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This is an open thread.

65 Replies to “News Roundup: It’s Legal”

    1. I’ve been wondering the same thing all week. Are Everett Transit and Community Transit cannibalizing each other’s ridership?

  1. If Jennie Durkan is withholding information on the Connector or anything else, it’s the duty of every news medium, especially the Seattle Transit Blog, to, maybe literally, camp on her door-step until she levels with us. But whatever her faults as a mayor or as a person, would’t accuse her of being stupid.

    For any Seattle mayor who doesn’t like streetcars, last target she’d pick would be the system’s easiest line to build, as well as the most popular with the business community along its route. Is she also going take out South Lake Union and First Hill lines? Has been done before in Seattle’s history. More likely she’d announce in front of cameras, in serious detail, why not an inch more track will break up pavement on her watch.

    Finnish Consulate is in Bellevue:

    Honorary Consulate of Finland, Seattle, Washington:

    Mr. Matti Suokko

    2122 170th Ave NE
    Bellevue Washington 98008

    I think he’ll give you contacts for HKL, who’s designing and building the cars.

    I think it’s best to stay on the mechanical, rather than the political. But I think the Finns might be glad to discuss matters like track gauge and weight.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Transtech is actually the company making the new series of “Artics” here in Helsinki. HKL is the customer for the order. But, point taken.

    1. I’m not even convinced rents are falling at the high end in any long-term sense. We’ll see. But if it is happening, relief hitting the high end first is exactly what I would have expected: new construction has a pretty high rent floor and older units only have to sit a little below that to remain competitive, especially in desirable locations. I was just recently looking at apartments and my search basically corresponded with this. You really pay for location, and you don’t save much by looking at old and divey places, which will certainly still find renters eventually. It would take a really big glut to push rents down on the low end… and even that might end with a “Miami condo bust” type situation where units get demolished rather than filled.

      I don’t think the news in that article is all bad. It says rents have fallen for the middle class in Seattle, along with Portland, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Without the “build more”, that’s probably not happening (note the absence of Bay Area cities in that list). Getting the middle-class situation under control is a big deal (again, I’m not sure we’ve quite accomplished this yet, but this sort of result shows that maybe we can). It’s not conceptually impossible for robust housing subsidies to reach the middle class, but here in Washington it’s not happening any time soon, probably not even for the working class. The problem with “just build more” isn’t the “build more”, it’s the “just”.

    2. It’s also worth observing that Seattle is not one of the cities listed as having dropping rents for the rich combined with rising rents for the poor. But yeah, build a lot at market rate is only one part of the formula. Build subsidized housing is also a critical part.

      1. “It’s also worth observing that Seattle is not one of the cities listed as having dropping rents for the rich combined with rising rents for the poor.”

        Actually — yes, it is. From the article:
        “Seattle’s poor have also had their rents rise by close to 40 percent.”
        “Rents over the past year have also fallen slightly for the middle class of renters in Portland, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle.”

      2. Worst thing to me about Seattle is that instead of the public energy that a huge revenue increase should bring, never has city government been so helpless to do anything for the people of the city.

        Despite having the best of tools in their hands: Skilled people whose residence under tarps and bridges results directly from not being able to earn the living to which their abilities have entitled them all their lives.

        Five word remedy: Hire Them and Pay Them. And consider the terms “Stimulus”, “Make-Work”, and “Affordability” obscene. When a ‘quake landslides everything east of Minor Avenue into the CBD, event will deliver all the Stimulating Work the Lord Himself can Make!

        Like Dino Rossi said about universal medicare yesterday: “We just can’t afford the taxes!” The “We” he represents….let’s put it this way. We our States’, and City’s people aren’t going to tax you at all.

        For the massive neglected repairs that’ll put our whole population in rubble-covered tents first tremor…in fair advanced notice, we’re sending you and yours The Repair BILL.

        Mark Dublin

  2. More money for poorer service on the Dungeness Line. Didn’t the state have requirements in the contract to prevent the cost-cutting measures that Greyhound is taking? Also, Greyhound should be aware that if they operate the service in such a poor manner, that ridership will drop off and that will directly affect their bottom line. Or maybe not, depending on how the contract is structured.

    1. I would have expected that the contract would have specified the schedule and level or service, or that Greyhound would have had to submit it with its bid.

    2. Does the Dungeness Line to Port Angeles even matter anymore. The Strait Shot express (if it’s still running) looks quite a bit more direct, and is much cheaper to ride.

      1. Still running. I could see a nitch use case for the Dungeness Line, but no, definitely not enough that it should be subsidized by the state.

        They should redirect the subsidy to get more than the current two runs per day on the Strait Shot.

      2. I agree. Why have two competing services with limited schedules when you could use the $$$ to beef up the Strait Shot? In this case, you probably want to see more “local” busses between Discovery Bay and Port Townsend, though.

      1. Air service is far dirtier (and noisier) than bus service. Especially short-haul flights, where the takeoff and landing constitute the majority of the trip.

      2. No need for seaplanes. There is an Airport just West of Port Angeles, KCLM with instrument approaches and a 6000′ runway that could support commuter service if subsidies were available.

    3. That’s Greyhound’s very business model… cut service, watch ridership drop, cut service again, watch ridership drop, repeat until they kill the line. Vulture capitalists bought it for the real estate, note the 1200 room hotel replacing their old Seattle station while the new Seattle station is a stock plan gas station/mini-mart design (without the gas pumps) shoved under an overpass.

      Greyhound puts a nail in the coffin of the idea that private business is always better run than government entities.

  3. The Dungeness Line article keeps talking about “the North Olympic Peninsula’s only scheduled commercial passenger service from Port Angeles to Seattle Sea-Tac International Airport,” with no mention of the Strait Shot connecting to the ferry connecting to Link. I realize the double-transfer makes it less convenient, but it’s also much faster and less expensive, and I think it should be mentioned.

    1. Ferry connecting to Link = not the most seamless transfer with luggage. One reason to do the CCC.

      1. Waterfront Streetcar worked a lot better- Sea-Tac to IDS to Benson Line to Victoria Clipper. But…people and forces that took it out can put it back anytime they feel like.

        Whole reason the took it down is same reason they’ll put it back. They’ve got the money to do whatever they feel like. Also good for intimidating people necessary to reverse the damage.

        Meantime, with the new battery buses- or existing trolleybuses that have batteries, single-transit-ride World to Victoria via IDS and Pioneer Square just a run-card away.


      2. It’s not clear how much the CCC would really help with that. Coming off the ferry, you’d still have to walk to 1st and Marion, regardless. From there, it’s only four blocks walking to Pioneer Square tunnel station. Is it really worth waiting for an additional connection just to save four blocks? If you take Columbia up the hill, it doesn’t even look all that steep.

        Keep in mind that the Strait Shot bus is just an ordinary Metro bus, and isn’t really designed for people with multiple large suitcases. So, anyone riding it is probably packed light enough to be able to walk four blocks in downtown Seattle.

  4. The article on the CRC is hilarious.

    VanWa is basically to blame for the last minute failure of the last CRC plan, now they want a reboot. Back then it was opposition to rolling and to the inclusion of LR. Nothing has changed on those two points – any replacement will certainly include tolls, and OR is right to insist on the inclusion of LR.

    So what has changed? Nothing. I’d just tell VanWa to come back to Olympia when you are ready to accept tolling and LR. Until then don’t waste the State’s time.

    1. Washington Senate could have funded it but didn’t: “a direct Senate vote to bring the transportation package (which included the CRC) up for a vote failed 26-21”

    2. Actually, the light rail + bridge measure past in Vancouver. The rest of Clark County is what sink it.

    3. Neither “Helicopter Don” Benton nor Ann Rivers lives within the City of Vancouver. They represente rural Clark County in the Washington State Senate at the time of the appropriations vote, and it was they who derailed the CRC. Don’t blame the City, which has been supportive of a MAX crossing throughout the planning process.

    4. What changed? A more expensive bridge now and $200 million in design spent through 2013 or so, up in smoke

  5. I know there aren’t a lot of CCC fans here, and David Cole’s article, as fits a Stranger article, is a bit frothing and hyperbolic. But he hits the nail on the head about her passive aggressive, dishonest approach. If it’s a visible stand on a national issue she can’t do a thing about, Durkan is there. If it’s a local issue on something Seattleites actually disagree about, she obfuscates and blocks any change to the status quo. While talking about the need to fix the issue she’s actively undermining the city’s efforts to fix.

    It’s clear that she wants to kill the CCC – can she just go on the record and say so, and explain why? Then we could have an honest discussion about it, and choose to agree or disagree with our Mayor’s position. Instead she’s trying to kill it as quietly as she can, on clearly false pretenses (you don’t put a project on hold to lower its costs, you don’t withhold studies unless the truth isn’t what you want, and for Peet’s sake, railroad gauge is standardized).

    We need to call Durkan out on this behavior. Otherwise, we can expect her to say all the right things about transit and housing and homelessness (though she’d rather say the right things about Trump), while making sure that nobody loses a parking spot to transit lanes or curb bulbs, nobody’s neighborhood gets up zoned, and certainly, nobody has the formerly homeless housed in their neighborhood.

    1. “….you don’t put a project on hold to lower its costs,…”

      And yet that’s exactly what Sound Transit did in Aug 2017 in regard to the Lynnwood Link project while it looked for ways to lower costs through “value engineering”. The so-called pause button has mutiple fingerprints on it.

      1. True. I think it’s far less damaging for Lynwood Link, because construction was a few years out (IIRC), whereas the CCC was already underway, making the pause harder to execute. And the other difference is that ST has a pretty strict budgetary cap at the revenues they’ll receive from taxes, whereas the CCC is ~100 million over a few years in a city budget of a few billion.

        But it’s still true that if you want to get a project done on time and on budget, you don’t stop to change the project over and over again.

      2. Sound Transit value engineering is cutting costs on escalators and elevators while blowing money on worthless garbage art and station designs for pretentious architects to get off on.

    2. I’m not sure why people are upset with the mayor for actually doing her job. Imagine this scenario: you have been a politician for most of your life. Your dad was a politician, and you talked about the various issues as well as the importance of good managment, and simply getting along with people you disagree with. You assume competence. You take over as mayor, and you are ready to just rubber stamp the streetcar. After all, it wasn’t your idea, and you figure the folks who came up with the idea knew what they were doing.

      But then, out of the blue, you realize it will cost twice as much to operate it. Not because of some technical glitch, but because SDOT refused to communicate with Metro. That is the type of incompetence that should get people fired, but your head of SDOT has already left. So you start looking into it, while trying to manage all the other, more important parts of your job (like managing the police, which at least at this point, she seems to be doing extremely well). You do a little digging, and realize that the estimates for the first two streetcars were inflated, and not nearly as popular as expected. You listen to folks talk about the weakness of the First Hill streetcar — the weird buttonhook, and now your confidence in the process has been shattered. You wonder if the lack of communication was more than an anomoly, but an example of an incompetent agency more interested in cosmetic, symbolic changes as opposed to actually moving people.

      But it isn’t your area of expertise, so you do what any responsible admistrator would do — you ask for a third party study. This takes time, and they unearth even more odditites, like new streetcars, that may or may not fit the existing system. My guess is, someone along the line, you asked the consultants about the alternatives — is this actually the best way to move people? The consultants — being responsible professionals — basically say “we don’t know, it will take a while to find out”.

      That is basically where we stand. No one, with any certainly, knows whether it will cost a substantial amount of money to get the new streetcars to work on the old line yet she is being criticized for even asking the question. No one has studied alternatives, yet she is being criticized for not making up her mind. I know all of this is weird in this town. We are used to building things without studying alternatives (things like an Issaquah to South Kirkland subway) but this is a sensible approach, especially for an adminstration that lacks a long term transportation head. Of course the timing is terrible, but if either of the two previous adminstrations had actually done their job, is wouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Clear communication about opinions, timelines, and decisions is also a part of the Mayor’s job, as is engaging with the community. I think Mayor Durkan is rightfully being criticized for a failure to do these things while throwing out chaff like the press releases we’ve seen from her office.

  6. After reaching over 80K in May, the Link average weekday ridership fell to 78K in June. It’s was only 2.4 percent above the 2017 average.

    It appears that except for special events, weekday ridership has flattened to 2-5 percent a year. May’s relatively great perfornance was attributed to some special events. Certainly feeder bus restructuring (520?) or especially new station extensions will increase ridership when they happen — but the recent months of natural double-digit percent increases appear over until then ( except for the impact of special events).

    I don’t Find that this ST report was mentioned in an open thread this past week.

    1. Yeah I noticed the June Link ridership numbers as well and I think you’re right in your overall assessment (2-5% increases). It will be interesting to see what the fall numbers look like, as July and August typically have that seasonal/tourists bump.

  7. Why is Sound Transit getting blasted for its lack of electric buses? Since they obviously don’t count the 22 miles of 100% electric light rail that carries 80,000 people/day (which also replaced many routes that were only served by diesel buses previously), that leaves mainly long distance express buses, which would not work well with electric vehicles.

    Maybe I’m wrong on that, but in 2024 when Redmond, Lynnwood, and Federal Way Link lines are open, Sound Transit will have done more than any other agency in reducing diesel pollution.

    1. … or maybe 2025 or 2026 …

      Still, it’s a good point.

      Of course, ST3 committed to 522 and 405 BRT so it’s remains a reasonable vehicle issue.

    2. AlexKven, depends if it means overhead or batteries. Something else might work best: “Third Rail”, like BART.

      Doubtful it’d be worth the price to string overhead. But Swedes know it works for trucks. Too bad we didn’t have it for the DSTT

      My guess is that the “decider” will depend on speed of our regional population increase. But also excellent example of what I mean regarding measures to wait out a rail-building delay.


  8. I recently off boarded from a 48 bus. I found that the driver needed a good 10-15 minutes to proceed onto UW campus where he performs his turnaround. He also says he takes a 40 minute break during this juncture of his day, a break that monopolizes an idling bus.

    This helps explain why Portland’s street cars run lower with subsidies then their buses. The push-me pull-me component of a SC eliminates the need for a turnaround and allows for different drivers to keep the same vehicle in uninterrupted motion throughout the day which allows the same streetcar to perform more trips.

    More passenger room, greater utilization of vehicles, lower labor cost and a greater preference for riders, I believe, are the keys to a SC’s success.

    1. The layover is both for a driver break and to keep the headways at consistent clockface times.

      1. Yes, but a SC driver doesn’t need keep a vehicle out of “production” while he/she is taking a break, thus less downtime for vehicles and better return on investment.

      2. This is not really about bus vs. streetcar. A bus, in principle, can do the same thing, by having another driver drive the bus out to begin the next trip while the previous driver takes a break. But, in practice, such schemes are generally not necessary, as the bottleneck tends to available drivers, not buses.

        Streetcars, on the other hand, are more expensive than buses to purchase and store (since every streetcar added to the fleet must be stored overnight in expensive downtown real estate, rather than a bus base out in the burbs, where land is cheap). So, it’s worth spending more on labor to wring every service hour of each vehicle you can.

        The only inherent advantage intrinsic to the streetcar is having a symmetrical front and back, avoiding the need to physically turn the vehicle around at the end of a trip (which can take a good 5+ minutes to do in a bus). Again, this is minor in the scheme of things – the service hours saved by this do not come close to justifying the capital cost to build it.

      3. Great comment, Oran!

        A big purple and gold Husky turntable could even be a celebrated UW fixture in decades to come.

        By the way, the 405 BRT may also need a turntable in Downtown Bellevue. It’s going to be a big problem there.

    2. They’re all nice bonuses; inability to pass, limits to road grade, etc. are also downsides.

      But the keys to a streetcars success and a buses success are exactly the same: density and walkability of the route, frequency, reasonable stop spacing, exclusive lanes and signal priority. Doesn’t matter too much what the vehicle is – if you’re connecting people to where they want to go, quickly, you’ll get riders.

      That’s why I’m such a huge fan of the CCC, whereas the transit community seems to be lukewarm. The existing streetcars fail at the basics of being a good transit route; they aren’t appreciably faster than walking.

      The CCC, on the other hand, nails it on these basics about as much as a route can without a tunnel (and incidentally, that gives it something like 1/10th the price and construction time). It really doesn’t matter that it’s a streetcar; it matters that it’s exclusive lanes through the heart of downtown, and high frequency to boot.

      The big reasons to do it as a streetcar are that you can tie in to the existing lines, doubling their utility (as measured by anticipated riders per stop) on Jackson and Westlake without spending any money on them directly, and because changing the plans at this point would cost much more in money and time than you could hope to gain by switching to buses.

      But what matters is that this is our chance for two exclusive lanes through the core of downtown, and we could lose that.

      1. > The CCC, on the other hand, nails it on these basics about as much as a route can without a tunnel

        Yes but we already have this route covered WITH a tunnel. It’s two blocks over with 6 minute peak frequencies and more exclusive right-of-way. Not only that but if you want to keep riding it to a destination outside of downtown, you can. Perhaps we could rename it the Under-The-Streetcar so people will stop clamoring for this CCC boondoggle.

      2. We have an almost dedicated bus lane on 3rd. Why do we even need that? Let’s just put everyone on Link in the tunnel and open 3rd to cars. Duh.

      3. The project came into existence because the City projected that that Link and bus ridership through downtown would surpass what the existing lanes and rails can accommodate. The CCC is a way to reduce the burden on through-routes specifically through the CBD, so that bus traffic keeps flowing on third, and so that rush hour commuters don’t get left on the sidewalk by their bus route that’s overfull, in part, due to people who are riding across the CBD.

        I don’t know about you, but I see overfull buses and third slowing down almost every day. And we haven’t even gotten the wave of development West of 3rd that the removal of 99 will likely spur. To say nothing of the need to connect SLU the downtown core (ride the 62, 70, 40 or C sometime if you don’t think there’s demand from SLU to the rest of downtown, and no, the current streetcar + transfer to link isn’t getting the job done. Being able to take the streetcar from SLU all the way to pioneer square, though, will.

      4. The full buses are not full because of hoards of people riding three blocks within downtown. They’re full because of people riding into downtown from other places the streetcar doesn’t go. The CCC will not help with this.

    3. You can’t blame a bus turn-around problem on the technology. Those requirements have been known for decades. It’s entirely the fault of ST, SDOT, UW and then maybe Metro. Metro is stuck while the other agencies got off with few pointing the finger at them. It’s negligent station access design —pure an simple.

      1. Every bus has to turn around to reverse route and every bus driver has to idle their bus for breaks. SC’s never idle but are always available for return trip regardless of driver.

    4. Portland streetcars lay over just like the buses and MAX trains do. In fact, the layover is more annoying than the buses because it splits the loop at the OMSI station, which would otherwise be a nice, continuous trip.

      1. Yes, Portland is a loop so different dynamics than 1st Hill. Currently 1st Hill’s vehicles stop for a few minutes at an endpoint and then proceed on return trip. No rest for these workhorses.


      But best of all:

      If they can do it, since we’ve had “rewiring pans” – those little plastic houses over the wire- in 1990….trees prove that UW campus has had this for over thirty years, but school is embarrassed to admit that Metro invented it.

      So deal with them: Give us the turntable and the three axle bus, and we’ll install the “pans” and not tease you about it. Or tell your alumni you could ever spend UW football revenue for something so Anticar.


  9. The I-5 bridge replacement over the Columbia stalled not because of politics alone but the realization that the existing birdge is the only height that works. Any lower and shipping stops working, any higher and PDX gets affected. Engineers using that 190 million said as much . Any new bridge would be wider and way more expensive than thought. So a united Vancouver, WA may not really matter.

    1. I recall it being Pearson Field in Vancouver that was the height impact.

      Actually it would make sense to just close it and redevelop it as TOD for the light rail line. Would solve a lot of problems and could actually cover a big chunk of the cost of the bridge if sold off.

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