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51 Replies to “News Roundup: Let’s Get Started”

      1. I was thinking the same thing. He might be the only member of Trump’s cabinet who is actually doing a good job. I never would have guessed that, but they can’t all be idiots (OK, they can, but still).

      2. Carson wants to eliminate subsidized housing or at least impose more work requirements. Supporting mixed use and density may be the only good thing he’s done, and it may be a trojan horse for shutting it down.

      3. Notice was qualified in my statement. I don’t think he, or any of Trump’s cabinet, for that matter, is doing a good job. But, even a broken clock is correct twice a day, and I’m willing to acknowledge that when it happens.

    1. Hey Alex,

      We just migrated to a new hosting company so the DNS could still be a bit screwy. You may need to refresh, or it could clear up soon.

    1. I saw that a few days ago on the 11, eastbound at 15th. In the front row on the right side was an existing wheelchair, and on the left side a man was sitting. A woman in a wheelchair was waiting to get on. The driver asked the man if he would give up his seat but he wouldn’t, so the driver told the woman he couldn’t take her and she said she’d wait for the next bus. The bus was half-hourly at the time so she may already have waited a half hour and now had to wait for another half hour. I thought people had to cede those seats to disabled riders, and I felt like saying the driver should make the man move, but I didn’t want to disrupt the driver’s authority. I still think he should have moved.

      1. That video was in LA. I just found this from Metro’s website that appears support a passenger not having to move from the front priority seating area for a wheelchair passenger.

        “If the priority seats are full and you need to sit at the front of the bus, tell the driver. The driver will ask riders in the priority area to make a seat available for you, however, customers are not required to move. Remember, some disabilities are not visible and no disability has priority over another.”

        In other words, a paralyzed person in a wheelchair doesn’t have priority over someone with a bunion. Metro, and other transit agencies, don’t care about right or wrong, they’re just trying not to get sued.

      2. Wouldn’t advise a driver to try to “make” anybody do anything, for a lot of reasons. Starting with what authority he’s got, followed by how much fighting skill, and strong chance that most justified use of force can lead to unrelated violence in a few seconds. Doubt any police officer wouldn’t wait for backup.

        But by same token, transit needs to have a roving police and supervisors ready to come on scene. With enough of them in lift-equipped vans to make sure no one in a wheelchair has to be left in a zone. Very often, though, another passenger might agree to keep him or her company ’til next bus comes.

        Woman causing the trouble doubtless belonged in a mental hospital. Which are in same budget situation as the supervisors and the police.


  1. I was interested to read the Oregonian’s review of Seattle’s e-bikes. I haven’t used one yet, but see them littered everywhere in various states of repair. I like the idea of an electric motor to assist with Seattle’s hills, but the review makes it sound like that feature isn’t quite there yet. I also raised my eyebrows at the cost – $33 for a day and a half of riding. For not much more (I found rates for $35-$40/day with a cursory Google search), you could do a 24 hour rental at a bike shop, get a better bike (with gears to tackle Seattle’s hills) in better condition, at greater convenience… I’ve seen bike share work well (Montreal has an impressive arsenal of public bikes), but I’m not convinced Seattle’s programs are well suited to this market.

    1. Another note regarding cost of the service: the reviewer cites $3.30 for a ride from the International District to Capitol Hill along Yesler and Broadway. Bus fare for the same trip would be less at $2.75. Even riding the light rail would be less expensive.

      1. True that biking can be more direct than busing, but you’re comparing the convenience of riding a motorized vehicle to the convenience of pedaling a bicycle. You could argue that biking is a convenient way to get exercise and commute at the same time, but busing is more convenient in the sense that it’s less strenuous.

        In any case, I’d agree there is a market for this service. I just wonder how much of one there actually is. Once the novelty subsides, will there be enough riders to support the existing scope of service?

      2. I don’t think people riding around all day was ever the intended market, but rather individual one-way trips, when you’re in a hurry and willing to pay to get their faster, yet the distance is short enough that a bike is nearly as fast as Lyft/Uber (and maybe faster after accounting for wait time, traffic, or shortcuts that utilize off-street paths).

        I think the market exists, but the current pricing model is making it smaller than it needs to be. Numerous online services, such as Amazon and Netflix, have repeatedly demonstrated the value of locking in regular users with automatically renewing subscriptions that free the users from the mental burden of needing to decide whether each individual usage is worth the price. Even Zipcar offers a subscription option where a recurring $50/100/200/month get you a certain number of included car-hours, depending on how much you’re willing to pay. I refuse to believe that there isn’t a subscription model/price for e-bikes that makes financial sense to offer. Maybe it will take direct competition from Jump to get that to happen.

    1. FOIA (or more appropriate?) Washington Open Public Records Act vs. Commericial end user agreements. Interesting case indeed!

      1. “Possession of a valid ORCA card shall be proof of payment for every transit agency that issues it. But to distribute revenue between separate agencies, ST appreciates a “tap” on a fare-reader screen upon both boarding and leaving.”

        Like my attorney would say in court about any bogus collections claim: “Show me the proof!” In this case, that any of the seven separate agencies comprising Sound Transit would lose enough money for my little advisement to bring in down and audit on them.

        Glad you brought this up, Alper, because my coronary arteries couldn’t stand up to what you’re describing. We promised voters a “seamless” over-arching agency with an integrated fare system. Instead, we’re delivering theft-grade punishment for a complicated system’s most innocent mistakes. An abusive system using intimidation to avoid its own work of apportioning interagency revenue.

        Every first LINK boarding, I buy a paper All Day pass and put it in the same little plastic card holder with my ORCA card. At least my ride doesn’t keep getting spoiled with worry. But Jeff, after all the work you and I put in for the transit system our region deserves….isn’t there something else I can do?


  2. Regarding Madison BRT fleet procurement: At the Levy Oversight Committee meeting last night Maria Koengeter said that SDOT and Metro are looking into battery buses or diesel hybrids for the route. Either would like trigger a technical reevaluation (there was a different term for it that I didn’t catch) of the Small Starts grant application with the FTA.

    1. Maybe they should switch the Madison BRT to Street car. Connect it to First hill and run it down the protected right of way the the CCC. Then they would have enough money to finish the CCC and get more use out of the Protected ROW. The could make it really nice if the ran the tail end of the line to Belltown for the turn around.


        Ian, we’d need to know steepest grades a streetcar has handled. Page 50 gives some figures. So I think that’s first consideration. From what I saw in Europe, I think streetcars are the best “fit” for close quarters with people.

        But bus or streetcar, I just don’t see Madison as a rapid transit corridor. Of course give vehicles their own lanes and traffic signal settings. But for the service that needs to be rapid, I think it’s worth a lot of effort to get LINK up there soon as possible.


  3. To quote a private conversation I had (ironically from one of the writers linked elsewhere here): “The local Sierra Club chapter is a homeowner’s association” in response into anti-density positions that were dubbed to be called anti-environment.

  4. To: Don MacKenzie, Sijie Chen, Yanbo Ge, Moein Khaloei, Elyse O’C Lewis, Parastoo Jabbari, Chinten Pathak, Luke Peters, Xiasen Wang, of the UW Sustainable Transportation Lab,

    Ladies and gentlemen, your zone-sharing study conclusions aren’t wrong. But the University needs to adjust your program toward the skills you need to get them right for effective operation. Which isn’t a matter for the stop-watch.

    It’s about the necessary coordination to keep hundreds of transit passengers – buses and vans both- not only departing individual zones on time, but smoothly moving. For the careers you’ve chosen, you need the “feel” of a transit steering wheel a lot more than a computer mouse.

    Also the team-work training and communication required for the exact kind of operations your study here includes. So I’m seriously suggesting that your program of study be designed to include actual transit driving as course work. Work-study programs are nothing new in school or industry. In this case, exactly the area of each our country needs most.

    On the website’s title page, I see nine excellent trolley bus drivers out of uniform. Dow, it’s your job to see to it that same number of buses are not still sitting in the yard when their van passengers miss their plane. Speaking of which….legendary streetcar systems in Gothenburg, Oslo, and Stockholm probably good for an exchange program. Right now, I’d pick Helsinki.

    UW: these young professionals will not only help you stop everybody from yelling at you about LINK access at the Stadium, but will also make you generous alumni.

    Mark Dublin

    cc: King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jennie Durkan,University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, State Senator Jamie Pedersen, an Representatives Nicole Macri and Frank Chopp, and Governor Jay Inslee:

    1. Amen to that!

      Why are there no bus or train drivers of the ST committees for Ballard-West Seattle? We are more concerned with freight operations or neighborhood visual impacts than how the system works for tens of thousands of people.

      Why is SDOT mulling a non-wire alternative for the Madison project? Has any staff or committee members ever driven a bus on Madison? A non-wire solution is pretty ludicrous unless you are prepared for decades crawling up the hill and transmissions failing on buses full of people; why don’t participants and staff understand what a fatal flaw this is?

      For starters, I wish the FTA had operations “camps” around the country so planners and elected officials would learn the intricacies of driving a bus on different slopes and types of streets. Then, I wish that every transit planner and manager was required to ride at least 100 hours a year (and have to transfer at least 100 times a year) to understand the modes that they are planning for.

      Anyone making decisions negatively for an affected group without understanding the lived esperience of that group should not think that they are smarter than those whose lives they influence. We expect leaders of police, fire, courts, parks and even education to understand their realities —so why not transit?

      1. Presumably because SDOT became aware that the sole American supplier of unicorn drawn buses no longer has a viable breeding unicorn herd, and the Federal government is unlikely to approve the use of possibly diseased European unicorns?

      2. >> A non-wire solution is pretty ludicrous unless you are prepared for decades crawling up the hill and transmissions failing on buses full of people;

        That seems like one of those things that would have to be studied. The buses wouldn’t be all diesel, but a hybrid. Does the electric motor give it enough horse power to get up the hill just fine? I have no idea. As for whether it makes sense in the long run (or as you put it, we are stuck with that forever) I don’t see it that way. It may be that the problem with this project is that the order was too small. Eventually, hopefully, we will want a bunch of these buses, for the various “RapidRide+” projects (and perhaps more projects that involve center running buses). That could mean that we sell these to a city that doesn’t want to run wire (but wants doors on both sides) or just add the other buses to the fleet. It is possible that we want some center running on a bus that doesn’t have wire (and doesn’t make sense to wire). Worse case scenario, the buses just run as regular buses (while the doors on the left side get ignored).

      3. As Mr Dublin explained it, an electric motor can power down to one revolution so it somehow has more torque. An internal-combustion engine can only get down to a thousand revolutions or it will shut off. So it seems to be the electric motor rather than the trolley wire that makes it able to climb hills, in which case a battery bus would be fine. But we should test it first.

  5. Holy smokes. The Urbanist has a serious scoop today. This is incredibly disappointing and shocking:

    “Cities across the country are trying to improve their public realms by putting an emphasis on enhancing the pedestrian and transit user experience. Seattle had intended to follow suit through a concerted effort by using a public-private partnership. The city had selected Intersection, a winning bidder, which promised installation of modern transit shelters and high-tech information and WiFi kiosks throughout Downtown Seattle and South Lake Union at no cost to the city. Intersection had also offered to pay the city between $97 million and $167 million over 20 years as compensation for sole operational rights. The proposal, however, was put on ice some time between late last year and early this year.”

    1. Before I’d give any private company the exclusive right to build and operate a whole city-full of transit equipment for twenty years, I’d like to be able to watch them run somebody else’s system for at least ten. To give me the time I need to evaluate how much better they’d do than my own public system. With somebody else to practice on.

      Because main thing to remember about any private company: by law its chief duty is to its shareholders. Which to me represents an insurmountable conflict of interest. The only entity I’d give a decade of exclusivity on anything will get the contract because my taxes give its operating staff their jobs.

      Mark Dublin

    2. I am OK with this. I think Metro’s shelters are good enough, and Seattle doesn’t have to look identical to every other city that uses JC Devaux for bus shelters w/ ads. Keeping it Metro’s court allows Metro to continue to have total control over shelter placement and upgrades.

  6. OK guys, those of you in Snohomish County or in my case ride & pay sales tax in Snohomish County, two big updates:

    #1. Important Transit Development Plans or TDPs are still in the field for Everett Transit & Community Transit. Why should you check out their websites and comment? Well transit development plan comment time is to request new routes, “amenities” like bus shelters and apps, that kinda thing.

    #2a. There is some discussion growing momentum to merging Everett Transit & Community Transit. Me personally I’d like to see them merge and the Snohomish County Council govern them. Now means transit in Snohomish County is governed exactly like King County.

    #2b. The more I get the STB commentariat’s input and that of others in the transit community, I’m becoming of the morphed view it would be better for the county-level transits if the County Council just ran the transits. Directly electing has downsides such as fundraising, lack of media coverage, down ballot issues, et al. At least making transit oversight a county council responsibility means we directly elect persons to represent us the taxpaying citizens on transit board. You guys think I’m on the right track?

    1. Merge, sure. Have the county council manage it? Absolutely not. Community Transit already has county council representation on the governing board with a seat. The existing system of many governing board members from participating cities is much more proportionately matched to the cities that are primarily paying into the system. The kind of meddling that would happen at the county level would be just as bad as Everett Transit and many of the votes would be focused on austerity and starving transit rather than actually improving it. Stick with the existing governing model but give Everett a seat at the table for a permanent board vote.

      1. Everett might go for it if they got a few permanent seats…. But I would rather just elect someone with transit oversight as part of or all of their duties. I encourage a little meddling to uphold the public will.

    2. I have no strong preference on county agencies vs transit benefit districts, but I find it convenient that the people I write to for transit issues vs other county issues are the same people, and I can get to know them better because I interact with them more,. And sometimes the best people move up from the city to county level as in Claudia Balducci. They might not do that if the TBD board is seen as an entry-level, part-time position. On the other hand, TBDs are “normal” around here and Metro’s structure is the exception, so maybe it’s not as good? But the reason TBDs are normal is that the state allows only very limited tax options, and TBDs are one of the few ways areas can raise money for anything. Overall I guess I prefer county agencies because that integrates transit with the rest of transportation planning and county planning.

      The main thing you want to avoid is the county council micromanaging transit restructures. King County did that between the merger and 2012, and it often led to vetoing parts of restructures because one squeaky wheel complained to the council. In 2012, with the recession the council realized it could no longer afford to waste service hours like that, and it started deferring to Metro’s new service metrics, and now it focuses more on whether Metro follows an inclusive process tor deciding on restructures than on what exactly the routes are. Although sometimes it still micromanages, as with Dembrowski and the 71. Kevin Desmond probably deserves credit for setting up the performance metrics and long-range planning and the U-Link restructure process, so that Metro can point to those.

      That’s also a change in how Metro does restructures, because previously we’d only hear about it six months in advance and there’d be only one draft, but with the U-Link restructure the first proposal was out a year ahead and it was actually two alternatives, followed by two more propoposals before the final. One of the frustrations with Link is not knowing how much bus service stations will have, especially those that have little or no service now. The LRP and multi-route restructures helps cities know what they’ll have and helps people know whether they can move somewhere and have some reassurance of future bus service.

  7. Are you sure the 3rd Ave Busway has only 51000 boardings per day? Because that number seems really low for 2500 bus movements.

    For perspective, Link has 29000 boardings just in the DSTT, and that is only 4 total stops and low hundreds in movements. Link right now is basically just a starter system – just one line of only 20 miles total length.

    I’d check that number.

    1. Sounds about right. Link has less than 40,000 boardings total, while more than 50,000 people board buses only on Third. Remember, there are other streets that carry buses from downtown, and the buses that do serve Third Avenue pick up riders outside downtown. As for Link being a starter line, I suppose you could call it that, but twenty miles is not exactly tiny. That is in the ballpark of places like Minneapolis, Houston, Phoenix and Boston (the light rail part). Even as far as heavy rail urban systems go, it isn’t at the far end of the spectrum (although it is smaller than most). The biggest, most important connection has been covered (although just barely). We will definitely see a big increase as the system moves outward (especially if it comes with truncations like the last expansion) but at this point, I wouldn’t call it a starter line (before it reached the UW I would).

      1. Link has about 78,000 total daily boardings, about 29,000 of which are in the DSTT. The report is linked in the post above.

        Expect that number to go up when the buses leave the tunnel and Link reliability and transit times improve as a result.

  8. Because I am a award-winning transit expert, I am often asked which King County cities, after Seattle, have the best public transit. After running the numbers, I now have the list.

    1, Seattle. 2, Bellevue. 3, Renton. 4, Kent. 5, Tukwila. 6, Federal Way. 7, Redmond. 8, Burien. 9, SeaTac. 10, Shoreline.

    “Well now hold on there just one minute, Sam! SeaTac has a direct Link line to Seattle, so why isn’t it higher on the list?!?”

    Because, dumbass, a city’s public transit isn’t just about how easily you can get to another city. It’s about the city’s entire intercity and intracity transit network.

    1. I’m just a lowly citizen with no professional transit experience whatsoever, but I would group them this way:

      Level 1: Seattle
      Level 2: Bellevue
      Level 3: Kent, Redmond, Shoreline
      Level 4: Federal Way, Burien
      Level 5: Renton, Tukwika

      The reason is that Renton’s transit is especially unresponsive to its residents’ needs. The trunk routes go only to west Renton and the Renton Transit Center, but the bulk of the population lives in east Renton and has to transfer to it, and with different routes going different places it’s not guaranteed that the shortest transfer is useful to you.

      Tukwila also has abysmal service because the trunk routes bypass the residential areas. Like Santa Clara light rail which goes through the office parks: it works if you live in San Jose, but not if you live in Santa Clara. Which route most serves Tukwila’s residential areas. Wait for it… the 128. To be fair, Tukwila’s residential areas have so little density you’d miss it if you sneeze, but the fact remains that it’s almost impossible to use transit if you’re a Tukwila resident unless you drive to a P&R or have a bike.

      Kent has the highest density in south King County, and its bus service while not remarkable is somewhat commensurate. There’s 15-minute service on East Hill, although it alternates on opposite sides of the street. Kent Station has bus routes in all directions. And while they all nominally terminate there (except the peak expresses), in fact some of them are through-routed so you can continue west or east.

      Federal Way has a low level of service but at least it more or less goes in all directions.

      Shoreline has the advantage of being next to the routes that terminate at 145th, and having a complete street grid, and the fact that Seattle routes just have to go a mile or two further to serve Shoreline.

    1. Considering the first bus to SeaTac Airport from Tacoma is standing room only on a June Saturday from personal experience, finally Trimet did something I can cheer!

    1. Good riddance. That station always under performed. Closing it to buses – even with the stupid temporary access ramp – is the first step in moving the DSTT towards its full transit potential. I can’t wait to see two rail lines moving through that sucker at short headways.

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