STB Meetup March 4

We haven’t had a meetup in a very long while. Please join us for an evening of mingling and camaraderie at the Big Time Brewery in the University District, March 4th, 6pm.

There is no cost, and it is open to all ages. However, please be gracious and don’t show up if you’re unwilling to purchase a meal or some drinks from our hosts.

An RSVP in the comment thread would be appreciated.

Community Transit Proposes Low-Income Fare

CT 18700 in Downtown Everett
Credit: Bruce Englehardt / flickr

Last Thursday, Community Transit announced a proposal for a low-income fare on CT buses.

The proposal would establish a low-income fare of $1.25 on local buses and $2.00 on inter-county commuter buses.

Public comments are being accepted through March 8. A public hearing will be held on March 7. The link above provides several media through which to ask questions and submit comments. The CT Board is scheduled to vote on the proposal April 4.

Update: A previous version of this chart showed the wrong local youth fare. Sorry.

If approved, the fares would take effect on July 1.

Continue reading “Community Transit Proposes Low-Income Fare”

Emergency Snow Network to End at 4am Wednesday

Metro just announced that the ESN is wrapping up at 4am on February 13th. Buses are not returning to normal service, but instead the “snow routes” indicated on many individual route schedules.

Metro expects to operate about 90% of its routes tomorrow. We’ll update here as details emerge. Sign up for route alerts to see what’s happening with your particular bus, but expect delays, and for OneBusAway data to be garbage.

Rob Gannon says “If weather and road conditions allow, our target is to return to full service on Friday.”

UPDATE 7pm: Metro has more details:

Seven routes will have all trips canceled on Wednesday, Feb. 13: 71, 78, 200, 237, 268, 308, 309.

Thirteen routes will have some trips canceled on Wednesday, Feb. 13: 9, 29, 37, 125, 201/204, 208, 224, 243/244, 316, 330, and ST 540.

All Metro morning and afternoon peak commute routes will experience some level of reduced service: an estimated 3 out of every 4 buses will be in service as we work to ramp up service, respond to road conditions and repair our fleet and recover.

Riders: To find out if your particular trip is canceled on Wednesday, text your stop ID to 62550 or check Next Departures on the Puget Sound Trip Planner or its app.

Spend $2 Billion if You Want, but it’s not a Transit Project

Tim Adams/Wikimedia

Sound Transit declined to fund changes to the voter-approved Sound Transit 3 plan that would bury the segments in Ballard and West Seattle, and rightfully so. However, they opened the possibility of external funding to make this change. Perhaps the City of Seattle, or some other entity, will cobble together the money. Perhaps it will go to voters as a “transit package.” But those voters should be clear that most of these improvements, whatever their value, are not about transportation.

Some tweaks to station locations, costing in the low hundreds of millions of dollars, might improve ridership a bit. The $100m high bridge over the Ship Canal would improve reliability, and if it can be mated to a 15th Avenue stop it wouldn’t otherwise kneecap ridership. But the big-ticket items are about reducing “impacts”: $700m for a West Seattle tunnel, $300-400m to move the Chinatown Station to 4th, and $350m to go under Salmon Bay.

There is no analysis that suggests that a tunnel to West Seattle or Ballard in the proposed alignments, or a Fourth Avenue stop, will improve transit outcomes for riders. Some of it is about reducing construction impacts, and the rest is the reluctance of property owners to damage their perceived aesthetics. I concede that many people in Seattle don’t like elevated track. I find it adds character to a neighborhood. Many of the world’s most liveable cities have lots of elevated track. Vancouver makes it work beautifully in a similar Northwestern context to ours.

If people think elevated track is ugly, and wish to bury it, they’re welcome to this viewpoint. Likewise, if you are very concerned about the net worth of West Seattle Junction landowners, already receiving a huge boost from the arrival of Link, you are welcome to vote accordingly. But if you’re interested in plans that spend money to improve transit outcomes, keep looking.

The Port of Seattle is ready to fight about light rail—or possibly pay for it

Terminal 5 of the Port of Seattle. Credit: Port of Seattle

The West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions have to cross the Duwamish River and Salmon Bay. Building a bridge or tunnel across water in an urban environment is hard enough in the first place. The fact that the mouth of the Duwamish and Salmon Bay are two of Puget Sound’s busiest commercial waterways make it much harder.

In a 2018 open letter, Port executives requested Sound Transit not build lines that would harm operations or force business relocations at Fisherman’s Terminal on Salmon Bay. On the Duwamish, they demanded Sound Transit not impede operations at container Terminals 5 and 18.

“I’m deeply, deeply committed to the success of light rail in the city and the region,” said Port Commissioner Stephanie Bowman, adding that one of the reasons she bought her current home on Beacon Hill was its easy access to Link. “I wanted to be part of the Port’s conversation in making sure that the alignments going forward are best for transit, and also work for the Port.”

Bowman is the Port’s point person with Sound Transit. She’s a member of the Elected Leadership Group, which has a semi-official role in Link planning.

“The most important thing is to not have freight blocked and have people in single occupancy vehicles,” Bowman said. “You want to get as many people onto transit as possible. That’s what helps move freight throughout the region.”

Continue reading “The Port of Seattle is ready to fight about light rail—or possibly pay for it”

Many Bus Routes Cancelled Through Sunday, Possibly Several Days Longer

Have you ever seen Metro’s Snow, Ice, and Flood Alerts page turn blue? It did today.

Update 2: STB now has a Snow Info Page, linked on the top bar, providing links to snow service pages for all transit agencies around Puget Sound and most around the state.

Update 1: King County Metro has pushed out an announcement that it will continue on the Emergency Snow Network Sunday, and updated its website with the same information. However a 90% chance of snow is predicted for Sunday evening and Monday.

In case you haven’t looked outside since early yesterday, it snowed yesterday, all afternoon, all evening, and all morning so far.

The authorities heeded the meteological scientists’ warnings, and took drastic action.

On Thursday, Governor Inslee delared a State of Emergency, limiting what vehicles are allowed to drive on state roads and highways, and begging people to stay home, lest they get frostbitten in the sub-freezing temperatures that will reach as low as 13 degrees Fahrenheit Sunday, and listed safety tips so nobody dies of carbon monoxide poisoning while staying home.

King County Metro has taken a step into the blue-pill abyss, cancelling many snow routes and moving to its Emergency Snow Network. Only 48 Metro routes are running today, including two different versions of route 62, special route 90 connecting a circular swath of First Hill to 3rd Ave via Jackson St, a 252 shuttle, two versions of route 255, two versions of route 348, and two versions of the C Line. The County smartly waited until 4 am to go live with the network, in order to get people home safely last night.

Even if your route is running today, and the map looks like your normal stops are being served, your normal stops might not be served, so check the Alerts for your route.

Sound Transit‘s difficult-to-navigate new website and alerts page is somewhat less useful for figuring out where your route has been re-routed. I suggest checking out their most recent tweets. The latest tweet says their static snow re-routes page accurately describes the current ST Express bus routing.

All that said, Link Light Rail has been running just fine. Indeed, it came to the rescue yesterday, running more frequently mid-day due to a ridership spike from people smartly going home early. Today, it is merely the only transit running on schedule.

Most paratransit operations are only providing medically-necessary trips today.

other transit agencies are covered below the fold

Single tracking, mid-line transfer for 10 weeks in 2020

Pioneer Square Station

Before East Link comes online in 2023, the extension’s track has to be connected to the existing light rail network just south of the Chinatown/International District (CID) station. Sound Transit will close existing portions of both north and southbound track for 10 weeks in early 2020 to make the connection, according to plans released yesterday.

Service will continue during construction, with the exception of three total closures during one weekend each in January, February, and March, but it will not be fun.

Continue reading “Single tracking, mid-line transfer for 10 weeks in 2020”

News Roundup: Likeable


Four Bills Aim to Clear Unauthorized Cars Out of HOV and Bus-Only Lanes

Video courtesy Rooted in Rights

Update: The two automated camera enforcement bills are scheduled for hearings next week. Senate Bill 5789 will be heard Monday at 3:30 pm. House Bill 1793 will be heard Thursday, February 14 at 3:30 pm.

Four bills were introduced last week — two pairs of identical “companion” bills – to give WSDOT and local governments more tools to get cars out of lanes they aren’t supposed to be in. Senate Bill 5695 had its hearing (TVW recording) in the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1710, by Rep. Jake Fey (D – Tacoma) and SB 5695, by Sen. Marko Liias (D – Lynnwood), would raise the fine for high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane violations. The current fine is $136. Under the bill, the fine for a first infraction would be $242. The second violation would cost $499. Additional infractions would cost $755 per occurrence. The two bills were requested by WSDOT.

At the hearing for SB 5695, Sen. Liias gave anecdotal testimony, from the experience of a friend who has a baby in the back seat, that lane violators are probably being caught roughly once per hundred times they wrongfully enter HOV lanes.

Travis Snell, Government Relations Liaison for WSDOT testified:

The current penalty of $136 for an HOV [lane] violation provides little deterrent to violators. In some places as many as 50% of HOV [lane] users do not meet minimum occupancy requirements. HOV lanes carry more people than adjacent general-purpose lanes due to higher occupancy of each vehicle.

However, only 1 of the 10 monitored HOV peak-direction corridors met the state performance standard in 2017, down from 2 corridors previously. The degree of compliance with the performance standard worsened for all 10 monitored locations in 2017 compared to 2016.

Continue reading “Four Bills Aim to Clear Unauthorized Cars Out of HOV and Bus-Only Lanes”

A Dilemma at UWB

The junction of the I-405 and SR522 Stride BRT lines will be frustratingly close to the University of Washington – Bothell (UWB) and Cascadia College joint campus, close enough for a tempting diversion but too far to actually be convenient.

Universities are good all-day transit demand generators, but too many campuses in the area were placed with only cars in mind. One of these is UWB, which lies just off an arterial and across a swamp from I-405. BRT, always constrained by where the major roadways are, can never be efficient for both through riders and those with business on campus.

SR522 buses must take a detour to provide front-door service to campus, though a half-mile walk from Beardslee Blvd isn’t insurmountable for most. For I-405 buses, the nearest interchange is almost a full mile away.

Continue reading “A Dilemma at UWB”

Metro: Buses on snow routes “until further notice”

Route 255 Snow Shuttle
A bus with chains in a 2012 storm (Photo by Oran).

Metro switched all bus service to snow routes by Monday afternoon. As of 2:30 on Monday, the agency planned to keep running snow routes “until further notice,” according to spokesperson Jeff Switzer.

A live-updated list of each route’s status is available on Metro’s website,

“We made the decision to go on snow routes based on current conditions,” Switzer said. “Based on how conditions change over time, you may start to see certain routes get peeled off of snow routes as weather conditions permit. That’s going to be made on a case-by-case basis, until we really see a good melt.”

Continue reading “Metro: Buses on snow routes “until further notice””

Hello, Tunnel & Snow

Several bus routes start using this red bus-only lane on Columbia St today.

Photo courtesy SDOT.

The car tunnel under downtown opens today, and will be free until at least summer.

Routes 21x, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 121, 122, 123, 125, and the C Line shift to the blue path southbound today. Northbound paths continue to follow the yellow line this week. Click here to enlarge.

West Seattle and Burien express buses will now use Columbia St (with its recently-painted bus lane from west of 3rd Ave to 1st Ave), 1st Ave S, Dearborn, and then S Highway 99 to exit downtown. Northbound paths into downtown for these buses will continue as they have been the past three weeks.

The northbound exit from Highway 99 onto Dearborn St will take another 1-2 weeks to finish, so don’t drive north on Highway 99 to downtown if you don’t want to go through the tunnel.

All that said, your new bus routes could be pre-empted by snow re-routes. Check out Metro’s winter weather page for a map of where snow re-routes are in effect, links to winter traffic alerts and apps that will help you navigate your commute in the snow. Ride2 service is cancelled. Community Transit is warning of 60 minute delays across the board. Sounder is delayed. Link is operating normally.

Or, consider hanging out safely at home today.

This is an open thread.

News Roundup: De-wiring

Photo By Zach Heistand in the STB Flickr Pool

This is an open thread

99 Tunnel Party Saturday; Opens Monday; Downtown Off-Ramp Needs at Least Another Week

Correction 1: The original claim on this post of free water taxi service was incorrect. The author apologizes for the error.

Correction 2: Only one ramp will still be closed Monday — the northbound ramp from Highway 99 to Dearborn St — while the seven other ramps will be open. Northbound bus re-routes will continue as they are now, while southbound bus re-routes will shift to 1st Ave S, Dearborn and then S Hwy 99. See the map below.

The Highway 99 tollway under downtown opens Monday, and will be free for a few months, at least until summer. However, the downtown off-ramp to Dearborn St will not be open yet. That is expected to take another 1-2 weeks to be ready.

New ramps will include:

  • NorthBound off-ramp to Alaskan Way S./Downtown (before tunnel, still closed for 1-2 more weeks)
  • NB on-ramp from South Royal Brougham Way (into tunnel)
  • NB on-ramp from Harrison Street
  • NB off-ramp to Mercer Street/I-5 (after leaving tunnel)
  • SouthBound off-ramp to Denny Way/Downtown (before tunnel)
  • SB on-ramp from Sixth Avenue North (into tunnel)
  • SB on-ramp from South Dearborn Street
  • SB off-ramp to Stadiums, Interstates and Ferries (after leaving tunnel)
Continue reading “99 Tunnel Party Saturday; Opens Monday; Downtown Off-Ramp Needs at Least Another Week”

Howell St. bus lane to be improved this spring

SDOT’s Jonathan Dong wrote in to tell us that the agency is planning to upgrade the eastbound bus lane on Howell St this spring. Howell St. is a four-lane, one way street with lots of traffic competing with Snohomish County express buses to enter I-5 in the afternoon peak.

Today’s right-hand (or center) bus lane — which we wrote about when it was installed back in 2011 — is frequently full of cars, as seen in the photo above. (This is definitely one of those cases where automated enforcement of the bus lane would be useful.)

To remedy the situation, SDOT will move the bus lane to the far left from 3-7 PM and add a queue jump so that buses can still cut over to the Howell & Yale stop before entering the I-5 express lanes. This should lead to fewer lane violations and a smoother ride for commuters. Good on SDOT for acknowledging the initial bus lane effort missed the mark.