Uber and lyft data make the case for decongestion pricing

Sound Transit Capitol Hill Station Construction: View from Kroll Crane

The Times‘ David Gutman got a rare glimpse at Uber and Lyft’s trip data for Seattle.

The data show that ridesharing is most popular in the neighborhoods ringing Lake Union (Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford), many of which also have higher rates of car ownership.

Is it surprising that the inner-ring residential neighborhoods would score high for rideshare? Though close to downtown, taking transit to and from downtown jobs can be quite slow compared to, say, an express bus from Northgate or Bellevue. Capitol Hill has Link, sure, but that’s not super useful if you’re headed to, say, South Lake Union.  A three-mile trip from deep in the CD to a far corner of SLU  could involve two buses and easily take an hour (and be time competitive with walking, if there’s even a hint of traffic).   Or, if you’re trying to board a bus in Fremont or Ballard headed downtown, it might be so crowded by the time it gets to your stop that it just passes you by.

In that context, using Uber or Lyft for your daily commute is appealing, if one has the privilege to do so.  Depending on the commute, and using the shared ride feature, the monthly cost could be in the ballpark of a downtown parking spot.  It takes half as long as the bus, and you get to check email from the back seat. A smart choice for the rider, perhaps, but what is the impact to the city as a whole?

Continue reading “Uber and lyft data make the case for decongestion pricing”

News Roundup: All in on Density

Link at Convention Place Station

This is an open thread

Photo by Atomic Taco in the STB Flickr Pool

How fare enforcement stops can compound poverty and homelessness

Fare enforcers boarding a RapidRide bus in Downtown Seattle (photo by Bruce Englehardt)

This post is part one of a three post series on fare enforcement on Seattle area transit. Links: Part Two, Part Three

Patrick Burke got on a RapidRide E bus at Third and Pike one evening with a transfer in his backpack. At least, he thought it was in his backpack, until he tried to get it out for a fare enforcement check. Usually, Burke puts his transfers in the same pocket in his bag. This time, it wasn’t in the usual place.

Burke had seen the fare enforcement officers (FEOs) get on at the next stop, and started digging around in his other pockets for the slip of paper when they started checking passengers for proof of payment. When one of the officers got to Burke, he still hadn’t found it. Burke was still searching for the ticket when the other officer completed his check of the rest of the bus. The second officer approached Burke and his partner.

“He comes to the back [of the bus] and gets this immediate attitude,” Burke says. “Saying I was wasting their time, and that I was playing games with them. And I said, ‘No, sir, I was just looking for my transfer.’ I even pointed at the pocket. ‘I typically have it in this pocket but I just got back from a very document-heavy meeting, and I just misplaced it. I’m looking for it.’”

The rest of the passengers got off the bus at the next stop, leaving Burke alone with the fare enforcement officers and driver. Burke still hadn’t found the transfer a few stops later.

“They were starting to get puffy chest, and I didn’t understand what was going on. They started to say that, if I didn’t start cooperating with them, that they would have to call the sheriff.” Continue reading “How fare enforcement stops can compound poverty and homelessness”

After I-1631 fails, climate action is getting kicked back to Olympia

Credit: State of Washington

This post comments on vote totals as of 11 AM on November 7.

I-1631 failed. That’s a blow in the political fight against climate change. It doesn’t have to be a fatal one.

I-1631 gained a larger Yes margin than I-732, as of this morning. That’s remarkable, considering the amount of resources oil companies burned to defeat I-1631: the Yes campaign was outspent by about 2:1, as of today. I-732 did not face a coordinated No campaign. Given the stiffer opposition, any gains have to be considered a positive.

The gain is encouraging because I-1631 was a new concept: it engaged directly with the pocketbook and social justice issues that result from economic transition away from the fossil fuel economy. Explaining those issues, especially the pocketbook issues, will take time. “Green collar economics” isn’t new, but it also hasn’t caught fire. Making it a popular, winning issue will take further time, activism, and influence. Making a negative, status-quo case based on rising gas prices and bureaucratic overreach is much easier.

So it’s heartening that in the movement-building context, I-1631 presents some political gains. I-1631 engaged and activated a liberal base coalition that climate and environmental groups have struggled to work with in the past, such as activists of color and organized labor.

But a loss is a loss. I-1631 was, from the start, a tough fit for Washington, considering the state’s hostility to taxation. As of 11 AM on November 7, I-1634, the food and beverage tax ban, is passing at a similar margin to I-1631’s failure. It’s part of a long history: a recent high-earners income tax was DOA at the ballot box. State schools remain underfunded. Tim Eyman has had a long career. Washington does not like taxes (though not for no reason.) That’s old news for anyone who watches state politics.

So’s this: Washington was unable to make significant a progressive change because its liberal and progressive elected leadership lacks the necessary whatever—courage, wherewithal, organization—to take it to the house. In this case, the stymied change is the failure of Governor Jay Inslee and the Democratic legislature to make any progress on a climate change bill, despite multiple attempts.

You could write the same thing about public schools, gun control, an income tax, criminal justice reform, legalizing cannabis, or public transportation. Those are all issues that should be addressed by the legislature, but at best wind up at the ballot box.

Governor Inslee has long made the environment and climate change his signature issue, and his inability to shepherd a climate change bill through the legislature is an indictment of his leadership and effectiveness. He’s had more than one term—and a session with his party in control of both chambers—to take climate action, but didn’t.

Democrats seem likely to expand their majorities in the legislature. Maybe they will use them to take a bold step against climate change. If history is any guide, they won’t.

Election Night Results

An election night party
Photo by Bruce Engelhardt

Partial statewide vote tallies are now in. The tallies listed below are as of 9:20 pm. All our endorsed positions and candidates are listed on top.

For races in which STB endorsed:

Initiative 1631
Yes: 849,062 43.7%
No: 1,093,897 56.3%

Intercity Transit Proposition 1:
Approved: 33,109 64.75%
Rejected: 18,021 35.25%

State Legislature

District 5, Position 1
Bill Ramos: 28,260 52.48%
Chad Magendanz: 25,590 47.52%

District 7, Position 1:
Jacqueline Maycumber: 29,644 68.6%
Randall Michaelis: 13,571 31.4%

District 10, Position 2:
Dave Paul: 20,419 50.24%
Dave Hayes: 20,223 49.76%

District 21, Senator:
Marko Liias: 24,019 62.93%
Mario Lionel Lotmore: 14,148 37.07%

District 22, Position 2:
Beth Doglio: 32,334 70.1%
Allen Acosta: 13,792 29.9%

District 25, Position 1:
Jamie Smith: 11,022 47.59%
Kelly Chambers: 12,138 52.41%

District 30, Senator:
Claire Wilson: 16,787 53.13%
Mark Miloscia: 14,808 46.87%

District 32, Senator:
Jesse Salomon: 27,170 68.93%
Maralyn Chase: 12,244 29.93%

District 34, Senator:
Joe Nguyen: 27,440 57.39%
Shannon Braddock: 20,373 31.07%

District 34, Position 2:
Joe Fitzgibbon: 39,255 (unopposed)

District 36, Position 1:
Noel Frame: 53,878 89.2%
Sydney Wissel: 6,525 10.8%

District 36, Position 2:
Gael Tarleton: 52,609 87.01%
Matt Dubin: 7,856 12.99%

District 42, Senator:
Pinky Vargas: 30,527 49.63%
Doug Ericksen: 30,978 50.37%

District 42, Position 2:
Sharon Shewmake: 30,779 50.11%
Vincent Buys: 30,648 49.89%

District 43, Position 1:
Nicole Macri: 50,724 91.09%
John Peeples: 4,959 8.91%

The big surprises of the night include Jesse Salomon’s lopsided victory over an incumbent senator from the same party, and Intercity Transit’s resounding victory despite I-1631 losing in Thurston County.

Also on the ballot was a Lewis County measure to expand transit service there, which is losing badly.

Metro’s New Microtransit Service Is Quick and Easy to Use

Metro’s Ride2 microtransit service, operated by Chariot (photo by author)

During a rather uneventful rush-hour on Friday, I ventured out to Eastgate and tried out Metro’s new ride-hailing service, “Ride2”, which is operated by Ford subsidiary Chariot. Service is available during weekday rush hours, from 6 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., and is booked using a smartphone app.

Installing and setting up the app was straightforward, only requiring a name, e-mail address, phone number, and password. There’s also an option to add your ORCA card to improve service (though it isn’t spelled out what the card data is used for) and another screen has an option to mark yourself as a person needing mobility assistance (which would book a wheelchair-ready van). There is also a dedicated phone number for riders without access to the app, which promises full functionality that is equal to the app version.

The app works for any trip originating from or heading to Eastgate Park-and-Ride, which has a dedicated drop-off area on the northeast side of the bus bays. The map screen lets you input an address or scroll around to drop a pin within the highlighted service area, which covers Factoria, Somerset, and Lake Hills.

Continue reading “Metro’s New Microtransit Service Is Quick and Easy to Use”

Drop Off Ballot By Tomorrow, or Stand in Line for Accessible Voting, by 8 pm

Vote to save Earth. It’s the only planet that has chocolate.
Credit: NASA

Tuesday is election day. If you haven’t taken advantage of the opportunity to mail your vote for free, you may have blown the opportunity. Not all mail that gets picked up tomorrow or delivered tomorrow gets postmarked for tomorrow. A Wednesday postmark will leave your ballot envelope sealed and uncounted.

The next-best option is to find one of the many drop boxes near you, and drop it off there by 8 pm Tuesday. Don’t worry if it is the wrong county. The ballots will make their way to the correct counting center.

Drop boxes near light rail stations include:

King County Administration Building, with ballot drop box on the street and accessible voting machines on the 4th floor
  • Seattle Central College (a couple blocks south of Capitol Hill Station)
  • King County Administration Building, 500 4th Ave (a block east of Pioneer Square Station)
  • Uwajimaya (a couple blocks south and block east of International District / Chinatown Station)
  • Beacon Hill Library (a block south of Beacon Hill Station)
  • Rainier Community Center (a few blocks east of Columbia City Station)
  • Rainier Beach Community Center (several blocks east of Rainier Beach Station)

There is also a drop box at the west end of the UW campus, at the southeast corner of University Way NE and NE 41st St, among many others throughout the county and state.

Go to the ballot drop box page to see the exact location of the drop box.

You also have the option of standing in line at an accessible voting site, and casting an electronic vote. Get in line by 8 pm Tuesday. Three accessible voting sites are available in King County today and tomorrow:

  • King County Administration Building, room 440
  • Bellevue Regional Library
  • King County Elections headquarters in Renton

Union Station is no longer an accessible voting site, so go to the County Administration Building, 500 4th Ave, 4th floor.

You’ve heard about all that money that will be given to that “unelected and unaccountable board” from the carbon pollution fee (Initiative 1631), to (ahem) make recommendations to the Legislature about how to spend it, since the $31 million spent by Big Oil to educate you has surely given you several mailers. Consider this our last, best chance to get the state into the business of funding transit and transit construction. And what better way to do it than to charge polluters? (Yeah, I know, someone will argue that it can’t pay for it all, and it is not a dependable funding source, so the polluters should get off free, and it’ll trickle down, and won’t prevent any pollution at all, or won’t prevent enough so why not just give up trying, or we should just wait for the Legislature to act, or someone has a slightly better approach and the money to collect the signatures to put it on the ballot, and, really there is no rush and we must get it perfect and get consensus from the oil companies, etc.)

Our full list of endorsements can be accessed from the top bar. Let’s tell Big Oil we want a future for life on Earth.

Draft SIP Offers Vision of Vastly-Different 2025 ST Express Network

Click to enlarge.

Sound Transit’s recently-released Draft 2019 Service Implementation Plan is a data-dense tome covering the next round of ST Express route restructures, ridership and performance data, Title VI analyses, and more. This year’s edition offers a vision of how ST Express service might look in 2025 (pages 85-110), after five more Link extensions and the opening of Sound Transit’s first two Bus Rapid Transit routes, but laid out opening by opening. Transit network efficiency geeks, salivate thereon. It’s time to play Sim-ST!

Once Northgate Link opens (2021, page 93):

  • Some of the Snohomish-County-to-Seattle routes (510, 511, 512, and 513) could be truncated at Northgate Station.
  • Route 522 is planned to be truncated at Northgate or Roosevelt Station.
  • Route 542 is planned to be truncated at the U-District instead of continuing on to Green Lake Park & Ride.
  • Routes 555 and 556 could be restructured between the U-District and Northgate Stations. Since route 555 does not serve the U-District, part of that restructure would presumably be to just have route 556. No specific restructure between the U-District and Northgate is proposed. So, truncation seems to be the default proposal.
  • Route 586 is planned to be eliminated. Past SIPs have mentioned a possible route 591 from Tacoma to north downtown, but this SIP merely says service hours will be reinvested in the I-5 South corridor.

Once East Link opens (2023):

  • Route 540 is planned to remain the same as today. The SIP does not mention the route 544 proposal that would eliminate route 540 in favor of investing its service hours in a restructured route 255 that would serve UW Station.
  • Route 541 is planned to be eliminated, presuming it hasn’t already been in favor of route 544.
  • Route 542 is planned to continue as shortened after the Northgate Link restructure, and run all day and all week.
  • Route 545 could become a frequent peak-only route between Bear Creak Park & Ride, Redmond Transit Center, and South Lake Union, not serving Redmond Technology Center Station or Capitol Hill.
  • Route 550 is planned to be eliminated.
  • Routes 555 and 556 could be eliminated, consolidating north-Bellevue-to-UW service to King County Metro route 271 and Bellevue-Issaquah service to route 554.

Once Downtown Redmond Link opens (2024):

The bus routes are not expected to change, but they will continue to service Redmond TC, which will be several blocks from the new Downtown Redmond Station, and are not expected to serve the station.

Once Lynnwood Link opens (2024):

  • Route 510 would get a huge bump in service hours, and provide frequent all-day connection between Downtown Everett, South Everett Park & Ride, Ash Way Park & Ride and Lynnwood City Center Station.
  • Route 511 would become a peak frequent bi-directional service between Seaway Transit Center, Eastmont P&R, Ash Way P&R, and Lynnwood City Center Station.
  • Routes 512 and 513 would be eliminated.

Once Federal Way Link opens (2024):

  • Route 574 could be extended to Burien TC and Westwood Village.
  • Route 577 would be eliminated.
  • Routes 578, 590, 592, and 594 could be truncated at Federal Way P&R Station.
  • Route 595 would remain as it is today, running express between Tacoma Community College TC and downtown Seattle.

Once SR 522 / NE 145th BRT opens (2024):

Route 522 would remain as a peak connection between Roosevelt or Northgate Station and SR 522 destinations through UW Bothell.

The segment between UW Bothell and Woodinville P&R might remain in the BRT route depending on a ridership study to be conducted after Northgate Link opens.

Once I-405 BRT opens (2024):

  • Route 532 would continue providing peak service between Everett and Bellevue, and add the stop on campus at UW Bothell.
  • Routes 535 and 560 are planned to be eliminated.
  • Routes 566 and 567 would continue much as they are today.
  • Route 574 could be extended to serve Burien TC and Westwood Village.

Frank Chiachiere assisted with this post.

Snohomish officials: Seattle needs to rein in potential light rail spending

Sounder at Everett Station. Credit: Bruce Engelhardt.

In an interview with STB Wednesday, Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit board chair Dave Somers said that West Seattle and Ballard stakeholders have to rein in their ambitions for the new line unless they can come up with more funding.

“We are going to be ever vigilant that costs are kept in control,” Somers said. “Those of us that are out in the distant future for delivery, and at the end of the system, are going to bear all the risk of cost overruns or overspending.”

Continue reading “Snohomish officials: Seattle needs to rein in potential light rail spending”

2019 ST Draft Service Plan Proposes Significant March ST Express Route Changes

Sound Transit has released its Draft 2019 Service Implementation Plan, along with a one-page summary that looks a lot more succinct and useful than the traditional executive summaries. The actual proposals for service changes are just for March 2019. Highlights and lowlights include:

Route 513 will cease serving Evergreen Way, and instead serve the new Seaway Transit Center, near Paine Field.

Click to enlarge.

Route 542 will expand service to evenings and weekends, while routes 545 and 555 will no longer serve Montlake, due to Montlake Freeway Station closing.

Route 550 will move to 2nd and 4th Avenues downtown, and take several minutes longer to cross downtown.

Click to enlarge.

Route 555 will cease serving its long tail between downtown Bellevue and Issaquah. Route 556 will continue to serve this tail in the other direction. The hours saved would be invested into improved reliability for route 554.

Click to enlarge.

Reverse-peak-direction service on route 580 will be eliminated, and various other runs will just go between South Hill and Puyallup Station. Saved hours will be invested in other Pierce County ST Express routes. See page 22 of the Draft SIP for the full list of cuts.

Click to enlarge.

Minor changes, listed on page 24, include:

  • replacing the northbound freeway station stop at 145th with a stop on 5th Ave NE, for route 512. The freeway station is being closed for Link station construction. Non-specified reliability improvements may be rolled out to mitigate the extra travel time.
  • a possible additional stop on route 541 at the southeast corner of the Microsoft campus, to mitigate lack of access to Overlake Transit Center resulting from Link station construction.
  • the discontinuation of the midday run of route 596 from Bonney Lake P&R to Sumner Station, due to having just 2-4 riders.

The Draft SIP is coy on whether the travel time on Link Light Rail will decrease after the buses leave the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for good, or how long it will take to get more peak 3-car trains. The SIP merely states that “reliability” will improve, and offers a transfer to light rail as a way to get across downtown faster (which seems like a dubious plan if average wait time is 3-5 minutes, and getting between the bus stop and train takes multiple minutes, along with the time to exit the destination station, unless they really are planning to reduce cross-downtown travel time, and buses are reduced to a crawl). Siemens light rail vehicles start getting delivered sometime in 2019, and then will need a prep period before any can go into service.

More changes for September 2019 will be proposed in early 2019, with public outreach planned for after Metro makes its decisions on its northeastside restructures.

Public comments on the March 2019 service change proposals are being accepted through November 15.

The SIP also offers a treasure trove of ridership and performance data, as well as scenarios for how ST Express service might look in 2025, which will be covered in a future post.