CommunistSquared /Wikimedia Commons

This is an open thread.

54 Replies to “News roundup: starting to arrive”

  1. So, in this new comments system, is there a way to distinguish new comments from comments I’ve already read that I’m just not seeing?

    1. Thanks for the question, Steve. I had to disable the “new comments” feature because it seemed to be causing some out-of-order comments to appear for some readers. It’s on my list of work items to re-enable it once I’ve done some more testing. Thanks for your patience.

      Regarding the replies, I’ve added a much stronger indent so that the replies should be more clear. If you’re not seeing it you may need to refresh your browser or clear the cache. I will continue to refine the design to make it more clear.

      I’ve also bumped up the font size and reduced the white space between comments in response to previous feeback, so please keep it coming.

      1. Thanks for the response, Frank. Looking forward to the new comment indicator coming back, and appreciate all you do here!

      2. I use the time stamp to identify the new comments. Can the font size on the time stamp be larger until a better new comments system is created? Maybe it would also help to chronologically enumerate the comments.

  2. Re Lakewood and HSR: There is a huge difference between “high speed trains shouldn’t use Point Defiance Bypass” and “we don’t want high speed trains”.

    1. That’s one of the problems with that report. Another is that they kept using the phrase «high speed trains» but not once did anyone mention any plans for HSR on that corridor.

    2. HSR is still an preliminary concept; there are no concrete alignment proposals yet. But given that the bypass exists to avoid a U-shaped detour in the track, and that the railroad segment is publicly owned so we wouldn’t have to pay BNSF’s bloated fees, it’s a natural location for HSR. However, HSR would probably require a new track, so it’s not the current track it would use but a future track in the same right of way.

      Or Lakewood may be talking about the Cascades trains that aren’t “high speed” but can run faster in the bypass than in the detour. In that case they’re saying, “No Cascades trains in the bypass.” That would defeat the purpose of building the bypass, would orphan the investment, and leave the state with passenger rail service that’s not as competitive with cars or planes.

    3. Also, if I heard the report correctly, they were saying “shouldn’t use the bypass until… NTSB safety recommendations are in place, including PTC.” Maybe there’s a backstory, but on the surface at least it sounds like a pretty reasonable position.

      1. The line has had PTC 3 months after the incident occurred.. The other NTSB issues have been resolved (Stepped down speed limits)

        The trainset issue won’t be resolved until new equipment can be acquired.

      2. The way I look at it, a couple of years slowed service along some of the loveliest rail scenery on a US map is the least we owe the memory of those killed aboard Train 501. Just so every inquiry gets a full and honest explanation, the more detailed the younger the questioner.

        Mark Dublin

  3. For the WSDOT 520/Montlake interchange rebuild, things are going to improve dramatically for buses… After years of construction.

    Buses that exit the freeway at Montlake (271, 542, 255 hopefully, etc) will have direct access ramps from the HOV lanes to the bus stops on the lid.

    Does anyone know whether these stops can be used by buses continuing on the freeway? (the use case for this would be Eastside – SLU buses using the future express lane flyer ramp)

    From the detail image, it looks like it might, but it would need to enter/exit the west side of the freeway from the right hand side.

    1. It looks like a westbound through-going bus would have a straight shot across the lid, but yeah, an eastbound bus would have to jog across the bridge. Maybe a good stop for a “local” version of the express bus?

      1. The eastbound jog may be beneficial so that buses won’t have to merge across lanes of 520 just to exit at Montlake.

    2. I’m annoyed that the transfer experience from a Westbound 271/54x to the Southbound 48 will be as bad as today (or worse). I suppose the assumption is that those riders will ride East Link to Judkins Park instead and not bother with Montlake.

      1. I see the new Montlake interchange intersections and cringe about how more congested Montlake Boulevard will become for Route 48 buses. On the other hand, East Link transfers at Judkins Park are going to be awesome.

      2. Yeah that looks rough. It looks like it shouldn’t be too hard to add a local southbound stop just north of the bridge. But for today, it can be fixed by adding a southbound local stop at E Shelby Street.

        For getting off at the Montlake freeway station today, the fastest way to get to the SB 48 is to go up, then down, then up again, which is exhausting.

    3. I think that’s the plan: the stops are to replace the Montlake flyer stops for buses going downtown. If they’re turning north to the U-District, they can use other stops. I asked a WSDOT rep at the Broadway Farmers’ Market and he wasn’t 100% sure on either that or how the second basucle bridge would be used — the latter is still being decided.

      1. They could, but I assumed the objective with that stop was to ease transfers from 520-UW routes to local routes (48 and 43), which today requires a lot of backtracking from Shelby Street. Though a lot of those gains go away of there is no southbound local stop on the bridge. It didn’t all all occur to me that the primary use of the new regional stops is for through-routed buses, which for eastbound looks to require exiting, waiting to turn left onto Montlake, then turning right into the HOV ramp.

      2. I’m not 100% sure but my understanding they were to replace the Montlake freeway stops for buses continuing to downtown off-peak. (Peak hours it was assumed that there would be parallel routes to downtown and UW. This was a few years before Metro started talking about truncating some or all routes at UW Station.)

      3. I’m not convinced that long term, routing any buses down 520 past Montlake, without going to UW Station makes sense. You could maybe justify it with SLU service. Except, without bus lanes down Mercer St., and wherever the bus is going to go after Mercer St., it feels like a waste of time that isn’t really getting people where they need to go any faster than the ride-Link-to-Westlake-station-and-walk option.

        The WSDOT discussion about bus operations was made back before anyroute truncations were discussed, so they had to assume naively that every bus route would maintain its current routing forever, with only the minimum number of changes to accommodate the new lid.

      4. @asdf2,

        I think there’s a good chance that there will be at least peak-only bus lanes on Mercer street after the 520 HOV ramp opens. With 520 having HOV3 and the direct ramp being bus-only initially, I think it’s hard to overstate how much time that will save, even more than transferring to U-Link.

        @Mike Orr,

        I guess it’s good that Metro is looking at truncating routes at UW because the future station at Montlake is much worse for through-routing than today. It seemed to me so obviously better for exiting buses that I felt it necessary to ask if it *could* be used for through routing buses. If they add a stop on the bridge for southbound local buses (like there is today) then this will be at least a decent transfer point for the 48/43 to all 520 buses.

  4. Siemens rail car questions: What’s the operating strategy for getting to four car trains?

    I’m curious about how the phasing in will occur. I would think the peak extra two-car train sets would first become three then four car sets, with base trains gradually shifting to four cars.

    Connect 2020 (a two month period) will have four car trains but at 12 minutes. Will some be these new train cars? Will we have enough train cars at the conclusion of Connect 2020 to have four-car trains every time?

    Finally, will the graphics in the new cars be for post-2021 (Northgate Link) or post-2023 (East Link) or post-2025 (Lynnwood /Federal Way / Redmond Link)?

    1. As a follow-up, does anyone know the specific schedule for reducing/eliminating two-car trains, now that new vehicles are finally arriving? I have seen “2019,” but nothing more specific. Will ST wait until enough cars have completed testing to eliminate two-car trains all at once, or do so gradually?

      1. As am I (very much) – but at least they look soooooo much better than the horrible Kinkis.

    2. OK, the new Siemens cars are now arriving ~ somebody must have photos to share….or did I just miss them somehow?

  5. Throwing this out to the horde: if West Seattle and/or Ballard want tunnels (and given what we know, Dow C. will push for a West Seattle tunnel), what is the most politically viable way to raise it? An LID (and how would that work– just West Seattle and Ballardites vote amongst themselves to pay for it?)? A head tax on big tech? Another levy? (Note, this is not which is the best policy way to raise money — because arguably, the best policy for ST3 was the Peanut Butter option that Ross. B liked– I’m talking about what is feasible without a huge revolt/Big Tech funded head tax revolt)

    1. I would create a new development exaction for those districts to help pay for the extra tunneling cost part. The current densities in both places do not warrant new tunnels. If the communities want tunnels, they should be embracing TOD as well. Either that, or they should ask for a public vote to sell off the golf courses at West Seattle and Interbay to help pay the cost!

      The discussion that’s missing is defining the local trade-offs the communities will make to get a tunnel. Proposals like these would illustrate that getting light rail unavoidably creates a new neighborhood character —tunnel or not. I’m particularly irked at how certain one-story neighborhood commercial streets are given a “must reach” status when Seattle is rife with them — and then they not only want a station but a subway to boot! There is nothing special about Alaska Junction or Old Ballard except they are trendy and quaint — and full of limousine liberal white folk seeking trendy products and restaurants.

      1. Raising a billion dollars from a LID on a few neighborhoods sounds like a non-starter. That would be a huge bill per person. And that’s why the tunnels probably won’t happen.

        You could raise almost a billion with the monorail tax, but then you’d use up all of it, and you may end up with legal restrictions if the “not light rail” provision is enforceable. On the other hand, this money was going to build a monorail in Ballard and West Seattle, so the rest of Seattle already agreed to spend the money on those neighborhoods.

      2. Better hope Dow C. isn’t a golfer, because if you think the WS tunnel advocates are trifling, wait until you take away their golf course

    2. An extra toll on their fares. Or put up an early ST4 vote and include those two components in it. Say south king wants a tunnel and an extension to Burien, north king wants a Ballard tunnel and a link line from bothel via lake city and Fremont to dt, Pierce county wants to team up with Thurston for Sounder access to Olympia, and I’m sure Snohomish and East King could come up with something. When are they planning on Ballard and WS construction? 5-10 years? 2025 would be a good time for an ST4 vote? Difficult to schedule but could be done.

      1. There’s always the possibility that republicans lose control of the senate and POTUS and fed grants start flowing a little easier.

      2. Working back from the opening dates, the 2030 West Seattle stub would have to start construction by 2023 or 2025 to give a year for testing and a year for float. The 2035 Ballard/DSTT with a downtown tunnel would also have to start around 2025.

        I doubt there will be any appetite for an ST4 vote as early as 2025. ST3 was really a third tax on top of two existing ones that were extended, and much of what was going to be in ST4 was pushed into ST3. That was an extraordinary commitment and I don’t expect it to be repeated, especially not before the mid 2030s.

        By 2025 Lynnwood, Federal Way, and downtown Redmond will be open, that will excite people. But people may be disappointed at how much less benefit the ST3 projects will give compared to ST2, and may start questioning doing that again. Also, for those who voted for ST3 thinking it was necessary for Lynnwood and Federal Way (which are in ST2), they will be completely over this misapprehension by then.

      3. I think that the desire for a regional vote will disappear as any other ST rail extensions become about local destinations. I don’t see how region will get excitesmd once there are five lines to Downtown Seattle or four to Downtown Bellevue. Hey

        If there is an ST4, station rehab and overcrowding and station access would probably be a big part. People get more excited about fixing the problem of not getting on a crowded train than reaching a far-flung destination or another one of Seattle’s mid-rise neighborhoods.

        The other motivation is that ST3 cost estimates were too low and more money will be needed.

      4. No sir, my crystal ball says differently. By 2025 Seattle will double in population and new folks won’t know what taxing purposes had hit em, unaware of any ST predecessors. Ballard and WS will become the premier destinations of the city, with buses unable to progress beyond .3151111 mph. ST4 will be ST3 off steroids, just requiring chump change from taxing the likes of Uber, Lyft, Lime and Tesla. Durkin will be governor and demand Sounder provide personal commutes to Olympia. And finally, Link will have set its’ one thousandth and final ridership record and will realize the only way to better it is to expand.

      5. A small ST3.5 for touch-up additions or adjustments is always possible. The lowest-priority projects are scheduled last; i.e., Issaquah-Kirkland and Tacoma 19th Ave. I can see people reconsidering those by 2030.

        After ST3 the subareas’ interests will diverge even more. North King will want more expensive underground lines. Snohomish will want a short extension to Everett CC, and Pierce will want a short extension to Tacoma Mall. South King might want the WSJ-Burien-Renton line, or it might not. South King is the poorest subarea. It’s unclear what East King would want. Possibly a Ballard-Kirkland line, or a South Kirkland-Bothell extension, or a UW-Bothell-Kirkland line, or upgrading 522 Stride or north 405 Stride to Link (some of these overlap). But only the short Everett and Tacoma extensions are set in stone, so it could be that North King wants a lot and the other subareas want a little. The tax rate must be the same across all subareas unless the tax district is split. Maybe there will be momentum for that.

        “By 2025 Seattle will double in population”

        That means Seattle would have 1.4 million people in 5 1/2 years. Not. Going. To. Happen. Seattle will naturally grow to 800K eventually, but there’s a lot of resistance to getting to a million. That resistance could diminish could diminish by 2030 or 2040, but not by 2025.

    3. Could congestion pricing kick in enough revenue? Perhaps a motivator to *quickly* implement the “fleet based” method, which in principle (and politically) is relatively easy and doesn’t require any special equipment (but arguably wouldn’t have enough impact on peak traffic volume to put a dent on traffic).

  6. Re: Quiet Zones (Edmonds)

    Be Careful For What You Wish For

    As is usually the case, the Comments section is the best part.

    Ah, yes, more 1st World Problems for the 1%ers… or is Edmonds considered the 2%ers?

    FYI, since the wayside horns (hereinafter referred to as “WH”) were only activated a little over a week ago, the city is still working out the bugs.

    The WH are the city’s responsibility.
    One problem has been the big X at the Dayton St. crossing. It’s not operating faultlessly yet, therefore the train crews are still sounding their horns there.

    Having experienced them the other day, I’m in agreement with the people who think the WH are obnoxious (and soulless). I was down at the sculpture at the beach near the fishing pier (the building where Arnie’s is) the other day. Yikes !

    Loud, and endless repetition (if you understand a bit about crossing electronics, the horns are activated the same as the crossing gates)

    Most of the new complainers have a legitimate gripe.
    However the old complainers must have more money and influence.

  7. I now understand why no development has happened around Rainier Beach Station in the last decade.

    High prices for anything hurts low income people. There, I fixed your headline.

    Now that anyone can go 30 mph on an e-bike, I believe it’s time to require front lights on bikes, and that they be on whenever riding. When a car is turning right into a driveway, how is the driver supposed to see a bike way back behind him in his right mirror flying up the bike lane?

    Maybe Seattleites didn’t say no thank you to the property taxes the development the Showbox property would have produced, they would have the money to build low income housing in a more sensible place other than in the middle of a forest in Discovery Park.

    1. There’s a ton of development happening near the Rainier Beach station, just not a whole lot on MLK Way. I’m not surprised you haven’t left the train and walked around the area, Sam. If you ever had you’d know what a ridiculous statement that is.

      1. Ok. Educate me. What TOD projects have occurred around the station since Rainier Beach Station was first selected as a station site?

      2. That’s what I thought. Barman, next time you want to tangle with the big dogs of the stb comment section, you bess come prepared.

  8. How many years late will the WS and Ballard lines open? The Seattle proccess has taken hold and shows signs of letting go.

    1. East Link slipped one year for the recession and one year for all the EIS alternatives and city council obstruction. Seattle’s lines might slip a year or two for the alternatives, an indefinite time to raise funding for the tunnel, and 5-7 years for tunnel construction. If we assume 2+0+5, that would put West Seattle in 2037 and Ballard/DSTT2 in 2042. However, the West Seattle stub may be postponed in that case (so maybe all three would open in 2040). If it boils down to a plethora alternatives but in the end the elevated options are chosen, then it would be 2+0+0, or West Seattle in 2032 and Ballard/DSTT2 in 2037. But even then the West Seattle stub may be postponed. It was intended to be an “early deliverable” to the most privileged part of Seattle, but maybe that won’t hold if the planning stretches out. And a stub is really pointless. The C would have to continue running in parallel, the West Seattle restructure couldn’t start yet, and few people would transfer in SODO.

  9. “High Fares Limit Low-Income Households’ Mobility”

    You don’t say. Seems a bit obvious no? It probably limits their ability to pay for things in general. Not sure what the point of such a study is.

    Maybe next they can study if rain effects usage of transit shelters.

    1. They studied a lot more than that simplistic point. As the article describes, they studied several issues around the perennial policy questions of “What should the fare be?” and “Would a low fare overwhelm the bus’s capacity and increase costs unsustainably?”

      We first need to define what percent of their trips we want to facilitate. One might divide them into “essential” ((for medical appointments, work, basic errands, dealing with the bureaucracy) vs “discretionary” (for their social/cultural/psychological well-being). But in practice we don’t know which trips are which and there’s disagreement over which kinds should be considered essential. (Social/cultural/psychological well-being are important too.) So it’s best to say, “The percent of trips we want to facilitate is 100%.” Given that, the study confirms that high fares deter low-income people from taking as many trips as they want, and in some cases that hinders “essential” activities.

      Lowering the fare encourages people to take more trips, and thus presumably increases their well-being. But it does not lead to a major increase in load on buses/trains. It only leads to a little increase. This is consistent with evidence from cities that eliminated fares completely. Tallinn, Estonia, buys unlimited passes for all city residents, and the increase in load was only 10%.

      The study also showed that most of the increase was off-peak, when spare capacity is highest. Middle/high income people work 9-5, while low-income people either work odd shifts or don’t work and can travel off-peak and avoid the crowding. Metro did something similar when it eliminated the 2-zone surcharge off-peak: it allowed people to go from Seattle to Federal Way at the base fare, at times when they buses were lightly loaded and wanted to attract more passengers. (Metro later eliminated the 2-zone peak surcharge too, but that wasn’t because of this, it was for fare simplification.)

      The study also helps because concrete data is more persuasive to policymakers than just activists saying “Fares should be lower to help low-income people.”

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