An Everett Transit Proterra Catalyst BE40 at Everett Station During Nighttime
AvgeekJoe/Flickr

This is an open thread.

64 Replies to “News Roundup: Plateauing”

  1. The Times editorial board ($) is encouraging people to attend the ST hearing. This could stack it with anti-transit, anti-urban, pro-parking advocates like the Times comment sections. This deserves to be countered by people offering a transit-best-practices perspective and sticking up for urban neighborhoods. This may be the first time the Times has written an editorial on a particular ST board meeting. It links to a different document describing the status of 18 projects ST has paused to reevaluate their budgets.

    The editorial has little to say about specific projects, which is surprising. What it does say is, “The promised ‘spine’ linking Everett, Seattle and Tacoma must be completed. The needs of outlying areas that paid heavily into the system with little investment in return must also be addressed. ” And, “[The reevaluation process] will likely see intense lobbying, including by municipalities such as Seattle fighting to preserve spending in their locales.”

    One interpretation of this is that ST should put all resources into getting to Everett and Tacoma as quickly as possible, and should downgrade Seattle’s projects as nonessential special interests. (Except DSTT2, which is necessary for the Everett-Tacoma vision.) This of course would contradict the Times’ preference for low-cost projects (like BRT) which would deliver the most ridership and community-building value per tax dollar (the Seattle projects).

    The Suburban Times also overlooked the three Stride lines, which are much less expensive than Link, are completely within suburbia (just one line touches one edge of Seattle), and serve three out of five subareas.

    1. To be fair, I can’t find much actual fault with the quotes you included, other than the comment about the spine, which I’ve never much believed in myself. But in terms of facts and reasonable opinion:

      “The needs of outlying areas […] must also be addressed” – I would perhaps change “must” with “should” but otherwise seems reasonable.

      “[The reevaluation process] will likely see intense lobbying” – certainly very likely to be true.

      (not a quote, but) “overlooked the three Stride lines, which are much less expensive than Link” – this actually strengthens their point about paying heavily and getting less in return than was paid for, right? If Seattle continues to get expensive rail investments (e.g. LR to Ballard and West Seattle) and East King gets Stride, and the payments are not adjusted, for example.

      Note that I am not in any way judging the transit relevancy of the projects, simply saying that I see where the editorial is coming from.

      Having said that, if Seattle transit advocates were to get a similar editorial but with different slant written in The Stranger, I would not see any fault in that, and that would balance the scales a little. What would it take to get that editorial going?

      1. What would it take to get that editorial going?

        I don’t think it will ever happen. The Stranger has been terrible with transit issues. It is a common problem, and exemplifies one of the big problems with the fractured political system we have right now. This is the era of right wing extremism. Since Reagan, the Republican Party has been controlled by reactionaries. Democrats have been focused on stemming the tide — preserving Social Security for example (something Republicans tried to kill more than once).

        This sets up an overly simplistic dynamic. Support transit projects (if you are on the left) or oppose them (if you are on the right). There is no subtlety. No one (outside this blog) is willing to say they enthusiastically support transit systems, but that a particular project is crap.

        I could write an editorial, but it would be a case of political masturbation. It would feel good, but produce nothing. That being said, perhaps the folks in charge of this blog could come up with something that would garner more respect. Of course that would require more consensus than may exist. I think the general approach is similar though:

        Prioritize projects that have the highest rider time saved per dollar spent. At the same time, assume that all of ST3 will eventually be built.

        But almost immediately you run into problems. ST has never calculated the first metric. Even with regards to ridership, their numbers have been ridiculously bad, like ignoring feeder bus service, even though it will obviously constitute a huge portion of the ridership on Link. Even with those flaws, I think it is possible there would be a consensus. For example, the park and ride lots (a horrible value) should be delayed indefinitely.

        But then you’ve got the problems with subarea equity. The best value projects are in Seattle and the East Side. An approach that focused on value would leave little for the more distant suburbs. But then again, those are also the areas that are hurting the most (financially) so perhaps the result would be the same.

        Anyway, if folks on this blog reached out to The Stranger, and had a long talk about transit, then it might work. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I’m afraid it is likely things will be driven by the same demagoguery that drives much of the politics in this region and the country (and much of the writing by both the Seattle Times and The Stranger editorial boards).

        A couple links about some of the projects and metrics:
        https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/06/youve-got-50-billion-for-transit-now-how-should-you-spend-it/
        https://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2016/04/22/which-riders-matter/

    2. I’m extrapolating their intentions based on other editorials over the years. And from the Times’ target readership and marketing target. And from its comments over the years. And I may be exaggerating a bit to draw a contrast. Still, what matters is how readers of that editorial will respond, and whether they’ll show up at the meeting and what they’ll say. Those people will be the Times’ average readers (tending suburban and P&R oriented, sometimes unrealistically skeptical of taxes and bureaucracies and unions), politicians who may have their attention drawn to this article, and commentators (most of whom are heavily anti-transit, anti-tax, anti-urban).

    3. What’s the alternative to public agencies being overwhelmed by the vocal minority of loud regressive voices? I have often thought that a jury duty type system would be best to get citizen opinions on issues of zoning and infrastructure issues. Get a random, representative sample of the population (could also be weighed towards traditionally underrepresented groups), educate them on the issue, and see what they have to say.

      As it is, an entrenched group of higher than median income, single family home owners, usually white and trending higher than average in age tend to have an outsized voice in these matters. Even if 1% of a city council district emails their council member, that’s 6000 emails! I don’t know how they deal with that kind of volume, and it kind of dissuades me from even emailing them to share my silly beliefs.

      On another note, the Seattle Times is 49% owned by the McClatchy Company, which was recently bought by a private equity firm. I wonder if the Blethans will try to buy them out and get complete control?

      1. Interesting you should mention McClatchy, Steve. They also seem not only to own the Tacoma News Tribune, but while my own “Olympian” still headquarters in Olympia, they share printing with the ownership of the Tacoma paper.

        For the good of our country, when again we get ourselves a Federal Government, the presence in which our country’s Founding Fathers invested so much oversight authority will need some serious “Trust Busting,” as Teddy Roosevelt would’ve put it.

        Since our nation was founded in The Age of Reason, it only stands to Reason that our Founders would not have limited press freedom to the freedom to take away all of everybody else’s.

        Which incidentally, is the real “freedom” for which every southern “Rebel” not only fought, but continues to “Yell” about to this day.

        Mark Dublin

    4. Luckily, politicians don’t base decisions solely on the input of those squeaky wheels. We lament that politicians defer so much to them and assume they represent the majority opinion, but in fact politicians also look at the underlying issues and get input from people who know what’s really going on and what the broader impacts to the city and all residents would be if it adopted such-and-such option.; If they listened to only the squeaky wheels, there would be no TOD at all, parking garages would be three times larger and also in Rainier Valley, walkable mixed-use urban villages would never have gotten started, there would be more street parking, minimum apartment sizes would be 800 square feet and even more lower-income people would be shut out, and Metro would still have long slow spaghetti runs and would never restructure an existing route because it might inconvennince somebody. Metro would burn service hours with that so there would be less useful bus service.

      There’s actually an example of this. Before 2012 they county council routinely rejected Metro restructures if one person complained about losing an existing route pattern. That kept the 1980s network mostly set in stone. There were some restructures but a lot of ineffective patterns remained. In 2012 the recession finally impacted Metro’s revenue and the council had to decide whether to implement a 2-year tax surcharge the legislature granted it. Metro had recently gotten new performance metrics that balanced ridership and coverage and gave it some leverage to have consolidated frequent corridors. Fiscal conservatives agreed only if certain efficiencies were implemented. One was eliminating the Ride Free Area, which Seattle had fully funded when it started in the 1970s but the contribution no longer was no longer keeping up. Another was having the council stick to Metro’s new performance metrics rather than intervening all the time when one status-quo advocate wheel spoke at a hearing or emailed their councilmember.

      This hearing is only informational, to explore possibilities rather than make a decision. That actually makes it more useful. Any input will give the board time to consider and evaluate it before making a decision. The minimal required process, where public testimony occurs immediately before a vote, doesn’t make sense. The boardmembers should have researched the issue for days before the meeting, weighed the tradeoffs of the alternatives, and come to a strong position before they walked into the final meeting. Otherwise they’ll be swayed by last-minute emotional arguments that may not stand up to vetting and may unduly benefit some people and harm others. So public testimony should be collected well before the vote. But the minimum required process gives the public the opposite impression, that testimony right before the vote is the most important, and one sob story will sway the board’s majority. That’s not true, and it would be bad if it were.

    5. he needs of outlying areas that paid heavily into the system with little investment in return must also be addressed.

      Wrong on two counts. Outlying areas haven’t’ paid squat and there has been heavy investment in Tacoma Link, Sounder and ST Express. Sub area equity is real.

      1. I assume that “outlying areas” refers to non-Seattle subareas, not regions outside of ST, though it is a fair point that the article is not clear.

        The point about subarea equity being provided by investments in Tacoma Link, Sounder, and ST Express is fair. Whether these investments abide by the spirit of the subarea equity agreements (not the letter) is perhaps a relevant consideration, and different people may have different thoughts on this. In any case, I would not want to rehash past arguments on the topic, but it may be what the article is getting at.

        I should state also that, while I am not by any means a Seattle Times fan, I think it is worth our weight in gold to try to make common ground with those we may perceive as our opponents, these days more than ever. So I am certainly putting a generous spin on it, but it feels wrong to do otherwise, from an ethical sense, if nothing else.

      2. It’s a point about subarea borrowing, not subarea equity per se. Pierce & Snohomish board members fully understand ST2 and ST3 are subarea balanced over the long run. But, because of the timing of the projects, P & S have certainly paid more into ST than they have received as of today, and that will not reverse until TDLE and Everett Link begin construction (respectively). They are very sensitive to this and are not interested in extending their time as net contributors to ST longer than necessary.

        (I think P started out as a net recipient because of the start up costs for Sounder, but this as since reversed)

        Within King, SKC is a net winner of subarea borrowing (they basically never get back to net contributor after FWLE opens), and East King is paying more into the system almost the entire time (Kirkland-Issaquah Link exists primarily to pay back East King for bankrolling a share of the Spine and WSBLE), but those are mostly due to the relative tax generation coming out of those 2 subareas, not the project sequencing.

      3. East loaned money for the initial Link construction but was paid back with interest. East had money because it has a decent revenue base but also because it wasn’t dumping money into rail operations or paying back bonds. If North hadn’t been subsidizing North Sounder all this time Link beyond Lynwood would be in much better shape. I’m not aware of any other sub area loans but if they are it’s a good deal for the lender. My understanding is Snoho and Pierce are constrained because of lack of funds not because the money is going to projects outside their sub area.

      4. I’m with Bernie. It is wrong on both counts. Most of the issues with building the spine, for example, have been funding related. In other words, the reason it is in danger is because the taxpayers aren’t paying enough — they have been paying into it too lightly.

        But the other issue demonstrates a bigger issue — one that is common throughout the area. It is wrong, but it drives so many of the bad decisions made by Sound Transit. It is this: To benefit from a transit project, it has to have a station in your city (or broadly defined neighborhood).

        This ignores the particulars of station placement and is obviously wrong when you consider a few examples:

        1) Let’s say you live in Downtown Tacoma. You occasionally go out to the airport, and to Seattle. You even visit your cousin who lives in Rainer Valley. Now consider the difference between a station in Federal Way and one at the Tacoma Dome. With a station in Federal Way, the bus gets on the freeway, then gets off at Federal Way (close to the freeway). You transfer to Link. Or, if you are going to Seattle, you can also take Sounder. With an extension to the Tacoma Dome, the process is identical — only the transfer point has changed. You take a bus to the station, then transfer. The time spent to get to your destination is about the same (sometimes more, sometimes less). You benefit from that station in Federal Way as much as the station in the Tacoma Dome.

        2) Let’s say you live in Alki. You commute to downtown Seattle via the 37. When West Seattle Link is complete, there will be a train from the Junction to SoDo. Does this help you? Not in the least. So despite an enormous amount of money spent building the first major ST3 project in Seattle, you get nothing out of it (even though you clearly live in West Seattle).

        In the first example someone benefited quite a bit from the station in a different city (as much as they will from a station in their own). In the second example, they don’t benefit at all from the station in their (broadly defined) neighborhood. That is because transit isn’t that simple.

        The editorial shows a profound misunderstanding of mass transit systems. I emphasize systems, because it is a complex system. It is not like community pools, or movie theaters (where you can just scatter them around town). It is a complex system that involves many pieces — not the least of which is bus service. In that sense it is somewhat like a highway system, except with one critical difference: by its very nature, it is communal. The bus may stop several times before we get off. A subway train from Tacoma definitely will. Once in the city, you also need to get around. This is why the spine idea (like so many of ST’s ideas) is so misguided, as one of the commenters wrote a while ago (https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/02/14/news-roundup-geeks/#comment-292594).

        Only by carefully considering transit trips can you estimate the value of a particular project for a community. The value of that project varies greatly even if it is a few blocks away (which is why Mount Baker station is so awful. Most of Tacoma and Everett gains more from the suburban station in Federal Way and Lynnwood (respectively) than they would from the stations in their own city.

        Failing to understand this fundamental aspect of transit leads to really bad planning decisions, like the spine.

      5. So your argument boils down to, “Because their ST3 projects have little value, S & P are incorrect in stating they are disadvantaged by having their projects delayed over more useful projects,” correct?

        If you don’t think TDLE should be built at all, I will grant it is consistent to argue that putting TDLE at the end of the line is a good thing for all involved.

        This argument will carry zero water in Snohomish, but I could see some Pierce board members be happy to delay TDLE as a step towards canceling it and either building something different or simply getting out of ST3.

        You and I have wildly different opinions on TDLE, but I would be happy for the Tacoma streetcar Phase III to simply disappear and for Tacoma to simply invest in RR/Swift/Pacific Ave quality bus infrastructure.

      6. I think the reason “outlying areas that paid heavily into the system with little investment in return” gets any traction is because there’s a tendency to look at individual tax payers rather than the budget for a subarea. Joe Sixpack in Snoho or Pierce buys a $40k truck and they get a $1,000+ bill for car tabs. Joe’s idea of an investment that will benefit him is a train that other people will use instead of I-5.

        I still haven’t seen any suggestion from the ST board to create subarea loans to advance North projects and I don’t think any of the other subareas, including East have any substantial funds to loan and still maintain existing service plans.

      7. So your argument boils down to, “Because their ST3 projects have little value, S & P are incorrect in stating they are disadvantaged by having their projects delayed over more useful projects,” correct?

        No.

        My argument is a counter-argument. I’m saying that “outlying areas that paid heavily into the system with little investment in return” is BS. They get plenty in return. They get more in return than they will with projects in their own district! This is not obvious until you understand transit. You have to look at the entire network to see the return. You have to look at common trip patterns. When you do — when you look at the particulars, it is obvious that these areas will get more from the projects outside their area then the ones in their area.

        Think of it in reverse. Imagine if they built the system in reverse order, starting with Tacoma Dome to Federal Way. Using the logic of the Seattle Times, that is much better than Federal Way to Seattle *for Tacoma*. Does anyone actually believe that? That is absurd. An extension is only valuable because it has the core. Often — and this is clearly the case now — the core is more valuable than the extension *for users of the extension*. Furthermore, in this case, the benefit of the extension is marginal. Tacoma will get very little out of the extension (they get a faster trip to Fife — Whoopee). Everett *does* get something out of it (they get a faster trip within Everett) but for trips to Seattle, they get next to nothing.

        The logic the Seattle Times is using is common. Without a doubt it applies to things like community pools. If I live in Tacoma, I get next to nothing with a new pool in SeaTac or Rainier Valley. I don’t benefit until you put a pool close to where I live, while those other pools don’t matter. But with transit, the inner core is essential, and more valuable *for people who live outside the core* than the sections outside it.

        Now do you understand?

      8. The areas that have gotten the least are the least dense, so they have fewer taxpayers, and thus the aggregate amount they’re paying isn’t very much relative to the cost of a project. Pierce as a whole is around 80% of North King, but cities within Pierce vary widely. The ones complaining the loudest about not getting anything are in the lower-density parts, and are the most resistant to land-use reform that would make it easier to serve them with transit.

    6. I think it is very interesting that the “Spine” is so important. When I look at St2 and St3 completion dates and route configurations, it looks like there will never be a spine. It looks like a spine on a map, but never actually work that way. According to the timelines, there will never be a light rail line going from Tacoma to Everett as a one seat ride. You will have to get off one train and transfer, if the timelines are correct. Does the average taxpayer know that?

      1. Not sure that’s important to anyone. The point of the spine is to provide high quality north-south service that the county-level transit agencies can then anchor their bus service around. Whether it’s operationally 1 or 2 lines is rather secondary. I suppose some north-siders might be surprised to lose their 1-seat ride to the airport in 2036, but I can’t imagine that would change anyone’s opinion on ST3.

        405 Stride will be a secondary spine, and it is also operationally 2 lines with a transfer at Bellevue.

      2. Not sure that’s important to anyone.

        I agree. Here is are some things that people probably don’t know, which are:

        1) It won’t serve downtown Tacoma.
        2) It will take a very long time to get from Tacoma to Seattle, or Everett to Seattle.
        3) More often than not, a trip from downtown Everett to Seattle will be slower than taking an express bus to Lynnwood, even if you can walk to the station, and even during rush hour.
        4) Link will not go to downtown Tacoma (or UW Tacoma). It will instead end by a big parking garage close to the Tacoma Dome. This means that the vast majority of riders will have to transfer at the Tacoma Dome. This also means that the vast majority of Link riders from Tacoma will have to transfer.
        5) From Tacoma, Sounder will take about as much time to get to Seattle as Link.
        6) During most of the day, an express bus from Tacoma would be much faster than either Sounder or Link.
        7) Those express buses are likely going away.
        8) It is likely that riders at the tail ends of the spine will be abysmal, just as they are for similar systems in the country.

      3. The concept of Spine is to connect Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue/Redmond. It never mandated a one-seat ride from Everett to Tacoma. In the run-up to ST3, ST explicitly severed the Everett-Tacoma line, saying a run longer than two hours is too long for drivers. So it was realigned to Everett-WSeattle and Tacoma-Ballard. This was included in the ST3 vote.

    7. This of course would contradict the Times’ preference for low-cost projects (like BRT)

      It is almost as if the Seattle Times editorial board is full of anti-tax, anti-government demagogues. Imagine that. I also expect it to rain this November. Will wonders never cease.

      I agree with all of your points, Mike. The idea that the spine is essential is ridiculous, and shows that the Times editorial board is as ignorant about transit issues as they are taxation. It shows that they are more interested in attacking a government organization, rather than come up with solutions. They are quick to oppose bloated projects (like rail to Everett or Tacoma) while simultaneously saying they are essential. A reasonable center-right editorial board (like the one that existed when the Seattle P. I. could keep them in check) would ask for better metrics — better bang for the buck. Focus on the projects that get you the highest ridership per dollar spent, or better yet, the most time saved per dollar spent. Everett, Tacoma (and most of ST3) are terrible in that regard, while infill stations (Graham, 130th) and the BRT projects pop up to the top. (Of course even the BRT projects have aspects that are a terrible value, like the NE 85th Street Station). But that is exactly the type of thing that should be jettisoned if times are tough, and a sensible center-right editorial board would mention it, instead of focusing on meaningless platitudes or pushing for symbolic but largely useless boondoggles.

      1. The ST network already connects Tacoma and Everett via Seattle; ST provides service on three modes. The center access ramps at South 317th Street in Federal Way and in Lynnwood really have not been used to their full potential.

      2. The ST network already connects Tacoma and Everett via Seattle; ST provides service on three modes.

        Right, but “The Spine” is more of an abstract concept, than anything useful. Until you have railroad tracks in both Tacoma and Everett, it doesn’t count. It doesn’t matter where they are in either city, or whether it takes a lot longer to get to Seattle than existing transit, once the tracks are in the city limits of both cities, Sound Transit can release the doves and declare victory.

  2. The ferry routes being looked at. There are technically nine, they haven’t decided which one to drop at the end of the list.

    Bellingham to Friday Harbor;
    Kirkland to Seattle (Union Bay);
    Kenmore to Seattle (Union Bay);
    Renton to Seattle (Union Bay);
    Renton to Seattle (Lake Union);
    Tacoma to Seattle;
    Gig Harbor to Seattle;
    Suquamish to Seattle or South Whidbey to Everett.

    The Bellingham to Friday line might be nice. Same for the S. Whidbey to Everett line.

    All the others I’m fairly iffy about.

    Dream scenario. Run a Gig Harbor line to the point Defiant dock and then run a light rail spur up to the dock. That way people can travel farther out into Tacoma or continue on all the way to Seattle.

    1. I live in Langley and a passenger ferry from our old mosquito fleet community to another urban center would be very welcome. Transit connections in Mukilteo are limited, and we have a major parking problem in our village center, especially during the summer. It would be great for residents and visitors to have a car free option.

      1. I think a problem with a lot of these passenger only lines is that they are great weekend lines. But terrible work week lines. So you end up with lines that cost huge amounts of money for limited traffic and to save money they get their route times set to the bare minimum which discourages people from ever using them. Creating a viscous downward spiral.

        Now maybe if the state could promise to run a new route with a reliable schedule for say a decade, that might encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise to move their as they could rely on the ferry to get to their jobs. That might eventually turn a route into a viable all week run. IE how it works on Bainbridge Island.

      2. The cost per passenger for ferries is a major issue. It’s much higher than for a bus. So it’s a slap in the face to millions of people who don’t have comprehensive bus service in Metro, CT, ST, PT, Skagit Transit, etc, for the state to invest a lot more resources in ferry corridors to benefit a few people who live near those particular corridors. If the state funds two or three or four of these corridors, it should also ensure Seattle has a Chicago level of bus service, accelerate Link, and think of other ways to get Pugetopolis the transit resources it needs for a metropolis its size. Oh, and more frequent inter-county connectors between Skagit-Snohomish and Pierce-Thurston would be cheap in comparison to all of these.

      3. Not disagreeing with anything Mike said, just would like to point out that unfortunately it describes Sounder North to a T as well. So there is precedent for such bad decision-making.

    2. The four using union bay or lake union are very weak due to slow speed; it is limited to seven knots west of wester point. This reflects poorly on the study.

  3. For the Pt Defiance Bypass, how does the cost of the derailment compare to the (estimated) cost of rebuilding the I-5 crossing to correct the issue?

    – Emergency crews and equipment
    – Healthcare for victims
    – Cleanup of I-5
    – Cascade rolling stock replacement (destroyed + early Talgo VI retirement)
    – Lawsuit payouts

    1. Better to look at the cost this way, Andrew. Everybody that cares about public transportation between at least Seattle and Portland is on the hook for a whole new generation of leadership, administrative, political, and organized labor alike.

      And until that multi-fatality track-curve is “flattened”, State law should forbid under penalty of prison the presence of any train at all whose speed is more than thirty and whose cargo is anything that’ll require mouth-to-mouth to save.

      Greyhound worked so hard to make my last trip with them my last I can’t disrespect their wishes. So does anybody reading this have any personal experience with Bolt Bus from Portland north?

      When my Provider finally gets a vaccine endorsed by anybody without a Pennsylvania Avenue address, it’s more than time I take advantage of the spectacular coastal views between the Nisqually and Tacoma that as a National treasure should be considered too valuable to “Bypass.”

      BN, how much will you have to raise my ticket-price so my train-ride doesn’t hurt your freight-rates? Considering I-5’s present conversion to a linear wrecking-yard, I’m willing to negotiate.

      Mark Dublin

    2. $100 million to do it right the first time vs. maybe $300 million for the crash and resulting chaos? Hind site is 20/20, though. Anyone who cares about Cascades service should be really angry at WSDOT for the planning and execution of this project.

      1. Chris I, the problem is that, as any reputable martial-arts instructor will tell you, in a confrontation with an opponent of any skill, whoever is first to lose their temper always loses the fight.

        As I said I would, about an hour ago I dropped a joint e-mail to the Sound Transit Board to re-instate and reimburse the subordinate official who I believe was the only person to lose his job over the derailment. Nobody can accuse me of being negative, can they?

        But more to the point of a remedy. While it may be late for this coming election, do you have anybody in mind whose election victory might see to it that the Dupont disaster is any incumbent’s last similar mistake?

        And far more important: can you think of anybody else who can fill that office with the competence that too many present occupants so obviously lack? Because this is the critical difference between a railroad you occasionally ride on and a railroad you own.

        Problem with our Republic from the beginning. Dwelling in “The Age of Reason”, which really didn’t last very long, I think a fair number of our Founders assumed that there’d be institutions to train the whole population, literally from pre-school, how to run a Government. All of it.

        Since I think at least one steam locomotive had been invented, very likely their curriculum would’ve included the engineering of at least one interstate railroad. Including the political knowledge to supervise its construction. And Ben Franklin’s kite-powered pantograph drawings just haven’t been found.

        Well, one comfort to many distressees: To work at all, Socialism just takes too much unpaid overtime. While I was raised to respect worker-owned cooperatives, I was also early given to understand that necessary attitude toward work is far too conservative for the average liberal. Or Conservative either.

        But as our Founders also understood- they all really would have believed that short-term we have to placate a Greek goddess named COVIDIA-civic success can take awhile and you gotta be patient. I think her pantheon also has a male accomplice named….LIONEL!

        If you’ve got children, or not, their website will make you realize how little computers have to do with the mindset you’ll need to keep a train from hitting the rug with a thump and rolling under the couch. Which is basically what was missing that dreadful December morning three years ago.

        By the time it comes time to vote on the new streetcar-manufacturing plant on the Waterfront where you can watch the skimming jetliner leave Colman for Olympia while you’re on coffee break. After your kid tells the co-op Board to hire you so he or she can give you your…training.

        Mark Dublin

  4. “ Not much interesting in it, although yearly ridership charts show ridership was plateauing across all modes in 2019. ”

    This perfectly describes my reading of the document. The “natural” increase in ST riders in past several years stopped in 2019. While it seems insignificant after the COVID-19 era, it’s important to note.

    1. This makes sense. Nothing much was added. To get increased ridership, it needs to expand (which will happen) or frequency needs to be increased. I’m not sure if Sound Transit is at all interested in increasing frequency (even after the pandemic). Frequency seems focused on capacity, which helps during rush hour, but leads to worse ridership than if they ran the trains more often (all day long).

      It doesn’t help that the line is very long. To get better frequency in Rainier Valley (so that it can compete with the 7) it needs to run all the way to Angle Lake (which as a suburban station, is likely less influenced by frequency). This is expensive, so while they would make up for some of the cost of added frequency with fare revenue, it would still cost them. The good news is that with Northgate Link, the ridership per mile will skyrocket, making good all-day frequency a great value (whether ST realizes that or not is another issue). I’m not sure about East Link in that regard (it isn’t clear if ridership per mile will increase or not). However, the pairing means that the most cost effective section (Northgate to downtown) will have double the frequency of those other lines. Even with that, it is unlikely that they run the trains out to Bellevue (and out to Angle Lake) every six minutes all day long (even though it would be a good value). I think the best we can hope for is running them every six minutes (maximum headway) during rush hour, and every ten minutes the rest of the day.

      I wonder if we could have a tax package that included more frequency for Link (but no new big projects). I would (enthusiastically) vote for that.

      1. Frequency has also been limited by fleet size. I could see ST be more open to better off peak frequency post-East Link when they have 2 OMFs and a full fleet to work with. The incremental cost of a few extra trains is immaterial to ST’s long term finances, so I think all that is needed is either a board member or ST exec to get passionate about higher quality off peak service.

        Simply scaling up ST operations to handle OMFE and 4 extensions between now and 2025 will fully occupy ST operations staff. Once they get over that ST2 delivery window, there’s an better opportunity to focus on better operations execution.

  5. Olympia-Point Defiance-Colman Dock is a definite, though success depends on a new generation of jet-boats that really classify as “Ground Effect” aircraft.

    And just to make Senator Steve O’Ban be the one to desperately attempt to turn it down, RESTORING streetcar service by extending Tacoma Link to Steilacoom, where it used to go. Bair Drug & Hardware Store has a photograph by its bathrooms.

    But main reason I’m praying for a swift defense against the pandemic: So that in person and to his face at a future ST Board Meeting, I can tell the Sound Transit official who fired that safety officer that since I would’ve been fired from my operator’s job had I performed to his own standard, his own summary removal is what early retirement is for. In the service of the long-overdue change of generations that’ll truly solve the whole thing.

    IT, ST, and Link, it would be the most enjoyable transit ride of my life even if, like last time, my Sounder train’s leader really did cause a schedule delay by hitting somebody. And if I forget to tap off, my $124 will belong to the Fare Inspectors’ Benevolent Fund for the asking.

    Mark Dublin

  6. First Ave in Kent also has outdoor dining and shopping on Saturdays.
    Outdoor seating has also been set up on E Meeker between Railroad and Central.

  7. It really looks like Mt. Rainier’s problem is not people, but their cars. Though shut down now due to the pandemic, the town of Elbe is home to The Mt. Rainier Steam Railroad.

    Is there any chance that, as part of the inevitably eventual Recovery, this railroad could become part of the solution? Same for a possible restoration of the passenger trains paralleling SR 20 that used to connect Ross Dam with the Burlington-Mt. Vernon area.

    Elbe, Kirkland, Fremont, Ballard….no matter how much it gets disguised as a hiking trail, you don’t have to dig very far to see that Once a Railroad, Always a Railroad!

    Mark Dublin

    1. The problem they are trying to solve is cars in the parking lot (inside the park) not getting to the park (although the former influences the latter). If they did have transit inside the park (like Glacier, Zion, Bryce, etc.) they could have buses running to the park. Those are a lot more expensive (since they are a lot farther) but there would be plenty of people who would pay for it (myself included). Of course there are also tourist buses (which often serve motels outside of National parks).

      By the way, there is a long discussion of this topic on NWHikers: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8032419.

      1. To get a rough idea what a bus between Seattle and Paradise would cost, charter buses go for around $1500/day and seat about 50 people. So, if the bus were to be financed by fare revenue, you’d need a minimum fare of $30/person, round trip.

        But, in reality, it would be more than that. The park would probably want an entrance fee of $5/passenger, not every seat is going to be filled every trip, and there would have to be some overhead in the ticketing/reservation system.

        If the goal is to break even with 2/3 occupancy, the fares would have to be around $55/person, which is high enough where a group of just two could pay less by renting a Zipcar.

        Ultimately, I think you would need some level of care subsidy to fill up the bus and avoid a death spiral, but I think you could easily buy the round trip far down to around $20 or so by tacking on a $5 surcharge to each car that drives into the park. You could even have a separate shuttle (with a much lower fare) go just to Ashford, so that people not coming from Seattle have an opportunity to ride it.

        If done right, I can see a parking-subsidized bus service increasing the net capacity of the park.

        Another consideration is that you’d have to provide some emergency option for people who miss the bus to get home. Otherwise, people would have to either hitchhike or spend the night on the mountain without proper food or gear to wait for the next bus.

      2. My thought is something much closer to Zion, where the bus is a shuttle inside the park connecting to large parking lots just outside the park (likely somewhere between Elbe and the park entrance), and then private providers can provide bus service between the park shuttle and points elsewhere, likely through packages sold in partnership with hotels, airlines, etc.

        Similar to Zion (and other parks), shuttles would run only on summer weekends and private cars would be prohibited from entering. All other days, people can access the park directly as done currently.

      3. Zion should be they model for this. It works well, and greatly improves the experience inside the park. Glacier is a great example of what not to do: they have shuttles, but do not restrict cars, so you end up with congestion that makes the shuttles slower and more costly to run.

      4. I think is the goal is allow more people access to the park without paving over the meadow with a giant parking lot, the satallite lot outside the parimiter works well, although, for something like Mt. Rainier, it would probably need to be an Eastgate P&R-sized garage, or else the satallite lot would fill up. Building that would be expensive.

        Unfortunately, with respect to access from Seattle, I don’t think the private sector solution would be a viable business model. As I said earlier, an optimistic demand assumption would require around $55/person fares for the round trip, just to break even.

        Under more pessimistic demand models about the number of people willing to ride, it might have to be even higher. I researched shuttle options to Mt. Rainier once, and all I could find was van service that charged over $100 round trip and allowed minimal time to get out of the van and hike, once it gets there. The pick up process involves a half hour or zigzagging to provide door to door service to major hotels. And they don’t even transport backpackers looking to ride only one way at all. IMHO, once the cost of a bus ride exceeds the cost of an all day rental car, you may as well just rent the car and not bother with the bus.

        Part of the reason why any bus Seattle to Mt. Rainier bus service is so expensive is that, once the bus arrives, there’s really nothing for it to do but just sit there all day, until the same people who rode it up there are ready to go back. That’s a lot of hours paying the driver to literally sit there on an empty bus. At some point, if buses can become driverless, these calculations may start to change.

    1. That is pretty neat. What jumped out to me was SeaTac Intl. I think we often forget just how much ground even a smaller airport like SeaTac takes up.

      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thank you, Sam, for finally revealing why our Fare Inspectors get to wear those great Star Fleet uniforms!

    But before they can fine anybody else $124 for a tap-trap violation, Superior Court will insist that your video make Distance Fare boundaries visible.

    Until then…no sweat. From what I know of their Command, pretty sure they’re keeping their phasers permanently set on “Warn” ’til ridership picks back up.

    And also, Mark Zuckerberg needs to know that Qanon is being less than truthful when it claims that disaffected young Vulcans tell their critics to “Die Young In Poverty!” The late Leonard Nimoy would rather leave his ears in the drawer than say anything like that.

    Mark (no relation) Dublin

  9. Suquamish to Seattle passenger ferry could make sense on multiple levels.

    Overflow passenger traffic from the Bainbridge and Kingston ferries.

    Tourism: Chief Seattle’s grave, a museum and a casino are all near. This could be a popular ferry trip.

    Help economic development for the Suquamish Tribe.

    I think it’s an idea worth studying.

    1. https://www.soundtransit.org/blog/platform/fresh-pics-construction-complete-downtown-bellevue-tunnel?utm_campaign=PlatformSeptember20&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

      Well, Brad, if the Downtown Bellevue Tunnel can invoke First Nations ancestry, so can Suquamish.

      Would be interesting to research the amount of commerce that went on between our Peoples in the years before bridges could float.

      Suggesting that in these waters, water-borne commerce may not yet have reached the end of its allotted days. And word to Eastlink.

      Morally and culturally, I think you might want to consider yourselves committed to attach a beautiful tribal design to the blank grey cement facing presently engraved with the words “Downtown Bellevue Tunnel.”

      Locally and regionally, these Lands and Waters are possessed by spirits that nothing either tunneling under them or with tracks floating on top of them would do well to cross!

      Mark Dublin

    2. Not really. While there might be car overflow during the summer on the Bainbridge run their is no walk-on overflow. The casino already runs a shuttle bus to the ferries on Bainbridge, not to mention Kitsap transit takes you straight their too. Winslow (main street Bainbridge), has already converted itself over to a tourist trap (with a children’s museum). All of this is in walking distance of the ferry terminal. So no real traffic would be diverted from the Bainbridge run. It’s also cheaper for walk-on as they only pay on the Seattle side, its free to ride back.

      It might divert some traffic from the Kingston run, but on that same hand Kingston already has a fast ferry service straight to downtown (though no weekend runs?). So it would make more sense to simply expand that service first, from commuter hours to all day service. And also move it into the general ferry service and not the completely separate Kitsap transit.

  10. And since Martin has once again put this miserable business “On Top” for a Topic, I’d appreciate it if today’s readership would join me in contacting the Sound Transit Board and encouraging them to reinstate unjustly-terminated safety chief Salah Al-Tamimi.

    With accrued back wages, and also, just to make a point in the language of the territory commonly known as Sound Transit…..a generous BONUS.

    Mark Dublin

  11. You know you’re a transit nerd when….

    You see “124” in the URL and think the news roundup will be about route 124.

    1. Which is still better than finding out you’re a nerd when instead of just saying “thanks for being here” and giving you a bottle of water when you break curfew and come into town from a distance to do some free-lance intimidation with a standard-issue automatic rifle, the police just let you kill two people and not even drive you home. (They say.)

      Oh, Kenosha! If only the Electroliner could’ve still been there to steam his glasses. From the school pictures of him, a conductor’s uniform could’ve been so natural to grow into. And talk about real, unquestioned POWER!

      If only some really pretty girl could’ve been covertly assigned to tell him how bad that really sooooo pre-2016 gun didn’t match those glasses she was otherwise completely smitten with!

      A few decades earlier, she could’ve said he looked just like Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and been believed. But worst of all, looking at him….I suddenly realized why the Army took one look at me and sent me home.

      Mark Dublin

    1. And their blog also says, “Metro is installing mask dispensers on 102 buses this month, starting with RapidRide buses on the A and F lines in south King county and 60-foot trolley buses on routes 7, 36, 43, 44, and 49 in Seattle. Metro intends to install more dispensers on other high-ridership routes in the future.”

  12. I don’t understand the situation of TBD revenue vis-a-vis Metro’s cuts at the September service change. Are the cuts due to revenue loss if I-976 survives challenges? Or is Metro making pre-emptive cuts in anticipation of reduced revenue after renewal? Or else is Metro budgeting for hypothetical failure of the ballot measure and complete loss of TBD revenue? What is the exact percentage decrease in TBD-funded service with the service change? While the 0.15% sales tax is expected to produce perhaps a quarter less revenue than the 0.1% tax rate along with the VLF, it should be able to replace at least a clear majority of the current TBD’s hours, depending on the allocation of the tax revenues between service hours and other investments. My understanding is that the TBD also had a reserve balance due to Metro’s limited capacity to increase service. So what is the exact situation here?

    As a secondary but related point, what struck me is that the service cuts, in a few cases, results in service frequency and span that is worse than before the TBD’s initial passage. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list comparing September 2020 with c. 2013, as verified with the Wayback Machine:

    • Service after 10 pm on the 2N will be noticeably reduced; it used to be half-hourly until end of service (except Sundays) but now it has one-hour and then two-hour gaps in service.
    • The 2S, 10, and 12 used to be frequent during Saturday daytimes; now they will be half-hourly.
    • Late night service span will be reduced by about an hour for the 3/4 in both directions.
    • Outbound service span is cut by an hour for the 5, and it drops to hourly at 11 pm when it used to be half-hourly until 1 am. Saturday daytime service will run on 20-minute headways instead of 15-minute headways.
    • The 31 operated Saturday service which will be suspended.
    • The 41’s outbound service span will be reduced by about an hour.
    • Late night service span for the 44 is reduced in both directions about a half hour on weekdays and an hour on weekends.
    • The 49, one of the routes which had frequent evening service in the pre-TBD days, will now drop to half-hourly service at 7 pm.
    • Outbound service span on the 70 is cut by an hour on weekdays and a half hour on weekends (compared with the 71/72/73).

    A few caveats: many of the TBD improvements, and probably the most productive ones, remain. Similarly, some of the routes listed above have more service hours and better service frequencies overall, aside from the deleted late night trips. Granted, the 2013-era schedules reflected a lot of legacy routes with marginal ridership, or routes which have been superseded by Link. However, I think it’s worth establishing minimum service standards even if late night trips in particular are lightly used. Growing up I expected most city radial routes to have outbound trips until 1 am, and 15 minute service on weekday and Saturday daytimes if they had at least moderate ridership. And some of the routes with reduced night service are core urban routes that are well-patronized at nighttime (3/4, 5, 41, 44, 49, 70).

    1. The situation is a combination of three factors:
      1) Sales tax revenue, which funds the bulk of service, is down a lot since the pandemic.
      2) Fare revenue, which funds about 25% of service, is completely eliminated since May.
      3) The Seattle Transportation Benefit District expires at the end of the year. But, the next service change is in March, so the service STBD funded by the STBD money must be cut in half to its funding for the remainder of the year to stretch into March. And, with half the STBD money also coming from sales tax, which is down, the service it funds probably needs to be cut by more than half.

      Even if the STBD renewal does pass, we could see a slight improvement in March, but it won’t be enough to bring it anywhere near the level it was before, as the new levy is smaller than the previous one, and during COVID, replacing car tabs with sales tax is a further blow. If STBD renewal doesn’t pass, expect to see even more service cuts in March.

      Another big unknown is the outcome of I-976 in court. If the WA Supreme Court ends up upholding it, nearly all of the STBD 2021 collections will simply go to issuing drivers refunds for their 2020 car tabs, and service will be cut again, as if the measure had failed.

      If we have a double whammy where STBD renewal fails and I-976 is upheld, I don’t know where the money to issue the car tab refunds is going to come from. Maybe STBD has enough of a reserve to cover some of it, but budgets elsewhere in the city would likely have to be raided to cover the rest. It would not be pretty.

      I’m not to worried about the STBD failing in November, since it’s a Seattle-only electorate. The outcome of I-976 in court, however, I consider mostly a coin flip. COVID recovery is an especially bad time to have our transit service hinging on the outcome of a coin flip.

      1. Yeah, all of that. My guess is they figure that there is no way they can keep things the same, even if everything goes well. So they will cut service now. After they pass the new levy, they will increase service — although probably not to current levels.

        It does seem weird (and unfortunate) to bound back and forth, but I think it makes sense. Although it is highly likely that the levy will pass, Metro can’t depend on it. There is great uncertainty with regards to funding (even if it passes) and it is reasonable to take a step back before moving forward.

      2. “Maybe STBD has enough of a reserve to cover some of it, …”

        My understanding of the situation from what I’ve read previously is that the city is fully reserving enough to cover issuing refunds for VLF car tab payments the STBD has received from the DOL in 2020, should the initiative be upheld. For its fund accounting system, the city includes the STBD in its “Nonmajor Governmental Funds – Special Revenue” reporting section. As of the their most recent CAFR (year ending Dec 31, 2019), the STBD fund balance stood at about $48 million, a net decrease of about $4.4 million from the prior year ending balance. Unfortunately, the STBD itself publishes its annual reports on a midyear schedule. Hence, it’s last annual report, which was put out last fall, only covers the period thru June 2019. A new report should be forthcoming this fall, so the financial section of that report will most likely give us additional insight as to what reserves the district has on hand for issuing potential refunds for collected VLF monies.

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