Photo via King County Parks on Twitter
  • Two big proposals from the Mayor on affordable housing: MFTE reform and more permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness
  • The King County Council approves paid spots at some popular park-and-rides
  • Sound Transit starts construction on the innovative I-90 light rail tracks
  • Not good: injuries and collisions on Seattle streets are at a nine-year high
  • Self-driving cars are really hard, but self-driving minibuses are on the march. What was that about autonomy killing transit again?
  • TRU’s Katie Wilson on Seattle’s need for a transportation revolution to tackle climate and what we can do to get one
  • Introducing “Eastrail
  • Protected intersections. You love to see a cryptic Dongho Chang tweet spur an entire Times article.
  • The “interim” 1st Ave re-route for West Seattle buses continues to be terrible
  • Metro adds paid parking permits for some popular park-and-rides
  • Bill Savage reminds us that elevated trains are beautiful (and cost effective!)
  • Metro and SDOT will be at Capitol Hill-area farmers markets this weekend to talk RapidRide G
  • New bus stops for the reconstructed “Borealis Avenue” at Denny Way

55 Replies to “News Roundup: Eastrail”

  1. People complained parking permits would hurt the low income and people of color, and the Council listened, making only one transit lot south of Seattle a permit lot. All the rest are in the wealthier north and east of Seattle. “But Sam, they used a formula where only lots that are 90% full are candidates for permits! They didn’t go by race or income!” Break out a map. Geographically, Seattle is way up in the top quarter of King County. They went out of their way to avoid the mid and south county. This fee targets higher income areas, and avoids lower income areas.

    Having that that, I’m surprised they didn’t include Eastgate.

  2. Starting on Monday, Stevens Way, the road that buses take to go through the UW campus, will be closed for an entire month. Has anyone else been trying to figure out how they’ll transfer to/from Link at UW Station during August? Most of the bus reroutes seem to take riders well away from a reasonable transfer to/from Link- the agencies seem to be treating bus/Link transfers as an afterthought during construction.

    I usually take the 65 or 372 to get to UW Station. Southbound, the 65 appears to be rerouted onto 45th St before turning onto 15th Ave NE. The closest stop to UW Station seemss to be about a 4/5 of a mile walk- either walking across campus from 12th Ave NE, or walking down 25th Ave from NE 45th St. Thankfully, the NB 65 is unchanged since it doesn’t use Stevens Way.

    The Southbound 372 doesn’t appear too bad- it’ll go down Montlake and stop near Montlake and Pacific. Northbound, it doesn’t seem to have a stop anywhere near UW station- you either need to trek across campus, or walk up Montlake/25th to UW Village, or catch the SB 372 at Montlake and Pacific, and loop back around on it’s reroute to NE 45th St, until it returns to it’s regular NB route on 25th Ave NE.

    1. Metro doesn’t want to route the 65 on southbound Montlake because it backs up frequently. Since the 65 turns into the 67, and delays on Montlake would propagate all the way to Northgate.

      Since the 372 ends at campus parkway, and does not turn into another route, they probably figured they could take a chance.

      That said, it would be nice if the UW could have postponed this construction project for two more years. Having the U district station open when it happens would have helped a lot

      1. I don’t understand Metro’s logic. “Yes, you would have gotten to UW Station twice as fast if we routed the 67 down Montlake Blvd, but by detouring a couple of miles, we avoided slow-moving traffic.”

        The 65/67 needs disconnected from each other.

      2. Splitting the routes means spending more money to run twice as many buses from one end of the u district to the other, and to pay drivers for twoc as many layovers. It also means finding more layover spots, which means fighting more battles to take away street parking for cars.

        Bottom line is that Metro cannot afford to split the 65 and 67 without reducing the frequency of each piece.

      3. If the heavy traffic is just a few hours a day and it’s just for a month, I’d rather sit on the bus a bit longer and have a decent transfer situation.

    2. The Montlake congestion is serious, especially between 5-6:30pm. The westbound 75 gets caught in it even though it’s only on one block of it from 45th to 44th. Sometimes it backs up all the way to 36th. It’s surprising that the 65 eastbound uses it, but eastbound is less congested than westbound and there was a lot of pressure to get at least one northeastern route close to the station. It’s further surprising that the 372 westbound will use it, the opposite of the 65. I don’t know why Metro made that decision, and it’s in for some 15-minute delays.

      My recommendation for 372 northbound is still to take a Pacific Street bus to Campus Parkway and transfer there. I have little sympathy for complaints because I have it worse taking the 65 to the 75. The Pacific Street buses come every couple minutes so the average wait is 2+7=9 minutes and the maximum wait is 15+3 = 18 minutes. The average wait for taking the 65 to the 75 is 5+7=12 minutes; the maximum wait is 10+15=25 minutes (or 15+30 evenings), and by the time you’re at the Husky Stadium stop it’s too late to switch to Pacific Street if the 65 isn’t coming soon. And if the 65 is late then you wait longer and are more likely to miss the 75 transfer.

      1. I am a # 372 rider and why should I take an additional bus to connect with #372 when the simple solution would be for the # 372 to use its snow route which takes it right by the Light Rail Station.

        That would be logical but then Metro and logical have never met.

      2. A couple of years ago buses were rerouted of the UW campus for construction and the # 372 used its snow route and it worked just fine so there is no reason why it can’t be used this time.

    3. If we had a southbound transit-only (+emergency) vehicle lane on Montlake Blvd from U Village to Husky Stadium – which should have been built two generations ago – and should certainly built now – we wouldn’t have this problem.

      Imagine being able to take a bus down the 25th or 35th Ave. NE corridor and once you get to U Village, it’s 2 more minutes to UW station, which it should be, because it’s only about a mile. U Village is actually a huge employer, as it Children’s Hospital up the road.

      Such a southbound transit lane would also reliably bring emergency vehicles to UW Medical Center, “#1 hospital in the state” — via a state highway (SR 513). It’s 100% dry land through what is now a landscape of parking lots and crappy sidewalks. The ped bridges are non-ADA compliant and need to be replaced anyway. UW Campus Master Plan proposes large scale construction in this “East Campus” area.

      If we had this southbound transit lane from U Village to UW Station, what transit would it make sense to run there? I have been hearing about buses that we’d like to run there but can’t, due to congestion, since at least the early 90’s.

      1. I agree there should be a transit & emergency vehicle lane. I’d prefer taking a GP lane over building more roadway. The only real solution to the traffic problem is less cars. One of the reasons I hope they never build a 2nd Montlake Cut bridge. Several things could help; putting a variable rate toll on the Montlake bridge would be a good start.

      2. Yes, transit lanes would help a lot, and then we could run a lot more northeastern buses down Montlake. But the priority for the past several decades is getting SOVs to 520, and if we took lanes they would back up even further and that would be unacceptable according to conventional priorities. You see a variation of this during Husky games. Cars, special buses, Eastside buses, northest Seattle buses: which one gets lowest priority? The northeast Seattle buses: the very ones that serve that area. They have to get out of the neighborhood to make room for the special buses and SOVs. But they Eastside buses, do they have to get out of the neighborhood too? No siree.

      3. Are you sure about that? I was on a 271 once, during a Husky game, and the driver rerouted the bus to take a different exit, bypassing the congestion. The only stop in the U-district that day was 15th and 42nd. At the time, of course, Montlake Freeway Station was still open, so people headed to the football game could get off the bus there.

      4. Makes to much sense. It’s not as if it isn’t a *major hospital access route*, right? The energy some people put in to arguing “ambulances and fire rescue therefore roads” and then proceed to not give them a dedicated lane near hospitals and fire stations.

    4. Right now they are tearing up part of this same road to give quality link transfers to the 255. If they add a bus lane southbound, and either remove left turns or one lane from northbound, then that is basically a magic carpet straight to UW Station. The 65, 75, 372, and the midday 74 if they stretch it would have very good Link transfers.

    5. Why is it 5 weeks? There are 2 different projects in different locations being done consecutively. Why couldn’t UW be done simultaneously to halve the closure?

    6. I am going to take the 75 the other way and transfer to the 73, I think. Other times I can take 75 to 125th and Lake City SB and catch the 522.

  3. I read East-Rail rather than Eas-Trail. Maybe EasTrail would be a more readable mashup word?

    Better yet, leave directions out of the name!

    1. Honestly Eastside Trail would’ve been a much better and less confusing name. I read the entire article and didn’t realize it wasn’t EastRail until your comment.

    2. Some of my south Kirkland neighbors are very insistent it’s Eas-Trail.

      It’s supposed to be ambiguous, of course. But a brand name with partisan competing pronunciations is an immediate branding fail.

  4. The Eastrail name reminds me of the To Serve Man episode of the Twilight Zone. (Spoiler Alert. It was a cookbook). The future of the trail is in the title. East Rail.

  5. The concrete stanchions of elevated lines could be significantly improved with a paint job, some strategic stripes, or artistic decorations. ST has a “1% for art” mandate. Why doesn’t it spend some of that money on the elevated guideways rather than concentrating it all at stations. We don’t really need a graduation cap or trippy guitar-shaped waterfall; what we need more is prettier guideways as mitigation. I see the guideways going up in south Bellevue and NE 8th Street and they are, well, a lot of plain concrete. I can see why West Seattle wouldn’t want them in residential neighborhoods, even though they’re smaller than the Monorail or Chicago L’s stanchions. It’s hard for me to tell West Seattlites, “They’re no big deal, really.” All the other areas with elevated are industrial or highways or highway-like stroads (Bellevue Way); this is one of the few cases going through urban village centers and residential neighborhoods. I don’t buy West Seattle’s argument that it has the population to deserve tunnels, but I do think we should make a greater effort to make the stanchions less obtrusive and more aesthetic.

    I wouldn’t call Chicago a model because its stanchions and guideways are larger and more obtrusive, and locating the stations on top of intersections creates a permanent shadow over all four quarters and makes it look concrete-industrial and unpleasant to linger in, but I take Savage’s point that murals are a significant step toward improving it. (Is Savave a former STBer? There was somebody who moved to Chicago.)

    1. I think I must be the only person who is okay with plain concrete guideways. I don’t think paint or art improves them. I bet the same people who think guideways must be painted are the same type of people who paint-over the original stone or brick fireplaces in homes.

    2. Seattle has a beautiful overpass over Lake Washington Boulevard at the Arboretum. It’s so pretty that no one is bothered that it was a design solution to a sewer line on the bridge. Most people love it!

      I agree that the artistic investments on overpasses would be a good value to a neighborhood and a great way to approach visual mitigation. With an Olmsted-inspired design, any light rail bridge or trestle in a more historic neighborhood can be an almost instant architectural treasure!

      Imagine an attractive arched trestle on 14th Ave NW in Ballard or in West Seattle. Use blackened steel, natural rock on the supports, signature lighting fixtures, adjacent flowering shrubs and trees.

    3. “I think I must be the only person who is okay with plain concrete guideways.”

      It’s a de facto Brutalist design and some people prefer that. The Monorail guideway is Brutalist, as is the Pacific Science Center’s plaza, and the highway interchanges. Freeway Park is mixed-Brutalist-and-greenery which was innovative then (and may still be rare). Brutalism was meant to evoke clean lines and practical concrete, a move away from what they considered old-fashioned over-ornamentation and toward the ancient Greek/Roman concrete structures. Most people think it’s hideous and how could we have made such a mistake?

    4. The Coliseum and Kingdome were also Brutalist. That’s part of the reason why Seattlites were so willing to give up the Kingdome when Paul Allen and the Mariners wanted new stadiums. People were tired of it after twenty years because it was so ugly. It was called the “juice squeezer”.

      Contrast the Smith Tower, Pike Place Market, and many prewar office buildings in Pioneer Square and downtown. Even a century later people consider them valuable architectural assets and we’re lucky to have them.

      I don’t mind keeping a few Brutalist items so future generations can see it and society may change its mind again, but we don’t need all of them, and they don’t all need to be in Seattle.

      The highway infrastructure is more a case of “it’s cheap and practical; we don’t need aesthetics”. Except it’s not cheap because concrete is relatively expensive. Still, I don’t know what else would hold a highway up. But the designers could take a clue from the City Beautiful movement, which pursued buildings that were not just practical but a valuable aesthetic asset. And they succeeded stunningly. All the highest-praised buildings in Seattle come from the City Beautiful and Art Deco movements.

      1. It is interesting how Seattle neighbors accept plain 85-foot tall boxes for apartments yet get so up in arms about an aerial rail line that could have beauty to it if the agencies and neighbors made half an effort to lobby for that — especially when a subway station takes lifting huge amounts of dirt in a hole fence-offed for 10 years and takes another 3-5 years to open beyond an aerial line opening. Just spending half of the extra subway cost could create designs and materials that would be word-class architectural landmarks.

      2. I can’t remember whether it was city, county or state voters that approved the new stadiums. But I’m pretty sure aesthetics had little to do with it. The teams arguments boiled down to “Build us a new stadium or we’re outta here.”

        The Coliseum as built for Century 21 wasn’t brutalist. It had a mix of colors and textures. The Kingdome was unadorned brutalism.

    5. Bill Savage is Dan’s brother. My understanding is that he has lived in Chicago his whole life.

      I hope sound transit can figure out how to get more creative and adopt glonal best practices in their elevated design work (as well as it’s streetscape interfacing more generally). Elevated’s can be designed tastefully and they are an absolute pleasure to ride as compared to subways.

      1. One elevated consideration from Chicago: CTA lines cross two drawbridges near downtown. One of them, the Wells Street bridge, carries the Brown Line, which runs approximately 4 min peak headways in each direction.

        So bridge openings can mess things up somewhat, as can operations at the flat junction of Wells and Lake Streets. But there’s no long-term plan to replace the bridge with a tunnel or fixed span. Bridge openings happen — mostly in the spring and fall, but they happen — and life goes on.

        I keep this in mind when I read about how it would be impossible for Link to serve Ballard or West Seattle with a drawbridge. A drawbridge wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be workable, particularly if peak hour openings were limited.

    6. Go big: the elevated structure could be built in to a monument structure for West Seattle (See also: Miami signature bridge, but for light rail not a freeway). Don’t know what you’d put there, as I’m not familiar with what images would fit historically, but it would probably at less expense and with better station access than boring a tunnel and digging out underground stations.

  6. “each unit of supportive housing costs $16,000 to $20,000 a year to operate and maintain”

    To put that in perspective, that’s equivalent to $1333 to $1666 monthly rent. That’s not bad for funding both housing and full-time social-service staff. The median market-rate 1 bedroom rent alone is around $1850. And even if half of that is a windfall due to the tight housing market, that still puts the “natural” cost of rent at $900, which is comparable to the cost above without the support services.

  7. Katie’s article is spot on. She gets the details right on the problems with Seattle congestion pricing and focusing too much on electric cars as if electric SOVs aren’t still unscalable SOVs, prioritizing ped/bike/transit mobility first, and the low-hanging fruit of inexpensive lane conversions. Maybe these two can be part of the solution but we have to think much bigger. Thank you Katie for championing this and giving us a clear assessment of the situation and the direction to go. Crosscut really scooped us on this.

    Which city/county/state politicians and candidates do support a green new deal and are serious about it? And which of those have the right priorities on transit?

  8. Thanks for the memories, Bill. But especially from a subject dealing with a
    dangerously-ignored demographic, namely the eight year olds whose votes can either deliver or kill transit a decade from now.

    In the years when my work kept me close to this incipient electorate, grown-ups accompanying my young passengers would often tell me that whatever they were riding my bus to see, they liked their Tunnel ride better.

    Children a year short of talking will still start indicating and demanding every time their stroller gets pushed past a LINK station escalator and they hear a bell. Suspect that this demographic shares my sentiments on buses’ departure from the DSTT. A lot of grown-up necessities are a shame.

    Chicago address through elementary school had already left me addicted beyond rehab. “Interurban” (could hit a hundred mph down the Skokie Valley and still handle street track where needed) tricky for voter-creation. In the normal world, you have to choose.

    Somewhere in the universe of real-world LINK, would be good if the Arts or Historic wing could mandate one outlet where passenger could carefully cross the tracks to get a chocolate malted milk. However organic they were in 1952.

    But on the main topic here, the interaction with the surrounding neighborhoods served……would this scene really have worked with a subway?

    Mark Dublin

  9. A Surrey Downs house I almost bought back in 2000 for $340,000 was just sold again in 2017 for $1,365,000. Home values quadrupling in 17 years have quieted even the most ardent Surry Downs Link NIMBYS.

  10. The Sightline article about charging for P&R made a big point about the cost of lost opportunity to use the land for other purposes. Apartments, or better yet, mixed use would seem to be the big winner. So I’m curious if Metro has any stats on ridership from S. Kirkland since the used big chunk of the surface lot for this and then spent millions on a multilevel parking garage to mitigate the loss of “free” parking.

    One thing Sightline failed to mention is that many of these high quality transit hubs exist today only because the P&R was built there in the first place. They also failed to point out that free P&R lots subsidize sprawl and it’s not only the cost of free parking but the cost of running a bunch of long unidirectional commuter routes. Or worse, light rail to places like S. Kirkland P&R.

    1. They don’t exactly subsidize sprawl. The sprawl was there with or without the P&Rs. The P&Rs were built to entice people to take transit. Without them they wouldn’t (and in many cases couldn’t). The large concentration of jobs downtown when other cities have lost their downtowns, and the packed peak buses, are a result of the P&Rs and express routes. Without that the downtown jobs would be dispersed and would sprawl even more.

      The problem is the low-density, car-dependent, single-use neighborhood design, not the P&Rs. The P&Rs are a symptom of the problem. The P&Rs didn’t create the sprawl; they’re a way to cope with it. It’s the low-density houses and office parks and strip malls that are the subsidy sinks.

      1. Sprawl in this region originated in the 1960s. Redmond pop in 1960 was 1,426, circa 1970 it was 11,000. No other decade comes close to producing this rate of growth. Clearly the accent of the automobile and the mega building of highways made this possible. The limiting factor was road congestion and the total cost of driving from the suburbs. Free P&R spaces on top of highly subsidized transit were a bargain from a subside standpoint compared to building more freeways.

        What was new was the emphasis on transit to subsidize the sprawl. Transit in this country was originally a way to decrease population density in DT areas. Eliminating the tenement housing in NYC improved the standard of living for workers and freed up valuable space for industry expansion. The difference then was we were still talking about transit to/from what was still relatively high population density. Not so with the P&R paradigm. The cheaper (i.e. less dense) the area you serve the better. Ideally you want an area with few existing roads where large tract development will occur.

      2. No other decade comes close to 1960-1970 growth? Allow me to introduce you to 1880-1890 (964% Seattle Metro area growth, 1,112% Seattle only growth).

      3. Percentage growth is largely meaningless. There are towns that have experienced infinite growth when a single settler moved in. What matters is number of people per area. Redmond has had steady growth since around 1960, adding about 10,000 people every year. Prior to that, it was tiny. So Bernie has a point, but only in that the *start* of the growth occurred in the 1960s, not that it was growing faster then (e. g. from 1970 to 1980 it added more people). At the time, it transitioned from being a small town, to a sprawling suburb (which is his point). Now the growth is largely making it more of an edge city contained within a sprawling suburb.

      4. At the time, it transitioned from being a small town, to a sprawling suburb (which is his point).
        Exactly. What’s also a “sign of the times” is that during the ’60’s Seattle was losing people, -4.7%. There were of course other factors, like schools, a perception of public safety, etc. but without the “freedom” of the automobile this wouldn’t have happened.

        Mike made the point that “The large concentration of jobs downtown when other cities have lost their downtowns, and the packed peak buses, are a result of the P&Rs and express routes.” I think that’s a valid point but it’s just another example of how/why the region opted for Transit Oriented Sprawl (TOS). From a sustainability standpoint it would be better to center jobs around people. The Garden Cities of Tomorrow made the case for this at the turn of the 20th century.

      5. RossB opined:

        Percentage growth is largely meaningless… (e. g. from 1970 to 1980 it added more people).

        You have to look at growth in perspective. IIRC, the 70’s was really the start of the “land grab” annexation growth for eastside cities. Census tracts are a better tool but those change too. Visually sprawl is well illustrated by comparison of zoning maps. A simple way would be to compare night time satellite photos; especially if they were sudo time lapse overlays that would highlight the roadways.

      6. Lots of the center city population loss in the 1960’s and 1970’s is a result of baby-boomers moving out of their parents’ houses. Many houses went from 4-6 people to 2. At that time, young adults were encouraged to by homes for themselves — and often that was in the edge of metro areas where new houses were being built and sold.

      7. City population loss in the 1960’s and 1970’s as a result of baby-boomers moving out out to the suburbs was certainly a factor. But what created the fundamental shift from urban growth to the rise of suburbia? Many factors contributed why young people wanted out of town but what made it possible was the emphasis of public policy, which included free P&R lots, on the ubiquitous use of the automobile.

        A comment from Bill Popp in Sightline article presents the case for “driver outrage” over the largely symbolic imposition of a fee to park. The executive summary is taxes on drivers built the P&Rs with the promise of “a free ride” for the future of automobile use. And today of course the publicity is all about ST taxes on car tabs. Add to that a car purchase contributes a chunk of change in sales tax and that tax extends to resale of used vehicles.

  11. The Bellevue Arts Fair has some stunning works this year. Photographs of colorful Italian towns, one booth with a wide variety of well-composed photos including a Colorado steam train, another booth with the same steam train, two booths with steampunk paintings, one with steampunk victrolas and fan-lamps (light bulbs behind the blades), one with animal sculptures that look like 3-D pictures, one with acrylic-painted metalwork, some metal waterfalls, etc. Sunday is the last day. In the Bellevue Square garage.

    1. It’s nice to see Max doing major upgrades to the existing system. Now that the SW line is pretty much a done deal they can focus more on the legacy system by doing system upgrades, the removal of the 3 downtown stations and adding the eventual tunnel. If they could only get the Yellow line moved a little further north it would be a system complete. OK, not totally complete if you live in, say Forest Grove or a few other places, but complete enough for my taste.

  12. From the article about West Seattle bus problems:

    They also shared an SDOT reply from previous correspondence two months
    ago explaining various reasons why the department feels a bus-only lane
    on 1st wouldn’t be feasible.

    What? Why not? The plan for the streetcar is to take a couple lanes, along with space for the stops in the middle of the street. Why can’t they take a lane for the bus? I’m not asking rhetorically, I am honestly curious as to their reasoning.

    1. They may be talking about Pioneer Square. The transit lanes will start north of there.

      1. Aren’t the transit lanes supposed to start at Jackson? Bus lanes from Columbia to Jackson would probably do a lot of good, even if they don’t go any further.

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