67 Replies to “News roundup: slow news week”

  1. Well it’s official – I will be changing my handle to “Mark in Ballard” very soon. Looking forward to enjoying better walkability and transit access (not that it was bad in Kenmore – it was good by suburban standards).

    1. I wish you would have asked me first where you should move. I could have selected a better location for you. Ballard is difficult to get in and out of.

      1. I was the one who said Ballard has a high overhead to get in and out of. That’s only relative to the the eastern half of Seattle. Compared to Kenmore, Ballard has a lot of diverse destinations within its half-hour transit circle and half-hour walk circle.

      2. I’ve walked from route 33 in Magnolia over the ped bridge over the BNSF main line down to the Ballard Locks and then to downtown Ballard. So, there is an additional way out of Ballard if you are talking walking routes.

    2. Fantastic! Couple days ago shortage of Marks in Ballard was called attention to. Best I could offer was my plan to deal with the problem by getting IT and the rest of Thurston County into Sound Transit.

      Also, hate to break this to you, Sam, but Ballard’s every Mark has a reason for keeping Ballard difficult to get into over the years.

      Out of? Don’t think we’re going to “spill” all our emergency escape routes, do you? Being as we could be looking at another Great Depression, there’s the classic standby of “jumping” a freight train.

      Also, more often than they try to let on, every now and then the Coast Guard leaves something really fast and well-armed idling along one of the locks.

      Whatever Swedish really is for “Ya sure, youbetcha!

      Mark Dublin

  2. This was a good read, particularly if it’s a slow news day:


    Generally supportive of Seattle light rail. Basically says most cities should focus on investing in better bus service unless a specific route has high enough ridership that LRT’s higher capacity is needed to avoid bus bunching (roughly when buses frequency <3 minute).

    Specifically criticizes Federal Way Link extension based upon length and land-use, though I think the author missed out on FW Link's (and Lynnwood Link) role is bus truncation & reorienting the local bus network, which should support ridership beyond what a station area analysis would suggest

    1. From that story:

      “Typical light rail projects cost more, though costs vary widely. The recent T7 line in Paris, for example, cost €228 million for 11.2 kilometers, or about $40 million per mile,[10] and the transportation writer Alon Levy gives a range of costs at about $25 million to $80 million per mile,[11] though a planned extension of the T7 is estimated at €223 million (at 2011 prices) for 3.7 kilometers and six stations, or about $115 million per mile.[12]
      Costs in the U.S. are generally somewhat higher. The Valley Metro Rail project in Phoenix, completed in 2008, cost about $85 million per mile in today’s money. The final stage of the DART Orange Line extension to Dallas– Fort Worth (DFW) airport, which was finished in 2014, cost $83 million per mile in today’s money,”

      U-Link was what, $600 million a mile? East Link is like $275 million a mile. Plus Sound Transit is financing using a 40 year rolling debt program that requires imposing heavy car taxes, a dash of property taxes, and a 1.4% sales tax. NOBODY finances transit like that except Sound Transit. If this author had described the Sound Transit financing plan — which he did not — it would have stood out like an abusive, excessively-costly sore thumb.

      When are the new ridership projections going to be disclosed? There will be far less transit demand in and around Seattle with the job losses and Work From Home, and those trends are permanent.

      1. I cannot name a NA transit agency not using either vehicle fees, property tax, or a sales tax.

        U-link is a subway, so not comparable. Does your East Link number include stations and garages?

      2. “When are the new ridership projections going to be disclosed?”

        Good question.

        Btw, some of us are still waiting for ST to release their 2019 Q4 performance report (ridership metrics). The agency has been playing a game of hide-and-seek with those numbers, though the fourth quarter report from APTA* has been available for weeks now. I suspect the agency is reluctant to release the EOY report since it will show that light rail ridership growth slowed significantly in 2019 and that the agency missed many of their metric targets across transit modes. And, to use commenter RapidRider’s terminology, these ridership results occurred in the “before days”.

        *Sound Transit LR
        Jan-Dec 2019 (000s)
        Jan-Dec 2018 (000s)

      3. In Paris, the tram lines get generally the same treatment that surface light rail lines do in the North America. With the exception of lines which have replaced active rail service [Westside MAX between Beaverton Central and Fairgrounds, San Diego – Tijuana, and a couple of lines in Edmonton] US surface LRT gets signal timing and some “long hold” priority, but nowhere other than those formerly active rail lines does it get absolute pre-emption. Newly built tram lines everywhere in Europe get at a minimum “exclusive lanes”, signal timing and long holds and in some cases pre-emption, and where possible typically physical separation by bollards or intervening unpaved strips.

        What they call a “tram” we call LRT. Link is more a “Light Metro” like Cross-Rail.

      4. “Btw, some of us are still waiting for ST to release their 2019 Q4 performance report (ridership metrics).”

        The mode-level numbers are in the quarterly financial reports. One assumes the route-level detail will be available when everybody is less busy dealing with the immediate crisis.

        Looking for new near-term ridership estimates just seems wildly premature. They’re not due, and there’s an extraordinary amount of uncertainty about them, so what would be the point? Long-term ridership estimates, say 2040 models, are structural models based on land use and mode share and trip patterns, so there’s no particular reason to think these would have changed.

      5. While one can deduce some performance from the financial report, The Operations and Ridership Committee and Board should have been briefed on the 2019 Q4 ridership performance in February. That’s before the virus shutdown. Keep in mind that this committee also put a major effort with staff into developing performance measures in 2019.

        Simply put, there is no procedural excuse for not providing these data by now. The only reason would be to keep from making the agency look bad (which it does by missing ridership totals by 10 percent in 2019 from the earlier forecasts).

        Any board and management loves to announce good news. It’s transmitting bad news when we learned how good the leadership is.

        I’m all for docking management pay until they do their job.

      6. You’re very lacking in chill. The REO committee met at the beginning of February, and March and April meetings were cancelled for obvious reasons. Nobody outside of this immediate conversation (and not everybody in this conversation) thinks a single quarterly report is an important use of anybody’s time right now. We know where the overall trends were last year, and we know that we are in a very different world now with far greater uncertainty than you’re going to resolve with one more quarterly report.

      7. There is no requirement for a committee meeting to happen to issue a quarterly ridership report. ST hires staff to produce statistics and those staff would have finished their job well before the end of February. In fact, those staff are all probably working from home.

        The March committee meeting was scheduled for March 5, well before the shutdown. The virus was not a “reason”.

        The May Committee meeting was held today. I didn’t get a chance to watch it live (and the archive is not yet posted) but there was no Q4 report on the agenda.

        The Quarterly Ridership Reports usually went to the full Board anyway, and there have been no cancelled monthly Board meetings for ST.

      8. “Simply put, there is no procedural excuse for not providing these data by now.”


        “The virus was not a “reason”.”

        Sorry, Dan, but your argument just doesn’t hold water here. There is no legitimate excuse for ST not getting this EOY quarterly report published by now. There just isn’t. As Al S. has just explained, and your own reply confirms, the relevant committee and board meetings have been held. The data period at issue was from last year and the staff had adequate time to assemble the report well before the Governor issued his executive order. Unless the ST personnel who are responsible for these reports had been furloughed some time in February, which I’m pretty certain hasn’t happened, then there shouldn’t have been any obstacle standing in the way of getting this rather perfunctory task completed.

        “Nobody outside of this immediate conversation
        ….thinks a single quarterly report is an important use of anybody’s time right now.”

        Give me a break. Setting aside the hyperbolic nature of your phrasing entirely, this is nothing short of a straw man argument, as your assertion conflates the actual timing of events. Even on its face the argument is a dubious one, as I’m sure this task is assigned to certain staff members who would be doing most of the same things they normally do even now, most likely from home as Al S. has indicated.

        “We know where the overall trends were last year, and we know that we are in a very different world now with far greater uncertainty than you’re going to resolve with one more quarterly report.”

        The current situation, or, as you put it, “very different world now”, is simply irrelevant to the issue of the timely reporting of the ridership data from Oct-Dec 2019.

    2. I see your point about bus rearrangement, but I felt that the section on Link extension was really depressing – with the spine, we’re doing *exactly* what every other failing system does – placing lines and stations next to freeways and on-ramps. And even the sites with potential (i.e. Northgate) are inefficiently used (e.g. the hockey rink they’re putting there).

      1. I will say that Link tends to pull the key stations a few blocks away from the freeway (Lynnwood, KDM, FW, Bellevue), while other systems have stations literally within the freeway envelope. Where ST does this, many are excellent bus intercepts/terminals (135, 145, 185, Judkins Park, and Mercer Island). Denver’s system would be like building a line of stations of SE Redmond and SE Bellevue without mixing in the good stuff like Bel-Red and downtown Redmond. So yes, Federal Way Link without Pierce county ridership will be a very anemic route.

        Systems like Portland and Denver extend into surbubia fringe. Our spine will have anchors at the end (Tacoma and Everett), which is rather unique among NA light rail systems. The only comparable I can think of is the Minn-St Paul Green Line or perhaps the Expo line, both of which are mentioned as better preforming lines (>3K riders/mile). Again, the comparable would if metro Seattle ended at the county line and Federal Way was the last city before the prairie.

        Finally, we have excellent subway service in our core, which is very unique for North America but more common in Europe. The best preforming LRT systems in NA – Boston and SF – can both attribute much of their success to downtown tunnels. Further, other systems are moving in our direction, with LA and Dallas rebuilding their downtown alignment into a subway and Portland considering the same, which should improve ridership in their respective systems.

      2. There is more then a hockey rink being built at Northgate as part of the redevelopment of the mall.

        The NHL Seattle team will have its headquarters there in an office building that will be built on the site of the former JC Penney store. There will be 3 ice rinks and they will be available to be used by the community for youth hockey teams, figure skating and just skating by anyone who want to put on a pair of skates. Around the ice rinks will be restaurants and bars.

        As part of the redevelopment of the mall they will also build apartment buildings and the site will become more open and similar to the University Village with gardens and trees.

        Retail which was previously at about 1 million square feet will be reduced to around 400,000 square feet.

        Those were the plans prior to the virus crisis and it is not known what affect that will have on the redevelopments plans. It was thought that it would be about 5 to 7 years for everything to be completed but that timeline may change because of the virus.

      3. I’m aware that they’re building more than just a rink. The rinks are still an iredeemable waste of space. We already lack housing. Using some of the best positioned development-friendly land, to build something with basically zero value is completely inept.

      4. Gerrick, the developers have more money than you do, so they have more votes about what gets built there.

      5. When the remodeling of Northgate is done it will look completely different then it has and will include housing. But a city also needs recreational facilities and the ice rinks will provide that for both youth and adult hockey teams and for those who are into figure skating and for people both young and old who just want to skate something that has been lacking in the city.

        A city also need stores conveniently located and for most of the north end of Seattle Northgate is that location but the shopping portion will more of an urban setting with gardens and trees where people can walk and sit and enjoy the outdoors.

      6. The NHL Seattle team will have its headquarters there in an office building that will be built on the site of the former JC Penney store. There will be 3 ice rinks and they will be available to be used by the community for youth hockey teams, figure skating and just skating by anyone who want to put on a pair of skates. Around the ice rinks will be restaurants and bars.

        A development that I would have loved to seen built in Bellevue. My question is what is going to happen to the cluster of rinks up north along 99. I expect Highland and Sno-King will be available soon for after the opening of Northgate redevelopment. Olympic View may survive and possibly get a boost if the other two nearby close.

    3. The A Line is still running at full schedule, perhaps then some, last I checked. So, it is actually running more frequently than Link, at the moment.

      The virus will decide whether all the ridership projections have been relegated to the fantasy bin, but South King County is full of blue-collar essential worker bees. Tacoma is, too, but too many of them have long since been forced to acquire n-hand clunkers.

      With so many people getting the virus, and projections that it will double over the summer, the number of copies of the original viral cell means the odds of mutations and multiplication of number of strains will only get worse. Whether a vaccine works on one or all strains of the virus remains to be seen, assuming there will be a vaccine at all. That herd immunity hypothesis could turn out to be rather catastrophic.

      But blue-collar transportation, health care, and grocery chain workers will still have to show up to work. Expect Federal Way Link ridership to be more resilient than north and east King County, and for car-oriented land uses around the stations to give way eventually to the housing crisis, which, although it exists all over the US&A, is more pronounced here with our ubiquitous snob zoning.

    4. AJ, passenger load definitely counts. But I think attention also needs to go to the cost of maintaining ride quality.

      Has anybody got stats on whether tracks or bus-carrying pavement are easier and less expensive to maintain?

      And also, which treatment are municipalities more likely to voluntarily spend money on?

      Mark Dublin

    5. Link is not “typical light rail”, and its high cost per mile is because of tunnels. Most light rails are like MAX. If MAX had a downtown tunnel like it should have had from the beginning, its cost would be higher too. Link functions as something in between a typical light rail, heavy-rail subway, and commuter rail. So that’s what it can be directly compared to. In general it’s superior for medium-distance trips but inferior for short-distance and long-distance trips. Its niche is trips like Roosevelt-UW, UDistrict-Capitol Hill, UDistrict-downtown, downtown-Bellevue, and downtown-Lynnwood, downtown-Columbia City, and downtown-Rainier Beach — these are all within 30 minutes.

      Then you get into the 30-60 minute period, were downtown-Redmond, downtown-SeaTac, and downtown-Everett are still comparable with ST Express and the former 194. It’s not competitive with driving; Seattle-Everett is 30 minutes without traffic, compared to 60 minutes on ST Express, Link, and Sounder. But if we take the ST Express travel time as acceptable, then Link is acceptable.

      Where Link breaks down is beyond that: downtown-Federal Way and downtown-Tacoma, where it’s more than 10 minutes slower than ST Express, and an hour’s trip or more. And don’t even try to think of Federal Way-Bellevue or Federal Way-Redmond. Maybe that 405 Stride will help, or at least be something different.

      1. Mike, for what it’s worth, I’ve always thought of “light” and “heavy” rail as being not a matter of train weight, but of degree of right-of-way reservation they require.

        SkyTrain, with its right-of-way completely forbidden to intrusion from end to end, classes as “Heavily” reserved. It’s a horizontal elevator shaft.

        “Light rail?” Way I’d define it is able to handle the tight curves of a streetcar line IF IT HAS TO. With the understanding that the system should not make it do this unless it’s REALLY necessary.

        I really am wondering how much streetcar running Sound Transit had in mind when it spec’d out its two fleets, the Kinki-Sharyos and the Siemens. Anybody know?

        I’ve read that Karlsruhe, Germany has a tramway line that runs city streets in town, and then heads out on a converted cross-country freight track.

        Think they canceled this some years ago, but for a while one segment on each train featured a “Bistro.” Can’t ascertain if Karlsruhe’s ever had toilets.

        But I’m really seriously interested in how much “flex” Sound Transit spec’s into its train designs. Because it’s also fully possible that a line will need more than one type of usage in the developing life of the project.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Mark, that’s an accurate description of the difference with the possible added caveat that “heavy rail” is USUALLY third-rail powered because it has a completely exclusionary right of way. The size of the carriages/cars can vary greatly, usually depending on the age of the system. The Piccadilly Line (IIRC) has cars about the size of a Skoda streetcar.

        Some systems tried third rail on suburban lines outside Chicago (I actually rode the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin as a small boy) and ended up with some fried kids. Not a good picture.

      3. “I really am wondering how much streetcar running Sound Transit had in mind”

        Mt Baker to SeaTac. That was the original proposal but Tukwila didn’t want the boulevard torn up again just after it had been beautified, and it objected to taking a corner of Southcenter’s land. So it became elevated instead. Elevating part of it meant elevating all of it to get around the highways. ST never specified what it would do south of SeaTac, but by the same principle it would be surface all the way to Federal Way and Tacoma. I doubt anybody bothered to check what the travel time would be if it were all surface like that.

      4. The difference between light rail and heavy rail as I understand it is maximum capacity. When I said heavy rail, I meant a full-sized city subway or commuter rail. Those are different but they’re both heavy. Link is between all three of them. A typical light rail is 90+% surface and shorter. A typical subway is higher-capacity, fully grade-separated, and shorter. A typical commuter rail as long as Link or longer, faster, with much fewer stops, and more right-of-way priority.

      5. “third rail at grade with grade crossings

        The trains coasted through grade-crossings and there was a shield above the third rail and on the side away from the tracks. But of course the contact shoe made it impossible to shield that side as well.

    6. I found the article to be amateurish at best.

      1. Light rail has a smoother ride and this seems an ignored factor by the author. There has been many pieces written about ride quality and rail preference.

      2. The issue of exclusive lane costs is not separately isolated in the discussion. The article even highlights that BRT is cheaper because the projects don’t have to pay for tracks for the vehicles — ignoring this basic cost or value aspect. A BRT system that includes new exclusive lanes should be the more appropriate cost comparison.

      3. The author ignores the relationship between paid parking and light rail transit use. If parking was as free and available in Downtown Seattle, San Francisco or Boston, light rail ridership would plummet. Conversely, if Oceanside and Escondido had expensive parking that is hard to find, Sprinter would have lots more riders.

      I will give the author credit about highlighting those light rail investments in metro area corridors that don’t need them. However, he suggests merely giving up on the rail service rather than enhancing underperforming station areas or changing parking incentives.

      It’s predictable from a recently-graduated Harvard undergrad math major who appears to look at transit riders as “them” (drains on public cost) rather than “us” (fellow citizens). I put much more value on TRB publications than in a rogue publisher.

    7. The motivation for Federal Way Link was so that people could drive to Federal Way P&R and take light rail from there, because Federal Way is the most important city on I-5 between Seattle and Tacoma, if it does say so itself. It was Federal Way that pushed for the extension throughout all the ST2 debates, recession modifications, and ST3. Not people clamoring to truncate buses. The post-ST2 scenarios had the ST Express buses truncated at KDM.

      In Snohomish County there was more of an emphasis on bus truncations because of the extensive CT express buses and the huge need for local frequency that truncating the express buses would pay for. That’s not so much a factor in the south end because Metro has relatively few express buses there that could be truncated, and Pierce Transit has none. ST Express hours would be recycled into ST Express, not local service — or ST might just reduce the hours. The scenario it did choose was fewer hours than current, so essentially shifting part of the ST Express subsidy into Link.

      1. STX will likely reduce their hours, i.e. recycle the hours into Link. I thought PT had a few routes into Seattle? Nothing beyond Federal Way, then?

        Looking at the ridership by corridor in the SIP, I-5 South (King + Pierce) has higher ridership than I-5 North (~12K vs ~9K), but I’m guessing the I-5 North numbers would be much high if CT routes were included?

        I’ll concede your general point – Snohomish has much stronger commuter bus ridership into Seattle than Pierce, mostly for geographic reasons, which will manifest in higher Link ridership. But Federal Way isn’t much further from Seattle than Lynnwood, so no reason its cannot emerge as a regional node of similar magnitude?

      2. PT originated the 594 in the 1990s, and somebody said the 590 and 592 too, but Sound Transit took them over as soon as ST Express started. The only PT routes after that are a few to Federal Way TC. (And a few alternating situations in southeast Auburn and northeast Tacoma.) In Snohomish ST launched a parallel set of expresses alongside the CT 4xx’s routes, and both have continued to this day. But not in Pierce.

        People assume Everett and Tacoma are equidistant, and Lynnwood and Federal Way are halfway between them, but they’re not. Lynnwood is the distance of northern Kent. Everett is a bit further than Federal Way. The greater distance makes travel times longer and service more expensive, so PT feels less mandate to serve Seattle and is happy to let ST pay the costs.

        I-5 south is doubtless higher because South King County has a larger population than either Pierce County or Snohomish County, but we weren’t talking about South King County routes.

      3. “People assume Everett and Tacoma are equidistant, and Lynnwood and Federal Way are halfway between them, but they’re not.”

        Yeah, I’ve noticed that too and I’m glad to see you have pointed out this misunderstanding in several of your posts in recent weeks. IIRC, I believe the Federal Way TC is about the same distance from Westlake Center as the Mariner P&R (in the “South Everett” area) is from Westlake Center. In other words, Lynnwood is a bit closer to midtown Seattle than Federal Way is, but Everett is farther away from that same reference point in downtown Seattle. Still, Everett is much closer than Tacoma, especially downtown Tacoma.

      4. Another factor is that the UW sits to the north of downtown Seattle. It is enough of a draw that ST still runs express buses to it from Tacoma (Community Transit runs express buses to it from Snohomish County as well). Someone from Lynnwood will be able to get to the UW in less than 20 minutes. From Federal Way, it will take 53 minutes.

        SeaTac is a significant draw, but not to the same degree.

      5. I think the Pierce County Transit Map is one of the better ones (lots of options, including what you want as the background) : https://piercetransit.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=5e122c82aab449f9acf4ce14b596d394

        It will be interesting to see what Sound Transit does after 2024. At that point, Link will be at Federal Way, and the I-405 BRT project will be done. There are a lot of choices, such as:

        1) Terminating I-5 buses at Federal Way. The 590, 592 and 594 go to downtown Seattle. The 574 goes to SeaTac. Federal Way is a good terminus for buses (similar to Lynnwood) in that it can be accessed easily and quickly from the HOV lanes. The savings would be enormous. For Lakewood and Dupont riders, it wouldn’t be much different than if they completed the spine, and the buses were terminated in Tacoma. The same is true for those in downtown Tacoma (still a two seat ride to Seattle). For those that use the Tacoma Dome parking lot, it would not be as good as when Link reaches the Tacoma Dome — suddenly putting them in the same boat as those in downtown Tacoma. Whether Sound Transit wants to do that to their precious Park and Ride users remains a big question (heaven forbid someone has to take a shuttle bus from a park and ride lot).

        2) Extend some buses to TIBS. If ST errs on the side of the status quo, then one simple, fairly cheap change would be to send the 574 to TIBS, so that more riders have a two seat ride to Bellevue (and Burien). Likewise, ST could truncate the 590 and 594 at TIBS. That would give downtown Tacoma riders a two seat trip to Bellevue (and Burien) as well. The bus could even skip SeaTac, serving only the (essentially freeway station) of Federal Way, and then TIBS. I’m not sure if that is much faster, though.

        3) Run a Tacoma, Auburn, Kent, Renton bus. This would make the most sense outside of rush hour, when Sounder isn’t running. This would be fairly fast, especially given the distances involved. This would replace the 566, which has horrible midday frequency (hourly). So while some would miss the one seat ride (to Bellevue) most wouldn’t.

        4) Run an Auburn, Kent, Bellevue bus. Basically an extension of the 567. It would run only during rush hour. Efforts could be made to time some of the buses as they leave Kent, so that riders from Tacoma, Sumner and Puyallup to Bellevue would have a fast (two seat) ride to Bellevue (or Burien).

        5) Send the 578 to Kent instead of Federal Way. This would give riders from Kent a fast ride to downtown in the middle of the day with no extra cost. You could rely on Metro and Pierce County service to connect Auburn, Sumner and Puyallup to Federal Way, or run an additional Puyallup/Sumner/Federal Way bus.

        That is a lot of choices, and it isn’t clear to me what makes the most sense. That is again a big difference between the north end and the south end. The north end is very linear. North of Lynnwood, just about every significant destination is in a narrow band. For Snohomish County, it is pretty clear: truncate, and maybe send a few buses to Bellevue and Bothell. The same is true for Bothell and Kenmore (don’t bother with express buses to downtown). But for, places like Auburn and Tacoma, it isn’t clear at all whether it makes sense to run express buses to Bellevue or Seattle, or for that matter, between the two.

    1. Also, I wonder if a P&R app will help drivers discover out of the way lots that have spare capacity. On the debate around the Auburn garage, Ross and others love to point out that there are plenty of P&Rs with capacity, then are just slightly out of the way. An app like this should help riders discover these P&Rs, particularly those that travel later in the morning and find the better known P&Rs full.

      For example
      Current state: Commuter is running late, arrives at their typical P&R to find it is full. Drives around the lot a few times and gives up because they need to get to work and drives in, and don’t want to gamble on another P&R also being full.
      Future state: Commuter is running late, discovers P&R is full (either in person or on the app), and sees “oh hey, this nearby P&R has spots. Less convenient, but I can make it work today” and parks there.

      1. I think it would help only at the margins. If more than a few people use it, the other lots will quickly fill up too. It reminds me a bit of Waze telling drivers to cut through neighborhood streets to avoid traffic on the highway. Works great when only one person uses it. But, when everybody uses it, it just means the neighborhood streets get clogged up too.

        Also, the P&Rs most likely to have open spaces probably have limited bus service. Which could mean a long wait to get picked up, once you get there.

      2. This situation (P&R full but nearby one has spaces) happened a lot in the Ash Way area in the mid 2000s. Ash Way (right by the freeway, served at the time by both 413 and 415) was always full by say 7:45am, so the last few commuter runs would be walk-in or connections only. However, nearby Swamp Creek (served only by 415) almost always had spaces. In theory, people should just go to Swamp Creek, right? Except 1. 413 was at the time much more frequent, and 2. 413 entered downtown through the South end of the express lanes, so closer to the core employment area (this is before SLU, so most people were still commuting to downtown proper then). Slogging it on the 415 all the way to S Jackson (the last stop) would add about 15 minutes to your commute, plus the extra few minutes to get from Swamp Creek to Ash Way. So it was non-trivial.

        The solution, of course, was to make both 413 and 415 go to Swamp Creek. Which CT eventually did (in Fall of 2006, I believe, or maybe a little after that).

        This, to me, is the better option. Rather than going with the Waze approach, a small restructuring of the commuter routes or Link/Sounder feeder routes could help rebalance the situation much more effectively.

      3. If more than a few people use it, the other lots will quickly fill up too.

        But that’s the point. If the other lots fill up, then you have to run more buses to them, and you can focus on adding similar (relatively cheap) park and ride lots instead of spending a fortune so that the driver can park at the main one. With more shuttle bus service, you also get more people to walk to the bus stop.

  3. On fare enforcement, I’m not yet seeing any word on a change that for me is as easy as it is non-negotiable. Am I?

    The monthly ORCA pass I’ve bought since it came into existence, my possession of it needs to become Proof I’ve Paid every cent I owe the system for 30 or 31 days.

    Because I support electronic fare collection and understand Sound Transit’s need to apportion receipts fairly, I’ll do my best to “tap” my pass on a card-reader wherever I leave the train.

    I’ve been advocating a children-oriented campaign featuring a cute animal to remind people not to make the Tapmunk cry by forgetting.

    But warning or fine for a mis-tap, my prepaid card will carry me to not only King County Superior but also the Court of Public Opinion in the most embarrassing ways I can find. On this one, after years of being officially looked at and shined on, ST’s worst enemies become my best friends.

    From the news media to State Legislators already looking for dirt, whose offices are ten minutes from where I live, if I get one threatening word about a wrong “tap” count on any ORCA card of mine.

    Fare inspectors’ present instruments are already sufficient to verify that my card is valid, and also the exact time I “tapped on.” By the rules as I understand them, “Tap One” gives me two hours worth of travel no matter what else I do or don’t.

    But main thing is: I. Already. Paid. If I don’t take a single trip, I don’t get a penny back. Loophole? Close it. An unsatisfactory off-tap can just draw whatever’s needed from same fund where the rest of my unused fare is contained. And most definitely: however short my real ride, charging me max amount should settle it.

    ST’s dirty little fault-line: Multiple sub-agencies with the sharing skills of a pouting four-year old are years-long unhappy with the promise the Agency’s formation gave the voters in its campaign literature. A “Seamless” fare system doesn’t translate as Frankenstein.

    ST’s got accountants, doesn’t it? Whose trade skills include situational formulas for fare-distribution details. Part of what I pay for when I buy the pass. Of all ages-groups, present system targets for punishment ST’s most loyally cooperative passengers.

    Present system’s real equivalent? A new vehicle gets delivered with a door mechanism whose linkage can break a passenger’s finger if they rest it an inch too close. Every Breda had at least three of them. Being Breda, mechanics had other priorities.

    ST posts a small notice someplace like “Platform”, or buried in a block of verbiage at a fare-machine location like Sea-Tac that the condition exists. Point of fact…somebody send in a video of one public mention of the “Tap Off” fine. RCW’s? Pay my attorney.

    Especially for a teenager, but carried lifelong by all of us: Getting threatened by uniformed police and punished by a court inflicts an injury! Door-damage or piece of accounting, willfully do that to passengers and you don’t deserve to have any.

    Lucky that since we’re talking plague, at least COVID gives us a couple years to get this one cured.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I’m not sure ST is going to keep the free-fare thing going on Link and Sounder for the duration of the pandemic (or if the pandemic will have an end). Collecting fares poses little threat to ATU members on the trains.

      Ridership might slowly come back regardless, but social distancing may be with us for years. ST might feel some pressure at some point to use fares again as a rationing device, so there is room for “destinational riders”.

      For the moment, the topic of fare enforcement won’t be getting much oxygen.

      1. Am I right that fares account for 7% of transit revenue? Know it’s a small system, but Intercity Transit’s account books showed that given the cost of collecting, protecting, and accounting for fares, citizens got less expensive transit by levying a tax on themselves to pay for the service. No it’s not “FREE”. Just cheaper to pay and account for someplace besides the aisle.

        If fare revenue is in fact needed, ORCA card seems truly a “Natural.” At least as soon as it’s relieved of a fare system so complicated that the Agency itself admits it’s the greatest cause of failure to pay.

        Really surprised that nobody’s yet walked out of Superior Court with a wrongful prosecution award, with petitioner’s exhibit A being video of the information on the wall of Sea-Tac mezzanine.

        Maybe when the virus lifts. Meantime, however, when IT went Zero Fare, I found myself missing the “feel” of holding my card up into the headlights of an approaching bus to alert the driver I wanted “On.”

        There are some really sharp reflective plastics available. But also: just owning the card had come to give me a sense of personal ownership and authority over the system. Reason I’m so unapologetically hateful about the risk of a criminal charge for a missed “tap.” I OWN you, dammit!

        Will also bet that an ORCA card, tap and all, is the average child’s favorite part of the ride. Next train ride, watch three year olds demand their Dad’s card so they can stretch up on tiptoe to tap it. Though I fear that a lot of little girls would handle a missed “tap” with a Citizen’s Arrest.

        But using the fare system to determine who DOESN’T get to ride, go join Seattle’sDying(tm)! Whole purpose of public transit is to leave the carriage trade at the rear end of a horse. Coffee table book about SF Muni called “The People’s Railway” says it all.


        And define “Destinational”. Have described my ST consulting job riding trains at their inception. Two Local 587 members did indeed demand to know why Mark Dublin the Sound Transit Employee was on their train spying on them, but relented when told that KCM Management were the only ones getting written up.

        But transit has long had an accepted and perfectly natural method of handling terminals. All passengers get off the vehicle while the driver finds lost items and collects trash. Then whoever wants to, re-boards. Anyone causing trouble, that’s what Security is for. Fine with me.

        Mark Dublin

      2. How would requiring payment to ride Link, but not not having FEO’s checking proof of payment work? Please tap, but we won’t check, is the same thing as free fare. And if FEO’s would still check fares, wouldn’t ‘t that up close interaction with the public all day long be dangerous for them, and the public?

      3. Metro’s fares are 20-30% of operating costs. Link’s fares are a higher percent I believe. I don’t know about ST Express or Sounder.

    1. Where’s it going? To the customary destination of any organization of working people in a country where “Right To Work” means you can’t be forced to pay union dues. Especially if you belong to one.

      And for a very large part of our country for a continuing amount if its history, the main liberty sung about and fought for has been the freedom to keep slaves. Oh, pardon me, to have “Departments of Correction” for a major industry.

      But reason this travesty has persisted this long? It’s because it spares so many people from the stress and agony of having to learn how to organize and govern themselves.

      My Country’s Epitaph? “Never in History have so many people been materially given so much, and thanks to ease of “Credit”, outwardly charged so little for it. And had so little call to take personal responsibility for its Affairs of State.”

      The REAL liberty a huge percentage of our present electorate simply craves. Bolsonaro in Brazil, Orban in Hungary, Putin in Russia, same thundering promise:

      “Vote for me, and I’ll take care of EVERYTHING!” A promise nobody can say they don’t keep. At least nobody who wants to live. And not a single rigged vote needed.

      Mark Dublin

    1. Considering what the rental scooters cost to ride and how, even at these prices, it’s still unprofitable, I have given up on the notion of them providing any meaningful mobility benefit.

      At best, it’s an alternative to Uber pool, which may be faster for very short trips, but isn’t any cheaper.

  4. If Metro says to wear a mask when traveling, why do I see more than a few Metro bus drivers driving without a mask?

    1. Any chance it’s because none of the five stores they went to to buy some had any, and scolded the drivers for asking?

      Anything to do with PPE- Personal Protective Equipment- this country’s wingin’- it like a prehistoric flightless ostrich.

      David or anybody driving: if you need a mask, will or won’t your employer see you get one?

      Mark Dublin

      1. I’m considering taking the bus tomorrow for thw first time in nearly two months. Is it safe now?

  5. On a recent STB post, there was a comment thread that led to a discussion about “lemons and making lemonade” revolving around light rail extensions in Snohomish County. That discussion led this commenter to revisit the 1993 FEIS to the 1992 Regional Transit System Plan, which was the proposal that emerged from the work done by the JRPC. These efforts were the precursors to the formation of the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority later that year.

    The following excerpt is taken from volume two of the aforementioned FEIS, specifically the governmental responses section. This particular response was received from the PSRC which firmly supported the “Rail/TSM Alternative” of the plan. Since it is now 2020 and the council’s 1993 prognostication revolved around where we should be at this point in time, I think it warrants this little trip to the past and some serious reflection about how we have performed as a region. (Hint: we have failed miserably to hit these 1992 goals.)

    “Rail/TSM Altematlve

    “The Rail/TSM Alternative includes the complete HOV component and bus service expansion under the TSM Altematlve. The Rail/TSM Alternative concept builds on the TSM Alternative by providing high capacity transit linking the region’s major centers with a fixed guideway rail system. An additional 38,000 park-and-ride stalls would be provided at stations to enable commuters to drive to a station and then transfer to rail. The rail component of the alternative includes 124 miles of rapid rail and 40 miles of commuter rail in the three major corridors, linking all three counties. The Rail/TSM Alternative is projected to attract 157 million riders by 2020; a 96 percent increase over 1990 ridership and a 41 percent increase over the No-Build option. About 30 percent of the regional population is forecast to be within a 30 minute transit ride of the regional centers (compared to 20 percent for TSM and Transitway/TSM) and 40 minutes would be the average travel time to those centers (compared to 46 minutes for TSM and 45 minutes for Transitway/ TSM). Based on a comparison of travel times to and from a selected group of regional activity centers, the Rail/TSM Altemative would provide travel-times savings from three to eight times greater than the TSM or Transitway/ TSM alternatives. Rail transit stations would provide a visible and substantial investment in rapid transit service at most of the candidate regional centers. By the year 2020, rapid rail service would link the downtowns of Everett, Lynnwood, Redmond, Seattle, Renton, lssaquah, Burien, SeaTac, Federal Way, Tacoma, and Bellevue as well as candidate regional centers at Overlake, Totem Lake, University District, First Hill/Capital Hill, and Northgate. Commuter rail would link the downtowns of Seattle, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, and Tacoma. The increased accessibility to these centers would generate significant market potential for compact, high-density employment, commercial, and residential activity.


    “Although a regional transit system would be only one of many transportation and land use planning actions for managing growth, the type and extent of transit investments would have a significant impact on achieving the VlSION 2020 objective of concentrating growth within major regional centers. The Rail/TSM Alternative would support the VISION 2020 centers growth strategy better than the No-Buiid, TSM, and Transitway/FSM Alternative. Under the Rail/TSM Alternative, more candidate regional centers would be served with high-quality, high-speed transit service and the substantial visible commitment to transit would promote compact, high-density growth within major regional centers.”

    1. P.S. This is an old .pdf file so not all of the scanned type got read correctly in the process. Example: “Alternative” was read as “Altematlve”. Despite these mistakes I think the reader can ascertain the intended meaning.

    2. I see rapid rail to Federal Way but not to Tacoma Dome. That would put it in a more reasonable distance-frame because Everett and Federal Way are approximately equidistand and an hour’s travel time from Westlake. The plan has commuter rail to Tacoma but not to Everett. So how did the Tacoma Dome extension get added on?

      1. “The plan has commuter rail to Tacoma but not to Everett.”

        The 1995 plan that failed to pass at the ballot box included commuter rail between Seattle and Tacoma, but not between Seattle and Everett. In the second try the next year, in a reduced ballot measure (Sound Move), the commuter rail part of the proposal more than doubled the track mileage and included Seattle to Everett. Of course, the RTA at the time thought they could get the BNSF easements for way less than they ultimately ended up paying.

      2. How I’m not sure, but they why seems pretty clear – Tacoma wants a connection to first the airport and second the rest of the system, and also Tacoma is a destination itself so Link between Tacoma and SeaTac should have bidirectional demand.

        I don’t know when the Spine emerged as an organizing concept. Perhaps Tacoma realized that their Link was just a streetcar and they wanted the real thing.

      3. The Spine predated Link and Sounder. Sound Transit was predicated on rapid transit to Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond. Sounder was added as low-hanging fruit: it could be started in a couple years and was inexpensive (or so they believed), while rapid transit would take ten years to build the initial segment and twenty years to build the whole thing. When the rapid transit technology was finally chosen, ST went with light rail because it was compatible with surface-running, and that’s how ST intended to keep costs low. There would only be tunnels in Beacon Hill and across the Ship Canal because of hills. There seems to have been a disconnect between the original goal of Tacoma and Everett and the slow travel time of surface-running track that is speed-limited to the adjacent streets.

      4. That’s an excellent summary, Mike Orr. It’s nice to hear from others who have been around from the start and have retained a decently accurate memory of the history of the last 25-30 years of this rapid transit endeavor.

  6. Sam, if fares actually pay only 7% of transit revenue, why don’t we see if sources for the other 93% can’t deliver a little more to make up the difference?

    Given the burgeoning online commercial world our Changed Situation seems to be developing, time could be ripe for a whole world of Tapmunk(tm) dolls and video’s.

    Maybe a prize-winning cartoon action drama series! Knowing Tim Eyman(tm), he’d be proud to have the villain look like him, though he might demand royalties.

    To augment badly needed Husky sales, same supplier could greet Fall football with a hat depicting a creature the size of a Husky pup except with chipmunk teeth and a little plastic tear in the corner of its eye.

    Think we could also use a loveable sidekick that looks like a fuzzy Sam Zimbabwe.

    Mark Dublin

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