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”

Passenger-miles matter, too

Low cost per rider, because it only takes them a mile. (Visitor7/wikimedia)

There is no transit performance metric quite like ridership. However, when any metric becomes the single point of evaluation, it can lead to bizarre conclusions.

Last month’s High Speed Rail study counted riders, and some readers couldn’t resist comparing the numbers to middling local transit routes. But it’s one thing to take riders between adjacent neighborhoods and another to deliver them 180 miles away.

A project’s cost, at a first approximation, is proportional to its length. Single-minded attention to cost per rider means never building a long-distance project at all, which is nonsensical. That’s not to say that passenger-miles is a perfect metric, either. It favors long-haul routes that are irrelevant to the spontaneous trips that enable urban living. But a comprehensive evaluation must consider both when the difference in spatial scales is this large.

Moreover, Seattle-area transit and HSR aren’t fiscally in tension with each other. A state subsidy to Puget Sound transit that actually moves the needle is inconceivable. Meanwhile, HSR could connect cities all around the state with the wealth centered in Seattle, at a time when it is increasingly hard to drive there. This aligns with Olympia’s traditional responsibility for intercity rail and bus, and offers a good value proposition to voters across the state.

Sound Transit may build inline stop at Brickyard, shifting I-405 BRT to center lanes

At the meeting of the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee on Thursday, an order was approved to begin project development and environmental review on an inline station for I-405 BRT at Brickyard. Along with expanded HOT lanes approved earlier this year, this will allow BRT to operate in managed center lanes along almost the entire length of I-405.

WSDOT and potential Sound Transit investments in I-405 (image: Sound Transit)

The ST3 plan envisioned BRT operating in mixed traffic all of the way from Lynnwood to Brickyard, with buses only moving to the center lanes near NE 128th in Kirkland. This was a necessary outcome of the lack of direct access ramps along the northern stretches of I-405. Earlier this year, Sound Transit identified several new locations where buses could operate on the shoulder, mitigating the impact of general traffic lane congestion.

In the 2019 session, the Legislature approved funding to add a second express toll lane as far north as SR 527. This included direct access ramps at Canyon Park and SR 522, though not at Brickyard. Alone, using these stops would mean skipping Brickyard: buses would need to move from the inside to outside lanes and back to inside again within an infeasibly short distance. Adding a direct access ramp at Brickyard will allow buses to serve all stops while operating continuously in the ETL.

Continue reading “Sound Transit may build inline stop at Brickyard, shifting I-405 BRT to center lanes”

News roundup: fix the humans

Incoming New Flyer Industries XDE60 of King County Metro in the Rain

MASS transportation package kicks off at City Hall tomorrow

MASS Coalition:

The MASS Transportation Package is a proposal from the MASS Coalition to make walking, rolling, biking, and using transit in Seattle safer and more accessible. It’s not a comprehensive vision for transportation in Seattle, but it is a set of projects and policies we believe the City can advance rapidly in 2019. The package includes long overdue policy reforms and investments in sidewalks, bus lanes, and bike paths that our growing city needs.

The first piece of legislation is focused on bike safety and complete streets. Upcoming pieces will include bus priority. This Friday at 2pm there will be a special session of the Council’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee to discuss it.

Learn how to take action and RSVP on Facebook.

Metro looking at South King restructures to complement RapidRide I

Metro is looking for your feedback on RapidRide I, a major investment in South King mobility that will provide frequent service between Renton, Kent and Auburn. See our previous coverage here.

At over 15 miles in length, the I line will beat out the E for the title of longest RapidRide line. It’ll also probably be the one that passes by the most farmland. For now, anyway. The Kent Valley has seen rapid suburbanization in recent years, and the arrival of frequent, all-day transit service is welcome.

Meanwhile, Metro is taking advantage of this increased increased frequency to restructure some routes in South King. One of the most significant changes would create a mini-grid around Kent Station with some through-routed buses to provide greater connectivity.

A map of proposed bus service in Kent.

Both surveys (RapidRide, S. King Restructures) close on August 25. I’m not a frequent South King transit rider so tell us what else is interesting.

Sound Transit wants feedback on station access funds

Holgate Street Crossing

Sound Transit:

Approved by voters in 2016, the Sound Transit 3 System Plan included a $100 million System Access Fund. This year, the Sound Transit Board wants your input as it considers how to award up to $50 million of the System Access Fund for projects to improve rider connections in each of Sound Transit’s five subareas.

The online open house ends August 23. Be sure to read this piece from Erica on the politics, which includes this money quote:

In other words: Cities that have made an effort to improve safety, access, and housing opportunities around light rail stations in advance should get priority for their projects.

Makes sense! While it’s regrettable that cities have to do a Hunger Games-style competition for projects that provide basic pedestrian and bicycle access to transit stations, the real problem is that these municipalities too often choose to site their train stations in out-of-the-way spots where there are no businesses to “impact” or NIMBYs to complain. The resulting poor pedestrian access is entirely predictable.