King County Metro - Water Taxi

89 Replies to “News Roundup: Big Plans”

  1. That Puyallup development would be awesome. Eliminate an eyesore. Get more people to live near the Sounder Station. Add density to downtown Puyallup. Build housing stock without chopping down forest.

  2. Am I the only one who thinks any of the DSA’s reduced bus flow on third concepts are kind of ridiculous in the current crunch environment?

    If after Link is fully built out in the late 2030’s it seems we need fewer busses downtown this might be worth discussing, but if anything it seems like we need more bus capacity, not less downtown for the forseeable future…

    1. FWIW, the article does talk about it in terms of a long-term thing that could be done by 2035 and contingent LRT.

      “Ultimately, the DSA chose to explore options that would reduce the overall street width for vehicles and capacity for buses while still striving for optimization. This decision was based on the reality that once the East Link, Lynnwood Link, and Federal Way Link extension open in the next few years there will be far fewer buses traversing downtown streets. Instead, the local and regional bus network will be much more focused on bus-to-rail connections and reliance on the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to carry much of the weight.”

      1. (1) I guess they haven’t looked at the bus routes to see that the ones serving the Eastside, Lynnwood, and Federal Way already don’t run on 3rd Ave.

        (2) There need to be more bus riders in those architectural sessions to ask questions that most bus riders might realize might need to be asked, like, “What happens when a bus breaks down in that lane that is blocked in from both sides?”

        (3) For ADA purposes, having as many buses as possible on the same street, without having to climb a hill or find the nearest elevator, is the ideal. The couplet would be terrible for transfers, and make wayfinding for the return ride that much harder.

        (4) Since this can all happen by 2035, I guess spending a few thousand dollars on red paint now would be money down the drain.

        (5) Driverless cars will make buses obsolete by 2035, anyhow. You’ll be amazed at how half a million of those PRT pods can fit downtown at once, how fast they can go once we get rid of the beg buttons, and how well the competiting producers will make the cars cooperate with each other. The solution, of course, is to enable them to launch and land on a dime. Since everyone will be doing it, they will be affordable for everyone.

      2. The obvious question to me is whether a narrower Third Avenue would result in a dramatic new option for the second Downtown transit tunnel: An aerial track instead of a new bored deep tunnel with deep stations. There would be room for the support piers, especially if there was a median.

        I realize that it creates lots of issues. Still, I worry that ST has so underbudgeted ST3 that some drastic cost-cutting measure like this may be the only way to fulfill this ST3 promise.

    2. Assuming the CCC is restarted couldn’t a loop be built off of the CCC from 1st to run along 3rd. I would think it would be a lot cheaper and easier to manage over the long run (though greater upfront cost). It’ll be a variation of the “Median Transitway Concept” option.

      1. If any additional streetcar tracks get built, I’d think that serving Belltown would be the next in line.

        After that, transitioning the FHSC to something more productive would probably be the best course of action. It’s just too circuitous and/or slow for most trips to/from First Hill. I’d suggest a split — extending the Broadway/ Yesler segment to Judkins Park and extending the Jackson segment further into the CD.

      2. No streetcar loops. Loops are one of the worst ideas ever hatched in the transit world, seldom do they ever work well for riders. The main reason so many of the new streetcar lines across the country suck is they have ridiculous loops that have lots of track but go nowhere. They do giant out of direction loops, one-way loops, cross back and forth on themselves and make no transportation logic. Can we just run transit down one street in both directions like just about every successful transit street and transit route in the world?

    3. It seems to me that the Shuttle concept is a non-starter. There are ETB routes turning onto and off of Third Avenue at Seneca/Spring, James, and (probably by then) Yesler. Additionally, though it’s reasonable to envision a bus transfer facility between Yesler and Jackson, where would one find room in booming Belltown for it? It would be extremely expensive for the land.

    4. I agree, Charles. Even after all of ST2 is built, there will still be a lot of buses running through downtown. Starting in the northwest, and moving clockwise you have:

      Ballard/Magnolia buses — These will likely go away after Ballard Link, but not before then.
      Fremont Bridge buses — Likely continue indefinitely.
      Queen Anne buses — Same thing.
      Aurora Bridge buses — Same thing.
      Eastlake buses — Same thing.
      I-5/520 buses — Likely truncated.
      Capitol Hill buses — These run more east-west. However, if there was more right-of-way, then I could see some of these buses heading north-south (towards Belltown) after reaching downtown.
      Central Area buses — Likely continue indefinitely
      I-90 buses — Likely truncated.
      Rainier Valley buses — Likely continue indefinitely.
      Beacon Hill buses — Same thing.
      South I-5 buses — Some will be truncated, but others (like those from Renton) probably won’t.
      Georgetown buses — Likely continue indefinitely.
      South SR 99/509 buses — Could be truncated with ST3, but likely continue indefinitely.
      South Park Bridge/1st Avenue Bridge buses — Likely continue, even after West Seattle Link is built.
      West Seattle Freeway buses — These will likely go away after Ballard Link but not before then.

      A lot of buses won’t go downtown anymore, but a lot of them will. Mainly it is suburban buses that will be truncated. Since the population is growing faster in the city, I think it is fair to say that demand will grow for buses that will continue to run through downtown. If you look at those areas, that is a lot of buses. At a minimum, I see this, after ST3:

      1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 13, 14, 26, 27, 28, 36, 40, 49, 62, 70, 106, 107, 124, 131, 132, E.*

      This is not counting buses that run from the southern freeways that could be truncated (but probably won’t). This also doesn’t count buses that could be altered to turn on Third and serve Belltown. This is also *after* ST3 is complete. Until ST2, we still have a mess. Until ST3, we still have all those buses from Ballard, Magnolia and West Seattle. But even after all of that is done, we will still have a lot of buses, carrying a lot of people downtown.

      *Of course there will be restructuring of various types as time goes on, but demand for service along those corridors will still exist, and be served by buses.

      1. It’s true that many buses to and from destinations 2-3 miles away will need to continue to operate. Still, Link will drain lots of bus riders at stations at Smith Cove, Seattle Center, 99 in South Lake Union, Midtown and Judkins Park. It’s not just about routings but also at what frequencies will be appropriate once ST3 is fully operational. Of course we have at least 16 more years to hone bus services — and probrably another transit vote (2028?) to add at least one more rail line into Downtown (on top of the 5 that we already will have).

      2. There are three RapidRide lines planned for the Fremont and University bridges, so that’s saying they’re permanent. Metro has never really said which corridors are too far from Link to be truncated, but its long-range plan is an indirect guide. Grid transfers are good, but we mustn’t get carried away into splitting trips that are already short. Queen Anne is too short to truncate, and arguably Magnolia is too. A Georgetown route to SODO would also be weak.

        The Burien routes (131/132) are where it makes more sense, but then you have to come up with an alternative, and the waterway and highways and industrial zoning hinder it somewhat, and 4th Ave S still needs a frequent route. What Metro is moving to on 4th is — my oh my — a frequent 107 extension to Intl Dist. I would never have expected that. So what’s up for Highland Park? A 60-line thing from Alaska Junction to Rainier Beach. And South Park? Moving the 132 to 1st and truncating it at SODO. And a second route that’s the same but with a south end at TIB. (Thus combining for 15-minute service north of South Park.) Those are… not downtown.

      3. @Mike I agree. We don’t really know what the bus routes will look like in the future. My point is, there will be lots and lots of riders coming in from various places in Seattle. It is also likely that lots of people will come into Seattle from places like Renton, unless folks there are comfortable putting up with a dramatic increase in travel time most of the day.

        @Al — Yes, like I say, Link will not only drain, but pretty much replace riders from places like Smith Cove (not that it matters). But it is crazy to think that it will “drain” enough riders from places like Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union to effect the frequency of the routes that pass through there. Sorry, it just isn’t the way those routes work. It isn’t the way Seattle works. There aren’t enough stops and they aren’t in the biggest place to make a huge difference. Judkins Park is one the least populous parts of the Central Area. Only a handful will take the bus south, then transfer to the train. Fewer still will hop off the bus when it is so close. It will be great for people headed from the C. D. or Rainier Valley to the East Side. It will be great for the handful of people who live close by. But to just about everyone — in places *more* densely populated than the station — it will be irrelevant.

        Meanwhile, the Aurora corridor (like Eastlake and Westlake) is just a major corridor — it isn’t driven by South Lake Union ridership, even if it is one of the more densely populated areas along the way. By the way, the South Lake Union stop at Aurora and Harrison is not the most densely populated part of the E; Belltown is. But it doesn’t matter, just as it doesn’t matter with lower Queen Anne. No one is going to hop off the bus, just to take the train a couple stops. They will ride the bus all the way to the end, which means it will run to downtown just as frequently. Buses like the 1, 2, 3 and 4 will likely run *more* often in the future, as overall density on those area increases. The routes might change a little bit here or there, but people from places like Fremont, Wallingford, Phinney Ridge, Greenwood, Queen Anne, Eastlake, and Westlake will all take buses if they want to get downtown. That is just the small section between I-5 and Ballard Link, but it represents a lot of buses.

      4. Magnolia will still have direct service to Downtown Seattle. Expedia is too close to the destination to force people to transfer and Interbay “out of direction” for too many Magnolia-CBD trips. The rest of your list of truncations is good, though.

      5. “We don’t really know what the bus routes will look like in the future.”

        I’m not interested in routes as much as what kind of experience will I have going from some neighborhood to downtown, or between two non-downtown neighborhoods. How long will it take, how long will I wait, and are these reasonable? These are corridor issues first and route issues second, because it doesn’t matter as much what the route’s termini are as that there’s some route in the corridor. This gets into what Metro thinks is “too far” from Link, because that will determine which corridors will definitely have a bus.

      6. Have you studied the bus routes in NYC, DC, Boston, Chicago or Atlanta? There are several that stop about a mile short of those downtowns. Buses through their downtowns are still there — but so are buses that only stop near the edges of their downtowns.

        If Downtown Seattle continues to add tall buildings, the skyline will eventually stretch from Smith Cove to Judkins Park to Cal Anderson Park. No single through route can serve the entire area and buses will take 10 or 20 minutes longer to get to something at the other end. Many if not most destinations will require a transfer anyway. As that happens, many riders will get off the buses they ride today and will hop on higher-frequency and faster rail. Over several years or even decades the Downtown through segments of many of these routes will lose riders — maybe 20 percent to maybe 50 percent — to the trains.

        I don’t think it will be very significant until West Seattle and Ballard lines are operating — but its a natural occurrence in a more spread-out Downtown with high-frequency transit lines in five directions. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just how things will likely evolve.

      7. Can you give examples? I only knew a few bus routes in Chicago, and none in the other cities. The Clark bus is the only north-south bus I use and it goes to the Loop, although maybe not to all of greater downtown. But it’s a much larger city with more destinations even in just your edge of downtown, and much more connecting transit to anywhere else you’re going. If Chicago had the situation of Link transferring to Madison RapidRide for another half-mile, it would be such a tiny fraction of the city that it would be a rounding error, but in Seattle it’s a bigger deal because it’s the second- or third-largest jobs center and a 24-hour patient center, and there isn’t a mile of downtown in all directions.

        Metro has long through-routed routes thorugh downtown like the 26/28/131/132 and 5/125 and 24/124. I used to think that was silly because why would people in Greenwood want to go to South Seattle College more than anyone else in North Seattle? But over the years I’ve found it useful, because people do go from North Seattle to Pioneer Square and Costco and from Highland Park to Belltown. One of transit best practices is to have routes go through the center to the adjacent neighborhood on the far side, because that serves several combinations of long and short trips simultaneously. At some point downtown may get too large for that, but Seattle isn’t at that point yet., and none of the future plans suggest midrises in Smoth Cove, Judkins Park, or Cal Anderson Park. That’s what we tried to get with U-Link but no luck. Public attitudes or housing assertiveness might change in a decade or two but there’s not yet any guarantee of that. And hopefully if that happens, 3rd Avenue will have red paint by then, and maybe a RapidRide 2 (on its Pine-12th-Union routing), and DSTT2 will be open, and we may be planning a couple more Link lines.

      8. Examples? It would take hours to list them all.

        I’d call out these situations in other places:

        – Midtown Atlanta Stations like Arts Center and North Avenue are major bus transfer points — and these stations weren’t considered part of the CBD when they opened (think Capitol Hill circa 1990).

        – Rosalyn, Pentagon (Shirley Highway) and Anacostia Stations are within 1 to 2 miles of Central DC.

        – A bus map of Manhattan shows only a few routes from outer boroughs and I think almost all quickly terminate at a rail station.

        – The Chicago CTA grid system depends on ending many bus routes at or near the Red line — including at stations at the edge or within a mile of the core of Downtown.

        – Boston is perhaps the most extreme and almost every bus route terminates near Downtown including at Lechmere, Central, Kendall, Ruggles, Sullivan and Maverick. Few routes go through Back Bay and the heart of Downtown is almost devoid of buses.

      9. @Al — The cities where the buses don’t go through downtown all have a comprehensive downtown subway system. Seattle doesn’t have that, and won’t have that in the foreseeable future. Again, I point to the E. It serves Belltown, which is every bit as important as any part of downtown served by Link. It would be crazy to stop the bus right in a relatively low density area (Aurora and Harrison) and then ask everyone to take the train, or switch to another bus that could carry them to other parts of downtown. What bus would that be, anyway? You are on Aurora — it is a fairly isolated street at that point (not a street where other streets converge). You could stop at Third and Bell (where the Queen Anne buses run) but why? Why ask a rider to transfer when they are so close to the rest of downtown? You could keep going, and stop at Westlake, but again, what if you boarded at Belltown, and wanted to get to 3rd and Spring. You are supposed to take the bus half a mile, then transfer to a train so that you can take it two stops? That’s crazy. As of this writing, that trips takes four minutes, with basically no waiting. But instead you want to have all those riders take twice as long so that you can save a teeny, tiny amount of money by having the E turn around at Westlake (which, let’s face it, would not be easy)? Sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense. What is true of the E is true of every other bus I mentioned.

        @Tom — I think it is quite likely that all Magnolia buses will converge onto the Dravus station once Ballard Link is complete. The situation is similar to the Wedgwood/Laurelhurst/View Ridge/etc. area. West and Central Magnolia is fairly low density. It is tough for Metro to justify decent frequency. This means that they gain decent frequency by truncation (this is the opposite of places like the Aurora corridor, where buses are very frequent all day). There is also a natural division — Magnolia is essentially an island. But the final straw is that the Magnolia Bridge (AKA Garfield Street Bridge) is falling apart, and won’t be replaced. Or at least, a new bridge won’t be built at Garfield Street. A new bridge will be built close to (if not adjacent to) Dravus. This means that a bus from Magnolia Bridge would have to go north anyway to cross the railroad tracks, so it might as well keep going a few blocks and serve Dravus. (Hopefully Dravus would have a bus lane, while the other bridge would be a free for all). After serving the Dravus station, a bus could keep going to SPU, Fremont and the U-District. Basically all the buses will be variations on the 31, although I could see some being truncated along the way.

      10. “The Chicago CTA grid system depends on ending many bus routes at or near the Red line — including at stations at the edge or within a mile of the core of Downtown.”

        Are you talking about east-west (crosstown) routes? Those are the routes i mostly ride, and of course they don’t go downtown. Which routes go toward downtown but not all the way?

        “Rosalyn, Pentagon (Shirley Highway) and Anacostia Stations are within 1 to 2 miles of Central DC”

        Rosslyn has three lines going downtown and one line going to Pentagon City. The Metro’s triangle shape covering most of the central area and large urban villages in the Virginia side puts a lot of destinations at your fingertips. Anacostia is across a river, so it would be fairer to say the buses don’t cross the river. The northeast Seattle buses don’t anymore. (And the remaining peak expresses will go away with Northgate Link.) “A mile from downtown Seattle” puts you in the middle of nowhere in SODO, at 23rd, or Lynn Street — which are more like low-density suburbs with one mini-mart if you’re lucky. Not at all like Rosslyn or Chicago L stations. In the future maybe they’ll be like Broadway, but that’s not in even the long-term plans.

        However, Metro is moving toward downtown-adjacent routes to replace the lesser one-seat rides. So going to Boren Avenue or SLU or Intl Dist, and either terminating or skirting the edge of downtown. That’s the Seattle equivalent of your Chicago and DC routes. Not Smith Cove pr Judkins Park or SODO, but Broadway, Jackson Street, and Harrison Street. Those are needed because those kind of downtown-adjacent trips have been overlooked until now, but they’re certain to generate significant ridership.

    5. Fewer buses downtown has been SDOT’s plan for years. Link will absorb some riders, the RapidRide expansions and consolidations will absorb others, and still others will transfer from Link in non-downtown locations. A few frequent RapidRide lines utilize space better than a spaghetti of routes where people skip twenty routes to take the one going their direction, and those twenty routes are only half full because of it.

      I can see the advantage of a center lane for breakdowns, but on the other hand it makes the street look more like a car street, and the lane is empty 90% of the time. Most subway and streetcar corridors have just two lanes for the tracks, and often even a center platform, but the DSTT has a center lane for buses, and I’ve never seen it used.

      A center bus platform makes some sense as long as you don’t have to press a beg button and wait two minutes for the light to turn green as in MLK. San Francisco’s Market Street has the streetcar platforms one lane in so you cross the outer lane to get to it. but I’ve never had to wait or found the lane full. At most you just wait for one currently-passing bus.

      1. DSA and SDOT can plan for whatever bus volumes they want but the reality is that Metro service changes have to go through the county council. I’m skeptical that one-seat riders will be willingly give up the privilege, especially if Link trains are regularly at crush loads.

        Even if volumes are dramatically reduced, have you ever been on a bus when the wheelchair ramp deploys? Or when a customer has a question they’re asking the driver from the sidewalk? Or when the trolleybus comes off the wire? I can’t see how the City (which controls the right-of-way) could ever seriously consider forcing 3rd Ave buses into a single travel lane.

        The one takeaway I had was that Metro is running too much low ridership service through 3rd today. Looking at riders per bus for peer agencies, from the chart shown, it looks like:
        KCM – 192 riders/bus
        Vancouver – 584
        Minn – 206
        Denver – 562
        SF – 235
        NYC – 766
        LA – 762

      2. “Metro is running too much low ridership service through 3rd today”

        That’s exactly what I was saying.

        “Metro service changes have to go through the county council. I’m skeptical that one-seat riders will be willingly give up the privilege”

        The council accepted Metro’s long-range plan. The council allowed the 2012, 2014, and 2016 restructures to go through with only minor overrides — much better than the council’s behavior before 2012. 2014 was a turning point — the council realized it could no longer afford to continue running inefficient routes just because they had existed for decades. Metro did self-censor: it withdrew the 2N, 2S, and 12 restructures before they reached the council. But overall things are moving in the right direction.

        “I can’t see how the City (which controls the right-of-way) could ever seriously consider forcing 3rd Ave buses into a single travel lane.”

        This is two of four concepts by an organization that doesn’t have the authority to implement them. I’m sure SDOT and Metro would do a transit-circulation study and there would be public pushback if the agencies go too fast with an unproven concept.

      3. BEL,

        What are you measuring? “192 riders/bus”????? Do you mean “per bus route per hour”? What is the dimension of the values?

      4. @Tom — I was thinking the same thing. It appears, though, that he wrote riders per bus. In other words, how many riders per bus trip. To me, that is meaningless to his argument. The E, for example, gets lots of riders because a lot of people just want to go up or down Aurora a mile or two. Likewise with the 5, which serves Phinney Ridge. A bus like the 24, in contrast, doesn’t have that dynamic. Very few people take that bus along Elliot or within Magnolia. Just about everyone rides that bus from downtown to Magnolia. That means that the number of riders on a bus trip is fairly small. Not a lot of people getting on and off along the way (like those other buses).

        But so what? What difference does that make, if those buses are stuffed downtown? If you are making the case that too many buses are half empty downtown, then you need better data. You need to look at how full a bus is when it leaves downtown, and starts heading out. What the bus does after that (whether it is like the E, or the 24) is irrelevant.

      5. “Very few people take that bus along Elliot or within Magnolia.”

        More than you’d think. I’ve counted riders on the 24 off peak a few times, and a significant number of them are going from one part of Magnolia to another. 28th to 34th and Government Way to Magnolia Village. It surprised me when I first encountered it; Some of the ridership seems to be to avoid the steep hills.

        I’ve also counted riders on the E, and noticed that the only stop where a large number of people get on or off is 46th at rush hour. Everywhere else it’s just onesies and twosies again and again, yet somehow they add up to a full bus. When you get to Aurora Village only a few people are left: everyone else has gotten off someplace earlier.

    6. I do have to give DSA some big kudos for exploring at least four very different new concepts! That is a major departure from Seattle’s usual “one alternative” at a time attitude. We’ve put up with our incremental decision-making process for far too long and have a string a project failures to show for it.

    7. If there’s a center lane where the center plaforms aren’t, that would give some breakdown protection while still ,making it look like a quasi-streetcar street rather than an automobile street.

      A shuttle line sounds silly: that’s what the DSTT is for. Shuttle lines are for cities like Denver that don’t have a downtown tunnel. And we’re about to build a second tunnel.

    8. Couple of these Third Avenue plans bring back some very old memories. In the early 1970’s when I first saw Seattle, every rush pm rush hour a bumper to bumper “Wall of Buses” (barely) moved south on Third, East on Terrace, and up Fifth to the Cherry Street Freeway ramp.

      The were also plans for IDS and CPS to be transfer centers, where passengers could transfer between suburban buses and the special trolleybuses that would run what became the DSTT ROW, except on the surface.

      One thing to remember is that length wise Seattle is not San Francisco. Have to think of transfers like foot-steps on stairs- too short a distance, and transfer becomes an awkward obstacle. One hopeful thing: I don’t see any powerful entrenched force fighting for any wrong solution.

      However little use was formerly made of this calculation, as business people the Downtown Seattle Association should knows the cost of a minute of transit operating delay. And main thing changed: having now had an actual subway through Downtown Seattle for 28 years, and electric trains for half that, we’ve had a maturing generation of kids exposed to electric trains- creating lifelong predilection.

      les and Al, remember that whole reason CCC is called the “Connector” is that it’s intended to connect the First Hill and South Lake Union lines. And even more, the end to end business districts they run through. Like a miles-long steel-wheeled moving sidewalk.

      But more important:
      I wouldn’t be so quick to pronounce the Waterfront Streetcar dead- because the need for it certainly isn’t. For the scale of our new Waterfront, I’m not seeing plans for anywhere near the line-haul capacity that area will need.

      It’s not an “either/or” for Belltown. Same substation and communications can serve tracks both places. Trolleybuses and steetcars call also share same lanes and wires. And battery packs will let a bus cross the BN tracks without dangerous special work. In any case, of everything happening in the Central Puget Sound Region, I think that however Seattle’s done, it’ll definitely be the most fun.

      Mark Dublin

  3. I still do not understand this obsession with free transit. Benefits from free transit would mostly flow to well-off people who don’t need the help. Social welfare should be targeted to those people who need the assistance, hence we have programs to give free/reduced transit fares targeted at specific groups.

    Paris studied free transit recently and found that it was not a good strategy. Estonia found that free transit replaced a lot of walking trips – people would ride for a stop or two instead of walking a few blocks. This doesn’t seem like a good strategy either – walking is the most green, efficient, and scalable transportation method for short trips.

    1. Fares matter for determining whether a trip makes sense to do on transit or not. Often times, when a family of 4 is involved, the cumulative fares to carry every person for the round trip add up to the point where you have drive and park (or, in some cases, Lyft/Uber round trip) for virtually the same price.

      1. Fine, then let families ride free, or people under 16 ride free. That’s not a compelling argument for free transit for all.

      2. Children get discounted/free tickets on virtually every US transit agency I’ve seen. That makes family travel more affordable.

        Driving is too cheap, totally agree on that. But that’s because we except gasoline from the sales tax, don’t have carbon taxes, and don’t even charge sufficient gas taxes to properly maintain streets.

    2. Free transit is one of those ideas that sounds good in theory but has a number of unintended consequences that will almost certainly degrade service for those who currently use the transit system. Another likely result would be a proliferation of ‘premium’ transit services such as buses operated by TNC companies.

    3. Places that have tried it have found that it can become:

      – a moving homeless shelter
      – a moving children’s playground
      – a moving teen hangout

      These riders can make buses so crowded that others can’t get on the bus, as well as possibly make the ride unpleasant if not dangerous.

      I would also point out that buses can get crowded already and the biggest increase would be for very short trips (1 to 2 stops), so incentivizing short-trip riders would slow down trips for the longer ones. I know some will say that paying fares takes time — but having pre-paid cards like Orca really reduces that payment time anyway.

      That’s all in addition to how we get to have more service with farebox revenue in the mix.

      It’s much better to have programs that offer free or reduced transit at the subsidy end. It targets those that need transit yet can’t easily afford it.

      1. Well Al, and Joe, we’ve also got those problems on this country’s multimillion miles of free roads, highways, Interstates and sidewalks, don’t we? But I guess that’s what Charter Schools and Gated Communities are for, aren’t they?

        But as someone whose career as both a driver and a fighter for transit began over long wonderful days on transit systems the whose like you can only dream…..what’s the matter with children and young people riding the very transit the likes of you are always crying that people never use.

        Every teenager you bad-mouth for riding transit- that’s a die hard transit killer of a voter. If somebody’s out of line- whether they paid a fare or not, a good system’s got means to set malefactors straight.

        One thing I was always grateful for as a driver: my seniority gave me privilege of sparing us each other’s company. So now I’m Union-free -AARP doesn’t belong to the AFL-CIO. we’ll just have to settle for this. Anything similar you put in writing about those two groups you point out for nuisance, children and young men and women….you’re talkin’ to me.

        Mark Dublin
        1622 Greenleaf Street
        Chicago Illinois days before zipcodes.

      2. I’d also rather low-income fare programs be a separate county or city program that subsidizes the difference in fare from standard adult fare instead of hanging that huge financial burden on the transit agency’s back. The transit agency’s goal should be maximum service provided and maximizing the amount of fare revenue. Its kind of ridiculous when transit agencies now only have fares cover 20% of the cost and are looking to lower that number further which only makes them more vulnerable to cutbacks.

    4. I think the incentive is to lure those SOVs that may be teetering on the edge of considering transit during the Squeeze, which you are correct, will likely lean more towards the wealthy. However, the more SOVs we can get off the road in this critical time, the better our region will function. This will benefit all people, rich or poor, regardless of who uses the free transit.

      It’s a temporary solution to a major problem, not an experiment in social welfare. Plus, we may pick up some new transit riders for post-Squeeze.

    5. One of the big advantages is that you don’t have to collect fares. I know that sounds obvious, but a lot of time is spent collecting fares. There are other ways to achieve that, but none that can be implemented very quickly. That is why people are suggesting free bus rides during this period.

      As mentioned, though, it might lead to too much crowding on the buses (too many people joy riding). There are social justice arguments to be made for free bus service, but if you want to speed up the buses (especially downtown) it may actually be counter-productive. (It may also be less cost effective as a way to help the poor).

      Personally, I like the idea of free boarding downtown. This is a pretty easy concept to understand. If you ride a bus from downtown, then you don’t pay. It doesn’t matter where you get off, only where you board. You still could have crowding, but it seems less likely. Basically, you have to get back (or get there in the first place). That would require a fare. As a result, you probably wouldn’t lose that much in fare revenue. Folks who buy a monthly pass (especially those that have it subsidized by their employer) would probably just continue to do so. Those that transfer downtown, wouldn’t save any money. That means it wouldn’t cost Metro (or the other agencies) that much. Yet it would likely speed up the buses downtown quite a bit.

      1. won’t the traffic be sufficient motivation to get people out of their cars?

        won’t transit resources be strained enough?

        i expect bus drivers will wave through plenty of newbies trying to swipe a credit card, use apply pay, or get change for a $20…

      2. “won’t the traffic be sufficient motivation to get people out of their cars?”

        If it were, car congestion wouldn’t exist.

      3. @Andrew — That is my point. I don’t think free bus service will greatly increase ridership. But free boarding will greatly speed up the buses. Free boarding will speed up buses where they need to be sped up the most (downtown).

      4. “it might lead to too much crowding on the buses (too many people joy riding)”

        That doesn’t happen in the cities that have it. Because people don’t want to ride buses all day in circles just for the hell of it. They may do it once of they’re new to the system but not every day. And those occasional joyrides are so few compared to the total number of riders that they’re imperceptible.

      5. Thanks Mike. I really haven’t studied the subject. I’m sure there is a fair amount of data about it now (since it seems to be happening more and more). All I can do is speculate (as others have). By “joy riding” I mean all of the aspects of free bus service Al mentioned (a moving homeless shelter, a moving children’s playground and a moving teen hangout). All of which, by the way, I could have used at various points in my life.

    6. It’s the same as free libraries and parks. If you make transit free, you eliminate the overhead of fare collection, fare accounting, tapping delays, ORCA readers, and riders without money or an ORCA card. Social programs sound good but they don’t extend to visitors, people here short-term, or people who’ve never ridden transit until now. It reorients transit as a basic function of the city and the default way everybody is expected to get around, rather than putting even low barriers and inconveniences in the way. Subsidies already cover 80% of the operating costs, so it’s not much of a stretch to make it 100%. And the fear that there’ll be an overwhelming ridership increase or they’ll become packed with homeless people is overblown. The ridership increase in cities that have implemented it is modest, around 10%. And homeless people weren’t packing the buses when the Ride Free Area existed. We can always target the homeless issue more specifically. The ultimate solution is to build housing for them. Short of that, there could be day centers where they could be warm and dry without being on buses or in libraries.

  4. As long as we’re talking about funding in Washington state… not only should we avoid calling most ferries “transit”; we should call ferries “roads.” Until Republicans are willing to be open to changing our constitution which limits gas taxes to roads and highways — and defines the ferry system as an extension of the highways — then NO precious transit dollars should be going to car ferries.

  5. The Third Avenue idea is intriguing. But the assumption of fewer buses seems suspect. We aren’t building *that* comprehensive of a rail system.

    Expanding and improving sidewalks is great. Reducing the street level disorder on 3rd would make it a better street for transit.

    1. Removing all the long haul, commuter oriented routes will make a big difference, particularly during peak. We’re looking at 100% of PT & CT routes, every non-SR520 ST route, and a number of KCM routes all going away post-2024. Many of those routes will still exist, but they will simply terminate at a Link station outside of downtown.

      I really like all of the 3rd Ave redesigns. Improvements to transit reliability/speed are great, obviously, but I really like how DSA is also working on “place-making” for 3rd Ave, making 3rd Ave more than just a piece of transportation infrastructure. My preference is for the Median Transitway Concept, b/c it frees up the outside sidewalks to go back to their normal job of moving & mixing people. Right now, the crowds of people waiting for buses can make 3rd an undesirable place to walk if you aren’t trying to catch a bus.

      1. Yeah but then all it takes is a single broken down bus to cripple the system. The open third lane makes more sense to me. Allows for full or passing through buses to skip ahead of stopped buses. Allows for bypassing disabled buses or other vehicles.

        The increased sidewalk size to reduce a lot of that crowding problem around stops.

      2. But those buses don’t operate on 3rd Ave today. Metro can certainly truncate some routes, but depending on how things are designed, it is conceivable that actually not much changes at all on 3rd Ave. Which routes there today are going away? I could even envision Metro backing off of D line and C line truncation concepts if ST blows the station siting.

      3. Al, Tacomans, Puyallupites, and even Federal Wayers are still going to demand peak hour expresses aftear Tacoma Link opens. And once Lynnwood Link opens, the folks from North Seattle who will be transferring to North Link at Northgate, Roosevelt and U-District will be clamoring for their beloved 7X expresses to comeback so they don’t have to stand or get left.

        So “no suburban buses downtown won’t last long if it ever begins.

      4. I view many express bus routes dying off slowiy — one by one. I’m sure there will be outcries — but the ominous and inevitable declining monthly ridership data is the eventual grim reaper that will kill many of them off one by one. It may take 5 to 20 years after a nearby station opens and some routes will survive longer, but it often happens and has always happened in US Metro areas that get high-frequency rail systems.

    2. I agree Brad (and said as much up above — The proposal that makes the most sense is the contraflow idea. Have buses — and only buses — running one direction, while cars run the other direction. In general I think this is the best approach, and should be paired with another street (Second, I’m guessing) that would do the opposite.

      Folks have been pushing the transit mall idea for a long time (Paint Third Avenue Red!). That is all good and well, but there are some obvious problems with that. You have deliveries and people with mobility problems that want access to the street. Other cities have basically said “tough”, but there is a big difference. So far as I know, none of the cities with transit malls sit on the edge of a very steep hill. Walking from Third to Fourth (or Second) requires a lot of work. That doesn’t mean that Third couldn’t be exclusively buses, but it means that it is more difficult, politically. But if you just change the nature of the streets and have contraflow, it is pretty easy for a driver to adjust. It becomes pretty simple for drivers (e. g. Third is one way north, Second is one way south). The buses would go the other way (contraflow). This would make the buses quite fast, while still retaining most of the access to those streets.

      1. So @RossB you’re saying that transit riders should be forced up and down the hill so that delivery trucks and and people with disabilities in SOVs don’t have to?! That makes no sense to me. Surely there are far more people with mobility limitations on buses making transfers than there are arriving to 3rd Ave by other modes needed access specifically on 3rd. Access vans can use 3rd under current conditions, anyway.

        Contraflow WITH adding cars to 3rd Ave seems like an incredibly bad idea. I seriously question how many SOVs need to be driving anywhere in downtown and certainly making it simple for drivers is not a priority of mine.

      2. This might get SDOT to take a second look at contraflow, which it rejected pretty quickly for Madison. It would have given the benefit of center transit lanes without the need to order left-door buses. You just need to design it safely, by making it look like two normal streets, and keeping the drive-on-the-right that pedestrians are used to.

      3. So @RossB you’re saying that transit riders should be forced up and down the hill so that delivery trucks and and people with disabilities in SOVs don’t have to?!

        Bus riders have to live with whatever street the bus goes on now anyway. If I’m on Aurora, and want to get to 2nd or 4th Avenue downtown, I have to walk. It would be crazy to run several different bus routes from Aurora (one on First, one on Second, etc.) just so that riders don’t have to walk a block or two. In other words, it really doesn’t make a difference where the bus goes.

        On the other hand, if I’m driving a truck and want to access a loading dock on Third, it is a real pain to park on Second or Fourth and shuttle everything. Not to mention accessing underground facilities. That is why the city keeps making compromises on Third.

        But no one is begging to change the contraflow lanes, even for a minute. Take Fifth Avenue: Right up the street from there, there is a parking garage underneath an apartment: If Fifth Avenue was a transit mall (nothing but buses) than cars and trucks couldn’t access that parking lot. Sorry, that won’t fly. So instead of one direction being a 100% all day, every day bus lane, it would become a BAT lane, or a time limited bus lane, or some weird combination of both like that found on Third Avenue. The only way we stand a chance of getting really good bus lanes is with contraflow.

      4. On the one hand Second Avenue might be better for some people. On the other hand, most of downtown is centered on Third, and if you get off at Second it’s a steep walk up to Fourth or Fifth.

        If we have a 2nd-3rd couplet, northbound should be on 2nd, so that at least it’s closer to the average of businesses and destinations.

  6. This morning, there was a CT double decker bus (415 I think) pulled over in the right lane on Westlake, just south of the Galer St pedestrian overpass. It didn’t look like anyone was on the bus but the driver.

    This is a long way from any CT routes that I know of. Does anyone know the story of how it got there?

    My only guess is a new driver took a wrong turn and the height of the double decker bus required them to pull over a figure a way out of there. Maintenance issues wouldn’t seem to explain why it ended up in Westlake.

    1. Yeah, that is my guess as well. Maybe after dropping everyone off, the driver usually gets on the freeway at the south end of downtown, but because of traffic, kept going north (on Westlake perhaps) and just missed the turn for Mercer. Realizing the error almost immediately, it pulled over at the first good chance and started trying to figure out how to get back on the freeway. No matter what, though, it sounds weird.

    2. That is weird. I assume an AM peak 415 returning northward would just use the PM peak route of 4th and then Howell to I-5 NB. How the bus driver ended up on Westlake is anyone’s guess. If he/she missed a turn somewhere I could see, possibly, how the bus ended up on Eastlake, but Westlake is a definite head scratcher.

    3. I agree, probably a wrong turn. I once saw one of the double-deckers stuck on 40th going underneath the University bridge. The driver was trying to turn around, and hopefully decided to wait for police escort since the ramp is one way…

  7. I like the suggestion of staggering bus stops on 3rd.
    Buses coming down QA Ave, the 2, 13, etc., have a very long space between the stop north of Denny and 3rd and Cedar. A new stop once the buses cross Broad and are on 3rd would be most welcome.

    1. The buses alternate stops now because there are too many buses for one stop. At 3rd & Pine I think the buses make every third stop? In any case, that’s already a staggering for particular routes.

      I have reservations about limiting bus stops to only one side of a street per block. That sounds like it would make the walks even longer. And what problem is it trying to solve? Maybe it would be easier to walk down the street without waiting crowds on both sides, but that really only works for short one-block hops. If you’re going further than a block you’d have to switch sides of the street every block. And whether it’s your bus stop depends entirely on where you’re going and which direction. Any combination of bus stop locations will help some people and hinder others, and I’m not sure we have enough information to tell whether one combination helps more people than another. In fact, the whole motivation for it seems to be “Get bus stops away from me”, which just makes things worse for bus riders, and makes it sound like the proponents have never ridden a bus.

      Maybe we need to take a slogan from that bicycle group that used to ride downtown Friday afternoon peak, “We aren’t in the way of traffic; we are traffic.” And bus riders are customers for those downtown businesses.

  8. OK, so on this tabs initiative which, if it passes and is upheld in court, any thoughts on what we can do beforehand? I’d love to see it defeated at the ballot and given the uproar over the MVET, it’ll be a heavy lift but I can still hope.

    What bothers me most about any future outcomes is I could see a scenario where the state legislature makes Sound Transit whole but completely omits any backfill funding or tax authority for the myriad programs paid for by transportation benefit district fees, like the massive bus service purchase that Seattle voters approved.

    That’s why I want to start thinking about this now. This is an initiative to the legislature so they get a shot at it first. If he really did get the signatures needed, how do we convince the legislature to make the changes in the least-impacting way versus the easiest way of “well, it’ll just go to the ballot and maybe we deal with the results of passage in 2020 or 2021?”

    1. Can the legislature’s second referendum be the opposite of the initiative’s intent, or does it have to do the same thing? We could just recycle the initiative that declared Tim Eyman a horse’s ass and sent an official letter saying that to Eyman and his mother. We may have to think of something else for him to be so it’s not redundant. Or it could be a reconfirmation I suppose.

    2. The bigger issue is, how can we counter these attempts long-term? There’s already been one car-tab rollback, and this second one shows that no transit project or operating budget is ever safe, because if they can yank car tabs after the fact then they can yank property tax and sales tax too. And there are many people who would like to slash their property taxes in half. Never mind what the taxes pay for because it’s all just “government waste” and “social engineering”.

    3. This latest car tab initiative has the potential to screw over local municipalities, but in relation to Sound Transit, what I’m wondering is if the initiative process can actually be used to compel ST to pay back or refinance bonds, as this initiative apparently is designed to do. My guess is probably not. But it seems like that is a key question.

    4. “OK, so on this tabs initiative which, if it passes and is upheld in court,…”

      This reply doesn’t address your central question, but I wanted to comment on it anyway by saying that Eyman’s latest initiative, should it qualify for the ballot and get enough votes to pass, won’t survive judicial review. Frankly, it’s a muddled mess and again violates the one subject rule for Washington State initiatives. One would think that Eyman and his team after all these years in the “business” would have figured out how to write compliant initiatives by now but apparently that isn’t the case.

      1. Thank you, Tlsgwm. It seems pretty obvious that it addresses two topics: future taxation and existing indebtedness. If he wanted this to work, he needed to circulate two Initiatives, one rolling back the Tabs and one mandating the bond defeasance, each dependent on the other’s passage.

        And I’m pretty sure that the inter-relationship would bring them down as well. He’s not too bright, is he?

      2. I also wonder if a statewide vote can override the voter approved ST3 (in the defined Sound Transit District that spans multiple Puget Sound area counties). It doesn’t make sense to me that people outside the Sound Transit district can have a choice to throw out what those inside the Sound Transit district have decided with a vote.

  9. Is Link getting less reliable? Every few days I’m getting an alert saying Link is suspended due to power outages, something on the tracks, or something at a station. I’ve never gotten that many until last month. The power outages were probably because of the windstorms but the others seem like everyday occurrences that are increasing. Or at least going through a spike.

    1. The two-car trains at rush hour are starting to cause ‘train bunching’ similar to the common bus bunching problem. I had this occur twice over the past week, in one case a 2-car train arrived at Husky Stadium 9 minutes behind schedule followed by 2 additional trains running as close as they could get to the delayed train. The front 2-car train was already crush loaded leaving Husky Stadium and was taking so long to unload/board when I got off at University Street that I was already up on the mezzanine before the train could depart.

    2. I’ve also noticed an increase in service impacts the last month or two. Luckily I haven’t been impacted until yesterday when I was delayed at Columbia City Station for ~25 min and had to board on the opposite platform. One more reason center platforms are better…when they start single tracking during incidents you don’t have to switch platforms.

      I’d like to see a chart of LINK incidents by month, ideally since it started operating. It would be interesting to see if they tend to spike during certain times of the year.

  10. Minimum density: spot on.

    West coast transit improvements: what matters is the absolute level of transit and walkability, not how fast it’s increasing. There’s still no long-term plan to make West Coast cities and metros as car-optional as northeastern ones. You’ll know it’s happened when less than 50% of the people have cars. Also, the commissioner mentions three innovations: doubling LA’s subway network, e-scooters in Oakland, and self-driving cars in the Bay Area. Only one of these are transit. The other two are dubious solutions that don’t really solve anything, and are not what NYC needs. Self-driving cars could make congestion and cars overrunning cities even worse. What we need to focus first on is self-driving trains, buses, and last-mile vans.

  11. I consider myself to be a vehicle wrap expert. And I am giving the Free Waterfront Shuttle wrap a grade of D-. Instead of a picture of an otter, seagull, Space Needle, Pike Place Market and Smith Tower, the entire wrap should be a giant map of of the Free Waterfront Shuttle route.

    Right now, if you’re walking on the sidewalk, or waiting at a crosswalk, and see the Shuttle go by, you think, “Oh cool, I wonder where I can get on that thing?” With my map wrap, you would immediately see what streets it goes on and where you could catch it.

    1. On the other hand, having recognizable tourist destinations help people know where the shuttle might be able to take them. The shuttle stops themselves need to be a bit more obvious.

    2. I can certainly believe that Sam considers himself a vehicle wrap expert. And probably the most brilliant strategist in the world.

  12. Nearly a year ago, STB published an editorial calling for Sound transit to future proof ST3by designing/building the new Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to accommodate running a second rail line through it in the future.

    Has this been part of the formal ST3 planning discussions? It seems insane to me that we’d spend $1.7 billion constructing a second downtown tunnel while forever limiting it to 10 trains an hour.

    1. Unless the north end of the Green Line has a segment of street running a la Martin Luther King, the trains from a Burien or Bypass line from the south can be accommodated to Ballard. True, the north end would be “over-served” at 20 trains per hour, but there is adequate opportunity to tie another line to South King County in using the Maintenance Facility loop. EVEN if ST shoots themselves in the foot by not stacking the curve west to West Seattle and providing aerial stubs for a possible connection, future expansion to the south seems safe.

      But Sound Transit officials have shown no interest in stacking Gates Foundation and providing the bellmouths for an Aurora line, so it will forever be excluded from the new tunnel. Nor are they likely to stack Midtown allowing a future connection for Seattle Subway’s “Pink Line” unless the foundations of the nearby skyscrapers intrude too much.

      So “Yes, the new tunnel will not be as good as it might have been with a genuine long term plan.”

    2. The problem is that no one has a long term vision for Link. Even the short term vision is pretty flawed (over 100 miles of track, and no stations at First Hill or Belltown). Some of the future proposals seem absurd. An Aurora line would cost a fortune (requiring a new bridge and lots of tunneling) and add very little over the existing bus route (which carries less than 20,000 people a day last time I checked). To really increase ridership a train needs to serve more areas, or be much faster than the existing system. Aurora Link would do neither. The Duwamish bypass is even sillier. How many new riders would you get, after you spent billions? A few thousand (in Georgetown). You would make the ride a couple minutes faster for maybe 20,000 a day (if that). It just isn’t a good value.

      The next project will likely be Ballard to the UW. After that there is the possibility of a Metro 8 type route. Doing that would be difficult, because of the way Ballard Link is designed. It would have made more sense for the train to stay west, covering Belltown instead of South Lake Union. Then you could run a Metro 8 line with good stop spacing in the South Lake Union area and just end at the Seattle Center station. But now that Ballard Link will kind of serve South Lake Union, it makes it trickier. One possibility would be to loop around after adding another station in South Lake Union to serve Belltown and then connect back to Westlake, like so: It isn’t great, but probably the best we can do. Every station is high density, a lot of trips are a lot faster, even if the route spirals towards downtown. The big drawback is that some of the longer trips wouldn’t be that popular (from 15th and Madison to 5th and Madison wouldn’t make sense via the train — you would be better off taking the bus). But from Belltown or South Lake Union to the Central Area would be much faster. But how it serves the Central Area is also debatable. It might make more sense to make the circle tighter, to serve First Hill.

      The point is, none of this is obvious the way previous (and some future) expansions are. It obviously makes sense to design the U-District station so that we can run a train east-west (where an improvement in speed would be dramatic). If Ballard Link went by Belltown, then it would make sense to build the Seattle Center station so that it could handle tracks coming from the east (from South Lake Union). But none of the future improvements are so obvious. Even building the Ballard station for the future is not obvious. Do we build it so that it can be extended north? Or do we build it so that it can do double duty for both Ballard to downtown and Ballard to UW ( There is no consensus, and my guess is the Sound Transit board isn’t really thinking about it. They didn’t bother to future proof the obvious candidates (U-District) so it is a bit much to ask them to future proof for changes that won’t likely happen (like a Duwamish bypass, or Aurora Link).

    3. “The problem is that no one has a long term vision for Link… An Aurora line would cost a fortune (requiring a new bridge and lots of tunneling) and add very little over the existing bus route (which carries less than 20,000 people a day last time I checked). ”

      You’re combining a long-term vision with short-term ridership estimates. What if Aurora becomes mixed-use city as we all want, and both it and Wallingford and the southern CD had Chicago’s density? That doesn’t look likely now with the city so afraid to upzone, but that could change in a decade.

    4. I would agree that ST lacks a connection lan beyond their next funding vote. They don’t plan stations or bus transfers well — and I’m pretty disgusted at the layout of the proposed rail-rail transfers. The attitude is “what can we build” rather than “what should we build”.

      It reminds me of the early days of bicycle lane planning. The projects are grnerally designed as the least controversial and cheapest per mile. As more citizens and leaders are “woke” to rail’s realities and projects get harder and more expensive to build and maintain/ operate, a systems plan approach will eventually emerge.

      A final thing is that ST has been very “spine” focused all along (even East Link as a third spine) and planning will need to need to be more attentive to the “ribs” in the future (Metro connectivity or short-fast last mile projects). Then, Belltown and First Hill float to the top — but likely not as a new, long rail line. Once the goal of “spine building” dies off after achieving success, things will change.

    5. I can’t fathom why ST won’t design a transfer interface into U-District Station, or guarantee good transfers at Westlake or Intl Dist. Its own long-range plan says there will be transfers there. But it only wants to design one phase at a time.

  13. The Jenny Jam isn’t what happens next friday. The Jenny Jam is what won’t happen the next three years as she continues to stifle new transportation work at SDOT as a control freak.

    The job she created for a new old white war profiteer to make right of way decisions outside of SDOT just takes the cake.

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