24 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: MRT After Hours”

  1. What a savage little creature! Look at her. Her 62 probably late again. Well, too bad for Rudi if he sits down next to her and accuses her of spreading the FAKE NEWS that in some limited cases there could be such a thing as the truth.

    Only to find out that in this case, the truth is that she is about to shred him into something a starving hyena won’t eat. Well, serves MRT right that she just got elected Shop Steward. How’d you like to be her Base Chief? True or not, glad I’m not the one with the mop.

    Even if truth is that whether or not the News is FAKE, I’ve got it rolled up to whack her with and they need to get her under the seat.

    You didn’t just hear me say that. What’s left of Mark

  2. The 2018 service implementation plan says:
    With the extension to Bellevue and Overlake and the opening of Lynnwood Link, Link will operate as the Blue Line between Overlake and Lynnwood with four car trains at all times.

    Just thinking…
    Wouldn’t it be easier to remember which line goes where if the *Red* line went to *Red*mond?

    1. And the Eastside is more conservative than Seattle. But no, ST chose the non-intuitive colors. It’s like how we’ll have to remember that RapidRide G goes to MaGison and RapidRide H goes to DeHlridge.

  3. I want to put the 522 BRT discussions in the spotlight.

    It appears that all of the public presentations end the corridor at 145th and I-5. The concept diagrams and initial corridor alternatives all stop there.

    However, the bus entrance is off of 148th. That’s three congested blocks north of 145th.

    This is important because the work going on is penciling out minor projects and budgets tor them. Without analyzing these three blocks, we are dooming the most ridden and one of the most congested segments to be a huge rider aggravation. Without analysis and solutions, this will be a formidable problem.

    Is anyone else concerned about this oversight?


    1. Those three blocks aren’t most drivers’ path to/from I-5, like 145th is, so it’s just people driving to the station that you have to worry about congestion from. I’m not that worried.

      What I’m actually more concerned about is Transit signal priority at the light of 5th and 145th, or lack thereof. Particularly the left turn onto 145th when exiting the station. How many minutes will the signal make the bus wait to make that turn?

    2. Right, 5th is a minor street so there won’t be many cars that aren’t going to the station. The biggest overhead is the turn from 145th to 5th, the fact that buses and cars will use the same entrance lanes, and traffic lights between 145th and 148th.

    3. 5th is how drivers get to the metered northbound I-5 on-ramp. The metered traffic backs onto 5th. Google average traffic map shows congestion there in the afternoons.

      1. I assume there will be a separate lane for cars getting onto I5 and thru traffic? If so, the bus won’t be affected.

      2. Yeah, it is already two different lanes (one for turning onto the freeway, the other for going straight). You can see that on the map: https://goo.gl/maps/srqpNU5PSgH2. Now it is possible that someone will make the turn, and then try and merge, thus blocking the right lane. What isn’t clear to me is how that situation is going to be handled. It sure looks to me like you will be able to make a right turn on 145th from the middle lane, with the right most lane being bus only. If so, then it should be no problem. Either that car then has to switch lanes to go straight ahead (and thus yield to the bus) or just wait their turn to get onto the freeway. Either way it means the right most lane on 5th only has traffic heading north (just on 5th like today or towards the station) which should be OK.

        In general I get the concerns but I feel like this can be improved over time. It isn’t like the station placement itself (which we’ll likely have to live with forever).

    4. From what I can tell, it should be OK, or at worse require some minor tweaking.

      Getting to the station looks pretty good. It looks to me like at 145th eastbound, there is both a BAT lane and a turn lane. If done right, that means that cars won’t be allowed in the BAT lane between 6th and 5th. In other words, you can’t use the BAT lane if you plan on turning right onto 5th (to head to the station or go to the freeway ramp). This is not true for some of the other intersections (e. g. you can clog up the BAT lane if you are turning onto 15th from 145th) but the freeway ramp is the main issue, and it looks like this will solve it.

      The other direction you have only local traffic and those who are exiting the station.* I could see a backup there. You could have a lot of people leaving the park and ride trying to head east on 145th. I think this is where Al has a point. Without special treatment, the bus will be behind those cars, and might have to wait for two or more light cycles. They could make the cycle for turning longer (and make the other cycles shorter) but that could easily become a gigantic traffic mess in the area. I think it would make sense to keep the cycles as they are (which is relatively short in all directions) and carve out a bus only lane there. As it is, there are three lanes there, so it would just take some paint. The right lane would be right turn only (as it is now). The left lane would be a bus only lane (the bus would turn left). The middle lane then becomes straight or left turn only. I don’t think that many head straight south from there. The intersection after there is problematic (requiring you to wait for fast cars cruising through) and it just doesn’t make that much sense to use the park and ride if you live south (you are better off getting to Northgate or NE 130th). By the way, this is another argument for building NE 130th when the rest of the line gets in (traffic around the 145th park and ride won’t be as bad).

      * You also have those exiting the freeway, but those people are likely headed westbound, as there is no reason to use that exit if you are headed eastbound.

      1. That’s pretty much what I expected, although I’m not sure how the right returns from westbound 145th to northbound 5th would not use the BAT lane? It the plan to have two right-turn lanes?

        In general, I really dislike double right-turn lanes because they make life very stressful for pedestrians and cyclists. As a pedestrian, a double right-turn means you have to watch for not one, but two lanes of turning traffic. As a cyclist, it means you can’t cross the street by riding in a straight line, like you can with a normal intersection, but instead, are forced to merge left to go straight, often in very busy car traffic.

        Once I had the experience of getting trapped in the right lane of Fairview approaching Mercer, with a forced right-turn onto I-5. I pretty much had no choice except to just awkwardly stop in the middle of the intersection and wait for someone to let me in. All because of that double right turn. (Granted, it’s 10x worse to do this in the middle of the city, especially when the forced right turn is onto a freeway, so a cyclist caught in the turn lane has literally nowhere to go, but still…).

      2. Is the plan to have two right-turn lanes?

        From what I can tell, yes. Right now there are two lanes (the right lane is straight or right, the left lane is straight or left). The options vary a little bit, but they all have two lanes there. In the middle example they show the general purpose traffic as being one lane that then expands to two at the intersection. The right lane (the bus lane) will be right turn always. They aren’t explicit on the lanes, but the fact that in the middle example they expand to two lanes suggests that they want cars to turn from the middle lane. In other words, it would work pretty much the way it does now, except that you might also have a bus making that turn as well.

        Yes, it is more hazardous, but I think it helps that the right lane is a bus lane. It isn’t ideal — you still have a two step process crossing the street — but often you are only dealing with one lane (the car lane). I also don’t think you will have that many people crossing there. If you are headed to the station, it makes sense to stay on the east side of the street, thus avoiding the exit and entrance ramps to the freeway. I assume there will be a crosswalk (with signals) by the station (just south of 148th).

        Personally if I was on a bike I would dismount and walk the bike across (carefully). If there is no bus, then it is similar to the situation today (one lane that might turn). If there is a bus, it makes it worse. You have to basically step out into the sidewalk (after the bus yields to you) and then try and make eye contact to see if someone is turning. It does help that most bus drivers simply stay put in that instance (unlike car drivers). This helps with visibility. The worst is when a car creeps into the intersection (starting their turn) then realizes there is a pedestrian, and stops. The second car is then harder to see. I think in this situation it will be the opposite. The bus will stay put, while the car creep, which means that at least you can see them coming.

        Of course it is possible that they will simply make that a BAT lane (and thus the only option for turning). I just think that will put the bus in the same traffic that it is in now (since a lot of people make that turn, especially during rush hour).

  4. There’s a paradox between all the faults we see in the Metro/ST network and how it’s nothing like the comprehensiveness in Toronto, Chicago, or London or even Vancouver, yet it keeps getting lauded in the press as as one of the best systems in the US and the only one increasing in ridership and multiple investments. Even transit experts are writing this. What should we think of these two realities: how can we put them both into perspective and resolve the paradox? Is it just that transit in the rest of the US is really, really bad so even a mediocre network seems like paradise, or is there more to it than that?

    1. I think the paradox is that ST2 was the result of soul-searching about quickly getting riders into Downtown Seattle. While not perfect, it was a brilliant strategy! Northgate and Aeast Link are going to boost ridership.

      ST3 was more political. It was more about pleasing interests over achieving travel-time benefits. The corridors in ST3 were identified in ST2 but were relegated to studies because their merits were clearly less beneficial from the outset. Since its adoption, the planning continues to prioritize other interests over rider benefits.

    2. I think there’s (at least) three factors at work. First, as you observe, the bar for transit quality in the United States is really low.

      Secondly, most people take the deficiencies of the current system as a given, but STB commenters are aware of policies and design choices that would greatly improve service (more bus lanes, incentivizing ORCA usage, off-board fare payment, all-doors boarding, more convenient bus/rail transfers, etc) and we measure the existing transit system against what we could have if the city/regional prioritized transit more.

      Finally, many of the STB commenters probably use (or try to use) transit more, and in a broader variety of circumstances than most people. If you just use transit for a 9-5 commute, especially to get to/from Downtown, or to get to the airport or occasional major events, then while transit has its issues (crowding, delays), it probably overall compares well to driving in speed, cost, and convenience. If you’re someone trying to also use transit to access a broad swath of the city off-peak- especially nights and weekends, then you see more of the systems failings- infrequent service, problematic transfers- that can end up making a transit trip 2-4 times slower than a trip by car.

    3. We’re growing ridership because we’ve had high-density job growth and because our investments in transformatively better service have paid off. Cities with older train systems are making investments to maintain the systems they already have.

      Seattle is a lot smaller than Toronto, Chicago, or London. If, say, Chicago had as many cranes as Seattle that would be a much smaller portion of the population. And Chicago added jobs in the downtown periphery at the same ratio to its population as Seattle has they’d be transit-accessible to a smaller share of commuters due to the immense scope of Chicago’s sprawl and its racial segregation, which is much deeper and more intense than Seattle’s.

      Additionally, as a city where transit coverage has historically been provided by buses, where, as Jarrett Walker said, “The whole 99% rides the bus,” we’ve made more bus improvements than most American cities where riding the bus is more heavily stigmatized, and this has created a bit of a virtuous cycle.

      These points don’t say much about Vancouver, though. I know next to nothing about Vancouver.

    4. Al S: I think the issue is broader than ST3, and a lot of it is bus trips. What people praise is the existing Link, Link expansion plans, RapidRide (yes, really), and the frequency increase on other routes. Or as Metro said last week, “Every time we add a bus, we get a bus and a half more riders.”

      PhillipG: I agree with all those. However, even though many commuters don’t know much about the off-peak transit experience, the transit experts who write articles do know about those things, yet they still praise Seattle’s network and its effectiveness.

      Al Diamond: the issue is the percent of the population that has access to frequent transit and the percent of their trips that it serves. Seattle in the streetcar days had comprehensive transit that was as relatively useful as Chicago’s is now. San Francisco and Boston are not much larger than Seattle but have much better transit. Germany has light rail with downtown tunnels down to cities the size of Spokane.

      Vancouver’s transit is not as comprehensive as San Francisco or Boston, but it does have a few Skytrain lines running every five minutes full time, and many full-time frequent bus routes, and good feefers from outlying places like White Rock to the nearest Skytrain station. You see in Vancouver a little bit of what I saw in Moscow: people waiting outside the Broadway Skytrain station for others to arrive, and then walking to a social activity. Or way out in Cloverdale, which was rural in the 90s, I visited a church a few times and every Sunday they’d pick up a few Skytrain riders at Scott Road station, which was the furthest it went then. A lot of nightclub patrons leave at the last Skytrain run. Around 2000 there was a month-long transit strike, and during that time the buses didn’t run and Skytrain was free (because the bus drivers and TVM maintainers were on strike, but not the Skytrain drivers). The clubs really struggled because people didn’t go to the clubs if there were no buses. (That’s like my friend in Bristol who drove a keg truck during the day but in the evening he took a bus to the bar so he wouldn’t have to drive home after drinking.) None of these things happen much in Seattle: people drive instead.

    5. I think Al Dimond is right: the combination of improved service as well as increasing density have lead to increased ridership.

      It is important to keep in mind that Seattle has grown differently than most cities. Not only has there been way more growth inside the city, but there has been way more growth in already urban areas of the city. The “urban village” may not be great for affordable housing, but it does lead to good transit (for those who can afford it).

      Meanwhile, both the trains and the buses have gotten better. Link finally built the key section of their system. UW to downtown Seattle is the piece that every expert (as well as former heads of ST) knew was going to be the most popular. If I’m not mistaken, it was the most densely populated corridor in the U. S. without rail service (I’m not sure if that was the measure, but something like that). As I said before, even ST couldn’t mess that up that bad.

      At the same time, Metro service has improved dramatically inside the city. The extra money for service has meant that 15 minute frequency is now the standard, instead of 30 minutes. That makes a huge difference (I personally view those as being completely different) and Metro is busy trying to cut that down to 10. At the same time, Metro has been able to make other, somewhat aggressive restructures following the expansion of Link. That doesn’t mean that everyone comes out ahead (I’m sure there are plenty of people who miss the old 71/72/73) but those folks persevere, while others suddenly find their bus is a lot more frequent, and trips that used to be very awkward are a breeze.

      Whatever faults we may find with the system, I think just about everyone agrees that it is much better than what it was only a few years ago. As Al Dimond said, this is in contrast with most cities (that are busy trying to maintain their system, as opposed to improving it).

      I also think it is worth comparing what exists within the city versus the suburbs. I am not so sure that things in the suburbs are better, or that ridership has increased. ST express service has not increased, and it wouldn’t surprise me if all of the ridership gains for Metro are in Seattle (for the reasons mentioned). I suppose some suburban riders have better options once they get to the city, but I don’t know if that has translated into increased ridership.

      I also agree with the point made by Al S., although I’m not sure if there really was a switch. I think ST2 was just very simple. Ask anyone what makes sense to build and they would say things like “up to Northgate” or “Bellevue”. It is only with ST3 that things get less obvious, and that is why they failed. Yes, it was political, but they were political all along. But even ignorant politicians knew that extending Link to Northgate or Bellevue makes sense. It is after that point that politicians (making wild proposals) and experts diverge in a big way.

  5. Mike, on southbound LINK, often encounter departing passengers.Time and again, people from, say, New York City have told me they wish their city could find a way to dual-mode their subways with buses. And be as clean by comparison.

    I think they’ll forgive us if we lane-reserve, signal preempt, and coordinate our buses so they serve rail-passengers as well. Was going to ask: Is ST doing anything to coordinate Metro, Community Transit and Pierce to work together on this one?

    My guess is that visitors mostly see our system as carrying the spirit of a brand new effort. Considering all our years with The Seattle Times, I can’t see that it’s any polyester off our seat-cushions if the rest of the world’s news media don’t recognize our share of mediocrity.

    Only one serious problem I can see with world’s good opinion of us. It gives our decision-makers an ironclad excuse to do things like shutting our DSTT signal system two weeks’ into operations in 1990. Maybe since, stats aside visitors from places with better-signaled systems really spend more time stuck in the hot overcrowded dark for no observable reason.

    But most fascinating news these last couple of days is strange coming from France, which has rubber tired subways and above all, the TGV. Here I was thinking the only reason anybody had a car there was to sit in traffic and honk their horns. But…

    Maybe not really fair to our Governor, but really wonder if Jay wouldn’t benefit from the spirit of the whole thing. Though maybe he’s always been told to keep his head in an emergency.

    Found terrific perfect illustration. Notice how much the girl looks like the one with MTR. And read the lyrics carefully. Or could be just coincidence that Jenny had second thoughts about any Head Tax.



    1. “people from, say, New York City have told me they wish their city could find a way to dual-mode their subways with buses.”

      That’s funny. The NYC subway really can’t have buses with trains every three minutes and sometimes one minute. We’re kicking buses out of the tunnel before trains get to three minutes.

      And if New York had a subway like Seattle’s… OMG, there would be one north-south line in Manhattan (I’ll call it 8th Avenue because that’s the one I’m most familiar with, although I’ve hard Lexington would say it has the most riders.) And one line east to Brooklyn (the Eastside). And we would just now be planning the first line to Long Island City (Amazon) and on to Queens.

      1. Yeah, as a former New Yorker the comparison is laughable. 95% of Seattle is Maspeth, Queens. Completely inaccessible by high capacity transit.

        That said, I’d take Link to SeaTac over the A+AirTrain any day. :)

    2. I suspect those New Yorkers have only seen Link between the airport and downtown, and maybe a tourist attraction or Rainier Valley friend”s house. They haven’t seen what it’s like to live in areas like Greenwood or Lake City or Renton or Kent that aren’t on Link and don’t have all-day commuter rail either.

  6. Metro line crews were out today restoring the trolley wire under the I-90 overpass on Rainier Avenue. Hopefully, starting Monday morning, route 7 won’t have to do the “drop-poles/re-attach poles” routine anymore.

  7. Single-family zoning goes down in Minneapolis. “75 percent of the city’s residents live in areas zoned for single-family homes” like a certain other city. “threeplex housing will be allowed across much of the city”. That’s less from the fourplex proposed, but a lot more than that other city that scrapped any liberalization at all.

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