Everett Transit's new Proterra electric bus

This is an open thread.

93 Replies to “News Roundup: Rising Steeply”

  1. I’m a frequent flier and I’m really looking forward to flying from Paine Field. I have a feeling this airport will exceed projections, I hope they manage to expand enough to keep up.

    1. Looking forward to PAE service too! It takes me 1hr30 to 1hr45 to get to SeaTac by transit. Now it’ll take me 50-60min. The only drawback is that the walk from Airport Rd to the terminal is uncovered.

  2. Cracks in tracks, very nice. A continuation of Sound Transit’s illustrious *track* record lol.
    Have any of you taken the train following a Husky game? That Husky Stadium station is a worthless POS for games that can’t even begin to handle a fraction of the crowds. Very disappointing to experience these problems after waiting 20 years, billions over budget and an underdelivered route.

    1. I have used ST and the UWS for every Husky home game since U-Link opened. It’s definitely busy, but it’s also a very well managed exercise in crowd management. Do you actually use it, or are you just making a comment on the lines you see after the games? The line is very, very long, but it moves surprisingly fast, and it’s really only 15-20 minutes before you’re on a SB moving train. It’s an amazingly effective operation that ST puts on at UWS when the Dawgs are home.

      This gets to a larger point that I don’t understand – the people here who love to bash UWS. The negative commentary is ridiculous. I use the station every day, and it’s one of the best pieces of mass transit infrastructure anywhere on the globe (and I’ve ridden on a lot of them). From some of the replies here, you’d think it was in the Earth’s core and that you have to fight goblins on the way down to the platform. If the entrance monitor says 2 minutes until the next train, and as long as you are walking and not using the escalators like an amusement park ride, you can easily make it. Even if it says 1 minute (assuming it’s a true minute plus a few seconds), if you run down, you can make it. It has become a vibrant hub around the station, and the trains are generally filled, so it’s not like normal people are finding it too cumbersome.

      1. The big problem with UW Station, at least for me, is that the transfers between buses and trains are awful. The closest bus stop is about a 500 foot walk from the station entrance/exit. Transferring to light rail from the 65 or the 372 requires about a 1/4 mile walk from Stevens Way. Given that UW Station is the second busiest Link station, this is a crazy design.

      2. Oh come on.

        OK, I get your point. Whining about game day performance of a station that is as close as possible to the stadium is silly. They don’t have enough trains and they don’t run as often as they can. Boo hoo. Husky football games happen, what, a half dozen times a year? Throw in graduation ceremonies, the basketball games and just about every event that side of Montlake Boulevard and you are talking about only a handful of occasions each year. Eventually they will get more trains and run them more often and that particular problem will solve itself.

        But that isn’t the issue. That isn’t why people think the station is bad. The station is bad because it *only* works for those rare occasions when there is a major event there. And guess what? Those are the times when you have loads of cops and other officials directing traffic. It really doesn’t matter where you drop off people *on game day*, what matters is where you drop off people the other 359 days of the year. During those times, the station is terrible.

        Why? Because it not where people want to go! Other than the very tiny clinic that is part of the stadium, there is nothing on that side of the street. To get to the hospital, you have to cross over two streets. Seriously — even to just get to the hospital (nowhere near any entrance, let alone the middle of the thing) you have to cross two streets: https://goo.gl/maps/EKabQxGPGuv. To get to the campus — the main destination for most of the riders — you have to go from an underground station, to an elevated walkway. That is horrible. It means everyone that is headed to class (to teach or to learn) has to spend an extra five minutes just changing elevation, before they begin their long trek across Montlake Triangle. Oh, and how about the bus interaction. Same thing. From the bowels of a very deep station you have to emerge, only to rise well above the surface and then descent to bus stop. A bus stop.

        I’m sorry, but that isn’t good. That isn’t even average. They picked the worst possible corner to put the station while managing to connect to campus via a major grade change. Unless you are trying to get in shape, it is a terrible station.

      3. “you have to go from an underground station, to an elevated walkway. That is horrible. It means everyone that is headed to class (to teach or to learn) has to spend an extra five minutes just changing elevation, before they begin their long trek across Montlake Triangle.”

        What, you’re complaining that people have to go up in order to get out of an underground station?

        If they’re going to campus they take one elevator directly from the platform to the bridge, or there are escalators all the way up (going down, with one short stairway), and then walk essentially level to campus or the 372 bus stops. The bridge even avoids crossing Montlake Boulevard on the surface. What’s not to like besides the distance between the entrance to Stevens Way? Southbound you even get a million-dollar view of Mt Rainier.

        “Oh, and how about the bus interaction. Same thing. From the bowels of a very deep station you have to emerge, only to rise well above the surface and then descent to bus stop.”

        Nobody has to go up to go down. If you’re going to the Pacific Street or Montlake Blvd bus stops you go out the surface entrance and walk level to your bus stop, That’s less than half the distance to Stevens Way and takes only one or two minutes from entrance to bus stop.

      4. Come on Mike, just look at the picture: https://goo.gl/maps/XfxNQfvTjj92. That is a pedestrian overpass connection to an underground railway system. If you are trying to get to a southbound bus, you have to go up and over (https://goo.gl/maps/TqsiAuwgGEG2). This, by the way, is exactly the bus stop that Frank wants to use for additional buses (after painting more of the street red). The other direction the bus stop is also three minutes away (https://goo.gl/maps/r5pHKSdQ3Xr). Yes, in both cases you might be better off just walking along the surface, waiting for a light and crossing. But that is my point! They built a fancy new pedestrian overpass, and made it practically useless for a lot of the trips. The problem is the the overpass connects to an underground station. If the station was elevated, the overpass would be wonderful. Since people would have to descend anyway, it would allow you to do that on the other side of the street. But that isn’t the case right now. Either you ignore it, or live with the up and down.

        Folks headed to campus live with the up and down. Those headed to a bus on Stevens Way live with the up and down. Those who want to ride a bike (or just walk) the Burke Gilman live with the up and down.

        I’m not suggesting that the station be elevated, I’m suggesting that the station is in the wrong place. Imagine if it were right in the middle of the triangle, You already have an underground connection to the hospital. Seriously! It is already built, which means many of your riders are already way ahead (they would be in the hospital by the time they are lined up to cross one of the two streets today). Those headed to campus would emerge from a tunnel near the Burke Gilman. You would also have openings in the triangle itself, making connections to the bus stops trivial. SR 520 buses wouldn’t have to devise something clever to serve the area, but simply do a loop similar to what the 44 does. (Of course if ST was really thinking, they would have had a stop right at SR 520, so that the buses wouldn’t have to deal with the Montlake bridge at all).

        The point is, it is a lousy station. It is clearly worse than the obvious alternative (putting it in the triangle). The triangle, by the way, does not contain an old, historic building. It doesn’t contain a building at all. It an underground parking garage — a perfect place to tear up, to put in an underground rail station.

        We can go through history, and talk about why this bad decision was made. Lots of people will make lots of excuses. But the point is, it was a bad decision.

        But more importantly, we are on the verge of making another, very similar bad decision! Twenty years from now, someone who lives in Ballard — or someone who visits Ballard — will wonder why they put the “Ballard” station so far away from actual Ballard. Once again someone will be able to give various excuses (didn’t want to upset the port, or spend extra money getting close to the heart of Ballard). The funny part is, someone will point out that the initial plan was actually cheaper. In other words, they spent extra money making it worse! I’m sure critics will find that all kind of interesting, but mainly they will agree that it is a terrible station.

    2. U-Link is immensely better than the previous buses that were slow, unreliable, overcrowded, and less frequent. I haven’t seen it when a Husky game starts or ends so I don’t know how well it manages the crowds. But ST certainly tried to give it enough capacity, with two escalators and two elevators next to each other. The main problem is that they keep breaking down. That’s the piece of s***. ST’s auditor said that it should have bought heavy-duty escalators rather than regular escalators, then they would have held up for their 30-year rated life. ST has already spent 50% of the cost difference reacting to the breakdowns. I hope it manages to do a long-term fix. And I hope it gets less pedantic about blocking stopped escalators over time. I have always avoided elevators to save electricity and give room for the disabled and those with bikes or bulky items or really tired, but I’ve encountered enough stopped escalators that forced me to go around to the other side that now I take the elevator to avoid any possibility of them.

    3. I have started taking the UW Station about 3 days a week. I am used to it now. I also used it right after a Husky game to go to work. The station did not seem to have a problem that day. But the Metro reroutes were not smooth at all. This may be because of new scheduling or the night games. I don’t know. My bus driver got lost. He got so confused he had to stop, back up, and turn around on a narrow street somewhere behind University Village. Then when he finally got to the end of his route, he did not know where the Link Shuttle was located. When I finally found it, there were only 3 people plus me on it.

      I have also noticed that signage to get to Metro from Link could be improved. Some of the busses are on Stevens Way and some are directly across the street. I know where they are but many other people do not. Plus if you are riding on game day, like I did, forgot to check alerts, you would not know that none of those routes terminate there. Part of that was my fault. I didn’t check. It just seems like Metro and Sound Transit need to work together on some better signage to make the station transfers smoother. Even with One Bus Away, and Trip Planner, the instructions are not easy for someone new. I have had to explain it a few times to people. Other than the game transfers, I have had relatively good luck with that station.

      1. Whatever a pedestrian bride to the hospital costs, it’s worth it. Can’t see where it’s even hard to put in.


    4. If only there were a station on the upper side of campus. Let’s call this hypothetical solution “University District Station”.

  3. I was reviewing the Stakeholder committee reports and found this sentence in the Racial Equity Toolkit memo:

    “Deeper station alternatives, both the 4th Avenue Bored Tunnel / Mined Station and 5th Avenue Bored Tunnel / Mined Station alternatives, would be about 200 feet deep and would be limited to elevator access only, resulting in less convenient access for patrons entering and exiting the station or transferring.”


    So for the most important transfer point in the region, ST is considering an elevator only station? Really? REALLY? I think that should immediately disqualify these alternatives!

    1. After the debacle that is UW Station access, I can sort of understand why they’d be reticent to have escalators.

      Doesn’t make it the right decision in the slightest though, unless they’re planning to have 8 elevators per platform (which we all know they’re not).

      1. The problem isn’t so much the presence of escalators. The larger problem is the lack of public non-emergency stairs. Making emergency stairs open to the public for getting down to the platform defeats the point of having those emergency stairwells. Opening up the emergency stairwells in UW Station permanently would be a very bad idea, in my book.

        Making emergency stairwells open to the public to provide egress from an elevated station (such as at the north end of SeaTac Airport Station) does make sense.

        Making emergency stairwells open to the public, temporarily, to clear platforms created by inbound traffic, also makes sense as a safety valve. That applies more to Capitol Hill Station right before mega-events, and requires extra personnel to ensure they are used as a one-way path.

        Having twice as many escalators to get out of a station as to get into the station also makes sense since the vast majority of crowd surges come when passengers exit the train. For underground stations, this also serves as crowd control. This ought to be the standard for future stations, and for retrofits. But prioritize having a public stairwell.

        Unfortunately, for clearing crowds, the trains can only clear the platform so fast, and the platforms have to stay within fire department occupancy limits. And so, as long as there are not enough LRVs picking up at UWS right after games, queues will be a fact of life.

        Once Northgate Station opens, expect more complicated queueing, with one entrance used to queue up for northbound trains and the other for southbound trains. One will go faster than the other. Failing to separate the queues will waste space on the less-popular-direction trains, and hold up people going that direction needlessly.

        There are little fixes that could happen in the meantime, like going to 4-car trains for clearing crowds once enough of the Siemens LRVs are in service, having turnback trains that just go from UWS to downtown, and encouraging fans to hang around for the post-game band performance. Not having a train ride available immediately after a sportsball event is certainly a 1st world problem that I just won’t lose much sleep over.

      2. The deep bored / mined stations would appear to require about 343 steps!

        200 feet x 12 inches a foot / 7 inches per step

      3. I agree with Brett. The problem at the UW is the lack of stairs. You would still have elevators (Ness) but you need a backup, and stairs make sense for that.

        But the issue Al is raising is a different matter. The depth of a station matters, regardless of how you expect to get to the surface. The time spent getting to the platform seems to be ignored, even though it effects each and every riders. Sometimes I think ST thinks these trains are like Amtrak, not a subway. Simply calling them “stations”, instead of “stops” suggests that attitude. If the train to Portland is a bit inconvenient, either because it takes a while to get to the platform, or is several blocks away from where I am, then it is no big deal. It really won’t change my mind in terms of how I get there. But with a subway station, it makes a huge difference, as Mount Baker “Station” has shown. If it a pain to get there, people won’t use it. They will walk, take the bus or drive.

      4. Just to put into context: The UW station is 95 feet down. This proposal for this major transfer point is 200 feet down! That’s twice as deep!

        Keep in mind that this also affects surface bus and streetcar riders and Sounder riders as well as Link riders.

      5. “Making emergency stairs open to the public for getting down to the platform defeats the point of having those emergency stairwells. Opening up the emergency stairwells in UW Station permanently would be a very bad idea, in my book.”

        Why? The people entering/exiting the train are the same people regardless of whether there’s an emergency or not. I’ve been down the emergency stairs once when three escalators were out simultaneously. The guards had the doors open and were guiding people to the stairs, but the alarm kept sounding the whole time. They should turn off the alarm. I assume the technology is not so braindead as to not be turn-offable.

        The main reason UW Station doesn’t have public stairs is that it’s so deep that few people would want to walk all the way up or down them. That doesn’t directly relate to the problem of broken escalators, because the escalators weren’t supposed to be massively defective or underspecked. Instead, broken escalators are a perfect reason to open the emergency stairs because that’s what they’re there for, as a backup exit in case the primary ones fail.

      6. There are no stairs at the new Hudson Yards station in NYC. I assume when the escalators are out of service, the MTA lets passengers walk down/up the stalled escalators. It seems ST’s overly cautious policy to close the escalators entirely is just another example of special snowflake Seattle doing things differently for no good reason.

        Yes, Hudson Yards has more than one entrance and more than one set of escalators. Still, I cannot imagine anyone could successfully prevent New Yorkers from walking anywhere.

      7. Not sure I follow, Ross. You’re saying that use of the word “station” is evidence that ST treats theirs like an intercity railroad station? That’s…odd. I can’t think of an urban rail system anywhere in the English speaking world that uses “stop” instead of “station.” Even in London, where colloquially you may occasionally hear “Tube stop,” TfL refers to them as “stations.” Streetcars/trams and buses use “stop.” (However, they still should get rid of that silly and redundant “Station” on the on-board scrolling signs and train announcements!)

        Does the depth of a station matter for transfers? Of course – although really deep stations all over the world use elevator banks, and I don’t once recall being at Beacon Hill and thinking “I think I’ll drive because I have to wait for this elevator otherwise.” And yes, Mount Baker, TIBS, 145th et al are not well designed for bus transfers – we certainly have to keep ST’s feet to the fire at 130th and other stations currently in design to make sure they do much better in this regard than they have done in the past.

      8. Mike, the reason the stairs are alarmed is that the doors are not supposed to be propped open. Emergency stairs are to protect against fire and smoke when escaping the station from depth (which is why the escalators don’t technically count as means of emergency egress). Propping the doors open on all but a very temporary, staffed basis would defeat their primary purpose. When the station is shallower this isn’t an issue, which is why the stairs at Westlake, ID, etc. can be open (even then, at Capitol Hill there are also emergency stairs). Depending on the code requirements, they may also be being used as protected “areas of refuge” for people who cannot use the stairs since normally elevators are out of use during emergencies. If that’s the case at any of the stations, the doors are assuredly meant to remain closed at all times – not inoperable or unusable, just closed.

        That doesn’t mean they can’t be used, of course – but they had better add monitoring and other safety features as well if they are to be open to the public. I assume they don’t want the stairs used due to this and due to the need to clean them frequently. Again – not saying they can’t or shouldn’t be used, just that it’s not as simple as propping open the door and turning off the alarm – which very likely can only be done by the fire department anyway.

      9. I thought the alarm was to catch and embarrass people who open it unautborized. If there’s an evacuation, of course it would be propped open, because if every person had to open it the evacuation would take too long. But all this is irrelevant to the issue of turning off the alarm if the door is opened by a guard because an escalator is broken.

      10. As I said, the alarm may not be able to be turned off except by the fire department. It’s not an anti-theft type thing where the alarm is a deterrent; in so far as it may act as one that’s a secondary benefit and not related to life safety codes. It’s tied into the entire safety system for the station, not just a stand-alone “don’t use me” single door alarm. That is quite relevant to your comment.

        The doors are specifically not supposed to be propped open even in case of emergency – it’s why they have panic bars. If there are a lot of people using them continuously in an emergency evacuation then of course the doors are open much of the time (for a fairly short period) as people pass through them, but stairwells would act as chimneys if there were a fire on a lower level and the doors were propped open. This clearly would be a very bad thing.

      11. Yes – they are on the side traffic is coming from for emergency egress. Doors open in the direction of travel.

      12. Thanks, Oran – I didn’t want to get further into the code weeds but yes, these are definitely not handles and are often mandated by fire codes.

    2. This affects transferring for Sounder and buses and the streetcar, as well as affecting Link lines.

      1. Can’t believe the construction industry can’t give us a shaft and a heavy-duty motor for an emergency mechanism to get people to the surface.


        Guess they can. Let’s check it out. And leave one ready to go at Sea-Tac Airport Station, where it would be zero of a big deal to leave it assembled.


      1. A caisson operates at higher than atmospheric pressures because it has to be pressurized to keep the water out. Being under 33 ft of water creates the same pressure as the entire depth of the earth’s atmosphere. A deep, open station (no airlocks) would be effectively at the same pressure as the surface and decompression is not an issue.

    3. I agree – I don’t think anything deeper than UW should be built again. Beacon Hill seems to just barely function and IDS has more than twice as many boardings under current conditions. Have they actually modeled how long it would take people to get in and out of these stations!?!

      1. If they could find a way to stop putting in unnecessary mezzanines that might help with the ingress/egress.

      2. How ’bout this, BEL and Brad. Seen it in Europe. Basically a long, sloping indoor shopping and restaurant street, with entrances along its whole route, starting at a large opening wherever convenient.

        Gentle enough slope for wheel chairs. Though, airport style battery-powered small passenger coaches. Main advantages: widens choice of entrance locations. And no mechanical vertical transportation required.

        Extra mezzanines? Function of how mostly-vertical construction has to follow the contours of the ground. Something like an inlay in a tooth. But wonder if we could still do those slanted hallways in a station already finished.


      3. My own radical record is worse than classic Buddy Holly. At a legislative hearing several years ago, my statement against paved shoulders replacing actual lanes- like my first accident leaving a bolt scratch on my artic on SR520.

        But had my comment seconded by the Chief of the State Police. Well, one is known by, etc.

        Sign of old age, though. I’d pay anything for a transit ride watching women apply lipstick and eye-shadow. Or see this anyplace else. If necessary, would ask for licenses from arts commission. Strongly suggesting veils and nylons with seams.

        But my usual take on chartreuse hair would get me sprayed with fluorescent purple. However, Swedish rail has solved the problem:


        Think about it- or try not to ’til there’s actually one on your trains. Or bus.


      4. Beacon Hill could be massively improved with minor programming changes to the elevators. They currently dwell at the midpoint until called. Two should wait at the top, and two at the bottom unless in use. It’s absolutely ridiculous that with a bank of four when a train arrives one elevator leaves, then it’s a 15-20 second wait for the next one to arrive after being called.

  4. According to an email from Mike O’Brien staffer, based on feedback MOB has heard, he will recommend Armory Way/Tunnel/ 14th ave station option (with access to the station from 15th ave) at Elected Leader’s Group meeting on Friday morning. MOB will also support a fixed bridge on 14th, but recommends tunnel. MOB does not support tunnel further west because it will cost $200 million more.

    City will move forward with mixed bridge option, representative option of movable bridge will move forward. Possible to mix and match tunnel options and station location.

      1. The city’s recommendation (according to the email, to keep it in the mix as an option)

    1. Great, so not only will the station be far from where all the transferring bus riders are (on 15th), it’ll also be really deep. This makes the UW Station transfer environment look good, FFS.

      1. The representative/default alignment is on 15th (with a movable bridge) is how I take it. See “mix and match”

    2. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse…

      They seem to be favoring the worst possible stations. One important thing to remember is that “14th” is a big misnomer. It isn’t a normal size block. It is about two and a half blocks. From 14th to 15th is about 650 feet. From 56th to 58th is about 520 feet. Google puts the walking time at three minutes: https://goo.gl/maps/q4k8RaYFB7F2.

      Given that large distance, it seems weird that they could even consider an entrance on 15th. Of course, as Pat suggests, it may not make much difference. A lot of time will simply be spent going deep into the station. All so that you can be next to a McDonalds and KFC (seriously — this is the “urban village” you are serving). It is a terrible location and a terrible station, from every aspect.

      There are trade-offs with any station. But these are the worst. I realize it is a bit complicated, because of the mix of destination as well depth. That is why it is probably simpler to break down each aspect:

      Elevated — Closest to the surface. Can be extended relatively cheaply (if it is on 15th). Also cheapest to build.

      Underground — Can serve areas that are difficult to impossible to serve otherwise (like 20th).

      15th — Best for bus interaction. If above ground, can be extended relatively cheaply.

      17th or 20th — Best way to serve riders who simply walk to the station.

      14th — No advantage in any respect.

      So, basically O’Brien is supporting the worst possible combination. Nice job, dude.

      1. Now that I think about it, though, a station at 14th would have one benefit. Those who want a Ballard to UW subway have a very strong case for it. After all, no one can really say that Ballard even has a station if it is built there, let alone that it is adequate to serve the area. West Woodland, on the other hand, can rejoice (I suggest the party take place at KFC).

      2. Again, see “mix and match.” O’Brien always was in a favor of the Ballard to UW subway– he even proposed it awhile back before the SDOT proposal.

      3. Nice to see that O’Brien understands the important of a Ballard to UW subway. Hard to see what his reasoning is with the Ballard Station is though. The representative project seems like it is clearly better in every respect, while a tunnel to 17th or 20th would at least be closer to the bulk of the walk-up riders.

        Yes, the city is willing to “mix and match”, but the only reason to tunnel is to serve the heart of Ballard. Otherwise you are spending a bunch of money and getting nothing. It will take longer for people to get to the platform and never be extended north (because it will be too expensive). Oh, and it will be less enjoyable for riders. Instead of a wonderful view of one of the most picturesque cities in the world, you would be in a tunnel. This is unavoidable in some areas, but not here.

      4. The Port of Seattle and the Ballard Chamber of commerce are both pro tunnel. The Port made their feelings known the other day. Given the history of the Burke Gilman trail fight (led by the Ballard Chamber of commerce), is it another potential battle on a tunnel through the middle of Ballard?

        Plus, the cost of a tunnel through the middle of Ballard might take away from the precious West Seattle line. /snark

      5. >> The Port of Seattle and the Ballard Chamber of commerce are both pro tunnel.

        Then they should have supported Ballard to UW! Seriously, the plan was not to build a tunnel. The plan was to build a bridge. Not just to save money, but because it is the better option. What about the voters who were excited to ride a train high over the ship canal and figured that by being elevated it would eventually be extended to 85th? Now they have to deal with a really deep platform that is no closer to the heart of Ballard! When in doubt — when the alternatives are worse *and* more expensive than what people voted for — the board should just go with the representative project.

    3. Oh, and if the city really does spend a bundle on a tunnel (along with a really long pathway from 15th to 14th) what does that mean for West Seattle? Do you really think West Seattle folks will sit still and let trains go close to their beloved Junction, while Ballard gets a tunnel? That seems like a political nightmare, all to gain nothing. I get why folks in West Seattle want to preserve the one interesting place on the entire peninsula (although I think the elevated plans manage to do that). But 15th and Market is garbage. We aren’t debating whether to run elevated or underground through old Ballard, but whether to preserve views of Walgreens and the Safeway gas station.

      So the only way to not hurt anyone’s feelings is to spend a fortune digging tunnels to *both* Ballard and West Seattle, something ST knew years ago would be too expensive! That is why they chose above ground routes, instead of just building something smaller and more cost effective (like a Ballard to UW subway). Jeesh.

      I guess as long as the representative project (the lesser of the remaining evils) is carried forward, then I shouldn’t freak out. But the fact that so many of the folks on the board seem to be clueless about these things is very disturbing (although sadly, not that surprising).

      1. As you probably know, I’m a big Ballard to UW fan too– but that dream died when the SDOT proposal came out.

        Again, from the options the furthest west the station will go is 15th. I tend to be agnostic on fixed bridge vs. tunnel (I’ve been on the 15X too many times when a sailboat causes the bridge to open at 6pm to support a drawbridge) But look at the political realities– the Chamber and the Port don’t want the crossing too far west. If you want to put up with Burke Gilman like lawsuits, go ahead.

      2. It’s not the Board yet. It’s the Stakeholder and Elected Official committees. I’ve long maintained that thes committees are lacking in real-world rider concerns. ST should either add a Riders committee review or add several designated riders onto these existing committees. These ancillary interests are consistently given more power than riders in this current structure. Business associations and neighborhood councils should not be as important as riders are.

        I wish there was more of an outcry about developing and rushing alternatives to please other interests at the expense of riders for the next century. Riders should be put first in all of this.

      3. The reality is that the money isn’t there for tunnels. This is posturing by politicians pandering to constituents who only think “tunnel good, elevated bad.”

        The budget reality will eventually dictate what gets built, and I am not expecting a tunnel.

      4. I hope you are right, jas.

        Yes, mdnative, I realize there is the possibility of a lawsuit, but when they build *exactly what they said they were going to build*, I think that threat is diminished. Just consider the opposite. What if someone sues, basically saying they aren’t building what they promised? It seems like they have a pretty good case with the changes.

        Oh, and a bridge that opens will be very high (70 feet) which means openings will be rare. We are also talking about a train that will at most come every six minutes. Just do the math and you can see that an elevated option is a much bigger time saver (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/10/02/port-comes-out-against-movable-ballard-bridge-occidental-alignment-for-link/#comment-808422).

      5. Has anybody yet got a single real-world fact about cost or construction speed, not for tunnels in general, but for one under the Ship Canal at Ballard, and another one from Ballard to the University District?

        From the editors on down, can’t we find a single actual tunnel engineer to tell us these things? Because I’ve got a feeling it’ll make a lot of our decisions on tunnel direction, station locations, depth, and speed of construction a lot easier to make.

        Especially in earthquake country, a the deeper the tunnel, the better it’ll withstand a ‘quake. Which rolls the ground like an ocean wave- about 20 feet down. And under some conditions, is cheaper and easier to dig than to cut and cover.

        Deep station elevators and escalators certainly are a major consideration. But have a feeling that elsewhere in he world, systems have been doing this long enough to give us the info we need. Good intro here?


        But promise from me. Every time I hear somebody say that Southwest Seattle to Ballard and Ballard to the University District are in hostile competition, I’m going to call you on it.

        Because technically, if these sets of track are considered as part of the same project, we might find out it’ll make construction of each easier, faster, and cheaper.

        For instance, staging area at, say, Market and Fifteenth could serve both lines at the same time. Or similar, whole length of both.

        But one thing I can guarantee. As with any other really big public endeavor, hundred percent of the time, first serious case of division, the whole thing falls under the control of the people who like arguing better than work.

        Who’ll never be the real majority until their approach to discussion makes greatest number of stakeholders go home, stick a crucifix in the lock of their door, calk all the windows shut with garlic, get a video feed from Forks, and practice their really bad Balkan accents.

        Truth was, though, that Bela Lugosi came from same part of Transylvania where Dracula really lived. And post Communist Romania has joined the world in making the guy a hero. Now see what you’ve started!


        Which one is from Ballard? And which one,West Seattle…..Owooooooooo!


    1. There have been a variety of articles on this and reactions to it. Bike counters (which, like ACS, run all year; unlike ACS they have the advantage of counting bikes directly, counting trips other than just work commutes, and they’re easy to break down by date, but don’t allow the other demographic breakdowns) also showed very low numbers in 2017, but confined to the early part of the year, which had outlier-bad weather (literally the coldest, wettest winter in recorded history). Bike-counter numbers rebounded in late 2017 and have continued to do fine in 2018.

      I think some reactions were a bit too triumphal when strong early-2018 bike counter numbers started rolling in; 2nd Ave and Fremont are settling into new normal levels following completion of new infrastructure while West Seattle Bridge numbers have been suppressed by construction events. Then some reactions have been a bit too pessimistic about the recently-released 2017 numbers. Weather was bad, the bike counters confirm it, and they’re back up this year. Overall the picture is of general disappointment. We’re growing in population and jobs, but people’s commutes are getting longer as people struggle to affording housing near their jobs. We’re improving some bike routes but every new car on the road degrades them (as in the notorious Mercer box-blocking situation and the growing mess of app-taxis blocking bike lanes). So biking isn’t doing the thing it should be able to do: making the city work by giving people an option to move efficiently when bigger vehicles can’t.

  5. Seattle employers of at least 20 may be required ($) to offer pre-tax transit passes

    This is good news, but what’s with the “may be required?” The legislation is passed. Is there some uncertainty I’m missing, or should that may be changed to will?

  6. When scooters become more widely available, scooter-related injuries increase. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Unless the studies the mayor cited look at whether other forms of traffic-related injuries decreased, those studies are worthless.

    Finding a way to keep scooter-shares from becoming street furniture and a problem for blind pedestrians is something the we’re-just-an-app engineers are going to have to study harder. Docks failed for bikeshares. Personal ownership and carrying with might actually be the better model for scooters. Slightly larger four-wheeled would be more about my speed, should I decide to go shopping for one. I’ll also feel safer on one of those than on a bike.

    1. Docks failed for bikeshares.

      No, docks failed for bikeshares in Seattle. Jeesh. I get it, we are a provincial town, but really. Dockable bike share has been very successful all over the world, as long as you apply the same basic formula (which we ignored).

      Oh, and remember what everyone said when they failed? We have too much rain, or too many hills. We are special — no other city is like us.

      Absolute nonsense. It was simply a lack of stations, as all the evidence would suggest. Anyway, sorry for the sidetrack.

      I’ll also feel safer on one of those than on a bike.

      Seriously? I can’t imagine how you would be able to stop as fast or maneuver as well. If you are going really slow, I guess it doesn’t matter, which is why so many people just ride them on the sidewalk. But the city doesn’t want a lot of people clogging up the sidewalks with those things. In general, they are just an inherently more dangerous vehicle. Their main advantages are portability and ease of use. As you said, portability suggests they make more sense as an owned vehicle (just like electric skateboards, some of which have brakes now). But ease of use remains an advantage. A four year old can learn how to ride one before they master a bike.

      1. “As you said, portability suggests they make more sense as an owned vehicle”

        They’re still big enough and heavy enough to make taking them on an escalator or a bus a real pain, which means, if you want them to be usable for last-mile transportation for people arriving in town on public transit, it works much better if they’re rented.

        “Dockable bike share has been very successful all over the world, as long as you apply the same basic formula (which we ignored).”

        As you said, in order for the docked model to work, you need tons and tons of stations that are just everywhere, so nobody has to go riding around in circles, wondering where the nearest station is, or have to go searching around for an open dock, like a car has to go searching around for an opening parking spot. The problem is that building that many stations, with that many docks is a huge expense that just doesn’t scale with a service area the size of the entire city. And, sometimes, the problem isn’t even just money – if one business owner says they don’t want a docking station on their block taking away precious car parking, the city caves, and the utility of the system suffers.

        The model docked systems you see in other cities typically only have densely-located docks in a very small subset of the city – perhaps, the combined size of downtown, SLU, Lower Queen Anne, and the western half of Capital Hill. Areas the size of Seattle, they either don’t even attempt to cover, or the dock density drops off precipitously once you leave downtown, to the point where only the major tourist spots have them. Dockless bikes, on the other hand, can very quickly cover the entire city, and even spread beyond the city limits, since, as the bikes are dockless, there is no hard service boundary where users are allowed to leave them.

        Scooters – I think they’d work great for short-distance trips on the Burke-Gilman trail, but for longer distances, a bike really is more comfortable. Safety-wise, scooters are fine on flat ground, but due to the higher center or gravity, steep descents are definitely more hazardous than on a bike. That said, I don’t think an outright ban is the right approach. Better, to just let users use their common sense and stick to the flatter parts of the city. We have plenty of flat’ish biking corridors – Burke-Gilman Trail, Westlake Trail, Elliot Bay Trail, Mercer St. sidewalk, Broadway, 2nd Ave. – that they would still be plenty useful.

      2. “The problem is that building that many stations, with that many docks is a huge expense that just doesn’t scale with a service area the size of the entire city.”

        I haven’t seen other cities’ docked systems but my impression is they’re only downtown or in dense neighborhoods like the U-District.

        The problem with Pronto is that they were located where the sponsors were rather than where the most bicycle trips were. They were actually pretty good between the U-District and UW, and midtown and Summit. But that three-mile gap between downtown and the U-District and the isolated outpost at Children’s were just silly: anyone trylng to ride from downtown to the U-District would be worried about maybe hitting the 30-minute limit for the minimum fare, and downtown to Children’s in half an hour is not possible. When I rode from 55th & UWay to the ferry terminal on Eastlake-Valley-Westlake it took me 25 minutes pedaling fast.

      3. “I haven’t seen other cities’ docked systems but my impression is they’re only downtown or in dense neighborhoods like the U-District.”

        Yes, but simply taking all of the Pronto stations and concentrated them downtown wouldn’t have helped that much. Here are some reasons:

        1) docked bikeshare only works for trips with docks at both ends – so every trip that starts in downtown, but doesn’t end in downtown, or vice-versa, would be excluded. And, only a small minority of downtown trips (not done by walking) both start there and end there.

        2) The downtown area is small enough that many trips would compete with walking, rather than driving. The price of a single ride is generally too high to justify, only to avoid a 10-minute walk.

        3) Most crosstown trips downtown have very steep grades, and no bike facilities, so a downtown service area is basically limited to 2nd Ave. and Pike/Pine.

        4) Virtually any trip along the above corridor long enough to be worth not walking, directly competes with the option of walking to 3rd Ave., or the bus tunnel, and catching whatever vehicle shows up first. If you already have a pass or transfer (if not, how did you get downtown in the first place?), why pay to ride the bike, when the bus is free, and on mostly decided ROW.

        5) Bike infrastructure makes a huge difference. A 3-mile trip might be too long for bikeshare if it means fighting car traffic and waiting at stoplights every other block. But, if it’s 3 miles along the Burke-Gilman trail, that’s just 15 minutes of flat, easy riding at 12 mph – a perfect trip for bikeshare.

        In theory, it is possible to eunumerate all of the biking hotspots and saturate them with docks, but in practice, the amount of effort it would take, plus the expense of building enough docking stations to make it worthwhile means it won’t happen. With a dockless system, we got coverage city-wide, almost overnight, with the users, not central planners, dictating which routes are the most popular. Even the city limit boundary isn’t hard and fast with dockless systems. When users ride them up the Burke-Gilman to Kenmore and Bothell, or over the I-90 bridge to Mercer Island, this generates the proof of demand which helped justify Lime forming a formal agreement with the cities of Mercer Island and Bellevue to deploy bikes there at a larger scale. Talks are also ongoing with Kirkland and Redmond, again, motivated in part by actual users riding the bikes out there.

        With a docked system, there can never be a single ride that ends somewhere where there is not a dock, so any expansion, you have to “prove” demand, without any user data to justify it. Under the original plans, Pronto was eventually supposed to expand to Redmond and Bellevue, but in the end, it never managed to make it, even to Fremont. In practice, it is much, much easier to get better coverage when the system is dockless, and the bikes spread organically, then when the system is docked.

      4. Wow. Here I make a comment about folks being provincial, and you guys go ahead and demonstrate the concept to perfection. Well done.

        I haven’t seen other cities’ docked systems but my impression is they’re only downtown or in dense neighborhoods like the U-District. … The model docked systems you see in other cities typically only have densely-located docks in a very small subset of the city …

        Maybe instead of making assumptions, you should do a little research. Here, I’ll do it for you:

        New York: https://member.citibikenyc.com/map/.
        DC: https://secure.capitalbikeshare.com/map/
        Boston: https://member.bluebikes.com/map/ (Boston is undergoing a big expansion)
        Chicago: https://member.divvybikes.com/stations

        Still confused?

        Sorry to pick on you, but this is why we can’t have nice things. This is the attitude that is all too common — that we, out here in the rugged Northwest, are blazing a trail, solving the problems that have flummoxed other cities for years. Docked bike shares can’t possible work — not if you want to cover a large area. The answer is dockless. Hey, look at that — we have dockless! Wonderful, and cheaper too. Three companies all competing — all making loads of money, serving the populace. Oh, wait. Two companies went out of business. I wonder why? Could it be that they got tired of losing money? No, that couldn’t possibly happen. Oh well, the last remaining company will never raise prices. I’m sure they are cheap. Probably similar to what Boston has, at $100 a year for unlimited rides, right? Right?

      5. Since I didn’t know what they were, I didn’t know that any of those cities had bike shares, or that they’d have websites for them. The last time I was in NY, DC, and Chicago in the mid 2000s they didn’t have bikeshares, and I’ve never been to Boston. The docked bikeshares I’ve heard of are I think in Paris and Montreal. And I think San Francisco has one like Pronto.

      6. Anyway, why are we arguing about docked vs dockless? Isn’t it clear that dockless is better? So that you can drop the bike where it’s convenient for you rather than hunting around for a station. the companies’ business model and profits are their problem. I don’t think Ofo and Spin withered because they were dockless. And Ofo withdrew because of the national average and its desire to focus on its home in China. It was going to close 75% of its US markets, and Seattle was just one of the 75%.

      7. RossB,

        Two of the bikeshares decided not to pay the city’s new fee for another year permit. Two other companies are stepping forward and apparently willing to pay that fee.

        I do expect price increases regardless, as the current prices are introductory to grab market share, and perhaps starve competitors of the opportunity to profit, until a monopoly can be established. The upside of that is that none of the companies will have an incentive to hire someone to go around and cut the competitors’ brake lines (not that that is actually happening).

      8. >> Isn’t it clear that dockless is better?

        No. That is like saying the best bus system will have a bus line on each and every street, that way you don’t have to walk very far. You are ignoring the cost of operations, as well as the other very important part of a bikeshare system.

        For bikeshare to work, customers need to have a reasonable expectation that they can pick up a bike close to where they are, and drop it off close to where they want to go. That is pretty much it.

        That is why systems with lots of station density tend to be more successful (no, I’m not going to link to the studies — I’m tired of doing that).

        But to make it actually work, you need to balance the bikes. You need to physically move the bikes from one place to the other, so that bikes are where people can get to them. Of course it helps to have lots of bikes, and lots of docks, so that you don’t have to do that as often or a customer can get a bike, even when they are in the process of balancing them. But without balancing, the system becomes unreliable. If you can’t count on a bike being close to where you are, then you are effectively not part of the system — it doesn’t work for you.

        Now think about from a business perspective. What are your costs? Bikes aren’t that expensive, especially cheap three speeds. To be fair, they are fairly rugged, but you wouldn’t use these for a ride from Woodinville to Fremont. These are K-Mart bikes, not performance bikes. Same with the docks — really not that expensive. Maintenance is also not that much. You need a crew to take care of the bikes, but a typical bike won’t need any work for dozens of rides. But bikes need to be moved each and every day. You need a busy crew, moving the bikes. That isn’t cheap, and makes for the most expensive part of the operation.

        So, what is cheaper — to move bikes from docks, or to move bikes from the far corners of the city? Obviously the docks is easier. You build in routes, knowing full well that you can pick them up, inspect them, and have them where they need to go in no time. You limit how far you have to go, while making sure that you have bikes where you need them.

        It is obvious that Lime is losing money. The other companies were losing money too, which is why they quit after the city asked them to pay a very small fee. It isn’t clear how many companies will be willing to continue to lose money or for how long, but eventually they will be forced to raise prices. It is not a sustainable model, but one that is common in this new era. The point is, it doesn’t lead to an affordable, better system unless it is actually cheaper to operate. Either it becomes a high end, expensive niche product (serving a handful of people who can afford to pay the prices) or it withers an dies. Given the fact that are moving more towards expensive electric bikes, I think that is the direction they are moving.

    2. FWIW….E-scooters got some tv coverage on the “Back in Black” segment of “The Daily Show” this week. Bird scooters in particular got some unwanted (?) free advertising.

      1. Thanks. I love Lewis Black — I’ll definitely check it out. It should be a good week for the comedy shows that love satire (which is not necessarily a good thing for the country or the world).

      2. Here is the segment. It would seem that scooter riders are acting a fraction as bad as car drivers … leaving their junk on public right-of-way, mowing down pedestrians, and not caring who has to divert out of their way. Maybe we should add pollution-spewing tailpipes to scooters as well.

  7. What is the first year that we will see 4 car trains? Are we waiting for East Link and the new Siemens trains? Can they store a few new trains in SODO a few years before East Link opens? Or is the SODO train barn not at all compatible with both systems? Seems like between March of 2019 and the opening of Nothgate Link would be a good time to experiment or phase them in if possible.

    1. My understanding was when Northgate Link opens (in three years). That is when they think we will need them. It is when they planned on kicking out the buses, too (unfortunately, that will happen much earlier). I also think that ST assumed that Metro wouldn’t take the radical step of truncation all the U-District to downtown express buses (which in turn lead to a lot more riders to the UW). They probably figured that Metro would do that restructure when Link got to the U-District (I know lots of people did).

    2. I’d think that four-car train testing will begin well before Northgate Link opens. It’s the easiest capacity change to make by far.

      Frequencies: I’m not sure about when East Link tracks will have power and pass non-revenue testing, but ST might be able to turn around trains using those tracks before the line opens. The biggest schedule risk to East Link in testing is probably the floating bridge — and the part of the line in Seattle wouldn’t be affected by that. Otherwise, ST would be running more trains at least as far as Stadium and trains more often would effectively make any SODO at-grade crossing permanent where they operated because gates would be down so frequently.

    3. The Link vehicles for the Northgate Link fleet expansion should start arriving in the middle of next year, so it’s possible that we could get four-car trains in 2019 or 2020, but I don’t think that Sound Transit has published any concrete plans or schedule for when they’ll come into revenue service.

      1. Side note: we’ll be kicking ourselves for years to come for putting two diver cabs in each car. What a monumental waste of money and space to have EIGHT driver cabs in every 4 car train. Can someone please explain why this makes sense?

      2. The only explanation that I have is that the people that are buying the vehicles are not seasoned riders that have commuted on crowded urban rail trains for years. Heaven forbid that they listen to those among us that have! We are those cursed arrivals that haven’t paid out political dues!

      3. I know it is possible to build low floor light rail cars without cabs on both ends. It may not be possible to have a low floor design with walk through cars. You would have to go up the stairs, through the door and back down the stairs. It might provide some extra space, but not convenient enough to financially justify the specific request. I agree that it would be nice to have, but I don’t think it is coming.

      4. There have been no quantitative studies reported to the Board (that I’ve seen) that disclose how crowded trains might be once ST3 opens.

        Of course, if crowding is an issue, it won’t occur on every line simultaneously.ST could simply buy new cars that have fewer cabs. Keep in mind that the improved ST3 frequencies add 33 percent more trains for most lines and the Link track miles will go from 54 to 116 so that will roughly mean doubling the number of train cars just to maintain ST2 frequencies. Another option is to sell the train cars.

        As an ST planning issue, vehicle replacement is a much more solvable and shorter-term problem than bad station design is. Every new station will be used as-is for a century.

      5. ST says it’s for operational flexibility, so that it can swap out individual cars for maintenance or split the trainsets any way. Most of us think that’s bogus because maximizing capacity is a higher priority, especially when some people are already concerned about possible overcrowding between Westlake and Capitol Hill. We build a second tunnel to handle capacity peaks but we don’t address the lost capacity in the train design? Open-gangway trains must be less expensive than more tunnels and tracks or pressure-relief express buses.

      6. Trimet has been using paired sets of 2 cars for years now. They still have the old low-level cars from the 1990s if they want to run single-car trains. Sound Transit has enough railcars for operational flexibliity. Not ordering fixed 2-car sets with extra seating is probably just something they never wanted to look into. In reality, I think they should be ordering 4-car long open gangway trains from here on out. They have models out now that are all low-floor:

        They have plenty of existing stock to run 1, 2, or 3 car trains if needed.

  8. Yesterday Sound Transit finally released their second quarter financial (April, May, June). Reading through it last night, this explanation jumped out at me:

    “Acquisition of right-of-way is behind schedule due to the unavailability of resources to manage the quantity and complexity of the parcels required.”

    Are you kidding me ST? They directly pointed to this excuse with regard to the Federal Way Link project:

    >>Federal Way Link Extension – Project costs are running at 48% of year-to-date budget largely due to limited internal and external resources for the ROW acquisition activities.<<


    1. Maybe cabs at both ends of cars cost less than a loop at the end of every line. Or, run much or all your fleet as a coupled pair.


    1. Thanks for the notification. I took a look at the report and it looks like a mixed bag of results. Both ST Express and Link missed ridership per trip targets. It appears that the folks producing the report have an aversion to “red ink”, as these misses are not correctly illustrated in the consolidated modes table at the end of the report.

      ST also included this (partial) explanation in regard to the Link ridershipship numbers:

      >>Ridership growth on Link is attributed to
      an increased number of special events in downtown compared to last year. In August, Link actively monitored special event loads or provided gap trains in anticipation of crowding for 14 special events compared to 9 last year.<<

      1. The trips being counted in the report are the LRVs, not the trains themselves. Moving to all-day 3-car trains dramatically increased the denominator — the number of “trips”.

        My big take-away from the report is that Metro is letting the escalators and/or elevators in the tunnel fall apart, or the state is forcing longer and longer delays to start them up again.

        Also, Link has beaten the rest of ST in ridership for four straight months, and is now ST’s majority mode and line. Washington State Ferries will still edge out Link this year, but not next year, for second-highest-ridership transit agency in the state, treating the rest of ST as its own agency.

        WSF is at the mercy of the partisan-split Washington State Transportation Commission for setting fares, so they have little power to re-calibrate their fares to encourage more walk-ons. (Half the commission doesn’t get the concept of a market-clearing price.) As long as WSF fails to encourage walk-ons, its ridership won’t increase as fast as person-demand for ferry service.

  9. Sad fact of public transit life. World-wide, starting from first “bell-bing” out of a terminal on opening day, the better the line works, the less possible it is for anybody to find a seat. And the more cars you add…the more packed standing loads.

    Might compare it to sweat on an athlete. It’s a sign of health and good attitude. In just about every subway or Earth, and probably also Pluto, what we’d consider unacceptable passenger discomfort, they’d cancel the train for lack of ridership.

    Also makes bird-cage carpeting out of all the inevitable predictions that the line will never carry enough people to fill one bus that looks suspiciously like a hot dog. Though come to think of it, Oscar Meyer is a very old BRAND. Maybe since the beginning, the signature red and yellow has really been a “Wrap!”


  10. I hope that what’s left of the Waterfront Streetcar is causing a lot of problems, because considering how much steel is still in the ground where it’s been rusting since 2005, cure is easy. Put some streetcars on it, and maintain it in same yard as the First Avenue Line.

    But since full moon is about a month away, promise to turn in for the night on one condition: When I can’t read about the Streetcar rising from the dead to eat the livers of its murderers without subscribing to the enemy because I’ve had my last free article…is my only choice to pay the ransome?

    Or just go to the library. Or…Mark, put a stake in it….Are Zere Some Sings Dot Mankind Vas Never Meant to Know?


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