Face mask laws coming

The Port of Seattle became the first governmental entity in the region to roll out a face mask requirement for everyone in public areas on Port property Saturday. SeaTac Airport is included in that mandate. On Friday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that an ordinance was in the works that would at least cover retail spaces open to the public in Seattle. A number of stores in Seattle, including Costco, already require such masks in order to be in the store.

King County Metro does not require the wearing of face masks while on board, but strongly urges customers to wear them.

At least eight states require the wearing of a face mask in public. This is not new legal territory, as several states had similar mandates on the books during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic.

While face masks are helpful to protect people around the wearer from getting the virus from the wearer, they are no substitute for a medical grade face mask if the goal is to protect the wearer from getting the virus. Regardless, they are believed to have helped slow the spread of the virus in areas where wearing them in public has been encouraged.

Reviewing the new Link line names

In February, I wrote a piece detailing my thoughts on how to name the Link lines. In it, I prioritized usability and conformity with international best practice. The verdict is in, and Sound Transit have announced that Link lines will be numbered moving forward. In my opinion, this is great – they’re universal, and avoid a number of pitfalls that come with other possible schemes (as discussed in my previous article). Sound Transit have also released documentation detailing the reasoning behind their choices, which demonstrates their comprehensive approach to the process, and a willingness to engage with community feedback. I think it’s worth going over some of the background of their choices, which, while broadly a good job, does leave some room for constructive criticism.

Above: the original ST color scheme for lines 1-4. Below: a depiction of the same colors as they might appear to a red-colorblind (protanopia) user.

First things first, the new scheme is clear, and easily understood – take the 1 line to Ballard. Take the 2 and transfer to the 4. This is how many of the best networks are organized, and it’s really good to see that Sound Transit are mimicking that practice. They also reference the use of similar schemes in Toronto, Paris, Santiago and Madrid. As our system expands, a lot of critical decisions will be made in the design process, and it’s a good sign that ST planners are considering the practices that make other networks work so well.

Continue reading “Reviewing the new Link line names”

Society will reopen one day. When that happens, we need free public transit

Fare paid proposal diagram at Pioneer Square (Sound Transit)

As we all know, we are facing a dual crisis: a global pandemic, intertwined with the start of an economic depression. As restaurants, bars and stores are forced to close to curb the progression of COVID-19, hundreds of thousands in Washington State are losing their jobs. According to official statistics, nearly 630,000 Washingtonians filed for unemployment in the four weeks between the 15th of March and 11th of April; twenty-six times as many as the same time last year.

The damage won’t stop there, of course: as the confinement goes on, more businesses will close their doors, more people will find themselves without a source of revenue, consumption will decrease, yet more businesses will shutter, and so on. A full-scale economic crisis is at hand.

The Democratic Socialists of America have proposed many ideas to alleviate the impact of this crisis on the working people, including Medicare 4 All (which would protect our collective health), a moratorium on evictions and utility shut-offs, and a Green New Deal. The latter – on top of creating millions of jobs at a time where they’re sorely needed – would help prevent or at least mitigate a climate disaster whose magnitude would dwarf our current situation.

In this context, transportation policy would seem to be low priority: after all, nobody is supposed to be traveling, let alone traveling in groups. If anything, it’s even tempting to conclude that every bus and streetcar is a potential hotbed of infection, whereas the private, individual car is a biologically secure way to move around. Is the car-first American urban policy of the past 50 years being vindicated?

Continue reading “Society will reopen one day. When that happens, we need free public transit”

KC Council considers South End service change for September

Metro map of planned route 160, which is also a preview of the future RapidRide I Line.

Metro service in South King County has been the unsung hero of Seattle-area transit for many years, serving lots of lower-income people in mostly unwalkable communities but never quite getting the service improvements even Metro admits it deserves. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted further the importance of the South End network, with virtually every South End trunk route on Metro’s list of routes most important to essential workers. It’s always welcome when Metro takes a fresh look at this critical service.

Recently, Metro has been engaged in a Renton-Kent-Auburn Mobility Project, thinking about how to improve the all-day network, centered around Kent Station, that serves the Green River Valley and Kent East Hill. Metro produced a proposed restructure last fall, and then made minor refinements after receiving public comment. The King County Council is now considering the result, which is likely to be adopted and take effect in September 2020.

The proposal is centered around a new route 160, which is intended to use the same routing as the future RapidRide I Line. The route would be effectively an extension of current route 169, absorbing the portion of current route 180 between Kent Station and Auburn Station. For now, route 160 would be scheduled at similar frequencies to route 169, with further improvements coming with the RapidRide I Line conversion in 2023. Other changes are complementary, and described later in this post.

Of course, Metro is in an environment of major operational and financial uncertainty as a result of COVID-19. The planned frequencies in this proposal do not reflect Metro’s temporary Reduced Schedule or any permanent cuts that may be necessary as a result of COVID-19 financial impact. If COVID-19’s economic effects continue, what riders finally see on the street in September 2020 may look significantly different from what follows after the jump.

Continue reading “KC Council considers South End service change for September”

Move Seattle’s 1st quarter

We just got the annual report, but now there’s an update for SDOT’s 1st quarter projects (full report here). Covid-19 looms over everything, but the agency spent only about 2/3 of its budget mostly because of more quotidian delays: weather, permitting, and finding unexpected stuff underground.

RapidRide G (SDOT)

There’s tons of data on safety, sidewalks, bike improvements, and so on, but let’s cut straight to the transit.

The big corridor projects are divided into “Vision Zero” (safety) projects, “Transit-Plus” speed and reliability improvements, Rapid Ride, and the Burke Gilman Missing Link. You may recall that in 2019 none of the two transit categories had started digging yet. That’s still the case, but RapidRide H (Delridge) is accepting bids and expects to accept a bit this quarter. RapidRide G has completed design and is now dancing with the FTA.

Beyond transit, Missing Link construction started.

SDOT’s highly successful transit spot improvements program was right on schedule, finishing 5 projects this quarter out of 20 planned for 2020. They were:

  • 8th Ave/James St rear door pad
  • 24th Ave E/E Dearborn St curb restrictions at bus zone
  • Lenora St, between 4th-6th Ave RapidRide bus zone improvement
  • Airport Way S/S Royal Brougham, intersection improvement
  • 15th Ave NW/NW 65th St bus zone safety improvement

The City also broke ground on the Northgate pedestrian bridge, and the Lander Street overpass continues to rise.

The plan is still to start construction on RR G and H this year, though obviously the pandemic has unpredicable impacts.

Snohomish County plots out light rail station area growth, wants feedback

The preferred option for Ash Way Station, as chosen by the county council (Makers/Snohomish County)

While light rail construction in Lynnwood is temporarily halted, the next extension to Everett will continue early planning and design as originally scheduled. Snohomish County has opened a new survey into their subarea planning for stations at Mariner (128th Street) and Ash Way (164th Street), located in the unincorporated area between Everett and Lynnwood.

According to The Everett Herald, the county has been moving ahead with planning at a pace faster than expected by even Sound Transit. Construction funding for the Everett Link project, and its planned completion date of 2036, are both uncertain at this point due to the effects of the pandemic and stay-at-home order on sales tax revenue. If a cut to the project does arrive, planning will be allowed to continue using whatever funding can be pieced together, in a manner similar to Federal Way Link during the recession, with hopes of restoring funding in some form.

Continue reading “Snohomish County plots out light rail station area growth, wants feedback”

News roundup: in trouble

Gig Cars Awaiting Deployment
“Gig Cars Awaiting Deployment”, by Atomic Taco (Flickr)

This is an open thread.