M/V Evergreen State waiting off Fauntleroy

This is an open thread.

47 Replies to “News roundup: testing”

  1. Sound Transit now is “reimagineering” its financing plan. Staff is thinking outside the box.

    Communicating messages it wants folks to absorb about the new path forward will be key. Pitching a ballot measure is easy — this won’t be.

    This community outreach can not be too detailed. Joe Public has limited bandwidth for “the money stuff.” Media outlets already are being prepped. There will be direct mail flyers.

    Up until now 2041 was presented as the date when ST3 would wrap up. The communications team is busy coming up with happy-face ways of saying construction timelines and servicing debt will extend beyond 2041. This messaging will need to be done without raising the “blank check taxing and spending powers” red flag. Any ideas from the hivemind? The ballot measure messaging (“Our financing projections are conservative.”) won’t work for these purposes.

    1. I think ST has already laid out the plans: https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/realignment

      It involves a couple simple steps:

      1) Explain why they can’t build what they promised voters on time. You can see that in the first couple paragraphs:

      The COVID-19 crisis is greatly reducing the revenues Sound Transit relies on to expand our regional transit system. As businesses remain closed and people stay home, sales tax revenues critical to funding transit construction have declined rapidly.

      2. Decide what will be delayed, and what will be altered. This is the hard part, and it involves a lot of public outreach. Ultimately, though, decisions rest with the board. There will be no new vote. This is summarized in the last paragraph (the word “realignment” means both delays and changes):

      With greatly depleted revenues, Sound Transit will not be able to deliver many expansion projects on their original timelines unless we receive alternative revenue from federal or state sources absent securing funding support. Next year, the Board will be seeking input on realignment from the public and partner agencies in order to make a final decision on project changes in the summer.

      Of course this will be unpopular. No one likes bad news. But that is the nature of government, of for that matter, any organization. Sometimes you have good news, sometimes you have bad news.

      1. You see that reference to the upcoming “public outreach” in that press release? That’s what my post is about.

        Sound Transit acknowledges the plan it got voters to approve now is unaffordable. A new narrative is needed for the public (maybe “Don’t sweat the numbers.”).

      2. A new narrative is needed for the public (maybe “Don’t sweat the numbers.”).

        And again, that is right there, in that web page. The new narrative is “We don’t have the money; what do we want to cut, and what do we want to delay?”. It’s not that complicated.

      3. Nothing new to see here, move along. ST announced months ago it would go through a several-month realignment process. It started with a default concept of delaying all ST3 projects five years. The board will have to decide whether to delay some projects more than others. That will surely be a battle with every subarea arguing its projects are the most critical/equitable and other subareas’ projects should be delayed instead. Who knows where it will land? There won’t be much movement on that for several months, so it’s more worth waiting than wild speculations. Existing services aren’t going to shut down in the meantime; the situation is not that desperate. Operations cost much less than construction.

        ST3 includes the authority to extend the taxes as long as necessary to complete the projects, so that option wouldn’t require a revote. ST could also choose to defer some projects to a future tax measure, or just delete or truncate them. What it can’t do without another vote is build projects not in ST3. (Unless it has money left over after finishing all the ST3 projects, which is the opposite of this situation.)

        If you want to influence ST in any particular direction, the most effective way is to convince some boardmembers of it. The second-most effective way is to convince city/county electeds of it, because they’re the ones ST defers to the most.

      4. “A new narrative is needed for the public”

        The public is not monolithic. Some people need messaging, others are more concerned about the pandemic than about ST3’s long-term direction, and different people have different concerns and respond to different messages. ST has set an appropriate pace: “We’re going full steam ahead on under-construction projects (so Lynnwood/Redmond/FW are expected by 2025), and we’re reevaluating the projects after that.” That’s enough of a message for this year and most of next year.

        The rest of the controversies and hot opinions are mostly a continuation of attitudes from before the pandemic.

        I don’t think additional taxes are likely. It would require legislature approval, and there’s a widespread feeling that the aggregate ST1/2/3 tax sources (which ST3 will use all of) are already pretty high, many ST3 projects are disappointing compared to ST2, and there’s little mood to pay a higher tax rate to make up for the delays. Plus, Metro needs money to restore frequency and fulfill Metro Connects, and ST and PT have similar long-range plans that need to be funded in the next decade. So the next tranche of money should go to them. We can worry about the remaining parts of ST3 and ST4 after that.

  2. This is what I heard what caused the spike in cancelled trips. A paid two week Covid leave offer expires at the end of this month. If an employee doesn’t take the leave before then, they lose it. There’s also another two week leave for employees that expires mid-2021, I was told. Of course, if someone actually gets covid, they could take leave after this month, but that would be some other type of leave. Take this info for what it’s worth. I’m some guy in a comment section repeating what some guy told me.

    1. The fight will be between communities and neighborhoods within subareas, not between subareas themselves because of subarea equity.

      The irony is I think working from home and other factors will cause some subareas like East King Co. to be the most relaxed about extending completion dates for future rail lines even though they have the funds, whereas areas where there is the density and desire (and need) like Seattle may have funding issues. I don’t really know how much desire there is in Snohomish, South KC, and Pierce Counties. Once the main rail line reaches them they may feel they are done, at least for now.

      The obvious fight is between W. Seattle and Ballard if funding is tight, especially if working from home affects sales tax revenue in their subarea. But Ross raised a good point on The Urbanist I hadn’t understood, and that is rail service from W. Seattle will be worse than bus service until the line to Ballard and the second transit tunnel are completed.

      I always suspected the projects exceeded the estimated revenue even before Covid. ST is in some ways a ponzi scheme: new levies complete projects from earlier levies. I always had doubts about running rail to Redmond, Tacoma and Everett because that is a long way for commuter rail through very undense areas. Does it make sense to run rail to Lynnwood before Ballard when areas that far outside Seattle are so car/truck oriented.

      I know some think zoning can manufacture density or cars can be eliminated or outlawed but there just isn’t the total population in the region for over 100 miles of commuter rail, and folks not on transit blogs will never give up their cars/trucks/SUV’s.

      I thought one of the most interesting recent posts was someone asking how long it will take to go from his doorstep in Ballard to a concert in Tacoma on light rail in 2045 and the answer was 2 hours. I still wonder whether that post was tongue in cheek. Who worries about travel times to a concert in 2045, (although the Stones may still be touring).

      Rail has one main advantage: grade separation, which only matters if there is traffic congestion and first/last mile access. Very few on the Eastside take transit during non-peak hours. If traffic congestion doesn’t return what is the point of rail. It won’t cure global warming, Urbanism, affordable housing, or equity, and may exacerbate those issues.

      First/last mile access really means “truncation”, a fancy word for transfers, and commuters hate transfers, but there isn’t the money for the frequency to make transfers tolerable.

      I think rail became an ego thing, both for ST and for cities, and ST subarea equity skewed where we put rail. Express buses from the Eastside that could use the center roadway on I-90 and access the bus tunnel were a very effective and efficient form of commuter transport. Now we have rail lines to Redmond and Issaquah when the eastside might not have the commuters, and those south of I-90 who just added a transfer to their daily commute each way will think East Link was a huge Bellevue/Microsoft/Rogoff ego trip, which is true.

      I thought the most important article listed was the seismic studies and costs for Seattle’s bridges. I don’t see a ST 4 because WFH and other issues — including “equity” allocation of service” — have cooled citizen (at least those outside Seattle) enthusiasm for levies just to complete what was promised in ST 2 and 3, and if Seattle does float it’s own levy it will need to be for bridges and not bike lanes and other fluff, and for a lot more than the $1 billion in Move Seattle that resulted in half the promised projects.

      My guess is Rogoff leaves next year because he is so arrogant and won’t want to bear the bad news or say sorry. That is the time to truly revamp ST and consider which projects to complete or modify, and wait for those skyscrapers in Lynnwood when vacancy rates in downtown NY have already reached 14% and the NY transit system is pretty much insolvent, and needs billions in upgrades the city and state put off because what could commuters do, not take the subway. Now the answer is yes, that is what they can do.

      1. Daniel, where’s it written that there’ll ever be a fight between anybody and over anything to do with transit? But if what you are intending is a threat, thanks for the alert to get the Peace-Keeping started.

        Since I once actually did get to drive a 90′ streetcar through the Downtown Gothenburg, and since their conscription’s so truly Universal, maybe I could talk Sweden into giving me the training our own Army would not. The way, incidentally, I’d handle military service for our whole country. With a very strong training link for public transit.

        What do Ballard and West Seattle have in common? Decades of history waiting patiently for decent transit to materialize. Both between each other end-to-end, and also for service to regionally important places like UW and Downtown Seattle.

        Whose station “purview” can easily contain all three major hospitals on First Hill. And also, the whole island including Mercer Island’s business district. A ten-minute scenic side-trip for coffee before proceeding fast-train service elsewhere in the Region.

        I know it’s early-on in every process, with many people in a seriously medical state of shock. But I really would like to see Seattle Transit Blog to start working on some serious liaison with K-12 school-kids from the service area I just mentioned above.

        If ST can start seriously doing some TSC for “Transit Sister Cities”, I’ll chip in what I can to enlist Greta Thunberg in creating us a conduit with Gothenburg, where they’ve got huge trolleybuses in addition to light rail. Bi-modal’s that important.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_Armed_Forces#:~:text=To%20assert%20the%20territorial%20integrity,to%20international%20peace%20support%20operations.

        Look this over and tell me if there’s a single thing our own citizenship-education should not immediately endorse and emulate. Surely greatest 3D graph I ever saw in my life.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Very few on the Eastside Mercer Island take transit during non-peak hours

        There FIFY. Where did all those people at Bellevue TC come from? Were they Seattle riders crossing the lake twice for the views of Mount Rainier?

        Grant that they are skipping their tours these Covid days.

  3. Madison BRT has reached the “final design” stage, and they expect construction to start next spring (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/transit-program/transit-plus-multimodal-corridor-program/madison-street-bus-rapid-transit). They released the roll plots, and for the most part, they make sense to me (even if they are a bit disappointing in places).

    There is one section that baffles me though. It isn’t how they treat Madison, it is how they treat East Union. There is an awkward four way intersection where Union, Madison and 12th all meet. Here is the roll plot for it: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/TransitProgram/RapidRide/Madison/2020_FinalDesign_BroadwayTo13th.pdf. Right now, cars, buses and bikes can’t go through on Union (either direction). The plans look like a big improvement for bikes. You still have to cross two intersections just to keep going, but you have bike lanes the whole way, and at no point are you forced onto the sidewalk or a cross walk, wondering if this is the best way to get across Union. There are some changes for cars as well. For example, Union between 11th and 12th is a dead end (local access only).

    What really confuses me is the bus lane on Union, between 11th and 12th. What is that for? Given the bus stop (and the fact that only one bus in our system has left side doors) westbound buses can use that special lane. But they can’t access it from Union. That would mean a bus doing this: https://goo.gl/maps/yfFXiKqNYEgptoha6. In reverse it means this: http://www.kcmetrovision.org/plan/service-map/. Neither of those look great although I guess a slight improvement over today. But that assumes the 2 bus follows the current Seneca/Spring route downtown. That seems flawed for a couple reasons. First, it means the regular bus (without off-board payment) is slowing up the BRT downtown. It also isn’t very good spacing within downtown — I assumed the 2 would go downtown via Pike/Pine, like the 11. That is what the LRP had as well (for 2025). With the 11 gone, that means you have service on Pike west of 12th, but not Union (the eastern part of the 2 would look like this: https://goo.gl/maps/ieMXoSR3HyWCachHA). Again, this is better spacing.

    It seems like that bus lane is being put in assuming that routes will be the same after Madison BRT, which seems like a crazy assumption. I guess it isn’t the end of the world if they build a bus stop and bus lane but its never used (or used only temporarily) but it seems like there should be some discussion about what the network should look like after Madison BRT. If buses never go there, then the city could save money on paving as all you would need is asphalt for bikes, and a little parklet in there. Hopefully the city is discussing this with Metro, as it would make sense to hold off on that one section until Metro decides what the bus routes will look like.

    1. RossB: yes, the drawings at 12th Avenue are confusing. Yes, Routes 2 and 12 are at issue. It is nicknamed the bow tie area. Both agencies saw Route 2 riders and Virginia Mason rise up to defend Route 2 during the reductions planning and in the 2012 changes. Since then, SDOT has installed a transit lane on eastbound Spring Street west of 6th Avenue, saving several minutes of buses sitting in jammed traffic. SDOT is dropping its RR G and J lines into the network without figuring out the network first. Several routes seem in play. Those discussions are to come. Also note the drawings at 23rd Avenue and Route 48; the eastbound stop farside 23rd Avenue has been dropped; so, the transfer point appears to be degraded.

  4. RE helmet law selective enforcement: Small towns in the South use marijuana law enforcement to harass their “undesirables”; Seattle uses helmet laws.

    1. For quite awhile now, I’ve been trying to support the people who I think make up the law enforcement I’d meet day to day aboard transit. I really hope I’m making clear that my dislike of bad policing is fueled by the danger it poses to good officers of both genders.

      And I really hope that STB readers whose taxes fund the salaries of SPD make it clear to their patrol officers that their tax money is not to be used prosecuting homeless people for riding without a helmet.

      Theft? Intimidation? Assault? Of course perpetrators need to be taken into custody. But that’s not what’s under discussion here. And look at it this way:

      How many dangerous criminals get away while the police are preoccupied punishing the helmetless?

      Mark Dublin

  5. If an entire shopping mall was closed, and you had to make signs to put on all the doors, you wouldn’t say “This Entrance Closed.” The Bus Stop Closed signs should say Bus Route Cancelled.

  6. I am so sick of this gondola nonsense. Let’s be honest, the gondola idea only exists to be an argument against light rail and to distract from real mass transit planning. A gondola cannot meet the speed, capacity, and connectivity that light rail will have when ST3 is fully built out, not even close. And let’s not overlook the fact that ST3 specifically authorized building light rail, not gondolas, and the voters of West Seattle overwhelmingly voted for light rail, not gondolas. This pie in the sky idea would require a re-vote on ST3.

    1. ST has not acknowledged gondolas as a viable alternative so you have nothing to fear. The suggestions for gondolas have come from a few amateurs, for lower-volume corridors with steep elevation changes or other barriers. The most-suggested one one is Capitol Hill to SLU and Uptown. West Seattle may be second. It’s worth having people think out of the box and show how alternatives that work in other cities like Portland can work in Seattle. I’m skeptical that a gondola could be adequate for West Seattle, but I also think Link in West Seattle is overkill. But ST chose the light rail mode in the 1990s and has been adamant about sticking to it. Switching to a gondola would require a major change of mind for the board, and the board rarely changes its mind. We tried to get ST to consider routing the second tunnel closer to First Hill (5th & Jackson, 8th & Madison, 5th & Pine), or a Ballard-UW line instead of Ballard-downtown, but ST is having none of it. (Ballard-UW is in the long-range plan, so it might be built in a later phase.) Things may change if the revenue shortfall is really severe and ST is forced to consider things it’s not considering now, but it’s highly unlikely it would switch to a technology like gondolas that it hasn’t tried before. That’s if a gondola could be considered within the scope of ST3. That’s a legal question I can’t answer.

      1. in about 2001, by a two-thirds vote, ST made several significant changes to Sound Move without returning to the voters. Link lost the NE 45th Street, First Hill, South Graham Street, Boeing Access Road Link stations; north Sounder fell to one-way peak-only service with an anemic four trips; I-90 did not get a two-way all-day busway; NE 85th Street on I-405 did not get a center access ramp.

        I too, doubt gondolas are worthwhile; the proponents should explain their capacity. Transfers between modes are okay as long as lines are frequent and waits and walks are short.

      2. “I too, doubt gondolas are worthwhile; the proponents should explain their capacity.”

        And speed and frequency.

    2. I don’t get a gondola either and I don’t live in West Seattle. This issue was the subject of two articles on The Urbanist, one for and one against (I don’t think The Urbanist exerts a lot of editorial control over what is posted. There were also pro then anti articles on the ridiculous Cascadia Vision headed by Gregoire that to me is anti-Urbanist).

      Ross has some good posts on the thread about gondolas on The Urbanist, and although I don’t think he supports a gondola he also raises some realities about light rail to West Seattle.

      For example, putting aside the cost vs. density issue and the delay in completion which keeps getting extended, Ross pointed out the efficacy of light rail to W. Seattle actually depends on completing the line to Ballard (which means a second transit tunnel) because until then the W. Seattle line will just be a stub that converts a current one seat bus to downtown to a two or three seat ride, more if you want to get to Bellevue.

      I think Ross makes a good point in that not a lot of residents understand this granular detail when using terms like “light rail”.

      This is an issue I have raised about Eastside commuters who live south of I-90. Their current one seat ride on an express bus to Seattle will go to two seats when they must transfer to rail to cross the bridge. I doubt they understood this when voting for ST 2 so long ago, or that their light rail line in ST 3 won’t be completed until 2041, or later.

      Citizens don’t vote to spend billions for light rail with the hope it adds seats and transfers to their commute.

      I think East Link will be a good litmus test for the W. Seattle line, and how those residents will feel in 2035 when their completed line dumps them at a bus stop across the bridge in an area they have no intention of traveling to to catch a bus to a train, to another train if you want to go East, or another bus if you want to to Ballard or Lake Union.

      I think commuters in Issaquah will say they want their express commuter buses back, and despite its size Issaquah has a lot of juice on the Eastside. The Eastside subarea has the money to continue express buses to Seattle during commute hours (Issaquah residents don’t take transit during non-peak hours) and those riders don’t have the political power the commuters have.

      The N. King Co. subarea probably doesn’t have the money to continue express buses until the Ballard line and second transit tunnel are completed, and so they may want to see what Eastside residents who live south of I-90 demand when East Link opens and their commute adds a transfer, although just like Issaquah having light rail is a lot about ego for West Seattle, whose population today is twice Issaquah’s technical population.

      1. Daniel, I really hope that, whatever you and I disagree about, nothing I say comes out as criticizing Mercer Island in general. Or even more, the business community who have been gifted with an elegant bi-modal transit center.

        Whether I’m fated to be the one to do this or not, some sadly-fated plans from a past life still left me with enough espresso-pulling skills to revive the presently-abandoned espresso cafe a real short ride from both Eastlink and the ST 550.

        Meds and quarantine presently forbid an interview. But I really would like some participation in these pages by Mercer Islanders already pulling coffee, as to their own feelings about this particular stop.

        Where certain elements see an infestation, I see a gold mine.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Citizens don’t vote to spend billions for light rail with the hope it adds seats and transfers to their commute. I think East Link will be a good litmus test for the W. Seattle line …

        Right, but there are differences. East Link is not about Issaquah, Mercer Island, or any other two seat ride to downtown Seattle. It is about downtown Bellevue, Microsoft campus, and downtown Redmond. In other words, most of the riders in East Link will walk to the station, or walk from a station. This is because downtown Bellevue is very big. Lots of people work there, and a fair number live there. Lots of people work at Microsoft, while downtown Redmond (and the Spring District) will have a lot of people living there. It all adds up to a substantial number of walk-up riders, many of which are taking trips that don’t involve going to downtown Seattle. There will be plenty of other riders (mostly during rush hour) that are forced to transfer, but they won’t make up the bulk of the riders.

        In contrast, almost all of the West Seattle Link riders are headed downtown, while most of them will be asked to transfer. There simply aren’t that many people working, living or visiting the three stations. The folks that transfer outnumber those that don’t, and they don’t have the advantage that Link provides for riders, in terms of two-seat, non-downtown-Seattle trips. An all-day express from Issaquah to Mercer Island means that riders can get to downtown Bellevue faster, with less waiting. In contrast, West Seattle Link will get Delridge riders to the Junction — a decent destination, but one with a small fraction of the demand.

        There are similarities, but the case for East Link is much, much stronger than the case for West Seattle Link.

      3. In spite of one commenters repeated emphasis on the part of the eastside south of I-90, it doesn’t take more than a quick look at the map to see that the majority of the eastside population (and large majority of eastside transit riders) live north of I-90.

        Even for south of I-90, you make up the time for the added transfer by not needing to wait for all the stoplights in downtown Seattle itself – especially during rush hour when traffic is at its worst and Link is running every 6 minutes. Instead of insisting on one-seat rides, you should argue for the operating savings from the bus truncations to be reinvested into better frequency on the truncated routes, so that the transfer is as quick as possible (vs. shifting service hours funded by eastside tax dollars down to Kent).

    3. As Daniel mentioned, I’ve commented quite a bit on those posts. (I’m the same Ross). First, let me mention that all modes have their advantages and disadvantages. This is something that I keep emphasizing when it comes to the Seattle streetcar, for example. I’m not anti-streetcar. I just think that a Seattle streetcar, running on the proposed route, is stupid.

      Anyway, I don’t think either light rail or a gondola makes sense for West Seattle. Its complicated to explain why, but here is one way to look at it:

      Assuming the same stations as proposed (three, for the entire line, all in West Seattle) there are two sets of riders. One are folks who walk to a station; the others get off the bus, and transfer. Another important factor is when they use transit. West Seattle does not have major congestion in the evening, either direction. But for sake of argument, I’ll simply assume that it does, and consider the two times (broadly) as peak (rush hour), and off-peak (everything else). So that means four combinations of riders:

      1) Walk-Up riders, Peak.
      2) Transfer riders, Peak.
      3) Walk-Up riders, Off-Peak.
      4) Transfer riders, Off-Peak.

      OK, before I get into the advantages of each mode, it is worth considering how many people are in each group. Generally speaking, off-peak ridership exceeds peak ridership. This is because even though peak ridership is higher (per hour) there are simply more hours in the day when traffic is light. Second, these stations are not in highly dense areas, but serve as major bus feeders (assuming they are truncated at the stations). This is true of every station, but especially Delridge. So, that means that ridership goes up as the numbers go up (with 4 being the biggest group). By the way, this is *not* how people generally explain transit use, and a major bias.

      OK then, consider three options: light rail, gondola, or bus. For now, consider it to a be bus running on a repaired West Seattle Bridge. It is worth noting that prior to the pandemic, the situation for West Seattle riders was terrible, as they were dealing with the aftermath of the SR 99 project. That work is done, and not only is it “back to normal”, but there are additional bus lanes downtown. Consider each option, for each set of riders:

      1. Light rail is the best. You walk to the station, and catch the train. It might be a while, but it is very fast. The gondola would be slower, and the smaller dwell time wouldn’t be enough to make up for it (although it would be close). For many gondola riders it would require a transfer (e. g. north downtown). To be fair, this transfer would be very frequent, whether on the surface, or underground. You also have the possibility of crowding (due to the buses letting people off) which would eliminate the frequency advantage of the gondola. Meanwhile, the bus is a little bit slower than the train. In terms of frequency, the C isn’t great, but it is a bit better than the train (running every four minutes, instead of six). Avalon is even better, as it gets the frequency of both the C and the 21. Delridge has the 120 and 125 combination, but neither is especially frequent — the combination is about as good as the train. Overall, the train wins, but the bus is not far behind, and the value of the gondola depends on whether capacity becomes a big problem.

      2. The bus is competitive, if not better than the alternatives. If given the choice, I don’t think many people would get off the bus of even the C, and even fewer would get off the 21 or H. You might have to wait five minutes for the train, and it is highly unlikely that the train beats the bus in that case. Same with the gondola. It is great that there is such a tiny transfer penalty, but the bus is faster. What seems slow on the freeway is fairly fast compared to a gondola. Gondolas pretty much max out at around 20 MPH.

      3. Here is where the gondola shines. It is, by far, the strongest argument for building a gondola. All day long, if you want to get downtown, all you need to do is walk to the station, and within seconds you will be on your way. In less than 20 minutes, you are downtown. In contrast, the train will be faster, but the wait will be much longer. Realistically, we can expect ten minute frequency much of the day, and even that will be a struggle at night. Likewise, bus frequency is similar to the train, although it could be improved with more money (which Seattle has shown is willing to spend). The bus is faster, but not as frequent as the gondola.

      4. The bus wins this group hands down. It is one thing to transfer when you have a lot of traffic. But when traffic is low, the bus is much faster than the gondola, and you avoid the big transfer penalty of the train.

      These are trade-offs, but I contend that most of the time, more riders would be better off with the existing bus than they would either new option. Put it another way. Imagine they made no truncations whatsoever, and stuck with whatever bus service levels exist the year they open this thing (which will likely exceed 2019 levels). My guess is more people would ride the bus over the Duwamish than either the train or a gondola. Very few would transfer, and the bus would just have more riders.

      Now imagine if instead of living with the existing bus infrastructure, we put gondola style money into making the buses faster. This is not a huge sum of money (one of the big advantages of a gondola). It is also roughly the same amount of money as building a bypass lane for the Spokane Street Viaduct, and ramp to and from the SoDo busway (somewhere around $200 million). This would mean that a bus would not interact with regular traffic from the moment it got onto the West Seattle freeway, until it got to SoDo. This is also where where West Seattle Link ends (at a cost of around $1.5 billion, although that estimate is likely to grow). At this point, everyone who boards a bus outside of a station — peak or off-peak — is much better off with the bus simply continuing to downtown.

      It is worth noting that there is a time penalty involved with each transfer, outside of wait time. Some of the proposed light rail stations are very high up in the air. Even the relatively short ones require riders to spend some time getting up to the platform. Likewise, while a gondola may not be as high, it probably wouldn’t be on the surface (and even it is, it is unlikely that it would be across from a bus stop).

      If you build a bus tunnel — with the exact same stops as the proposed light rail tunnel — then the advantage of the bus option simply increases. The buses would likely be more frequent than the trains during rush hour (some are already) and about as fast, all the way through downtown. Outside of rush hour, the only thing that *might* be better is the gondola, and only for those who walk to the station.

      It is worth noting that bus service would not make the connection from Delridge to Avalon/Junction. Riders would have to use the 50, 128 or C (depending on where they started). A simple bus restructure could achieve the same sort of improvement (assuming there are a lot of riders who want to do this — I don’t think that is the case). This is one of the big weaknesses of West Seattle Link (and the gondola plans for that matter) — very little in the way of new, fast connections. Instead, everything is about getting downtown — something the buses do quite well, since there is a freeway connecting West Seattle to downtown.

      Also worth noting is that there would be no big restructure savings from truncation. I think the advantages of a restructure are overblown. They are significant, but nowhere near the cost of even adding a gondola, let alone a light rail line. Spend that kind of money on service — just for West Seattle — and the buses would be very frequent. Similarly, there would be advantages to sending buses like the 36, 56 and 57 to the Junction. But most of those rider would rather just go to downtown, and like to have those buses run all-day.

      The gondola is a reasonable option, and actually performs better than I expected. In terms of cost per additional rider, it likely performs much better than light rail. In terms of time saved per rider, this is also true. But bus improvements are the best value for West Seattle, by a large margin. Like the gondola option, you could make improvements much sooner. The bus tunnel (designed to eventually be converted to rail) would take a while. But you could probably have the buses running unimpeded to the SoDo busway within a few years. In contrast, the original plans for connecting West Seattle to downtown via light rail was in 2035 — more than likely that wouldn’t happen until 2040. The bus tunnel would likely be built long before Ballard Link, or even a Link stub (through downtown). That’s because you wouldn’t build the West Seattle rail piece, and all that money could go into the tunnel itself (instead of waiting until it was done). Eventually you could add rail, if you really need it and want it, but my guess is you never would. Either way, you would have a lot better system much sooner, while still opening up the possibility of more rail in the future. If the goal is to improve transit for most of the riders, then making the buses faster is the best option for West Seattle.

      1. Consider East Link and the RossB comments. As long as ST is not too cheap and runs the line frequently to keep waits short, it has great transit mobility potential. Link could be like a pneumatic tube whisking riders between centers with grade separation. It will make intra Eastside transit travel much easier than today. East Link trips will connect riders with Overlake, Spring District, Bellevue, MI, downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, and the University District. It is about much more than trips to and from downtown Seattle. If local transit can get riders to an East Link station, then the riders can access any of those centers relatively easily. they may read their books or devises along the way. The mode choice was made by the ST board in 2006 and by the voters in 2008; in 2023, 15 years later, it is expected to open. Other choices could have been made, but that water is behind us. So, ST and Metro should be clever in their network redesign; ST should run Link frequently.

  7. Anybody serious about gondola-transit needs to go to “Portland Aerial Tram” and just start looking at the images. Minimum size considering the cost, an Airstream(tm) trailer on a hook. Any smaller car, not worth the cost.

    Only places I’d consider for Seattle would be Harborview Hospital to the park next to the King County Courthouse. And also Capitol Hill Link Station to Seattle Center- though my sense is that Seattle will never be dense enough for either.

    My “read” on West Seattle and this mode is that somebody really does not want the light rail that really is needed. More or less Monorail Round 2. Am I right that that project left laws on the books specifically forbidding LRT?

    I’m still interested in some detailed engineering discussion as to soils and subterranean water flows that rail construction will be confronting. And at public comment meetings, presenters wearing hard-hats.

    But also, an alternative plan that’ll start with buses that’ll create a set of busways that can be easily converted. Best point about “Light Rail” is how comfortable streetcars are- including their passengers and drivers- with arterial curve radii.

    Request: Can STB have a posting from Terry White? From the old days, he strikes me as someone who’s common sense I’d trust.

    Mark Dublin

    1. OHSU has a “tram”, Mark, not a “gondola”. It even says so. There are two cars which alternately move back and forth between the two stations.

      A gondola is more like a classic ski lift with lots of cars, though they are enclosed and have to be stopped for a moment for people to load and unload.

      These are similar but very different in terms of capacity (tram is greater per car but lower overall) and headway (gondola can be as low as a minute, tram depends on the length of the run).

  8. It’s good to see hydrofoil ferries back under discussion. Any mode that does not have automobiles competing with it for lane space deserves a look.

    Something I’m also fairly sure that the world of fast-boat design has started to keep in mind. There’s also a category that’s called “Ground Effect”, whose vehicles actually fly at very low altitude, with in invisible cushion of compact air for lane-paving.

    Personally, I think that the main force that’ll end sprawl itself will be……sprawl itself. Too many cars, too little road-space. SoI am also looking forward to one attempt at reprieve that’ll go like this. SUV or van, interior room for a two-occupant bed.

    Programmed for everybody to finish their trip, refreshed and relaxed, in a parking lot where breakfast and coffee are available. Will really permanently put the ki-bosh on Distracted Driving.

    Mark Dublin

    1. west of Webster Point, the speed limit is seven knots. the UW Canoe house is a long walk from any where riders want to be.

      yes, sprawl is not sustainable; there is not enough lane or parking space. the SOV choke one another.

      as Mark wrote in the early 1990s, right of way is key.

  9. The last news link shows testing for the new “trains”. I am curious when we will see testing of the new Northgate Link route from Husky Stadium to the new northern terminous with old or new trains. The overhead wire is up. It is opening in 10 months. I hope it is very soon.

    1. “I hope it is very soon.”
      Agreed. The U District station is going to end up being some 15 years late when Northgate Link finally gets to revenue service. This will be a game changer for the LR system as the sections between DT Seattle, the U-District and Northgate should have been the first things built anyway. Omitting First Hill (twice) was and will be forever viewed as a collosal error, but it is what it is at this point. Looking forward to the ribbon-cutting ceremony and opening day for Northgate Link!

  10. “Peter Rogoff forgoes bonus and raise…”

    Perhaps CEO Rogoff can also now reimburse the agency for his “how to behave professionally in the office” tutor expenses.

  11. I’m not the most thrilled that Madison’s initial fleet will not pull line current. Having driven both modes under standing load and similar near vertical climbs, word to ATU Local 587:

    In the 1950’s diesel fleet that valiantly destroyed itself hauing GMC diesels, otherwise excellent buses in their own way, dying sadly on the slopes of Queen Anne Counterbalance, and its ever steeper grades. Can’t somebody just go “ZOOM” enough to spec out those old-country helpers? And make at least a few of them stick?

    All persons traction-savvy, please help Mike Lindblom assure that, in special conditions which are usually named Seattle intead of Hell, those tree-climbing tigers can earn their Mommy’s lunch. With scraps left over.

    Mark Dublin

  12. Thanks for getting back to me, eddiew. Probably should quit cheaping out and just pay The Seattle Times so I can read its article. Let me guess why we can’t take this line electric. Is it our coach-builder who can’t or won’t?

    How about we just start running the line with whatever we can get and work from there? And if the problem has to do with the overhead itself, just go for battery-buses, to be recharged at plug-ins at the terminals?

    Since I really can’t afford The Times, and Olympia’s every library is closed, any chance you can put the problem in one sentence? Would really appreciate it. Many thanks.

    Mark Dublin

  13. https://seattletransitblog.com/2018/08/22/procurement-woes-madison-brt/

    Well WELLWELLWELLWELLWELL and a couple just for kicks, eddiew. Looks like we’ve got a supplier that really needs to become a former one. Like, for instance, start manufacturing the bus we need right here at home?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paccar Some good performance here might also cure Seattle’s inbuilt prejudice against The East Side, might it not? Am I right that, thanks to my sweetheart COVIDIA, it’ll be awhile before The Real World is ready to do anything real?

    True, I just spent a whole day bad-mouthing deals with totalitarians. Suppose we just flat stole the bus we need from China? Though If we’re nice about it, Gothenburg should be ready, willing, able to give us what we need at a sizeable discount.

    My own time-in-service at the wheel of a fleet of buses whose route should’ve been from production-line to scrap yard really does tell me whatever either Chinese or Canadian is for “In ya dreams!.” What happened to the days when the Customer was the one who was Always Right?

    I do wonder to what extent Seattle’s difficulty in finding a supplier owes to the fleet of crap-heaps we permitted to disgrace transit’s own Good Name, not to mention our passengers’. Like that old anti-slavery song says…”No More, NO MORE!”

    Mark Dublin

  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trolleybus_manufacturers

    And look what else I just found. Too bad, Canada. Used to be nice living across the border from you, in particular because you seemed a step ahead of us on transit.

    Based on your performance over the years, I refuse to believe you can’t build us a 60′ trolleybus with a couple of extra doors. My guess is that some poor underling just said the wrong thing.

    These aren’t easy times for anybody. So I’ll chalk up your refusal to supply us to a whole year full of real bad days. Okay?

    Mark Dublin

  15. Mark, there were several factors and several actors, so it is muddy. The vendor offered a standard trolley that could climb Madison and an artic trolley that could not. SDOT insisted on an attic, partly to bring bikes inside. metro deferred SDOT on the line design; it was delayed for capacity, fiscal, and modal reasons. SDOT really wants inside stations . I am disappointed the pathway does not provide short walk transfers with Link; Link is the game changer. Service hours are needed. The political bodies have lined up in support. It will not be overhead traction power.

  16. Given that this is such a small order that the only US manufacturer is unwilling to fill, I cannot understand why the FTA would not give an exemption from Buy America regulations. To be clear, all other factors being equal, trolleybuses are the best hill climbers. KCM’s existing articulated trolleybuses have one 240kW motor which (like their diesel equivalent) push from the rear. Power-wise they would probably be ok on the hill but a single powered axle is not so good for adhesion in bad weather. In Europe it is common for articulated trolleybuses to have two powered axles, normally 160kW on each axle, giving total 320kW, which would be ideal for the gradient and give excellent adhesion in winter conditions. I’m pretty sure that a European manufacturer, like HESS of Switzerland would have been very happy to meet the the specification including the BRT layout. The Swiss like doing engineering. Did anybody at SDOT even think of reaching out?

    1. It’s the same problem with trains. We can’t get state-of-the-art equipment because the US is too small a market for world-class companies to set up a factory here, and American companies like Boeing aren’t interested. So Buy America forces us to get whatever older-model scraps we can, and to pay a premium because the assembly line is a custom one-off rather than continuous sales to several cities one after the other.

  17. Mike and everybody else, thanks for staying with me on this one. Now, Would everybody please stop saying “Market?” Because in the world of meat-for-human-consumption, an operation letting off this kind of stink would land its whole board of directors in jail.

    However anybody sets the boundaries, the service area of the regional system called Sound Transit is home to engineers, designers, and working men and women more than able not only to build us the electric buses we need, but to literally design them by hand on the drafting board if it comes to that.

    Given the right kind of supervision and instruction, anybody who can build a diesel-powered truck can build a bus that’s either solid electric or dual-mode. Virtually every diesel locomotive since World War II has had an electric motor deliver the power its combustion engine generates. Hasn’t it?

    Is it true that the Washington State Legislature is scheduled to open on January 2021? Because what needs to happen on that day is for people in addition to me to get as close as we can to our legislators.

    And demand that as working people in the State of Washington and transit riders alike, we are going to demand the right to build the buses our taxes are going to pay for.

    An effort in which our State’s best community colleges could not be better positioned to participate. The whole length and breadth of ST’s service area, and then some.

    What have we got to lose?

    Mark Dublin

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