Sam Zimbabwe, SDOT Director

38 Replies to “News Roundup: Confirmed”

  1. How about an idea like this for either an interim solution of automated bus lane enforcement, or a substitute for it if it ends up being very effective:

    Metro buses already have cameras on the front of the vehicle looking forward. I assume this because they would be fools not to, and given that most buses have cameras on the inside of the bus, they already have video recording infrastructure on buses. So this means that Metro already collects a ton of video of people violating bus lanes.

    It seems to me that a potential solution to this would be to add a button that the driver can press to mark the current time point in the video recording for review. I’m sure when a bus operator sees a car in a bus only lane that is in its way, the operator already has a sense of frustration with the car driver. So having bus operators push a button in this circumstance seems like a very easy and minimally disruptive way to mark points in the video where drivers are violating bus lanes. Later on, Metro can seek to the point in the video where the violation occurred, find a point where the license plate is clearly visible in the video, and use that to issue a citation.

    One caveat is that I would assume that this is not currently permitted under state law, and it would need to pass the legislature. I feel like this would be easier to pass than fully automated enforcement, because it would be a human making the call rather than a computer algorithm, which may be easier for legislators to accept.

    The other caveat is that car drivers can only be caught in the presence of a bus. But then again, there will be buses, because that’s the point of a bus lane. It’s certainly better than only being caught in the presence of a police car. It also naturally catches people more when there are more buses, which is arguably when it’s more important to keep bus lanes clear. If someone uses a bus lane at 1am, it’s very unlikely they will be caught. If someone violates a bus lane during a weekday rush hour, it’s nearly 100% certain that they will get caught. It’s not perfect, but I feel like it would probably be good enough, and helps the most where it is most needed.

    1. The big question for me is what currently happens to the video. Looking at two extremes, if it’s uploaded nightly to servers, then this would probably be pretty straightforward. Heck, you could probably automate most of it even without an operator recording infractions based on the buses current location.

      But if the video is just stored on the bus for some set number of days and then deleted, then creating the infrastructure to handle that is going to be expensive. It would probably be cheaper/faster to build dedicated, stationary enforcement cameras than to retrofit hundreds of buses.

      Still a good idea that should be explored.

    2. Exactly. This is the only sane way to do this. People would learn where the stationary cameras are and jump in and out of the lane to avoid them.

    3. This isn’t a horrible idea so you can just forget about it – entirely too reasonable.

      The first time someone from a disadvantaged class gets cited they’ll be up in arms over the “obvious bias” because they got a ticket and [in their imagination] someone else didn’t. Just look at the Link fare enforcement debate for example. The fare enforcement could not be less biased – they get on and check every single person’s ticket from ends to middle. It’s in full view of the public and no one gets special treatment but there are plenty of people that will insist until they’re blue in the face that the process is incurably biased against _____.

      I do think on-board cameras could still be useful in conjunction with streetside devices. Like here is the picture from the streetside camera showing the violation. Here is the view from the bus you are blocking to prove the harm. Here is a picture of all the people on the bus you so selfishly cut off.

      Also instead of fines how about you have to write apology notes to the driver and passengers and are required to ride the full line of whatever route you cutoff so you can truly experience and understand that it is a big deal and your actions have serious negative consequences for those around you. Also castration for 3rd strikes. Ok, that’s a bit extreme.

  2. Suggestion – when you talk about state legislation, please include the bill number so we can more easily contact our legislators about it.

    The bus lane camera bill is HB1793. Neither your blurb, the tweet you link to, nor the Seattle Times article the tweet links to actually says that.

  3. Look for expansion of Amtrak’s electronic seat assignment program. Acela first class testing was successful.

    PNW options will be limited (my prediction) until all train platforms are brought up to ‘Sounder’ style platforms for all the Cascades stops.

    Saw a flyer for upcoming parking options (with fees) at the Edmonds train station.

    1. I would love for Amtrak to assign seats on Cascades, it’s long overdue. I hate the lineup at King St.

    2. An upgrade of all platforms will never happen until someone lights a fire under Portland Development Commission. They view Union Station as just another office building in their portfolio where the public is generally unwelcome and ticketed passengers grudgingly accepted as a necessary nuisance.

  4. I think it’s good to occasionally remind folk that single-family zoning was developed to prevent renters from entering most neighborhoods in the 1920’s, and legitimizes an unfounded fear that renters are undesirable minorities or much less responsible property owners. Coupled with that was a fear driven by a legacy of frequent house fires that resulted from more dangerous heating and cooking devices during that era.

    It’s also good to point out that practical regulation of these units boils down to cooking stoves, locks and maybe utility meters — and the first two can be overcome by purchasing things at a Home Depot or Lowe’s and installing them in about an hour. It seems like the building code version of alcohol prohibition, which perhaps not ironically got enacted at about the same time in American history.

    1. Building codes exist because a lot of people died in fires and structural collapses, Al.

      1. I think building codes are essential and great! My comment is specifically about ADU’s.

        Like how Prohibition resulted in more toxic illegal alcohol, prohibiting ADU’s results in more dangerous housing for a city because the units are somewhat easy to illegally create. By legalizing ADUs, we make things safer because an inspector is more likely to be involved!

  5. I agree with, “Extra huzzahs to CMs Mosqueda, Juarez, and González for not backing down on the up-zones.” Yeah, really.

    I mean so many down here in the STB Commentariat – a word I made up to name regular commentators – verbally glare at me and worse for advocating for ST3 light rail to Everett & Tacoma. Well, until Seattle is up for affordable density the middle class (e.g. teachers, transit operators, low & mid-level planners) is going to be pushed out of Seattle like there’s this political elitist wall in their way. That’s why there is a genuine need for light rail to Everett and light rail to Tacoma right then and there.

    I’m sorry for those who will have to make way for affordable condos, duplexes and yes apartment towers. But the alternative ain’t so great for our environment nor housing affordability. We need more housing supply close to quality transit, period.

  6. RE: Seattle’s carbon emissions keep rising

    “Why do they count steel produced in the city, but not steel that is more carbon intensive but is produced in China and shipped here?”

    In short, the numbers are garbage. As long as Seattle is importing its food and exporting its waste the “target to get to zero emissions by 2050.” is a self serving platitude. Seattle has done much to separate recyclable and compostable waste. But how successful is that in an apartment setting vs single family residence? What incentives has the City provided to adopt technology from companies like Oklin or Redmond based WISErg?

  7. Wow, if Oregon actually gets all that done it would be pretty incredible, basically superseding the neighborhood associations that surely have been fighting upzoning just like Seattle’s. I hope Washington’s state legislature is watching. It really is a county-level or state-level issue at this point.

  8. OK, we finally can see at least a schematic diagram of what the Representative Alignment in Ballard would do with the station. It would be located between the southern curb of Market Street and the middle of the block between 53rd and 54th and be elevated above the eastern half 15th NW (see illustration 32 in the Scribd deck). There is a row of columns down the middle of street and one along the east side shown in the detail illustration.

    Note this well; it is important in the further discussion.

    The station would have a center platform and be almost 50′ above the street level at the trackhead. That tail track on the northbound side is going to be cheek by jowl with the units on the third floor of the new building in the northeast quadrant of the intersection, cater-corner from Walgreen’s. Fortunately only the train operators will get the juicy views.

    There appears to be a “box” hanging down from the central half of the station in the overall schematic (illustration 30), presumably the mezzanine that a center platform elevated station requires. In fact, the detail drawing shows two “mini” mezzanines, one at the south end of the platform and one at the north.

    The northern mini-mezzanine does extend to the south curb of Market, but the descent to the street begins at the middle of the block between 54th and Market. Passengers in the forward-most car will start their descent to Market Street by walking back south toward the ship canal to the middle of the block.

    We can now see why ST says that “bus integration” is better at the alternative 14th NW elevated station: anyone desiring to catch a bus westbound on Market will have to descend to street level on whichever side of 15th the westbound bus stop will be located. It is general practice to place such stops “farside” of an intersection, so presumably the westbound stop on Market will be between 15th and 17th. The descent to reach it will begin a half block south of Market, and the riders will then have to wait for the stop-light at that location to cross the street to the bus stop. Illustration 32 does not show the west side of 15th, but it is possible that the two staircases shown descending from the mezzanine just south of Market and just south of 54th on the east side of 15th will be replicated on the west side as well. However, since the station is above the east half of 15th NW it is not guaranteed by this diagram. If they are not replicated on the west side of 15th, the westbound bus stop on Market should be between 14th and 15th, closer to 15th.

    And that’s a problem because such a replication is not shown in the 14th NW station schematic (illustration 31). The entrance to the south of Market exists only on the west side of 14th, while the entrance to the north of Market lies on the east side of the street. So, though it’s hard to imagine that Sound Transit would do something so offensive as to have no grade-separated access to and from the west side of 15th, there is no visual evidence that it is actually planned.

    I think this diagram says that the northbound and southbound bus stops on 15th NW are to be placed between 53rd and 54th and be served from the southern station entrance. If there actually is to be no direct grade-separated access to the west side of 15th NW, presumably there would be a signalized cross-walk at NW 54th which will certainly become a favored pedestrian access to central Ballard. The four blocks between 17th and Market at the northwest corner and 14th and 53rd at the southeast should be zoned for twenty stories if the Representative Alignment is chosen.

    We can hope that bus stops south of 54th means that right turns from northbound 15th to eastbound Market and from eastbound Market to southbound 15th will be prohibited except for buses. Otherwise buses will often be trapped leaving the stops by right-turning cars in front of them.

    I would ban all turns by private vehicles at the intersection of 15th NW and NW Market. Through traffic only, except for buses.

    In any case this negates the the opportunity to “turn the buses serving 15th north of Market west on Market to serve downtown Ballard directly” which proponents of the Representative Alignment have been trumpeting as one of its nicest features, and if true, it would be. If the buses turn right onto Market from southbound 15th NW, they’ll be using a stop on the north side of Market between 15th and 17th or southbound on 15th between Market and 56th to deboard during their morning commute, when missing a train because of a poorly timed light makes it much more painful than in the evening. They would then have to cross Market if there are stairs accessing the west side of 15th. In the worst scenario where there are no west side stairs they’d have to cross both Market AND 15th. In the afternoon they’d have to cross Market.

    It would be possible for the 15th NW bus to continue south to Leary and turn right there, covering the Leary waterfront area with a “RapidRide” level service then serving downtown Ballard at the end of a fish-hook. Such a route might possibly continue on to NW 32nd and then north making an overall “U” between Third NW and Holman or wherever the northern terminal will be to Loyal Heights.

    Alternatively that route could turn east to Fremont, but the 40 successor will already do that. In either case this would allow the transfers to take place at the main north-south bus-integration stops south of 54th on the east and west sides of 15th.

    Jogging the 15th NW buses over to 14th on 56th/57th and then using Market to the west of there would actually result in a shorter, quicker ride between points north and central Ballard and the likelihood that most lines would just continue east and west on Market to their north-south street means that “nearside” stops on the north and south sides of Market would be mere steps from the two planned station entrances for that alternative. See illustration 31 for details.

    The point is that the RA station will not be over Market if it’s elevated over 15th NW. It will lie entirely to the south which means that commuters to and from points south of Market using buses to and from 32nd, 24th, and 8th NW will either have to wait for a turn on and off of 15th at the hyper-busy intersection with Market or their passengers will face crossing Market with a stop-light one direction or the other every day they ride. “Bus integration” at this location with this station placement will always be punitive unless a projection north from the north mini-mezzanine across Market with ramps down to street level to both sides of 15th are included in the station design. Period. End of story.

    However, there is absolutely NO visual evidence that Sound Transit intends for this to occur. Perhaps the City of Seattle can pay for it, but if the RA is chosen it MUST be included.

    1. I’ve often pointed out that Market and 15th can be handled in a number of ways. It’s are enough from the Ship Canal to be laid out creatively.

      — mezzanine bridge over 15th and/or Market

      — mezzanine subway level under 15th and/or Market

      — curving the station to be east-west on Market elevated, subway or at-grade in the median

      — ending the station at-grade with platforms just south of 14th and Market for now as a cheap solution, with an eye to supplement the project by a more useful station in the future.

      I’m sure there are many others.

      I can understand the time savings of choosing now, but the overall schedule for this line is more limited by the complex Downtown tunnel and Ship Canal crossing construction. Any ultimate Ballard solution could change prior to final design as long as a supplemental environmental statement is prepared — probably even up to 2025-2028.

      1. Sure, Al. But these are the Level 3 conceptualizations of “What Sound Transit will build”. If you want mezzanine bridges over the west half of 15th NW and across Market, you need to holler about it and get them on the record as agreeing to do it. Now.

    2. I just submitted the following comment to Sound Transit using their online commenting link:

      It’s not clear from the Scribd slide deck whether the Representative Alignment Ballard station will have stairs down from the “mini-mezzanines” to the WEST side of 15th NW, but it sure looks unlikely. The reason I say that is that illustration 31, the 14th Avenue station option clearly shows that the south-of-Market entrance for that option is west of the trackway. The stairs are shown extending below the mezzanine and landing on the sidewalk of 14th NW.

      However, the 15th NW station is proposed to straddle only the EAST side of 15th NW. The illustration doesn’t really show the west side of the street under the station; it’s too wide a street. But there is no “Station Entrance” arrow from the west side to either the south nor the north mini-mezzanine.

      Nor is there any grade-separated connection to the north side of Market Street shown on the diagram.

      Please do not re-create Mount Baker Station with its poor bus connections to routes on the east side of Rainier in the heart of Ballard!

      If you choose the Representative Alignment — and there are many supporters of it — either extend the mini-mezzanine itself or build a narrower walkway across Market Street to the north side and then have stairs projecting out both to the northeast and northwest quadrants of the intersection, perferably along Market Street.

      Then, add similar walkways from both the north and south mini-mezzanines across the west half of 15th NW with steps down to the west side bus stops.

      I hope they read it.

      1. Thanks for doing that.

        I’ve submitted lots of comments about station layouts and access in earlier stages. The open houses get lots of people asking or commenting too.

        Then the new plans emerge with no cchanges — and the public involvement summaries don’t take the comments seriously and even don’t repeat them.

        Meanwhile ST is advertising to spend the set aside for better station access right now! But rather than do their own study of where it’s needed, they are only considering applications from elsewhere. In other words, none of that money will end up going to improve internal problems at existing or future stations because that’s ST’s responsibility and not another agency.

        I’d agree that Mt Baker is bad. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in that Downtown Bellevue/ BTC will be pretty bad too — maybe worse. It seems that all the ST designs are focused on track elevations and not rider access (except for meeting legal ADA requirements as cheaply as possible).

  9. Darn. got the closing bold after “cheek-by-jowl” and the closing emphasis after “not shown” wrong. My apologies.

    The whole point of the comment is that the current design for the RA station ignores bus integration to a shocking degree. But that’s understandable; the intersection is a terrible place for it.

  10. I am always amazed this crew is so into lane enforcement but fare enforcement not at all

    1. I am personally “into fare enforcement”, but go ahead and keep beating that poor scarecrow, troll.

      1. I realize you are one of the self professed experts on here but calling me names does not make you any wiser

      2. When was the last time you got on a bus, Grief? Or a Link train? Or a Sounder train?

        When you took that trip, how many people did you see board without paying a fare? I guess, if it’s a Link train or a Rapid Ride you wouldn’t know for certain. So let’s re-qualify the question:

        When was the last time you got on a POBS run and were certain that someone was riding without paying a fare?

    2. That’s comparing apples and oranges. If you start from the basic premise that a city needs robust mobility and efficient mobility, the conclusion is ubuqidous transit. The goal is to get people where they want to be so they can contribute to the economy and their own well-being. The goal is optimal mobility, not fare revenue. If fares are a hinderance to mobility — whether because they slow down boarding or people can’t afford them or can barely afford them — then you have to ask whether collecting fares is doing more harm than good. I’m not saying fares must be free but we should honestly weigh all the factors against our goals.

      What is lane enforcement? It’s keeping cars out of transit lanes and queue jumps, one-person cars out of HOV lanes, and through cars out of BAT lanes. Why do we want to do that? Because a slow bus is an inefficient bus, and a bus carries fifty times as many people as two cars the same size. We only have a fraction of the number of transit lanes we need, so let’s not waste the little we have with non-enforcement.

      1. And should we not waste the little farebox revenue we have with non enforcement?

  11. The whole reason for the seat grouping, and hence the reluctance to let passengers pick any seat in any car, is the dwell time at each station.

    For any Talgo trainset it means setting stools on the platform and assisting people because of the platform/train height difference.

    All the downline stations on the NEC are level boarding, which simplifies the process. And makes the whole train accessible for any level of physical abilities.

    On the Cascades service, all door boarding means at least 7 doors for coach seating must be attended to.
    (Face plants can hurt)

    Plus, people on this forum might be savvy travelers, but most the public needs a lot more handholding.

    1. How does assigned seats decrease dwell time? If you need to assign something, just assign cars. If you’re worried about families being fragmented, maybe reserve one block of seats for groups of three or more, and have only them get seat assignments, and make them do it early.

      I’ve heard that Cascades’ seat assignments exist because a state law requires them.

      1. Allowing passengers to choose their own seats on the train, unless they programmatically restrict it somehow to the selected cars means they would have to open all doors on all cars at the same time.

        At the legacy stations on the corridor, that means placing and setting those yellow stools at each doorway (if you’ve ever seen how they need to do that on the half of the train (517, or 518) that stops adjacent to KSS itself).

        That increases dwell time.

        Having all passengers for a particular destination in just a few cars is more efficient at each station stop, with the cost being the check-in process at the main stations (PDX, SEA, VAC)

        I’m thinking they might use that process for the added-value seating (reserving a table of 4, or bulkhead seating) Of course, that sounds terribly like the airlines, but someone has to pay the programmers to monkey with the code.

        The seat assignment routine may not state law, but WSDOT policy possibly, and some operations constraints thrown in. No doubt a lawyer is involved somehow… (When ST started up Sounder North, and the engineers weren’t used to spotting the train perfectly and overshooting the Sounder portion of the platform, I witnessed a face-plant or two).

    2. The NEC also doesn’t have the issue where the train can wind up on a track on the wrong side of the main line with freight traffic between it and the station. Kelso, Olympia and Centralia would require significant effort to rebuild.

  12. Bus lanes are now painted on 6th Avenue. Looks like it occurred Saturday. Perhaps 5th Avenue will be next weekend.

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