31 Replies to “Podcast #84: Like a ripe avocado”

  1. I used to listen to this podcast, but I switched over to Spotify a while back and haven’t been able to find it there. Is there a plan to start posting the podcast there?

    1. If you can connect to the internet, you can hear any podcast on any device, so your question doesn’t make sense to me.

      Sam. Podcast Expert.

      1. Sam, would you post a podcast on how to become a podcast expert? That would be useful information.


    2. I think podcasts in Spotify need to have a deal worked out between the maker of the podcast and Spotify, I think because Spotify inserts ads (that are removed for premium users). Looks like STB hasn’t done that. They also don’t let you use a custom RSS feed, which is a complete deal breaker for me (STB has an RSS feed which will work with every decent podcast app. I use Pocket Casts, which is free now).

      I think there’s a segment of the industry trying to get rid of RSS feeds from podcasts to make it easier to commercialize, but I hate this. RSS feeds are pretty much universal and are what make the podcast space so open.

    3. Hi Curtis,

      I’ve been reluctant to put our show on platforms like Spotify or Stitcher because they take control of the files and insert ads and we don’t get paid for it. I also believe in open ecosystems like RSS and the web so Spotify’s entry into podcasting makes me nervous.

      But I also want people to be able to listen! Thanks for the feedback, I’ll re-examine the Spotify program and consider it if there is demand.

      1. It hasn’t shown up yet in Apple Podcasts yet either. Sometimes the links just take time to propagate.

        It’s been like that for a while, but of course with avocado in the title everyone wants the episode immediately.

      1. It looks like there was a link missing, it should be showing up now. sorry for the inconvenience.

  2. re Jay line discussion: I enjoyed the avocado analogy. but, you missed some aspects. note the key decisions that SDOT says they have already made: mode, extent, and alignment. the network choice is between branding the former Route 66X on the Roosevelt couplet or Route 70 that serves the UW, the NE 45th Street Link station, and the heart of the U District. why are they not asking about this strategic choice? when Metro chose the alignments for the B, C, and D lines, they had a two-stage public process and asked the riding public about the choices.
    your discussion of the bike aspect on Eastlake is fair. the rejected approach was to place an eight to eighty bike project on a parallel street, say Yale Avenue East, and provide more transit priority on Eastlake Avenue East and let the fast cyclists continue to manage as they do today.
    you mentioned pedestrian advocates in conjunction with one-way streets. how about in the context of the SDOT Eastlake alignment with bus stations with bike lanes between the bus and the curb; will the cyclists yield to bus patrons/pedestrians?
    the auto fight will be over the parallel parking stripped away by the project.

    1. I think SDOT said in the first Roosevelt open house that the corridor would have less planing than Madison because the budget was smaller. I may be imagining that. But Madison started before Move Seattle and got extra funding from ST. The C, D, and E were part of the Metro’s RapidRide A-F program and had completely different budget resources.

      SDOT made four strategic decisions in that corridor:
      (1) Eastlake is too narrow for both transit-priority lanes and bike lanes and there’s no alternative street.
      (2) The bike safety situation is so dire and the Fairview alternative is so bad because it’s a steep hill down and it’s broken up by private property so we need a cycletrack on Eastlake.
      (3) Roosevelt/11th don’t need transit lanes.
      (4) We extended it from 43rd to 65th because of the significant positive impact but we can’t extend it to Northgate now because it won’t fit in the budget.

      I disagree with 2 and 3.

      Re 23:20 “Does RapidRide J duplicate Link”, No! No! No! It doesn’t duplicate Link any more than the 49 or 44 duplicate Link. Link doesn’t serve the in-between destinations. There’s an entire route’s worth of destinations between 65th, 43rd, and Westlake. I’ve written about this before. From 55th I made trips to 42nd, Roanoke, Louisa, Lynn, and Mercer, and up to 65th (although I walked that), and if SLU had been built up then I would have taken it there. If I lived at Louisa where my dad did I would have taken it to all these other places. Link doesn’t serve these at all. The U-District, Roosevelt, and Eastlake are dense and growing and a good urban place for RapidRide.

      1. I agree. It is absurd to say that RapidRide J duplicates Link. It covers a completely different area (Eastlake). It actually complements Link. Someone from the north (e. g. Northgate) will be able to get off at Roosevelt, and very quickly access any spot on Roosevelt or Eastlake.

        As far as your other points: It would have been very expensive to move the bike path to Fairview. Some riders would have loved it, some would have ignored it (and biked in the bus lanes). But mainly, it wasn’t in the budget.

        I also agree that it is absurd to think that Roosevelt/11th don’t need bus lanes. There is a lot of congestion there. One good thing about buses, though, is that it is fairly easy to make improvements later. It wouldn’t take much money to simply add the transit lanes later.

        In general, I see the value of extending the line to 65th. I also see Eddie’s point as well. If they simply ended it at the U-District, they could have saved a lot of money. It wouldn’t have been as good — lots of trips would have been much worse — but it would have been cheap. You wouldn’t need to add wire, and you would have fewer ORCA readers. It basically becomes mostly a bike project at that point, which is fine.

        To me, the biggest argument for simply ending it in the U-District is cost. There are trade-offs between going up to 65th (on Roosevelt) or getting closer to the UW. But clearly, ending in the U-District is cheaper. Personally, I think it is an improvement to go up to 65th on Roosevelt — I’m willing to walk a few blocks if my bus is significantly faster — but a lot of people won’t view it that way. Given the fact that we don’t have nearly as much money as we thought we did, it is tough to justify spending a lot on a route that lots of people won’t like as much.

    2. The best option for both bikes and buses has one issue, imminent domain from the rich.

      The flattest path, the most pleasant bike path, is Fairview. The only problem is Fairview is broken by waterfront houses between Edgar and Roanoke. We should build the bike path between the houses and put bus lanes on Eastlake.

      Obviously trying to imminent domain from people who have money to hire lawyers risks years of fights, but if we build a better bike route in 20 years from now, I think it’s worth it.

  3. Thanks for suggesting to leave the poured center Pioneer Square platforms alone after Connect 2020. ST has not shown how any DSTT track blockages will be addressed in operations solutions. The need for contingency plans during disruptions need to be considered now! ST could simply leave the unused platform in place and have emergency use procedures available when needed.

    Even if these platforms are only used a few times a year, they would be a godsend! Otherwise, all Link riders will experience a completely frozen rail system within 30 minutes.

    I’ve commuted via rail for a few decades of my life. These disruptions happen a few times a year! Stuck standing on a crowded train for two hours because the agency did not design for disruptions is very frustrating and potentially harmful to some riders’ health.

    1. Martin is spot on that there is no reason to remove the center platform. ST is claiming it will violate ADA due to lack of emergency egress, but…

      (1) If that is true, it is true during the Connect 2020 process, so ST is temporarily violating ADA; and

      (2) After that, the trains can just not open the doors facing that center platform, so nobody will ever get stranded.

      It is bizarre that ST is using bad logic to remove a piece of infrastructure that could make transfers for people with mobility challenges (and, really, everyone else) a lot easier, in the name of the law that is supposed to protect access for people with mobility challenges. Have they actually consulted with the relevant federal authorities to see if the platform could be left in place unused while ST studies ways to legally use it?

      1. (1) ADA has different rules for temporary structures?

        (2) If trains don’t open doors to the center platform, how is it useful?

      2. It’s compliant because nobody actually waits on the center platform. They cross through bit and there’s a train waiting for them on the other side. In the event of an emergency evacuation, passengers can pass through the train on either side to the regular egress points.

        If you have people actually waiting for a train on the center platform, you have to have a way to get them out in an emergency when there isn’t a train there. That’s the difference.

      3. I’ve points out before that there are pedestrian crossings in front of where trains will stop at Judkins Park, East Main and SE Redmond. ST could do that here. There appears to be at least 18 feet (12 feet for ramp slope and 6 feet for a landing) from the first doors on the train and the front of the station walls. There may be elevator or platform issues.

        Still that’s only for a permanent platform. An emergency platform would seem to be regulated like emergency exits — because that’s how I could see them only used in emergencies.

    2. Exactly! Platforms Now! Transit Fans For Concrete Slabs! The great thing about this idea is that even though ST has been opposed to it so far, it can still reverse the decision any time before the temporary use ends, so that’s a few board meetings away. ST can simply leave the platform closed until the ADA alterations can be made. Keeping the slab saves money later, and makes it more likely a future board will eventually use it. Just like how the DSTT made Link more likely.

  4. The scary math of the timeline for everything man-made in the world to be carbon neutral is that 2050, 2040, and 2030 are all too late. As last year’s IPCC report points out, the world had a remaining carbon budget of 420 megatons of CO2 back on January 1, 2018. We are now somewhere below 350 megatons of CO2 left in that budget. And our emissions are still increasing, even in Washington State. Every one of these long-term goals is bringing a 1-story ladder to a 4-story 5-alarm fire (a line Elizabeth May used in a recent debate).

    The question of whether converting from hydrid to fully-electric buses is the best plan depends partially on whether Metro is crowding out the market for other agencies that have woken up and realize they also need to go electric ASAP. Secondarily, those other agencies going electric have to be sourcing the electricity from renewable sources.

    That said, if Metro manages to convert faster, and other agencies line up to buy Metro’s used hybrids, that could be a best-path forward. But we have to have a plan in place to displace other agencies’ diesel buses with those exchanged hybrids. Also, if the hybrid buses rarely run in diesel mode, then the emissions from driving them across country to a buyer might exceed the emissions saved from switching them out for all-electric buses.

    The point of the exercise is not to reduce our local carbon footprint. It is to set up the largest possible reduction in humanity’s global carbon footprint. If that means inviting the manufacturer to set up shop locally and start mass-producing electric buses, tax-free, then so be it.

    It isn’t just all the public bus agencies that need to electrify (and set up wind farms to actually make the source non-carbon-emitting), but all the private bus agencies that need to electrify, too. The state can make an impact there by setting a deadline for all private carriers to electrify.

    Then induce some demand to help them by banning various commercial flight destination pairings where electric buses provide a reasonably comparable travel time. The state can do that for intra-state flights, and enter into a compact with Oregon to do so for flights between Washington and Oregon.

    1. A 3 mph bus breaks even with 30 mpg SOVs at just 8 passengers. A full 55-passenger bus is six times more efficient than cars. A half-full 25-passenger bus is three times more efficient. Diesel is more efficient than gasoline, and can be made from a variety of sources. So even diesel buses are a dramatic reduction in emissions. Therefore I agree with more buses rather than battery conversion, until we fully saturate ridership market and convert the most people from cars.

      Trolley wire makes more sense than battery buses. It’s more efficient. You don’t have to transport the weight of the battery, and batteries have significant losses losses converting to storage and back.

      1. Subway operators that have invested in line side storage capacity have been able to reduce their power consumption by 40% or so. This same dynamic could work for trolley buses as well.

  5. The avocado analogy is cute and somewhat true. However, let’s be frank that backroom, interest group politics by self-serving individuals setting up private meetings is 100 times more powerful than constructive public feedback is. One only has to look at the history of the West Seattle/ SODO/ SLU/ Ballard alternatives from 2014 to see that. It’s not that the timing is off, but that public feedback “avocado” isn’t really allowed to be served in the first place. One only has to look at the flippant attitude about alternative pros and cons to understand that lip service to criteria is a smokescreen for how decisions really get made.

  6. 2:35 — What’s that General Warden reference?

    9:00 — SDOT refused to extend transit-priority lanes east of 17th, not 23rd. Two of us argued for them at an open house but the SDOT rep said it couldn’t justify the cost to taxpayers unless congestion reached a certain threshold. I asked if SDOT could retrofit them later if it did reach that threshold, and he said they could.

    20:30 — Good catch about it being a 3-seat ride from Issaquah to SLU. Those are the kind of contingencies we exist to identify. If it becomes a significant issue, an Issaquah-SLU peak express could be a solution, exactly like the plans for Kirkland/Redmond-SLU, Kenmore-Lake City-SLU, Fauntleroy-SLU, and speculative Burien-SLU. An alternative to deleting peak expresses is to reroute them to downtown-adjacent neighborhoods where they don’t duplicate Link as much.

    21:50 The South Kirkland detour is probably due to inertia. It’s a park & ride so many routes should serve it. Plus ST is trying to avoid the cost of two separate routes. That sometimes goes overboard, like making the F serve Sounder and Southwest Renton Boeing rather than having a separate peak route for them. We usually lose these battles because park n ride detours seem so important. But this delay could cause a public revolt and possibly make ST reconsider.

    30:20 — Eastlake is the flattest way to bike from the U-District to downtown. My favorite route from 55th to the ferry terminal was University Way – Eastlake – Valley – Westlake – Stewart, and then I don’t remember. To Harborview where I worked I took 8th. You could go around to Fremont and Westlake and avoid even the Eastlake hills but that seemed too far out of the way. Using Harvard or 24th was steeper. But once you got to the top of Harvard, 10th was more gradual to Broaday than it looks, and if you want it flat the rest of the way you can take Boylston – Lakeview Blvd – Melrose – Minor all the way across southwest Capitol Hill and First Hill to Jefferson.

    35:00? — One-way streets are good for pedestrians and bicyclists because the traffic is simpler, you only have to look one way, and half the turns and complications are eliminated. I disagree with Donald Shoup on that, and I’ve never been bothered by the one-way streets downtown or Roosevelt/11th.

    42:00 — Snoqualmie cul-de-sacs. Was that in Snoqualmie Ridge or elsewhere? I’d hope that Snoqualmie Ridge has short walks to the bus route and pedestrian cut-throughs. That’s a part of New Urbanism I thought they’d get right.

    45:00 — Good idea that the county should have a policy of ensuring that residential streets are within a maximum distance of a potential bus arterial, with pedestrian cut-throughs were necessary. Spending a lot of money to retrofit existing exurban neighborhoods, well, it will be hard to turn that battleship around.

    1. As far as exurban developments go, Snoqualmie Ridge, from a walkability standpoint, is not *that* bad. From what I’ve seen, the streets all have sidewalks. Plus, there are several park paths and forest trails that help reduce walking distances.

      Nevertheless, there are some big drawbacks. The only grocery store in the area – a Safeway – is on the opposite side of the main arterial from most of the homes, making grocery shopping on foot much more cumbersome than it needs to be.

      Transit wise, the walking distance between most homes and Snoqualmie Parkway (the nearest arterial you could reasonable expect to run transit on) is around half a mile or so, although some homes, the walk is further. The biggest transit issue though, is not the walking distance to the bus stop, but the fact that the area is impossible to serve without running a bus for several miles down I-90 to serve only them (plus, possibly, North Bend). This is completely the opposite of Jarrett Walker’s “Be on the Way” principle, and without some kind of massive upzoning in the Snoqualmie/North Bend area, virtually guarantees that the area will never get transit service at any reasonable frequency.

      What I consider the worst types of suburban, sprawly hell, are the parts of Pierce County south of Puyallup I’ve driven though occasionally on the way to Mt. Rainier. Virtually none of the streets have sidewalks, and pedestrian cut-throughs at deadends are almost non-existent. The main arterial, SR-161, has huge distances between crosswalks, leaving people on foot expected to detour close to a mile, just to cross the street. And, of course, the size of the parking lots is an abomination. (Snoqualmie Ridge, by contrast, does have some human-scale businesses with small parking lots).

  7. The history behind the 541 dates back to the start of Link construction at Overlake Transit Center and the desire of Sound Transit to do something to mitigate the loss of 100 or so parking spaces for the several years it would take to build the new Link station and parking garage. ST was first looking for a route that would provide a one-seat ride between a P&R somewhere in the Overlake area and Seattle. Simply running more 542 trips would not be acceptable, since people from Overlake would not be willing to drive in the opposite direction to downtown Redmond to park for the 542.

    In setting up the 541, ST started with the Overlake P&R terminus (chosen since it had excess capacity), then added Overlake Transit Center, since Microsoft was too big of a transit market not to serve, and the opportunity to alleviate some of the overcrowding on the 545 was too good to pass up.

    I don’t know the exact reasoning behind the 544 setup, but I’m guessing it goes something like this. They wanted a Kirkland->SLU route to mitigate the fact that the 255 restructure would make it a 3-seat ride. But, just scavenging the hours of the 540 would not be enough, since SLU is further from Kirkland than the U-district, and the traffic around there, much worse. So, ST looked up its next weakest route along the SR-520 corridor, the 541, to be scavenged for additional hours. However, they couldn’t just replace a Redmond route with a Kirkland route without causing massive overcrowding in Redmond, so they worked a compromise where Redmond->SLU and Kirkland->SLU would be combined into one route, following the 541 tail to 40th St., then stopping at South Kirkland P&R on the way to SLU, with a transfer required from either DT Kirkland or DT Redmond.

    However, the design of the 544 route has several problems. For one, the South Kirkland P&R deviation is going to add a lot of time. It’s 6 stoplights, one unprotected left turn into the P&R off a busy street, one bus stop, plus the potential to get stuck behind other buses. During peak hours (the only time the 544 will be running at all), the lights have long cycles, and the total delay will probably be around 10 minutes. With the peak-hour headway of just the 545 at 6-8 minutes this means that a transfer from the 545 to the 544 at Yarrow Point is already faster than riding the 544 all the way.

    And, it gets worse. Even ignoring the potential for a 542 or 268 bus to reduce wait time further, once you’re on the 545, you may as well stay on to Stewart and Denny, since the 544 is getting off at that same exact exit. Once you’re at Stewart and Denny on the 545, you can get to most of SLU quicker by either walking from Stewart/Denny or staying on the 545 1-2 more stops and then walking.

    This gets into the next flaw of the 544, which is that, for a route that’s supposed to serve SLU, a Fairview routing doesn’t really serve SLU all that well. Once you get far enough from Stewart and Denny for the 544 to be worth bothering with at all, yet still far enough east to be on the 544 route, about the only destination left where the 544 offers any real value is Fred Hutch. Great for people who work at Fred Hutch, but for those that work at other SLU destinations, such as Amazon or Facebook, or walk to places like the Gates Foundation, the 544 is not actually helping you get there (from Redmond) any more quickly than the 545 that’s already there.

    From Kirkland, the utility of the 544 is better, but still not great. Westlake/Denny, right in the heart of SLU, is still only a 10-minute walk from Westlake Link Station. Other destinations, such as the Google office or the Facebook office are a bit further walk, so you may need a bus connection. But, the 544 doesn’t go there anyway, so it doesn’t really solve that problem. So, again. the 544 is only adding real value to the network for people that live on the eastside and work at Fred Hutch.

    On top of this, the 541->544 swap cuts capacity between Redmond and the UW in half, making the Link alternative to sitting in traffic on the 545 to get downtown that much more difficult.

    At the end of the day, having a route to SLU looks great on paper, but terrible in the details. There are options to fix it, but they all have tradeoff. One obvious tweak is to have the 541 just skip South Kirkland P&R altogether and let Kirkland riders transfer to it at Yarrow Point if need be. This option would probably require adding some 255 trips to make up for the loss of route 540, to avoid overcrowding. Another option is to truncate the 544 at South Kirkland, but then you, for sure, overcrowd the buses going into and out of Redmond.

    My personal preference is actually to do neither and, instead, just ax the 544 completely and use it to fund more trips on the 255 and 542. (In spite of the original ST intentions, I think the Overlake tail of the 541 doesn’t get enough ridership to justify redundant service with the B-line). It might also be worth considering re-directing select 545 service to SLU, if 542+Link is able to absorb enough of the peak-hour Redmond->downtown demand.

    To the extent that Eastside->SLU bus service does exit, the routing in SLU should be re-designed to serve more of SLU, rather than just Fred Hutch and the walkshed of the Stewart/Denny stop you get with the 545, anyway. My preference would be to run the bus down Denny to Seattle Center, stopping wherever the #8 stops. Eastbound, the bus would take Denny over I-5, just like the #8, then turn right at Bellevue Ave. to access the Olive Way entrance ramp. It’s hard to get excited about this, given the traffic. Of course, a red paint bus lane down Denny, shared by both the modified 544 and the 8, would make a huge difference.

    1. You’re much more likely to get a bus lane on John or Republican than on Denny. It reaches a greater portion of South Lake Union as well.

      1. Republican doesn’t go through past Aurora – that’s where the exit ramp from the highway 99 tunnel comes out. Harrison does, and might be the best bus option. I’m just not sure that the street is wide enough and the pavement sturdy enough to accommodate bus traffic.

        You also, of course, have to get to Harrison, which still requires a little bit of Denny and a little bit of Fairview. Eastbound is worse, since you also have to somehow get to the other side I-5, plus one block further south to Olive to get to the ramp. Taking Boren would mean getting stuck in gridlock. Instead, I would take Denny over I-5 to Bellevue and access Olive Way from the north. This utilizes the existing bus lane on Denny to Stewart St. But, it shouldn’t be hard to extend it further. The number of cars on Denny does not magically double the moment you cross Stewart St.

      2. I think the plan is to eventually run buses on Harrison. I also believe there has been talk of BAT lanes there. The challenge is to figure out the route. Express buses are a possibility, but a lot of those are disappearing. A bus like the 309 could head towards Lower Queen Anne instead of First Hill and be fairly popular. But it would be very expensive compared to funneling people to Link, and only a handful of people would save a significant amount of time. Buses from the 520 corridor would save more time, but it makes sense to wait until 520 is connected to the express lanes. Even then, I’m sure a lot of Kirkland folks would prefer the express just go to the heart of downtown (south). Either way, Metro would only run those buses peak direction during rush hour.

        You could move the 8, but then it is moved farther away from Belltown. The best option is to run a frequent, all-day bus from First Hill to South Lake Union and on to Lower Queen Anne. Metro has that in its long range plan, and it is basically like this: https://goo.gl/maps/o36fhLvnqjKMv5Md6. This could be added right now, but there are a number of things that will make it more popular. First are improvements to Fairview (coming with the RapidRide J project). Then there is the Link station at Judkins Park (since this would go right by it). Madison BRT will also make a big difference, as this runs perpendicular to it. While this route would be popular right now, my guess is they want to wait until Madison BRT and Judkins Park are there before shaking up the system.

        Worth noting is that this is a variation on Metro’s Long Range plan. They actually move the 8 to Harrison, but have this new route on Denny. I do the opposite, which means no change to the 8, and fewer turns overall.

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