28 Replies to “Podcast #67: Looking for a Sports Metaphor”

  1. There was a comment about being mystified about the Pigeon Point segment. Based on today’s Port letter and the noted neighborhood support, I can see why it’s still being considered.

  2. I’d question whether a 4th Ave Station in Chinatown would really improve pedestrian connectivity. The higher volume of transfers will be between the three Link lines more than Sounder and Link — and5th would be closer for that. Add to that would be the platform depth, which would mean a major elevation change for Link riders. To say that everyone favors 4th is not accurate. Any non-Sounder rider paying attention would support 5th. Of course, there are no designated general rider advocates on the Stakeholder Committee.

    1. >> The higher volume of transfers will be between the three Link lines more than Sounder and Link

      I’m not so sure about that. You have two sets of transfers — those for which the train is headed the same direction and those where you are reversing direction. For same direction travel, a lot of transfers will take place at Westlake (assuming they build that well). But that won’t work if you started at West Seattle, the East Side or South End and are headed to one of the downtown stops unique to each line (University, Pioneer Square or Madison). For example, someone from West Seattle might switch lines to get to the University Station. That only makes sense if the destination is very close to the station (which limits the number of people who will hassle with a transfer there).

      For reverse direction transfers, it gets more complicated. There are three combinations. South to East will not be that popular, as bus service can often replace it (specifically, an I-405 express to Bellevue, or better frequency for the 106). The buses would provide a significant short cut for just about every combination, leaving trips from the East Side to Beacon Hill, and Mercer Island to Rainier Valley (both would be relatively small). Likewise, a 50 that ran more often, but skipped SoDo would provide much faster service between West Seattle and South Link stops. That leaves West Seattle to the East Side, which does sound significant. This is a trip that is often very slow right now, and I doubt anyone will run an express bus from West Seattle to Bellevue or Redmond (other than maybe Microsoft) and even if they did, traffic along the Spokane Street viaduct is a mess, and there are no HOV lanes.

      I’m still doubt that exceeds Sounder to Link transfers. While there is a very strong bidirectional nature to buses like the 545 and 550, there is still a slight edge in terms of ridership for the traditional commuters (those headed downtown in the morning). While ridership on those buses is pretty high, most of it is folks headed to downtown Seattle, not the East Side for employment. Even if it was 50-50, you have to guess a small percentage of those people started out in West Seattle.

      Just to get a very rough idea of what the numbers would be, I will assume 20% of the riders headed to the East Side from ST buses come from West Seattle. The 550, 554 and 545 have about 10,000 combined commuters from downtown to the East Side. So that is 2,000 riders transferring there, plus I would say another 2,000 from the other groups. Just to be generous, I’ll add in another 1,000 to round it to 5,000.

      Meanwhile, just about every rider for Sounder is doing the traditional commute thing. There are plenty of businesses close to King Street Station, but it is still a relatively small part of downtown. Many, I’m sure, transfer to a bus or Link. It stands to reason that most would benefit from a quick transfer to Link, so that they could get to the rest of downtown, as well as the UW. I would say at least 50%, but I’ll just cut it off at 50%. Since ridership for South Sounder is about 15,000 a day, that puts it well over the Link to Link transfers.

      Obviously there is a lot of estimating here, but nothing that seems too weird. The point I’m making is that while it is still a guess, I wouldn’t assume that more people will make Link to Link transfers there. A lot depends on how good the transfer is at Westlake. If they screw that up and make it terrible, then all bets are off — people will be forced to make the transfer at I. D., even for common same direction travel. But if ST makes the Westlake transfer painless (which would be a good idea, since it dwarfs every other transfer point in importance) then it is quite likely that South Sounder to Link transfers exceed Link to Link transfers at I. D.

    2. It partly depends on Sounder’s frequency. We’re so used to infrequent commuter trains that it seems silly to tailor Link to a transfer that can occur only a few times a day. But if Sounder became hourly — or especially half-hourly — with evening and weekend service, then it would make a lot more sense. But that’s so uncertain because we don’t know how well ST’s negotiations with BNSF are going or when/if we might hear something, and even that is only scoped for a maximum frequency of hourly, and on Sounder North nobody thinks it will ever be upgraded. This is where it would be better to have a long-term vision at the beginning and work up to it instead of doing things piecemeal. Like what Frank was saying about if only we had a visionary mayor who would lay out a transformative transit vision and make it happen.

      1. I disagree. It is very common for commuter trains to run infrequently (and only in the peak direction) but it is still a good idea to provide a nice connection from the downtown stop to the rest of the transit system. The West Coast Express commuter line in Vancouver runs 8 times a day, has fewer riders than our commuter line, but still has an excellent connection to the rest of the system.

        I’m not saying we should spend a huge amount for a line that will probably peak out at around 25,000 a day (even if it ran every half hour), but neither should be worry too much about Link to Link connections there. By all means it should be a consideration — I’m just saying that it is nothing like the connection at Westlake, which is essential to the functioning of our transit system. If it is very difficult to take a trip from Lower Queen Anne to the UW, then very few will bother taking Link from South Lake Union to Capitol Hill, which means ridership (and eventually headways) will suffer.

      2. Frankly, ST doesn’t seem to care about any transfers! The criteria on the evaluation lumps rail-rail and rail-bus transfers together (as if they are the same issue) and there is no measure other than a general recognition about if it’s better or worse than the representative project. Oddly, ST has presented the need to balance loads between the two lines — but never even linked how that balancing is related to good transfers at all. Meanwhile, public meetings are full of citizen and rider comments that transfers should be seemless and ideally cross-platform.

        I really think we should be pushing ST to tell us how big a rail-rail transfer will be. Then, they should tell us how difficult a rail-rail transfer will be. Otherwise, we are left to quibble while ST ignores this very huge issue.

      3. Even if Sounder never gets any more frequent, WSDOT at one time was hoping to get Cascades service up to half hourly. Most of those passengers are going to want to go somewhere other than King Street and Pioneer Square.

  3. Thanks for discussing the several-year Jackson St streetcar closure needed for a cut and cover new Link platform/ station option. It is another possible problem in building and running the CCC. It would cut off the streetcar storage and maintenance yard too.

    Ironically, the discussion about lack of vision seems appropriate but limited to just ‘others’ here. It’s as much a problem with transit advocates as it is with any elected official. We keep obsessed with planning one project at a time and making project support a measure of commitment to transit — when it’s rider usage, convenience and travel time across a system that should be the systems vision rather than building an option A or B based on its own merits and issues.

    1. I agree. The lack of long term vision is really irritating. We just seem to be lurching from project to project. One of the big causes of this is a windshield attitude taken by our leaders. Build a new freeway — even a small one — and everyone can easily use it. That is because there are roads everywhere, and there is no time penalty to actually get on the freeway (it isn’t like a ferry, where you have to wait). But transit is different. If you don’t connect things well, then it simply doesn’t work. Mount Baker Station is one of the best examples. It looks fantastic on paper. You connect one of our most popular buses (the most popular bus that isn’t a RapidRide) with our light rail line. Yet because the transfer is so awful, few people make it.

      The point is, you really don’t have to have a long term vision when it comes to building freeways. Sure, it helps, but you can just build it willy-nilly. But with transit systems, it is really important to figure out how it is all supposed to fit together. Otherwise, you are stuck with things that just don’t work. This is the case with Mount Baker and First Hill. It is also true for 520. Despite two projects (520 and Link) happening at roughly the same time, no one bothered to actually figure out how they were supposed to work together. Link literally runs beneath buses, but there is no station there. This means that Metro has to decide whether to force those riders to endure a slog over to Husky Stadium, or a slog to downtown.

    2. “It’s as much a problem with transit advocates as it is with any elected official. We keep obsessed with planning one project at a time and making project support a measure of commitment to transit ”

      We? We have plenty of vision. My own vision is a transit network like Germany or Switzerland, and Vancouver would be a great place to start. Even Calgary. But the politicians and the ST board aren’t interested. They’re focused on alternatives to freeways, maximizing car thoroughput, taking as few parking spaces as possible, and keeping the budget so low it can’t be transformative. ST isn’t doing some of these things but it’s working within those political constraints. I could fill out my vision and say exactly where the Link lines, commuter rail lines, BRT lines, and local connectors should be in Pugetopolis and across the state, but it seems so futile. Instead I just point to experiences, like how Peter says you never have to run for the metro or wait for it in Paris, it just always comes every 2-3 minutes. I’ve seen in New York, London, Moscow, and St Petersburg how transformative that is, and how it can create an environment where less than 50% of the people have cars. I’ve even seen a little bit of it in Vancouver, where people gather at Broadway station to go to an activity, or live in Metrotown because it’s so convenient. And you can get to every part of the country on transit, both cities and small towns. Whereas in Washington it’s impossible to go to MMA tournaments in Arlington or Quilceda or Fife on Saturday evening without a car — or even Edmonds Community College — and then not have any way back or you have to leave halfway through to catch the last bus. I’d like to see Northwest Trek someday or go to the tulip festival on my own or the Diablo power exhibit, but there’s no transit. At least Trailhead Direct is a start. And you can take Greyhound to Spokane once or twice a day. But you have to take Greyhound or Amtrak to Olympia because off-peak transit between Lakewood and Olympia is on-again, off-again, and the one-seat express bus that ran for a while was one-way for Olympia residents. And if you want night owl you’d better be between N 125th and S 100th or along highway 99. All these things are things that are much better connected in other countries. But the Futurama car-centric vision has blown these possibilities out of people’s minds, and the tax-cutters that think transit is socialist make it harder. The local electeds drive some of this but overall they’re just following it and can’t rise above it, and we haven’t been able to elect enough better politicians yet. When we do then things will turn around, especially if they also change at the federal level. But we’ll have lost so many years and decades, and so many economic opportunities and cultural opportunities, even when it does finally happen.

    3. “making project support a measure of commitment to transit”

      When there’s only one project in town that has enough widespread political support to actually be approved, then yes, project support equals transit support. Otherwise you’re telling all the riders whose service isn’t upgraded that their delays and unreliability don’t matter. You can’t compare a proposal to an imaginary ideal that would never be approved (at least not without electing a completely new legislature and city/county councils and changing the minds of hundreds of thousands of voters).

  4. Martin leaves for a week and all hell breaks loose. No sports metaphor? Not that it matters to me since I’m not a 12. Seriously though, excellent podcast. Peter’s take on the Paris Metro was quite interesting, and Frank’s analysis of Durkin’s behavior and priorities sounds very accurate.

    Paris’s 2-3 minute trains isn’t unique. Moscow and St Petersburg runs at that level, and London were the District and Circle lines overlap, etc. In Moscow and St Petersburg, 10 minutes is what it drops to between 8:30pm and the end of service at midnight or 1am.

  5. Why does Peter think that digging a cut and cover station on Fifth Avenue would mean the streetcar would be severed?

    When BART dug the Market Street Subway, they tore up the street from end to end over an eight year period. During the entire period Muni streetcars ran on a temporary structure over the trench.

    The streetcar would only have to bridge the trench at one place for thirty or forty feet. That’s easy.

    1. The MUNI streetcars are a major tourist attraction, central circulator, and the primary transit link between Market Street and the wharves. while our streetcars don’t do very much and the CCC is off to the side. Also, San Francisco prioritizes transit more than Seattle does.

      1. Back when the BART tunnel was being dug (along with the MUNI Metro tunnel above), the Streetcars on Market really weren’t a tourist attraction yet, just a part of the transport network, they also didn’t extend to Fisherman’s Wharf yet.

      2. Just to not create confusion: Tom is referring to Muni Metro light rail lines in the 1970’s — that were using PCC cars. Today’s PCC streetcars on current streetcar routes E and F are on the historic bus routes 8 and 32. SF was smart to replace bus lines with streetcar lines so that they could keep about the same number of drivers (the biggest operating cost component).

    1. I haven’t either. He’s absent right now because he’s coaching little league season. But he was disillusioned by ST’s decision-making process when it said there would be time to advocate for better alignments later (e.g., 8th & Madison now) and then saying it’s too late and you should have done it earlier (before the ST3 vote). That and the underwhelming performance of Move Seattle may be taking its toll. It has for me. “We voted all this money and we were going to get something better than usual, and then it starts unraveling. Will we ever be able to push the boulder up to the top of the hill?”

  6. I rode the Paris Metro several years ago. It was one of the most convenient subways I have ever ridden. One drawback I noticed was no elevators. No station that I remember in Paris could even be built in Seattle due to federal ADA laws. Have their stations changed or modernized recently?

    1. I don’t know about Paris but I notice that London is retrofitting stations to make them accessible and building all new stations accessible and putting wheelchair icons on the route map next to accessible stations, even though they don’t have an ADA. So it may be generally happening around the world, and Paris is waiting for a more general refurbishment to do it.

      1. I have also been to London and ridden The Tubes. This was in 1991, just like Paris. They had escalators. I liked that. We stayed at some hostel near Paddington Station. One Tube station had broken escalators. I don’t know which one. It was near a Sunday market. We walked down a long spiral staircase to the platform. I thought it was fun. We ran down them.I repeat; ran down them. Today, I need the escalator. Even if they open up stairs, the Husky Station is too deep for me to climb those stairs. My knees are 27 years older. That is why I pay attention to the details of these older systems. Yes they go everywhere. Yes they run every 5 minutes. Yes they were cheaper to build. But, no, I could no longer ride some of them. I can stand on a bus or a train for hours, but stairs hurt. I hope Sound Transit puts in good escalators in their new stations.

      2. ADA does not require escalators. They only require elevators. Every agency invents when they install them.

        Those with knee problems number orders of magnitude higher than those in wheelchairs. 1/4 of all adult women and 1/2 of all people above 65 have arthritis. For many, walking down stairs is scarier and more painful than walking up stairs.

        ST gets to choose how they install escalators and which direction they go. Recently, ST pulled all of the down escalators in Lynnwood Link without public discussion to save a few million dollars. That’s instead of dropping a half-deck for parking — or creating an art installation that also has functionality so that the escalators can be restored.

        I’ve been very passionate about this even though I barely have knee issues. I’m not sure how to get the attitudes at ST to change to be more compassionate and thoughtful about their design functionality. (Consider how illogical it is to have Seatac fare machines further inside the station than the Orca card readers.) I keep making these points here and at meetings but I don’t see much change. It’s as if those in power (at ST and the writers on this blog) don’t think it’s important because it doesn’t affect them personally.

        It’s a similar insensitivity to those that separate asylum-seeking parents from their kids because it doesn’t affect them.

  7. Small point: Move Seattle does not fund bus service. Move Seattle passed in 2015; the bus hour funding measure (an expansion of the funding capacity of the city’s Transportation Benefit District) passed the year before, in 2015. STBD has some extra money for transit because of bus and staffing limits; Move Seattle’s transit piece does not have extra money–there’s quite a shortfall.

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