Seattle Center Monorail - red train interior, 2020

This is an open thread.

60 Replies to “News roundup: packing it in”

  1. With traffic volumes being so much lower basically everywhere, I wonder if this is a good opportunity for Sound Transit and WSDOT to really get ahead on construction projects. I’m thinking in particular of I-405 BRT and the ETL project between Renton and Bellevue that make this possible. WSDOT has committed to keeping the same number of lanes per direction, but I wonder if they could maybe reduce it to one lane per direction while most people are staying home, and meaningfully accelerate construction.

      1. Didn’t Inslee clarify a couple days ago that long-term construction was non-essential? I’ve been wondering if East Link would be suspended.

      2. Our crews showed up yesterday morning at JBLM and were sent home. Word is freeway projects are closed until April 6th. Not sure if that’s a complete closure but without survey they can’t do much. I’m guessing settlement monitoring must still go on and obviously anything related to drainage or activities essential to keeping the road open.

        ST and SDOT projects are still continuing as “normal”.

  2. All King County parks and trails are closed to all users until further notice.

    That would presumably include the Burke north of Seattle city limits (145th) and the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

    Unfortunate for any essential workers who shifted to biking from transit, but it seems that social distancing is all but impossible on sidewalks and trails.

    1. I haven’t read anything about them closing the bike paths, and I doubt they have. I don’t know of any major roads being closed, either.

      1. Vague and confusing communications from KC Parks, but it seems to include everything under its jurisdiction.

        From Twitter Seattle Bike Blog is looking into it.

      2. Trails are open to through traffic (biking and walking) but not to visit. No loitering. The bathrooms are still open though. Very confusing indeed.

      3. Who “visits” a trail? I’ve never seen somebody on the Burke-Gilman or any other trail just standing in one narrow place for more than a couple minutes. Maybe they’re talking about the scenic viewpoints and picnic tables and benches along some trails, but those are usually small and sparsely populated, and one person or a couple lingering on a bench doesn’t seem like a big deal or a reason to close the trails.

      4. Kenmore. A significant amount of people visit the strip along the lake at Kenmore

        More importantly, this is a blanket rule across parks and trails, not one specifically designed just for the Burke-Gilman. It applies to the Alki Trail, for example. Plenty of people visit Alki Beach.

      5. I jogged a section of the cross Kirkland corridor trail today, and it was fine. Fortunately, it’s a wide enough trail where keeping 6 feet isn’t that hard. I would expect the Burke to be similar.

        Closing trails like Rattlesnake Ledge, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense.

    2. Closing the Burke would be like closing I-5. That is a critical commuting corridor, with very few viable alternatives.

    3. I went to the Sammamish River Trail and the Tolt Pipeline Trail on Wednesday. I checked the KC Parks website first and they said the restrooms were open. The nearby restroom I passed still said “closed for the winter,” with new blue tape trying to cover up “for the winter” On the way back, the signs were replaced with new red “closed” signs. Then when I got home the website said the restrooms and trailheads were closed, but they can’t stop lone users from using the trails. Things change fast.

      https://kingcountyparks.org/2020/03/25/king-county-parks-coronavirus-update/

  3. Well it has happened. Metro buses in Seattle have become rolling homeless shelters. Its really gotten bad.

    My wife’s company is providing free parking downtown for those who need to come into the office and is encouraging employees to stay off the buses. My wife doesn’t drive, so on days that she needs to go in I now drive her.

    For the last two days I have seen this one neighborhood homeless guy board a northbound bus in the morning. Yesterday he got on an 60 footer that only had 2 people on it. He then walked towards the front and sat right next to one of the only other passengers. A real FU to safety and social distancing.

    I get it. Homeless people need and deserve warmth and shelter. But free transit is not a solution to homelessness. There are better ways.

    Time to bring back fares. Or do something else. Because this is. It working.

    1. Good idea, let’s seize every unused housing unit in the county and turn them over to the houseless population gratis.

    2. Lazarus, I recall reading that average American could be wiped out by a sudden demand for $400. So I’d be careful about using money to decide who-all doesn’t get to ride the bus. Because I’ve got no way of knowing how many people with more money than me already find my own presence objectionable.

      Anybody in Operations, either driver or supervisor: any standing orders to radio in this behavior to Control as demanding emergency police response? Epidemic or not, every passenger should form the automatic habit of knowing bus-number, time, location, and direction of travel. To be rattled off while using your phone to personally demand the police.

      Followed by a call to your closest elected representative’s office. To register a request to know when Western State Hospital will get its accreditation back, in order to take care of the thousands who need a mental ward for a home, instead of a bus.

      As opposed to the ones whose shaving mirror is their car’s rear-view one, on their way to find their layoff notice on their desk where they used to work.

      Mark Dublin

      1. No. Not at all. My wife at groups of homeless people on consecutive days. My sister-in-law (who lives with us and is a nurse and therefore critical function) had a homeless person leave a smelly “present” on her route.

        Was talking to my barista this morning and she mentioned that she takes the bus to work, so I asked her about it. She says it is a problem on her route too.

        This isn’t working. Something has to be done.

      2. Funny how every time people swear up and down there’s massive problems with houseless people, yet whenever I and others go out, there’s no issues.

        In other words, isolated anecdotes do not a systemic problem make.

      3. @Ness,

        Ya, I know. It is all just the “latest hoax.” Yet in the meantime nobody takes the data.

        Metro needs to step up and get this right.

      4. While I can’t speak for Lazarus’s or his wife’s personal experience, Lazarus’s response seems very similar to other people with a heavy anti-homeless bias.

        They witness a bad homeless experience one time and extrapolate it out to infinity to match their predispositioned views.

        In Ballard, they are known as “Safe” Seattle and tend to derail any actual solutions to the homeless problem.

        No one is claiming there’s not a problem, but it doesn’t seem anywhere near the dystopian nightmare the anti crowd makes it seem.

        I rode the 40 after the elimination of fares, from Ballard to Seattle. No issues, maybe a homeless person, but they weren’t bothering anything.

      5. I’m with RapidRider; yes, there is the occasional incident, no it is not nearly as widespread as the tales of doom and gloom would have you believe. If I believed everything I read on the Internet, every Metro bus would be a rolling Mad Max hellscape full of feces and open air drug markets with the driver belting out showtunes.

        Instead, 97% of my trips are so incredibly without incident that I barely remember the actual trip process itself. Another 2% are fantastic and get a comment sent to Metro about how great the driver and experience was. The last few? Sure, maybe a problem, but that could be anything from “obnoxious loudmouth yelling into a mobile phone” to “somebody needs to buy some earbuds” to “phew, this person stinks.”

        I do not have a car; I do not drive. I do not live near light rail so every trip I take is on the bus. I have never, in any time period, experienced anywhere near the level of “doom and gloom” people relate as stories that allegedly happened on their bus trips. I ride “stereotypically bad” routes like the E, 3/4, and 49 routinely.

        Does stuff happen? Yes, undoubtedly. Does it happen on the astounding volume the–somehow never with actual times and dates and route numbers and conveniently never mentioning making a report to Metro–anonymous Internet comment community claims it does? No.

      6. How do you define rolling homeless shelter? There are 5000 homeless people in Seattle. If they were using buses as a shelter en masse, there would be hundreds of them on buses. On an average run they’d be more than 50% of passengers. A noticeable number of them would be riding end to end back and forth and around all day. And many of them would be sleeping, the primary purpose of a shelter.

        Yet nobody has observed this. My ridership is down to one bus a week and I haven’t been outside the apartment for five days, but on Sunday when I took an eastbound 11 in the afternoon there were five people on it, everyone sat a few rows apart, only one or two of them were possibly homeless, and everyone seemed to be going to a specific destination. One woman got on and asked repeatedly if the bus went to the Salvation Army. The driver and multiple passengers told her it did. I wondered if it was even open. The driver for some reason considered her a troublemaker and told her to get off the bus, and she did. Maybe he’d had previous encounters with her. She was the most-likely homeless person, and she was going to a specific destination, not riding the bus all day. You see this in other cases, people taking the bus to homeless shelters or services, but the point is they get off at those stops, they don’t stay on the bus to the end treating it as a shelter.

      7. If I were experiencing homelessness right now, I’d be:
        (1) depending on word of mouth about all the advice (social distancing), especially since the libraries where I’d get my news are now shut down;
        (2) wanting to avoid being on buses that might have been infected by non-homeless people;
        (3) wanting to limit my contact to others at the same site where I would be taking shelter. Hopefully food can be delivered in a manner that minimizes chances for infection.

        I hope the no-eviction order extends to campsites, so the residents therein can self-isolate from the rest of the world. Forcing people to seek shelter on buses would be a dumb move on the part of the City and other jurisdictions, in so many ways.

      8. @Brent
        You’re looking at this rationally. There is a percentage of the homeless population that would do as you say. They are the legitimate on the street through no fault (or choice) of their own. This segment will accept aid, appreciates a high barrier shelter and is where the homeless industrial complex money should be directed.

        Reality on the ground. All the dudes, mostly old white guys, squatting along freeway on-ramps and vacant lots, they all have smart phones. They know how to game the system and why would they worry about social distancing when they are already sharing needles?

    3. The homeless were riding busses well before Covid 19 and the no fare policy. Of course, it’s much more noticeable when most of your other “regulars” are staying at home or driving instead. If people are peeing and pooping on busses, maybe we need more public accessible facilities? Unfortunately, bodily functions don’t shut down during a pandemic.

    4. Hey Lazarus, you’re too uptight, man. So the homeless, nursing home staff, hospital patients and workers, transit workers, and the general public, are all mixing together on buses during the worst pandemic in 100 years, and the virus is spreading like wildfire, and whatever people are picking up on the bus, they are spreading throughout the county, but I’m not seeing what the problem is.

  4. Any reports on results of yesterdays’s ST Board meeting? Finding that most fare non-compliance stems from an over-complicated system really ought to “Say It All:” For starters, large percentage of fines need to be refunded.

    Luckily, thanks to ORCA cards, easy fix is at hand. Do whatever’s necessary to see to it that everybody’s got a card loaded with a monthly pass. Possession of which will be Double-Proof-Positive of Payment.

    Fare apportionment handled in-house. Missed “tap off” taken care of by the inspector simply seeing to it that longest possible trip is charged to the card. Any question about which participant in the Agency gets the money, give it to the one that most needs it.

    And putting the Governor’s “Please Stay Home” request to its best use, We The People start using the internet, starting with STB, to plan a legal and political challenge to Sound Transit’s stubborn years-long defense of a fare system that’s an insult to its own enforcement. From inspectors to the judge.

    Going “Zero Fare” as it’s called in Olympia- seriously worth looking into. Could be the pointer has shifted it to a major budgetary benefit. But personally, here’s what my card gives me that’ll be hard to replace: a sense that Ownership and Authority over MY transit system are always in my pocket.

    Transit Riders’ Union….any plans or thoughts?

    Mark Dublin

    1. “Do whatever’s necessary to see to it that everybody’s got a card loaded with a monthly pass. Possession of which will be Double-Proof-Positive of Payment.”

      Would that be a pass for the longest-distance fare? Or would it require the abolition of distance-based fares? Otherwise how would the inspector know whether you really got on at SeaTac or Beacon Hill for your Westlake trip? If Link and Sounder revert to flat fares, would that make short-distance trips extraordinarily expensive? (This has already happened on Metro and is about to happen on ST Express with the consolidation of the fare zones.) Ah, free fares would get us out of the whole dilemma.

  5. I had noticed the Clipper docked at the waterfront on Monday and thought to myself, “are they still running that thing?” I guess they aren’t.

  6. 6 pm, I “tap on” at IDS headed southbound. 6:20 pm, spur-of-the-moment dinner visit to Columbia City. 7 pm, “tap on” to continue south, headed for Angle Lake where my car’s parked for my ride home.

    7:05 or so, fare inspectors board at Othello, and issue me a “Next-Time-Theft-Conviction” not really for failure to tap, but precisely because I DID tap on per letter-of-the-law. By-the -rules-but-buried, if I’d taken a ten-stop joy ride, could have used whole line for a stair-master and still read “ok”. So long as I did NOT tap as the rules clearly demand, picture of officer and all.

    If the Fare Inspector had just charged me whole fare from IDS to Angle Lake…who would have lost? By default, I’m getting charged most money possible. My original intent. Remember also I had another hour’s transit coming, by the clock.

    “Re-bop” (Marlon Brando “Streetcar Named Desire”) about “Distance Based” versus whatever other kind of fares, would love to run past a working-class jury in front of TV cameras. I voted, after campaigning, for the formation of Sound Transit with the understanding that a six-figure CEO’s salary would guarantee that accounting would all stay in-house and not wet on the sofa.

    How nasty We The People should be ready to get about this, that’s Sound Transit’s call and not mine. Proud to take my money and slur my character? Break the rules, in this case of common decency, and YOU’RE gonna get hurt.

    “Zero Fares”, I think an honest accounting would be on your side all around, Mike. Though pre-virus when I could still ride buses, IT drivers had stopped bothering to correct me for habit of holding my old but shiny ORCA card up into the headlights signaling intent to board.

    Showing attitude toward authority I really would like to inculcate into kids from pre-school up: “I own you, not the other way around.” Which is Nature’s own cure for Socialism: If you’re the owner you’ve got no union protection.

    Mark Dublin

  7. CT employee that tested positive for covid 19 has died, as report by the Union. They have eight more positive cases and 11 pending. Large numbers of drivers are not showing up for work but I can’t blame them. Several drivers told me they don’t have any hand sanitizer at work for them.

    1. I don’t think Transit is safe at the moment. I am begging anyone on this board to stay off buses. If you must get somewhere, ask a friend with a car to take you or use delivery services. Unfortunately, many of the homeless don’t have access to sanitary conditions and are vectors for this illness. When they board the bus, they are putting everyone in danger.

      1. What’s not safe about transit agencies requiring drivers to break the six foot rule, like when they have to secure wheel chairs, while at the same time refusing to supply them with masks or eye protection?

      2. This morning’s news says that England’s Chief of State, who’s got at least one home and a lot of money, now also has the virus. Isn’t it really safest all around to make our travel decisions with the assumption we’re all contagious?

        Also demonstrates, as it’s about time, that if the right to have a home, and also a national health-care program, can join firearms in the Bill of Rights, it’ll be natural to assign the cost to the Defense budget where it belongs.

        Across History, isn’t it safe to assume that among humans, most extinctions can really be traced to Death by Deferred Maintenance? Been warned not to fear-monger our upcoming National Election out of existence. Lucky how much politics can get done over the phone and online.

        Mark Dublin

      3. The stores and delivery services are able to operate only because workers can get to them. Many of these essential jobs are low-wage, the workers don’t have cars, and they live twenty miles away because that’s the only housing they can afford. Expecting them to have a friend drive them every day or take a taxi is unrealistic. And the virus can spread in taxis too, which is closer quarters than a bus.

      4. Do bus drivers have access to facilities to wash hands, and are allowed to take the break, at the end or middle of their routes, with many of the go-to businesses with facilities closed? Much more effective than hand sanitizer. You have to use A LOT of sanitizer to have the same effect as a good hand washing session.

      5. @Mike — Most cars require refueling at public gas stations. Unlike Oregon, this means regular people putting their hands on gas pumps. This is an obvious risk. Is it riskier than riding a bus? I have no idea — I have yet to see a study saying one or the other is more dangerous.

      6. If you’re worried about getting coronavirus from a gas pump, wear gloves. Much easier than the hazmat suit you’d need for a bus. With one driver death and several more confirmed cases it should be obvious that public transit needs to be suspended. If the Governor or County Executives don’t have the guts then the unions should take a strike vote to protect their members. Nobody will die if they don’t have bus service. There’s work arounds for every corner case you want to throw against the wall. Besides driver’s safety the transit system is the single largest transmission vector left.

      7. the transit system is the single largest transmission vector left.

        Citation please.

        If you’re worried about getting coronavirus from a gas pump, wear gloves.

        That’s not the point! Not everyone does. Besides, if you board a bus correctly, you never touch anything (especially now). You board on the back, walk to an empty seat and sit down, never putting your hands (or gloves) on anything. At most you pull the cord for your stop, but often you don’t need to, and you can use your pinky. Of course you wear gloves the whole time, but that goes for just about everything. Your back might touch a surface that was touched by someone else’s covered back, but the chance of transmission is very low there. You are talking maybe half a dozen people using that particular seat since it was last cleaned (if that).

        My point is that it is just as likely that the disease is being spread through gas pumps than through a bus. Some people use gloves at the pump, but not everyone does. I used a glove the other day, and since my wife is a nurse, I know how to take it off properly. I paid cash and handed the $20 bill (which I knew was sterile, since it had been sitting in my wallet for over a week) to the cashier. While the AM/PM had taken steps to protect the workers, they were in much closer contact to the customers than bus drivers are now*. From what I can tell, the AM/PM workers are in much greater danger, and the station has a much higher probably of spreading the disease.

        Oh, and lots of people pay at the pump, using a credit card, which is probably a bit better for public health. That can be done fairly hygienically, but it still isn’t without risk. Even now, you would be surprised at the number of people that touch the buttons with their fingertips (instead of their knuckles, as my wife and I have been doing for years).

        Car pooling (which was suggested earlier) seems even riskier. In a car pool, you are always in close contact with someone else, even if you are sitting in a two person car, with the passenger in back. You are also relying on the driver (the “friend with a car”) to have sterilized the car prior to your entry (and after). My guess is very few people are doing that.

        Of course individuals may make safe decisions (use masks, wear gloves, etc.). The point is that driving and transit both have health risks involving workers as well the general public. Absent further study — which you still have not cited — I see no reason to assume that you are correct in your assessment.

        * Metro and other bus agencies have only recently added steps to protect the drivers as well as the public.

  8. Throwing this idea out for consideration:

    Assuming that the virus starts to recede and allows a return to relatively normal day to day functions and the West Seattle High Bridge is still closed, could the 125 be reinstated and rerouted to serve the Water Taxi?

    Seems that for folks heading to downtown, there would be opportunities to change to the 120 along Delridge or continue to travel to the water taxi dock. This would provide a connection for those on Delridge to access the water taxi by changing to the 125.

    To help remove confusion, Metro could rename the route to the route 25 to be consistent with other West Seattle only routes.

    Good idea? Bad idea? Love to hear what you think.

    1. This would be a great idea for the greater SW Seattle, but its reach is kind of moot. The area around the Water Taxi and its feeder routes is just so residential. It’s not like Vancouver where you can get a Seabus from one major commercial activity centre to another every 10 minutes.

  9. Gov. Inslee sent out the following clarification letter regarding construction activities in the state. My spouse works for a residential developer and as a result of this recent clarification his firm has suspended all on-site construction activities for all of their current projects.

    “Dear Stakeholders,

    “I am writing to you today to provide additional guidance regarding the impact of my Stay Home, Stay Healthy Proclamation (20-25) on construction. In general, commercial and residential construction is not authorized under the Proclamation because construction is not considered as an essential activity.

    “However, an exception to the order allows for construction in the following limited circumstances:
    a) Construction related to essential activities as described in the order;
    b) To further a public purpose related to a public or governmental function or facility, including but not limited to publicly-financed low-income housing*; or
    c) To prevent spoliation and avoid damage or unsafe conditions, and address emergency repairs at both non-essential businesses and residential structures.”

    The letter then goes on to spell out a long list of types of construction-related trade activities that are permissible “to provide services consistent with this guidance”.

    The letter concludes as follows:

    “All construction activity must meet social distancing, worker protection, and appropriate health screenings before proceeding.”

    Hmmmm. Social distancing could be quite “challenging”, i.e. impossible, for those construction tasks that require more than one person working in close proximity to actually get the work done.

    *I guess the continuance of construction activities at Key Arena that was reported in the news yesterday falls under exception (b)?. That seems like a stretch but I guess that’s what the stakeholders in that case are running with.

  10. I have a job that I have to go in for, and I’ve switched from mostly transit to mostly biking. It’s been nice in that the streets are nearly empty of automobiles, so the stress of constantly avoiding cars is much, much less than usual, even though large sections of my commute don’t have bike lanes.

  11. I’ve been a little surprised that, on the few occasions I have gone outside, the only workers wearing masks and gloves were the ones at the Chinese supermarket. It seems to me that bus drivers (along with most, but not all other essential workers) would be acting reasonably if they refused to work until they were provided these basic items.

    Luckily the infection rate seems to be slowing here, even though Governor Inslee moved a bit more slowly than he should have to shut everything down. And, in fact, not everything has been shut down – keeping transit construction projects running is crazy, unless there is some underlying safety-related reason. Keeping to a project timeline is not a good reason…

    1. Most heavy construction projects it’s pretty easy to maintain social distancing. Plus your working with the same group of people; unlike a transit driver or rider who’s mixing with the general public and creating a spiderweb of transmission paths. Delay is not just a slip in the delivery date. It’s a huge cost increase that threatens the delivery of the project as planned. Not only will agencies be required to pay contractors for all the idle equipment they have sitting on job sites any hope of holding a contractor to the original timeline is out the window. That means they can pretty much write their own ticket when work resumes and the farther into the future something happens the more it costs.

  12. Really curious about the rationale behind cancelling every route 37 trip EXCEPT the 5:52PM outbound trip. Anyone know the reason for keeping that single trip during the temporary service reductions?

    1. Best guess is it aligns with a bus going to or from a base, or used to hand off a bus between drivers. If the bus needs to go between points A and B anyways, might as well make it revenue service.

  13. Best guess is it aligns with a bus going to or from a base, or used to hand off a bus between drivers. If the bus needs to go between points A and B anyways, might as well make it revenue service.

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