Monorail proposal raises fares to offset ORCA transfers, passes

Monorail ticket booth at Seattle Center Station Photo by Joe Mabel / wikicommons

As Martin pointed out Thursday, the Seattle Center will be holding a hearing on Wednesday, September 11, and taking email comments through September 18, on a proposal to raise monorail fares as part of the rollout of accepting the ORCA card, along with interagency transfers and passes.

The published proposal focuses on the fare increases. But, as part of joining the ORCA pod, transfer credit from other ORCA trips will be good on the monorail, and vice versa, according to Seattle Center Director of Communications Deborah Daoust. Likewise PugetPass, Business Passport, U-Pass, and the Regional Day Pass will also be good for covering part or all of monorail fare.

The regular fare is going from $2.50 to $3.00, while the youth, senior, and disability fares are going from $1.25 to $1.50.

At the same time, a new low-income fare category will be introduced, at $1.50, available only by using loaded fare product on the ORCA LIFT card.

The eligibility age for the youth fare will expand from ages 5-12 to ages 6-18. Five-year-olds, accompanied by an adult, will now get to ride for free.

US military personnel with ID can get the half fare, but not by using ORCA.

Monorail non-ORCA monthly passes will go up from $50 to $60, and the reduced fare non-ORCA passes will continue to be half the cost.

Daoust offered an explanation for the increase to $3.00:

The proposed adult fare considers many factors including the cost to Seattle Monorail Services of implementing changes in its ticket structure and the fact that it relies on ticket revenues to cover operating costs and some major maintenance. The increase also factors in increases in consumer price index (CPI). Other considerations include fare alignment with other ORCA providers and the acceptance of transfers when ORCA users combine a Monorail trip with other transit use.

The increase to $3 helps the Monorail to offset losses it will incur by participating in One Regional Card for All, since only =/-$2 will come back to the Monorail under the ORCA program.

Everett Transit and Community Transit have also rolled out low-income fares this year. The last holdouts in the ORCA pod from having such a fare are Washington State Ferries — for which the Washington State Transportation Commission recently approved a pilot project to have a low-income fare, once funding is found — and Pierce Transit.

As at happens, the monorail would be the second entity for which ORCA LIFT would actually be a discount of 50% or more from the regular fare, joining Kitsap Transit.

ORCA acceptance on the monorail and the accompanying fare increases are set to commence October 7, assuming there is no public backlash in the comment period.

Metro reverts West Seattle buses to 4th Avenue

Buses waiting to turn onto South Dearborn Street (SounderBruce)

Mike Lindblom, The Seattle Times:

Twelve Metro bus routes from downtown to West Seattle, White Center and Burien will move from their temporary path on gridlocked First Avenue South to Fourth Avenue South beginning Sept. 9.

This route change follows rider complaints that public transit crawls so slowly along First Avenue that it can sometimes take an hour to travel a few blocks.

The 1st Avenue alignment has been a disaster, we’re happy to see Metro cut bait. Big props to Lindblom for calling the city out specifically here for failing to create transit lanes:

Transportation leaders didn’t grasp beforehand how badly First would clog, as [Metro’s Bill] Bryant speculated this spring about 15-minute delays. The city is unwilling to deter private vehicles from Pioneer Square by creating bus-only lanes.

Yep.

Update: more details from Metro’s blog:

There are few alternatives, but the best option is a shift to Fourth Avenue South. Making the alternative pathway work meant analyzing travel times and consistency, weighing the impact to other routes that travel through the central business district, and determining where buses slowed down and required attention. That took time but was necessary to ensure the revision would work.

Our evaluations determined that a pathway that took Second Avenue (via Columbia Street) to Second Avenue Extension South to Fourth Avenue South was viable. Speed times were slightly slower under normal conditions, but the consistency improved dramatically. This new pathway appeared to have little effect on the travel time of other nearby routes, and we were able to identify areas that could be addressed directly by our partners at SDOT.

News roundup: worthwhile Canadian initiative

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

This is an open thread.

Transit Tracker Updates: Now called “Pantograph,” debuting the iOS app, new features

A few months ago, I shared with Seattle Transit Blog readers a side project of mine—the Puget Sound Transit Operations Tracker. This quickly became much bigger than I ever expected it to, with several local news outlets picking up the story, including the Seattle Times.

It became very clear to me that we all need better transit data, and that I’m well-equipped to help with that. Today, I want to share with you what I’ve been up to since then, and where I’m going next.

Continue reading “Transit Tracker Updates: Now called “Pantograph,” debuting the iOS app, new features”

Seattle Subway: Build the Aurora Line

Aurora Line conceptual rendering (source: Seattle Subway)

Aurora represents an incredible opportunity for transit expansion.  The four urban villages north of the ship canal carry a massive capacity for recently upzoned density. The huge lots of big box stores that dot the landscape are a prime target for Transit Oriented Development. Grade separated transit will allow the street to feature wider sidewalks and fewer lanes.  The Aurora that can be is a place the Aurora that is wouldn’t even recognize.  

Transit on the Aurora corridor is already a huge success. Aurora carries over 32,500 daily riders in packed buses, including the E line, the busiest bus in the state.  It’s clear that even more people will choose transit when we add the speed, reliability, and comfort of Link to the equation.

Continue reading “Seattle Subway: Build the Aurora Line”

Kirkland and Sound Transit agree on connections to NE 85th BRT station

Flyover animation of the I-405 BRT station at NE 85th in Kirkland (credit: Sound Transit/WSDOT)

Last year, Sound Transit and WSDOT shared their design of the three-level I-405 BRT station at NE 85th St in Kirkland. After prolonged negotiations, the City and Sound Transit reached agreement earlier this month on connecting the station area to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

At a forecast $260 million, NE 85th is one of the most expensive and complex stations in the ST3 system. Ridership forecasts are low. The City of Kirkland estimates 250-300 daily transfers at NE 85th in 2025. Sound Transit estimates fewer than 1,000 riders even by 2040.

Reaching or improving on those low expectations depends on bus and pedestrian/bike connections. The station will not have parking. Even the east edge of downtown Kirkland is separated from the station by 3,000 feet and a 200 foot elevation gain. The ST3 plan addressed this by budgeting another $45 million for bus lanes on NE 85th between the station and 6th St. Subsequent study found those lanes would be ineffective, freeing up funds for improved non-motorized connections instead.

Continue reading “Kirkland and Sound Transit agree on connections to NE 85th BRT station”

News roundup: catching fire

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

This is an open thread.

First set of weekend Link closures announced

Sound Transit:

We’re laying the groundwork to open the Blue Line, a new Link line that will begin taking riders from Northgate to Redmond in 2023.

As part of that work, we need to reduce Link service for three weekends this fall. On the weekends of October 12-13October 26-27, and November 9-10, there will be no Link service between SODO-Capitol Hill.

Trains will run from Angle Lake-SODO and UW-Capitol Hill, and free buses will connect the six stations in between. (We chose those particular weekends because there are no Seahawks or Husky games.)

This is prep work. The real Connect 2020 closures start next year. See our previous coverage here.

Metro re-jiggers the Stevens Way construction detour

From Metro’s service advisory email:

From Wednesday, August 21, through Friday, August 30, at all times, Metro routes 31, 32, 65, 67, 75, 78 and 372 will continue to be rerouted off the University of Washington campus, but will be revised to serve the south campus and UW Link Station.

During this time, these routes will travel instead via Montlake Blvd NE, NE Pacific St and 15th Av NE in both directions between NE 45th St and NE Campus Parkway.

Buses will no longer be rerouted via NE 45th St

All regular and temporary stops along the revised routings will be served.

The Route 277 reroute has not been revised. This route will continue to be rerouted off the campus, but is making its regular stops on NE Pacific St and 15th Av NE.

The previous reroute via 45th was the source of some complaints, including some of you in our comment section. Another good sign of Metro being nimble enough to realize that a reroute is not working and might need adjustments.

That this reroute was unacceptable to so many riders shows in part how successful the 2016 U-Link restructure was. Perhaps 5 or 10 years ago it might have been okay to reroute buses off Stevens Way when school was out of session but these days all of NE Seattle is funneling to Husky Stadium (as bad as it is for transfers).

Long term, getting the buses out of campus and on to an exclusive lane on Montlake Blvd NE seems like a better bet, especially if UW moves ahead with 16 story buildings on that street.

Inslee quits presidential race; DNC to vote on debating climate action plans today

Update: The DNC Resolutions Committee voted down a debate format for the climate forums 8-17. Protesters sung their displeasure.

Correction: The original version of this post stated that Sen. Elizabeth Warren had no climate statement on her campaign website. Actually, she has several, under “Latest Announcements”. The author apologizes for the error.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee withdrew from the race for President of the United States. His plan to campaign on his success in fighting climate change was a case of planting his flag in quicksand, given that Washington State’s carbon emissions continue to rise($) quickly.

Indeed, we continue to build more roads, while the state barely invests in transit, and invests almost nothing in bike or pedestrian infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee will be voting today on the format of a CNN forum and an MSNBC forum on climate change next month — primarily whether one of both of them will be debates or “town halls”, in which candidates address the audience separately, one by one. Inlee’s low polling kept him from getting to participate in the CNN forum.

Within the DNC, Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski is leading the call for a debate. The Sunrise Movement has led the charge from the outside. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is being blamed by various debate supporters as the leading opponent of the debate format.

Inside Climate News has analyzed the climate records and platforms of the major Democratic candidates.

Various candidates’ website statements on the climate crisis are linked below:

Tweaks to Union Street, 4th Avenue

SDOT’s spot improvements program continues to be the most effective engine for improving transit riders’ experience immediately. The diagram is self-explanatory.

SDOT

Item 1 will free up the lane from turners waiting for pedestrians. Items 2 and 3 will simply lower the number of cars in front of the bus. And number 4 will make it clearer that it’s not OK to loiter in the bus lane.

These changes will improve some old tunnel routes: the 41, 74, 76, 77, 101, 102, 150, 301, 312, 316, 522, and 550 all utilize some or all of this stretch of Union. The 4th Avenue change (which includes red paint on the curb) should also improve reliability for a great many routes.

If you have questions or comments, please contact local hero Jonathan Dong at jonathan.dong@seattle.gov or (206) 233-8564.

Metro’s least reliable routes

It’s Friday, the end of the work week, and all everyone wants to do is get home as quickly as possible. For the transit rider, it is time to enter the arena of unknown bus reliability. Will my bus come? Will it be on time? How bad will traffic be? We have all mentally asked these questions, but some have to ask them more than others.

Today we will look at the 5 buses that have the worst afternoon reliability in the Metro system and consider what can be done to improve them. These routes are generally low ridership and wouldn’t merit much capital investment, so we’ll focus on quick fixes where appropriate. Conveniently, each one of our tardy routes is from a different portion of the county. (On time data is from the King County Metro 2018 System Evaluation. )

Continue reading “Metro’s least reliable routes”

O’Brien, Pacheco want to improve the Seattle process

Mike O’Brien (seattle.gov)

Pro-transit, pro-bike, pro-density voters might be forgiven for thinking their vote and their input don’t really matter. We vote like-minded candidates into office, we pass taxes to fund forward-thinking transportation projects, and we participate in developing master plans. And then, when it’s time to actually take the road space for buses or bikes, a few neighbors complain, or sue, and SDOT chickens out. A handful of well-resourced reactionaries hold a veto on progress.

One of the more egregious instances of this was the demise of the 35th Avenue NE bike lane. Inspired by this debacle, outgoing Councilmember Mike O’Brien is trying to pass legislation this fall to give these plans force of law. Anytime SDOT spends $1m or more on a street with a bike lane in the master plan, it has to build the bike lane or write a letter to the Council explaining why they didn’t. This is pretty much what our own David Lawson proposed back in March.

Lester Black reports that Mayor Durkan, often blamed for what happened on 35th, supports the rule. So here’s hoping that there’s one less veto point for safe and rapid transportation. What Seattle needs is not more great plans, but reform of the institutions that block progress.

Continue reading “O’Brien, Pacheco want to improve the Seattle process”

News roundup: coming for the produce markets

The @KenmoreAir Streetcar at the Light
Avgeek Joe/Flickr

This is an open thread.

Carsharing probably needs more cars

map

Share Now (neé Car2go), in an email to members:

In an effort to improve the availability of the SHARE NOW fleet in areas of Seattle where they are most frequently requested, we are instituting a zone based pricing system, that will include either a Zone Fee or Zone Discount depending on the type of trip a member takes. The new model enables us to continue to offer our service to all areas of Seattle, a city requirement, while also providing incentives to members who bring our vehicles out of areas where cars sit idle for extended periods of time and into areas where they are most in-demand.

Less urbanized areas of the city, where cars were presumably seeing less utilization. Erica has a quote from the company’s spokespeople:

Kendell Kelton, the North America communications manager for Share Now, says the new policy is designed to eliminate the problem of cars getting “stranded for 12 hours or more, effectively making them unavailable for a majority of our Seattle members who would otherwise use those vehicles.” Currently, she says, one in five Share Now cars has to be relocated “in order to be close enough for members who need them.” (That might explain why it’s consistently so hard to find cars in West and Southeast Seattle.) “It should be noted we see much higher usage in more commercialized areas than residential ones,” Kelton says.

The current city car sharing regulations allow up to 4 companies to offer 750 cars each. With BMW’s Reach Now out of the picture, we have just two: Share Now and Lime (I don’t believe Getaround or Zipcar count towards the 4?). Share Now is maxed out, while Lime’s service, which started in the Spring, has grown by 300% and “has seen extraordinary success” according to spokesman (and friend of STB) Jonathan Hopkins.

The idea is clearly popular, and it seems likely that Seattlites would use the cars more often if there were more around. According to one study we covered, each carshare vehicle in the city removes as many as 10 private cars.

Carsharing has enormous capital outlays (the Mercedez-Benz GLA starts at $34k) and there seem to be winner-take-all dynamics to vehicle sharing, which says to me that it’s unlikely we’ll see four companies dive in to this market.

Since companies are forced to cover the entire city by the terms of their agreement, it would probably make more sense to raise or eliminate the cap and let the remaining companies determine how many cars the market will bear.

Abandoned by the city, riders take matters into their own hands

Apparently fed up with rampant bus lane violations, an unidentified woman took the initiative last week and inspired equal parts of praise and outraged driver entitlement. She also inspired the Greenways movement to run a similar event Monday, which Heidi Groover covered ($).

Grasping the spirit of the moment, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff called them “heroes“. The organs of Seattle city government definitely did not:

SPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said frustrated transit riders should channel their feelings into “more productive’ efforts like lobbying lawmakers to allow camera enforcement. Whitcomb said bus-lane enforcement is “a regular area of focus’ for traffic officers but stationing officers on crowded downtown streets during rush hour can worsen congestion.

The city establishment feels the pressure to fix the bus lane problem and does what they do best — deflect blame to Olympia. Lobbying may or may not make things better eventually, but the bravery this week improved some bus commutes immediately.

Continue reading “Abandoned by the city, riders take matters into their own hands”

Transit and land use in Seattle’s ‘Green New Deal’ resolution

Seattle City Council blog:

Selected highlights of the Resolution include making Seattle climate pollution-free by 2030; prioritizing public investments in neighborhoods that have historically been underinvested in and disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards and other injustices; exploring the creation of Free, Prior, and Informed consent policies with federally recognized tribal nations; and, creating a fund and establish dedicated revenue sources for achieving the Green New Deal that will be used to make investments in communities, along with an associated accountability body.

This is a non-binding resolution, of course, so it’s easy to throw the kitchen sink at it. But it moves the needle on an issue that is very much in need of needle mobility.

Here are some of the transit and land use components. (Note this is the draft text that’s on the city’s website. SCC Insight posted an updated copy with some changes but I don’t see a final version).

Continue reading “Transit and land use in Seattle’s ‘Green New Deal’ resolution”