Our Most Popular Articles in 2018


It’s time to look back at the top articles of the last year. The major themes should be no surprise: ST3 and high-speed rail dominated. But our series on East Link and how it’s shaping the Eastside was popular as well.

  1. Introducing Cascadia Rail by Cascadia Rail (Feb 12, 2018). The launch of a new organization advocating for state-wide HSR.
  2. Seattle Metro Rapid Map “circa” 1990 by Oran Virincy (Feb 17, 2018). Oran’s retro-fantasy map shows what Forward Thrust-powered Seattle rapid transit might have looked like at the dawn of the grunge era.
  3. ST3 Level 2 Planning – Time to Make Decisions by Seattle Subway (Sept 21, 2018). The Ballard-West Seattle options begin to narrow.
  4. ST3 Must be Built for the Future by STB Editorial Board (Feb 7, 2018). We argue the Ballard line should be built with expansion in mind.
  5. Reimagining Bellevue for Light Rail by Lizz Giordano (Apr 9, 2018). deep dive on Bellevue’s transformation around the train.
  6. How much would high-speed rail actually cost? by Alon Levy (Jan 17, 2018). A critique of the high costs in WSDOT’s initial high-speed rail study.
  7. ST3 Plan needs to put riders first by Seattle Subway (Nov 29, 2018). Feedback as the Ballard-West Seattle process moves toward the “preferred alternative”
  8. An Opportunity to Make Light Rail Exceptional by Seattle Subway (Feb 13, 2018). Seattle Subway’s opening gambit.
  9. Redmond Waits for Light Rail by Lizz Giordano (Feb 5, 2018).
  10. 14th Avenue is the Wrong Spot for a Ballard Station by Frank Chiachiere (Oct 17, 2018). Explaining why 14th is substantially worse than 15th.

And here are the most commented ones:

Continue reading “Our Most Popular Articles in 2018”

Carpocalypse Grab Bag: Free Ride Hours?

Metro bus fares in 2010 / photo by Oran

Correction: The post originally stated transit would be free after 7 pm on New Year’s Eve. Actually, only Metro buses and the Seattle Streetcars will be free during that period.

BTW, Link Light Rail will be operating later hours after midnight New Year’s Eve. The last southbound train departs UW Station at 1:56 am. The last northbound train departs Angle Lake Station at 1:20 am.

Starting January 14, downtown traffic will suck, far worse than it ever has before. Too many buses, all packed to the gills, will be (in many cases due to political cowardice) stuck in that traffic. Many of you will ignore the beseechments to bike or work at home for three weeks, and will share in that misery.

I was delighted to see Erica Barnett re-raise the idea of bringing back the Ride Free Zone. King County Service Development Manager Bill Bryant quickly dismissed the idea based on false premises, including that it would lead to restoration of the mess that was Pay-after-you-shove-to-the-front-to-exit. Ironically, Barnett was a vocal critic of the original Ride Free Zone. There is likely not enough time between now and January 14 for Metro to conduct a clear-headed analysis of RFZ 2.0, featuring fare enforcement on the outside fringe of the zone instead of making everyone’s ride home an uncomfortable pre-2012-style slog. But it is worth studying for future deployment, or testing before and/or during Carpocalypse.

In the meantime, we will get to experience the now annual tradition of free Metro bus and streetcar rides after 7 pm on New Year’s Eve.

Continue reading “Carpocalypse Grab Bag: Free Ride Hours?”

Why doesn’t Inslee’s “clean transportation” plan include transit?

Credit: Joe A. Kunzler

The failure of I-1631 has allowed Governor Jay Inslee to continue an annual tradition: he announced another climate action plan to great fanfare.

The plan leaves plenty to be desired. The package’s proposed $129 million in “clean transportation” funding doesn’t invest in any land-based, local transit.

Continue reading “Why doesn’t Inslee’s “clean transportation” plan include transit?”

News Roundup: Up for Sale

Hitch Hiking Holiday Elves

This is an open thread.

Fey to Lead House Transportation Committee

Rep. Jake Fey

Update: The post originally stated that Rep. Joan McBride was re-elected. Actually, she retired. The author apologizes for the error.

On December 13, the House Democratic Caucus elected its new leaders and new committee chairs. Rep. Jake Fey (D – Tacoma) was elected the new Chair of the House Transportation Committee, replacing the retiring Judy Clibborn (D – Mercer Island).

Rep. Fey gave a brief statement upon his election to the Transportation Committee Chairmanship. In part…

Businesses can hire people a lot faster than we can build highways, train stations and ferry terminals. Keeping up with that population growth is a massive challenge that requires not just more highways, but investments in trains, buses and other ways to get cars off the road. And in the end, long-term solutions on transportation will require creativity and cooperation. I look forward to listening to all stakeholders and lawmakers from both parties so we can move Washington forward and utilize all of our transportation alternatives, including mass transit.

Fey has been serving as Vice Chair of the current House Transportation Committee. He had a lot more to say about his views on his campaign website and his caucus page. While voting for the transportation package that authorized ST3, he has been an unabashed supporter of freeway expansions in Pierce County, and voted to reduce the ST3 car tabs each time the issue has come up.

House Transportation Committee Membership

Now that both the House Democratic and Republican Caucuses have made their committee assignments public, we know the full membership of the 2019 House Transportation Committee.

Continue reading “Fey to Lead House Transportation Committee”

Swift Green Line Is 90 Days From Launch

The new Swift Green Line Station at Airport Road & Highway 99, with the Blue Line Station in the background

The Swift Green Line will launch on March 24, 2019, bringing bus rapid transit service to Mill Creek and the new Paine Field passenger terminal. Community Transit’s second bus rapid transit line will have 34 stations and run from Seaway Transit Center on Airport Road, 128th/132nd Street, and the Bothell-Everett Highway (SR 527) to Canyon Park.

The Green Line will intersect several of the county’s major routes at various points: the Blue Line at Airport Road and Highway 99 in south Everett; the Ash Way “trunk” routes at Mariner Park and Ride; and Silver Firs-bound routes in Mill Creek. While connections to a Seattle-bound bus are only possible through limited commuter routes, the Canyon Park terminus will be served by Sound Transit Routes 532/535 to Bellevue, which will eventually be upgraded into a bus rapid transit line.

Continue reading “Swift Green Line Is 90 Days From Launch”

Surviving Carpocalypse: Stay Home, Bike, Ride Sounder, or Ride Link Off-Peak

Mancave (via Wikimedia), a great place to work during the three-week Carpocalypse

Carpocalypse comes Monday, January 14, as the Alaskan Way Viaduct will shut down forever at 10 pm on the evening of Friday, January 11. That will leave up to 90,000 daily car trips trying to find other ways to get into and out of downtown for at least the following three weeks until SR 99 is connected to the new tollway tunnel under downtown.

King County and SDoT have invested heavily into enabling more trips on the King County Water Taxi and more transportation to the water taxi, as West Seattle will be the area most impacted by the shutdown.

Rideshare companies are offering improved deals to get more people to the train stations, as well as select transit centers. However, per Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason, there will be no extra trains or capacity. The Link fleet is maxed out. The BNSF tracks are also maxed out on usage, so there is no space to add any extra Sounder runs. For those who would like a cheat sheet on when to expect 2-car Link trains, sorry that can’t be done. The only tip I can offer is wait close to the end of the second car, and be prepared to board the rear car, whether it be the second or third. Or if you are travelling between 9 am and 3 pm or on weekends, expect all the trains to be 3 cars.

Continue reading “Surviving Carpocalypse: Stay Home, Bike, Ride Sounder, or Ride Link Off-Peak”

Lynnwood Link is Ready to Begin Construction Next Year

Aerial view of Mountlake Terrace Station, looking southwest (courtesy of Sound Transit)

On Thursday, Sound Transit announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has executed its $1.17 billion full funding grant agreement, which will cover one-third of the cost to construct Lynnwood Link and extend light rail service 8.5 miles from Northgate to Lynnwood.

The grant agreement and $300 million in other federal appropriations were sidelined by the FTA for several months until Washington’s congressional delegation lobbied for its inclusion in the federal budget. It is the largest appropriation in the Capital Investment Grant program for this fiscal year, which also includes funds for the nearly-complete Swift Green Line BRT.

The uncertainty of securing the federal grant under the new presidential administration was one factor that pushed the completion date of Lynnwood Link from 2023 to mid-2024, along with other design changes made due to cost increases.

Continue reading “Lynnwood Link is Ready to Begin Construction Next Year”

Downtown mobility in the Carpocalypse


In an extended press conference about the Seattle Squeeze on Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, WSDOT, SDOT, and Metro laid out their plans to mitigate the planned mobility crisis.

It’s a mixed bag. The coordinated government effort does include some promising transit benefits, but doesn’t go as far as it could—by the agencies’ own admission.

The officials—WSDOT’s David Sowers, SDOT’s Heather Marx, and Metro’s Bill Bryant—presented a long list of changes to downtown mobility, organized into three categories:

  • Planned changes;
  • “Initial response,” which would be implemented if the initial plan doesn’t do enough;
  • A set of worst-case-scenario options, blandly titled “secondary responses”

Continue reading “Downtown mobility in the Carpocalypse”

News Roundup: Hard Feelings

Sounder Workstation

This is an open thread.

Durkan names “multimodal kind of guy” Sam Zimbabwe SDOT director

Mayor Jenny Durkan and new SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe. Credit: Peter Johnson

In a press conference yesterday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan named Washington, D.C. District Department of Transportation (DDOT) official Sam Zimbabwe the new Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

When Zimbabwe is confirmed by the Council—Durkan said she expects him to start work in “early January”—he will be SDOT’s first permanent director in a year. The mayor described Zimbabwe as a proven manager of capital projects, who will manage SDOT effectively after years of dysfunction. 

Durkan also laid out an ambitious “unified vision” for multimodal transportation and a dense, transit-oriented built environment, and called transportation the “backbone of equity,” striking back against urbanist critiques of her administration.

Continue reading “Durkan names “multimodal kind of guy” Sam Zimbabwe SDOT director”

Yup, tons of Californians moved to Seattle

That U.S. Census Bureau data says so probably doesn’t surprise you.

I-5 traffic

However, the data pokes holes in the narrative that Silicon Valley transplants are the main reason for the Puget Sound’s explosive growth in population—and housing costs.

More of the out-of-state newcomers to King County from 2012-16 were from California than the rest of the top five states combined. Eight of the twenty out of state counties that sent the most people to Seattle are in California.

However, more of the people new to King County were nearby already. Most of the people who moved to King County in the same period already lived in Washington, and the Puget Sound region itself. Together, Pierce and Snohomish Counties sent more people to King County than California.

Also, Southern California sent more new residents to King County than the Bay Area, and Los Angeles by itself sent nearly as much. The five Bay Area counties (San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo, and Contra Costa) sent 5,158 people. Los Angeles County sent 4,550. The Southern California counties (Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, and San Bernardino) sent 8,542.

The Census Bureau estimates that 143,088 total new residents moved to King County between 2012 and 2016. That number combines people moving from foreign countries, people moving from other U.S. states, and Washington itself.

The data comes from U.S. Census Bureau figures compiled from 2012-16’s American Community Survey (ACS) statistics, which estimate county-to-county migration in each county in the United States. These figures measure only in-migration—the number of people who moved to King County—not net migration, which would account for the combined in- and out-migration.

New Bill Would End I-405 Tolling

I-405 Express Toll Lane VMS testing

On Dec. 10th Sen. Guy Palumbo (D – Maltby/Bothell) prefiled a bill to end the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on I-405. Although most transportation experts would line up to slay this bill, its passage — which is not likely — may actually be a good outcome for transit.

The bill doesn’t return the highway to the old, clogged status quo of one HOV-2 lane.  Instead, the unwidened stretch north of NE 160th St would be HOV-3. The recently expanded segment between Bothell and Bellevue would change to one lane of HOV-3 and one of HOV-2.

The current configuration is HOV-3 during peak hours and HOV-2 at other times, plus anyone willing to pay the toll.

Continue reading “New Bill Would End I-405 Tolling”

Metro boosting Water Taxi service during viaduct closure

Credit: Bruce Engelhardt

Add another workaround to the list of fixes for the Period of Maximum Constraint Seattle Squeeze Carpocalypse: King County is increasing the number of Water Taxi ferry sailings between West Seattle and Downtown.

The Water Taxi is adding an additional vessel starting on January 14, which will allow the following service improvements between then and March 27:

  • Ferries will run the 10 minute route with 20 minute headways, instead of the present 35 minutes
  • The number of peak sailings will double from six to twelve
  • New, hourly off-peak, midday sailings will run between 11:25 AM and 3 PM

King County’s release also mentions “additional parking available on Harbor Ave SW, SW Bronson Way, and Pier 2 with free shuttle connector,” and “no charge for bikes onboard, additional bike parking available at Seacrest Park.”

Metro will set up additional last mile service to get passengers on board the new boat. As Bruce wrote on Tuesday, Metro is rolling out app-dispatched Ride2 shuttle service to the West Seattle dock, along with additional bus service on Routes 773 and 775 from the Junction and Admiral District/Alki, respectively.

The Water Taxi will undoubtedly be a more reliable, and likely faster, mode than the bus. As Metro head of service development Bill Bryant told STB in October, travel times for the Sodo segment of West Seattle buses is likely to increase by 50 to 100 percent.

Find maps for 773 and 775 buses and Ride2 here, plus timetables for the buses.

Learn more about Metro’s revised bus service plan for the Viaduct closure here.

We’ll create a more comprehensive post rounding up all updated Downtown transit service on the eve of the Carpocalypse.

News Roundup: Indefensible

Sounder and Fog

This is an open thread.

Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to go rail-only on March 23; CID single tracking coming in 2020

Credit: Atomic Taco

At the Sound Transit Board’s executive committee today, ST CEO Peter Rogoff said that Sound Transit will be the sole operator in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) starting March 23, 2019, as King County Metro vacates the tunnel. 

Rogoff also announced that ST will run trains in both directions on a single track for a yet to be determined part of 2020, as part of East Link construction.

ST spokesperson Geoff Patrick said that six minute peak headways will remain the same after ST takes over the tunnel, but the trains will “actually be able to meet them.”

At present, bus-related impediments, like onboarding and payment, prevent ST from meeting ideal reliability standards in the tunnel. After the changeover, trains will be able to operate at higher speeds between stations, with less time spent idling between stations or lingering at the platform.

Patrick said that “there’s no way to finish construction” without the single-tracking, which will be located just south of the Chinatown/International District station. Switches will be installed in the tunnel guideway, to connect East Link’s ramp—which previously carried Eastside-bound buses into the DSTT—to the existing rail network.

ST will have to increase headways and reduce train speeds to complete the connection. 

Patrick said that ST staff are still planning the construction work, and will announce firmer plans in January.