Sound Transit Express / King County Metro

This is an open thread

68 Replies to “News Roundup: Going Big”

  1. TriMet’s Hop card will make fare payment extremely simple and user-friendly, especially compared to the messy systems we use in the Puget Sound area. Hop will have a daily cap and once the monthly spending reaches $100 the card will convert to a monthly pass. How convenient–there’s no need to pre-load any monthly passes. Wouldn’t it be nice if ORCA could adopt some of those ideas?

    1. An award to TriMet! It’s following transit best practices. TriMet has long priced its day pass at twice the one-way fare, and encouraged everybody making most than one trip that day to to get one.

      1. I was in Portland on Thursday and did some bus riding (Streetcar, MAX, Routes 14, 15) The bus routes could use a stop diet and we were almost involved in an accident due to a stop located on the near side of a 4 way intersection.

        I don’t have a Hop card yet, they aren’t available at the MAX fare machines, but they are available at plenty of retail locations. Apparently they’re sold along with gift cards to Applebees, Lowes and Starbucks. I’ll get one next time I’m in PDX.

      2. There is no need to get a card. Download the app. TriMet will only charge you $3 for the honor of saving a piece of plastic.

      3. The older app is going away too. You’ll want to wait a few months until the Hop version is available if you use iOS but the Android app is available now. The older mobile phone ticket app predates Hop and has its own issues. The current iOS version does not support virtual cards and is only a tool for managing physical cards.

        The “paper” HOP tickets sold at the vending machines are actually some sort of plastic last I checked (which was before the mass conversion of the machines) and are not something you can put in paper recycling.

    2. Why do you put Hop in the future tense? It’s here now and has been for about three years. And yes, the auto-promotion (which works on a daily basis, too) is a GREAT idea that should be copied everywhere.

  2. The Eastgate P&R used to have just one Proterra charging station. I saw yesterday there are now three separate overhead chargers. Does anyone know what other Eastside routes, other than the 226/241, will get Proterras?

    1. Metro placed a firm order in 2017 for 20 more Proterras with options for 53 more. I would expect you will see the Proterras on lots of eastside routes. What other transit centers or Park and Rides have charging stations?

      1. South base (errr campus) is getting an expansion to help build its electric fleet. I’ve seen electric hybrids and proterras testing in the Kent and Tukwila areas. Suggests to me they are looking at using it in this area. I’d like to see proterras used on the 180 after the new rapid ride from Renton to Auburn is initiated.

    1. On weekdays, there’s a Sounder train that heads northbound from Lakewood at 10:16 am (Tacoma Dome at 10:30), arriving in Seattle at 11:32 am. The first southbound departure from Seattle is 2:35 pm and arrives in Tacoma at 3:37 pm.

      1. Thanks. I think my best bet then is to take the Amtrak Cascades straight from Mount Vernon to Tacoma then… and arrive at 12 13 PM. I can then check out the downtown museums and grab something to eat while my AIRBNB reservation is being made ready for the weekend.

  3. The PSRC article is interesting. The alternatives are “Stay The Course” (extend the current policy), “Transit Focused Growth” (focus on HCT areas), and “Reset Urban Growth” (make the actual recent trends official policy). At first I thought the last two were the same because Seattle has gotten most of King County’s growth in the past decade. But reading the details, it would actually decrease growth in the largest and second-largest cities compared to the status quo and first two alternatives, and redirect those people to the smaller cities and rural areas and increase the urban growth boundary. So the third alternative should really be called “Sprawl Baby Sprawl!”

    That raises two issues. First, if the current plan channels growth to Urban Growth Centers (large job districts) but growth is actually occurring elsewhere, does that mean the plan has failed? Are counties/cities not being held accountable to adhering to their growth targets? What’s to keep the next plan from failing similarly? And second, how is this mismatch logically possible when Seattle has taken up most of King County’s growth, Bellevue/Redmond’s growth areas have been second, and South King County has grown hardly at all? The answer must lie in Snohomish and Pierce Counties, where most of the growth has been in unincorporated areas and non-target cities like Marysville and Monroe. That’s apparently enough to reverse the Seattle/King County ratio. That’s troubling.

    So there’s really only one good alternative: Transit Focused Growth. The other two are bad. Stay The Course is not necessarily worse than the status quo, but Reset Urban Growth is significantly worse in almost all aspects. (The exceptions, improving storm drainage due to redeveloping old lots, sound like they can be addressed in a different way.)

    Other interesting figures: The draft predicts 1.8 million more people by 2050, for a total of 5.8 million. Previous PSRC plans have targeted 1 million people. So either the next wave will be almost twice as large as the 2000 level, or it’s using a longer time window. (I say 2000 because I think the 2010s level was higher but I don’t know by how much.) Average car commutes are about the same in all three alternatives, in terms of trip length and congestion. Transit ridership increases significantly in all three: 194 million trips in 2014, [unspecified] in 2019, 476 million in 2050 in alternative 1, 502 million in alternative 2, and 490 million in alternative 3. At least alternative 3’s ridership is close to alternative 2’s. But it also says that alternative 3 would have FEWER jobs accessible by transit/bike/walking than either of other alternatives. That’s what drove me up the wall about job growth in the 1990s: it was mostly in isolated office parks that were hard or impossible to get to on transit. This wave won’t be that bad in any case, but it’s the direction I want to avoid.

    1. I understand and share your concern. But I come away with a different opinion of the plans. None of the plans look very good, in my opinion. None of them represent real demand in the area, nor do they represent an ideal way to grow. Just look at the “Transit Focused Growth” plan for a minute. You have lots of growth right in the center of Seattle. OK, fine. But in places only a few miles away from the regional center of the area — places like Magnolia, Wallingford, Wedgwood — you have nothing. Those places are supposed to grow slower than Duvall. Meanwhile, Marysville and Arlington (?) are supposed to have massive growth — bigger than places like Ballard, Lake City and Bitter Lake.

      Marysville is not alone. The “Transit Oriented Growth” map looks like a 1990s plan for future office development. A little scattered around here and there, with no concern as to how far any place is from the masses of people that already call some place home. It is sprawl under the guise of transit. Downtown Seattle is not dying. It is dominant. It is a place that people want to get to, but simply can’t afford to reach. Downtown Bellevue and the UW are second and third. The plan puts growth in places like Puyallup, and Arlington, because they have transit capable of delivering their residents to those locations in only a little over an hour. That is a major failure. Proximity matters.

      PSRC has a failed, outdated look on growth. They remind me of the folks who wanted to add free parking to downtown Seattle back in the 80s. I get it. The last thing you want is a dying downtown (see Detroit). But Seattle isn’t like that any more. Seattle is vibrant. People want to live downtown. They will pay big bucks to live downtown. They will pay big bucks to live only a few miles from downtown (and downtown Bellevue, and the UW). They will pay for tiny apartments, and row houses, and mother in law apartments and backyard cottages if only the scaredy-cat politicians would allow workers to build them. The answer is obvious, which is that growth should occur from the middle. Of course Everett and Tacoma should grow. But Bellevue and Seattle — where the people actually want to live — should grow more. Places like Marysville, Duvall and Arlington shouldn’t grow much at all. Otherwise, there is no point in the PSRC organization.

    2. I didn’t look at whether it was good; I only looked at how the alternatives compare to each other. We’re not going to get good in the foreseeable future: the powers that be and the voters aren’t ready to allow Pugetopolis to turn into Vancouver or Amsterdam. We’re squandering the growth opportunities at Northgate, the third of Seattle’s three Urban Centers. We couldn’t even get bus lanes or bike lanes on 65th and 35th because they got watered down for cars and parking. Growth in Marysville and Duvall is about those cities and counties increasing their tax base. Growth in Seattle doesn’t do that for them. And 4/5 of Pugetopolans live in the suburbs and think it’s better. That’s hard to overcome. Seattle has room to grow to a million or more, and could accommodate another 40,000-job Amazon-sized company if only the city would take the opportunity. Hopefully the City Council will get better when most of the seats turn over. But right now may be the peak of its quality.

      The PSRC’s main purpose is to distribute federal grants the region receives, and the plan is a framework to fit them into.

      1. I didn’t look at whether it was good; I only looked at how the alternatives compare to each other.

        Fair enough. Based on the map and the text, the “Transit Focused Growth” plans appears to be the best of the bunch, as it avoids the wide spread sprawl of the other two plans. My big complaint is that will create lots of places like Totem Lake, and then assume that transit ridership will be better there than it is in some place like Wallingford.

        And 4/5 of Pugetopolans live in the suburbs and think it’s better.

        If people think its better, why are similar houses so much more expensive in the city? Furthermore, why would they prefer a big development in Canyon Park over one in Magnolia? The biggest reason folks move to the suburbs these days is because it is too expensive in the city. The main reason it is too expensive in the city is because they aren’t allowing even modest growth in most of the city (no backyard cottages, no small lot houses, no townhouses). This continues the trend, suggesting that parts of Kent Valley grow faster than the core of West Seattle (where we happen to be putting in a couple Link stations).

        I’m also not sure how you get your 4/5 number. It certainly isn’t the trend, where more people are moving to Seattle than the surrounding suburbs. In second place is Bellevue, which is more like a big centralized city than any of the other suburbs. Focusing growth in those cites — as well as Tacoma and Everett — and you would build what people want (more or less) without thrashing the environment.

    3. I’m curious about growth westward to Bremerton, Bainbridge, Kitsap, Poulsbo utilizing the Fast Ferries and existing ferries… properties are cheap, the economy in some of these places are weak and now there’s a fast direct link to Downtown Seattle that’s faster than many intra-Seattle bus routes. I fear the growth in these areas is occurring now, being overlooked at a regional planning level and will just come in the form of sprawl but it could have been an opportunity to plan/develop smartly to accommodate well-planned growth in these locations.

      1. It already has become a pretty awful tangle of sprawl and busy roads. Until someone decides to upzone land near the ferry terminals, not much will change except commutes will continue to get longer and longer along highways 6, 103, 303, 16, etc.

  4. It’s now been three years since the U-Link light rail extension opened for revenue service. As this project was partially funded by an FTA grant, Sound Transit is required to produce a before-and-after style report on the segment within 36 months of project completion. Time is up Sound Transit.

    1. What is supposed to be in the report? If it is cost effectiveness, I think it is a winner. You really can’t lose for that segment, even if you tried (and sometimes I wondered if ST was trying). Seriously. You skip First Hill, you put the UW station in the worse possible place, and yet you still have ridership per mile greatly exceeding every other segment. Of course you do. This was all predicted. Before Link, that little part of the city stood out as the highest density section in the U. S. without rail. Just throw some rail down in a random way and you were bound to strike gold. I’m sure the report (whenever it is published) will reflect that.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if they release it right before or after some bad news, just as they leveraged the completion of this section (the section that many, including the former head of ST thought we should build first) to pass ST3.

    2. “the section that many, including the former head of ST thought we should build first”

      Tell me more. Who in ST supported this, and who convinced it to build the southern part first? And what routing and stations would it have been at that point?

      I accept ST’s conclusion that the Portage Bay crossing was too risky. But there was already a Montlake alternative then, and meybe they didn’t consider it enough then, or maybe it was still riskier than the route that was selected, but then maybe if they’d studied it more they’d have come up with the current crossing then.

      1. From http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20010629&slug=sound29m0:

        Dave Earling, chairman of the Sound Transit board, is pushing for a light-rail alternative that runs from Capitol Hill to Henderson Street and would carry about 60,000 passengers daily. “This is clearly the one that offers the highest ridership,” he said.

        “Taking us to Capitol Hill is fatal to any light-rail project,” Sims said at a board workshop yesterday. “Why would we do it?”

        Schell agreed with Sims’ position.

        So, basically, Earling wanted to start with an urban line, while Sims and Schell didn’t. It is striking that even from the beginning parts of the board were ignoring a commonsense approach. Earling (from Edmonds, of all places) was arguing for an urban line, because it would carry the most people. Sims was so scared of a tunnel that he wanted to build a line around Capitol Hill (via Eastlake). Eventually they decided to build the southern section first. To quote a different article (http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20010525&slug=sound25m):

        Light-rail supporters hope that by starting work on a southern segment, Sound Transit will show it can get something built. If that happens, they argue, money and support would materialize later.

        But critics worry the southern segment won’t attract enough riders because it wouldn’t connect with population and job centers such as Capitol Hill and the University District.

        “It is kind of a trip to nowhere,” said Metropolitan King County Councilman Greg Nickels.

        Fear drove every decision after the initial failure. It also drove the decision to skip First Hill (the first time). But lack of analysis along with a general lack of curiosity (as to what other cities do) have lead to failures like the lack of a First Hill station with the new tunnel.

    3. The guidance that the FTA has put out in regard to these B&A reports that are required for CIG-funded projects can be found here. The template is designed to walk the agency through the component parts that the FTA is seeking. Essentially it boils down to a post start-up autopsy on actual results (costs, ridership, travel times, etc.) versus projections.

      https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grant-programs/capital-investments/and-after-study-plan-template

      I believe the final B&A report for the ST Central Link Initial Segment was finally published mid 2013, about four years after the line was opened. If my memory is serving me correctly, the agency needed to take a couple stabs at it as the initial drafts submitted were deemed to be lacking by the FTA.

  5. Is a double tall really more expensive than an artic? Not according to this [dated] article about NYC.

    The bus used for the trial is on loan from the ABC Bus Company, which partners with the Belgian manufacturer, Van Hool, to distribute models in North America. Each double-decker costs roughly $650,000, said Mr. Sander, compared to the $900,000 price tag on the city’s current articulated bus.

    Apparently they are still on a trial basis with MTA:
    MTA will pilot double-decker buses between Staten Island and Manhattan

      1. That’s a pretty significant cost savings with the dbl tall.Order 17 buses and you’ve paid for the cost to upgrade the base/maintenance facility. The cost is recovered even quicker if you consider the “free” real estate you gain. Plus, I have to believe the maintenance cost is going to be a lot less not having to deal with the bendy part. Plus hauling more butts per driver lowers labor and fuel (save the planet) costs. Doing a little browsing I found a 130 passenger version that is/will be used in Mexico. Uff da, or should I say Ay, caramba!

      2. Do the double talls really have higher capacity than the artics? Maybe higher seating capacity, but if the ceiling on the upper level is too low to allow standing, it would seem the artics would have much higher standing capacity, and probably higher total capacity.

      3. It seems like anything that goes on a freeway would be a good Double Tall route. Anything that has many city stops would be good Artic bus routes. I am looking at it from a speedy loading perspective.

      4. According to CT, the Swift BRT articulated buses have 43 seats and carry up to 100 passengers while the Double Talls seat 77 with room for up to 20 standees. Though CT also says “At times, there are more than 100 riders on a single Double Tall!” So both are similar in terms of total capacity. Of course, standing capacity can be increased by removing seats and having people stand closer together.

      5. The diesel double talls may be cheaper to acquire but they will likely use more fuel over the lifetime of the vehicle. Hybrids also have a lower per-mile maintenance cost compared to a diesel coach. So the total lifetime ownership and operating costs might actually be higher for a diesel double tall.

        Metro is trying to create a carbon neutral bus fleet and double tall diesels would be a step backwards from that goal. Maybe ST’s environmental goals are less stringent.

        Could a hybrid double tall be built? It might be difficult to find a place for the battery with the passengers riding on top.

      6. Hybrids only increase efficiency of stopping and starting. For a route that is mostly at freeway speeds, a hybrid motor is mostly dead weight.

      7. Hybrids also have a lower per-mile maintenance cost compared to a diesel coach.

        How can that possibly be true? You have the same dino burning system + an electrical system plus the batteries to maintain. The big gain, as I understand it, with the hybrid system is when you have a lot of start start operation. With long freeway routes there’s not too much to be gained with regenerative braking or the other hybrid advantages

      8. Could a hybrid double tall be built?

        Yes, Alexander Dennis already has those running in Europe and Asia.

        Hybrids also have a lower per-mile maintenance cost compared to a diesel coach.

        Community Transit disagrees. “Hybrids cost more to purchase and more to maintain, far outweighing their fuel savings,” said Ken Bailey, manager of Community Transit’s vehicle maintenance division. “Fortunately, from an emissions standpoint, modern diesel buses are as clean as hybrid buses.” As a result, the new Swift buses are not hybrids. I take it that Snohomish County does not have much stop-and-go operating conditions, even on local routes, where hybrids would have an advantage.

      9. “Of course, standing capacity can be increased by removing seats and having people stand closer together.”

        On a Snohomish express? Which is nominally 30 minutes from Lynnwood but can take 60-90 minutes on a bad traffic day.

      10. “Hybrids only increase efficiency of stopping and starting. For a route that is mostly at freeway speeds, a hybrid motor is mostly dead weight.”

        The problem is – a route that is mostly freeway speeds in terms of distance is usually not mostly freeway speeds in terms of time. In the case of the, 512, the scheduled running time is 1 hour 6 minutes, but the estimated drive time from terminal to terminal is only about 30 minutes. The difference (36 minutes) is time driving stop-and-go, either within downtown Seattle, or getting in and out of transit centers in Snohomish county. And, of course, this doesn’t even include the fact that driving on the freeway itself can also be stop-and-go, depending on the traffic. During morning rush hour, the 510 typically sits at the Stewart St. exit ramp for at least 15 minutes, taking its place in a line of cars, all the while, spewing out diesel exhaust, while a hybrid engine would have automatically shut off.

      11. Even the 594, with its 30 miles of nonstop freeway driving, actually spends more time driving on just two miles of surface streets within downtown Seattle, SODO, and downtown Tacoma than the entire stretch of freeway between them.

      12. Looking at the schedule it’s about an even split with the 594, ~30 freeway vs 35 min surface streets. But that’s in service hours. If you factor in dead head time it would skew way farther in the other direction.A huge portion of the time on the surface streets is just loading & unloading so an electric system that could completely eliminate the diesel would save fuel and help air quality DT But fuel is a very minor portion of the hourly cost of operating the bus. And when you look at the full cradle to grave impact of building a redundant propulsion system I’m not convinced it’s saving the planet. Of course the win win would be a forced transfer at Angle Lake. The loser is the extra 30 minutes it would add to everyone’s commute since Link detours through the RV.

      13. “Hybrids also have a lower per-mile maintenance cost compared to a diesel coach. ”

        How can that possibly be true? You have the same dino burning system + an electrical system plus the batteries to maintain. The big gain, as I understand it, with the hybrid system is when you have a lot of start start operation. With long freeway routes there’s not too much to be gained with regenerative braking or the other hybrid advantages.

        My understanding is that hybrids also work by maximizing the combustion engine efficiency. According to Wikipedia, “Engine efficiency peaks in most applications at around 75% of rated engine power”. Typically, this is faster than a car can legally go. Thus for a typical trip along the freeway, even with no traffic, the gas engine will run for a while, then shut off, then run for a while. Apparently this is where a lot of the savings comes from.

        As for maintenance, the same sort of idea applies. The engine powers the electric battery. The battery powers the electric engine, which can run at any speed quite efficiently. I’m guessing you save a lot in terms of the transmission.

        As asdf2 said, even the express buses spend a lot of time on surface streets, and that is assuming there is no traffic. It would be different for something like a Greyhound bus.

      14. It seems like anything that goes on a freeway would be a good Double Tall route. Anything that has many city stops would be good Artic bus routes. I am looking at it from a speedy loading perspective.

        Yep. The same is true with regards to standing versus sitting. On express buses it makes sense to maximize sitting capacity. On most bus routes, it makes sense to maximize overall capacity, which means standing capacity.

        I would say that though, that while the idea is right and it works as a general rule, I think that would be problem when applied to all the buses. A bus like the 41, for example, would be a mess if it was converted to a double tall. But for express buses run by CT and ST (which have long gaps between stops) it works out OK, as riders generally prefer the extra seats.

    1. I guess its pretty clear the interest in these double-decker buses is only on the long distance commuter routes. Given their use primarily for long distance commuter service which is weekday peak only or mostly, it seems they aren’t heavily utilized so I guess that might mean they’ll have a longer shelf life?

      Interesting to see them catch on, I remember not long ago Victoria BC was the only city with them in their transit fleet, then they came to Community Transit, then Sound Transit, now Bay Area, Toronto, NYC, DC, etc.

  6. One of the unintended consequences of Sound Transit switching operation of the 540 over to Community Transit is that the 540 isn’t visible in OneBusAway anymore. The 540 suffers severe reliability problems and is often 20+ minutes in beginning its run, especially in the reverse direction, which is proceeded by no layover (the bus just immediately turns around and goes back the other way). Without real-time info, the 540 is effectively unusable as a bus route, which may be causing it’s ridership which was not-so-great to begin with get even worse.

    With Montlake Freeway Station closing in just two months (and the option to ride the 255 instead not available anymore), this is something that really needs to be fixed.

    1. While it would definitely be nice if OneBusAway had Community Transit’s real-time info, you can probably get real-time info for the 540 on Community Transit’s site: https://m.mybusfinder.org/ It works pretty well for the 532/535, though, as I said, OneBusAway would be better and easier to use.

      1. I will definitely keep that in mind, but it’s not a very user-friendly solution. The average person commuting between UW and Kirkland isn’t going to know that the 540 is operated by Community Transit or think to check Community Transit’s webpage for real-time arrival info on the 540.

        Which agency Sound Transit chooses to contract a route out to should be nothing more than an implementation detail that nobody who rides it should have to know or care about.

    1. Something new I learned from this article. When Metro bans someone from service for a year, they don’t provide a picture of the banned passenger to their own transit police force. Why am I not surprised?

    2. If we made Sam county executive then he would have authority over Metro and ensure that every bus has a photo gallery of banned people.

  7. Why isn’t there 100% prioritization for Link in the RV? I don’t go south a lot, but whenever I do (like right now) I’m surprised by how often the train has to nearly stop at intersections (twice between MBS and CCS). Seems like it shouldn’t do that, like ever….it really cheapens the billion+ dollar investment.

    1. You must be new to these parts, Pardner!

      We are just Wet LA, that’s all that needs be said.

      1. Between IDS and UWS it’s as good as any metro world-wide…south of that to RBS it’s very, very middling. That’s why I’m hoping they don’t ever skimp on grade separation and ROWs ever again.

      2. Way back when they were building this segment, I was attending every community meeting.

        One statistic for MLKing Way was that 40% of the traffic was people using it as a high speed bypass for I-5.

        I asked an ST rep (J.J. (Johsnson?)) about the whole issue of having to widen MLKing Wy if Link was effectively replacing that need.

        “Because SDOT is demanding that light rail doesn’t affect the traffic flow” was the answer.

        We’re still a “through the windshield” community in the region.

      3. ST’s cost comparisons miss some factors. They include the cost of engineering, construction, and mitigation for the surrounding houses/businesses. But they don’t count the cost of traveling 35 mph instead of 55, or the harm of people and vehicles being caught in the inevitable collisions, or the cost of stopping or splitting service in the aftermath of those colisions. If you added all that to the up-front cost, then a surface routing wouldn’t look so much less expensive than a tunnel or elevated. And you could go further for the same travel time, which would serve more people and be more competitive with driving.

      4. Given the relative demand for service to Rainier Valley and beyond, they made the right choice. The speed difference is minor, and wouldn’t make much difference for a typical rider. Many, in fact, would come out behind because of the increased time spent getting to the platform. Increasing the headways would be nice but six minutes is about right for that corridor. We could have spent a lot more money, but it would have been nowhere cost effective compared to building new lines elsewhere, or just putting the stations in the right place. The biggest flaw with rail in the the Rainier Valley is the location of the Mount Baker Station. The station was built there because they lacked money. Spending extra on digging a tunnel or building a bigger elevated line wouldn’t help the situation. It is also less likely that Graham Street Station would be added, as it would have been too expensive.

        All that being said, it does sound like there are flaws either with the design or the implementation of the signal priority system. As Felsen said, the train should be treated like an emergency vehicle. To put it another way, imagine if there was a traffic cop, waving vehicles this way or that. The cop would wave through an ambulance (going either direction) then waive through the train. The only reason a train should be stopped is when there is an emergency vehicle about to go through. Then the train should proceed, even if that snarls regular traffic for a while.

      5. “The biggest flaw with rail in the the Rainier Valley is the location of the Mount Baker Station. The station was built there because they lacked money.”

        It’s right where all the major streets in Rainier Valley cross: Rainier, MLK, and approximately McClellan and 23rd. And where all the bus routes cross too. Where else should the station have gone? Or are you talking about a small tweak across the street or tomething? I always thought Mt Baker should have a station. I just wish the land use around would take advantage of it so more people could live within walking distance of the train.

      6. Seriously, Mike? How long have you been on this blog?

        https://seattletransitblog.com/2012/04/18/the-awfulness-of-mt-baker-station/

        This is one of the best things that anyone on this blog has ever written. It is certainly on the Seattle Transit Blog’s Greatest Hits album. Just to quote a particular good section (edited for brevity):

        Anytime someone complains about walking distance, a wiseguy decides to pontificate on the joys of walking and exercise. And yes, one reason I like to use transit is that it inevitably involves some walking — even running — that keeps you healthy. But anyone who’s run up as the train pulls out of the station knows that extended transfer times mean missed trips. In fact, the layout of this transit hub adds minutes to any bus-train transfer, which is often the difference between switching to Link or staying on the 7. That’s ultimately more expensive for Metro and damaging to ST’s politically sensitive ridership numbers.

        Is There Hope?

        Some of the problems here will never be corrected …

        Is it not good enough to put a station in “Mount Baker”, anymore that it is good enough to put a station in “Ballard”. You need to put a station in the right place in the neighborhood. Anyone who knows how to read a map understands that they should have put the station closer to the high school, farther away from the greenbelt, and most importantly, right next to where the buses run. Put the station at the corner of Rainier, MLK and McClellan. Holy cow, despite the fact that the station is a police-assault-of-a-minor-away, they put the transit center where the train station should be! Yet the only reasonable argument that ST had for putting the station there is that they ran out of money.

      7. I’ve heard that argument before, but I’m not convinced. The pedestrian bridge connects the current station location to the neighborhoods east of Rainier.

        While the bridge is essentially useless for connections to the transit center, the problem isn’t the Link station, but the transit center. In this case, the purpose of the transit center has nothing to do with rider experience – and, in fact, the thru-routes (7, 106) don’t even use it. Rather, the purpose of the “transit center” is to allow routes that end in Mt. Baker (8, 48) somewhere to turnaround and wait between trips. In other words, the transit center exists purely for Metro’s convenience, not the riders’ convenience, and its existence actually comes at the expense of rider convenience, by forcing passengers to cross Rainier twice (once on the bus, once on foot) to continue their journey on Link at the end of the route.

        If I were designing the system, I would have avoided acquiring the land for Mt. Baker Transit Center completely, and looked for on-street solutions, instead. One obvious solution for turnaround/layover space is the pathway of 26th Ave. and Forest St. immediately north of the station. While these streets aren’t really suitable for buses in their present form, if you took away all of the on-street car parking and converted the streets to one way (south on 26th, east on Forest), you end up with a bus stop and layover facility that functions the same way as Mt. Baker Transit Center, but is right next to the station. (It would probably require re-paving the street to handle the pounding of buses, but the repaving would still be cheaper than buying up land for the transit center across the street, which had to then be paved, anyway).

        I don’t know if this idea was ever considered. Maybe it was rejected out of hand because the people who park their cars there were considered more important than the bus riders. But, there really isn’t a compelling need for Mt. Baker Transit to exist at all.

        That’s to say the station couldn’t have been made better if more money were available. The ped bridge south of the station could have been rebuilt with ADA compliance (less steep ramp) and connected directly with the platform level, avoiding the need to go up, down and up again (which would, of course, require a center platform configuration, rather than side platforms). And, they could have built exits on both sides of the platforms, rather than forcing everybody to walk to one far end of the platform in order to get out. And, of course, the city could have designed the signalized crossings of Rainier itself to not require beg buttons and such long waits.

        As for locating the Link station where the transit center currently is – it would have slowed down the line by necessitating a very sharp curve coming out of the station to get to the Beacon Hill tunnel. You’d need more elevated track, and more land acquisition, so the construction cost would have certainly gone up. And, while it would be more convenient to access than the current location for people coming from the northeast, it would be less convenient for people coming from the southeast (they’d lose the pedestrian bridge and have to wait at the lights).

        Overall, I’m not convinced. If we really had the money to build more overpasses over Rainier, I’d rather it be pedestrian overpasses than train overpasses.

    2. It is frustrating – many of my trips have not stopped once between stations, so the cascading clearly works sometimes. But other times I’ve been on trains which stopped at nearly *every* intersection, when the cascading is clearly broken. Any time I’ve asked about it or tweeted to ST, they blame emergency vehicles throwing off the cascading.

      I don’t know anything about the signally technology, but it seems like there should be a way to give “absolute” priority to trains, and it seems like that hasn’t been done. Maybe they give trains the highest relative priority but still require a minimum number of pedestrian or cross-track vehicle cycles every XX minutes or something. Really makes me want to better understand the system.

      1. I’ve been dealing with the signal system in Rainier Valley since the day Link opened and I’m not sure how the signal system is designed. I think it gives highest priority to pedestrians who want to cross MLK and have pushed the crossing button. The signal system will stop a train to allow pedestrians to cross. It also gives priority to cars that want to cross MLK over cars that are traveling on MLK but the system usually will let the trains pass before allowing the cars to cross MLK. There are plenty of times, however, when the system doesn’t seem to be using any logic at all.

      2. The trains should have the override buttons emergency vehicles have to change signals. Again, our multi billion transit investment should have unbreakable priority.

      3. I hate to contradict GuyOnBeaconHill, but I have sat at the Chief Sealth Trail pedestrian crossing enough times to strongly disagree with his assessment of pedestrians being given the highest priority.

      4. +1 ColumbiaChris. I have missed many a train waiting for the signal to cross MLK at the the Columbia City station and in fact the lack of pedestrian priority and long signal cycle for MLK leads to quite a lot of dangerous dashing across. I honestly can’t believe that the signal isn’t even set up to give an automatic walk sign to peds at this location.

  8. So Deborah Juarez, a Seattle city councilmember who has shown a disinterest in working with Seattle’s neighboring cities to implement ST3, has been appointed to the Sound Transit board.

    I’m sure that will go well.

    1. So Deborah Juarez, a Seattle city councilmember who has shown a disinterest in working with Seattle’s neighboring cities to implement ST3

      Citation please.

      Jaurez was a strong proponent of including the NE 130th Station as part of ST3. She got involved early on in the process, working with activists, including ones she defeated in the primary (a lot of great candidates ran to represent the district). In general, I’ve been very pleased with her work on the council, and think she will do a fine job on the ST board.

      How she handles the mess in Ballard and West Seattle will be interesting. I could see her being focused on her own district, which means agreeing to anything that would enable the NE 130th street station being built sooner. I could also see calling BS on many of the ideas, as she seems to understand BS when she sees it (having seen the BS about the 130th Street Station). I could also see her side with the suburbs in saying that we shouldn’t risk the ST3 proposals over something (like a West Seattle tunnel) that won’t improve transit.

      1. At a recent meeting in the 46th LD, she got into an argument with several elected officials from Kenmore and Lake Forest Park who stated that for the past couple of years, she hasn’t cared about the 522 BRT project that travels along 145th street and which is the north end of her district.

        There was no shouting, but I’d describe it as quiet fury from the very pro-transit Kenmore/LFP officials.

      2. I think she’s done some good on the council, definitely, although her dealings with constituents during the Arena hearings were argumentative enough to believe that this may have been the case here as well. That said, the 522 BRT project actually takes an existing route completely out of her district and at best only peripherally serves it (I would imagine there may only be two stops along NE 145th – at LCW and at 15th – that even affect the district, and of course the station is really at 148th and near absolutely nothing in Seattle). Any service for Seattle residents to that station will be provided by Metro, not ST, and the revised 522 is no exception. It is – or more accurately will be – a far more important route for Kenmore and LFP residents than for Seattle.

        The 130th Street station will serve far more of her district (and Seattle) than the 522 and 145th ever will. I very much appreciate her work in getting that station included both as a former resident of her district and a citizen of Seattle. I do of course hope that she can work closely with other board members but don’t want her losing sight as to who she is speaking on behalf of. I don’t think she will.

        (it’s “Debora” by the way)

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