52 Replies to “Podcast #94: Sub-regional backbiting”

  1. I think that Sounder North has a lot of untapped potential that has been ignored by Sound Transit because it involves increasing ridership by connecting to counties outside of the Sound Transit area. Specifically, the multi-modal connection to Island County at the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry is woefully under served by regional transit. The majority of trips on that ferry, especially in the summer, is on the weekends, when there is NO regional transit service to the ferry. I live in Langley on Whidbey Island, where there is a serious parking problem during a normal tourist season. Island Transit has direct, free transit connections that meet every ferry and could bring tourists to the urban scale commercial district of Langley, but alas, our balkanized transportation system doesn’t serve those kinds of possibilities. Even WSDOT doesn’t connect Cascades to this ferry, which would provide additional trips and reverse trips currently unavailable on the corridor.

    This leads me to the other untapped population for this corridor. The 15,000 South Whidbey residents, a part of the 60,000 people who live on Whidbey, would make use of additional connections at Mukilteo. The ferry is basically a toll highway that serves all modes. Give people options at both ends and they will use them, especially for trips into the heart of Seattle. Rural residents love to visit urban centers, and will do so on transit if it’s available. The problem is that the current trips are only catering to commuters. For casual trips, there are effectively no transit connections in Mukilteo after commute hours, and ZERO reverse trips.

    The Sounder North corridor has been setup for failure since the beginning. It works for so few who live on the corridor, and barely gives options to those who connect by ferry. My observations have been that most of the people boarding in Mukilteo come from Whidbey. This includes special event trains. Provide more convenient train times and people will use it. Hell, I’d support inclusion of South Whidbey island in the district to help save this line.

    1. The way Sounder is set up, a train to meet every ferry would be prohibitively expensive, not would Whidbey provide enough passengers to fill it.

      Once ST3 is fully built out, I do think a quick shuttle from the Mukilteo ferry to Paine Field Station would be entirely reasonable. You could run it every half hour and meet every ferry. While this would be a bit slower than Sounder in getting to King St. station, Link provides direct access to many more destinations, so probably better for riders overall. And, having something that could run all day at reasonable cost is huge.

      1. Yeah, seems like a much better option is a CT 417 type route that goes to either Lynnwood TC or another Link station, and have a bus meet every ferry. Unlike Sounder, would be able to provide all-day connections without massive capital outlay, and the service is useful for people at the intermediate stops.

      2. And Link goes to UW and elsewhere in North Seattle.

        This is what rural areas in other countries have: regular transit to the nearest city. Not “only peak hours” or “only to a suburb and then there’s nothing to the city except an hourly route that zigzags through residential areas.”

      3. Agree, although, operationally, a bus to Paine Field Station would be much cheaper than a bus to Lynnwood. As it stands today, CT only grudgingly serves Mukilteo with an all-day bus route at all, in the form of an added tail to an already very long milk run that runs only hourly.

        I’m hoping that Paine Field Station will shorten the distance enough to make a direct shuttle to Mukilteo feasible. Assuming that Paine Field gets busier by then, this bus would also get some ridership from Whidbey island people catching flights. Not having to deal with the uncertainty of fitting a car on board the ferry could be very nice when you have a plane to catch, if transit can simply avoid dropping the ball.

    2. You are touching on an issue which I feel is generally and systemically ignored: the financial and operational relationship between ST and the WSFerries. Simply put, there appears to be none.

      Consider this too: Why should it be only on ST’s dime to make a ferry connection work? Shouldn’t the operating interest of the WSFerries be to have more users walk on as opposed to drive on, meaning that they should generally be looking to better partner with and contribute to local bus and rail transit service operations to make that happen? Expecting ST to be the only agency to fund services justified to benefit ferry riders isn’t being fair to the rest of the ST taxpayers or the ferry riders who walk on. Part of the ferry revenue needs to be allocated to connecting transit services better, and every ferry service should have an ongoing access policy (with funding) that includes better connecting to regional transit.

      Most other US urban areas — San Francisco, Boston, New York, Portland ME — consider their ferry operations to primarily be transit operations. Granted they aren’t hauling cars, but for our region to mostly treat ferries separately from the transit system is a political choice that other US urban places don’t buy into.

      1. This is one reason why the 18th amendment needs to go. I’m not sure how WSDOT could legally do anything to help with connecting bus service without violating it.

      2. The ferries that feed Colman Docks, WSDOT and otherwise, I think are generally viewed as transit. Bainbridge’s terminal has dedicated bus bays and timed runs with Kitsap Transit, and I assume Brementon is similar (plus the foot ferry from Port Orchard)

        I don’t know if that holds for Edmonds and Mulkiteo, where the ferries are primarily extensions of SRs 104 and 525, respectively. From Kingston, Kitsap Transit is trying to serve the transit market with a direct fast ferry, not using WSDOT. So that really just leaves Mulkiteo, where the connection is to a rural island. I don’t see a comparable service to the “other urban areas” you mention.

        Sure, some sort of coordinating working group between Island Transit, WSDOT Ferries, and CT would be good, but this is very much an edge case for transit.

        To me, the ball is with Island Transit to commit to a level of investment comparable to Kitsap Transit. WSDOT’s job is to provide a facsimile of a bridge for SR 525, not to connect Whidbey Island to job centers.

      3. The fast ferries run a very limited schedule, and always will due to their high operating cost. And their speed advantage goes away if you’re getting off at any Link station that’s not downtown. They are not a substitute for a simple shuttle bus connecting the Mukilteo ferry to the nearest Link station.

      4. AJ, the state views WSF as an extension of the state highway system as opposed to transit. The public and smaller regional agencies may see them as transit, and this disconnect is likely the cause of the issues we see now.

      5. I see two distinct, systemic issues that play out:

        1. Ferry Feeder Operations: Are ferry fares restricted by the 18th Amendment? If not, can a surcharge on ferry fares by cars go to pay for helping local transit operators serve terminals? It seems to be a one-way street; local transit operators serve ferry terminals or even pay for their own additional foot ferry service but WSF isn’t partnering. It’s in the interest of WSF to get ferry riders out of their cars, and it’s better for the environment too. Since WSF already participates in Orca, it really feels like this firewall of not supporting feeder bus service to ferry terminals is artificial. I even read that ferry terminal improvements include transit centers, but that’s as far as WSF appears to be able to go.

        2. Both ST and WSF are long-distance, commuter-focused transit operators that operate within a few miles of each other — and occasionally even come closer than that. Yet, as each one develops long-range plans, it seems that they aren’t trying to coordinate with one another. That means that we get things like ST Express 560 stopping 1.5 miles from Fauntleroy Terminal. Or we get pedestrian connections from Colman Dock that don’t go directly to a Link station.

        I realize that rethinking the relationships between agencies is a hard as rethinking the relationships between neighbors. Every agency has their institutional “boundaries” that they don’t want to cross, and their supporters will defend those boundaries. Still, I feel like the citizens of the region as a whole suffers from this “fiefdom” approach I see from both WSF and ST towards each other. It’s almost as if they exist in parallel universes that never meet.

      6. Shuttle service is good service, just saying that I don’t think WSF is the right agency.

        If WSF had a mandate to invest in infrastructure to goose ferry fares, you might see them paying to widen the Agate Passage Bridge before running feeder buses, lol.

        “long-distance, commuter-focused transit operators” – exactly. Sound Transit is supposed to invest in high capacity transit to major job centers. Clinton to anyways simply isn’t a major commute corridor. So it’s outside of their remit. It could be a job for CT, but Clinton presumably isn’t an important destination for Snohomish residents. You simply don’t see our major transit agencies going out of their way to serve rural areas. Vashon gets a nice water taxi, but that connects to Seattle directly.

        So it falls Island Transit. If they want to pay for shuttle service to meet their riders in Mulkiteo, great! But the service is really to benefit their residents so I’d look to then to take the lead.

      7. “This is one reason why the 18th amendment needs to go….”

        I see comments along this theme fairly frequently on this blog and unfortunately they all reflect a misunderstanding of our high court’s current interpretation of article II, section 40 of our state constitution (which was added by the 18th amendment). To see why this is the case, one only needs to read the opinion in Automotive United Trades Organization v. Washington State from 2012, which was a unanimous decision in favor of the state, and centered around the trade association’s constitutional challenge to the state’s hazardous substance tax or HST (which includes motor vehicle fuels). It’s a pretty short opinion at just 15 pages and pretty straightforward on the two underlying issues the court addressed, so it shouldn’t be too taxing even for the inexperienced.

        Here are the critical parts of the decision (starting on page 7):

        “Article II, section 40 of the Washington Constitution provides:
        ‘All fees collected by the State of Washington as license fees for motor
        vehicles and all excise taxes collected by the State of Washington on the sale, distribution or use of motor vehicle fuel and all other state revenue intended to be used for highway purposes, shall be paid into
        the state treasury and placed in a special fund to be used exclusively
        for highway purposes.’

        “Additionally, article II, section 40 also provides:
        ‘That this section shall not be construed to include revenue from general
        or special taxes or excises not levied primarily for highway purposes,
        or apply to vehicle operator’s license fees or any excise tax imposed on
        motor vehicles or the use thereof in lieu of a property tax thereon, or fees for certificates of ownership of motor vehicles.’ ”

        The court then lays out its explanation as to why it rejected the appellants’ arguments. This is the key section of said argument (page 11):

        “AUTO and Tower [appellants] want to insert a restriction into our constitutional analysis that does not appear in the text of article II, section 40. Nothing in that constitutional provision indicates that any new tax similar to a gas tax would require the legislature to use the funds for highway purposes or that a
        new tax similar to the MVET or B&O tax would allow the contrary. Furthermore, the language of article II, section 40 is unambiguous in its natural and most obvious import because it specifically indicates that all
        ‘state revenue intended to be used for highway purposes . . . [shall] be used
        exclusively for highway purposes.’ The proviso even clarifies that ‘this
        section shall not be construed to include revenue from . . . taxes or excises not levied primarily for highway purposes.’ ”

        Again, this was 9-0 decision by the court supporting the constitutionality of the HST that were implemented to fund the Model Toxic Controls Act. Moreover, this section of our state constitution expressly does not prohibit general or special taxes or excises not levied for highway purposes. In other words, a properly drafted piece of excise tax legislation pertaining to the sale, distribution or use, or any combination thereof, that states its intended non-highway purpose(s) should withstand judicial review based on the precedent set in this case.

        The real issue at hand here is a political one.

        https://law.justia.com/cases/washington/supreme-court/2012/85971-0.html

    3. As others have noted, the problem is that you wouldn’t add enough riders. North Sounder only has 1,500 riders a day. Even if this doubled ridership, it would be a terrible value. The train is extremely expensive, and you would have to have lots more riders *per train* for North Sounder to work. For the volumes you are talking about, you are far better off having shuttle buses. These could easily be timed to the ferry. They would actually wait until everyone got off the ferry, then leave. Likewise, they would aim to be there a bit before the ferry gets there. I think buses of this nature would be a decent replacement for the ferry, although I’m not convinced you would get that many riders outside of rush hour. In other words, it is quite likely it isn’t worth running a bus, and it definitely isn’t worth running a train.

      1. Even if you got the cost down to something within reason for this deluxe travel, all you’ve “succeeded” in is encouraging the worst kind of sprawl. That in itself pulls funds away from robust transit in the rest of the County. Or safer roads in the case of WSF. Better to spend the money on fish passages than ferry passages.

  2. You mentioned improving RapidRide E. There are several things that could be done:

    1) Convert all of the stops to “Stations”. There are only a handful. If these stops perform really poorly, then just eliminate them.
    2) Improve stop spacing. From what I can see, this would involve the elimination of one stop (at either 152nd or 155th). I would eliminate the stop at 200th, except that once Swift stops there, it will be more important than the stop at Aurora Village. Otherwise, the stop spacing is just fine (it is quarter to half mile, which is good). It is much better than Swift’s, for example, where ridership suffers because the stop spacing is too large. It is so bad for Swift, that they have to run a second, low frequency bus on the corridor. This is a bizarre, wasteful design. Either Swift should add more stops, or the agency should give up on them. Either way, they should run buses elsewhere.
    3) Avoid the Linden detour. I’m surprised you didn’t mention this, since it is by far the easiest way to speed up the bus.
    4) Add signal priority. As mentioned, this is difficult on this corridor, because you do have a significant amount of cross traffic (which makes it different than MLK).
    5) Center running stations. This would be great, but likely extremely expensive, especially between 65th and downtown. It is essentially a freeway there. So not only do you need to carve out space for a station (one each direction) but you also have to find a way to get people there. Then you have the other Aurora buses (the 5, 26, 28) and they carry a fair amount of riders. This means committing to more center running stops on the side of Aurora (or a big coverage gap). So while it would be ideal, it would likely involve about a half dozen really expensive stops before you even got involved at places like 80th.

    North of 65th, things get easier. But there still isn’t a lot of space, and taking property is expensive. The best option, in my mind, would be eliminate left turns. Left turns would allow for better traffic flow, and in turn help solve the signal priority problem. It would also create space for center bus stops.

    I could also see a hybrid system. At around Green Lake, a bus would transition from one side of the street to the other. But north of there it would be smooth sailing. I would move the 76th street station to 73rd. That is where the BAT lane would end. At about 75th, the BRT lane would begin. In my opinion, this has potential — if you get rid of left turns. In some areas (80th to 90th) this would be easy. In other areas (Northgate Way) it would be hard. You also have issues, in that a lot of drivers, forced to make three rights, will do so using side streets. This runs against the very movement that is growing in the area — reduced automobile use on residential streets. That in turn means more work to prevent access.

    I suppose you could have a mix. Some center running would be the result of no left turns, while some center running is the result of widening the street. In general though, you wouldn’t want to have the bus transition from the side to the center too much, otherwise there is little point.

    1. Center running stations! I’d link to my article but that seems a bit much…

      Agree south of 65th center running would be expensive but seems worth it. The investment in each station should still be a fraction of the cost of creating new ROW on other (lower ridership) corridors. North of 65th, as long as each stop is near a intersection or crosswalk, access to the center running station should be straightforward. I could see implementing center running on the north end first as it’s cheaper.

      I’m not sure the no left turns is an issue. From other BRT designs I’ve seen, they are still able to accommodate left hand turns at major intersections, and NACTO has some good designs. Elsewhere along Aurora, there are occasional left hand turn pockets, which can work alongside BRT lanes in a 7-lane configurations (ex: GP GP Bus ^v Bus Turn GP GP) where the left turn has to yield to traffic coming from behind left … seems dangerous but I’ve definitely seen this configuration before, often when there are intersections at odd angles, so I suppose it’s safe?

      Here’s a good example of a 7-lane street with a BRT center station and left turn lanes:
      https://www.google.com/maps/@35.0814406,-106.6269014,3a,75y,116.2h,94.86t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s2MJFGpTKGsn0N2YNZjvDgA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e2

      For the routes that share Aurora, could also do what PT is proposing and have left-hand lanes but right-hand station islands, so you don’t need a special bus.

      1. Yes, left turns can be accommodated with center running buses, and that is a great example. I should have been clear about that.

        I just think that in general, there is no easy way to add space for the station. You would have to make the street wider, which can be very expensive. Taking the left turn lane solves that problem *and* makes traffic move faster. For example, look at 85th and Aurora (https://goo.gl/maps/m6tnkEZFCULKXQef8). At that point, Aurora is 7 lanes wide. There are 4 lanes for general traffic, and 2 lanes for the bus. Then there is a turn lane on each side. Take away the turn lane (on either side of 85th) and you have a station.

        In other cases, the problem solves itself. For example, there is a stop just north of 90th, here: https://goo.gl/maps/vS37wwf6kYfTpp2v8. It wouldn’t take much to just move it into the median (https://goo.gl/maps/Nc1iVKyJyd4c4eC8A). The problem really only occurs when you want to put a station right on a crossing street. This is only important if:

        1) You have crossing buses.

        2) The street grid only works for the major intersection.

        This again is why a hodge-podge approach might be the best bet. There is no reason to have a station at 80th. You could have a station at 78th. There is no crossing bus on 80th, and 78th works just find as a pedestrian street. At most they would have to add a crosswalk. On the other hand, 85th is a major crossing transit street. So you really want a station as close to 85th as possible. It is actually pretty easy. Just take one of the left turn lanes. I would take the northbound one. Someone coming from the south would then just a left on 80th. Even if they are trying to get to the north part of the street between Linden and Aurora, they could always loop around using 88th (https://goo.gl/maps/TMnjnC3qnt2f2XWS8). Within Seattle, I think Northgate Way/105th is probably the most challenging. It is a *major* cross street, with lots of turning vehicles. You could eliminate left turns, but that would mean relatively quiet streets suddenly becoming rather busy (https://goo.gl/maps/ajkNFAifPWnzKtTw5). Streets like that are bound to be the most contentious, and in that case, you might have to bite the bullet and just widen the street.

        In Shoreline, the situation is similar. For example, I would replace the station at 155th and 160th with a station at 157th (https://goo.gl/maps/b3Kufszu8YxeeDts5). That actually has better stop spacing, and since the crossing bus does a dogleg, it would work out just fine. You do have the interurban pathway that goes across, but personally, I would add a crosswalk there if added a bus stop on both sides.

        This is an interesting topic, and one worth exploring some more. I might go ahead and post a Page 2 about it, since it actually looks fairly promising.

      2. Yeah I’m assuming that BRT stations can always be placed within the existing ROW, taking away turn lanes as needed.

        You are right that this may end up causing the actual stations to be a block away from the biggest intersection to make room for the turn lanes when most needed.

        NACTO has tons of off-the-shelf designs that try to capture all the different needs of an intersection, there’s generally a way to make it all fit. For example, I’ve see Island stations where there is bidirectional boarding, where buses can pass each other before and after the station, but not at the station itself to squeeze in the station platform … that may not work for the E given high frequency, but it’s a flavor of how things can be managed.

    2. 5) While a clearly separated lane is great, I’m not a big fan of center lanes on Aurora because the street is so wide and traffic is fast that it’s effectively an asphalt river. I equate putting center stations there to be like putting a station on an island in a river. It makes it really tough for a rider to push a crosswalk button, wait for the signal to change, then cross over to or from a stop. It looks reasonable in a stationary photo, but it’s rather punitive for the rider when one adds in the time Andy effort to get to or from the station.

      Where possible, a configuration that creates “two-way busway tracks” on one side of the street or the other seems better. That means that pedestrians in the crosswalk wouldn’t have to cross as many lanes as they would if both bus lanes and traffic lanes are controlled by the same signal phase. That advantage ultimately has lots of other advantages from making it generally easier to walk across a very wide street to giving the signal system more time windows because the pedestrian crosswalks wouldn’t have to count down from the higher number to enabling development on one side of the street to be reached by riders without crossing Aurora at all to enabling stops for transferring buses to be located on the same side of Aurora as the Aurora buses are so no Aurora crossing by a transferring bus rider would be needed.

      Certainly, careful engineering and analysis would be required to determine what’s best — but I’d rather see the advocated concept called “two-way exclusive bus tracks” rather than initially restrict the concept to be “center bus lanes”.

      1. Interesting. I would counter the center lanes with a station provide a natural island at major intersections, when it’s an at-grade station (i.e. north of 65th per Ross).

        You are sorta arguing for what Bothell as done with Bothell Way, where they break up the street into multiple functions, taking up large width of ROW but in a way that makes it more navigable for pedestrians.

        I don’t know if that would work for Aurora as you are closing off a ton of right-hand turns wherever your bus-track is, which strikes me as worse than preventing left turns (which Aurora frequently does & makes for easier conversion to center running), but I could be wrong.

      2. I guess I don’t see much difference. Let’s say I live on the west side of Aurora, and want to go north. Currently, I have to:

        1) Cross all of the lanes of Aurora. This is unpleasant.

        2) Sit, facing traffic, waiting for my bus. Traffic may not be whizzing by (since I’m next to a bus/turn lane) but it is still not too far away.

        In contrast, if there is a center lane, then I:

        1) Cross half the lanes of Aurora. This is unpleasant.

        2) Sit, facing traffic, waiting for my bus. There is a lane between me and the traffic (a bus lane) but I can still see a couple lanes of traffic not too far away.

        I would say the only advantage of being curbside is if I’m going the other direction, I can just walk to the curb and wait for the bus. That seems like a minor issue, which is why center running buses are generally popular.

      3. One big difference is in transferring buses. Anyone who has transferred between Metro Route 50 and Link at Columbia City would understand the hassle of getting to a median station. In that case, people are often missing connections just because of delays in getting across streets.

        Another big difference is the time (waiting for a signal and then walking in a crosswalk) and effort it takes to walk across the street. Advocates of “road diets” often explain the benefits of removing lanes and adding curb extensions to reduce the length of feet that someone has to traverse in a crosswalk. That’s no different in this situation. Denying this benefit is the same as saying that road diets do no good for pedestrians.

        I’m not saying that side lanes are always better. I’m just saying that they can have benefits that can make them better than center lanes. It really comes down to the specifics of a segment. The big advantage is mainly in having non-permeable bus travel lanes next to each other; not if it’s on the side or center of a street.

        Try to keep an open mind!

      4. But unlike a road diet, you are still doing just as much crossing. It is just that you are crossing half way every time, instead of crossing the entire path half the time. Yes, without a doubt it is better not to cross, but that only happens half the time.

        Meanwhile, you still have to control each and every right turn. That is the big issue. Every intersection would have to have a traffic light. Otherwise, each time a car is turning, the driver would be crossing two lanes of (bus) traffic, with vehicles going each direction (along with pedestrians). That would be extremely dangerous. That is why turns are regulated on Second Avenue, for the bike lanes. You can see that here: https://goo.gl/maps/FSSSkTstwbgbh4q37. (It is a one way street, but the idea is the same). Before the bike lanes, green applied to all traffic going that direction. Since it is one way, taking a left is like taking a right on a two way road — as long the light is green, you do it. But now taking a left means cutting across two (bike) lanes of traffic, going opposite directions. So it is regulated — and as you can see, sometimes you can’t turn left even though the cars that are going straight have a green light.

        Then you have driveways. You have to add special treatment for each and every driveway (something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/ZJEARtDoovzfCyLY7) because again, they are inherently dangerous. You are cutting across two lanes of traffic, with potentially fast moving buses.

      5. Ross, you just keep believing that people like waiting two minutes on a median waiting for the light to change again.

        You just keep believing that people prefer to wait in a center median with loud traffic whizzing by just feet away from both in front and behind — wondering where to run when that crazy person occupying the shelter decides to confronts them.

        Good times!

      6. @Al — So you are saying that Link should have taken the outside lanes through Rainier Valley? Really?

        Look, dude, no one likes sitting in the middle of MLK, or Rainier Avenue, or Aurora waiting for a freaking bus. But they accept it because it is worse than the alternative — a bus (or train) stuck in traffic. They want the bus (or train) to get there soon. And until then, they deal with it.

        Oh, the horror: https://goo.gl/maps/qfEReh3yJjtAgBGy5

      7. Ross, I’m mainly saying that it’s a design option that can have benefits and shouldn’t be summarily discarded if it’s ever studied. Consider that there are several light rail (exclusive transit lane) segments on the side of a major street. That’s done for systems in Boston, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, Denver, Edmonton and San Diego. Sacramento and Calgary are holding lands on the sides of suburban boulevards for light rail extensions. These segments all have stations and grade crossings.

        It really depends on the segment in question and the need for driveways and side streets. These systems listed above also have many center-running segments.

        I feel that the MLK mistake is mainly that the stations are at-grade more than they are in the center. Having said that, I think that if the tracks were crossed over to one side of MLK in Columbia City when they built it and before redevelopment occurred, it would have worked better for riders as pedestrians. The same could be said for Othello and Rainier Beach at those stations have some scary intersections with long waits for riding pedestrians to cross to get to and from the stations. It’s too late to fix now. I blame it to designers who didn’t fully that what they were designing looks better on a plan sheet as a median, but doesn’t really work well for people walking across the intersections.

      8. I think that the alignment on the side of the street is frequently used in highway/freeway configurations, where the cross-streets are already prevented from having direct access.

        In LA, Denver, and SLC they are often re-using freight ROW. So while the alignment is directly adjacent to a street, the perpendicular street grid already accommodated for rail. A good example of this is San Fernando, where LRT is going to be put in on the NE side of San Fernando Road … but their is already a freight line there so most minor street dead-end and major streets have crossing-gates.

        I do see in San Deigo running on the side of the street in a few places, like C and Park, but those are generally on minor streets and general traffic is one-way, so that’s not a real counterexample. I don’t see an example of bi-directional general traffic and then bi-direction rail sharing the same ROW (as opposed to having directly adjacent but pre-existing existing rail ROW)

        A good example of what Al has in mind in Seattle would be East Link between S Bellevue and East Main, where the line runs at-grade on the right hand side of Bellevue Way and the both sides of 112th (jumping over once). But if you look at the details, they have to account for the driveways, going below grade for access to Winter House and building an emergency-only crossing gate at SE 4th. This alignment works because of the lack of cross-street along 112th (also, ST acquired all of the properties with driveways on the west side of 112th and BSD closed Surrey Downs elementary).

        So Al, can you point to a street of similar characteristics of Aurora Ave where another city is using side-running LRT without using an existing freight ROW?

      9. It’s really hard to find light rail tracks or bus ways that don’t follow a former freight rail or interurban corridor. For example, the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley is almost entirely on a former corridor and it includes both side and center sections. It’s hard to find more than a few miles of light rail that is on a new corridor in either sides or centers of boulevards or arterial highways. Even a section of the old interurban line to Everett runs adjacent to Aurora Ave in Shoreline.

        I will point to some. The first is a segment of the Green B Line on Commonwealth Avenue in the Brighton section of Boston (Warren St to Brighton Ave). It has major street traffic on one side and a frontage road on the other. A light rail segment of on North Howard St in Baltimore is another.

        At the other end of the time spectrum, the new Purple Line in Maryland will have side-running tracks on Veterans Parkway and Riverdale Road. Truxel Blvd in Sacramento is set up for side-running tracks as is 60th St NE in Calgary. None of these are former rail corridors.

        As I said before, the corridor would have to be carefully studied. Driveways and side streets matter. Just because a place does or does not design or build it doesn’t mean it’s preferable. Other metro areas make mistakes. I’m merely observing that a pedestrian — especially a transferring pedestrian — dislikes crossing streets like Aurora and a center median makes everyone cross Aurora unless a pedestrian separation is built. It’s almost as undesirable to a rider as much as a freeway median station is except traffic is only moving at 40 mph rather than 60.

    3. “Avoid the Linden detour. I’m surprised you didn’t mention this, since it is by far the easiest way to speed up the bus.”

      The reason the Linden detour is there is for a northbound stop on the populated side of the walkshed. The neighorhood argued it was too unsafe to cross Aurora, which at the time had a crosswalk but no light.

      The expressway is where you least need center lanes because the cars are moving fast and don’t bunch up like they do north of it. Where you need it most is where cars are moving slow and there are stoplights and cars are turning every which way.

    4. I really like the idea of center stations. Pretty cool. But as a mechanic, I have never liked the idea of low floor busses with doors on both sides. It can be done. But not cheaply. From top to bottom the weight is not proprtionally balanced. So the suspension has to be more expensive to compensate for that. Most of the components that used to be under the floor are now on the roof. So the body has to be stronger. On top of that take away the strength of 2 to 3 additional doors. Bus bodies already crack with just 2 doors. I have seen it. I like it on trains. They are stiffer. But even a low floor light rail train is going to have a higher cost of maintenance than a conventional high floor subway train. I don’t like it on busses. Just my opinion. Buying very unique, almost one of a kind, overly high priced coaches is not my idea of smart transit. Metro has done it since the Bredas in 1987. I wish they were easier to make, cheaper to maintain and more reliable. But they aren’t. They savings of a fleet with less bells and whistles equals more frequency to me. But again, just my opinion.

  3. The Tacoma BRT — Tacoma Dome station deviation discussion was good to hear. I’m not sure when the recording was made, but my read of the thread was that some commenters were also vaguely wanting to pull the “center of gravity” of the Tacoma Dome area west in different ways. One way that was not mentioned on the podcast was to relocate the bus transit center at G Street further west no matter where the Link station goes. I also would agree with the podcast comment that the “big Link” (Line 1) platform should be sited a block or two or three further west than is currently proposed, but it would be threading a needle as the 705 bridge is right there and the plans need to accommodate an eventual extension.

    1. Link light rail partial fare collection begins on June 1st, trains run every 20 minutes on weekdays, but evening and weekend service will remain at 30 minute intervals in June.

  4. If we re-branded Sounder North as Wormhole North, would that support higher ridership?

    “Hey, I’m going to take the wormhole to downtown Seattle” is pretty compelling.

    1. I have to push back a bit about the “Sounder North is faster” line of reasoning. Unlike Lynnwood which will have an assumed peak train every four or five minutes all day, Sounder North is restricted to only four directional trips in each peak time period. That means that riders on Sounder North have to add at least five minutes (and more if they are driving to the station) to their journey just to make sure that they don’t miss the train. Link riders won’t worry about that time allowance.

  5. “The A is pretty duplicative of light rail.”

    The A is a local shadow. It’s the same relationship as Swift and the 101.

    the E doesn’t stop every two blocks, at least if you count numbered blocks rather than intersections. It stops every five blocks in Shoreline and 80th-105th, and every ten blocks elsewhere. The reason it stops every five blocks in Shoreline is the Shoreline City Council begged for it and promised TOD villages around every station. 80th-105th has so many stops because the neighborhood whined about wanting more stops but didn’t promise any TOD like Shoreline did. Likewise, it has full BAT lanes in Shoreline because the city council was willing, but it doesn’t in Seattle because the city didn’t stand up to the residents that whined about losing parking spaces. There is an area around 80th and 90th that was built before off-street parking was common so I can see the argument there, but not elsewhere. So in both cases Shoreline did better than Seattle.

    1. it has full BAT lanes in Shoreline, but it doesn’t in Seattle

      Where are the BAT lanes missing in Seattle?

      As far as stop spacing, the only major flaws are those around Linden (already mentioned) and those up in Shoreline (why is there a station at 152nd and 155th?). If you aggressively went on a stop diet, you would, at most, eliminate a couple stops in Seattle, and the same number in Shoreline. You could easily slide them around a bit, but I doubt you would actually see many disappear. Anything more than a handful and you throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      1. That’s not much of an answer. I guess I’ll do my own research to back up (or refute) your claim. OK, there are BAT lanes both directions from 38th to 115th. So, you have it backwards. The area you specifically cited, between 80th and 90th has BAT lanes on both sides of the street: https://goo.gl/maps/KQHRZygsQuG9bdoN7, https://goo.gl/maps/F882J9MXVupNLzCs8.

        Between 115th and 145th, there is a northbound BAT lane, but not a southbound one. I don’t think it has anything to do with parking. For example, no one parks next to the cemetery. I think it is a matter of fixing up the street. For much of the way, it is bit narrow, and the pavement is pretty weak. No one is allowed to drive in that outside lane (https://goo.gl/maps/rw58523ujoqP5pwV8) which suggests that it is simply not up to code. The city would have to fix the street, and it isn’t a priority.

        I don’t think there are any BAT lanes on the Aurora Bridge itself. Southbound, I don’t think it would help, as the right turn to Queen Anne is routinely backed up. People heading south (from Fremont) would also merge into the BAT lane — it is unlikely that would actually be faster (this is one of the areas where center running would clearly help). South of there, though, the southbound lanes have BAT lanes until downtown (although the stupid new tunnel screwed everything up at that point).

        Northbound it doesn’t like there are BAT lanes on Aurora until 38th, which I find confusing (I thought there were). It is a mixed bag, but my guess is the number one issue is money, followed by concerns about general traffic. Parking is really not an issue — although obviously it is what keeps the lanes from being 24 hour BAT lanes.

  6. Tacoma Dome/ RapidRide problem just isn’t one. Where the streetcar tracks turn from Pacific onto 25th, there’s a stop served by a streetcar every twelve minutes. Headway not hard to keep because the carline is 100% train-reserved and signal-preempted.

    Also don’t see any reason why the new RapidRide can’t be routed to the streetcar line on Commerce as it leaves the Theater District southbound. May or may not count that when the 594 swings off the freeway uphill from 10th, its route heads down Commerce. 594 in CBD at all could be temporary.

    But I think a couple blocks of grooved pavement as the track “slaloms” past the Art Museum between the History Museum and the Convention Center stops should make the new busline part of Tacoma Link without prejudice to streetcar service.

    Main consideration to me is that as is, the Route 1 really hauls. Riding up to coffee at Corina Bakery where the line passes Wright Park, have always wished the whole thing could’ve been wired all the way to Yelm. A circuit of that power, you don’t lightly put a “kink” in.

    For Tacoma transit lobbying, Olympia residence is probably even worse than Ballard was. But if I promise to make the Republicans let Pam Roach back into the Capitol, any chance Pierce might give me that grooved rail in return?

    Mark Dublin

  7. https://www.soundtransit.org/ride-with-us/service-alerts/temporary-recovery-fares-service-revisions

    Word from ST Customer Assistance to me is load June on my ORCA card and I’m good to go. Also have some e-Purse gathering moths. However, the very nice woman who gave me this information also reminded me that if I tapped on without realizing I hadn’t tapped off, I’d once again be liable to a charge of theft.

    And even worse, because she’s got an Employee card, so would she. Same for everybody driving, supervising, or repairing trains, elevators, information and routes. Difference between my ST employee and me? What’s unfortunate to her is going to bring a lot worse fortune to whoever’s standing by that garbage scrap of a policy when next it slides into olfactory range of me.

    Over this one, “Warning” is a threat leading off with a the wrong vowel. The “Integration” I worked and voted for in 1996 is cracked, moldy, and starting to stink. Sending paying passengers, including both school-children and your own workers to criminal court- I don’t pay, I get fined into a homeless shelter…

    Exact comparison? When the Breda’s were first delivered, a moving lever above two of the buses’ three doors could’ve broken somebody’s finger on the top of a partition. Response? “There are so many other things wrong that one’s not even on the list.” Rot’s generally wider than it is visible. That’s what our sense of smell is for.

    Where the nice lady is wrong is her thought that nobody can do anything about it. Local 587 has what, four thousand members? And how many passengers between kindergarten and college have at least one parent, let alone uncles like me? This year’s graduating class….like you need another gut-punch out of Government?

    And like Government, and most especially public transit needs the power of the police in the hands of anybody who’d do anything like this to people whose sole offense has been to put a perfectly correct amount of money in the wrong BOX?

    And like law enforcement needs a minute of it? I know Fare Inspectors. They think it’s crap too, not least because it can also happen to them.

    Since for all it’s faults we still have a Democracy in the form of a Republic, we most certainly can do something. Around the world, worker-owned cooperatives move thousands of passengers on buses. No reason trains can’t, heavy rail or light.

    For demanding the right to let internal division and jealously inflict punishment and humiliation on the innocent, the trusting, and the solicitously cooperative, where the Breda fleet went, it’s long past time that we there send Sound Transit.

    And having done so, as long as time is in bounds, two hours, I believe, have every missed “tap” on a valid ORCA card count as maximum ride and be done with it.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Route 1 BRT will connect eventually to the BRT route 2 & route 3 (also there’s rumor of a BRT on route 402.) Before coronavirus hit the construction boom was ramping up to where some of the questions asked about downtown and around TDS having more living spaces added that didn’t include much or any parking at all. It is about having the BRT up and running before the growth happens.

  9. One thing that can’t be emphasized enough is how relatively popular Pierce Transit 1 is. It accounts for over 1/6 of the ridership in the entire network. One sixth! It is the dominant transit line in Pierce County, and all other buses pale in comparison.

    It is also worth noting that Sounder South is not particularly popular in Tacoma. Here are the total Tacoma ridership numbers for both Sounder and the Sound Transit buses:

    574 — 400 boardings
    Sounder — 1,300 (1,100 Tacoma Dome, 200 from South Tacoma)
    570 — 1,600 boardings
    594 — 800 boardings

    The first two buses do not go to downtown Tacoma, while the last two do. Thus the two buses that carry the bulk of the ridership already allow a transfer from riders on Pacific. On that particular stop (24th and Pacific) there are about 60 boardings per bus, or 120 per day. This is for a bus that serves 5,500 people a day. An extremely small number of people transfer to the bus headed to Seattle. Given that the bus carries a lot more people from Tacoma than the train, it is foolish to assume that a significant number of riders from the new BRT line will get off at the Tacoma Dome.

    The biggest problem I see with the detour to the Tacoma Dome is that it puts Pierce Transit in a bind. To be clear, the enhancements are great — any improvement in speed and/or frequency will likely lead to even more riders. On the other hand, it isn’t clear how Pierce County should respond. I see several choices:

    1) Consider the corridor covered. This means dealing with the fact that a significant portion of your ridership will have a slower trip, despite a large investment. Furthermore, it means that the bus will run less often. This means that someone who is simply going from one part of Pacific to another (e. g. from Parkland to the Fred Meyer) will have service that isn’t as good as it could be. Since obviously a small portion of your riders are headed to the Tacoma Dome, this is less than ideal, especially since these riders are such a huge part of the network.

    2) Run the 1 anyway. This seems crazy. Unless the 1 also had off-board payment, the buses would end up bunching. Each would poach from each other, and riders would have an awkward experience. You see the BRT, but are headed downtown — what do you do? Take it and maybe hope that it passes the 1, so that you can hop off, and get a faster ride downtown. Yuck.

    3) Run some sort of express version of the 1. Similar issues, and again, yuck.

    In contrast, consider what Pierce County Transit would do if the BRT line just kept going straight:

    1) Take the northern part of the 1, and send it through downtown and then to the Tacoma Dome (the logical terminus for a southbound bus).

    2) Experiment with rush hour express buses from Pacific Avenue to the Tacoma Dome. It is not clear this would yield substantial riders for the reasons mentioned. At most you are looking at maybe 200 riders a day, most of which would be just as well off with a transfer on Pacific (to the 590 or 594). Still, it would be a chance to try it out, and kill it if it yields the expected results. This could be done to placate Sound Transit leadership, who obviously want to do what they can to beef up Sound Transit bus and train ridership.

    Overall, this is a really bad idea. It is a system design failure. I find a similarity between the discussion of North Sounder, and the detour of this line. Several people have made excuses for North Sounder, and have come up with creative (and expensive) ideas for boosting ridership. If implemented, these will fail, as the fundamental value of that service is not strong enough to gather many more riders, no matter what you do. This detour also looks like an expensive and desperate attempt to boost ridership on Sounder (and maybe the 574). It will fail, and the people of Pierce County will be worse off because of it. I sincerely hope they rethink the detour, and get rid of it.

    1. Did you mean 590, not 570?

      You’ve got me sold on no divergence.

      I still think there is great value in a bus that meets Sounder, but that can be branded an entirely different route that also leverages the BRT infrastructure on the rebuilt Pacific Ave. The STX Sounder feeder routes in Puyallup (to Red Lot) and Sumner (to Bonney Lake) seem to work well, particularly in the PM when you can just have a bus waiting to meet each train (avoids transfer timing issues b/c the bus can wait if Sounder is slightly delayed), and here the route doesn’t need to deadhead afterwards if the bus driver still has time, by doing some regular PT-1 runs if needed.

      And for the rest of the day, existing BRT line can transfer to the 590 right on Pacific.

      1. I still think there is great value in a bus that meets Sounder, but that can be branded an entirely different route that also leverages the BRT infrastructure on the rebuilt Pacific Ave. The STX Sounder feeder routes in Puyallup (to Red Lot) and Sumner (to Bonney Lake) seem to work well, particularly in the PM when you can just have a bus waiting to meet each train (avoids transfer timing issues b/c the bus can wait if Sounder is slightly delayed),

        Yes, I agree. It would definitely be worth trying. I think you would get decent, if not exceptional ridership — similar to the 580 and 596 (I assume the buses you were referring to). This also enables you great flexibility. For example, if there is a show at the Tacoma Dome, you run extra buses there (with the same number).

        I think you raise a very good point about waiting for the train. I hadn’t considered that, but it is an issue. The key constituent for this detour are riders headed to the train. That’s it. So let’s say you take the train in the evening, but it is delayed a couple minutes. What then? If you delayed the bus, you would make things even worse for folks coming from downtown. If you don’t, then it is quite possible that someone will have to wait ten minutes for the next bus. That is not the end of the world, but obviously a bus that is waiting for them would be better. With the limited number of runs that Sounder makes, it would not be terribly expensive, either. This would be running at rush hour, so you would have very little risk of watering down the system. The regular BRT line (going to downtown) would run frequently anyway (adding the Sounder riders isn’t likely to increase ridership). At the same time, it becomes much easier to manage the loads.

        Then you have Tacoma Dome to downtown riders to consider. There are seven buses (and the streetcar) connecting the Tacoma Dome to downtown. So if you get off the train, odds are very good you will be able to catch a bus going to downtown. Most of them run on Pacific (of all streets) which means that going the other direction you are in good shape as well. However, this BRT will run on Market. That means that if you are headed to downtown from the dome, you might get lucky, and catch this bus. But if you are headed to the Tacoma Dome from downtown, you will never catch this bus — you would be much better off standing on Pacific and catching any of a half-dozen buses.

        There are other issues with this route that stem from this detour. It is very simple to end a detour (just skip the stops) but the bus does not go up Pacific. It also ends tantalizingly close to the hospital, but still too far of a walk. I would do a short dogleg, then end in the hospital, like the 102 (e. g. https://goo.gl/maps/TMJHeyK8YzPUJduy8). The hospital is a very good anchor (it is the biggest hospital in Tacoma).

        I can understand why they don’t want regular buses mixing with BRT (although Snohomish County manages to pull it off). It can be confusing to have two sets of bus stops, for example. This wouldn’t an issue with the express we are suggesting, but it would be an issue with all of the existing buses on Pacific. If that is a major concern, then just move the other buses. All of them have to turn to get onto Pacific, so they could just as easily turn and use Tacoma Avenue, or Market (like the proposed BRT).

        All of that stems from the detour, and the inability to consider the overall network (and the relatively small part that the Tacoma Dome plays in it).

    2. The detour to the Tacoma Dome station is also kind of ridiculous because it only saves ~2-3 minutes of walking for someone who would actually use the Pierce BRT to get to Sounder.

      5 mins from the Tacoma Dome bus station to Tacoma Dome train station: https://goo.gl/maps/ngKGsfphjzFEUoBLA
      8 mins from Pacific to Tacoma Dome train station: https://goo.gl/maps/kF6qHRzYoa4bnWG99

      As RossB notes, those transferring to the 590/594 would be just as well served by transferring at Pacific/24th. Once you account for the time the bus is going to take to loop around G Street, even those who are “served” by the detour aren’t really saving any time. Meanwhile, everyone going from South Tacoma to Downtown Tacoma sits through a 5 minute detour, offsetting much of the time savings from reserved lanes and consolidated stops.

  10. Ross, I’m with you a hundred percent about the importance of the Route 1, and the inadvisability of “looping” it into Tacoma Dome Station. But I’m not sure this question belongs in the same discussion as to whether to keep Sounder.

    To me, the whole question of Sounder has always been taking advantage of existing rail right-of-way. As an alternative to being literally “Traffic Trapped” for hours every day.

    Up to now, it’s been our only “Freeway-Free” north-south path through the region. For all the expense and delays it’s heir to, its passengers are not trapped for hours in a tiny cramped and potentially dangerous compartment. Without either refreshment or use of a toilet.

    Which for the time being, relief from which is worth whatever Sounder costs. It’s not, and never was intended to be permanent. What’s the status of the program for reserved bus lanes on I-5?

    Because the cure for Sounder is to finish them. In addition to the northern and southern extension of Link. The miserable crash at Dupont, which should have separated every decision-maker responsible from employment in transportation for life, its casualty list should not include passenger rail per se.

    The electric streamliners I saw in Southern Sweden are an excellent model for what those tracks can deliver. Count Sounder as a page-holder. And jet-boats? Should be budget for an Icelandair overnight to Copenhagen, to connect with trains to Gothenburg and Oslo, and boats to Bornholm.

    Terrific high school field trip for graduating seniors.

    Mark Dublin

  11. And the 574? Move its Tacoma Dome stop upstairs in front of Freighthouse where the streetcar stops already. so passengers can transfer on a short, level walk of a few feet, not a luggage-laden race through a parking garage.

    What is it, a six minute streetcar ride to the middle of Downtown Tacoma, on a twelve-minute headway? My mandatory espresso at the Anthem by the bridge to the Glass Museum, hardly a even a coffee-break.

    Use what we’ve got, and we’ve got it all.

    Mark Dublin

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