Head Tax so ill be damned if I pay for your business generator.

      Oh, please. First of all, the streetcar is suddenly a business generator? Who knew?

      The problem with the streetcar has always been the idea that there are no alternatives. Of course local businesses want the streetcar over nothing — but that doesn’t mean it would be better than bus service. Why would it? Imagine the RapidRide versions of the 7 and 70 tied together via First Avenue. That is a longer, straighter way to serve First (which means more one seat rides to First Avenue). Now imagine that they overlap the service. Since each line will run about every 7 minutes during peak, that gives you better headways on First. That is just with those two lines. Throw in one of the other lines (e. g. the 40) and you have the kind of constant bus service that means no waiting. Don’t you think it would help the businesses if the transit options included better connections and more frequent service?

      1. Streetcar is not designed for regional service, it is mainly for local circulation around downtown. If you have to transfer from FH or SLU to a bus, it kind of defeats the purpose. FWIW, Seattle already settled on the streetcar mode for local downtown circulation. Already built two thirds of it, and already broke ground on the last segment.

        (I would run RR7 up Boren, through First Hill down to SLU, to plug the FH – SLU transit gap, but that’s another story).

      2. Different tools are best served for different situations. Link does its job admirably, Sounder its, Metro its and Amtraks (though HSR would be a nice upgrade) its. As cities such as El Paso (has a strong network of new BRTs running into town but chose street cars for a better downtown experience), Tucson, Portland, Tempe and many others have found, Street Cars serve downtown districts/businesses far better than buses. Just a fact. The only western city I know that uses a shuttle bus to connect intercity short hop transpo is Denver and it bites.

      3. @les — [ ad hom] You seem to be ignoring the fact that for the most part, buses = transit. Most of the transit in this country (and certainly in this city) occurs on buses. If that makes me a bus freak, so be it. Join the club (seriously — this is a transit blog, not a rail fan-boy blog).

        For the record, I don’t hate streetcars. They have their place, as Jarrett Walker has said (http://humantransit.org/2009/07/streetcars-an-inconvenient-truth.html). They make sense if you have an existing rail line, and want to just run a streetcar on it. In that case, it is the opposite of running a bus – it is cheaper to run the train. If the Burke Gilman still had rail on it, then it would be a decent example (linking Ballard, Fremont and the UW). Last I checked, Vancouver BC is considering the same sort of thing for the Arbutus Greenway. Looks good to me — you lose the flexibility of extending it, but you save money in the short run.

        The other situation where they make sense is in very densely populated areas that can’t afford anything but running on the surface. Paris added a streetcar for that reason. Seattle will never have that sort of density, but in this case, it doesn’t matter. They are talking about running bus sized streetcar only every five minutes. Not only will each vehicle only carry as many people as a bus, but the corridor itself will pail to the one a couple blocks over (or the one underground).

        I really don’t have a problem with streetcars, but I do have a problem when a public agency wastes money on stupid projects. That includes, but is not limited to streetcars. When an agency does that, repeatedly, you start running out of money for projects that really are a good value. History has shown this to be the case, over and over again. You only get so many chances — building stupid things just doesn’t pay off.

      4. “Seattle already settled on the streetcar mode for local downtown circulation.”

        It did? They’re going to put a streetcar on Third Avenue? It’s more accurate to say, “Seattle settled on RapidRide for downtown circulation.” That’s one of the reasons why the C and D were split and several Third Avenue routes are being converted to RapidRide. The meandering streetcar is an awkward sideshow — that’s why there’s so much opposition to it.

      5. Streetcar is not designed for regional service, it is mainly for local circulation around downtown.

        You are using circular logic to defend a circular route. I like it :)

        Seriously though, I get the point of the streetcar. Yes, it is only meant for short hops. But guess what? A longer bus route can accomplish the same thing (and more!). Link goes from the UW to the airport (and beyond). It is definitely designed for long trips — yet thousands and thousands of people take it just within downtown. They do the same thing with buses in the tunnel, and they certainly do that with buses downtown, especially on Third. Speaking of which, pretty soon you will be able to tap your ORCA card at the bus stop on Third, hop on either door, and then hop off at the other end of downtown. What bus does that? All of them!

        Which is why it is silly to try to build a downtown circulator. Circulators* in general are a bad idea, but they make no sense for a city like Seattle. If you are a city like, say, Walla Walla, you might want to boost downtown businesses, and get a few people out of their car by building a downtown circulator. But as it turns out we have *too many* buses downtown. We really don’t need to add new, poorly designed downtown-only routes. We only need to shift some of the existing routes over to First.

        FWIW, Seattle already settled on the streetcar mode for local downtown circulation. Already built two thirds of it, and already broke ground on the last segment.

        They really didn’t, as I said up above. No one ever proposed a streetcar network, or a long, poorly designed line. It just happened. First, as a means to improve business at South Lake Union, and second as compensation for not building a First Hill station. Connecting them was an afterthought, and came much later (I think it was Mayor McGinn who thought of it).

        * http://humantransit.org/2009/04/seattle-transit-blog-is-reporting-some-grief-from-the-rainier-valley-area-in-southeast-seattle-regarding-king-county-metros.html

      6. >> Street Cars serve downtown districts/businesses far better than buses. Just a fact.

        What a ridiculous statement. As Mike just pointed out, downtown is way better served by the buses and Link. Ridership is way higher on the buses downtown, and has been since the days of the ride free zone. That is just in Seattle! Streetcars are usually sideshows (as Mike put it). Sure, if you get rid of a bus route and replace it with a streetcar you might be able to get back the ridership, but as have been reported on over and over again, they only offer two advantages: capacity (which ours lack) and they can run on existing tracks. You are just making up stuff and calling it a fact, while ignoring the evidence.

        When it comes to transit choices, I like to ask this question: What if they built both? What if, in this case, the built the CCC, along with sending the RapidRide Version of the 7, 70 and 40 there. The buses would have off board payment and dual sided boarding, just like the streetcar. They would come more often, and connect to more places. Do you really think that ridership on the streetcar would be higher than that of the buses *on this section*? Seriously? Do you think folks would tap their ORCA card, see a bus and say “wait, no — that is a bus — forget that — even though it is going exactly where the streetcar will go (and then some)”. Seriously? That is absurd. Bus ridership would be much higher, just as it is now. The only reason they are suggesting high numbers for the streetcar is because *it would be the only transit vehicle* on First.

        Here, let me quote Jarrett Walker:

        Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility or access improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, and make no other improvements, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. Likewise, if you build a streetcar instead of a good bus line, that money you spend above the cost of the bus line is not helping anyone get anywhere any faster.

        This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.

        Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than a bus route doing the same thing, this is because other improvements were made with the streetcar — improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route. These improvements may have been politically packaged as part of the streetcar project, but they were logically independent, so their benefits are not really benefits of the streetcar as compared to the bus.

      7. Ross, let’s chip in so STB can put you on Flight 85 to Rekjavik, where you transfer to whatever flies to Finland. HKL tramway routes 7 and 3. Go past every single thing that makes Helsinki make you want to come back.

        I don’t think any buses run those routes, but that’s too bad. Because it would definitely show you one thing that the best bus on Earth can’t do. Let you enjoy looking at a city out a very large glass picture window on a vehicle that can’t move side-to-side.

        Making a long standing ride enjoyable. And easy to see, and de-board to visit- everything along the route where you want to have coffee, buy something, or just walk through the park for two hours. Have said this before: it’s a moving sidewalk past a lot better views than the average airport.

        Helsinki’s got plenty of buses, and also a capacious subway. But for exactly the route it’s going to serve, a streetcar is the best tool in a kit or many others, for many uses. I don’t think it’s be hard to interview some businesses along the route, and also the Commission managing Pike Place Market.

        Still think the Waterfront Streetcar would make a good “spur”- and for the same reasons. Also, whether in my lifetime or not, it’ll be using same maintenance shops and substations. Lot of my allies on that one told me to my face that “First Comes First.”

        Certainly not replacing every bus line. Get traffic out of its way, and friendly signals, and the Route 7 will make a great “Time of the Trolleybus” feature. But honestly, the Connector and its Connectees aren’t worth fighting against. Save the energy- everybody write on your own favorite worst of all modes that already have been built.


  7. What is Lime’s obligation to the city in terms of keeping their bikes usable and in a good state of repair? There have been two of the eBikes sitting at the Northgate Transit Center all week that are unusable only because Lime hasn’t gotten around to giving them charged batteries yet.

  8. Has anyone noticed that the Roosevelt Station webcam has been down for almost 2 months now?

    And that the contractor appears to be behind behind on concrete work?

    Coincidence? Na, couldn’t be……

    But seriously, 2 months?

      1. You’re right. I see they finally re-positioned the Brooklyn camera and made it current. Maybe they plan on doing something similar to Roosevelt?

      2. It shouldn’t take 2 months to move a camera. It certainly didn’t take the contractor for the U-Dist Station 2 months to move theirs.

        One has to wonder what is really going on.

      3. The construction walls are down along 12th now. Last time I was through it looked like work was progressing.

  9. 1. A damn shame about the CCC. Regretting my vote for Durkan, for reasons beyond this. She seems to have hyper-sensitive ears to anything coming from a vaguely Lesser Seattle, Blethen-family perspective, while feeling she has nothing to fear from urbanists, progressives, and downtown folks. Not sure that’s a recipe for re-election, unless the left splits its vote 55 ways again.

    2. Haven’t checked the site in awhile…has Nourish stopped posting again? That would be another shame.

    3. I have seen the Seattle Times publish bike-share articles addressing the following topics: the “hidden” rights customers cede in user agreements; the inappropriate places bikes are parked; how we’re “not fans” in the winter; the allegedly high percentage of unusable bikes; the lack of helmet use. I have not seen, once, the single most obvious and important angle: How much this explosively popular phenomenon is positively improving mobility and quality of life for everyday Seattleites. When bike share (Pronto) struggled, the stories were all about how much it struggled. Now that bike share is succeeding, we’re awash in stories hinting at hidden costs and dangers — but I haven’t seen a single simple feature interviewing folks talking about how and why they use the service. It more than strains credulity that this has nothing to do with the fact the Traffic Lab is partially funded by Kemper Freeman.

  10. I still can’t believe all the time and money spent by SDOT on reconfiging streets and adding ramps for the Convention Center. Is all this hassle worth it so that a completely unneeded convention center gets a six month head start? And they got the land for a song from the county. I could only dream link construction was treated as well.

  11. Would like a few words with whoever put the $ in report on BN Train 501. That’ll probably include the Lord’s name in vain over His own Signature. This isn’t about money. It’s about dozens of people who with one phone call – let alone climbing aboard the locomotive and shutting it off in front of reporters as they should have- could’ve saved three lives, dozens of injuries and, undeservedly, their railroad’s reputation.

    Train orders for 80 miles an hour across a half dozen grade crossings, headed for a curve every bull-pen on the line resounded with whines about. Did somebody’s grant demand that speed on that section? Remember, you’re under oath. And how much schedule time would’ve been lost with top speed thirty ’til last locomotive had that curve in its windshield?

    With my politics, worst thing to me is the seeing right-wing fanatic Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” depiction of a mass casualty train wreck caused by exactly same thinking and behavior that killed 501. Anybody connected with it….just don’t ever call yourselves liberals wherever Steve Bannon can hear you. He reads that kind of thing that just stopped being crap.

    Mark Dublin

    Engineer having to look for a road-side speed sign!

  12. it’s best to skedaddle down to the bus stop a little earlier than you think you might have to, just to be safe.

    Except when you’re transferring your timing is dependent on Metro’s 80% “on time” record. If your “on time” bus is 5 minutes late and you miss your transfer, c’est la vie. If you’ve skedaddled down to the bus early and you’re bus is actually running on schedule it’s particularly irritating to miss a 30 min headway connection because the driver leaves early. I’ll note that leaving early tends to be a cumlative effect over the course of a route as the bus has less and less dwell time as it cruises past empty stops five minutes ahead of schedule.

    1. This so much. I live in Burien, and have appointments around UW and Green Lake frequently. If I could depend on timing, I could get there in an hour and a half. As it stands, I have to plan for 2-2.5 hours of travel time because I don’t know if the F Line is going to be 6 minutes late again or not. 3 seat trips depend on accurate timing, and if the first one messes you up, you’re SOL. I could also take the 131, but I’d still have to leave 2+ hours ahead of time so I can get there with a meaningful amount of time before my appointment. And I really don’t like the choke point on Latona.

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