Yes on Thurston County Intercity Transit Proposition 1

Photo by Bruce Englehardt

It shouldn’t come as a shock that STB would endorse a ballot measure that would add more bus service, including longer hours, more frequency, more and faster connections, and more right-of-way priority treatments, in an urban region that makes good use of it. Bruce Englehardt described in full what the measure would likely fund. It is both a response to lower federal funding, and an opportunity to match Olympia’s growth and extend service hours.

Thankfully, an organized campaign is getting the word out on the value that IT provides to its community. Not just a lifeline for the carless, the agency provides long-haul services to Tacoma, and thus to the core Puget Sound network. Today, it is the most fragile link in continuous transit service for the urban agglomeration from Everett to Olympia.

New Thurston County voters may still register to vote in person through Monday, October 29, at the Thurston County Courthouse, Building 1, during regular business hours. The Courthouse campus is a medium hike southwest from the Capitol campus, and served by Intercity Transit bus routes 12 and 42.

You can read the rest of our endorsements here.

Would backyard cottages make parking in Seattle harder?

Off-street parking. Credit: Atomic Taco

The city’s released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for accessory dwelling units (ADUs)/backyard cottages last week. Other sites in the urbanist blogosphere analyzed the entire document.

This post focuses on the EIS’s study of parking impacts in particular, since worries about street parking availability are a common anti-density talking point.

So: would the ADU proposal make parking on a side street difficult in Maple Leaf or Magnolia?

No.

In fact, not all that much would change (which is a point worth discussing on its own.) In its analysis of the preferred alternative, the plan that would create the most capacity for ADUs, the City projects that only 300 ADUs would be built. That’s about 10 percent of the 3,007 parcels that would be eligible for ADU construction—which itself is a very small slice of the 138,531 parcels in single family-zoned areas across the city.

Analysis of one of the two proposals that would eliminate the requirement that any ADU have a complementary off-street parking spot says that the City “do[es] not expect increased parking demand resulting from ADU production to exceed existing on-street parking availability under typical conditions.” The preferred alternative would create parking impacts that “would be very similar to, but slightly greater than, those described under Alternative 2 due to slightly higher ADU production.”

The EIS concludes that implementing the ADU plan will make only marginal changes to the single family-zoned parking supply, which is already robust. The EIS’s study of street parking supply, which used data collected from 2016-18, concludes that 56 percent of parking in single family zones is in use on a weekday.

That figure may actually overstate demands on the parking supply. Two of the four study areas are located in areas with high parking demand. The southeast study location is between the northeast edge of Columbia City’s business district and Genesee Park. The southwest study area surrounds the West Seattle Junction.

In short, existing evidence suggests that ADUs will not noticeably change the amount of parking available in Seattle’s single family neighborhoods.

Intercity Transit Pins Its Hopes and Dreams on Prop. 1

An Intercity Transit bus at Olympia Transit Center

Voters in the Intercity Transit district, which roughly covers the cities of Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, and Yelm, will soon decide on Proposition 1, a ballot measure that would increase sales taxes by 0.4 percent in order to fund transit services. Intercity Transit currently levies a 0.8 percent sales tax, which makes up 79 percent of annual revenue.

The sales tax increase would raise about $16-$20 million annually and would be used to patch operational costs that were originally paid for using ever-shrinking federal grants (which makes up 8 percent of the agency’s annual budget). It would also be used to launch new services, including routes to underserved areas, improved frequencies, expanded evening and weekend service, and perhaps lead to a bus rapid transit system.

Continue reading “Intercity Transit Pins Its Hopes and Dreams on Prop. 1”

News Roundup: STAB

lumenade

This is an open thread.

Yes on I-1631

“Son, we wanted to do something, but the oil companies said gas prices would go up.” (Wikimedia)

If you’re reading STB, you likely need no reminder that climate change is an emergency that requires urgent action. So we’ll dispense with the general case to take on some of the arguments, often in bad faith, deployed against this ballot measure.

First, familiarize yourself with the specifics of the measure. The carbon fee will discourage carbon-intensive habits and directly fund, among other things, transit and transit-oriented development. Purely from that perspective, our endorsement is inevitable.

And yet, we also enthusiastically endorsed I-732, last year’s measure, which used carbon tax revenue to cut regressive taxes instead of funding climate remedies. We find I-1631’s spending priorities to be largely worthy. But even if you don’t, recall that climate change is an emergency. We can’t wait for the ideal policy to come along to start taking action.

“Yes, fire season keeps getting worse, but I didn’t want to give spending power to an unelected board!” (Wikimedia)

Indeed, I-732’s failure suggests there is no political coalition for climate action with tax cuts. Many of the forces now criticizing “spending” and the costs borne by consumers had no interest in a remedy that returned money directly to taxpayers.

There are many attacks that are pure falsehoods, but the other that is superficially true is that the measure will not solve climate change on its own. While technically accurate, it ignores the power of collective action when nations and regions all over the world commit to change their economies to solve a crisis. Moreover, climate change is not a binary outcome: while it is too late to avoid at least some catastrophes, one degree of warming is better than 1.5, which is better than 2, and so on. Every large economy, like Washington State, that makes an effort will help a bit. And finally, a victory for I-1631 would provide a model of how climate policy can work at the state level, raising the possibility of action across the United States.

Vote for I-1631. The costs are modest, the benefits are large, and the fate of humanity may depend on it.

The STB Editorial Board consists of Martin H. Duke and Brent White.

ST Level 3 Recommendations, Criticism of Chinatown Plans

Union Station from 5th Avenue South. Credit: Bruce Engelhardt.

In a meeting last Friday, Seattle and King County elected officials rejected the most expensive West Seattle Link alignment, endorsed a tunnel under the Lake Washington Ship Canal from Interbay to Ballard, and urged Sound Transit to significantly revamp plans for the Chinatown/International District (CID) station.

The rejection of CID plans, so far the most controversial of the ongoing process, came after pointed criticism from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and members of the Seattle City Council.

The October 5 meeting marked the end of the Level 2 analysis for the new Seattle Link extensions, meaning the advisory group process is two thirds finished. The group of elected officials voted on the recommendations of the stakeholder advisory groups that have met throughout 2018.

The endorsements are strictly advisory, but are intended to guide the planning work of Sound Transit’s project staff. The votes don’t carry the force of law: the Sound Transit board will ultimately decide whether to approve or reject the results of the months long advisory process in 2019. In the meantime, agency staff will study the elected official-endorsed alignments further, and present more developed Level 3 plans to the advisory groups.

Seattle & King County criticize Chinatown plans

In pointed comments, several Seattle officials, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and County Councilmember Joe McDermott reiterated a growing consensus against a 5th Avenue South alignment. CID and Pioneer Square leaders have rallied against a 5th Avenue line. Continue reading “ST Level 3 Recommendations, Criticism of Chinatown Plans”

November 2018 Legislative Endorsements

Our three endorsements in the primary election remain:

Six Representatives, five Democratic and one Republican, stood up for Sound Transit against the MVET rollback efforts this year:

  • Jacqueline Maycumber (District 7, Position 1)
  • Beth Doglio (District 22, Position 2)
  • Joe Fitzgibbon (District 34, Position 2)
  • Noel Frame (District 36, Position 1)
  • Gael Tarleton (District 36, Position 2)
  • Nicole Macri (District 43, Position1)

All six have our gratitude and endorsement. They are essentially unopposed, so lets move on to some more interesting races.

State Representative, District 5, Pos. 1: Bill Ramos, a member of the Issaquah City Council, worked for the Federal Transit Administration from 2005 to 2013 as a Community Planner with emphasis in developing and managing the Tribal Transit Program and Rural and Small Urban Area Transit Systems. As Federal Tribal Liaison, he worked with 56 Tribes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska to help start or improve public transit on Tribal Lands. Continue reading “November 2018 Legislative Endorsements”

Register to Vote Today

Intercity Transit bus (Erubisu/flickr)

Today is the deadline to register online to vote in the November election. If you’ve moved here, changed address, or otherwise haven’t registered to vote, the time is now.

Please go to MyVote.wa.gov, which is a portal for whatever registration transactions you need.

Only Thurston County is offering a strictly transit-related measure on the ballot. However, all Washington voters can vote on the Carbon Fee, I-1631, which will both encourage low-carbon means of housing and transport, and discourage carbon-intensive ones. Congressional races touch a wide range of issues. Furthermore, state legislative elections are probably the most underrated in terms of public attention and the impact they have on everyday life. The party balance in Olympia resolves issues around authorized transit taxes and the primacy of highways.

STB endorsements on transit and land use-related issues will be available soon.

Waterfront Shuttle Restructures, Grows, Lives On

Two months ago I wrote about the Downtown Seattle Association’s experiment with a free waterfront shuttle. The pilot’s original term ended on October 1st, and the numbers are in.

Source: Commute Seattle

September 14th was the highest ridership day, at 1,674. The average weekday attracted 953 boardings, or 95 per hour. Weekends actually saw more usage, at 1,044 per day or 104 per hour. In absolute terms, this is roughly equivalent to a low-ridership Sound Transit Express route, and over much less distance. This isn’t moving the needle regionally, but isn’t bad for a new route with its share of quirks.

Source: Commute Seattle

But that’s not the really interesting news. After starting as a single loop from Pioneer Square to the Space Needle with unscheduled 25-minute headways, the shuttle is now three separate loops (see right). 3 to 6 buses per hour serve each of these loops, with the congestion issues you would expect. Commute Seattle data suggests all the but the green loop are pretty consistent through the day.

The DSA added the green (east) loop on August 31st “to circulate riders to Pike Place Market and the Retail Core & Convention Center from the waterfront,” according to spokesperson Margaret Steck. Weekly ridership jumped from 3,824 to 6,270 on either side of the change, although some of that may have been Labor Day weekend.

If you’re interested in this service, that’s not the most exciting news. Instead of ending last week, the DSA has the funding to run through at least Sep. 3, 2019, 10am to 8pm, except for Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Year’s. One would expect ridership to dip in the bad weather months, and given the apparent leisure focus of many trips, it’s a bit odd to shut down over major holidays. But it’s always good to have novel funding sources create free transit in some of the region’s most constrained spaces.

Seven Places to Add Bus Lanes Now

It was disappointing to learn that 3 of the 7 RapidRide corridors planned for the Move Seattle levy have been postponed indefinitely.  Fortunately, the most effective way to improve transit is also the least expensive: red paint.

a bucket of red paintThe Mayor’s budget promised 100,000 new bus service hours.  It’ll be a shame if those hours are spent idling in traffic.  Increasing the city’s stock of red bus lanes will make our transit dollars go even further while reducing the city’s carbon footprint and providing a real alternative to driving.

For the first time in a really long time, we’re primed to take advantage of transit priority. The Metro bus network has never been better: thanks in large part to the city’s funding, buses are coming more frequently and serving more destinations.  Now we just need to get them moving faster.

In that spirit, I went back to the original Transit Master Plan look for improvements to the 40, 44, and 48, the three routes that were cut from Move Seattle’s RapidRide program.  By adding bus lanes in a few key spots, SDOT can get many of the advantages of RapidRide at a far lower cost.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I polled the STB staff for suggestions on other places where transit priority would help.  The result is seven places for transit priority, distinguished in that they are short stretches of road approaching a chokepoint.

Ridership numbers are from 2016, the most recent available, and have no doubt increased substantially since then.  For the purposes of this post, I’ve ignored other planned RapidRide lines (Route 7, Route 120, Roosevelt-Eastlake, Madison BRT), assuming that they’re still on track for whatever transit priority they’re going to get. Continue reading “Seven Places to Add Bus Lanes Now”

News Roundup: Rising Steeply

Everett Transit's new Proterra electric bus

This is an open thread.

Correction: Transit Now a Hipster Plaything*

Sounder Departure

Last week I pointed to some data from Gene Balk that transit ridership was higher for lower income brackets than higher incomes, consistent with conventional wisdom but disproving the argument that transit improvements are an elite project.

But Monday’s column ($) draws the opposite conclusion:

Among Seattle-area residents with a salary of $75,000 or more, 11 percent typically took transit to get to work in 2017. That’s higher than any other income group. Less than 10 percent of workers with wages below $35,000 took transit.

I asked Mr. Balk if he could explain the discrepancy. He pointed out that the first result was 2012-2016 census data, while the latter is just for 2017. Furthermore, the scope changes from King County to the entire Metro area. The 2017 data set shows that within Seattle, poor people still use transit more than rich people.

The data doesn’t prove much more, but it’s easy to speculate. In Snohomish and Pierce Counties, intra-county commutes are easy drives and dicey transit rides. If you’re going all the way into Seattle, it’s probably both a higher-paying job and one better suited to transit.

* Just kidding.

Port Opposes Movable Ballard bridge, Occidental Alignment

In a letter addressed to elected officials, Port of Seattle Executive Director Stephen Metruck and Northwest Seaport Alliance CEO John Wolfe announced that the Port opposes both a movable Ship Canal bridge, and an Occidental Avenue alignment for the West Seattle extension.

Ship Canal and Duwamish crossings

The Harbor Island container terminal. Credit: Shane in the City.

“Moveable bridges across the ship canal should be eliminated as alternatives as they will not work for transit and could impede maritime mobility,” the cosigned letter says. The letter aligns the port with transit advocates who oppose a movable Ballard bridge, citing reliability and travel time concerns.

The Port cautiously endorsed building “a 15th Avenue-aligned Tunnel under Fishermen’s Terminal,” as long as ST does not build a ventilator shaft in a shipyard named Fishing Vessel Owners (FVO.) According to the Port, FVO has operated from its current site for 99 years.

The Port also opposes aerial crossings through Fisherman’s Terminal “because of impacts to terminal operations and repercussions of the fishing industry. [sic]” The leaders also argued against aligning the extension on 20th Avenue West.

The leaders also asked Sound Transit to “evaluate” a Duwamish crossing to the south of the West Seattle Bridge, at the “far southern tip of Harbor Island,” in the hope that the agency can find “ways to further reduce impacts to existing businesses.” The Port categorically opposes building the line to the north of the West Seattle Bridge.

Sodo alignments

The Port leaders also argued for abandoning the Occidental Avenue concept, which could serve the stadium district and the growing retail strip on 1st Avenue South: Continue reading “Port Opposes Movable Ballard bridge, Occidental Alignment”

How West Seattle Buses Will Run While the Viaduct is Closed

Click to Enlarge

Metro’s head of service development, Bill Bryant, told STB about Metro’s provisional plans for West Seattle bus operations when the viaduct closes later this year, during the 3-6 week period when the SR 99 tunnel has not yet opened. These changes are not permanent. Metro will revise service again when SR 99 is back in operation through central Seattle.

Bryant also provided STB with two maps of the intended route changes. Those maps, and the below plans, were shared with and created with input from SDOT and WSDOT.

One map shows operations downtown, which may have another revision; the other shows operations in Sodo, which are unlikely to change. Bryant emphasized that any part of the plans could change, especially if operations create unforeseen challenges.

“[The map] is subject to change,” Bryant said. “Metro is working hard to be flexible, and we might need to change the routing during the actual closure as well.”

Here are the important points, from a rider’s perspective:

Continue reading “How West Seattle Buses Will Run While the Viaduct is Closed”