Frank and I will do a mailbag for our next podcast, taping soon. Put your questions in the comments below. The usual rules apply.

54 Replies to “Podcast Mailbag Questions Here”

  1. Why does Seatac airport have better transit signage on their airport tram than basically every other transit system in the pacific northwest?

    (worth exploring I think)

    1. Why do the “Link Light Rail” sings in the airport say nothing about what Link is or that it goes to Seattle/. In Chicago O’Hare the signs say “Train to City”, which even a visitor or limited English speaker can figure out.

      1. It does? Not just “Link Light Rail” anymore? Maybe the signs have changed again. The one right before the exit to the skybridge may be more informative, but the other ones throughout the airport weren’t last time I was there a year ago.

      2. I agree, their way finding at the airport requires a visitor to know too much about our transit system. It’s not very intuitive.

    2. By the airport tram I mean the three little subways inside seatac airport.

      I agree the signs for link are subarandard.

      1. Probably because the Port has dedicated money that never has to go for voter approval. They are flush.

        If ST was able to operate like the Port, we would have a lot better transit system.

  2. Q for the mailbag and I’ve been incredibly busy the past few months so slow on the draw…..

    What do you think about a family fare or waiving the youth fare for two or more youths accompanied by a responsible adult?

    I’m asking as I know Community Transit and Skagit Transit – at the least – are talking fare reform in 2019.
    Others are implementing it or just did. Also I may not have plans due to personal reasons I won’t share online to start a family anytime soon, but I sure care for families and want the parents’ votes when transit measures come up.


  3. What do you make of the blowback surrounding SDOT promoting the discounted Uber/Lyft rides to transit stops during the viaduct closure period? Seems like a fine enough idea – gets at First/Last Mile and potentially helps to draw new riders who are trying transit for the first time during the squeeze.

    1. Blowback? Who? It seems like a reasonable expedient and short-term experiment. Longer-term we’d want any last-mile service to be publicly run or at least have transit-level fares, like the Metro 2 program in West Seattle or whatever it’s called, but there’s no time to put together a better system in the time after the city and Uber/Lyft announced their no-viaduct-and-no-tunnel plans.

      1. I hear really strong blow-back from “any privatized service is suspicious/evil” types, “TNC companies are evil and/or the sworn enemy of public transit” types, and “any healthy adult who does bike or walk is lazy” types. So the specific business model get critiques from a few different directions.

    2. To be clear, I’m not advocating for last-mile taxis from every city address. But I am sympathetic to the argument that the eastern CD, Leschi, Seward Park, Rainier View, and far northwest and northeast Seattle need last-mile shuttles as much as Phantom Lake and parts of Kent do.

    1. You think what “everybody else” wants is the same thing? What I want is distinct from what Seattle Subway wants and what the people you’re probably thinking of want. Seattle Subway basically incorporates what ST wants into what they want, in order to keep consensus with ST’s negotiated solution, which is the only way to get enough widespread support to get something passed. Other people take only what they like out of ST’s plan and leave the rest, and they come up with different networks based what they think is important, and they don’t all think the same things are important.

    1. I generally agree with ST’s recommendation for putting the connection point at the ramp of I-405/195th St. and running every bus that extra 3/4 mile, so that people making the connection don’t have to deal with 30-minute frequencies.

      I don’t it’s worth delaying everybody else on the 405 bus to save a few minutes’ walking for people headed to campus – especially when there’s additional option to switch to the other (frequent) bus for those unwilling to walk.

    2. I hope they do the obvious choice and extend all trips of 522 BRT, and not do time-consuming geographical gymnastics with the I-405 BRT. The only problem there is that to serve the same freeway stops as the longer trips, it has to get on the freeway. My suggestion? Just eat the cost and make all trips serve the whole thing, just like the 522 does with rare exception (a few peak trips during the time that the 522 runs every 8 minutes don’t go to Woodinville).

    3. The ST3 Modified looks like the best alternative and I’m glad ST staff are leaning that way. Connecting two BRT lines is important for both things we can foresee and things we can’t: look at the concern about Swift Green not connecting to the 512 or the bad Link-to-bus transfers or potential Link-to-Link transfers. The number of people going from 405 to UW Bothell may be large but I hesitate to call it the overwhelming majority, and if there’s a frequent transfer to UWB it’ll probably be OK. If it were the UW main campus and U-District urban center the calculus might be different, but this is not. ST3 Modified is better on ridership, cost, and travel time, with only the UWB-student exception. The ultimate problem is the location of the university, the freeway exit, and the land use around the university, and ST can’t fix those, it can only work around them.

  4. Minneapolis ended single-family zoning from its entire city last month. Is there a future that looks like that here, even incrementally? Is there a path from vision to legislative action that’s something more than just a dream sequence?

    1. +1 How can we get Seattle to do what Minneapolis did? That was the part of HALA that Murray withdrew. Now there’s some council support for reinstating it, but how can we get it over the finish line and overcome the opposition claiming “neighborhood character” and “People should have a right to see their neighborhood remain as it was when they bought the property”?

  5. Maybe it’s one too many hostile exchanges between partisans of each end of the Ballard-Southwest Seattle line, but I really think that instead of static “subareas”, political division should be according to corridors. Comments?

    Mark Dublin

    1. How? In South King County would we have the “99 corridor” and “167 corridor” districts? What would Renton be in? It has corridors both north and west, although they could both be combined into the “405 BRT corridor”. What corridors would various parts of Seattle be in? The only way I could see it working is defining the drivesheds of major highways, or in Seattle the ST3 Link lines, but that does not describe many Seattlites’ trips, and it seems funny to base districts on highway lines or the 2019 understanding of Link lines, like putting the cart before the horse. And taxes will still be based on where people live, so shouldn’t the districts be based on that too? In fact, if we want to eventually split the tax district so that different subareas can have different rates and vote at different times, then we will have to split it into residential-based districts.

    2. I think this is already covered by the “Elected Leadership Group” for major projects? These ELGs already pull together the political bodies relevant for each project’s corridor.

  6. Is there anything short term which can be done to get transit lane enforcement happening? Would citizen requests to the PD be effective? Nagging elected officials? Can transit riders band together to hire some “off duty” cops?

    1. I’ve got a coworker that stands in the bus lane near our office and doesn’t move unless there’s a bus. Granted it’s at rush hour so the fastest anyone’s going to hit her is about 2-1/2 mph.

  7. Do you foresee any meaningful bus service in the new Viaduct Replacement Tunnel? Here’s an idea:

    C-line express to SLU during peak, to reduce crowding, increase reliability, and give SLU-bound riders a faster option paid for by reducing C-line peak frequency (dropping the main C-line from 4 min frequency to 6 min frequency at peak would pay for 5 trips per hour, before you factor in time savings, so the C express might be able to run at 15 mins or less by using the new tunnel). 6 mins is still plenty frequent, and sorting some of the riders would reduce dwell times and make it more convenient for those riders.

    This may become more attractive once West Seattle Link comes online if it terminates at SODO, as riders can choose to go directly to SLU and avoid a transfer.

    1. Metro’s 2040 plan has a Fauntleroy-WSJ-SJU express, but no other routes in the tunnel before it or besides it. of course, there may be better alternatives. But there’s probably more resistance to diverting the core route to SLU than there is to diverting a secondary route (e.g., Link shadow) or peak-express route to SLU or First Hill. The fear may or may not be warranted, but people are afraid that backtracking from SLU would take longer than going straight to 3rd Avenue, especially before Ballard Link.

      1. I remember a discussion on STB on why the 15x still exists when it duplicates the D-line. I looked it up, and it’s coincidentally nearly exactly what I’m proposing for the C:

        – Peak of peak D-Line frequency is *6* minutes.
        – The 15x frequency is 15 minutes, which matches my “20 mins max but probably better” reasoning.

        The reasoning on that discussion is that running the 15x was actually saving Metro money because turning that into more D-Line trips would make them slower and less efficient, and that because there are enough riders on the 15x stops to fill whole buses, having limited stop service both gives faster trips to those riders, and better distributes load on existing D-line trips, making it faster for everyone else. Faster trip for everyone + more efficient service for metro = WIN-WIN.

        The difference here is that there is a grade-separated tunnel directly from the West Seattle Bridge to SLU, so what is a modest express speed improvement for the D-line becomes a huge express speed improvement for the C. I think the only big question is if very many people ride it all the way to SLU. If it needs more riders, then it could backtrack to downtown a little or do a small loop in the Denny Triangle to expand ridership potential.

        As for frequency, 4 minutes is extremely frequent and extremely expensive, and pushing frequency that high goes really far into diminishing returns territory for bucks vs rider experience. If it was reduced from 4 to 6, I bet hardly anyone would notice, and that saves enough trips to make a whole new 20 minute route! (assuming roughly equal travel time)

        Seriously, I think Metro could just do this, and not tell anyone that they are taking away some peak C-line frequency to pay for it, and almost no one would feel like they have a worse experience (and many people would have a better experience).

      2. The biggest reason for short-distance peak expresses is to compensate for the congestion slowdown on the regular routes. Slowdowns mean less satisfied riders, fewer people who can use the service because it’s too slow to fit into the travel window they have, and as you pointed out, less cost-effective for bus hours and driver hours. (If the expresses are full, but they are all full, and fuller than the local routes off-peak. Of course this benefit diminshes with longer express routes.)

        The difference between the 15 and your C proposal is that the 15 goes to the center of downtown and all the way through downtown. The C is already handicapped because it doesn’t serve lower downtown or Pioneer Square, and now you want to take away even the half of downtown it does serve. And West Seattle Link is a long way off, and the 120 can’t be a substitute for people west of Delridge. because of the steep hills.

        SLU does not have more than a fraction of the destinations and transfer opportunities that downtown does. How would you get from SLU to First Hill or the CD? Take the 8 and transfer to something else, when the 8 is bogged down on Denny Way and is already full? Again, Metro is not moving the primary routes out of downtown but the secondary routes, and the C is the primary route in West Seattle.

  8. What is your opinion on the LRT stations that are located right along highways (e.g. Northgate station, Mercer Island station, probably more that I can’t think of)? It seems that the growth potential for each station to create a hub with mixed land use and amenities will be somewhat limited as in one way or another the highway will block growth and be a barrier. Is this something that should be avoided in general or are there precedents for these types of stations being turning into hubs?

  9. If the Ballard stop is at 14th, and you were granted the power to do so, would you scrap the Ballard to downtown line in favor of Ballard to UW, and put Gondolas up along Denny to satisfy Big Tech (Amazon and Expedia stops).

    1. Do we get to magically redesign U-District Station to accommodate trains continuing from Ballard through that station to downtown?

      Or do we get to declare eminent domain on the plot of our choice, and build the new train base for the stub line there?

      1. Nope. Just transfer like everyone else in the free world.

        Big Tech is the bigger issue– they would fund any “no” effort either through ballot or lawsuit.

  10. The article about expanding the bus bases made me wonder if anyone at Metro has done analysis on how much more service we could provide with existing buses and operators if we made capital investments and established more dedicated transit RoW (or more enforcement of existing bus lanes).

    In other words, is there a business case for Metro to make large scale capital investments, perhaps with some city matching funds, to truly speed up buses which will then require us to buy, operate and maintain less of them?

    1. Paint is cheap. No business case is needed on 3rd Ave. Even the Times Editorial Board gets it.

      If deliveries need to happen somewhere, vehicle permits can be issued.

      If parking access from 3rd is necessary, consider those on a half-block by half-block basis. Same for any blocks where private vehicles may need to make two consecutive right turns (of which there are maybe three half-blocks where that would matter).

  11. What is — and should be — happening with the small, fenced-off parcels of land that Sound Transit owns around Beacon Hill and MLK Link stations?

    1. Can’t speak to MLK, but now I believe development plans are in place for the parcels immediately adjacent the Beacon Hill station. Check

      Also there was some agreement recently approved that sold an additional small parcel on that site for a very small amount of money, making me wonder if there was some stipulation of affordable units or other amenities.

  12. Which of the 27 Seattle upzones currently under Council debate are you most excited about? Which one leaves you wanting more?

  13. Should the Mt Baker Transit Center move to the vacating UW laundry site so that the existing site can become a TOD, or should it be left alone? I can see pros and cons for bus operations and Link access in either situation.

  14. If politics and timing worked out, would it have made sense, after the full demolition of the viaduct, to build an elevated Link route in its place and through the Battery Street Tunnel?

    Assume all else being equal (including the viaduct replacement tunnel), except no longer needing to build the second tunnel through downtown as part of ST3. Would this reduce the cost of the project by billions?

    1. This is similar to the Monoral 2 proposal, which would have run along the waterfront rather than the center of downtown. Voters rejected it by 70%.

  15. Should transit buses have special signals or active signage on the back and sides to indicate their current status like “loading” or “merging with traffic”? Should we go as far as needing school-bus style stop signs?

  16. Should ST spend more on service frequency today? Link and major bus routes at off-peak times. It is not a coach constraint.

  17. Here’s a downer… bIt looks like we’re entering a downturn. Assuming it’s similar to 2008, what will be the effects transit agencies tax revenues and what are least painful capital program and service reductions?

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