Pros and Cons of Truncating Bus Routes at Link: Route 150

Route 150 shadowing Link at SODO. Photo by Oran.

Nine years ago Martin looked at the general problem of I-5 buses terminating at Rainier Beach. However, removing buses from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel provides an opportunity to review if there are cost savings or efficiency improvements by truncating routes formerly in the tunnel and forcing a transfer to Link.

Truncating is a balancing act: Riders can often save time by transferring to a congestion-free mode like light rail, and service hours saved can be used to provide more frequent service on the shortened bus line. However, the benefits can be diminished if the transfer is infrequent or inconvenient. Let’s look at King County Metro Route 150 as an example.

Route 150 map, highlighting congestion areas

The 150 runs from Kent Station to Seattle, providing service from roughly 5 a.m. to midnight with pickups every 15 minutes during the day Monday through Saturday. On weekdays in the fall of 2017, it carried about 6,200 passengers, comparable to RapidRide B. The 150 also serves as the direct connection to Seattle from Kent since there is no ST Express bus. How would truncating the 150 at Rainier Beach Link station affect quality of service for north- and southbound riders?

Continue reading “Pros and Cons of Truncating Bus Routes at Link: Route 150”

Next gen ORCA cards to roll out by 2023, in more retail locations

Washed. Credit: Wikipedia

The next generation of ORCA cards should be available by 2023 at the latest, according to the contract transit agencies will execute with the company selected to roll out the card with retailers.

The Sound Transit Board signed off on a contract with Ready Credit Corporation at a meeting on April 25. A memo summarizing the contract said that “actual distribution of smart cards” will “begin toward the end of the third year or in the fourth year of the contract,” making winter 2022 the earliest new ORCA cards could be available in stores and vending machines.

Sound Transit already approved the vendor that will create the system architecture, cards, and readers needed for the system, or the back of house, as a restaurant might put it. The Ready Credit contract is for front of house: vending machines and contracts with retailers.

This contract will allow for a significant, positive change in the way people will actually buy and reload ORCA cards. Cards should be available in more locations than they are today.

Continue reading “Next gen ORCA cards to roll out by 2023, in more retail locations”

Sunday Open Thread: Legislature on Transportation

TV Washington’s The Impact covered several of the transportation bills that were considered by this year’s legislative session. Watch it on their website if the above video does not work.

This is an open thread.

Floor Amendments May Block the Box for Final Approval of Bus Lane Cameras

Traffic cameras could help bus commuters from over 20 legislative districts
Credit: Zack Heistand / twitter

Update 1: Y’all wanted to know why Sen. Saldaña proposed her amendment exempting transit from citations. The answer is at the bottom of the post. I promise you won’t have to click 10 times to get to it.

Update 2: Sen. Saldaña has submitted a striker amendment, with the effects listed below.

Update 3: Sen. Saldaña has submitted a second striker amendment, with the effects listed below. The first four amdendments have all been pulled, leaving just the last two eligible for floor discussion and action.

Update 4: Sen. Hasegawa has submitted two amendments to Saldaña’s second striker to push Seattle to operate camera enforcement in-house. Those two make four that could come up on the Senate floor.

Final Update: The bill did not get brought up on the Senate floor by adjournment for the year, midnight Sunday. It goes back to the start line in 2020.

Both chambers of the State Legislature took the morning off while various conference committees (some formal and some informal) and party caucuses try to iron out disagreements on various bills, including biennial transportation appropriations (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1160). Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene in voting session at 2 pm. The session ends at midnight Sunday.

The bill to add additional allowed uses of automated camera enforcement for traffic violations, including bus lanes, crosswalks, and blocking the box (ESHB 1793), is 53rd – and last – on the Senate’s regular floor calendar, after having gotten voted out of the Senate Rules Committee at first asking yesterday.

Eight floor amendments to ESHB 1793 have been proposed:

Continue reading “Floor Amendments May Block the Box for Final Approval of Bus Lane Cameras”

Elected Officials Ask for More Light Rail EIS Options, Reject Movable Ballard Bridge

Never again. Credit: Wikipedia

Seattle and King County elected officials have asked Sound Transit to remove a moved bridge in Ballard from future Link plans. They also urged Sound Transit to ditch the elevated “Orange Line” alignment in West Seattle, which would require large numbers of homes to be demolished.

In other areas, the officials mostly declined to endorse other specific choices in the planning effort. Instead, at the final Elected Leadership Group (ELG) meeting for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions, elected officials preferred a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of nearly all the alignments currently under consideration. Comments by business and community groups from Ballard, West Seattle, and Chinatown-International District (ID) generally advocated for the same process.

Sound Transit asked elected officials to endorse specific alignments in the hope of speeding the EIS process and picking a preferred alignment early. Agency CEO Peter Rogoff and project director Cathal Ridge both emphasized in prepared remarks that selecting a preferred alignment would not actually lock the agency into building the chosen project. Continue reading “Elected Officials Ask for More Light Rail EIS Options, Reject Movable Ballard Bridge”

News Roundup: A Good Sign

King County Metro

This is an open thread.

Kohl-Welles: Free Fares on Snow Days

Route 255 Snow Shuttle

This week, King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles introduced legislation to eliminate Metro fares whenever Metro activates the Emergency Snow Network. It’s early in the process and there is no cost estimate at this time (press release here).

This legislation continues the process of chipping away at the fare structure without taking the financial hit of eliminating fares entirely. Much like New Year’s Eve, snow days are an especially good day to eliminate barriers to using the system, and are rare enough to make the cost negligible. Transit is likely to welcome many newcomers that will be clumsy with a fare, and reducing car use helps avoid total system collapse. As Kohl-Welles told The Stranger, it can also be a matter of life and death, as people struggle to get out of the cold.

Five Years of Lynnwood Link Construction To Begin Soon

A train will run (near) here, in five years’ time (Mountlake Terrace)

The start of construction for Lynnwood Link is only weeks away, just over a decade since the project was approved by voters as part of the Sound Transit 2 package in 2008. The first inter-county Link trains are scheduled to arrive in July 2024, traveling on 8.5 miles of elevated and surface tracks along the side of Interstate 5 between Lynnwood and Northgate.

While a firm groundbreaking date has not been announced yet, Sound Transit has released detailed plans for the scheduled construction activities at and around each of the project’s four planned stations. While the status of Northeast 130th Street Station is still up in the air, the citizens of Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood will have easy access to their stations once opening day arrives, but will have to deal with varying levels of disruption over the next five years.

Continue reading “Five Years of Lynnwood Link Construction To Begin Soon”

Elevated Light Rail Could Limit Housing Development in West Seattle

The Junction station of the Yellow line would replace a block ripe for upzoning. Credit: Sound Transit

Elevated light rail alignments in West Seattle have a unique problem. Unlike any other part of the system so far, they run through a built-up, residential area. Planned or existing lines are lie mostly in existing right-of-way, or tunnel into their own.

Sound Transit has had to demolish some housing for other projects, mainly at the periphery of neighborhoods. But one of the proposed elevated West Seattle lines, the Yellow/West Seattle Elevated line, would require bulldozing unprecedented parts of two built-up neighborhoods: Youngstown (the northern end of the Delridge area) and the Junction.

Residents have taken notice, forming the East Alaska Junction Neighborhood Coalition (EAJNC), a community group whose site says they “support and look forward to the arrival of a new Link Light rail extension in our area but have concerns about the proposed plans.” Continue reading “Elevated Light Rail Could Limit Housing Development in West Seattle”

Last Chance for Camera Enforcement Bill in Committee Wednesday

Cars blocking crosswalk — still shot from Rooted in Rights video

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1793, having been revived last week and passed out of the House, now faces a showdown in the Senate Transportation Committee, where it must be heard and voted out Wednesday morning. At time of publication, the bills to be heard at the meeting were not publicly listed yet.

The bill allows camera enforcement of bus lanes, HOV lanes, crosswalks, ferry lanes, emergency vehicle access, and blocking the box, with tickets being mailed instead of handed to drivers while blocking traffic.

During the sausage-making process, the bill has been reduced to the downtown Seattle area only, and only for a pilot program expiring at the end of 2021, with only warnings being mailed in 2019. Starting in 2020, the first offense will still get a warning. Also, the state gets half the action on the profit from the ticketing.

The bill requires signage to be placed 30 days before camera enforcement starts, but still has no requirement for clear pavement markings, such as red paint.

Three Democratic committee members signed onto the companion bill, SB 5789, leaving seven committee Democrats potentially on the fence.

The Legislature adjourns sine die Sunday, April 28 (which happens to fall on Orthodox / Coptic Easter this year, so expect Saturday to be it for the regular session).

News Roundup: Positive

This is an open thread.

Montlake bus lane, flyer stop, to close in June

The transit-only lane on the Montlake off-ramp will close this June (image: WSDOT)

WSDOT is preparing for the Rest of the West, the remaining phases of construction on SR 520 between Lake Washington and I-5. First up is the Montlake Project, where construction may begin as early as May. For transit riders, this means the Montlake flyer stop and the transit-only lanes on the Montlake Boulevard exit will both close in June. Several planned mitigations will blunt the impacts to transit riders.

The closure of Montlake flyer stops means buses not exiting the freeway will no longer stop in the Montlake area. In mitigation, WSDOT is funding additional weekend and evening service on Sound Transit route 542 through March 2020. That added service commenced with the March 2019 service change. The closure of the freeway stations are targeted for June 15.

In October 2018, WSDOT opened a temporary transit-only lane on the westbound ramp to Montlake Blvd. The lane, about 1100 feet in length, allowed buses to go almost to the top of the ramp before merging to the front of the queue of cars waiting to turn to Montlake Blvd. Originally scheduled to operate for just six months, the lane was extended three more months as the construction schedule was worked out. It has been very popular with transit users who have seen significantly better bus performance in the area.

Beginning June, that lane will also close. The existing exit ramp will close and be replaced by a narrower temporary ramp along the north edge of the work area. In this more constrained space, WSDOT could make room only for two general purpose lanes and a pedestrian-bike connection to the SR 520 trail. At the request of Kirkland and other Eastside cities, WSDOT studied options to maintain the transit lane, but none appear feasible. Continue reading “Montlake bus lane, flyer stop, to close in June”

Shoreline Looking for Feedback on N 145th

City of Shoreline:

The City of Shoreline has been busy developing the preliminary design to update 145th Street (SR-523) from Aurora Avenue North to I-5. This new design will improve safety and ensure that this critical corridor can effectively serve Shoreline and the growing number of travelers who rely on it every day.

The timing is planned to coincide with the opening of the Jackson Park Link station in 2024.  Don’t let the word “multimodal” get you too excited.  Bike lanes will be “off-corridor” (e.g. greenways), and there won’t be much in the way of bus priority (there’s only one, peak-only bus, the 304, on this section of 145th).  Also the sidewalk will still be right up against the street, at least in one direction.

Note that this project is separate from the Sound Transit 522 BRT project, which will also use 145th east of I-5 and which will have dedicated bus lanes.

It will take nine years to plan, design and build the 1-mile Aurora-to-I-5 corridor, over three phases, at a cost of $63M. You can comment online by May 1.

Previous coverage: TOD at 145th, Fixing 145th, SR-522 BRT

Everett City Council Opts for $1.50 Low-Income Fare

(Bruce Englehardt)

The Everett City Council voted Wednesday night to approve a new low-income fare category for Everett Transit, and set the fare at $1.50.

ET Transportation Services Director Tom Hingson presented data from a fare survey that also included the option of not having a low-income fare, and the option of consolidating all reduced fares at $1. He pointed out that frequent riders strongly preferred Option 1 ($1.50 low-income and youth, $0.50 RRFP – for seniors 65+ and riders with qualifying disabilities). Seniors overwhelmingly preferred option 1 over option 2, which would have raised their fares from free just a couple years ago, to 25 cents last year, to 50 cents now, to a dollar in July.

As a result, low-income qualifiers will see the same fare they are paying now, which is 50% more than the regular fare last year. ET’s new LIFT fare will be the same as the ST Express LIFT fare, and 25 cents more than the Community Transit local LIFT fare.

ET’s route 70 (serving Mukilteo and Seaway Transit Center) is the only one designated by ET as a “commuter” route. Its fares are set to match Community Transit’s local fares. CT’s decision to implement a low-income half fare would normally trigger the setting of the low-income fare on route 70 to match it at $1.25, oddly making it lower than the low-income fare on the regular buses.

The fares in the ORCA pod, for those agencies honoring inter-agency transfers and passes, effective July 1, are listed below the fold.

Continue reading “Everett City Council Opts for $1.50 Low-Income Fare”

Judgement Day for Fracking, HOV Lane Cheating Bills

Credit: Campaign Against Climate Change

Today is the last day for most bills in Olympia to get voted out of their second chamber, by 5 pm.

Many important bills have already passed both houses or died. Two sit on the bubble, waiting to get voted on today in the Senate, or to die for lack of making it to the front of the voting queue.

Senate Bill 5145 would ban fracking, at least for purposes of exploration for and extraction of oil and natural gas. Anything to slow down the rate at which humans pull fossil fuels out of the ground and convert them to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can only help.

Substitute Senate Bill 5695 would increase the fines for second- and third-time violators of high-occupancy vehicle and toll lanes. This would help keep buses out of gridlock, too.

You can look up your representatives here or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000, or 1-800-833-6388 for TTY.

Lane Cam Bill Alive Again, Passes House

Addendum: Ryan Packer live-tweeted the floor debate.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon

The State House voted 57-41 Monday to pass Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1793, which would allow automated camera enforcement of various traffic laws, including bus-only lanes. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D – Burien).

The bill was amended in the House Transportation Committee to be limited to Seattle. The bill was amended further on the House floor Monday to be a pilot project through 2021, with only warnings being issued in 2019, and then giving a warning for the first offense thereafter. Additionally, half the net revenue will go to the Highway Safety Fund. The area where the cameras would be allowed was also reduced to the general vicinity of downtown.

Four Republicans — Mary Dye (Pomeroy), Carolyn Eslick (Sultan), Morgan Irwin (Enumclaw), and Drew Stokesbary (Auburn) — voted for the bill.  Four Democrats — Brian Blake (Aberdeen), Steve Kirby (Tacoma), Jeff Morris (Mount Vernon), and Derek Stanford (Bothell),  — voted against the bill.

The bill still has to go through the Senate Transportation Committee and get passed in identical language in the Senate. Since the bill is considered necessary to the transportation budget, it has until the last day of the session — April 28 — to get passed.

Broad Support for West Seattle and Salmon Bay Light Rail Tunnels

Troubled bridge over waters. Credit: King County

Letters from businesses, government agencies, and community groups show a citywide desire for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions to be almost entirely tunnels.

Troublingly for Sound Transit, businesses on the Duwamish Waterway made conflicting demands about where to build the bridge that will cross the river mouth, which means a costly legal fight to acquire right of way is likely.

The letters indicate that the ST3 project could be headed towards a higher cost than planned.

That cost could come from several scenarios that would drive expensive litigation and mitigation. The first is a contentious Duwamish crossing, with legal and condemnation battles fought against the Port, maritime businesses, and industrial concerns. The second is a similar fight over land and right of way with neighborhood groups and residents, if their tunneling preferences are ignored.

On the third hand, if the agency does follow public opinion and put trains underground, engineering costs could spike dramatically. In that scenario, Sound Transit would need to either find new sources of revenue (such as the City of Seattle or the Port), find significant cost savings (as occurred with U-Link), or some combination of both. 

Follow these links for letters from stakeholders in businesses, government, and community groups. View a table here of various interests’ positions on specific elements of proposed alignments. Continue reading “Broad Support for West Seattle and Salmon Bay Light Rail Tunnels”