King County Metro Gillig Low Floor 40' HEV

This is an open thread.

52 Replies to “News Roundup: Addicted to Transit”

  1. So where is there another transit agency structured like Sound Transit (parts of three counties, with an appointed board)?

    1. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in DC, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in NYC, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in NYC, and TransLink in Vancouver, BC.

    2. BART extends over 4 (soon to be 5) counties and has an elected board of directors from 3 of those counties

    3. TriMet extends over three counties, and the board is appointed by the state governor.

      1. @eddiew: King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties are all exceptionally large (by area), but the ST service area doesn’t cover the majority of any of them (by area).

    4. Chicago RTA covers Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and PACE. PACE is the suburban bus agency and serves communities in six counties (Cook, Lake, Will, Kane, McHenry, and DuPage). The RTA board is appointed by various counties and cities, similar to Sound Transit.

      In Philly you have SEPTA covering five counties, with appointed board members.

      In Boston, the MBTA is operated by the Commonwealth, as a part of the state transportation department. In essence, it’s management is determined by their Transportation Secretary, appointed by the governor.

      Atlanta has MARTA covering parts of a whopping 13 counties, with appointed board members.

      In Detroit, the RTA of Southeast Michigan covers parts of four counties with appointed board members.

    5. Considering the plethora of agencies mentioned as having somewhat similar structures, it’s interesting that ST’s results have been, as far as I can see, substantially different than a lot of other agencies. What I mean by that is that I believe that our region (the ST region) has better and better-used public transit serving suburban employers than most US cities, and the regional agency is visible and growing. Rather than agency structure, I see the following as things that make ST different:

      1. Novelty. ST is a relatively new agency, created to build and operate new services. Some of the other regional agencies were more like that when they were founded; others inherited a lot of infrastructure and operations from previous agencies or companies. In either case, most of them are now defined by the service they already run, as opposed to their future building plans. Because ST is new, building and running new services, it feels like it has momentum rather than inertia.

      2. Luck. ST, in a lot of ways, inherited an easier situation than some cities. Extreme racial segregation, both in the city and the ‘burbs, plagues a lot of the older cities; most relevant to regional transit agencies, this has resulted in extreme sprawl, long commutes, and local governments that don’t work together much and are suspicious of eachother and regional agencies. For example, in Chicagoland there are two western suburbs with lots of tech jobs, Schaumburg and Naperville. They’re 30 miles apart, equally distant from downtown Chicago, and extremely inconvenient to get to from significant parts of the region; because of the distances involved, only the fastest and most direct transit solutions are even plausible. Compare Bellevue and Redmond, close enough for the B Line.

      There’s another component that’s luck-related, at least from the transit agency’s perspective, and that’s UW. UW’s growing strengths in business and tech happened on purpose, but not because of anything ST did; Seattle may not get as much economically out of its universities as Boston or the Bay Area, but it’s a similar sort of boost. Detroit has Michigan, farther afield in Ann Arbor. Chicagoland’s universities are more liberal-arts focused and haven’t made the shift UW has, and a lot of people say the distance between Chicago and Champaign hurts both the city and the university.

      3. Content of politics. BART may be sort of similar to ST in structure, but the Bay Area was set back decades by the South Bay staying out of it for so long. That might have a lot to do with timing — the coalition for ST wouldn’t have been nearly the same around the time Forward Thrust went down, for example. The particular difficulties the Bay Area has with housing, where suburbs just refuse to pull any part of their weight on housing supply while adding tons of office jobs… that’s down to political content and causes commute patterns no transit agency could reasonably capture. It’s not like that’s not a factor at all here, but it’s not nearly as dire.

      1. I’d add:

        4. Geography. A isthmus is conducive for transit.
        5. Land-use. Most of Seattle’s non-industrial jobs are concentrated in CBDs, which are easier to serve. For example, Chicago’s downtown is an excellent transit environment and is supported by robust Metra and L ridership, but suburban Chicago is very difficult to serve and has mediocre ridership.
        6. State laws, like the GMA, generally support good regional transit and land-use planning, which has been a positive feedback loop between land-use and transit since at least the 90s.

      2. 7. It’s a clean slate really. Parts of Metra date back well over 100 years, as does the CTA. MARTA was a 1960s plan and is based around a very auto centric city.

        TriMet doesn’t have that much say on where MAX lines go. That priority is set by an elected regional agency. They developed a rail plan in 1985, after TriMet finished the first line on its own, and they are sticking to it even if it doesn’t work.Compare the blue line ridership with the lines built since.

        So, SoundTransit has the ability to create a system that avoids everyone else’s mistakes. Weather they do so or not is yet to be seen.

      3. The thing is, there are good things about all those old Metra and CTA stations. They have decades of non-freeway-oriented development based around them! I sure don’t look at Chicago’s suburbs and say, “This would be better and less car-dependent if only more of the development was concentrated around freeway interchanges and 6-lane surface roads like it is in Seattle, which got to build its suburbia without the hindrance of legacy mass-transit.”

        But the freeway interchanges and 6-lane surface roads they do have in Chicagoland (which are many)… they went whole-hog on car-dependence. No sidewalks, no useful bike network, no basic accommodations for bus stops. We aren’t going to build something as ill-conceived as the Oakbrook Terrace Tower, a 31-story tower that’s all-but impossible to reach without a car (hardly any transit, many surrounding roads lack sidewalks, largely walled off by interchanges).

        But we will build 12-story towers on inhuman roads with bike lanes and sidewalks that will be miserable to use in every season. We’ll get our 10% or so of people arriving without cars and we’ll pretend that’s success.

    6. There are many variations of boards similar to ST. California has several “joint powers boards” for special operations like CalTrain. SMART in Marin and Sonoma is somewhat similar to ST (not the only transit operator) and has bothe independent funding but only a two-county Board. St. Louis has a two-state board appointed by various entities and it covers parts of five counties (St Louis City is legally a separate county from St Louis County) —although each county has additional funding options.

    7. Other regions have appointed boards, but do any of them have boards appointed solely from the mayors and councilmembers of the affected counties?

    8. Obviously there are a number of different structures for transit agencies’ governing boards around the nation. Unfortunately, historically there has been little research in the area of board structure as it relates to agency effectiveness.

      The FTA took a stab at this more than a decade ago (2003?) by sponsoring a study through the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, which commissioned the firm of Simon & Simon Research to produce the final report. (I don’t have a direct link but it should be easy enough to google it.) I think it was a survey and response type study that got like a 50% response rate, resulting in some 200+ replies from transit agencies of various sizes around the country.

      The report also included case studies from a half dozen transit agencies of different scales. If my memory serves me correctly, both the prior research they reviewed and the study itself found that only a small percentage (<5%) of transit agencies have governing boards with directly elected members. Of course, this could have changed since this study was published but, anecdotally speaking, I don't believe it has.

  2. “A light rail bar crawl.”

    I read this as “A light rail car brawl” and had a good chuckle.

  3. The bar crawl big elephant problem in the room is the Link hours of operation. The last train southbound from Capitol Hill is 12:40. There are late night buses — but those routes don’t duplicate Link or follow its alignment for more than a few stations.

  4. The dumbest question I ever heard a passenger ask a bus driver was at the Aurora Village TC. The RapidRide E Line bus had just pulled up to the loading bay from the layover area, the driver opened all the doors, passengers started boarding, and then when then everyone who was waiting to board was on the bus, a passenger who was still on the sidewalk asked, “Is it ok to get on?”

    1. At least they’re trying to ride the bus right? It may be very abnormal but it sounds like someone who never has in their life and there’s a first time for everything which is great.

    2. What did the destination sign on the bus say?
      Was it “To Terminal” or “Out of Service”?
      If the bus just pulled out of the layover spot, the destination may not have been triggered yet.
      I’ve see that happen to RR-C’s at Westwood TC, and yes, people ask “Is it o.k. to get on?”.
      The driver says “Yes, the sign hasn’t flipped” or equivalent explanation, and the day just moves along.

      1. Sam and everybody else, in public transit, the person you are describing is what is called in the trade, a “passenger”. Who may also be a “taxpayer” on their way to the “Polls” to decide whether “ST- (whatever)” is going to live or die like a murdered dog by one vote.

        Who is also the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee Committee. Or is possibly another “driver” who’ll get “fired” if he gets one more “late report.” And you’re also on “probation” for ridership reduction.

        In other words, ask somebody what that mike in front of your face, and when you’ve gotten the idea of its function, turn it on, click it to “Outdoor and say: “Pick any door and welcome aboard”. Because shut that door in my face one more time and I’ll kill you. Signed, your Base Chief.

        Been there. Done that.


      2. Does the driver have any control over that, or is it fully automated? On occasion, I’ve been waiting to board the 555 in the morning at the Northgate TC, and had a bus pull up at the right time to the right bay with ‘To Terminal’ on the board, and had to clarify that it was, in fact, a 555.

    3. A few years ago on the 578, someone asked the driver if he could get change for a $100 bill.

      1. A few weeks ago spent some time trying to get exact change at the Liverpool airport to use the bus. Turns out, the drivers make change in a number of the UK bus systems.

        In Brazil, many bus systems have a driver and a cashier on board.

        So, it might not have been too bad a question if the aren’t from the USA.

      2. Same in Inverness. In Rio I tried to convince (in poor Portuguese) the woman at the desk to make change for me so that I could have correct fare for the bus – she finally did, but obviously she was trying to tell me it wasn’t necessary as there’s a conductor at a little desk on the bus that makes change! Buenos Aires has a smart card but you have to tell the driver where you are going so they can enter the correct fare.

    1. They’re soliciting comment from the maritime industry on required clearances, will be nice to have some hard data on who plans on having what tall vessels transiting the canal.

      Looking more and more like folks who don’t want the station on 14th need to be pushing back against the anti-drawbridge consensus and for the ‘representative alignment’

      1. Looking more and more like folks who don’t want the station on 14th need to be pushing back against the anti-drawbridge consensus and for the ‘representative alignment’

        False dilemmas are a terrible way to plan your mass transit system. Why does it have to be terrible crossing OR terrible station location? Why can’t we have the tunnel AND a good station location?

      2. Because there aren’t hundreds of millions of extra $ lying around?

        Besides, a 70′ drawbridge isn’t a terrible crossing. At the headways this line will be running, and the limited amount of maritime traffic north of 60′ , there’s no meaningful impact on operations.

      3. If you’re going to build a bridge, it needs to be the high fixed bridge option, approximately 126′ if I recall. A high drawbridge is going to get obnoxiously expensive and even the negligible chance of it getting stuck in an open position should be enough to make it a non starter.

        Of course, any bridge option ignores the recent opposition by the Port. And if you know anything about the Port, they tend to get their way.

        Because there aren’t hundreds of millions of extra $ lying around?

        So we’re going spend billions on a mass transit system line but cripple its usefulness because we can’t afford an extra hundred million or two? Sounds right!

      4. They’d build a drawbridge with two independent spans, one for each track, so even in the event one got stuck, operations can continue on the other. As I said, the technical arguments against a drawspan are pretty much nonsense.

        Port opposition is a political problem, but one that potentially can be resolved.

        And a few hundred million here and a few hundred million there and you’re talking real money!

      5. The upper deck of Portland’s Steel Bridge is nominally 70 feet above the river level. It really isn’t difficult to get up that far.

    2. What would be nice is if the city and/or other interested individuals could get a bike / pedestrian path linking the segment of the Burke-Gilman Trail on the north side with the various pathways and roads on the south side. Bike traffic would have a way to avoid the Ballard Locks that way.

      Or at least look at the costs of adding this to the planned bridge.

    3. “for the ‘representative alignment’”

      That would be hilarious if transit fans who didn’t like the representative alignment because it was too far east, end up pushing for the representative alignment in order to avoid a worse one. The representative alignment has the advantage of being the one in the ballot measure, so ST will have to justify any deviations from it and will therefore be at least somewhat reluctant to.

      There are three precedents for this. One, Lynnwood Link, with a representative alignment on I-5 and stations at 145th and 185th. There were alternatives on Aurora and with stations moved or added at 155th and 130th, but it was a very high bar to convince ST to deviate from the representative alignment and in the end all the alternatives failed. Two, the Midtown station at 8th that Martin prefers, which ST is rejecting because it’s “too far from the representative alignment and a different transit market” given the smaller-scale downtown context. Three, the subarea equity situation. Subarea equity was originally championed by the suburban subareas to prevent an “urban network” in Seattle that postponed or deleted the extensions to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond to get more service in Seattle. But now that Everett and Tacoma are approved, subarea equity is starting to work in Seattle’s favor. So of course now the suburbs want to abolish it.

      1. “But now that Everett and Tacoma are approved, subarea equity is starting to work in Seattle’s favor. So of course now the suburbs want to abolish it.”

        Say what?? I don’t follow your logic, nor do I know what you’re basing that “abolishment” comment on. Care to elaborate?

        And, fwiw, the subarea equity has been kind of a joke anyway if you actually look at the numbers (sources and uses) and how they’ve been reported. On top of that you have other issues, such as the arbitrary way apportionments have been handled, subarea borrowing schemes, just to name a couple.

    4. Glenn, I think we used to call them “conductors” in former streetcar days. So I think it’s at least thirty years overdue to raise this point.

      In late ’40’s I think, systems started transferred this duty, which still included making change, to the driver. Idea being, of course, to save money. But would like to get hold of a century of balance sheets to verify my own suspicion, which is:

      For the operating time wasted by driver making explaining and advising about change, and also giving passenger information, which the conductors also did, and also (choke on the word) “Security”..

      Just put the conductors back and you can ST- yourselves to Jupiter with the operating time an passenger good-will regained. A second transit uniform on the vehicle, and visibly on transit’s payroll, is major deterrent just by being there.

      Private guards have their place, which is where there’s not remotest chance they’ll ever have to use or look at force.. Our society’s use of them for police duty is criminally dangerous for them, and a shameful cop-out for the system.

      Using sworn police officers for parking lot attendants is going to come to an end when somebody gets killed for the lack of one at soon-to-be-crime scene. Creating job openings for the many people I’ve met in Securitas who should be sworn in ASAP.

      Tremendous respect for their organization. In addition to Sweden- 17th Century tower directly across the tracks from their headquarters in Gothenburg really says it. The’re the uniformed force that holds Europe together. They’ll be a credit to our own transit police.

      Just do it.

      Mark Dublin

  5. Sound Transit has hired their interim CFO for the position. While I wish they had hired from the outside, I’ll try to keep an open mind and hope that Ms. Butler can improve on many of the functions of the finance group, particularly its involvement in capital projects cost estimating and the agency’s financial reporting and auditing functions. It is hard for me to imagine the new CFO performing worse than her predecessor, so I truly hope that I don’t end up having to eat those words.

    Perhaps the first task Ms. Butler can get accomplished is to get the agency’s 2018 annual financial plan out! These critical reports used to be published in the first or second quarter.


    First pub doesn’t exactly crawl. Pretty much streetcar speed in Helsinki. Most patrons not in a hurry. Could be it’s also too heavy for the tracks and also won’t fit. Or maybe their next door neighbor has decided our country’s politics are so screwed up that hacking will only improved them, and so is Facebooking fake news on Finnish pub cars.

    Second and third- subject getting older than the trains themselves, but lot of lessons and besides “Electroliner” sounds do much less like a sausage than “Link.” Section behind the lead car was called “restaurant.” WWII, all the bistro’s were still in France.

    No alcohol. Coffee was in real china cups. But now, can have marijuana, too. Best reason yet to annex Thurston County into ST. First pic could look more like crawling in Milwaukee. ‘El to Downtown, steady “lope.” Around Chicago’s elevated “loop” stately self-advertisement.

    90+ through the Skokie Valley…Anybody from England, does the law permit pubs to go that fast?


  7. Thanks for essay on the buses, Rick. Just to test the waters, though, might want to run it by your editor if it won’t work better if they convert the route to light rail. You’re ready to retire anyhow, didn’t you say?

    My ride to Seattle pretty much same distance. One difference: when I moved to Olympia in 2004, IT service to my door, and comfortable ride to my transfer to ST at Tacoma Dome. Year or two later, events (“market” isn’t bloody enough a word) that threw me out of Seattle, converted I-5 into an impound lot with former residents who still work in Seattle. All now have large letters on their roofs so they can maneuver their cars alongside each other so rescue helicopters will see they need H.E.L.P.

    Hence back-road freeway-free drive to Tacoma. Since ST 594 usually traffic-trapped at Spokane Street, usually ST 574 to Airport, and Link on in. ‘Nother choice: Southworth landing 20 minutes from Tacoma via SR 16. Boats often late, luckily. Never stuck in traffic. Rapid Ride from Fauntleroy shows bus suspension didn’t get attached at factory, but run often.

    So triple-win here. Both of us lobby for diamond lane from Bellingham to Olympia – too bad we don’t have DSTT anymore, but bus-change coffee in Seattle good break too. I used to always stop off at Anthem Cafe in Tacoma. And Seattle Times gets to prove how buses are just as good as trains, which they are until we get the trains so we’re not lying.

    I’m sorry you got hurt. But is that a part of transit experience, or of living in a State that makes its Corrections Department do mental health? Another good result of persuading your editors to start riding: They and their records with Intensive Care can personally verify need for improvement.

    I’m trying to get my neighbors who work under the Containment Dome to start riding to Seattle too, for same reason.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Joe here. Hey I know most of us Seattle Transit Blog commentors are big addicts of transit and pro-density.

    Well here’s an opportunity to provide some… Close Air Support to that cause my friends. Very soon, up at Everett Station the State Department of Commerce is going to, “Host community workshop on civilian-military compatible land use planning Nov. 1”. There will be a presentation at 6 PM and then small focus groups from 6:30 PM until 7:30 PM.

    From the press release, “Commerce will publish a draft guidebook for public comment in early spring 2019. To prepare the draft, the project team is working with local partners to host the community workshops with residents, businesses, local leaders, planners and others about what resources and information would be most useful to them. The workshops are an opportunity for participants to offer input on guidebook content and to discuss lessons learned or best practices from local experience and community planning.

    “Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fairchild Air Force Base, Yakima Training Center, Naval Base Kitsap, Naval Station Everett, Naval Air Station Whidbey, Outlying Field Coupeville, Manchester Fuel Depot, Naval Magazine Indian Island and other locations are referenced in the project.

    “When completed, the guidebook will introduce compatible land use for a large audience, followed by in-depth technical guidance on civilian-military compatibility for planning professionals.”

    I really, sincerely see an opportunity here to push for more housing density and more Transit-Oriented Development. Not to mention deal with land use incompatibility around our state’s military airfields. You tell me.

    1. Good you mentioned this, Joe. Already have a project in mind that would enlist the military to help with a project for which civilian city, county, and State governments can really use some assistamce

      Would be good if a flight of A-10’s could decapitate the forces that have driven so many civilians from our homes, and left more of us sleeping in tents, or going to work in, and not from their homes, than any foreign enemy has done since the British burned Washington DC.

      But when our civic officials come back from latest homelessness task force meeting, would be good if they could cancel the next one because somebody has begun putting together solid emergency housing.

      Pretty sure that Civil War era material in every base library shows townsfolk performing “House-Raisings”. Everybody in town helping a newcomer, or newly-weds build their own house. Who then help do the same whenever need arises.Terrific rapport builder for civilians and soldiers alike. Time to bring idea back? Could extremely accurately be called an Earthquake drill.

      One thing more, Joe…and I’m not kidding. A certain Federal official of provably questionable judgment on any subject has declared it a National Security measure to store large amounts of fossil fuel in the Northwest.

      Is there any way for us to find out if any of this applies here? Because if it does, it’s often the case that even a good plan can benefit from several years’ additional revision. Thanks, Joe.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Well I’d love to see a squadron of A-10s based at NAS Whidbey and BRRRRRRRRRRT out of those cul-de-sacs we taxpayers are going to have to buy and relocate their owners in upcoming years! ATTACK!

    1. Combine the way on cars with the war on SF houses, by car bombing SF houses? Jokes aside, don’t you feel like calling cottages a war a bit hyperbolic?

    2. “Finally fighting back” as if they haven’t been screaming their heads off for 10+ years already?

      1. The most downtrodden, persecuted group in America as, and always has been, single-family home owners.

Comments are closed.