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This is an open thread.

63 Replies to “News roundup: in the right building”

    1. Quite a few of which previously upheld I-776. The headline undersells the decision. All the constitutional claims, like misleading title and subject, were tossed out except for using Blue Book valuations and Burien’s bonds (would that impact other cities too?) which are still under consideration by the judge.

      1. That’s not how it works, Larry. Every one of the claims the Superior Court dismissed on summary judgment gets a new hearing in SCOWA as if it hadn’t been tossed. Nothing Judge F. did is binding on SCOWA. It’s called “de novo” (as if new) review by appellate courts of constitutional claims.

    2. This is why the extension for Seattle TBD should just use sales tax. Maybe the supreme court will ultimately overturn I-976, maybe not. But, why take the chance, when you don’t have to?

  1. RE: Seattle’s underground.
    Ah, memories. My college campus was an urban campus with an extensive underground, including a basement-level 1000-seat auditorium with a lawn on the “roof.” Most days, I could get to campus, duck into the first or second building, and stay indoors throughout the day – sometimes well into the evening. This was very important during winter and summer quarters with both Midwest wind & snow, and heat & humidity. The buildings were all linked, via underground hallways and a handful of skybridges or “adjacent” buildings that were attached. On our colder days here, I definitely miss the breezeways and tunnels of college. (I also miss the ability to only pay $220/month rent and be walking distance from all of my daily obligations!)

  2. One way in which the Sounder is better than New Jersey Transit is that the Sounder doesn’t stop running for an hour during morning peak (every twenty minutes, then nothing scheduled for an hour, then every twenty minutes again). Whoever thought this was a good idea should be fired and never allowed anywhere around transit planning again.

    I can’t wait to get back to Seattle.

  3. Since this is an open thread- the 4Q ST agency progress is out. Page 20. There is a new line in the Northgate schedule – an estimated revenue service date of May 2021, rather than September.

    1. That’s not what the report is saying. Every project contains “float” or schedule padding of sorts. The official revenue service date, which includes the project float, in September 26, 2021. Notice that Northgate Link used 20 days of float (going from 154 to 134 days) from the November to December reports due to “Two factors…: slippage in the N830 Systems project schedule, and the addition of greater detail in the Rail Activation schedule. This greater detail incorporates discrete activities for the completion of the Safety Certification process and the Pre-Revenue testing phases.”

      The May 15, 2021 date represents the earliest possible opening if everything goes right over the next 15 months, which is highly unlikely to occur. Finally, the real critical path for revenue service isn’t really the Northgate Link project itself, but the LRV acquisition program, which remains behind schedule.

      1. Thank you for the clarification. This is the first month that I even saw that pre-estimate. (November did not seem to have it.) Heartening that ST put it in. Fingers crossed that enough LRVs can be acquired.

    2. Thanks for the heads up. (I just checked earlier this week for the Q4 Progress Report and it hadn’t been published yet.)

      A couple of nuggets:

      1. U-Link Before and After Study is still not finished, despite ST’s multiple (now broken) promises for having the report done by mid 2019, then Q3 and then Q4.

      “Before and After Study is complete. Finalizing report and is working with FTA on various clarifications. This report is now anticipated to be completed in 1st QTR 2020.”

      2. The Lynnwood Link project is clearly behind schedule based on the last several progress reports. The budget is also tightening as a significant amount of the project’s overall contingency has been drawn down to date, with heavy reductions in the second and third quarters of 2019. This is well above the planned drawdown. The total contingency now stands at $257M, from an original plan contingency of $738M, with the bulk of the GC/CM work yet to happen.

      1. Did you notice they used what’s effectively an accounting trick on project schedule? Compared to the November report, they used up three months of float to advance project completion to July 2024, even though they lost time on the construction contracts and pushed pre-revenue service back a month. At least they admitted they were using project float. Total float now stands at 5 months instead of 8.

      2. Yup. I noticed that little trick regarding the project float. I meant to mention that as well but ultimately forgot to. Thanks for pointing it out for the readers here.

  4. Throwing this out to the horde: who do you think challenges the mayor (she announced her campaign for re-election? Who of the likely challenges would be the best transit candidate?

  5. BART’s weekend, night ridership figures drop by 10 million.

    https://www.sfgate.com/public-transportation/article/BART-ridership-down-nights-weekend-10-million-15050932.php

    “In a survey of 662 BART riders, among the reasons cited for using the transit system less was the lower frequency of trains on the weekend and the rail system not reaching places BART users wanted to travel to.”

    Am I correct in thinking that neither of those two reasons explains why BART ridership dropped 10 million in 4 years? Before the ridership drop, weekend service was still less frequent than weekday service, and the system still didn’t reach places riders wanted to travel to.

    1. BART’s weekend service has varied between 15 minutes per line and 30 minutes per line as the economy has gone up and down. Last time I was there it was 15 minutes per line, a late-ish opening Sundays, and no ST-Richmond or SF-Fremont trains on Sundays (which I don’t think it ever had, although there’s a timed transfer at MacArthur to compensate). It may have gotten worse than that recently. Every drop in frequency loses riders at the margin because it makes the trip less attractive. The same thing happens with Metro bus routes: 15-minute frequency gets more than twice as many riders as 30-minute, 30-minute more than twice as 60-minute, and 10-minute more than 15-minute.

      1. Thanks for explaining that. Maybe they didn’t ask the right question in the survey. The question shouldn’t be why do you take BART less at night and on the weekend. After the ridership drop, the question should be why are you taking BART less at night and on the weekend than you were 4 years ago.

      2. Lately due to maintenance the Sunday schedule has just had the SFO-Antioch line running through downtown SF and across the bay, at 20-minute frequencies that are often delayed. No wonder ridership is down.

  6. Does anyone know this stat? What percentage of Seattle tech workers lives in Seattle, and what percentage of Eastside tech workers lives on the Eastside? Just curious. I would imagine cross lake tech commuting isn’t that big of a number.

    1. Several busloads of Microsoft workers take the 545 every morning alongside the Microsoft shuttles. The 545’s eastbound frequency between 7 and 10am is 7-8 minutes. From 4pm to 7pm it’s similar. I live near the Capitol Hill stop and half my building is Microsofties and Amazonians, and the people at the bus stop look like tech workers.

      1. Yes this is the Taylor Black et al v. CPSRTA case:

        https://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/971951.pdf

        “We hold the MVET statute is constitutional for the following reasons: (1) thestatute is a complete act because it is readily ascertainable from its text alone whenwhich depreciation schedule will apply, (2) the statute properly adopts both schedulesby reference, and (3) the statute does not render a straightforward determination of thescope of rights or duties established by other existing statutes erroneous because itdoes not require a reader to conduct research to find unreferenced laws that areimpacted by the MVET statute.”

      2. Thank you for confirming that. I look forward to reading this convoluted majority opinion. I watched the oral arguments section online a while back during which several justices were honing in on the lack of clarity of the references. This was the case where the AG did not present at oral arguments after the late disclosure that the DOL had NOT been using the 1996 schedule. Only ST’s lead counsel Desmond Brown presented on behalf of the respondents, and frankly, imho, he did a poor job. I guess the justices were swayed by the briefs and ignored much of the oral arguments.

        Thanks again. I look forward to reading the opinions.

  7. Well, it took them a month to get it done but Sound Transit finally published online the presentation made by staff last month at the System Expansion Committee meeting on the analysis for the NE 130th St infill station. I encourage other readers on this blog to check it out when they get a chance (link below*).

    What really jumped out at me are the slides on pages 13 and 14. My lord, Sound Transit is truly incompetent at cost estimating.

    Page 13:

    Project cost estimate has increased (2018$)
    Original ST3 estimate: $72M
    Updated ST3 estimate: ~$174M (incl. $30M difficulty factor)
    Updated estimate (integrated design, accel. delivery):
    ~$144M
    • Many factors are attributed to the increase:
    • ST3 estimate based on early LLE estimate, then available
    • Market conditions
    • Additional requirements from updated Sound Transit Design
    Criteria Manual
    • Better understanding of site constraints

    Page 14:

    Construction estimate increase is much like other Lynnwood Link stations

    Station, Original Construction
    Estimate (2018$),Updated Construction Estimate (2018$),
    % Variance

    145th Station (ST2) – $35.3, $55.2, 56%
    185th Station (ST2) – $41.3, $52.9, 28%
    Mountlake Terrace (ST2) – $38.6, $63.9, 66%
    Lynnwood Station (ST2) – $35.3, $64.6, 83%
    130th Station (ST3) – $39.3, $72.0, 81%

    Note that the staff messed up on this. The original estimate for the 130th St station was $39.3M. The updated figure is $72M and the latest figure is $144-174M (all based on 2018$). Of course that would’ve made the cost miss look all that much worse, which it actually is.

    *I had intended to include a link to the Jan 9, 2020 presentation but it appears ST has taken down the document. It had been published on Fed 10 but now I’m not finding it. Hmmm?

  8. New attention to bus service between Olympia and the rest of the region is about a lot more than more buses going longer distances. It’s about the next phase of the original intent behind the system we started with dual-power buses: consolidating a major part of the State of Washington into an integrated region.

    Not going to commit to a fraction of a guess on the time-frame. But good frame of mind for something by its very nature so multi-generational. Also makes it highly advisable to remember that our average high school age passenger will be able in a couple of years to both vote and personally make transit decisions in government at all levels.

    Also- and incidentally, terrific choice of subjects today- YouTube has whole page of links to illustrate terrific lecture on floating-bridge-building.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuXZX1xjytw

    Keep up the good work.

    Mark Dublin

  9. Route 8 turned 25 years old this week. The 8 began service on February 11, 1995 with 30 minute headways, 6am-6pm, weekdays only, between Lower Queen Anne and Group Health Hospital (now Kaiser Permanente). The Broadway and Capitol Hill merchants associations had been lobbying for a direct connection to Lower Queen Anne since the late 1970s, but Metro had always resisted the idea, saying that it wouldn’t work. Nevertheless, the merchants were finally able to convince Metro to start the 8 by agreeing to reduced service hours all day on the 10 and 12 and some evening cuts on other routes to fund the service hours for the 8. Of course, we all know that the 8 was an immediate hit and it quickly expanded its route map and service hours to become one of the most popular (and frustrating) routes in Seattle.

    1. I have a friend who in the 1970s lived in a southwest Capitol Hill apartment and went to Queen Anne High School. She walked to school because there was no bus on Denny and it took an inordinate amount of time to transfer downtown.

      Both the 48, the 8, and the 31/32 (then 30) were added after years of public demand. They all exceeded expectations and were repeatedly expanded. And Metro was worried about the viability of a 23rd Avenue route or a Denny Way route.

      1. When was the 48 added? I used to take that all the time when I lived in the heart of the CD back in the late 80s. (That was during the height of the crack/gang turf wars and after five years of dealing with all sorts of sh*t from that I moved to Wallingford.) I had always assumed that the 48 was a longstanding Metro route.

      2. It was already there when I started riding Metro in 1980, but I read that the Central District had to push hard to get it added because Metro didn’t think it would have enough ridership. Before that there was just the 43, which had evolved from a Madison-23rd route.

      3. I was an undergrad student at the UW back about 1969 when Route 48 was added along the 23rd Ave. corridor. I have this image of it serving Sicks’ Stadium during the Seattle Pilots only season.

    2. The decades old doctrine that every route anywhere near downtown *has* to traverse 3rd Ave. is why we still don’t have a bus route connecting Mt. Baker->First Hill->South Lake Union, even though it’s a straight shot for a car down Rainier/Boren/Denny.

      Crazier still, Kenmore and Shoreline get direct buses to SLU while First Hill, a mere mile away, does without.

      1. I’m not sure that it’s doctrine, but more of a fear of disrupting one of the most popular Metro routes in the system. Think for half a second about what the response would be if Metro changed the 7 to stay on Rainier/Boren all the way to SLU?

        I do think this would be a really good idea for after East Link opens, when the trip will probably be faster by switching to Link at Judkins Park (which will be non-stop to IDS, unlike Link today which will take you to 3 stations in between). Even then there will be a ton of people complaining about a forced transfer.

        A good idea for today would be to run the 106 this way, instead of just duplicating the 7 to IDS.

      2. You don’t have to change the 7. You simply add a *new* route, that goes along Boren. Like the 8, it will be one of our more popular routes, far more cost effective than the direct Kenmore to SLU route asdf2 mentioned. Seriously, look it up — here are the latest numbers, in rides per service hour:

        309 rush hour — 25.9
        8 rush hour — 53.2
        8 daytime — 41. 3
        8 night — 27.6

        Even late at night, the 8 is more cost effective than the 309. During rush hour, it is twice as good. Twice! Yet Metro wants to double down on the 309 once Link gets here. It’s backwards. The 309 (and similar routes) should disappear once Link gets to Northgate. Routes like the 8 should be added (they should have been added a while ago).

      3. I would lean towards, at least initially, a modification to the 9, rather than the 7, perhaps something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/srtbg2PL9gNZZqw37. A nice, legible straight line.

        Short-term, I’d begin the route at Mt. Baker Transit Center and have it double up the 7, although a rush hour extension further up Rainier might be justified.
        Longer-term, shifting resources from the 7 might be justified, but I think one needs to be very careful before making any significant changes to the 7.

        The existing route 7 would also make a good candidate for RapidRide – with its large passenger volume, off-board fare payment could make a significant difference in travel time.

      4. The 7 isn’t the best example. It used to connect the UW and Capitol Hill. It has undergone some pretty serious changes. It also used to be one of the three most violent crime ridden routes, along with the 358 and the 174.

      5. I think the opening of Judkins Park should result in Route restructuring in the CD as well as in the northern half of SE Seattle.

        I first would look at moving the Mt Baker Transit Center to the I-90 loop next to Judkins Park Station. That westbound loop exit traffic should land perpendicular to Rainier Ave with a signalized crosswalk; it’s scary to cross now and adding more pedestrians going to and from Link will make things worse. That would open up the unused loop area for a transit center and a special signal to get buses back out to Rainier.

        As far as routes go, some ideas that I’ve had:

        – Routes 7 and 106. No changes.

        – Route 14. Drop the loop to Mt Baker Park and extend the route to Beacon Hill Link or south on Rainier a bit.

        – Route 27. Extend south to Lake Park Dr and McClellan then north to Rainier and end north at this new transit center.

        – Route 4. Jog to MLK at Jackson, and turn on Massachusetts to get to thIs new transit center.

        – Route 8. Stay on 23rd south of Jackson all the way to Walker, the turn up Walker to MLK and lay over somewhere south of Mt Baker Station.

        – Route 48. Leave it essentially alone except layover underneath Mt Baker Station.

        – One eventual possibility is to bring the FHSC to this new transit center. But that’s a streetcar system restructuring and is another can of worms.

        Once vacated, the Mt Baker Transit Center site can be redeveloped in a few different ways.

        The tough thing about restructuring in this area is that changing one thing means changing other things. Trolley wire may also be needed. I’d like to see Metro get serious about the restructuring this year and next rather than sit on their hands until just before the opening.

      6. A lot here. For moving Mt. Baker TC, I think that it should just be moved closer to the Mt. Baker Link Station (which looks like it’s in the plans for when they redo the MLK/Rainier interchange). I do not think Judkins Park Station is a good place for a transit center like that. There isn’t a ton of space there, especially in good proximity to the actual station, and funneling buses through access points on Rainier and 23rd both provide good access to the station, and those paths don’t converge well. Mt. Baker, on the other hand, is a very natural convergence of corridors and has a Link station, so it makes sense to have a transit center there, and one that is actually good.

        As for the streetcar, I have had some thoughts about a ROW-dedicated extension that makes it decent to good for most trips and best leveraging the sunk cost of the FHSC, without being a total waste of money. The idea I had was branching the FHSC out to Mt. Baker, and splitting the line at 14th/Jackson. One line (with the Center City Connector complete) would run from SLU to Mt. Baker via Jackson, and the other line would be Capitol Hill to Mt. Baker via Broadway (and both lines run on Rainier from Jackson to MBS). Make them both frequent, and you have good reasonably grid-like streetcar lines that double up from MBS to Jackson.

        Then through-route the 7 with the 48 (like the original RR+ plan was). Move the 14 to Yesler until 14th, then switch to Jackson (doubling up the 27 and 14 from downtown to Yesler Terrace, and serving Jackson and Yesler at half frequency further east). After Mt. Baker, run the 106 express until Boren and James (with a stop at JPS), and then serve local stops on Boren until SLU. Lots of forced transfers, but also lots of frequency, double+ frequency between MBS and JPS, a transit grid and individual streetcar lines have a clear direction.

      7. A restructure in the greater Central Area (everything in Seattle with an “East” in the address) should occur once Madison BRT is built. The station at Judkins Park is nice, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the area (it is a smaller change than Madison BRT). For the most part, the buses that go by Judkins just keep going by Judkins.

        In contrast, Madison BRT changes the area. The 11 and 12 no longer make sense as currently routed. The 43 is no longer needed. Changes like the one we’re discussing here (a bus on Boren) make more sense than ever (it would run perpendicular to the Madison bus). You actually have two grids, on top of each other; the first follows the cardinal directions, the second goes roughly 45% from it (including Madison, and Boren). But there are a lot of considerations. I couldn’t even come up with a single proposal — my map has two options, and there are a lot of routes on there that I’m not that confident about.

    3. You miss part of the story on Route 8. There was a railroad crossing on Denny Way that buses could not traverse. When that was fixed, Route 8 could become a reality.

  10. The 48 was started about 1970 in response to social justice activism. Previously there was no north/south bus service on 23rd Avenue other than the 4 Montlake. The 4 ran on Madison to 23rd and then to the U District. In the early days the 48 ran from Franklin High School to the University District and it was operated with ancient, gasoline powered Twin Coaches that could barely make it from Montlake to the top of the hill.

    1. No bus service on 23rd? Damned racists not giving black people bus service from the Rainier Valley to the U District in the early to mid 1900’s! Oh wait. I just remembered. The Rainier Valley was whiter than Kirkland before 1940. Scratch that theory.

      1. Your statements are not even close to true. If you look at the redline maps of Seattle from the 1930s, it’s clear that the 12 East Cherry and 12 – 26th Ave South (established in 1941) were clearly designed to stay within the redline boundaries.

        And Kirkland–a beacon of diversity. Give me a break!

    2. Thanks for the historical context. I had no idea that the bulk of the CD had been so poorly serviced by the transit agency in those prior decades. That route 4 of which you speak bypassed most of the CD if that was indeed the route.

    3. Man, hard to see how this evolved into the current 4. I thought the 4 was a longstanding/obsolete route. Was this also pre-43 then (because it sounds broadly similar to today’s 43)? Or did the 4 not go downtown?

      1. This may be a bit confusing, but:
        today’s 3 Madrona/34th and 4 Judkins Park routes were once known as the 12 East Cherry and 12 – 26th Ave South.

        The old 4 Montlake was thru-routed to the 4 East Queen Anne and the 3 North Queen Anne was thru-routed to the 3 Jefferson Park.

        The 43 was created in the early 1980s (I believe) as a combination of the 4 Montlake and the 30 Ballard-Laurelhurst (with the 30 continuing as a Laurelhurst to U District shuttle). The 43 was later split into the 43/44 and the 30 was eliminated.

        Photo of 3 Jefferson Park: https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&id=F7965E6E31D682D2714FCF43D629BBFA380662A1&thid=OIP.WH19ThD7itYdJ2OAsYM3FwHaHE&mediaurl=http%3A%2F%2Ffarm5.static.flickr.com%2F4042%2F4708835162_5f5a0777b1.jpg&exph=477&expw=500&q=Trolley+Coach+seattle&selectedindex=74&ajaxhist=0&vt=0&ccid=WH19ThD7&simid=608026832935257138&sim=11

      2. Ah, fascinating! Detailed transit history like this (I mean details of old bus routes, rather than commentary on Forward Thrust and early light rail attempts) is really hard to come by. Browsing old schedules on archive.org can find a lot, but only so much, and often the map images aren’t archived.

      3. I remember when they put un the 43 trolley line in. I could see the construction from my grandparent’s house near Fremont. It was supposed to be finished in 1979 but I think it was late and not finished until 1980 or 1981. My Dad worked for the city then and recently told me they did not anticipate the extra weight that the trolley lines would have on some poles. In some parts of the city electric lines were pulled off the sides of peoples houses. I don’t know if Seattle or Metro paid for the repairs.

      4. Why was the 43 moved to John Street? Had it recently become dense? Or was it a longstanding underservice that was finally addressed?

  11. If giving names to Link lines like L1, L2, L3, etc, is an issue of equity, and simplifies things for people who may have difficulty with colors or names, shouldn’t we here also simplify our names to help those who may have trouble understanding or reading our blogger and commenter names? Bloggers could switch to B1, B2, B3, and commenters could switch to C1, C2, C3, etc

    It’s easy to tell an agency to do the right thing. It’s harder to do the right thing ourselves. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world. What do you say?

    PS, I fully expect this comment to get ot’ed.

    1. Works for me. I think I will refer to you as “T1”, for troll number one. You earned it Sam, congratulations.

  12. It’s quite easy to see why fast ferry ridership is booming. Up to 50% less travel time compared to other modes.

    With the added Bremerton-Seattle FF capacity, the opening of a permanent Alaskan Way/Columbia St bus pathway, and the consideration of Ballard/Kenmore Water Taxi routes, boats will remain a viable transit option for many commuters.

    All of these are reasons why Metro should return the 62 to the Waterfront, using the new Alaskan Way bus pathway. Frankly, International District as a major regional transport hub could also benefit with a direct connection to Coleman Dock.

  13. Seem to remember a Link alternative a couple of years back that put a Link subway station at Madison and Boren. Connecting three hospitals with the rest of the region. Would’ve been my choice.

    Also, have always favored restoring Route 43 service, so that the 23rd Avenue neighborhood could between the U-District and Thomas Street could have a single seat ride to Group Health Hospital.

    And wiring the Route 48 all the way from Rainier Valley to NW 85th and 32nd NW.

    Mark

    1. “Seem to remember a Link alternative a couple of years back that put a Link subway station at Madison and Boren.”

      That was the ST2 plan. The First Hill station was dropped because ST was afraid the soil under it would lead to more risks and cost overruns.

      The original ST1 alignment had Link running along Broadway with stations at Roy, Pine, and if I recall First Hill. ST mothballed that due to Ship Canal risk, and when it later revived the segment using the Montlake alternative, it dropped the Roy station without replacement. Then it dropped First Hill station, and didn’t reevaluate whether it could add any stations in compensation. So U-Link has two less stations than originally envisioned. If it had added stations at Bellevue/Pine, 15th/Harrison, and 23rd/Aloha, it could have served most of the 43’s walkshed.

      In ST3 ST envisioned the second downtown tunnel somewhere between 2nd and 5th, with 5th most likely. Martin pushed an alternative that would bend out to 8th & Madison to serve First Hill (instead of 5th & Madison). ST refused to add it to the alternatives saying it was out of scope for a downtown tunnel.

    2. “wiring the Route 48 all the way from Rainier Valley to NW 85th and 32nd NW”

      You don’t like the 48 split? The northern half of the 48 is now the 45. They now overlap between 45th and Montlake Blvd, although the 48 is on 15th and the 45 is on University Way. I wish the 48 went further north to 65th as I’d assumed it would, but other than that I don’t see a lot of demand for a one-seat ride between Greenlake/Greenwood and 23rd/Mt Baker. That was all done in the U-Link restructure. At the time it was assumed the 48 was a strong growth market and the 45 was just an add-on. But ridership after U-Link showed the opposite: the 45 surging and the 48 dropping off. Although I suspect that has more to do with the 45 being on University Way and connecting 65th & Roosevelt to UW Station than with any increase in Greenlake or Greenwood. If the 48 had been routed on University Way to 65th & Roosevelt, it might have gotten the same surge in ridership.

  14. https://www.djc.com/news/ae/12129687.html
    Affordable housing eyed for 5-acre site by Mount Baker Station
    Sound Transit and Seattle’s Office of Housing plan to issue a joint RFQ for the
    development in the fall.

    On the one hand, I’m happy for more development near the station. But on the other, I’m still annoyed UW axed union jobs in a bankshot to both outsource labor and build the affordable housing they were pressured into as far away from campus (and in the RV) as possible.

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