No realtime data for Connect 2020

With Link headways now around 15 minutes all day, real time data would allow Link’s quality of service to at least match that of a frequent bus route. Unfortunately, that’s not to be.

ST’s David Jackson, answering when we could expect an accurate GTFS feed:

Because of the lead time required for the GTFS data to go live and our very recent headway tweak, GTFS won’t be accurate for Connect 2020 trains.

It doesn’t appear we’ll even have accurate schedules, much less a clue as to a train’s actual position.

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Metro to expand low income fare subsidy

King County Metro 44
King County Metro 44 (image: Flickr, Kris Leisten).

Metro is considering a program of income-based fares that would fully subsidize fares for riders with very low incomes. A public launch is targeted for July 2020.

The program would expand on the current ORCA Lift which offers 50% discounts across local agencies to those with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. Currently, that cutoff is $24,980 for a single person or $51,500 for a family of four. The expanded program is expected to include unlimited fare-free travel for those with incomes below 80% of the federal poverty level. This cutoff would be $9,992 for a single person or $20,600 for a family of four. (updated for an error in the original calculation).

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News roundup: not nearly enough

Sound Transit Bus # 535 Lynnwood to Bellevue, WA
PatricksMercy/Flickr

This is an open thread.

NE 130th Station discussion tomorrow

Looking north from NE 130th Street at the future station (SounderBruce)

Voters approved an ST3 plan that included a NE 130th Street “infill” station opening in 2031. Of course, the segment it is “infilling” has barely started construction and won’t open until 2024. In principle, completing all the work in one go would simplify the project and give riders 7 more years of high-quality service. On the other hand, this would mean spending money earlier when the general trend is to move it back.

Tomorrow afternoon, the System Expansion Committee will hear a presentation about the possibilities for opening 130th in 2024. This report is the result of a mandate to study the idea in 2018. The Snohomish delegation, in particular, will need convincing that yet another Seattle station is worth the additional cost and schedule risk for a project that has already seen overruns on both.

We’ll see tomorrow what the options are for a project estimated at $67m in 2016. Whatever the sentiments of the Snohomish delegation, they should seek to build at least enough to prevent a construction service interruption. Severely curtailing service in 2030 will hurt Snohomish County riders far more than a small risk of delay in 2024 and a bad headline or two. And if the additional risk of full construction is small, doing so would be best for everyone.

Use the Link timetables during Connect 2020

If you’ve gotten used to just waltzing up to the train station and waiting for the next train, the 12-minute headways during Connect 2020 may be something of a shock. Fortunately Sound Transit has published a Connect 2020 timetable, so you can plan ahead.

You can view the PDF or just go to your favorite mapping app (Google Maps, One Bus Away, Transit, etc.) to see the timetable in action.

Also, surface transit is an option for those wishing to avoid the transfer dance and head directly to SODO station

Seattle Subway: the danger of tunnel vision

For the next ten weeks, Link riders will have to contend with infrequent trains, a forced transfer in Pioneer Square, and weekend closures to prepare for Northgate and East Link Expansions. These delays and closures could have been avoided by building for future expansion originally rather than planning and authorizing the system piecemeal. This time, the costs and impacts of the rework are relatively minor, but the consequences of this approach will be severe for future expansions unless the course is corrected.

Before Link opened in July of 2009, Sound Transit closed the tunnel to install tracks, power, and systems in preparation for bus/train operations. Plans were considered for expansions to Northgate and east to Bellevue, but the ballot measure to authorize that expansion, ST2, didn’t pass until November of 2008. Not enough time to plan and execute changes to future-proof the tunnel for expansion.

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Cyclists to bear brunt of light rail operational changes, starting this morning

video by Robert Svercl

Connect 2020‘s first full closure of the downtown transit tunnel is behind us. Now, we settle in for 10 weeks of tighter, more crushloaded trains during peak periods, longer waiting time especially during peak, a mid-line forced transfer across a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square Station, and a ban on bikes on the train between University Street Station and International District / Chinatown Station.

For the duration of Connect 2020, all trains will be four cars, and will come roughly every 12 minutes (and hopefully less “roughly” as the days progress). This means there will be an increase in off-peak capacity, and a significant decrease in peak-hour capacity. Passengers in the downtown tunnel may also have to use a different platform than they are used to, and it may switch from time to time. Signage and staff will be on hand to point the way, along with automated announcements. Please spread out along the entire length of the platform to fill the four train cars evenly, and stay out of the priority seating area, so wheelchairs users, riders in scooters, and others who need it can board quickly.

King County Metro is helping out by adding more buses on routes 7, 36, 48, 49, and 70, as alternatives to taking Link.

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Link FREE this weekend for tunnel closure

The ten-week period of construction work to install East Link track and switches in International-District/Chinatown Station, a project Sound Transit has dubbed “Connect 2020“, has arrived.

Operational nuisances begin today and tomorrow with a full closure of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Just like happened a couple weekends last fall, shuttles will run every 7 minutes between SODO Station and Capitol Hill Station, and serve temporary bus stops at each station in between. Link will run every 10 minutes on tunnel closure days.

Both the shuttles and Link will be free all weekend. ST staff will be available at both Capitol Hill Station and SODO Station to answer questions.

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News roundup: not afraid

This is an open thread.

Looking forward to 2020 and beyond

A new light rail car for a new decade (AtomicTaco/Flickr)

With a decade full of dramatic changes to Seattle and the region as a whole behind us, it’s time to look ahead to what the 2020s has in store. Between completing the bulk of light rail expansion under ST2, starting work on ST3 projects, and figuring out the new region that springs forth from the new transit landscape, it will be an exciting time to be here.

Here’s a rundown of things to look forward to at the start of the decade:

Connect 2020

Pioneer Square Station, the focal point of Connect 2020

Beginning this weekend, there will be 10 weeks of major disruptions for Link riders passing through Downtown Seattle as part of Connect 2020. While riders will get to enjoy four-car trains, they will be running every 12 minutes because of the single-tracked section in downtown, leading to an overall capacity decrease and forced transfers at Pioneer Square Station. This small bit of pain and annoyance is necessary to connect East Link into the system.

We’ll have a full survival guide later this week, but do note that Link from Capitol Hill to SODO will be fully shut down this weekend and replaced with shuttle buses. People with bicycles will not be able to ride Link trains during the weekday disruptions between University Street and International District/Chinatown stations.

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Intercity Transit rolls out fare freedom, and schools King County on performance metrics

Happy New Year!

Today, Thurston County Intercity Transit is embarking on a five-year pilot program to run without fares. That means both their fixed-route buses and paratransit (which, by federal law, cannot charge more than twice the fixed-route fare) will be free.

This experiment is not a dive off the ideological deep end, but, rather, the result of using proper performance metrics. From IT’s fare page:

Fares account for less than 2 percent of our net revenue. After considering the capital and operational costs of a new system, the difference is negligible. The opportunity to offer faster service, increase ridership, improved access and equity is a far better investment. 

It seems that Intercity Transit was following my advice to use the proper performance metric — net fare revenue — or that that performance metric is so obvious that many wise minds think alike. (I’m not necessarily counting myself as one of the wise guys.)

King County Metro continues to base fare policy on the much less useful datapoint of gross fare revenue.

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