- Allowing Seattle City Light to sell surplus land for affordable housing…
- …let’s use it to build mass timber social housing instead
- Josh Feit wants us to look past the Showbox: more housing, less nostalgia
- A ban on apartments hurts public education
- Nicole Grant in the Seattle Times: the city should add more ADUs
- Exploring Seattle by light rail
- A new approach to fare enforcement at Metro
- King County Council may direct more hotel/motel taxes to affordable housing instead of Safeco Field
- Hey, as long as we can still take the Water Taxi to see Pearl Jam
- A safer 65th St NE starts construction in August
- Bellevue gets a protected bike lane and 1200 e-bikes
- An excellent speech from Teresa Mosqueda on bike equity
- Local construction costs going up, thanks to tariffs
- Portland DOT needs to watch its social media game
- Jason Rantz visits Europe, praises their transit system, and concludes that Seattle needs to prioritize… cars
- The NY Times digs in to California high-speed rail. The LA Times has a data visualization of the train making the SF-LA trip in the required 2h40.
- Speaking of HSR, China’s first line opened 10 years ago. Today they have 25,000km of high-speed track.
- What it’s like to be a teenager with a self-driving car
This is an open thread
Photo by Joe Kunzler via the STB Flickr Pool
65 Replies to “News Roundup: Bikes, Housing, High-Speed Rail”
It seems to me that
– greater downtown Seattle streets, for much of the day, are functioning (or not functioning) at or above their car capacity
– Seattle population is growing rapidly; we will need to move growing numbers of people into, out-of, and through greater downtown
– there is no way to significantly increase car capacity without adding lanes
– adding lanes requires more space
– tearing down skyscrapers to increase street space is not a cost-effective approach
– walking, light rail, buses, and bikes (probably in that order) can move far more people using a given quantum of space than cars (even 2- or 3-occupant cars, let alone SOVs)
– thus, converting bike lanes or transit lanes to auto lanes would reduce the actual capacity of the streets to move people (unless, of course the bike lanes or transit lanes were effectively unused, including in the “network” sense)
– there are some people who really need to drive their cars in greater downtown; they need to be accommodated
So, it seems to me that
– if, as I suspect, there is currently ample street capacity to accommodate those who really need to drive their cars, our priority should be to find ways to encourage those who don’t really need to drive their cars downtown to, in fact, not do so
– if and/or when there is no longer ample street capacity to accommodate those who really need to drive their cars, our priority should be to find ways to reduce that necessity (and we might want to start before crunch time arrives)
The one relevant good point Mr. Rantz does make is that the transit (or bicycle, or walking, which he doesn’t mention) experience needs to be made as pleasant as possible so as to encourage its use by those who don’t really need to drive. Yes, for transit, schedule reliability is a considerable part of that; yes, many other cities do it better; and, yes, Metro – with the help of SDOT and the County Council – could do a better job of achieving it.
Bantz apparently didn’t understand what he was seeing in Europe. Prioritizing transit, bikes, and walking first means accomodating the needs of their users first. Drivers get what’s left over; their needs are prioritized fourth. When London installed congestion pricing, it made a major investment in transit. The implication is that you should take transit, and here is transit you can take. That’s not what Seattle did in its Center City planning. It drew up some minimal transit improvements, then withdrew most of them to avoid inconveniencing drivers. It’s more concerned about car congestion than about transit thoroughput and bike thoroughput. In other words, the city is already doing what Rantz recommends, and that’s why so many people drive SOVs.
We do need some automobile capacity for emergency vehicles, delivery trucks, people tranporting bulky things, and disabled people who can’t walk to the bus stops. But that’s only a quarter of the current number of cars.
The city has at least succeeded in not making the problem worse. The number of jobs downtown has increased but the number of cars has remained the same, so 100% of the increase has been non-drivers. That doesn’t mean no new worker drives, but the number of those who do equals the number of longer-time workers who stopped driving.
“There’s no doubt, local city leaders — from Mayor Jenny Durkan to King County Executive Dow Constantine and everyone in between — want you out of cars and into alternative modes of transportation.”
They say that but they never pass laws or budgets that would make a quantum leap of improvements. That’s what Paris and London continuously do, and why their transit is so much better than ours. Paris has a policy of removing a minimum of 150 street parking spaces per year, and of not letting street parking stand in the way of transit lanes. Link is the only significant commitment they’ve made to grade-separated transit or dedicated transit lanes, and they’re putting all their eggs into one basket as though it will solve everything. But clearly there are hundreds of busfuls of people who won’t fit onto Link or it won’t serve their area, and they should get transit lanes too.
“Few people take the South Lake Union streetcar, yet it’s viewed as a success. Few people use it because it doesn’t go anywhere.”
That’s only one of the reasons they don’t use it. Between Westlake and Denny Way it stops not only every two blocks at stations but every block at a stoplight. It can’t get from 5th to 8th without stopping at 6th, Westlake, and 7th.
The issue here is that Rantz isn’t trying to make an argument on good faith regarding the city’s history of public transportation projects. His goal is to push a political agenda. That’s why he goes right for the straw man argument. He literally makes the claim that city leaders hate you if you drive. Right there I stopped reading.
When you frame an issue as “us vs them” it shuts down all hope of meaningful conversation. No where is this more apparent than in the comment section. Decades of enforcing this type of thinking has done irreparable harm to the way our societies operate.
It’s an existential battle to them and that’s why I think city leaders are wasting their time trying to extend an olive branch. Nothing the city can do will ever change that the fact that they will always be viewed as the enemy.
You’re right, of course – and I expected no better when I noticed what site it’s on. I read it anyway as it used to be the case that one could sometimes learn from differing viewpoints, but in this case it was just another angry polemic (and as I’ve mentioned before, I do not hate my car and actually must drive downtown occasionally – although 95% of the time take transit and/or walk, not because I need to, but because even with the issues transit has it’s almost always far less frustrating than driving anywhere near downtown despite being on the crappy 11 most of the time.
Oh, and like many people here, I’ve spent far more than two weeks using transit overseas, in my case on every continent that has it (silly penguins with their belly sliding – get with the program!). There is indeed a lot Seattle can learn from other places, and it’s frustrating that decisions often seem to be made without regard to best practices used elsewhere, but to devolve so quickly from what was a reasonable thesis to OMG THEY H8 UR CARZ AND PUPPIEZ AND PROBABLY WANT TO PUT YOU IN CAMPS was staggering.
Despite the Rants rant being meant for AM radio listeners and other Fox News imbeciles, he did make one valuable point–the unreliability and lack of communication about delayed or not-coming-ever buses. My experience with the afternoon 311 bus (catching it at the first stop of the line) is that too many buses are no-shows, or they’re early and won’t wait at the first stop. Whatever the reason, there is zero communication to riders when a bus isn’t going to be there. I have to get to the stop way early and end up waiting around hoping the bus is coming.
I’m a new transit rider who is going to get off this bus thing as soon as the electric trike I ordered is delivered in 1Q19. I know that this is contributing to the problem but the value proposition for riding the bus isn’t where it needs to be for my continued participation.
Tall wood buildings could be important for the Seattle housing market. I’m not an expert on the International Building Code, but I know that Seattle is building too much of the most expensive type of multi-family housing and not enough of the cheaper styles.
The simplest and cheapest type of multi-family housing to build is the 2-3 story walk-up project. It can be built with wood and it doesn’t require a lot of project engineering, excavation or structural concrete. Usually, only the ground floor of a 3 story walk-up requires ADA accommodations. The problem with 2-3 story construction is that it doesn’t provide enough density at light rail stations or other busy transit nodes, but it is a great way of providing affordable housing in neighborhoods that are slightly removed from neighborhoods where high density is required.
Buildings that are taller than 3 stories are required by code to incorporate more of the high-rise features. Elevators are required, plumbing and electrical codes require more complex project engineering, excavation may be required for parking, structural steel and concrete are mandated by code. The result is that any building taller than 3 stories has a tremendous amount of extra costs mandated by code. At taller heights, the extra costs can be spread out over more units, but at lower heights (4-7 stories), those added costs are spread out over fewer units.
If we look around Seattle we see a lot of construction of multi-family housing that would be categorized as 5+2 projects: 5 stories of wood construction on top of a 2 story concrete podium. These projects are generally more expensive (per unit) than either the 2-3 story walk-up or a tower that is taller than 10 stories. If the IBC changes now allow tall wood buildings and they can be built with less cost, the Seattle housing market might become slightly more affordable.
Actually my understanding is on a per square foot and per unit basis 5+1 or 5+2 podium construction is cheaper than taller construction, even at 20+ stories.
I’ll agree simple 2-3 story wood frame multifamily similar to SF home construction is the cheapest, but other than townhomes/row houses I haven’t seen many of those built in the past 20 years.
Construction costs can vary and are very dependent on the cost of land acquisition. Land that allows tall buildings is more valuable (and costs more per square foot) than land that has lower height restrictions. Data can vary depending on whether the cost of land is included in the construction costs. Given Seattle’s crazy real estate market, it’s difficult to predict how much any project will have cost once it’s completed.
There’s a cluster of 2 and 3 story walk-ups being built near my home (Beacon Hill/Rainier Valley). I hope the trend continues.
You’ve got a square footage and/or unit count limitation on the 2-3 story buildings you describe – you can’t build a 3 story building on the same footprint you’d build a 5+2 on without triggering the same requirements save possibly not sprinkling the building if it has a small enough footprint; sprinklers give you additional height and area allowances among other benefits. You seem to be comparing townhomes to apartment-type buildings. There’s good reason why you rarely see 3 story (or 3+2; the 2 is a separate building for code purposes) buildings on a footprint that is zoned for a 5+2 and is big enough that the cost of the sprinkler system doesn’t override the value of the additional units you’d be able to add.
ADA requirements call for “equal accommodation;” once you reach a certain threshold you can’t get away with putting all the accessible units on the ground floor. ADA egress requirements don’t really change past that point as even if you got away with not having accessible units on upper floors, you could certainly have visitors that would need those safe paths out.
The building codes are specifically for life safety; the magic number of 5+2 is directly related to the fire safety component of the code and this has to do with access by fire crews and equipment and the understanding that buildings of that height or lower, particularly with sprinklers, are considered to allow enough time for people to get down and out of the building. Once the code limit of 75′ above the structure’s lowest point at grade to highest occupied floor is passed, ladder trucks cannot access those levels and the building becomes a “high rise” in code terms. The “high rise” provisions of the code are where things get much more expensive – non-combustible construction, smoke control, a bunch of other fire stuff including control centers, and different egress requirements are triggered. This is specifically why you can’t use wood-framed construction higher than 5 stories, or 5 over a non-combustible 2-story podium, and why approving this new timber system for buildings taller than that can be a game-changer as it seems to allow a price point that makes 6-10 story buildings possibly affordable to construct. It’s also why once you want that next story over the 5+2, you become a “high rise” in the eyes of the code and all of those extra provisions make it much more expensive to just add one or two floors. You need to add many to lower the per-unit cost.
The break point seems to be somewhere between 6-10 stories of “high rise” construction not penciling out; this of course varies with other factors but even now there have been some recent 5+2s built in the heart of downtown and in Belltown where the zoning would allow 30-40 stories. While that may be an owner financing issue, it always surprises me. This does seem to be changing.
I thought the issue with 6-10 story buildings is that they can’t be made out of wood (until now). Wood beams just aren’t strong enough. Steel buildings are simply more expensive (which is why you don’t see many 1 to 5 story steel buildings). Thus if they allow wooden structures from up to 10 stories then it is much cheaper. https://www.theurbanist.org/2014/09/02/85-foot-and-125-foot-height-limits-are-a-missed-opportunity/
Ross, the issue is specifically in the building code. It’s not allowable to build over 85′ feet in height even in type II non-combustible buildings for any occupancy type, and over 160′ for even type IB. Only type IA is unlimited in height; this is non-combustible construction with a higher fire rating threshold than type IB. There are also maximum story requirements for all assembly types and occupancy classifications (6 for wood, typically, if the building is sprinklered). There are some specific exceptions to these requirements but the residential occupancy requirements are quite strict since people tend to sleep during part of the time in these spaces.
You can do things like separate “buildings” with three hour rated (concrete, typically) horizontal separations, which is how you get the 5+2 sort of thing, but none of this is specifically related to structural requirements in and of itself. Even then the height requirements of the building code governs, and as mentioned there are height requirements for nearly all construction types.
Your linked article (which is a good one) is mainly talking about zoning codes, which is not the same at all as building codes. Where it mentions seismic requirements in Seattle that of course is dealing with structural issues, but it should be noted that 5+2 buildings are quite common throughout the country even where there are no seismic issues. The IBC has the same requirements anywhere unless the local jurisdiction amends it to be even stricter – the strictest provision always governs.
Unfortunately even when the new timber systems are approved, local zoning codes may well keep the buildings too short. Your Urbanist article does a great job of explaining why.
What is the standard for Metro to send emails that bus schedules are messed up? After yesterday’s afternoon baseball game, the 15X was all thrown off (I just missed a bus that according to the kiosk, was 23 minutes late, the 5:36 bus was at least a half hour late). The other buses (17X, 18X, 40) seemed to be relatively on time.
Also, real time on the 15X seems to be off (the 5:36 only had the scheduled time on the kiosk, and then stated it had left 3 minutes ago when it never showed)
Metro has no authority to tell the City to provide more bus priority ROW. Perhaps complaining to the Mayor and City Council would get more productive results.
I was referring to the email alerts they send when there are delays on a line, or when a certain run is cancelled because of driver absences, etc.
If you think we should “save the Showbox” you don’t care about affordable housing. It is particularly embarrassing for Sawant to oppose a new, dense housing development exactly where we need it.
“BUT!” The uninformed cried. “Those units won’t be affordable anyway!!1”
No kidding. New construction is never affordable. At what point in history do you think the poorest folks were moving into the newest, nicest buildings? It has never worked that way. Rather, wealthier folks move into the new units and the rest of us slide into their old digs behind them. All that matters is increasing the number of units. Does this project increase the number of units on the site? Why yes, 442 is infinitely more than 0. A music venue is just an empty shell. It doesn’t mean anything without the bands. Anyone opposed either doesn’t really care about affordable housing or really doesn’t understand the basic underlying economic issue that price is a function of SUPPLY and demand.
Several new multi-story non-profit income-limited apartments have opened next to light rail stations in the past couple years: Plaza Roberto Maestas just north of Beacon Hill Station, the artist housing next to Mt. Baker, and the big red Mercy Housing buildings northeast of Othello. Granted, this is the expensive approach to affordable housing, and they all should have been allowed to build much higher, next to a light rail station.
I’m all for saving the Showbox if the developer can be granted the authority to build the same number of units (hopefully with the income-limited units built in, instead of paying a chump-change fee in lieu), with the same street-level footprint, somewhere else reasonable in Seattle.
Land swap? I hear the City is still selling off parcels to fund operating money for its shelters, which is a clearly unsustainable funding source.
Keep the facade and build a taller building behind it.
I could give a foo about the facade, it is very plain and unremarkable. The interior, specifically the performance space is where the magic happens and is what I don’t want to see go away.
The most notable thing I see is the happy/sad masks, and they can be incorporated into a new building. Also move them so they aren’t so covered up.
I think you can be for affordable housing and for saving this the Showbox. In my opinion, there is a lot of value in “historical landmark preservation” of buildings like this, because they’re a part of Seattle’s culture. Many musicians over the years have played at the Showbox from the Ramones to Pearl Jam, and is considered by some to where they saw their favorite band for the first time there. When you lose an important cornerstone of a city’s culture, the city loses part of its soul and can just become “just another city of tall nondescript buildings” over time as other landmarks are torn down.
Tell you what. Give up the other cornerstone of the city’s historic heritage — segregation first via excluding Native American re-entry, then via restrictive racial deeds, then via redlining, then via snob zoning, and we can keep the Showbox. Give that up, not, and the Showbox is goners.
I stand on the side of building the housing, somewhere. We need it, stat.
Brent: Seriously *shakes head* you do realize that there are ways to advocate for housing that includes preserving the arts in Seattle as Barman has pointed out. Saying we need housing and to disregard historic preservation sets a bad precedent for this city. And there’s plenty of areas not just in downtown that would benefit from housing and up zoning and more deserving of it than to just build another downtown condo building, like Aurora Ave, Lake City Way, etc.
I agree — like so many issues, people so often look at things in black and white. For me, personally, I would have to ask the following questions:
1) Is there something special about the building itself? For example, the Paramount or the Moore not only had a lot of great concerts, but are very nice buildings, inside and out. To me the Showbox doesn’t look that special.
2) If there is something special, can you save it? In this case, the marquee is the cool part.
3) Is this about the bands that played there, or the building itself? Again, in this case it appears to be the former.
4) Are there concerns because we simply lack good places to see bands? I get this, but solving the problem by trying to save this particular venue seems silly. For example, what is to stop the place from simply turning it into a movie theater, or playhouse? People would get upset, but I don’t think there would be some sort of appeal to the city preservation folks.
It just seems to me that the answer should be two fold: First, preserve the marquee. Second, try and find someplace that can handle the same number of fans. This could be in the new building if they wanted. This just doesn’t seem like that important a club worth preserving. It isn’t the Spanish Castle (which wasn’t preserved, as it turned out).
For the Showbox, other than the history, the performance space on the interior is nice, has good acoustics, good sight lines, and a sprung dance floor.
It is unlikely a new venue location would have these advantages. For example I’d rather see a show at Showbox Market than Showbox SODO.
The Showbox is the best place I’ve ever seen live music indoors. While The Paramount is great for theater and it and The Moore are more interesting architecturally, they aren’t even close to as good for music. They can accommodate more people, but the city needs smaller venues. If you think that the Showbox and those larger theater venues are interchangeable for music, you must not have been to see concerts in all three places.
From a transit and housing perspective, I think it’s important to step back and ask why people want to live and visit cities in particular. Cultural events and venues are a major attraction. If people don’t have interesting places to go that don’t exist in the suburbs, small town, and rural areas, they have less incentive to be in the city. That makes building successful urban neighborhoods that transit can serve more difficult.
You can have both new construction and the preservation of cultural landmarks. There is so much place to add density (basically everywhere else). There might be ways to keep the venue intact while building on the lot. Worst case, you could figure out a way to include a new venue with the same layout and characteristics in the new building, even if it means granting concessions to the developer or making exceptions to the usual building codes.
To me it’s not about the building (which is unremarkable) but the space and specific layout. If you preserve that, you can change everything else and still retain what’s powerful about the place.
This kind of attitude pisses me off. Cities need cultural and performing arts spaces just as much as they need housing. Once a venue is gone, they rarely get replaced. I wouldn’t want to live in a city without live music and we’ve had more than enough venues razed over the years.
Save the arts and heritage. Replace the parking garages and surface lots. Upzone everything near transit so old dilapidated houses can get replaced with 4 plexes or 3 storey no frills wood frame apartments or townhouses.
Good thinking! After all, there are so many other venues for rock bands in Seattle. Why, the first thing every new developer asks is “Can I open a loud nightclub on the ground floor?”
And I think we should also take a close look at Woodand Park Zoo, it’s a perfect place for high-density housing. It’s just a few animals and flowers. You can’t place the interest of a few marmosets over poor people looking for housing!
A city is more then just housing. It is also places of entertainment and recreational facilities and the Woodland Park Zoo is a place of entertainment where families can go for a day or afternoon. The same with the Jackson Park and Jefferson golf courses where people can go for recreation.
If it was up to some people the entire city would be more of the cookie cutter apartment houses that seemingly are being built everywhere.
A city needs to have some identity but slowly but surely Seattle is losing that identity and character that made it the city that you wanted to live in.
A city needs to have some identity but slowly but surely Seattle is losing that identity and character that made it the city that you wanted to live in.
Yeah, I do miss Denny Hill. Seriously though, cities change — they change all the time. I’m sure there are people who move into Fremont, and had no idea that not too long ago there were only a handful of restaurants (none of them serving Thai food). Ballard has very few Nordic shops anymore while Belltown now has several clubs. All of these changes occurred in my lifetime, and none of them stopped the flow of people.
@RossB. Minor correction. I lived in Wallingford for a decade (1993-2003) and frequently went down to Fremont. Jai Thai has been in that neighborhood (its original restaurant I believe) for quite a long time.
@RossB You’re correct, of course. People will continue to move to Seattle even if there are no live music venues, zoos, glassblowing workshops or other inconvenient, messy, noisy, dirty places that are incompatible with apartment towers and Starbucks.
It’s been there longer than that. Fremont was a vibrant neighborhood with shops and restaurants when I lived up the hill in 1987, and I think it may have been there then. (Ballard was quite a bit duller, however, as “Almost Live” captured for posterity!)
Cities change over time and always will; our current problems are less than . But the best cities have soul, and that can’t be zoned in or master planned. It takes a great deal of time and organic change. I suppose we could build some towers in Old Ballard too, but we have plenty of space that could get zoning improvements, particularly near transit stations, that would allow that before we should have to remove the Showbox or the Tractor or a park or the Zoo. If you want to retain these places (as I do), then you need to work on the city to up zoning heights in other places – otherwise eventually those places we want to keep become far too valuable locations to do so.
…formatting took out “our current problems are less than (insert Rust Belt city here). Ah, for a preview function!
I was born in Seattle and grew up here in the 1960s. I don’t remember when the first Thai restaurant arrived, but I’m pretty sure it was after 1970. When I lived in Fremont in the early 1980s, I remember Costas Opa and Yaks (everything else is just a blur). I think Yaks is the oldest place in that neighborhood (Costas Opa is gone). A Rip Van Winkle wouldn’t recognize the place, just as they would have a hard time recognizing Ballard. The U-District has undergone several major changes as well. Are there any used record stores there anymore (I think there used to be three or four)? There was a great coffee shop, back when coffee shops were rare (it wasn’t a chain, either, just a throwback to the days when only beatniks and Europeans drank espresso). The U-District was very much a “hippie place” back then.
The point is, all of those neighborhoods have changed considerably. While I miss many of the old places, I wouldn’t trade it for the old days, and I think very few people would. Imagine Seattle with no Thai or Ethiopian restaurants, and only a handful of coffee shops. Everyone has their own specific time that they think was ideal, but I think the whole concept is silly. Things change — sometimes for the better, sometimes worse.
I am sympathetic for the need for good concert halls, but I’m really not sure how you can preserve that, absent some sort of public funding. And if you do that, then the hall environment can be replicated. I agree that the Showbox is better than most in terms of acoustics, but never thought it was better than, say, the Paramount (so much depends on who puts on the show and where you sit — I never thought a show at the KingDome would ever sound good, but Pink Floyd somehow managed to sound fantastic).
That is why I think it makes sense to take a different approach. If the building itself isn’t special (unlike many buildings that have actually been torn down) then preserving it doesn’t make sense. Build extra concert halls at the Seattle Center, or contract with someone to build something as part of a larger building downtown.
CHSR: at-grade crossings.
Danger, Will Robinsion
I read the King County release about fare enforcement. Instead of a fine, those who didn’t pay can do community service or get an Orca Lift card. While I think keeping people out of racking up fines they can’t pay is laudable, how they will afford an Orca Lift if they can’t afford one bus fare?
It seems like it would simpler and easier to just stop enforcing the fares.
Missing Link news:
1st casualty of head tax failure was CCC.
2nd casualty is Safeco
Sounder trains carry about 20,000 riders a day.
CCC estimates are above 20,000.
How much does/did the Sounder system cost?
Sounder carries people thirty miles at 79 mph. It gives people a faster alternative to driving. In other words, a substantial reason to use transit. Sounder didn’t require new tracks because the tracks were already there. In fact, that’s the reason why Sounder was approved in the first place: it was seen as such low-hanging fruit that could be started up quickly and inexpensively that it would be silly to skip it.
Low hanging fruit my ass:
Slide control, trainsets, PTC, BNSF fees, P&R, only 30% farebox recovery and etc, etc.
For a single P&R:
“The agency says cost estimates have soared to $65 million, compared to the previous $35 million, to add as many as 550 spaces by 2023 at the Sounder train station in Kent.”
For any type of technology to carry 20,000+ riders is amazing. To carry this many riders on such a short line is also amazing. The fact that sounder needs such a long distance to recoup ridership is troubling.
Add the SC stub needed on Broadway and in a few years the line could be carrying close to 30,000
Sounder 263 riders/mi.
CCC 4285 riders/mi
which is more efficient?
To clarify, that is a *maximum* speed of 79 mph, correct? Do you happen to know what the average operating speed over the line is? Given the level of traffic in the region, I’m sure it’s still faster than driving, but I am curious.
CCC makes it so people *don’t have to drive or take Uber*, hence, time comparisons with driving is not the best metric. Besides, in dedicated transit ROW, you WILL beat driving, you will beat waiting for Uber to come, and you will make a killing over driving and then parking and then walking. Sounder riders would benefit too from having a larger congestion free transit network.
Les – a more relevant metric is many passenger-miles per day does the transit line move, not how many passengers per mile per day.
Sounder has spent ~$1.5B lifetime to date all in, if you add up ROW, vehicles, station access (parking) and the new trips added last year. $1.5B is low hanging fruit when compared to running light rail between Tacoma and Seattle.
Comparing a short distance, high frequency transit mode to a long distance, low frequency transit mode is about as apples to oranges as you can get.
“Sounder Commuter trains will average 40 mph with a maximum speed of 60 mph.”
It’s fair to compare when you compare fare return and cost per rider and return on investment and looking at cheaper alternatives.
Also limited growth potential. As i understand it number of new sounder trains is maxed out. So again huge cost for low potential.
On the south line, the overall average speed is 40.3 mph, going 47.7 miles in 71 minutes (unpadded timetable). Average speed is highest between Seattle-Tukwila (49.8 mph) and slowest between Tacoma-South Tacoma as it climbs the Nalley Valley (30 mph average).
Seattle-Tukwila – 49.8
Seattle-Kent – 48.3
Seattle-Auburn – 47.7
Seattle-Sumner – 47.0
Seattle-Puyallup – 45.5
Seattle-Tacoma – 41.5
Seattle-S Tacoma – 40.0
Seattle-Lakewood – 40.3
Tukwila-Kent – 45.4
Tukwila-Auburn – 45.8
Tukwila-Sumner – 45.5
Tukwila-Puyallup – 43.6
Tukwila-Tacoma – 39.1
Tukwila-S Tacoma – 37.6
Tukwila-Lakewood – 38.2
Kent-Auburn – 46.3
Kent-Sumner – 45.5
Kent-Puyallup – 43.1
Kent-Tacoma – 37.9
Kent-S Tacoma – 36.4
Kent-Lakewood – 37.2
Auburn-Sumner – 45.0
Auburn-Puyallup – 41.6
Auburn-Tacoma – 36.0
Auburn- S Tacoma – 34.6
Auburn- Lakewood – 35.7
Puyallup-Tacoma – 30.4
Puyallup-S Tacoma – 30.3
Puyallup-Lakewood – 32.7
Tacoma-S Tacoma – 30.0
Tacoma-Lakewood – 35.1
S Tacoma-Lakewood – 44.4
Very crude estimates:
Take numbers of 40mph for sounder and 5mph for CCC. Take Lakewood to Seattle where there would be 180 passengers/mi and maybe 3000 for ccc/FH main section. Lakewood to Seattle is 40 miles, so 1 hour, and section where 3000 CCC boardings occur is 5 miles, so again 1 hour. (trying to make math easy)
40 * 180 / 1 = 7200 people miles for Sounder
5 * 2400 / 1 = 15000 SC
Double the return for Streetcar when distance is considered.
Now consider ridership cost (sounder trains typically have incredibly high rates whereas Portlands SC runs below $4.00/rider) and initial investment for Sounder is 4-5 times higher. Also SC can have ridership doubled on same stretch, Sounder is near capacity.
5 * 3000 / 1 = 15000 SC
A bus, following the exact same route as the streetcar, would carry just as many people.
Other interesting tidbit:
A bus, following a route that included part of that route, would carry way more people.
This is the problem with the streetcar fanatics, and it has been a problem from the very first proposal. A bus can do just as good of a job as a streetcar. Oh, sure, there are claims that a streetcar — by virtue of being sexy and going ding-ding — will simply attract more riders. People will flock for miles around, turning their nose up to the faster, more frequent bus, just to ride the wonderful streetcar. Except that didn’t happen! The ridiculously high ridership estimates in the past were simply false. The two streetcar are not that popular, because there is nothing special about the streetcar. People soon realized that, and started grumbling about the nonsensical route (imagining how easily it would be to fix if it was only one of those newfangled trackless trolleys).
There is such a thing as rail bias, but:
Way back when Portland had all three modes, a survey was done. The trolley bus was the most popular with riders, with the streetcars (ill maintained and uncomfortable) were second. The diesel bus was not popular at all.
So, while rail bias does exist, Seattle may be somewhat more immune since it has a mode that is also quite popular.
There’s plenty of buses for you to ride. I’ll grab you a schedule next time I find one on the sidewalk. I hear Dorkin disciples and homeless get a 50% fare discount.
Don’t fool yourself, an ETB or diesel bus wouldn’t be getting the exclusive ROW proposed for the CCC. Just look at how transit lanes for every BRT proposal keep getting watered down.
Sigh. Why do people keep bringing up this argument, without bothering to do even a bit of research? OK, here we go again:
The Madison BRT project (now called RapidRide G) will have lots of exclusive right of way. It will have more than this streetcar project. More in terms of distance, and a larger ratio of ROW. The streetcar and BRT project will cross each other twice. Downtown, both vehicles will have exclusive ROW. On First Hill, the bus will have it, but the streetcar won’t. The BRT proposal may have been watered down a bit, but the streetcar project was extremely wet to begin with.
Besides, you are missing the point. les made a ridiculous argument, and a ridiculous comparison. He suggested that a streetcar would carry oodles of people, without bothering to consider how many riders similar buses would carry.
Fake news alert! Fake news alert! “without bothering to consider how many riders similar buses”.
I was comparing Sounder’s bloated overhead with the comparatively meek cost of a completed streetcar.
But now that you bring it up (and this is just one of many factors to consider):
El Paso BRT: Seating capacity: 48 seats/bus
“streetcars offer greater passenger capacity than buses. In Portland, Oregon, each streetcar cabin has a maximum capacity of 92 riders”
Here’s another interesting tidbit:
“Between 2000 and 2003, bus stops within a sixth of a mile of Portland’s first streetcar line saw ridership drop by 20% when rail went online. Meanwhile, ridership on the new streetcar grew well beyond that drop, indicating the system was attracting more than just former bus riders.”
A CAF Capacity:129-327 seated and standing total, depending on tram length
BRT combo is <100
>> I was comparing Sounder’s bloated overhead with the comparatively meek cost of a completed streetcar.
Yes, you were making a senseless apples and oranges comparison.
As I made very clear, you are missing the point entirely. Running a commuter rail line on the existing rail lines makes some sense. What else would you do — pave over the railway and then run buses? That would be silly.
Building a new, low capacity streetcar line in Seattle does not. You are thrilled — Thrilled! — that the new streetcar might get 25,000 riders a day. Yet you haven’t bothered to consider that a bus would get the same or more riders. Now you are on some weird tangent, where you somehow manage to confuse capacity with ridership. Let’s be clear, a few buses — even tiny buses — would be just fine for that corridor.
But guess what? We don’t have tiny buses! In fact, our buses are basically the same freakin’ size as our existing streetcar. The new streetcars *might* be bigger, but then again, that could mean that they *might* not fit with the existing stops. You are all over the map making bizarre comparisons, and even weirder arguments.
You do realize that Third Avenue — right now — carries around 100,000 people a day via their buses, right? Right?
Look, you can’t make the claim that this is a good value unless you compare it to alternatives. A simple set of buses (the 7, 70 and 40 for example) would provide much higher ridership *and* much higher capacity (using dual sided, articulated buses) for the exact same corridor. That is because they would run more often, and have to get through downtown anyway. That is an alternative you seem to be ignoring (along with every other alternative).
Very (exceptionally) minor error in the article when referring to the government body that oversees transportation in the city of Portland. It’s the Portland Bureau of Transportation, commonly shortened to PBOT, rather than the Portland Department of Transportation. Strictly speaking, we don’t have a DOT at the city level at all.
Construction costs were going (way) up prior to the tariffs. It’s a good scapegoat though.
The tariffs certainly don’t help.
Maybe I missed it, but I’m surprised there isn’t more about this: http://durkan.seattle.gov/2018/07/meeting-growing-demand-for-bus-service/. Ten minute all day frequency on the 70 and 41 sounds great to me — that is better than a lot of RapidRide routes. At the same time, several RapidRide runs will get increased service (which may bring them to 10 minute all day levels). It isn’t clear what the final schedule will be, but it should be good. It looks like Metro is finally hiring enough drivers to meet some of the requested improvements.
Absolutely made my day!
Comments are closed.