Community Transit 2017 Alexander Dennis Enviro 500 17855
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This is an open thread.

93 Replies to “News Roundup: Upset”

  1. Do people on this list *really* think moving buses from skip-stopping on fourth to fifth-turn-right-on-Marion-left-on-sixth is a good idea for operations or passengers? Have you hiked up the hill from second up to city hall lately? Is introducing mid-town turns across pedestrians helpful, or passing through a series of freeway interchanges? I think it’s nuts. Can someone explain the logic?

    1. Walking up the hill is unfortunate, but Metro feels like it is only option for keeping buses moving. There are plenty of buses that go up the hill, so if someone wants to avoid all that walking they can.

      As for the turns, I don’t think they will be that bad. Specifically:

      1) Northbound 5th, right on Marion. A new right turn light is being added, so buses should have no problem turning right. The northbound lane will only contain buses, so that lane should clear out with one cycle. Buses can also turn right on red (when there are no cars) or turn right on green (when there are no pedestrians).

      2) Eastbound on Marion, left on 6th. This is easy. Sixth is a dead end, so the bus only has to wait for the traffic light (to turn either direction). It is essentially like going straight ahead.

      In general I would say it should work fairly well. The buses should be able to move through downtown fairly quickly. The problem is that they will get on the mainline for I-5. That is where things will be really slow.

      1. Huh, you are right. That’s a bit surprising. I guess they feel there aren’t enough pedestrians and/or vehicles to warrant one. If this becomes a problem (if lots of people are crossing at Sixth, slowing down the buses) then SDOT could add a signal. My guess is that it is faster as is (which means that it is faster than a typical intersection, even when the driver is going straight).

      2. Why will the buses using the Fifth/Marion/Sixth routing “go on the mainline”? Are they to use the University Street on-ramp?

        We’ve had a discussion about Olive/Howell before so you really shouldn’t still be scaring people with that falsehood. Metro dispatch will see to it that buses which CAN use the I-5 express lanes WILL use the I-5 express lanes.

      3. Actually, it looks like in the afternoon (express northbound), the buses which can use the express lanes will use the Pike Street on-ramp to the Express lanes. In the morning they will of course use Olive.

        The bottom line is that during the evening peak they’ll have access to the express lanes.

    2. I think the outcome is to give any standing riders the amusement- park thrill of a sudden turn combined with a steep incline — like standing on a log flume in reverse. Then there is the surprise joy of dodging flying luggage, bags and strollers — and the occasional pet hidden underneath a rider’s jacket (I once saw a standing rider’s iguana slide down the aisle once)!

      1. There is no evidence this routing will add bus throughput or capacity. Nobody has explained that. Ross just said it wouldn’t be so bad. That’s not a rationale.

      2. Of course it will expand capacity. It adds a third northbound pathway by extending the old “Blue Streak” contra-flow lane two blocks north to a plausible access to northbound Sixth Avenue.

        No, it doesn’t have the capacity of Third or Fourth, but it offers a means of using Sixth which doesn’t work south of Marion.

      3. @Quasimodal — I said *the turns* wouldn’t be that bad (you seemed overly concerned about the turns). As to the big picture, it is right there on the webpage (https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/transit-program/5th-6th-transit-pathway):

        Creating an exclusive, transit-only pathway boosts reliability, travel speed, and capacity. This helps balance the street network so that the travel mode that carries the most people – transit – gets more dedicated space.

        Put it this way: Buses move faster when they are in their own lane. But you eventually reach a limit, where buses actually slow down buses, even if they are in their own lane. This is happening on Third Avenue, because the buses were kicked out of the tunnel. Creating an alternate bus-only pathway reduces the slowdowns on Third while allowing those other buses to move faster.

        Make sense, or should I elaborate more?

      4. 3rd Avenue is almost at capacity — not of buses moving but of space at the bus stops. 2nd and 4th Avenues are busy with suburban routes, and have only one transit lane each way rather than two. (If 2nd has a transit lane, which I’m not sure about.) So Metro thinks 2nd and 4th don’t have enough capacity for all the tunnel buses. You may question that but I’m not a bus planner so I can’t tell.

        I just wish they’d get closer to 9th & Pine because that would be more convenient for me. I’ve been lucky in past routings that both the tunnel buses and the Snohomish, Redmond, and Tacoma routes go not only to central downtown but swing up to around Boren & Olive. The plan for the 150 will get closer to there northbound but the first southbound stop is at 6th & Union. Although I can see the point in not considering it essential: most of the demand is between 1st and 5th. .

      5. Q: perhaps the addition of routes 101, 102, 150, and 550 to 4th Avenue (12 northbound trips in the p.m. peak hour) led SDOT and Metro to want to shift trips to another pathway. Route 255 is also shifting to the surface; it has six northbound trips per peak hour. Mayors Nickels, McGinn, Murray, and Burgess took 1st Avenue for the CCC Streetcar, so they came up with another pathway up the hill.

  2. Car Free Trips: Before you go, look up the local taxi or shuttle service. For example, the Empire Builder drops you off a mile and a half outside of town, with a long hilly walk on a road with no shoulders to get the rest of the way. The Leavenworth taxi will meet the trains and buses (including any delays that occur) if you have a reservation, and with that reservation, you’ll have first pick over anybody calling them from a cell phone or trying to find an Uber (along with a dozen other people waiting on the remote platform). Last time I used the Leavenworth taxi it was only $5, and I think that Uber is somewhere around $8 or $9 for a short trip in Leavenworth on holiday weekends (that’s pretty much every weekend there… all standard holidays, plus Oktoberfest, Maifest, Winterfest, Kriskrindlmarkt, Autumn Leaf, International Festival, summer hiking season, you-get-the-picture).

    Plan ahead and have seamless point-to-point transportation, at a cheaper cost and better level of service than the corporate Uber & Lyft, and you support their local small businesses.

    1. I looked into a transit trip to Anacortes or La Conner at one point. Unfortunately, with rural transit running so infrequently, you have to pour over schedule details very careful to know if a trip is going to be feasible. Often, very subtle points, such as wait time between connections or span of service can make a trip impossible or impractical without the expense of an overnight stay (which would cost more money than just doing it as a day trip with a rental car). Sometimes, you can technically get there as a day trip, but only if you turn around and go back almost immediately after arriving, without having time to actually do anything. Sometimes, a trip is possible only on weekdays, so anyone who works a normal job can’t get there without spending vacation. Carnation, is one such example. Every minor holiday (even something like Veterens’ Day), the shuttle that goes there doesn’t run, so it is physically impossible to get to without losing a vacation day. (And, if push comes to shove, for most people, burning a vacation day to avoid the financial cost of a one-day rental car is usually not worth it).

      The Tulip Festival is great taking a bike on the bus, but I wouldn’t dare do it with anyone, because of the risk of getting stranded, due to bus’s bike racks being full. Even just taking one other person along significantly increases the risk, when a bus’s bike rack can carry just two bikes. Which is a real shame because I’m sure it would be much more fun as a group. But, the local transportation doesn’t work if you don’t bring a bike. So, piratically speaking, doing the Tulip Festival as a group requires that you drive. Doing it alone, by bus and bike, is possible, but you’re effectively depending on everybody else going there to drive; otherwise, you’d never be able to get on the bus.

      1. Back when VirtualTourist was a web site, I put some of my trips like this there, for reference for those that came after. For example, if you don’t know that the Skagit Transit connection at March’s Point is carefully timed and controlled by the dispatcher and radio contact with the bus drivers, it looks like a long transfer but it’s basically a guaranteed connection.

        The bad news with Anacortes and the San Juans is the only Sunday service southbound is Belair, which is about $42 from Anacortes to Seattle.

    2. Good points – note also that the return trip to Seattle is VERY early: 5:35am from Wenatchee, 6:08am from Leavenworth. It would be nice one day to have a morning train departing both Seattle and Spokane, which would leave Wenatchee/Leavenworth westbound in the afternoon or evening and would also give Spokanites a reasonable departure time westbound in addition to the dead-of-night time (2:45am) they currently have.

      1. There won’t be short-turns to Spokane through the Cascade Tunnel; the facility is at capacity now.

      2. Now you know why BNSF didn’t abandon Stampede Pass.

        The knew at some point it would be a valuable corridor.

        Right now, since it’s dark territory, it only supports 1-way operation.
        If it becomes important enough for the state, then upgrading it would be beneficial to both passenger and freight.

        It would be a matter of cost.
        Amtrak only needs a ‘capacity increase’ that signalizing would bring.
        Superliner equipment runs fine in the Stampede Pass tunnel.

        BNSF would have to lower the roadbed if they want to run double-stack trains through.

        This would be a way to increase capacity in both corridors.
        (Freight doesn’t have to worry about which route to take, but passenger service does)

        Yakima is the 9th largest city in the state, by the way.

      3. Marysville is larger than Lynnwood? And Edmonds too? “Everett city 103,019; Marysville city 60,020; Edmonds city 39,709; Lynnwood city 35,836”.

      4. Actually, since that link showed data from the 2010 census, the latest data from shows Yakima as being 11th now.

        Marysville is still bigger than Lynnwood, or Bothell, though.

      5. And Seattle is some 720K instead of 608K.

        Still, the numbers contradict the on-the-ground impression. Everett seems like it would be smaller with its 1- and 2-story buildings almost everywhere. Lynnwood seems like it should be larger with its central location and all the apartments at e.g., Ash Way P&R and 200th St SW and its upzones and big downtown plans. How can Edmonds be bigger than Lynnwood when its downtown is so small and inaccessible to most of the population without driving down a hill, and the rest of it is just low-density buildings like Everett? The municipal boundaries must be larger, which is a misleading comparison.

        I’ve been to Marysville once on the 201/202 to see what it was like. I went as far as Smokey Point some time after the Costco opened. It didn’t seem that big but i’ve heard it’s the fastest-growing area in Snohomish County, and at the meetup I talked with SounderBruce who lives up there. He said it’s quite a bit larger than it appeared and it’s trying to position itself as the center of the north Snohomish shopping and jobs area. That surprised me too, because it seems like it’s at the far edge of the populated area and across a river from most of it, which will always make it harder to access, and Everett is competing to be the center for north Snohomish too. Still, the population statistics are consistent with Marysville being very significant. Which raises the question of whether Marysville should have been included in the ST district in the first place.

      6. SounderBruce also said the Marysville-Everett Swift line is scheduled and will open in the early 2020s. Hooray!

      7. Marysville also did a number of annexations in recent years to stretch the city limits to incorporate all of their MUGA, taking advantage of the now expired law (I believe) that gave such cities a sales tax credit to help offset the higher costs for providing increased municipal services. Lynnwood had similar plans for a couple of annexations but ran into litigation and then the great recession and those plans went up in smoke. The area where I live would have been annexed into the city of Lynnwood had those plans come to fruition.

      8. Sometimes we look at established cities, in Europe or the east coast, and see some of the same here in the PNW and it seems like they’re the same, at least visually.

        However, when the argument comes up that “We don’t have the density for [anything rail] !”, the statistics (if offered), never seem to fit the picture.

        Look at King County. It has a density of only 1,001 person per square mile. However, when you look at a map of King County, you can see that a third of it is in designated forest land. It reaches all the way to the ‘Cascade’ divide (Snoqualmie Pass).

        Using the Open Data Network in the link above (gets you into the Population area), it’s interesting to play with the comparison features.
        One can compare things on a more local level, and see that we aren’t as dense as New York City itself, but are comparable to the suburban metropolitan NY area.

        Oh, and know your history (and be able to present it) about the NYC Subway system. The current dense NY we see now didn’t come first, and then they built the subway system. The subways started out as the way for the middle class to get away to the pastoral areas of Upper Manhattan, escaping the madding crowds and immigrants (Irish Catholics, like my family) in Lower Manhattan.

        Transportation systems define the living patterns, not the other way around.

        I should see how we compare to the LA area… hmmm

      9. Population-weighted density is what you’re looking for. Average density is useless. Average density is the total number of housing units divided by the square miles of the city, county, or census tract. That leads to egregiously misleading results. I’ve seen articles claiming that Los Angeles is denser than New York, and San Jose is denser than Seattle. That only works with average density, The average American family has 2.4 children. Have you ever met a family with 2.4 children? No, it’s impossible, and no person is average anyway; it’s just a statistical smoothing out of differences.

        Population-weighted density measures how many neighbors each person has or something like that. That will tell you whether the city has more areas at least as dense as the U-District or Pike-Pine or downtown Seattle or whatever your target density is, which is what people really mean by “How dense is the city?” If you like density, you don’t care that there are mansions along Lake Washington and in Magnolia or that part of the county is rural. Conversely if you don’t like density, you want to know how much of the city is like Wedgwood or Wilburton or sparser.

        With population-weighted density, Manhattan has clearly the densest neighborhoods in the US, and large parts of Brooklyn are like, well I guess First Hill is the closest example. But New York’s metro density drops precipitously outside the city, so that’s how has less average density than other metros. Los Angeles is more uniform medium density throughout. That’s because of parking minimums, which limit the potential density even in highrise areas. I’ve only been to LA a few times and don’t know a lot about it, but it probably doesn’t have the large ares of low-density zoning like Seattle has, so developers have been allowed to build small-lot houses, townhouses, and small apartment buildings in a lot of places, which brings the average density up. San Jose is also more uniform medium density I’m told (although I find it hard to believe), so that’s how it can have a higher average density than Seattle,. Apparently it doesn’t have as many areas restricted as low as Laurelhurst or Wilburton or West Lake Sammamish Parkway. To me it still feels like a large Bellevue. I’ve been told that LA has an area the size of Seattle with at least the density like the U-District or Pike-Pine That sounds like a lot.

      10. Here’s an article on population-weighted density with stats: Americas Truly Diverse Metros (Richard Florida, Citylab). The New York metro is just slightly higher than the Los Angeles metro by average density, but three times higher by population-weighted density.

  3. On Pierce County not chairing Sound Transit: “Kid brother had better stick up for himself next time.”

    Yes.

    1. King County contains over half of the residents in the ST district. Why is it unfair to have a King County chair less than half of the time?

      1. Yeah, if we’re going proportionally by population, each ST subarea should take a turn chairing, not counties.

  4. Amazon rumored to buy Bellevue office building. You know that diagonal building near the B Line terminal at the BTC. It’s called the Bellevue Corporate Plaza. Ugly building. Great location.

    Route 12 excuse of the week. Hello Robin Cookies. 19th and Mercer.
    https://www.hellorobincookies.com

    Sam. Kirkland’s Finest Transit News Source.

    1. The building Amazon may be purchasing will accommodate as many as 25k—-as much as the HQ2 location in NYC.

      1. The Bellevue Corporate Plaza? Um, no. It’s only 250,000 sf or so total – just the office spaces alone would need to be 10x that size to accommodate 25,000 people (code requirement is 100 gross sf/person maximum for office space/”business areas”).

      2. I’m with Scott — the building just doesn’t look that big. On the other hand, it does appear that the lot is huge, as it contains a big parking garage. Just north of there (up to 8th) there is a lot of underutilized land. If Amazon bought up the entire section (between 108th/110th and 8th/6th), tore down the garage and build skyscrapers, then it could hold a lot of people. (Still not sure if it hold 25,000 though).

      3. Not quite: if you add the existing Amazon Bellevue, the Expedia Building and Summit III which they have also leased, then you get to 1.1M sqft. They are also rumored to be taking two future Vulcan developments, plus another by Trammell. And then also rumored to be buying the Corporate Plaza. If all these go ahead, then they will have several million sq ft (I forget the exact number) which equates to space for roughly 25,000 workers.

      4. Is that the several-story honeycomb building next to the transit center or the two-story building on the other side of it? My dad used to work in the two-story building.

      5. The comment said “building” and apparently referred to the building that Sam mentioned, so I went with that… clearly if they buy a bunch of buildings, totaling at least 3-4 million sf, then they could have that many (you’d need a minimum of 2.5 million gross SF in just the business/office spaces to hold that many people per code, let alone the conference, ancillary, circulation, parking, mechanical, any retail, lobby, etc. spaces that would likely be part of it). The code is the code, and it doesn’t change much (chapter 10 IBC for any wonks out there; SF/person is an egress calculation requirement).

    2. I used to work in that building. It’s ugly inside too. But it does have an awesome location.

      1. It takes a big man to admit he was wrong, or might be wrong. I admire your exemplary character.

      2. Yes, the lot they are buying (if they are indeed buying it!) includes the parking lot to the east, which previously had a plan for two ~450ft towers. It is unclear if that plan would go forward, or if it would be modified to suit Amazon’s specific needs. Personally, I think it’s a great spot for a new Whole Foods, with offices above. Given that Bellevue’s current Whole Foods is right next to a light rail station and is in the process of being rezoned to 250ft…

  5. I just hope all these new bus-only lanes will be enforced. We need more traffic cops directing traffic all over downtown. Box blocking is another serious issue, i don’t know if downtown drivers are masochists or just plain stupid.

    1. We have to waste our cops on helping auto traffic out of private garages at rush hour, gotta hold back those pesky pedestrians on the sidewalk. I witness this every day walking past Pacific Place garage.

    2. Isn’t that just extra income for off-duty cops? Not diverting them from more important things.

      1. Yes Mike, they are off duty but in SPD uniforms, same as the “cop” on Pike between 3rd and 4th and a few others. Wish they were forced/asked to wear non-SPD uniforms.

  6. I wonder if the new I-5 Bridge will include room for HSR? It seems like HSR, even though its in its infancy stage, is so disconnected from our other transportation conversations. It seems only Inslee is on board.

    Like there’s no talk of how HSR will integrate with the subway stations in Seattle or across the bridge to Portland. San Francisco future proofed their downtown Transit Terminal by adding room for HSR even though it won’t get there for years, possibly a decade. I’m a little disheartened our legislature is thinking of a carbon tax but using most of it to widen highways.

    1. It definitely isn’t in its current form. These transit projects seem to operate in sealed boxes from each other even when parts of them directly overlap and should be coordinated. Though considering that the bridge should have been rebuilt already chances are it will be delayed and reset again so maybe by that point HSR will have moved from dream project to a more concrete proposal.

      1. I’m not so concerned about high-speed rail as the line would probably have to be slowed down between Vancouver WA and Portland anyway.

        The bigger issue I see is how Cascade service will or will not be affected by the bridge — including how track rights are granted and for how much, and how more frequent service could be operated . If the capabilities to run more trains aren’t there, train speeds can’t really make a big difference.

      2. Light rail is planned for the new bridge. High speed rail would probable be tunneled under the Columbia river. The rivers only 55′ deep in the center and going straight though Portland above ground could be problematic.

      3. Ian Scott, no tunnel can be dug under the Columbia because it has a couple of hundred feet of silt deposited after the Missoula Floods dug out a VERY deep channel. That’s why the existing bridge sort of “floats” on wooden pilings underneath the concrete piers. Pretty sketchy, but it seems to work.

        I’d love a tunnel, but the engineering problems are pretty daunting. To be deep enough to be stable it would have to portal north of Mill Plain and down around Delta Park.

      4. Al, if there is a replacement bridge the opening span on the BNSF bridge would be moved to the center channel and, probably, be implemented as a lift. In the best of all possible worlds a third track would be added to accommodate Clark County to Washington County sprinters and more Cascades trains.

        HSR will never come to the Vancouver BC to Portland corridor. Higher speeds? Yes, but not HSR. There are simply not enough people to make it worthwhile, and we don’t live closely enough together.

  7. 2009: Running Link on the old BNSF line through Bellevue is dumb. 2019: Running Link on the old BNSF line through Kirkland is smart. Huh?

    1. How about a metaphor. In this case, the BNSF routing in Bellevue is a lemon, and the BNSF routing in Kirkland is a bag of grapes. Sure, we can make lemonade out of the Bellevue alignment, but there were better options. In Kirkland, the short stub to south Kirkland is a cheap way to get closer the ultimate goal, which is to serve central Kirkland, just like grapes are the affordable first step on the path to fine wine.

      Comparing the two is a bit like comparing lemons and grapes. As everyone knows, lemons vs grapes is an apples to oranges comparison.

      1. By central Kirkland I hope you don’t mean downtown Kirkland. And I hope you don’t mean serving central Kirkland with light rail. Downtown Kirkland is so out of the way, and so low density, and surrounding by even further low density, that light rail is not an appropriate mode for it.

        ST deemed Lake City and the Aurora corridor not worthy of light rail, and split the difference with a Vision Line-esque freeway line starting at Northgate. And if those two high density areas didn’t deserve light rail, then dt Kirkland most certainly doesn’t.

        People, know your modes. Do I have to remind you again, light rail is not an Uber, and it’s not a milk run bus route.

        PS, Free Robert Kraft!

    2. Sam and AJ: how did the BNSFRR Woodinville subdivision enter the thread? Before East Link, the correct questions were not posed. Factoria could have been served. For ST3, Kirkland proposed a good investment, but ST was too cautious. the use should should be frequent electric transit; it need not be Link. one should seek the Goldilocks level of capacity and cost, but seek the exclusive right of way. Yes, there are pedestrians in Kirkland. ST3 reaches a park-and-ride.

      1. Factoria has been on the radar since Forward Thrust. I-90 was going to be an early growth corridor; then most attention went to Bellevue-Redmond, probably because of the growth of Microsoft and Bellevue’s downtown, and Factoria-Eastgate became relegated to a few office parks and “We’ll get back to you later”. Now that later is closer to coming (although I still don’t see any grand plan for Factoria). I think it was assumed that Factoria-Eastgage would be on an Issquah-Seattle line after East Link (which might have manifested as an Issaquah-South Bellevue or Issaquah-Mercer Island line). That has finally evolved into the Issaquah-South Kirkland line. (Which may be part of a vague Issaquah-Kirkland, Issaquah-Ballard, or Issaquah-Bothell concept someday.) Issaquah Link was primarily catalized by the City of Issaquah’s demand, but serving this I-90 corridor was probably a secondary purpose.

        (And no, an Eastgate station does not serve Factoria very well, especially a pedestrian at one of the big-box blocks.)

  8. I don’t think the PSRC is presupposing a 3rd airport. “The study will provide empirical data and describe potential scenarios to accommodate future demand, but it is not a siting study and will not offer recommendations or solutions.”

    So the PSRC may say we need X more regional airport capacity, but whether that is met through a new airport or expanding existing facilities is a separate question.

    https://www.psrc.org/aviation-baseline-study

  9. I’m still confused about Metro’s approach to all-door boarding. Physical infrastructure for ORCA readers at stops is expensive and will only ever get you a tiny fraction of the stops in the system. Why not add readers at the back door(s) on buses like they do in San Francisco, so that every stop in the system can have all-door boarding?

    1. I could be mis-remembering, but my dim recollection is that at some point STB reported that Metro was asked about installing rear-door ORCA card readers and they claimed they couldn’t source the current model of ORCA card readers in sufficient quantities to outfit their fleet while maintaining a maintenance reserve, so if rear-door ORCA ever happens, we’ll have to wait for the rollout of ORCA2/next generation ORCA

    2. There’s no driver at the back door to enforce that you actually tap it. You could in theory pay an extra person to do it, but the labor gets very expensive, very fast. It only makes sense in special situations, like 3rd Ave during rush hour, when the rear door checker person would be constantly busy.

      1. The point is to treat it like off-board payment (with fare checkers). Allow that option on the vehicles, which means that regardless of the stop, the driver doesn’t wait for a line of people paying for their fare. You get on, mosey on back, and pay. As Phillip described, it sounds like that would be more expensive that adding a handful of ORCA readers on the street. The readers won’t become obsolete, even if we eventually go that route, as it means less shuffling around for riders when the bus is crowded.

      2. Somehow San Francisco makes it work. When I’ve ridden people getting on at the rear doors pretty consistently “beep”.

      3. Yes, the VAST majority of bus riders are happy to pay their part of running the system. Give them the ability to pay easily, and they will do so.

        I would say that on average bus riders are far more “happy” about paying for their bus ride than drivers are about paying fuel taxes to maintain the roads they drive on. There’s something about the psychology of bus riders; we’re measurably more “communal” than drivers.

  10. Minor news: UW Tacoma’s U-PASS transit pass program will start to cover rides on Intercity Transit within two years, according to a presentation by a transportation coordinator.

  11. $1.3B to locate the maintenance facility at the landfill? Must be the same estimators Sound Transut has been using all along.

    1. You don’t understand the cost of cleaning up a landfill? Especially one that’s decades old when they didn’t separate hazardous waste as carefully, If ST buys it it inherits all liability for it.

  12. From the Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/seattle-drivers-seem-to-like-the-new-highway-99-tunnel-but-they-have-a-few-complaints/:

    When heading south on Aurora Avenue, the left-most lane leads drivers toward Denny Way, Seattle Center and downtown, while the two right lanes enter the tunnel.

    Transit heading south on Aurora uses a bus-only lane that ends before the tunnel entrance. Buses stop on the right side of the road to pick up passengers, but then exit to Denny Way and downtown via the left lane instead of using the tunnel. That forces buses and cars to crisscross over busy lanes to get to their exits.

    This design dilemma occurs because when lawmakers approved the tunnel in 2009, transit was not as popular as it is today.

    To handle the number of buses now using the route, engineers extended the left-side exit from Aurora, and moved the last E Line stop up, more than a half-mile, to Galer Street to allow more room for buses to merge.

    That is their excuse? That “transit was not as popular as today”? What total BS. Holy cow, the bus tunnel was first proposed in 1974. It was finally built in the 80s, and opened in 1990. You idiots didn’t realize that people took transit in large numbers — numbers large enough to justify a huge, expensive tunnel under the city? Bullshit! Either you are incompetent, or you just don’t care about how people actually move around the city. Not only will thousands upon thousands of riders suffer, but so will the people using the tunnel! There you are, doing your job, driving your truck from Fremont back to Georgetown, about to pay your fare like a good citizen, and you have to deal with all the buses, cars and trucks weaving their way over from right to left! Either WSDOT was stupid or callous. It is bad enough that billions were spent on a transportation project and it won’t improve transit, but it actually makes it worse!

    1. Several years ago, Mike Lindblom had a piece on the weave that was to come and is here today. Transit has a weave in both directions across the bulk of deep bore flow. In 2009, the deep bore did not have transit pathways or funding figured out.

    2. There isn’t sufficient room to fix northbound without a big detour for the buses, but the traffic from the south is limited by the capacity of the tunnel so the buses shouldn’t have too terrible a time getting over. Two lanes feed from the tunnel and a single lane from Aurora, so traffic should flow pretty freely, at least until the bus lane.

      Southbound of course is a different story. More drivers want to exit to downtown than fit in a single lane, so the left-hand lane backs up and the buses can’t move over easily. The way to fix it is to build a fly-over starting at the north edge of Mercer crossing over depressed Sixth Avenue North, then dropping down to merge with it just south of the southbound on-ramp.

      Buses would then turn left on Harrison to return to Aurora (or just continue south on Sixth to Cedar, perhaps). There’s no building on the west side of Sixth North now so if they hurry up they won’t have to tear anything down.

      1. Wall, not Cedar. I like this. Removing parking to give a center bus-only lane and making a contra-flow between Denny and Wall would keep the buses out of the congestion on Aurora north of Denny.

        This might be a HUGE improvement.

      2. Yeah, we could spend a bunch of money fixing it, but it is crazy that it wasn’t built that way in the first place (with right hand exits to downtown). Worth noting is that the old tunnel had right hand exits for downtown. Putting transit issues aside, you would think just common sense and experience would dictate right hand exits for what is obviously a very popular exit. Just a trip from East Queen Anne to downtown or South Lake Union (https://goo.gl/maps/VKobquH1jnp) will be a harrowing journey (for everyone). Thanks WSDOT!

        But yeah, what you are suggesting would make a lot of sense. You would have a bus lane basically from the Aurora Bridge to Wall, downtown. That would make the E/5/26/28 considerably faster. As it is now, the buses are slower and the stops worse than they were only a few months ago. Again, thanks WSDOT!

      3. Yes, the “bunch of money” is obviously the primary impediment to doing this. That and building a custom ramp so soon would be a screaming confession that the planners messed up.

        It would sure improve the reliability and overall transit times for the Aurora buses in the direction that means the most: getting to work in the morning.

        When I said “center-only bus lane” I forgot to specify that that would be south of Harrison. There would have to be a stop at Harrison, clearly, and since the flyover would be merging from the right, it makes sense to have the stop at Harrison on the right, immediately north of the intersection. Buses could have a queue jump to get over into the center lane. There’s no need for another stop before Denny where it would be between Denny and Wall in the contra-flow lane.

        A center southbound lane would mean no parking on the west side, but that area is being redeveloped rapidly with buildings that include internal parking.

    3. “That is their excuse? That “transit was not as popular as today”? What total BS. Holy cow, the bus tunnel was first proposed in 1974.”

      This is WSDOT we’re talking about; its transit perception is not as acute as King County’s or Seattle’s. All levels of government missed the implications of building highrises in SLU, and didn’t predict that the number of cars downtown even as the number of jobs and condos increased significantly. The whole idea of building a tunnel for an expressway that ends at N 76th Street with no direct I-5 connection never made a lot of sense, but it was the “bypass” mentality, and the weaves are a side effect of that.

      A news article a few weeks ago said that what convinced Gregoire to build the tunnel was the thought that without it there would be only two north-south corridors in Central Puget Sound, I-5 and 405, and that wasn’t enough. The idea that the 99 tunnel has much to do with 405 is laughable. They’re too far apart to be interchangeable for trips with one end between Lynnwood and Burien — which is most of the trips already. Somebody might use them interchangeable going from Skagit to Tacoma or from Canada to Portland, but not really, because 99 is slower than the other two. So anyway, if you’re thinking at a statewide driving scale, then making buses weave and moving bus stops a half mile seems like an ant-sized thing. And that illustrates the problem with state transportation planning right there. And the way highway projects don’t require a vote but transit projects do, and the only acceptable carbon tax is for highway expansion, and…

      One good note is that at least the state noticed the increase in transit ridership. The state has probably been monitoring Aurora’s transit volume and demand since it impacts and is impacted by the 99 tunnel project, and that may have given the state a better understanding of the need for more serious transit in Seattle and the inner-ring burbs. Maybe not a good understanding but at least a better understanding.

  13. I’m happy with ST. After only 35 months, they struck a blow for clear communication by adding labels to the elevator buttons at UW station.

    No longer will people be confused if P means platform or parking. If S means street or station. If B means bus transfers or bridge.

    1. LOL!

      And I thought it was:
      Bystanders
      Students
      Patients

      Or maybe:
      Bicyclists
      Shared-ride people
      Pedestrians

      Or maybe:
      Bored (in class)!
      Stoked (for the Huskies)!
      Pooped (so headed home)!

    1. I’m not a robot, but neither am I a fool.

      Yoo-hoo Frank, Martin, Peter, isn’t this classic spam?

  14. FYI, Howell Street bus lane changes (reported on previously by STB) are also underway by SDOT. Striping is mostly laid out and new signal heads are in place (but not activated).

    1. Great. It might mean as much as three or four minutes saved per trip for two hours per day five days a week for a long time, since there’s going to be a ramp between the SR 520 HOV lanes and the reversible lanes I believe.

    1. The problem with just preserving all order apartment buildings to avoid displacing lower-income people is that it treats high-density and low-density buildings identically. Prewar buildings are often narrow and vertical and maximize the number of units per lot, but most mid-century construction is egregiously undersized: a one-story or two-story building with lots of open space or surface parking around it. That may have been OK when the region’s population was a quarter the size and Seattle’s population was shrinking, but it’s not enough housing now, and it makes people walk further distances by pushing everything apart. So if we must retain older buildings because their rents are lower, we should focus on retaining higher-density ones and get rid of the space-wasters that are making things worse.

  15. The Midway landfill is a poor site for the maintenance facility. But so is the hamburger site. In fact, anywhere north of the South Federal Way site is a poor site. Yes, I understand that ST needs the MF when Federal Way Link opens, so they’d have to build the additional two miles of track to the MF “early”. So borrow an extra $20 million and save that $20 million in the first ten years of avoided deadhead train hours.

    Put the thing as far south as humanly possible.

    Penny wise, pound foolish seems to be a favorite modus operandi at Sound Transit.

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