Mercer Island Station (SounderBruce)

This is an open thread.

46 Replies to “News Roundup: ahead of everyone”

    1. Pierce Transit is able to install high-tech real-time arrival signs for buses… but still completely unable to provide any reasonable level of service for 99.9% of residents. Yeah, ahead of others, apparently in overpaying for signage.

  1. Renton candidate Randy Corman mentions a transit master plan. “In 2018 I presided over the creation of a unified Transit Plan for Renton as Renton’s Transportation Chair, which coordinates many separate activities by different transit agencies…. As Mayor, I’ll ensure that the plans get fully implemented.” So what is the plan? Bellevue, Seattle, and Marysville have articulated citywide transit plans, and Kirkland is doing that somewhat. All Renton seems to say is, “We want those regional transit stations and RapidRide lines to other cities.” But how will people get to those lines? Most residents live in east or south Renton, and the Highlands is in the east. They need a full-time frequent way to get to downtown Renton, and a one-seat ride beyond it to nearby areas like Rainier Beach. How is the city addressing those, and would it please articulate its ideas more? Otherwise it sounds like “We want you [the rest of the county] to do all the work and we should be the highest priority.”

    He also says, “A decade from now, downtown Renton will resemble Fremont, with a mix of fun and eclectic shopping, dining, and housing opportunities alongside artisans, breweries, and high-tech employers. The Landing and Southport will host modern and large-scale shopping and high-tech employment”

    I wish. But will it be walkable? No acres of soulless parking lots between each building? Restoring the local street grid to break up the superblocks? Or will it just be shopping in tower-in-the-park buildings? And if The Landing can get all those small quirky businesses, why doesn’t it have them now? Why was it built like an exurban power center with a few minor big-box stores? The biggest thing I’d like to see in downtown Renton is breaking up the superblocks, extending the old-style downtown near the transit center westward, and hiding the parking lots behind buildings or converting them into garages with a smaller footprint.

    1. You are wrong.

      1. Renton hasn’t made their plan fully public, but they are under a design progress. Their starter is a HOV express ramp to the new TC, and light rail in ST4.

      2. Renton is doing lots of work. What the hell was that?

      3. They are redeveloping their downtown with green space, sidewalks, and 2-way streets. Work.

  2. On the Tacoma Dome underground station option:
    “Bill Sterud, then-chairman of the Puyallup Tribal Council, wrote the area used to be a large traditional village site with a ‘high probability of cultural and human remains.'”
    If remains are found, it could grind construction to a standstill, drastically increasing costs and delaying opening. I once worked on a project that unearthed remains from a native burial ground and a Lewis and Clark camp. Construction was delayed over 12 years, while archaeologists did their research and the design team went back to the drawing board. Part of that delay was securing new funding for a new design, as the project was already on a shoestring budget. We don’t want the risk of halting construction, especially if the Puyallup Tribe is providing us information on the front end to help us avoid that risk. Their statement is doing ST a huge favor, whether or not we realize it.

    1. I agree that going into a subway at Tacoma Dome seems like a wasteful idea fraught with cost and delay risks like unearthing Native American elements.

      However, I’m also disappointed that the Tacoma Dome Station discussion doesn’t focus on transfers as a primary design element. With ST branding Tacoma Link more and more as another Link line and paying lots of money to extend it, making this station work well as a transfer point seems like an important investment. Transfers to Sounder and the Pierce Transit BRT line on Pacific Ave should also be a priority.

      What’s badly needed is a Tacoma Dome Station intermodal pedestrian circulation plan, complete with bus and train loading points and ways to get between them (including stairs, escalators and elevators) as safely and quickly as possible. Designing for one line in a vacuum is just plain stupid and irresponsible. I’d love to use a modern “Union Station” there in 2030!

  3. “No one told me ST3 was going to destroy all the burger stands.” The sarcasm in that title is a perfect example of how more people are feeling / beginning to feel about Sound Transit. No concern for the little guy. No concern for anyone except themselves and the squeaky wheel. And that will need to change quickly unless there will be no more ST4+. People will eventually get tired of the attitude and the taxes. When that happens, more than just Light Rail will suffer. All taxes will be voted down, including schools, parks, etc. People eventually reach a breaking point, and an attitude can lower that breaking point significantly.

    When a “bunch of businesses” will have to be taken out to build light rail, then there is a problem.

    “Let’s build a light rail so people can travel to businesses without taking a car. What? Many businesses are no longer there? Well, take the light rail anyway for the view. Because it’s a Beautiful view. “

    1. Dick’s in Kent was barely a half a year old when the controversy about it possibly going away hit. If you thought that was a shit show, wait until the fight over Pick-Quick starts. That place is a multi-generational institution.

    2. I, for one, could not care less about these random burger stands, and my future votes will reflect that.

    3. Hundreds of thousands of commuters are more important than a burger stand. They do what they can to mitigate the impacts.

      How many businesses and homes were destroyed when I-5 was rammed through Seattle? Does WSDOT still exist?

      1. I-5 construction may not be the best comparison. Tens of thousands of Seattle lots were still “Whites Only” at the time (1946-1967), and the route through the International District was most definitely a choice made based on the race of those living in the path. The impacts of I-5 were targetted, not mitigated.

      2. @A Joy (there’s no reply link below your comment, so this is here…)

        After reading your comment I was curious what the alternative routes were when I-5 was planned and routed through central Seattle. It seems to (smartly) follow the (relatively) steep western flanks of Capital Hill and Beacon Hill that are less than desirable for building on, but it hits an obstacle: First Hill’s wide, not-so-steep western slope, and a gap: CID’s Jackson Street regrade.

        So I googled a bit and it seems the only considered alternatives were a 12th Ave alignment (which doesn’t avoid CID, even back then) and Empire Way (later MLK Jr. Way, in the Central District, which speaks for itself). Both of the alternatives would have had different alignments all the way north to the Ship Canal and south to either Dearborn St or, in the case of Empire/MLK Jr Way, much further south. Both would have removed more building-suitable land.

        As consolation for the selected route, Chinatown/ID got the Yesler Street overpass and the King Street underpass. There was definitely some desire for a lid where the trench cut through the western slope of First Hill, but they had to wait some time for Freeway Park and the Convention Center.

        A cut as deep as an interstate through the center of a city is going to leave a nasty scar, and all of these consolations seem pretty pathetic today, but I can’t really see how Chinatown/ID was to be avoided, without either going through the Central District or not building it at all, the latter of which, unfortunately, wasn’t conceivable back then to our higher ups.

        Not saying it’s right, I’m just having a hard time understanding the complaint that CID was “targeted.” If I-5 went along 12th Avenue the complaint wouldn’t change; if I-5 went along MLK Jr Way the complaint would merely shift to another race, so… /shrug

      3. The alternative was not to build I-5. Cities without freeways have wide boulevards to compensate, like Vancouver and London. The north I-5 corridor was a swamp strip around Northgate and Greenlake, so that was a natural location for either a freeway or a boulevard. In central Seattle I don’t know, but maybe there could have been some kind of “Boren Boulevard” that didn’t cut off cross circulation and neighborhood access so much and didn’t obliterate such a wide swath. I imagine it a bit further east than the current downtown segment.

        I saw an article a while ago that said (if I remember) Seattle was keen on the northern half (the express lanes area), and slapped together a southern half to make it feasible. Since the southern half runs along a ridge and industrial area, I haven’t heard much complaints about the alignment. I’m not sure whether there were houses on the west side of Beacon Hill then. The size of the forest now suggests there weren’t many. Maybe people didn’t want a view and smells of the industrial district.

  4. I think it’s a great idea that Scootscoop has. It may make e-scooter “customers” more conscious about how they are impacting others in where they park their scooters. If they don’t pay attention, then the cost to use them will likely increase to cover the costs of scooter recovery.

    1. I think it is great. Filling a void, no differently than vehicle towing companies that tow unauthorized cars from privately owned parking lots.

      I’ll respect these being allowed to park on public sidewalks once the CITY takes full responsibility for maintenance and liability of those sidewalks. As long as I am on the hook for maintenance, upkeep, and liability, they won’t park on land that I am ultimately responsible for.

  5. The transit question in the Bellevue candidate interviews are a little depressing. A few excerpts:

    “I took the bus 4 years ago. Though I found my ride clean, safe and comfortable, it was cumbersome to get from Crossroads to Downtown because it required several bus transfers and it took too long.”
    (Did you take the Rapidride B line? Because it travels directly from Crossroads to Downtown in ten minutes and is very frequent)

    “I last took light rail to attend the Special Olympics in Seattle at the UW Stadium. I drove to Seattle and then took the light rail from Westlake.”
    (You drove to Westlake in Downtown Seattle specifically to park your car there? You could have taken the 271, 255, or any of the 540-545 ST routes which run directly to UW from Bellevue)

    1. Huh. I think when most people in this area say “Downtown,” they imply “Downtown Seattle.” Rapid Ride B doesn’t go there, so a trip from Crossroads to Downtown is slow and requires multiple transfers.

      The person going from Westlake to UW probably met somebody for lunch or did some shopping downtown or something.

      Sadly, most parts of our area are not served well by transit. That is especially true in the burbs.

      Last time I took transit was to get to a meeting in Seattle. Train from Auburn to King Street. Bus in the tunnel to Westlake. 1 MILE walk in the rain to my meeting. My other option was to wait 20 minutes in the rain for the next bus. I take transit about once per year, and it is this type of experience that always turns me off. (The following three meetings I attended at this location were all done in a single-occupant vehicle. I didn’t have to search for parking at Auburn Station, I didn’t have to arrive early to wait on the platform, I didn’t have to cross several streets to make akward transfers, and I didn’t arrive to my meeting dripping wet + sweaty. Parking at the station is a necessity, since door-to-door service is not available, either from my home, nor back to the office after the meeting is over for the remainder of the work day. Parking cost about $20 each time, plus gas, but both were reimbursed by employer.)

      Take a hint. It is hard to use transit, unless you have the $$$$$$$$ to live in U District, Capitol Hill, or half a dozen other very expensive neighborhoods.

      1. Clearly, it’s hard for YOU to use transit for YOUR meetings. This is probably the case for many people who live in South King, but don’t project this on EVERYBODY who lives outside of “U District, Capitol Hill, or half a dozen other very expensive neighborhoods.”

      2. I can’t possibly think of anywhere within a 1 mile walk of Westlake that would require a 20 minute wait for the next bus. There are vast numbers of frequent options going in all directions.

    2. It’s actually revealing — and kind of sadly comical. If anything, it demonstrates that the candidate doesn’t have a natural overarching desire to explore life situations from other viewpoints. A good representative breaks out of their routines to learn about how others live first-hand.

      (In sarcasm) Maybe if the experience was portrayed in a movie short, they would watch — after driving to the cinema.

    3. My experience is that people who don’t use transit regularly don’t understand how the transit network is laid out, and can’t figure out how to get from A to B in many cases.

      People in my parent’s neighborhood in snohomish county were complaining that they couldn’t take transit because the nearby park and ride always filled up… well, actually there are commuter buses going to downtown Seattle within a couple of blocks walk, and there is no need to go to a park and ride in the first place.

      The Seattle metro transit system is very complex. We have at least 5 different agencies, not all of which have their buses listed on google maps. Many different kinds of transit (local, commuter, rapid ride, light rail, sounder, street car, monorail, and 3 different kinds of ferries). People who only occasionally take transit usually find a suboptimal way to get from A to B.

      Google maps helps a lot, but will often give you suboptimal routes that you wouldn’t take if you really knew the system.

  6. A few development signs popping up around the Spring District in Bellevue … 430 unit mixed use apartments on 128th and Northup. I believe it’s the site of a storage facility called Bellevue You Store It. And a 7 story 172 unit apartment on the corner of 130th and Bel Red Road, site of a former Aqua Quip. There’s also 46 townhomes currently being built near the corner of 124th and Bel Red Road. “Pricing from the $800,000’s.”

  7. I hate to see it as someone who originally voted for the California High Speed Rail project, but as things have gotten out of hand it looks increasingly wise to shift that money towards urban rail. As much as it would be amazing to zip from San Francisco to LA in 2 hours, the more important thing is to make sure that daily commuters have a quick, reliable, and sustainable way to get to work and travel between close-by cities. Improving the commuter and regional rail systems in Los Angeles and the Bay Area will get more people onto trains and provide a real alternative to daily driving while encouraging denser development, which will organically lay the groundwork for eventual high-speed rail if and when california is really ready for it. Throwing good money after the bad seems increasingly unwise (and politically suicidal) at this point.

    1. Ah, after reading the whole article, I see that they’re not entirely abandoning high speed rail, but discussing using the current line under construction in the Central Valley for 135 mph diesel trains and moving most of the remaining funds to the ends for regional and commuter rail improvements, with the idea of incrementally building the system up into a full HSR system, starting at the ends. Makes sense to me.

    2. The Central Valley segment seemed the quickest to build. That is however not the problem. I see that the problem is getting between Bakersfield and Burbank. Getting that core project done is what I think is needed to set the stage for the rest of the system.

      Unfortunately, the political weight of other parts of the state can’t seem to fathom that this central missing link helps them. The Commission even made that a lower priority in recent years!

      The other problem is the nature of track ownership. Until we create a system where all tracks are owned and maintained by the public and the private sector operates the vehicles (similar to the highway model and the air travel model), it’s always going to be hard.

    3. @Squints
      They could never use prop 1a funds for urban systems because of the 200mph train requirements. They could never put diesel trains in the valley because of the AB-32 requirements. There will certainly be a lot of legal battles if anything changes.

    4. Keep in mind that Ralph Vartabedian of the LA Times is notorious for finding fringe elements of the CAHSR organization and using their discontent to sow discord within the general public so as to bring HSR down. He never verifies his sources version of events or accuracies because if done so he wouldn’t have a story to stir the pot with.

  8. Why the six year delay in getting the streetcar done, when the process of clarifying the cost situation was around one year? Did this process dig up some ancient burial ground or something?

    If funding is not yet identified, how do you even estimate a time line–it’s a wild guess? And if it’s the Fed grant that sets that time line, is the Fed grant even worth the hassle considering that costs will continue to go up in the next 6 years?

    1. why the CCC streetcar delay?

      one issue is right of way. today, 1st Avenue is needed as the interim pathway for former SR-99 AWV bus routes. the Murray-Kubly SDOT should have known this issue, but ignored it until it was upon them.

      a second issue may be the Pioneer Square area ways. they are weakened now. I have not read how: settling? from time alone, Bertha, or the utility work for the CCC streetcar? the cause may be unknown and unimportant.

      a third issue is operating subsidy. the Murray-Kubly plan had no additional service subsidy, depending on the projected farebox revenue to cover the additional operating cost. The Durkan study showed that was not feasible. the current subsidy provided by Metro (for SLU from the 2009 restructure around the Link initial segment) and ST (for the First Hill line from the 2008 ST2) expire. SDOT may seek to renew them, but that is an uncertainty. so, more funding is needed.

      a fourth issue is capital, that you mentioned. it is substantially higher, so Durkan has asked the Council to provide $65 million more atop that already set aside (in 2016?). the FTA funds are still uncertain. $75 million is worth just that. if covered with local funds, that much other stuff could not be funded.

      the beauty of the delay is that the new date is after the expected implementation of ST2 Link, reducing the need for bus capacity in downtown Seattle. the ugly parts of continuing is that the right of way, operating subsidy, and capital could all be much better used. Examples: ROW, more service on 1st Avenue shifted from other avenues; Operations, more service outside downtown; and, Capital, trolley bus overhead, RapidRide expansion, and sidewalks on frequent transit arterials that lack them. Is shifting downtown transit circulation to streetcar from bus worth anything, let alone so much?

    2. 2026 is just nine years before 2035. That’s the target year for the Link Ballard/SLU line with subway stations at SLU (2 blocks away from the streetcar), Denny/Westlake (at the streetcar), Pine/Fifth (one block away), Madison/Fifth (four blocks away) and Jackson/Fifth (at the streetcar). It will run every 6-10 minutes and be at least twice as fast. That’s in addition to the subway tunnel we have today.

      ST3 should have changed how we think about transit Downtown. This project pre-dates ST3. I just wish we had leadership willing to acknowledge the costly duplication this line creates and instead will propose to spend the money to get a streetcar through dense neglected Belltown or to get some sort of incline or escalator directly up from the waterfront to dense neglected First Hill.

      1. Well, if we want a streetcar through belltown, the obvious thing would be to connect it to the CCC.

        SLU needs more transit than just the light rail. Google’s offices for instance are being built pretty far north of the SLU light rail stations, but directly on the streetcar line.

        The big problem with the streetcar in SLU has always been the low frequency (10 to 15 minute) on such a short line. Often in the time you spend waiting for the streetcar, you could simply walk to your destination. The CCC was supposed to increase frequency, and also the length of the line, which would make it more practical.

  9. RE the latest MLK injury article: Pedestrian-train injuries and fatalities near Link stations on MLK will continue to be a problem. I truly believe that the public and ST did not choose a safe design for Link on MLK and left no good options for improving the situation later. Unfortunately, there is not a quick fix solution.

    It’s time we face the issue head-on and look at what to do. Each station needs a community-based safe station access plan to and from each platform. Solutions could involve installing gates, building pedestrian under-crossings (elevating MLK slightly to fit then in), closing minor street crossings (Myrtle, Edmonds), banning left turns at big intersections (Henderson, Othello, Alaska) so pedestrians don’t have such long waits, and even moving station platforms a few blocks to get away from the major cross streets. Even with a Duwamish Bypass the safety problem will not go away.

    Anecdotally, it seems that serious pedestrian injuries and fatalities from Link trains (and traffic hitting pedestrians going to or from Link) on MLK are on par with bicyclist serious injuries and fatalities citywide. We shouldn’t obsess about one and ignore the other.

    1. ST’s cost estimates don’t include the cost of lives, delays, and lower train speeds of a surface alignment over its lifetime. If they did, the argument of “We can’t have elevated/tunnel/trench because it’s so much more expensive” would go away. Level crossings should largely be avoided in any case because they impact travel time and frequency, which hinder the basic purpose of transit and make it less competitive with driving.

    2. Considering that a huge chunk of LINK is elevated or tunneled, it seems insane that they went with light rail equipment. You could have built it for significantly less capital and operating costs if you had used something like Vancouver’s Skytrain. You would have no ground-level running in RV, which is and will be the biggest bottleneck for the main line.

      1. SkyTrain wouldn’t be any cheaper to build. At least with light rail there are several standard car designs to use. Each subway style system uses a slightly different design.

      2. ST’s original intention was a lot more surface track to keep the costs comparable to existing American light rails. (Portland, San Diego, and San Jose are 99+% surface.) It chose light rail because it’s street-compatible. (“It can do all three: surface, elevated, tunnel.”) The university half was always going to be underground because of the hills and Ship Canal and the existing DSTT, but ST thought that anywhere it can do surface because it’s flat and outside downtown, it should do surface because taxpayers want low capital costs.

        But after the Rainier Valley and SODO alignments were decided, as the other segments went through design one by one, the community strongly demanded grade separation and said it would pay for it. Tukwila objected to surface rail on 99 because it had just beautified the highway and the alignment would have taken a corner of Southcenter’s property. Roosevelt wanted it underground in the middle of the neighorhood center. (It was originally going to become elevated at 63rd near I-5.) At one point all of ST2 was grade-separated (or at least had no level crossings along the freeway). But then Bellevue wanted its downtown tunnel and asked ST to economize elsewhere to pay for half of it, so parts of the Spring District and Redmond became surface. ST3 is fully grade-separated I think.

        So ST backed into a mostly-grade-separated network it didn’t anticipate when it chose the light rail mode.

        And Rainier Valley is howling it got surface when richer, whiter neighborhoods got underground or elevated or a trench. But the Spring District is one rich, white neighborhood that got surface too.

      3. Light rail cars would have been necessary regardless of what was done elsewhere because of the bus tunnel. No third rail power source is compatible with running buses in the same space. I’m not sure where the cost saving of using something other than light rail would have come from, but if using third rail power is supposed to be the source of such savings then keep in mind third rail power isn’t really that common in North America while light rail lines have all standardized overhead lines. You don’t have the vertical line side poles but you still need a lot of hardware.

    1. This! This is important!

      ST earlier released a call for projects very quietly to the public. The submittals mostly read like insider pet projects.

      There are a few gems, like the Shoreline 148th overcrowding and Tukwila Station access. I’m surprised however that North King projects were so few. It’s pretty much a clear indication of lack of attention by City of Seattle staff! It’s so ironic that the streetcar needs $9m more — but the City couldn’t have found $9 of projects to go after this funding to backfill the streetcar.

      1. I was equally surprised by the small number of project proposals submitted by North King County. Many of the proposals submitted by the various jurisdictions do come across as insider pet projects and I’m not convinced that ST’s scoring methodology isn’t without its own faults. But, alas, this is what the agency has drawn up for the time being. There are definitely some worthwhile projects contained in the proposals submitted, some of which many would indeed consider as insider pet projects nonetheless. In my own subarea for example, the Scriber Creek Trail Redevelopment proposal ($2.5M) scores as “highly recommended” and will help connect the Lynnwood TC to the surrounding neighborhood. This project is part of a bigger plan that has been on Lynnwood’s to-do list for a while now, so the ST funding, if granted, will make the project feasible.

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