Mayor Durkan announces the appointment of Sam Zimbabwe to SDOT Director

Jarrett Walker has a typically insightful post on New York’s plan to speed up its buses, bucketing the city’s proposed improvements into two categories: cost and controversy:

The other big step involves controversy rather than money.  More bus lanes need to be created, and the space for them will come from some other street use, usually parking lanes, traffic lanes, and versatile curb space for pickups and deliveries.  Bus facilities cost money too, but winning these battles is the bigger struggle, so the cost is really in political capital rather than money.  

I typically refer to these as capital and political costs, but “cost and controversy” is pithier. It reminded me of a recent exchange between our own Mayor Durkan and the Times‘ Jim Brunner, captured in this tweet from Erica C. Barnett:

This is from November, before the Streetcar was saved, and I think it explains a lot about where Durkan and her critics (STB included) sometimes appear to talk past one another.

On one hand, Durkan must look at the annual budget and the levies and think, “boy, I sure am spending a lot on transit. How could I be anti-transit?”

On another hand, she’s rejecting Brunner’s premise, which is that cars and non-motorized transportation are zero sum.  Which is true! You don’t always have to choose between cars and other modes. That’s what subway tunnels are for, and we’re about to build a second one through downtown. It will be glorious.

On yet a third hand, sometimes you do have to choose! When there is limited right-of-way on a given street and the Mayor waffles on a decision (in the case of, say, the CCC or bike lanes), then advocates will rightly start to question her priorities.

To put it in Walker’s terms, the Mayor wants to keep the conversation focused on costs (“we’re spending a lot of money”), not controversies (“we need to take away car lanes”). This is the simplest explanation for the streetcar delay: Durkan wasn’t afraid of the costs (which kept going up!) but wanted to avoid the controversy (an unfavorable story on page 1 of the Times).

Safe street & transit advocates, by contrast, aren’t as concerned with costs (ST3 and the TBD are already funded) and instead want to focus on the controversies, usually in terms of reallocating right-of-way from cars to other modes.

72 Replies to “Costs and Controversies”

  1. One minor quibble I have with the advocate community (on many issues, not just transit) is a tendency at times to take extreme stances.

    Perhaps this is a negotiation tactic, staking out extreme positions that can be allowed to compromise into acceptable outcomes. Perhaps it is a fundraising/media stance – extreme positions are going to get more attention. Perhaps the people who care the most are those with more extreme positions and hence are those who lead on advocacy.

    However, in reality, many policy decisions are far from being zero-sum, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, etc. There are many gradations of policy in between.

    1. Of course, “extreme” is always relative to what the status quo is. I don’t think many people would consider “I want to be able to go to the store down the street that I live on without someone putting my life at risk” is extreme. Except if it’s a bicyclist who is making this statement! Fact is the status quo is so geared towards making driving quick and easy. The more you walk, bike, and take transit, the more “I want to be able to drive through any neighborhood and I want it to be quick and easy, and I want to be able to park in front wherever I go” is the extreme position. Yesterday, one thing to reflect on was that equal rights and protection regardless of the color of one’s skin was once considered an extreme position!

    2. Yup, New York definitely should compromise and take only half lanes to speed up its buses. That way, all the half width buses would go faster and all the half width cars would still find parking places.

    3. Extreme is in the eye of the beholder here. None of us are arguing for things that aren’t common in Amsterdam or Paris. It’s not extreme to ask for buses every 5-10 minutes that aren’t caught in traffic. It’s a simple matter of giving the 50 people on the bus 50 times the priority of the 1 person in the car, rather than giving cars the same priority as buses.

    4. I think a good example is “painting Third Avenue red”. That implies that no cars or trucks are allowed on Third Avenue, at any time. No delivery van, even at 3:00 AM. That seems a bit extreme to me, and pointless to worry about. I’m not saying that the current compromise goes far enough — or that it is even the best way to achieve the goals — but 100% transit 100% of the time does seem extreme.

      I realize other cities have transit malls, but they generally don’t have the hills we have. I have no idea how they deal with accessing existing driveways, either.

    5. A broad slogan like “Paint Third Avenue red” doesn’t mean there can’t be compromises for deliveries, either at set hours or one other way. The biggest issue is how to prevent abuse. When a police car turns on its siren to go through an inconvenient intersection when there’s no urgent need, that’s abuse,. Likewise, if the distinguishing factor in legitimate delivery vehicles is they have commercial license places, then you could see people who have those cars using Third Avenue routinely when they don’t have a delivery, simply to avoid congestion on other streets, or because they philosophically disagree with restricted lanes. I don’t have answers to this but it’s something the politicians would have to look at. to make sure legitimate deliveries get through but abuse is effectively hindered.

  2. It’s worse than that, Alex. I don’t think that Seattle Transit Blog’s readership counts as transit’s entire advocate community at any level. But can the Mayor, or anybody else, discern exactly what constitutes STB’s version of a pro-transit view of the Central City Connector?

    Mark Dublin

  3. If you use Walker’s terms (cost and controversy) then the streetcar delay was all about cost. So far as I know, the mayor hasn’t even mentioned the transit lanes (on First). Another controversial aspect (the danger to bike riders caused by streetcar tracks) hardly gets a mention either. She may have been worried about a bad report on the front page of the Seattle Times, but only as it relates to cost.

    In contrast, the Link station placement issue has mostly been about controversy. The preferred alignment would be best for riders, but others lose out. Those that don’t want a train above ground (in West Seattle) or lose port spaces (in Ballard) don’t like it. Neither do those along 15th who want to avoid the temporary disruption that a stop on 15th would cause. As a result, the mayor (and others) are somehow hoping that we can spend a bunch of money to eliminate the controversy.

    Third Avenue is mostly controversial, but there is a cost to an off board payment system.

    Then there is a third category: efficacy. It is all too common — especially in this day and age — to focus on left-right division. Should we spend money on guns or butter? How much money should we spend fixing social problems? Even in a city like Seattle, where there is great consensus on most spending issues, and a very liberal mindset, there is often a focus on whether someone is “progressive” enough. But as we’ve seen with issues like homelessness, the biggest problem is efficacy. Of course a head tax is controversial (it is a very regressive tax) but the big question is whether it would have done much good. Based on previous spending, that isn’t clear.

    What is clear from all of this is a lack of leadership from the city and the county. Those in charge are avoiding controversy in all areas. They are focusing on costs, while ignoring efficacy. The Move Seattle projects are underfunded, yet the mayor thinks it is worth spending a quarter of a billion dollars on a downtown circulator. The mayor thinks it is also worth spending way more than that on Link changes that will not improve the rider experience.

    Likewise with most advocacy groups. Folks focus on cost in isolation, as if that is the only way the money could be spent. Rarely does anyone question the cost or efficacy of any transit project (Dan Ryan being the main exception). A new tunnel may be glorious, but it stands out for its lack of efficacy. It will largely serve the exact same places as the previous tunnel — which, so far as I know, is unprecedented. (Usually when a city builds an additional tunnel downtown, they seek to maximize coverage). Yes, the writers of this blog fought hard to add a First Hill station, but that was after the fact. The assumption was that ST3 was the best we could do — despite its obviously poor cost-benefit ratio.

    The same sort of thinking exists for the streetcar. It is another project viewed only in isolation. No one has asked whether this is the most cost effective way to improve transit to First Avenue, let alone the most cost effective way to improve transit overall. Same with Ballard. The assumption seems to be that the train should end on the eastern outskirts of Ballard (at best) with tracks headed north-south. Yet sending a train east-west (along Market, starting at 14th) could mean two stops in Ballard (at 15th and Leary). That would better serve the area and also provide a down payment on a UW-Ballard line (two stations would already be built). Yet that isn’t even being discussed, while folks consider spending huge sums that would actually make the transit experience worse.

    Sometimes the problem is cost; sometimes the problem is that a project is too controversial; but often the problem is that people are just building ineffective, poorly designed transit projects. There is no end in sight to the collective stupidity that has permeated transit decisions here, but at least there is (or will soon be) new leadership downtown. Hopefully the new head of SDOT — and the mayor’s hand picked ST liaison — will improve things.

    1. “A new tunnel may be glorious, but it stands out for its lack of efficacy. It will largely serve the exact same places as the previous tunnel — which, so far as I know, is unprecedented. (Usually when a city builds an additional tunnel downtown, they seek to maximize coverage).”

      What about the Red and Blue Line tunnels in Chicago? The bulk of downtown activity is between 1st and 6th Avenues so a line should be somewhere in the middle of that, and it is. Seattle is nn isthmus with narrow downtown in the middle, so if one line doesn’t go to the center of downtown it puts riders of that line at a disadvantage.

      1. What about the Red and Blue Line tunnels in Chicago?

        There is a difference between having a stop (or two) close to another line in the center of downtown versus basically running the exact same line for most of the route. In the case of the red and blue lines, they do indeed meet at the center of town. For less than a mile, they are very close. But most of the stops *downtown*, on each line, involve extra coverage. If Chicago had taken the approach that Seattle is taking, then the Blue line and Red line would run parallel to each other for a longer period. The Blue line would run up to Division and then cut across. The result would be that the River West neighborhood would lack coverage, and the system would be weaker.

        The point is, if you look at the Chicago system, it is pretty clear that just about all of downtown is covered. With so many lines converging, of course you are going to get stations close to each other — but they cover downtown. It does mean making transfers, even to gigantic parts of downtown. If you want to get to the (100 story) John Hancock building from the blue line, then you have to transfer.

        Seattle is nn isthmus with narrow downtown in the middle, so if one line doesn’t go to the center of downtown it puts riders of that line at a disadvantage.

        Seattle will have only two lines downtown, and we won’t have great coverage. From SoDo to Westlake — a distance of well over 2 miles — there won’t be any new coverage with the new line. Yes, because Seattle is an isthmus, this is an inherit problem with running another north-south line (which is yet another argument against prioritizing that) but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t improve coverage. As has been mentioned several times, you can achieve that *and have that one seat ride to downtown* by covering First Hill. No one is suggesting that we skip Westlake or I. D., but skipping First Hill so that we can have another stop very close to the existing ones just makes the system weaker.

        But hey, show me I’m wrong. Show me the studies that say that having a station (or two) at another part of downtown would have made things worse. I’m basing my analysis on how subway systems all over the world work (with transfers) but maybe I’m missing something. But like just about every poor transit decision made in this town, that hasn’t been the case. No one studied that, just like no one (so far) has studied alternatives to the streetcar (or numerous other alternatives). And when they do study things, and folks don’t like the results (like when Ballard to UW was shown to be more cost effective, or when an independent firm found that BRT was the best way to use the CKC) then the data is ignored, and we go back to making symbolic transit. Someday you will be able to take a subway train to Tacoma! Well, part of Tacoma — a part where very few people live. And only if you don’t mind riding a train for over an hour. But still. Look at the pretty map!

      2. But hey, show me I’m wrong

        OK. The “transfers” you are so ga-ga about are going to be HIDEOUS. Because Westlake has side-platforms and the Green Line is likely to have center platforms offset from the existing station box there is a possible “best case” of punching walkways a hundred or so feet to the east from the existing platform level to a pair of mini-mezzanines, one to the north and one to the south of the trackway and placing a center platform below the minis. The minis could also be connected above to an extension of the existing mezzanine and on to the street of course.

        That, and only that, configuration allows a single-level change in a transfer.

        The “representative alignment” station is two levels deeper with a full mezzanine crossing under the Red/Blue tracks. That’s probably what ST will build, because the “pair of minis” idea is unique and “untried”.

        So, if you and Martin had gotten your way and the line were deviated to Eighth or even Boren (extremely difficult because of the depth required), folks from Queen Anne, Magnolia, Ballard and perhaps some day points north would have been forced to make that two-level transfer at Westlake to reach the vast majority of the office core. If we could depend on SoundTransit to build some sort of horizontal tunnel from the mezzanine of an Eighth Avenue station to the basements of the towers on Sixth and a street-level opening on Fifth, it might be fine to force that transfer. Many able-bodied people headed for section of the office center around Fifth would ride to Eighth and use the tunnel. But they have shown exactly zero interest in providing grade-separated pedestrian access to their stations. Roosevelt should have tunnels under 12th and under 65th. It will have neither.

        You incessantly have complained about the necessity of having two levels for an underground station in Ballard, and you’re correct that it would require a mezzanine if centered under 15th NW. But many more people will have to make this two-level transfer at Westlake, than will be using the Ballard Station. That “many” must also include those from SLU who want to go north on the Red/Blue line.

        The transfer at IDS increasingly looks to be even worse. If the representative alignment station under Sixth Avenue with a center platform is built, transferring to the Red/Blue line will require three level changes. It’s true that can be reduced to two levels if the mezzanine of the Green Line has a passage under the Red/Blue tracks dug that has escalators/stairs directly to the Red/Blue platforms or optimally a new center “transfer-only” platform. But again, ST has shown no interest in such pedestrian-friendly access facilities.

      3. a center platform”, not “platforms”

        “under 12th and under 65th, either of which would be relatively cheap to provide

        “Westlake than will be using” (no comma)

      4. I agree with the hideous transfer comments. It’s beyond stupid and short-sighted.

        Have you noticed that the basic question “how many riders will have to change trains after 2035?” is never answered? We’re probably talking about at least 75k to 125k transferring Link riders each day in 2035. That’s more than ride Link today. Imagine telling Link riders after 20 years that they will face a new, hideous transfer? LA just had a political coup against staff planners for the Green Line South Bay operations on this similar issue with far fewer riders.

        Meanwhile I’ve suggested two different logical solutions:

        1. Cross-platform level transfers at SODO. For likely less than $50m, two connected center platforms with two tracks each (one for each line — 4 boarding areas total), a transfer would take 5 seconds rather than 3 minutes of walking (no elevation change) for many of these people!

        2. Interlining the West Seattle and Seatac/Tacoma trains with Ballard and UW/Snohomish. This would give riders a choice to wait longer for a direct train or hop on an earlier one and transfer — or maybe not have to choose if the preferred train arrives first. Trains are interlined like this in tons of places like Denver. The only drawback is ST would have to tell East Link transferring riders which platform to use to go south.

        Guess what? No one will embrace them. It’s like there is this inability to see the future mess that’s being created — and can be so easily fixed now with good track and station design or rethinking operations! I even get push back from STB posters that it’s either not going to be a problem or that not many will be affected (ST sure won’t tell us)!

        I just shake my head at the obnoxiously smug naïveté.

      5. Queen Anne, Magnolia, Ballard and perhaps some day points north would have been forced to make that two-level transfer at Westlake to reach the vast majority of the office core.

        Wrong! How many times must I go over it. Here, one more time — I’ll copy the daily ridership numbers:

        Westlake: 12,179
        University: 5,872
        Pioneer Square: 4,317
        International District: 6,308

        The vast majority of trips are to Westlake and I. D. It isn’t even close. Westlake has more riders than the two stations that would be skipped — combined! I. D. is bigger than either one.

        You are basically saying that we can’t possibly do what every other city in the world does, because S. T. can’t enable a simply transfer. You are ignoring the fact that if S. T. doesn’t make this transfer easy, then we are basically screwed. Think about it. Here are numbers from a couple more stations:

        UW: 10,517
        Capitol Hill: 7,837

        Both of these have more riders than the stations you think should be directly served by every single line that goes downtown. If you screw up that transfer, then you’ve screwed up a huge number of trips. It would mean that Northgate/UW/Capitol Hill to South Lake Union/Lower Queen Anne would take too long. My guess is the three stops at the southern end of Ballard Link (two in South Lake Union, one in Lower Queen Anne) will have higher ridership than the two you are most concerned about. Holy cow, one of the stations is being designed as an intercept for riders from Aurora. If you are riding the E and headed close to Madison, you aren’t bothering with a transfer. You just stay on the bus, while it takes you right to your destination. But if you are headed to First Hill, then of course you would transfer (since you have to transfer anyway).

        Look, people will transfer. Millions of people transfer on trains in big cities everywhere. In Vancouver — by far the most successful Northwest West Coast city in terms of transit, riders on the Millennium Line no longer have a one seat ride to downtown. This is a line that carries over twice as many riders as Link, and not only does it not serve every possible stop in downtown, it doesn’t even serve downtown at all! All those riders have to transfer. When it is extended, it still won’t go downtown, but will continue west, meaning thousands more will have to transfer. This is not a perfect transfer, either; unless you want to go the long way around (and transfer at Lougheed) you have to transfer at Commercial–Broadway, where a transfer involves a skyway and elevator (one track is elevated, the other underground). It is probably the most cumbersome transfer in the entire system (noted on the maps with a different symbol), yet it is also the station with the most riders (around 25,000 a day). People manage.

        The point being that while I’m sure SkyTrain officials wished they could do that over again, and make the transfer easier, no one is suggesting that they send the Millennium line back downtown again, right next to the Expo Line. It makes way more sense to go for coverage, even though in this case (unlike the First Hill proposal), it won’t even be covering a different part of downtown.

      6. By the way, none of this actually addresses my point. Of course every proposal that I think is a failure can be defended. Putting the Ballard station in West Woodland can be defended. Same with building a South Kirkland to Issaquah light rail line instead of running buses on the CKC. Or building a line to the Tacoma Dome, so that folks in downtown Tacoma can have a longer train ride to Seattle than they have now. Spending a quarter billion dollars on a streetcar with an obviously flawed routing. For that matter, folks can defend the streetcar button hook as well.

        The point is, unless you are a Pollyanna with regards to transit (or other matters) you have to admit, we make mistakes around here. Every agency makes mistakes. The point I’m making, is that if you are going to categories problems, then it is reasonable to add a third category. You can spend too little money on transit; you can spend too little political capital; or you can just make stupid mistakes. In my opinion, our biggest flaw, by far, is that we make too many stupid mistakes. Even when we seem to have a pretty good design, we seem to blow it. The Move Seattle projects are a great idea, but the failure to properly estimate the costs mean that we may never build those. Of course, a big part of that is corruption, which I guess is a fourth category.

      7. I guess I don’t see why Westlake has to be a bad transfer point. Add a center platform (which is far from impossible) and there are any number of options to pursue.

      8. I agree, Glen. I don’t see it as being that difficult to build a good connection. There is an interesting article about cross platform transfers on Pedestrian Observations: The first comment seems especially relevant:

        While cross platform transfers are best, direct transfers where one has to travel just 1 straight flight of steps to be on the next platform works well. If done in more wide open stations where the high tracks cross the lower ones on what looks like a bridge if seems easier as well. It works especially well where one line has an island platform and the other has side platforms thus requiring but 2 sets of steps/escalators/elevators. The good and bad is that separate staircases are required for those transferring and for those entering and exiting the station.

        That seems like exactly the type of situation we will have at Westlake — wide open station, with one platform (our old one) having side platforms, and the new one having an island platform. In general I would say the big mistake we made in designing our system for transfers was at I. D., since we will have reverse direction transfers, which would be very simple and easy if we had a center platform.

      9. “I guess I don’t see why Westlake has to be a bad transfer point.”

        The point is that ST won’t commit to guaranteeing it won’t be. That’s what’s driving this long-term freak-out. ST has metric specs for frequency of trains; why not a minimum speck for train-to-train transfers?

        “I’ll copy the daily ridership numbers:”

        Beware of comparing today’s ridership and trip patterns with the future. Right now there is no Link to Ballard, West Seattle, or Bellevue, so people are making alternative arrangements to avoid the less-frequent, harder-to-transfer-to, less-punctual buses. (Sometimes because the stop is at 3rd & Pike.) The C doesn’t go to the library, etc. We’ve seen that U-Link dramatically increased ridership, and Capitol Hill to UW emerged as a surprisingly significant trip. The same thing will happen when Link gets to West Seattle, Ballard, Bellevue. and Lynnwood: suddenly trips that are difficult now will be much easier and more reliable, even if the transfers are some of these worst-case scenarios. A train running every 10 minutes is better than a bus running every 15 minutes, and that partly compensates for the transfer distance. We should push for excellent transfers (and that should be a Link policy requirement) and quantify what we will lose if the design is substandard, but we also should look at how it will compare to the existing network, because that’s what affects actual people’s trips. A theoretical perfect system is no good if it has no chance of passing.

      10. Glenn, a center platform does nothing to help with a Sixth Avenue crossing. You still need two levels because the passageways between the two platform levels have to cross above the southbound Green Line track. Either that or you force people up to the main mezzanine which gets extended to the east to serve the new platforms too. Yes, that certainly needs to be included because the existing mezzanine has so many excellent access points, but it would be very unpopular to force people up to “M” and back down to “P” in a daily transfer. Some connection that is as efficient as possible needs to be provided directly between the upper (Red/Blue) and lower (Green) platforms

        Grant that the upper level change doesn’t have to be as large as the lower because the mezzanine just has to clear peoples’ heads a few feet for psychological comfort.

        In fact, it might be possible for the Green Line tracks to be deep enough that a half-block downward sloping passageway from a center platform could feed a “full” mezzanine tucked under the rising Red/Blue tracks. I don’t know the exact grade, but it starts just beyond the existing platforms, so it must be five or six feet higher at Sixth Avenue.

        But if that’s true, then just drill the bores from the existing platforms and simplify the transfer. And out-of-towner going to the airport from somewhere north along the Red/Blue line might not know to exit the train using the left, center-platform doors and get off with the bulk of the people.

        I do understand that having the center platform would make the transfer more efficient by separating the two streams of passengers. The more doors the merrier.

        But just having a center platform does not remove the need for a mezzanine for a Sixth Avenue crossing which is the most likely because it’s possible to dig from above. The station box for a Fifth Avenue crossing must be mined, at least the portion underneath the existing station. Plus, it must be at least a few feet deeper than a Sixth Avenue crossing because of the weight of the existing station box. That makes the Midtown Station just that much deeper.

        There is one of the three options that were forwarded which does under-run the existing Westlake station box. That definitely improves the possibilities for the transfer.

        It is probably possible to dig “out-and-back” (e.g. “elbow-like”) stair cases or elevator banks projecting out to the north and south from the existing box which would lead down to a center platform underneath the existing station. That would clearly be optimal for transfers, but it seriously complicates access to and from the surface for riders who do not want to transfer. Either the middles of the existing platforms would have to be disrupted by elevators or folks would have to change levels between the platforms and then shift to the existing access to the street.

        Building this station is going to be very tricky. I hope that Sound Transit gives it the thought it deserves.

        So far as Ross’s rant about Westlake being the only good station, Dude, I said “to reach the vast majority of the office core”. Yes, I probably should have included the qualifier “who are headed for the office core” in the list of people affected. I’ll even stipulate that I probably shouldn’t have included “Queen Anne” in the list. Riders from there will likely to stay on their buses to their a destination downtown. But the point is to increase ridership, and if people have to change to go one station to University or two to Pioneer Square because their line wanders up the hill to Boren, it won’t be popular, to say the least.

        Not to mention that a station with an easy transfer underneath “old Westlake” would be an additional fifteen feet deeper at Pine, carrying that addition 15 feet to Eight or Boren, and even to Fifth or Sixth.

        As for his point about Commercial-Broadway, that 25,000 figure is NOT transferees, it’s “boardings”. Since the Millenium Line has seven of the ten least busy stations in the system, transferees are likely somewhat only about half that total, so maybe 13,000.

      1. Repeat after me, “Anything that’s not a progressive income tax is regressive. All taxes are evil except for income taxes and carbon taxes.”

        But more seriously, the argument was that because it was a fixed fee per job, it was regressive. A payroll tax (e.g. 1% of wages) would be a non-regressive tax on jobs.

      2. A head tax — a tax on every person regardless of ability to pay — is obviously regressive. The employee hours was not a “head tax”. The Chamber merely branded it as such because pollsters told them the term was so clearly unpopular, for good reasons.

        If it were regressive, Socialist Alternative surely would not have pushed it.

      3. The only reason Seattle considered a head tax is it’s one of the few untapped sources the state allows. The legislature also gave ST a head tax which it has avoided using. If the proponents had had what they ideally wanted, it would have been a tax proportional to profits or income.

      4. @Brent — Of course it was a head tax. Look, here are a couple examples:

        Small law firm with ten employees. Each employee makes over 100,000 a year. The firm charges ten million a year, with a profit of about a couple million. They pay zero tax (since the company brought in less than twenty million).

        Supermarket chain with 100 employees, most of whom make around 40 grand a year. The company pays $27,500 in taxes. Even if the company isn’t making any money, it is charged that.

        Sorry, but that is regressive. As Mike pointed out, the only reason the city even proposed it is because it is one of the few taxes that the city can implement. Our tax system is literally the most regressive in the country, and adding a head tax (or employee hour tax, if you prefer) would have made it even more so. Hell, it is even more regressive than a sales tax. At least with a sales tax high spenders pay more. Not in proportion to their income (which is why it is regressive) but at least it goes up.

    2. The 2nd tunnel serves largely the same location because it’s supposed it. The tunnel’s primary purpose is to solve capacity issues, not add service areas.

      Do you object to expanding South Sounder because it will serve the same stations? Are you going to object to NYC’s Gateway Program because it serves the same areas as the existing Hudson crossings? No, that would be silly.

      The stations at ID and Westlake are in the exact location because those are transfer hubs. The stations north of Westlake are entirely new, so those should be a non-issue. So your objection can really only be about one station – Midtown.

      For the midtown station, the debate is between 1) Add Link service area by serving First Hill, or 2) Increase Link capacity in the primary CBD west of I5. Given the ST3 tunnel’s purpose is to increase existing Link capacity, #2 is a logical outcome.

      If you believe the existing tunnel will have sufficient capacity to absorb all the people transfering from the new tunnel at Westlake & ID to get to Pioneer & University, then you see no reason for #2. But, then you disagree with the official ridership & operations projections of ST3, which means you are dealing with a different set of facts than the ST planners.

      1. As for South Sounder expanding, it is all about the cost. Commuter rail tends to be cheap. Building new tunnels (and new stations) is not.

        I don’t want to repeat everything that I wrote to Mike up above, but in these other examples you are using (New York and Chicago) it is clear that downtown is covered. Any additional lines are there to provide additional connections to outlying (less densely populated) areas.

        Seattle is different, because so little of our downtown is covered. First Hill isn’t covered, nor is Belltown, South Lake Union, or Lower Queen Anne. Until you have covered those areas — the most urban parts of town — it makes sense to do so when you go through the expense of a new downtown line. That is basically what everyone else in the world does. Yes, you connect, and yes, you often parallel. But if there is a chance to cover more of the densely populated, densely employed, extremely popular part of town, you take it.

        As for capacity, it really isn’t an issue. Of course people would transfer, just like they transfer all over the world. But many will simply exit the train before crowding would occur. Consider two southbound trains, running in the morning. Each one serves Westlake. At this point, each train loses many of its passengers. Westlake is by far our most popular station (with UW second). In fact, more people use Westlake than Pioneer Square and University combined. Crowding from those that leave one train and join the other is made up for all of those that do the opposite, go the other direction, or just leave Westlake.

        Meanwhile, none of that was studied. There are no facts supporting the idea that building a station in First Hill would lead to excessive crowding. As with most issues of this nature, there is no independent study, nor even a comprehensive study of alternatives (such as making the trains run faster). More than anything, what has driven this has been seat of the pants planning, and an outdated and suburban approach towards transit in this city.

      2. From a psychological/sociological perspective, I find it fascinating when I hear things like “you can transfer from the ferry dock to Link, just walk a few blocks.” Up a steep hill. And then 2 more block crosstown. Or “First Hill is just a short walk from the 5th/6th Street midtown station.” Up the steepest hill in Seattle! Better yet, having *the* Ballard station be at 14th Ave a 15 minute walk from actual Ballard! But we need a second tunnel 2-3 blocks away from the current tunnel to adequately serve downtown! If the second tunnel is needed for capacity issues, fine, but then go ahead and make the transfers inefficient and create a new capacity issue? Point is we all tend to find ways to justify what we want the most, and conveniently ignore data that contradicts it. Which may be just as much a function of human nature than any malevolence and dishonesty on our parts.

      3. As B illustrates, greater Downtown Seattle is not covered because of elevation issues. That is more directly addressed, quicker and more cheaply improved through elevators and escalators (and maybe gondolas or funiculars) more than parallel lines.

        While AJ points to a valid concern about DSTT rail overcrowding concerns, ST has not released any technical study quantifying the issue. In fact, the last ST study that disclosed demand between stations (Lynnwood Link ridership) showed the highest demand between Capitol Hill and Westlake — which the additional ST3 tunnel would proabably make worse (creating more rail transfers at Westlake than prior bus transfers at Capitol Hill; more riders from 522 BRT and Everett Link extensions). All ST ever made public since 2016 has been generic project segment ridership; it’s been over 2 years and we’re planning billions of construction dollars with no systems demand discussion! Only people who think of Link as a toy train do that!

        Let’s not debate what the data may say. Let’s push for the data and overcrowding analysis to become open to the public!

      4. @AJ,


        The 2nd tunnel downtown is about capacity, and it is also about putting transit where people need it to go. That is why the midtown station is located where it is, and why the transfer stations are where they are.

        It makes absolutely mo sense to put the transfer stations at WL and IDS and then put the only intermediate station at some other place that doesn’t serve the greatest demand and would actually cost boatloads more and incur a lot more risk.

        I look forward to the new DT tunnel and stations. Just wish we didn’t have to wait so long.

      5. We’re not going to solve the capacity issue now. (“Would the single tunnel have enough capacity if it were improved to 90-secont trains?”) The two sides are using different estimates and assumptions, and we’ll just have to see which is right. I think having one tunnel that’s near to the capacity ceiling and might exceed it over in the next thirty years, is worse than having two tunnels with plenty of capacity for both ST3 service and a possible additional line beyond that. We’re very lucky that King County built the DSTT in the 1980s because that took the cost off ST1’s books and was much cheaper than building it later. Now we’re doing the same with DSTT2, and that may make it easier to get the TBD future line approved later.

      6. Back to the capacity issue again, I guess. OK, here goes:

        Our stations are very large and very expensive, with very long platforms for very long trains (by light rail standards). At 800 passengers per 4-car train (full but *not* crushed), Link’s single-train capacity would fit right in the middle of the pack for *heavy* rail subways.

        Typical subways with similar per-train capacities have proven easily able to handle 200,000+ boardings per day while *never* running closer than ~6-minute peak headways. This includes all the similarly-proportional single-direction commuter-peak surges that Link is ever likely to see (because Seattle is not special in this regard).

        The main tunnel can and is expected to have 3-minute peak service. That would be commensurate with a typical 400,000+ passenger subway system. And supposedly, the existing tunnel could handle 2-minute service (a potential 600,000+) with relatively simple upgrades.

        We will never get that many riders. Not even close.

      7. Dude, WHAT are you smoking? Twenty eight-hundred passenger trains carry 16,000 passengers per hour per direction. And many more than 16,000 passengers use Metro, Sound Transit and Community Transit buses to enter downtown Seattle from the north broadly defined in the two hours between 6:30 and 8:30 AM. Even more depart downtown to go back north between 4:00 and 6:30 PM because non-commuters trickle into downtown all day long for shopping and other activities. They want to go home at dinner time, too.

        There will be capacity constraints on the north line once the CT and ST expresses start transferring at Lynnwood. It’s true that no individual station north of Northgate has a decent walkshed with density, but that does not mean that there are not lots of people using transit to go to Seattle from their hinterlands. They’ll either use the garages, kiss-n-ride or take feeder shuttles. If such buses run every ten minutes for a couple of hours in the morning and connect to the much more reliable Link they’ll attract more riders, not fewer.

  4. I disagree with Durkan’s assertion that giving free bus passes to students is a transit victory. It is a victory for helping low income people, but it doesn’t actually increase the amount of transit available. It also took away money from transit that could have been used towards improving our system. Yes, Metro had a equipment and staffing shortage, but that money could have gone to the CCC or other transit improvements such as red paint on lanes, traffic light synchronization. But just think of the thunderous applause at rallies at school when I say everyone gets a free bus pass! And it doesn’t cost me a thing because I just stole it from the transit budget! But she is a smart politician, I mean who is going to argue against helping students. (Even I like it, though I don’t like the way she did it)

    I will not vote for Durkan a 2nd time.

    1. We never asked for free passes for students. It was never an issue in the community or in the mayor’s election. Yet suddenly she proposes it and passes it before we can turn around. I would have preferred saving the money until Metro has the capacity to use it for its original purpose. The riders of that service are the ones who lost out under this policy, and they weren’t even acknowledged, even though some of them voted for Prop 1, and there was never a vote to divert the money to students.

      I won’t commit to not voting for her again, because too many of such calls overemphasize one decision which is really small compared to the total city’s issues. But I will be looking hopefully for better alternatives. Durkan’s problem is she has still not articulated a pro-active transit policy or goals. She’s continuing the previous mayors’ plans so she’s not against them, but what is she for?

      1. Student groups and the Transit Riders Union pushed for the free student passes, for several years. I’m delighted that they succeeded, given how regressive fares are, and how especially hard they are on families, when lot of adults with white-collar jobs get free passes courtesy of their employers. (A large chunk of UW employees just got added to the list, and I’m very happy for them, too.)

        I don’t think anyone has pointed to any promises Mayor Durkan has broken. She is ready to sign the various HALA upzones that make it to her desk without being watered down by those who want to minimize the number of new housing units, and thereby keep poor people out of neighborhoods that want to keep their neighborhoods exclusive. On that issue, she may show herself to be the best choice in the whole mayoral field from 2017. Cary Moon showed too many signs of caving to the loudest and richest screamers, out of fear of controversy. I recall Durkan not being afraid of that controversy at all (and perhaps the pollsters told her not to be afraid, while recent election results show NIMBYs keep getting beat badly, with my district rep being the rare exception, but barely, against someone who avoided taking controversial stances at all).

        I’m just hoping Mayor Durkan decides to do some stuff for transit, bikes, and pedestrians that she didn’t promise to do in her campaign, and that the city council push her to make right-of-way for non-car uses a priority, most importantly for buses on 3rd Ave, but also for the downtown Basic Bike Network, since downtown is one of the scariest places to jump on a bike. Maybe the tripling of bike traffic on major bike corridors will get some action.

        But, really, we’ve made a list of blocks where red paint should not be controversial at all. I don’t get what her resistance is to red paint on blocks with no parking or loading issues.

        And then there is her very controversial proposal to variably toll downtown roads. I support it, but simply raising parking prices seems a lot easier and not much of a vote-coster, as the increases would mostly hit suburbanites.

      2. McGinn championed streetcars and Ballard-downtown Link. Murray championed the SLU alternative for Ballard Link. Durkan has championed nothing beyond her predecessor’s plans. No proposal to paint Third Avenue red, no proposal to finish the rest of the RapidRide lines in Move Seattle, no prioritizing of the downtown bike network, sidewalk closures, the ped-bike-unfriendly Mercer Street lights, or any other creative ideas she might have.

      3. A few other things a mayor could theoretically champion, especially since she’s on the ST Board: insist on good transfers at Westlake and ID, drop the deep-station alternatives at ID, and insist on a 15th not 14th station in Ballard.

      4. @Mike Orr,

        McGinn championed SC and LR, but only as foils to fight the DBT. He actually accomplished very little in the field of transportation, and he certainly was no Nickels, or even Murray for that matter.

        I’m not sure what Durkan’s legacy will be on transportation,but her (tepid) support for the CCC is a start. I think she really wanted to kill it, it when all her studies came saying “build it” she had a bit of an awakening. If nothing else, it is refreshing to have a mayor who will follow the data, even in this age of the trumpster.

      5. “McGinn championed SC and LR, but only as foils to fight the DBT. He actually accomplished very little in the field of transportation, and he certainly was no Nickels, or even Murray for that matter.”

        I disagree with all of that. McGinn was against the 99 tunnel during the campaign, but Ballard-downtown Link and the streetcar plans came later after he was in office. They weren’t to fight the DBT because the DBT had already been approved, and McGinn pledged to live with the DBT after that rather than trying to obstruct it further. It was McGinn who pushed ST to accelerate its Ballard-downtown study and gave it supplemental money to do so (the stipulation included a streetcar option but also required a light rail option). The other boardmembers said, “Hey, we want to accelerate our corridor studies and ST3 too.” You have McGinn to thank for the ST3 vote occurring in 2016 rather than in the mid 2020s or some vague time after that or never. That’s a big deal, a really big deal. The objections to McGinn I’ve heard have all boiled down to “We preferred the DBT candidate” or “We don’t like his style (which really means we don’t like his prioritization of transit and bikes)”.

        “I’m not sure what Durkan’s legacy will be on transportation,but her (tepid) support for the CCC is a start.”

        It’s too early to say what the ultimate value of her first term and her transporation decisions will be, but the decisions so far leave room for improvement.

      6. @Mike Orr,

        Giving credit for ST3 to McGinn is a joke. Ya, he signed on to it, along with just about everyone else, but he hardly was responsible for the timing or the content.

        And just about everyone who was pushing ST3 found his support more of a detriment than an advantage. As a lawyer who spent his whole career blocking things in court, he just couldn’t actually sell something. The vote in Seattle proper would have been about the same regardless of who sat in the mayor’s chair, but outside of Seattle he was a detriment to getting the package passed.

      7. McGinn championed streetcars and Ballard-downtown Link. Murray championed the SLU alternative for Ballard Link. Durkan has championed nothing beyond her predecessor’s plans. No proposal to paint Third Avenue red, no proposal to finish the rest of the RapidRide lines in Move Seattle, no prioritizing of the downtown bike network, sidewalk closures, the ped-bike-unfriendly Mercer Street lights, or any other creative ideas she might have.

        Sounds to me that compared to her predecessors, Durkan has done great. The streetcars are stupid, and Ballard to downtown Link is not as good as Ballard to UW Link (by ST’s own estimates). Murray pushed for the SLU alternative for Ballard Link (so you say) yet there is no reason to assume that it will be better than Belltown. The two neighborhoods are roughly equivalent, and serving Belltown would have made it easier to later add a Metro 8 subway. Furthermore, the two SLU stops are not likely to be great, due to the stop spacing issues resulting from a sudden turn (issues that wouldn’t exist with a Belltown line or a Metro 8 subway). Meanwhile, Murray and Kubly were corrupt, and hid the fact that the Move Seattle projects were underfunded, despite the fact that they knew this *before the vote*. The result is not only delays or cancellations with those projects, but at some point the city is going to have to go back to the voters and explain why they are being asked to approve something they already thought they funded last time. They managed to prove the Seattle Times editorial board correct, which is not an easy trick. All the while, the head of the county managed to push for one of the worst transit projects ever conceived, while kicking the buses out of the tunnel well before we have enough trains to handle the riders.

        Compared to all of that, simply sitting on your hands is a great accomplishment. She hasn’t done that, either. Third Avenue may not be red 24 hours a day, but the time in which it is red has been extended. Meanwhile, Third Avenue is transitioning to 100% off board payment, which will be a huge improvement. This is probably a bigger improvement than making sure that cars don’t run on Third Avenue at midnight.

        All of this, of course, has happened without a permanent SDOT head. I, for one, would rather we get someone good, than someone quick. Kubly was horrible, and I don’t want to go through that again. Hopefully the guy she got is good, and will do good work. If nothing is accomplished in a year or two — or if he makes profoundly stupid decisions, like going with a Ballard station at 14th and Market — then we should start complaining. As of now, she shouldn’t be given an ‘F’ for her work, or even a ‘D’ (like the last two guys), but an incomplete.

      8. “Giving credit for ST3 to McGinn is a joke. Ya, he signed on to it, along with just about everyone else, but he hardly was responsible for the timing or the content.”

        The facts directly contradict this, as I described above. He did a lot more than just “sign on to it”. There would not have been an ST3 vote in 2016 if McGinn hadn’t pushed for it. Which other bardmember or politician would have?

        “Murray pushed for the SLU alternative for Ballard Link (so you say)”

        It came out of the city of Seattle. It was either Murray, SDOT, or the council. If it wasn’t Murray, who was it?

        “yet there is no reason to assume that it will be better than Belltown. ”

        That’s a judgment call. The proponents point to the massive underestimate of SLU demand, which forced Metro and the city to scramble with getting the C to it and more frequency on the 40, 60, and 70 (then 17, 26, 28, and 70), and the transit lanes on Westlake. That’s still not enough because the developers are continuing to build a lot of parking. You point to the existing towers in Belltown. Which is more significant,, which one can the existing transit less handle, and which one can influence the design of buildings still in planning? SLU seems a reasonable choice.

      9. Mike (5:32), I know one person who is angry at Mike McGinn for accelerating ST3, because he thinks it’s ALL crap. There is nothing about ST3 that measures up in Ross’s mind. It should have lost.

        Oh, he’ll dance around denying that, but given what was voted on there is no other conclusion.

    2. Of course it is a transit victory. The whole point of having transit is so that people will use it. Free bus passes accomplishes that. It means that lots of people no longer have to be schlepped around by their parents, or borrow a car to get around. I’m sure there are lots of parents who are relieved — not only because they don’t have to pay for bus fare, but because they can simply tell Junior to take the bus (“You got a bus pass, use it kid”). It is likely to pay dividends in the long run, as you build a culture of transit.

      It also leads to faster boarding. I’m sure there are a lot of students that used to pay with cash, but now use a pass. As a result, every rider is better off.

      As to whether it is the best way to spend money, that is debatable. But you could say that with any improvement. The last restructure, for example, shifted a lot of service to Northeast Seattle, in exchange for two seat rides to downtown. That is all good and well (sometimes you have to do things for political reasons) but it is hard to see why service is better in Wedgwood than it is on Yesler.

      1. “It also leads to faster boarding. I’m sure there are a lot of students that used to pay with cash, but now use a pass. As a result, every rider is better off.”

        How are you sure about this? There may be a marginal difference- however I see people fumbling and looking for their Orca card too. I think red paint would have made a much bigger difference, but that’s my opinion.

        I think her decision was political, not really transit related. There was money to spend, she couldn’t meet the levy requirements of the previous administration, so she used the money in a way that is uncontroversial but not really the purpose of the levy. Didn’t she literally just say we needed more money for the CCC?

      2. @Brad,

        Mayor Durkan didn’t use money from the Move Seattle Levy to fund the free passes. She used money from the Seattle Transportation Benefit District fund, which is set up to fund more bus service. The STBD was set up this way to talk down anti-transit-infrastructure activists from opposing it. I have no problem using it for purposes that save service hours in perpetuity, or even just frees up hours on an interim basis by reducing dwell time (which the free passes certainly do). Even if the dwell-time savings is small, Metro can then spend that money on added service, or infrastructure improvements.

        I agree that red paint would have been an even better use, but that’s something SDoT, not KCM, has to do. Anyhoo, Durkan is not lacking money for red paint. It is quite cheap. She is lacking spine to do it. Basically, the Downtown Seattle Association has to be the ones to push her to do it — which shouldn’t be that way, since no single neighborhood group should get to veto needed citywide transportation infrastructure.

      3. It’s easy to forget which things were in Prop 1 and which were in Move Seattle. But Brent is right: Prop 1 is the additional bus operating hours, which Durkan tapped for the school plan. Move Seattle is the half-dozen RapidRide lines, sidewalk expansion, and other capital projects. That is partly stalled because SDOT underestimated the cost of the RapidRide lines, so only a couple of them are going forward.

  5. I’ll never forget Obama’s speech regarding alternative energy and where technology research funding was to be directed: “all of the above” Years after that speech I see where wind, solar and electric cars are becoming prominent, however other technologies are still being pursued and found viable such as geothermal, ethanol, carbon capture, wave energy, pumped storage, battery storage and etc.

    The point is, one size doesn’t fit all and it isn’t always the cheapest and upfront cost that matters most. It is a vision of what’s best for a given situation that matters. A gondola system makes perfect sense for an Andes city in which steep ghetto slopes with narrow paths for which cars can barely transverse is found suitable. For a city like Melbourne where oil companies never dictated the transportation conversation in the first 1/2 of the century their streetcar technology was allowed to continue and evolve and become a cheap and effective tool that minimizes rubberized vehicles into its center. It’s what is a political no brain-er and cost effective combination that matters. Many argue for bike lanes down 35th and yet parking currently is too constricting as is for local businesses. Why should they be forced out of business when bikers have other options? The businesses and their customers were there first. As a former biker I always found alternatives to a destination, something a business can’t do. Common sense should dictate and not an affinity for a transportation tool.

    1. “Many argue for bike lanes down 35th and yet parking currently is too constricting as is for local businesses. Why should they be forced out of business when bikers have other options?”

      Most of the existing parking is unused, and there is plenty of room on 35th to meet actual parking demand, even with the bike lanes. The bike lanes would not put anybody out of business. The “no bike lanes” crowd is basically arguing that having to walk across the street to access a business is unacceptable, and that we should have no bike lanes, so that those headed to businesses on either side of the street can park 30 feet closer to their destination.

      That said, there is one area where all sides can agree – adding more crosswalks so people can cross the street more easily.

      1. The compromise that the no bike lanes group is pushing replaces parking on one side with a center turn lane, so clearly they’re not all that concerned about parking, either.

      2. Certainly, wanting to keep those dirty bikers out of their neighborhoods and business establishments is not one of their driving goals. I’m at a loss what they are thinking, when they are most succeeding at getting fair-minded people to not want to patronize their business establishments.

      3. Is the dirty bikers comment really necessary, Brent? I think you could have made your point, which I agree with, without being condescending and insulting to those you disagree with.

    2. I just took a “drive” up and down 35th in Google maps, honestly looking for those businesses that would die if there were bike lanes instead of street parking. Sorry, I didn’t find any. Plenty of off street parking that is not fully utilized, and street parking opportunities in side streets. The car service businesses that really do need a car to be able to pull up to the front already have off street places for that to happen. Now the street parking seems to be most utilized in some residential stretches which probably do depend on the street parking. But even there you can easily imagine a situation with narrower travel lanes (it is a *residential* area, after all) and protected bike lanes between the parked cars and the curb. There is really not much excuse to put bike lanes in there. Meanwhile, there is really no parallel route for bicyclists that “goes through” without having to do things like cross and make left turns at busy streets with a stop sign where cross traffic doesn’t stop. Very unsafe, I avoid taking this kind of route in a car! 25TH AVE is too far away, and Lake City Way is suicide and too far away. Try putting yourself in the shoes of someone who is on a bike and lives just off of 35th and needs to get somewhere just down the main road that they live on.

      1. Minor detail: Putting parked cars next to a PBL reduces their quality by turning them back into dooring lanes. The appropriate *compromise* is to put two-way PBLs on one side, and parking on the other.

      2. The one business that really couldn’t survive without street parking was the O’Reillys auto parts on Aurora in a pre-parking lot (one that was built before off-street parking became common). It protested for a while, and then moved to a lot with off-street parking. That’s an auto-parts store where by definition people bring their cars. A restaurant or retail shop isn’t in that category; there are also patrons who come by bus or bike. Companies in Seattle neighborhoods do a good job of ignoring them and underestimating their potential if they had better access to the businesses.

      3. this is a transit blog. is 35th Avenue NE too narrow to provide priority to both bikes and transit? looking at only bikes v. parallel parking leaves out transit flow. Route 65 is now a major line.

    3. “Many argue for bike lanes down 35th and yet parking currently is too constricting as is for local businesses. Why should they be forced out of business when bikers have other options?”

      That parking currently is too constricting as is on 35th AV NE is a stinker all right.

      SDOT simply needs to do what they do in other commercial areas when there is a need to maintain parking capacity and availability; they should just meter it with pay stations.

  6. Balance sheet’s got two columns, Brad and Mike. In this case- thousands of people growing up familiar with transit. Whose only previous experience with free transportation was in their families’ cars.

    The two of you’ve hit an old long-injured nerve this morning. The place public transit’s always held in my life, I picked up before I was eight. And my eight year old self tells me today’s ride’s been spoiled by the mean, cheap company of the two of you.

    “Stole!?” Mark and I are off your train the whole rest of the day. Probably take a really long drive in the country. Owe SR101 to all the taxpayers who committed grand larceny so somebody’s children can have a fare-free ride with nobody calling it theft.

    Mark Dublin

  7. one CCC debate could be about right of way allocation: general purpose traffic, streetcar, or bus? a second CCC debate could be about capital funds allocation: streetcar for circulation in downtown v. all other uses, such as sidewalks, RapidRide, trolley bus overhead to connect with Link. is there funding for every thing? a third CCC debate could be about operating costs: whose estimate; who covers it; what does not get funded to run the streetcars? a fourth CCC debate could be about reputation: will Seattle be more embarrassed by not connecting the two weak lines that exist or by building the CCC at very high cost and maybe poor performance? A fifth CCC debate could be how many intending riders will use a streetcar but not a more frequent bus to make circulation trips and is that number worth the millions? the clear good news is that Durkan has put it off until 2025, after ST2 Link is built out.

    1. It is also well after Madison BRT is built. By then it should not only be running, but they may have fixed small flaws with it. For example, if congestion close to 23rd really is a problem, then they can fix it (in the same way small fixes like the one for the 8 were made). This should change the way people look at buses in Seattle, as we will finally have something that actually resembles BRT.

      By then we will also have a very different looking city council. It sure sounds like the final decision will be up to the council, and I don’t think anyone can make any assumptions about whether it will pass. My biggest hope is that all of the debates you mention really occur. If they actually look at alternatives (e. g. bus service) than it seems likely that folks will choose one. But if this is billed as the only way that First Avenue will have transit, then it is more likely to pass.

    2. Apparently part of the study’s findings were that to create a *equivalent* transit right of way with busses (e.g., full BRT) would not be cheaper than just building the streetcar. You could make it cheaper by sacrificing level of service, but this is pretty much the case in any piece of infrastructure.

      1. Sadly, for streetcars, level of service is capped by fleet size. Buses, which usually have fungibility with other routes, can have their level of service increase just by adding another bus. Streetcars have to be special-ordered.

        We spent over $100 million building the FHSC, only to not buy enough streetcars to provide minimally-useful frequency, and then compounded the problem by letting SOVs share the ROW.

      2. Apparently part of the study’s findings were that to create a *equivalent* transit right of way with busses (e.g., full BRT) would not be cheaper than just building the streetcar.

        I’m guessing that is following the same route. If so, it misses one of the key advantages of running buses on First. They don’t have to follow the same stupid route.

        Look, if this was about running the 7 and 70 as streetcar routes (something initially considered) then it would be a very different conversation. I’m sure I would be on the same side of the argument but at least proponents would have a solid route. A route like that could resemble something like Max, down in Portland. With enough riders and big enough trains, it makes sense (I don’t think either will be big enough, but at least it is a reasonable argument).

        But in this case the route is severely flawed. I know I’ve said this over and over again, but it really is the big reason this won’t be nearly as successful as folks suggest. There just aren’t that many trips — even on a very short line — that will make sense via the streetcar, once it is all done. If you are on Broadway (next to a station) and you want to go downtown (even to First) you are better off taking a bus. Even if you are on Broadway and Yesler and want to go to Broadway and First, you are better off taking a bus. You are even better off walking. At noon! The button hook essentially cuts off a major section of potential rides.

        Other trips also won’t make sense, either. Check out the plan: It really isn’t one train running every five minutes, but two overlapping trains running every ten minutes (red and blue on the map). This is peak time, by the way. Now, imagine you are trying to get from 12th and Jackson to Fairview and Campus Drive (the end of the red line). This is a very reasonable trip, and one that the streetcar will make. Except that it involves waiting for a streetcar that runs every ten minutes, followed by five minute wait. Even today that just doesn’t make sense. Folks will take the first bus headed up Third (the 7 or 36), which combined come way more often. They they will transfer to the northern end of the C or the 70 (which combined also come more often). Eventually the 7 and 70 will become RapidRide, and be connected to each other, which means that riders would have a one seat ride for that trip.

        Even where you have a one seat ride on the streetcar, a lot of trips will make just as much sense with this combined 7/70. If you are headed up towards Westlake Station, or anywhere north of there, you might as well take the 7/70. Taking the streetcar will be fine, but just hopping on the first available bus would likely be the fastest option (even if it means walking a couple blocks, or taking a second bus).

        The route really shouldn’t be considered as some great connection — some “missing link”. It is basically just an extension of the SLUT, all the way down First Avenue, redundantly covering many trips that will have faster and more frequent bus service. It is a big mistake to focus solely on mode, and assume that the route is ideal. It makes way more sense to back up and look at the network, and what we are really trying to accomplish. Is it better connections from Capitol Hill/First Hill to downtown? This won’t improve that in the least. Is it for making trips from Jackson to South Lake Union easier? This will work for that, but there will be other options that will be as good or better. The main benefit is for serving First Avenue, and there are other ways in which we can do that (

      3. B, I find that pretty hard to believe. Sure, one has to remove the default pavement and put down some sort of rumble strip divider for best protection and in any case strengthen the pavement. But to put down rails one has to dig all the way through the substrate, lay ballast, then channel track, then cement the whole mess over. It’s a lot more complex; it has to cost more per mile.

        Now it may only be the difference between say $60 million per mile and $80 million, and it is less than two miles. But it simply has to cost more, and of course there is the overhead. That is a non-trivial extra cost. And finally, the vehicles are much more per passenger.

        So a “real” BRT would cost less, but to be most useful it would require sacking the existing streetcar lines and probably pulling up the tracks. That would probably make it end up costing the same amount.

        I think the community needs to educate the Mayor about real 5 section trams and block long platforms before the project goes forward. Portland will buy the small crappy cars used today.

    3. SDOT/Metro would never consider a bus route on Westlake-Stewart-1st-Jackson-14th-Terrace-Broadway, no siree. Even if you consider that two routes interlined at 1st & Jackson, only Broadway-Jackson can be considered underserved. No plausable case has been made for 1st-Westlake demand beyond “Tourists want to go from Pike Place to SLU”. There may be latent demand but SDOT has not proven it yet, or articulated why this corridor is more essential than another. It’s all about connecting the legacy streetcars. And connecting two excessively slow streetcars doesn’t make them better. That’s like saying MUNI Metro is great because it has a Market Street tunnel, even though trains slow to a crawl when they reach surface streets. With that and MUNI’s long headways, I’d much rather live near a BART station. SDOT has added some traneit lanes on Westlake, but going northbound from Westlake to Denny it still stops every single block at a traffic light in addition to the stations every two blocks. That’s where transit priority of some kind is needed: it affects everybdoy on the SLU line, whereas north of Denny affects only those who ride that far.

      One good decision SDOT made was to make the transit lanes on 1st (!) accessible to buses. So that partly addresses question 1.

      Most of your questions boil down to “How does the CCC compare to Seattle’s overall transit needs? Is it really the #1 most critical as it’s being positioned?” I’d say no. And the number of tourists who think two disconnected streetcars are silly is probably close to the number who think the new gapless streetcar is excesslvely slow and why are Seattle’s streetcars so poor?

  8. The mayor’s problem is her sheer arrogance coupled with blind ambition. I saw she went to testify in Olympia. Does she really have no clue how state politics work or does she just ignore advice?

    1. What’s wrong with a mayor testifying in Olympia? I’d think all mayors would do that regularly when there are issues affecting the city. As for arrogance, I haven’t seen her being particularly arrogant.

  9. Durkan today gave the best defense of the CCC I’ve heard, on The Record. She said that people going from Pike Place to MOHAI or Wing Luke are currently taking Uber rather than the 3rd Avenue buses, and that increases both carbon emissions and congestion.

    I was glad she didn’t mention Pike Place to Cal Anderson. Maybe it just wasn’t on her mind today, or maybe she noticed the backlash and realized there are more direct alternatives.

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