63 Replies to “News roundup: diverging diamond”

  1. I doubt obsolete is the correct term. The several Seattle modal plans suffer from a lack of awareness of the other modes and their needs. This has been true since their composition. Right of way is the key constraint and conflict. In addition, there is a difference between the transit in the Seattle plan and that on the streets. The pedestrian plan seems the most under funded. One key step would to differentiate between the frequent transit arterials that lack sidewalks and others. The bike plan has desire lines on transit arterials. It requires extraordinary capital to provide priority to both bike and transit on the same arterial. When Seattle has provided bike infrastructure on transit arterials, it has usually slowed transit (e.g., Broadway, 2nd Avenue, Pike, Pine). SDOT could do better with multimodal integration. Where feasible, arterials could be specialized between the modes. But the users of all the modes desire the urban village main streets; that is where the most care must be taken. Car storage could be a low priority for scarce curb space. Then, there are streetcar tracks and bike safety, streetcars and budgets, ugh.

    1. Eddiew, thanks for showing up in such a timely manner. Something much on my mind whose facts and details I really need to know.

      Yesterday or “day-before” did I read in these pages that Madison BRT is now to be run with diesels? Sorry but the whole length of Madison Street is exactly a multi-segment trolley-bus is for.

      I trust you on details like this, Eddiew. So if a serious fight is what’s going to have to happen to prevent a travesty, who do people like me need to contact first? Many thanks.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mark, The articulated Trolley-bus concept for Madison BRT unfortunately got tossed back in 2018. They could not get a vendor to do the R&D to make them and meet the FTA Buy America requirements. So they switched to Diesel-Hybrids with the hopes the All battery technology will improve, and eventually replace this fleet in the future.


      2. Mark, the Madison mode was addressed on these pages earlier this week; you wrote that you had not paid for the subscription. Seattle could have used standard trolleys to climb Madison.

    2. “The several Seattle modal plans suffer from a lack of awareness of the other modes and their needs. This has been true since their composition.”

      Exactly. The plans are based on one mode’s needs, and when you put them together, they contradict each other. This means each street’s priority ends up being whichever single-mode project is scheduled there first. Or with transit projects, the transit gets watered down to accommodate bike priorities or street parking whiners. And sometimes the plans don’t mean anything because whiners will get parts of it canceled at the last minute anyway. So we have to continually fight and refight the same battles to get anything done.

      “One key step would to differentiate between the frequent transit arterials that lack sidewalks and others.”

      Good idea. Many of the Safe Streets closed for covid are compensating for the lack of sidewalks in those areas, so there’s at least one safe corridor a child could walk or bike on without getting run over by a car.

    3. “When Seattle has provided bike infrastructure on transit arterials, it has usually slowed transit (e.g., Broadway, 2nd Avenue, Pike, Pine).”

      Not that I’ve seen. I’ve been going up and down Pike/Pine almost every day for the past fifteen years, and buses are now faster than before the bus/bike lanes. There’s still a slowdown at 6th & Pine where cars turn right, and it’s been alleged that there’s a slowdown when buses turn from 2nd to Pike, but other than those the buses are faster. The stop diet at 6th & Pike also helped.

      On Broadway, the buses don’t seem significantly slower than they were in the 1990s. The streetcar is slow for streetcar-specific reasons. The bike lanes on Broadway prevented the streetcar and buses from getting faster, but they didn’t slow the buses down per se.

      1. The bike lanes on Broadway prevented the streetcar and buses from getting faster, but they didn’t slow the buses down per se.

        OK, but that is still a big issue. If bike lanes are preventing transit from getting faster, it isn’t much different than making them slower.

        I also do know of a case where traffic is slower, at least during rush hour (before the pandemic, anyway). All traffic is slower. It is possible that all traffic would be slower anyway (maybe it is caused by more drivers, or some other factor) but then it brings us back to that first point. If there is a bike lane there, then you can’t add a transit lane.

        It is very tough to mix bike lanes and transit. It is why Rapid Ride J isn’t going to have a lot of bus lanes on Eastlake. Once you add the bike lanes, and the turn lane, and one general purpose lane each direction, you run out of room. To be clear, I think they did the right thing. There is a major pathway for hikes, and there is no good substitute, unless they spend a bunch of money either widening the street (like they did for Madison BRT) or built a coastal pathway (which would involve taking some land as well, and dealing with the same sort of mess they dealt with on Westlake).

        There will, inevitably, be places where bike and buses are fighting for the same bit of land. But whenever possible, the two should be kept separate.

        As I wrote in my other comment, a lot of the problem comes from the lack of bike paths in residential streets. Buses don’t go there, but bikes should. If that means shutting off some throughways, or making some streets one-way, and getting rid of some parking, so be it.

      2. Mike, that comment was about the Kubly cycle tracks on Pike and Pine streets in downtown installed late in his term. A lane taken and the buses were left in a single lane filled with traffic. See routes 10, 11, 47, 49, and some peak routes from Seneca Street. Note that the Pine Street cycle track ends at a curb bulb at 5th Avenue. Broadway was slower for all after the streetcar (McGinn).

      3. FWIW, the last figures I saw from SDOT suggested that the streetcar on Broadway is actually slightly faster than the busses on Broadway. Broadway is just plain slow, and both could benefit from more prioritization over cars.

      4. three very significant transit arterials got three-lane profiles in the 1970s: Broadway, California Avenue SW, and North 45th Street. In that decade, bike flow was not considered. But each bus stop became a bus trap and transit was slowed. three-lane profiles help with pedestrian crossing; that was explained during the McGinn term for West Nickerson Street.

    4. I have often said that I favor large district multi-modal transportation plans over citywide modal plans. Local residents deserve more say of what is going on in their part of town — and citywide advocates who rarely go there should have less. Seattle had multi-modal advocates in every part of town so all views will be considered. The difference is that the dictatorial nature of citywide power-hungry modal advocates will give way for local communities to nuance and tailor for better systems.

      1. Ross raises an interesting point about bikes and parking. It is true street parking uses up road space, and also makes it difficult to ride a bike fast along a line of parked cars because you never know what will pull or pop out, or a door opening.

        I suppose a city can ban parking cars on streets, if that city has done a good job requiring off-street parking. Otherwise all you are doing is effectively banning cars, and I doubt citizens will go for that.

        Some think eliminate parking requirements for housing and it will create more affordable housing and maybe goose transit ridership, but what it really does is transfer the cost of parking from the developer to the street.

        If you eliminate onsite parking and ban street parking then you are banning owning cars in that neighborhood or city. So rather than doing it surreptitiously, just come out and ban cars. But don’t be surprised if it kills local retail and businesses because drivers tend to drive to businesses with parking, and Roger Brooks will tell you the most critical thing for a vibrant retail scene is adequate street parking.

      2. Local residents deserve more say of what is going on in their part of town — and citywide advocates who rarely go there should have less.

        That is a terrible idea — this is why there is still a missing link on Burke Gilman. It is why we don’t have more bus lanes (the locals want to keep their parking). It is a prescription for the 35th NE fiasco, writ large. Bikes still go there, but the road is as dangerous as ever (https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2019/05/17/with-the-paint-barely-dry-on-bike-lane-free-35th-ave-ne-person-driving-strikes-and-injures-someone-on-a-bike/).

      3. Do you believe in democracy, Ross? Citywide modal dictators have good intentions, but favor power and control over democracy at the local level. Making decisions affecting local residents deserve grass-roots discussions.

        Let’s not get into the growing problem of maintenance and upkeep. The city seems to be falling more behind on servicing malfunctioning signals for both autos and pedestrians or bicyclists. As all these newly installed signals age, the problem will get worse unless SDOT adds lots more staff to keep up.

      4. No parking requirements doesn’t mean no parking. It just means that someone with actual money at stake in the project can make an informed decision about how much parking a building actually needs vs. how much parking some distant public official imagines it needs.

        Look at all the half empty parking lots as you drive through suburbia and you can see with your own eyes that -even in areas with terrible or no public transit – city officials still vastly overestimate parking needs.

      5. Do you believe in democracy, Ross? Citywide modal dictators have good intentions, but favor power and control over democracy at the local level.

        The most undemocratic tyranny has occurred at the local level. Every racist action in this country was justified in the name of “local control”. Slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining were all done in the name of giving some local entity control over “their” land.

        More recently, we have local districts who want the “freedom” to teach creationism alongside evolution, as if the issue hasn’t been settled. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until your kid fails to get a basic understanding of science.

        In this city, we have numerous, current examples. As mentioned, there is opposition to bus lanes and bike lanes — a local community pushing for their values over those shared by a majority of the people who were elected. (That hardly sounds democratic). Of course the big one is zoning. This is a fine example of where a local community — led by the handful of people who can afford to live there — override the interests of the greater population.

        Do I believe in democracy? Hell yes — That’s why I think what you are saying is a bad idea. Of course they should have a say — that too is democracy. Petition your representatives. March in the streets. Campaign all you want and make the case to the officials and the electorate at large that we should retain those parking spots instead of building that mass transit improvement. Just don’t be surprised if the rest of the city (and our representatives) decides to favor the greater good.

      6. It is true street parking uses up road space, and also makes it difficult to ride a bike fast along a line of parked cars because you never know what will pull or pop out, or a door opening.

        I suppose a city can ban parking cars on streets…

        Yeah, and that is more often than not what happens when they add bike lanes or bus lanes. To be clear, sometimes the street never had parking, but either way, I think most bus lanes and bike lanes don’t have parking. Partly it is because of what you mentioned (getting “doored”) but also because there just isn’t the room. Bike lanes (and especially bus lanes) take space.

        Its not the end of the world. People simply park on the side street.

        The main point is that it is rare for a bike path to be on a residential streets. Look at SDOT Bike Map (https://seattlecitygis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a24b25c3142c49e194190d6a888d97e3). Blue is for bike lanes, with the darker the more protected. I can’t find a bike paths on a residential street — they are on arterials. The residential streets largely have greenways and signed bike routes. These are better than nothing, but still not very good. There should be bike lanes on residential streets, especially when the arterial is used by buses, and that residential route would be as good as, or better than the arterial.

        The problem is that most residential streets are not wide enough to have parking on both sides *and* bike lanes. Thus the idea of getting rid of at least one side of parking, and/or making the street one way. It is really not about eliminating parking per se — I’m just saying that it should be our lowest priority.

    5. As I wrote on the bike blog, there is nothing wrong with having a plan. The problem is assuming that every bit of it will be implemented as in a map. It has to be understood in the context you described, with the understanding that not everything will be built as planned. They are bound to be conflicts, and adjustments have to me made.

      For example, the plan suggests that we have a bike lane over NE 130th. The goal is pretty obvious — connecting north Seattle neighborhoods (Lake City/Pinehurst/Haller Lake/Bitter Lake) in the most straightforward, safe manner. This made sense when they drew it up. Now, however, it is clear that the 130th station will be added (withing the next ten years, if not sooner). This changes everything. Instead of hardly anything on that street, it is a major corridor. It doesn’t matter if it fits the new definition (of connecting urban villages). It is a major transit corridor the day the station opens, and anyone with any sense can see that.

      It is quite likely that adding bike lanes would slow the buses down considerably. That means that the city shouldn’t follow the bike plan. There are several alternatives, and they could evolve over time. Bike paths can be made in parallel streets*. There is an overpass at 117th that could be improved. It is also likely that there will be a bike path under the light rail line, making for a different, but in some ways better network than the original plan.

      It should be expected that we deviate from the bike plan. But we shouldn’t just throw up our hands, and say “oh well, can’t do it, so you get nothing”, which has been the general approach. Which brings me to the asterisk:

      * Most bike lanes in the city are well designed, and provide a lot of protection for the rider. But they are largely on arterials. In contrast, most Greenways on residential streets consist of very little. It wouldn’t be that hard to treat residential streets like bike arterials. Put stop signs on crossing streets. Also block off through-traffic for cars (so that drivers don’t use it as a normal arterial). And of course, put a traffic light at every intersection with another arterial. So, for example, 117th is considered a Greenway. It is pretty easy to imagine this pathway as a bike route: https://goo.gl/maps/RRRXRrxY2SJ5MoLJ8. There is work being done on the crossing of Pinehurst Way/15th (close to the school). It will only allow bikes, but no cars to keep going straight. There are crosswalks for crossing both 5th and Roosevelt; they could add traffic lights with beg buttons (I don’t know of an easier way for bikes to cross). They could also add another pedestrian crossing of Lake City Way, at 117th. There would have to be work done to prevent cars from going through on 117th, just like at 17th and Republican on Capitol Hill (https://goo.gl/maps/uQbnC7Wfi2rSRFkJ6). This requires some work, but nothing that expensive (it is most planning).

      Unfortunately, this sort of thing isn’t done very often (if at all). Bike lanes on residential streets are second rate, which is why people fight so hard for bike lanes on the arterials. To be clear, there are bound to be areas that will remain very difficult to deal with unless the city spends money. But these pinch points should be short. For example, at 117th, it is a pain to travel westbound on a bike, over the freeway (https://goo.gl/maps/4z8bbxFvW1pXuCYz6). I often just use the sidewalk. But it is a very short stretch, and if it was better on either side, it would be a lot more popular. Likewise, it is tough to cross I-5 at 130th on a bike, but eventually they should add a pedestrian/bike bridge (or simply widen what they have). But until they get the money for that, building decent infrastructure for the neighborhood should not be that costly.

      1. Indeed, it is very maddening if the greenway or bike route hits a busy 4 lane arterial and they put up a stop sign and tell you “Good Luck.” At least when they put up a sign saying bicyclists cross at the out-of-the-way traffic signal they are admitting failure;)

  2. The Diverging diamond interchange was a pain in the ass when it was being constructed (The 62A was very much impacted by the delays).

    Now that it is 95% complete (landscaping to be done yet), it rocks!

    1. Yeah it’s a complete intersection rebuild, so it’s very disruptive, but it seems very effective at moving vehicles through a 4-way intersection without the expense of over/under passes. From my experience using them in Ohio, it seems to also be safer for bikes & pedestrians because, much like a large roundabout with crossing islands, as you only need to look for traffic coming from 1 direction per crossing, and if you have the ‘walk’ signal you don’t need to worry about turning vehicles. Also, the light cycles are longer, which makes for an easier crossing, particularly for the less able.

      But it’s a larger footprint and still very car oriented, I don’t see it working in urban Seattle, for similar reasons a roundabout is great in a suburban or rural context but doesn’t work for an urban arterial. It’s only relevant for 2-way streets, while most of Seattle’s downtown on/off ramps are 2-way. I’m curious where Martin envisioned one? Perhaps the Northgate interchange.

    2. I think it’s a great solution when the right situation presents itself:

      – more autos going to and from the freeway than going through on a freeway.

      – high volumes of ramp traffic.

      – no nearby signals on the arterial for at least 3-4 blocks.

      It’s this last challenge that I think makes the concept essentially useless inside the City of Seattle at an existing interchange. I can’t think of an existing freeway interchange inside Seattle that doesn’t have other signals with lots of traffic very close to that interchange. That also seems to be true for many other interchanges outside of Seattle.

      The next place the really needs it has already been identified by WSDOT. That’s I-90 at Exit 25 for SR 16 at Snoqualmie Ridge.

      However, the millions of dollars that reconfiguration costs could probably better be spent on pedestrian and trail crossings across freeways a few blocks away to allow for users to avoid the interchange traffic altogether.

      1. I don’t get your last comment … ped and bike use at Exit 25 is negligible? That’s a pure vehicle throughput problem, most of which is going to/from the interstate, not just passing through, which is why the DDI is an obvious solution. Unless you were talking about Lacy?

        And I don’t think a DDI prevents a signalized interchange at adjacent blocks, as long as those are suburban superblocks. This one in Ohio I’m familiar with has a major signalized interchange less than 1,000 feet away in each direction, with only some left turns out of driveways prohibited: https://www.google.com/maps/@41.5319229,-83.6416833,15.54z

        For example, I think Issaquah’s exit 18 could be a DDI and still have a traditional interchange at Front Street/Gilman Blvd. So I could see a city like Bellevue try this approach at NE 8th and NE 4th or at the Factoria exit, or Redmond at one of the 520 interchanges, but yes it’s mostly limited to suburban contexts.

      2. I was once a cyclist at I-90/exit 25, trying to get from an adjacent mountain bike park to a bus stop to go home. It was not easy getting through that intersection in one piece and I would not do it again without some improvement.

        At one point, I almost contemplated going back to the parking lot, waiting for somebody to come out, and asking for a ride to go one block, just to avoid getting run over.

      3. I think this would work for 145th (and thought as much when The Urbanist first mentioned them https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/11/06/sunday-video-diverging-diamond-interchange-comes-to-washington/). I’m not and expert, but it sure looks like the diverging diamond is a lot safer for bikes and cars than a two lane roundabout. The thing about a roundabout is that everyone is expected to keep moving, unless they are yielding to a car inside the roundabout. You are focused on the car(s) in the roundabout, then you just assume you can keep going, and don’t worry about the distance between you and the next car. You don’t expect to have to yield to a bike or pedestrian, nor do expect to stop suddenly *in the roundabout* because of a bike/pedestrian (or a pileup due to a bike/pedestrian).

        In contrast, while driving through a diverging diamond is a bit unsettling the first time (OMG! I’m driving on the wrong side of the road!) you are focused on the signs and the traffic lights. The same lights that stop the cars allow bikes and pedestrians to go through. It just looks inherently safer.

        It also seems like the right choice for 145th. The bike improvements around the station mean that relatively few people will walk close to the big intersections. But there will still be people doing exactly that (e. g. walking over I-5 at 145th instead of walking up to 148th and back). This is exactly the environment where the diamond makes sense. You have beg buttons, and they are rarely pressed. But when they are, everyone knows what to do — it is no different than when cars cause the light to go red.

        In contrast, it isn’t clear what happens with the roundabout, but the fact that it is rare makes things worse. Some half-asleep commuter, having driven the same path, day after day, suddenly has to deal with a bike or pedestrian where they’ve never seen them. That is a far more dangerous situation.

        If nothing else, the state should look at a diverging diamond while looking at the dual roundabouts. My guess is the dual roundabouts has better throughput for cars, but is more dangerous for bikes and pedestrians.

      4. @AJ:

        I meant the pedestrian or trail crossing investment as a general concept and not a specific choice for Exit 25.

        As the standard King County grid is 20 blocks a mile (5280 feet), three blocks is 792 feet (or less than 1000). Our blocks tend to be smaller than those in Ohio.

      5. @Ross: 145th would be a great location — except 5th Ave NE makes it infeasible. If 5th Ave NE wasn’t there it could be done — but I doubt it could be closed and it’s going to become more important when the Link station opens. The reason is because a diverging diamond’s signal only has two synchronized phases.

        Although it may fail, the roundabout is probably the best way to handle the traffic. Shoreline is seeking funds for a pedestrian crossing near 148th and that seems much better for both safety and for more direct Link access. This is especially true since the 130th St station will begin about at 133rd. A 133rd or 135th crossing over I-5 may be beneficial.

      6. “My guess is the dual roundabouts has better throughput for cars, but is more dangerous for bikes and pedestrians.” Agree on safety, but I think DDI actually handles higher volumes better. I don’t think two roundabouts would have worked in Lacy because the vehicle throughput would have been too high; 145th might have the same problem? Roundabout are certainly faster with lower traffic volumes (i.e. most of the day), but I think you need signalized intersections to handle peak volumes. An interchange like exit 7 on 405 has much lower volumes on the cross-street (44th), allowing for the cheaper double-roundabout approach.

        In a rural or semi-rural context, roundabout are basically always better than signalized intersections unless there is a geometric constraint, but I think the traffic analysis points to a DDI in high volume suburban interchanges, like in Lacy or at 145th. Putting “flashing” beg buttons at each crossing in a roundabout (double or single) I think helps mitigate much of the safety concerns for lower volume interchanges, as that alerts the drivers ‘sleepdriving’ through the interchange.

        I think Al is correct; the DDI only works when the ramps are 1-way. The ‘ramps’ on the east side of exit 175 are really 5th Ave itself, and with a DDI there is no way to turn right coming southbound on 5th Ave because you are faced with east moving traffic. Northgate wouldn’t work for the same reasons.

        @Al – fair enough, I’d agree that for freeway crossing, a separate bike/ped crossing is best, but I don’t know if SR18 is high on my list; I’d rather use the money to create a nice multi-use path between Tiger mountain and the interchange, and use the DDI to cross under the freeway itself, before I’d create a standalone freeway crossing. Very different context than, say, a ped bridge at 148th.

      7. Interesting concept. Since the pedestrian way is in the middle of the bridge, it could also include a center bus stop in both directions if there is a transit freeway station at the interchange. But how to allow for a bus stop without disrupting traffic?

      8. Re: DDI at NE 145th Street, some of the comments about fewer pedestrians in the area seem to be ignoring the Link light rail station that will go into service there, probably before any changes to the intersection will be designed. And Shoreline’s radically higher density plan for the area around the station north of NE 145th Street.

      9. “But how to allow for a bus stop without disrupting traffic” Just make it a bus lane? Or have the bus stop in traffic, like most bus stops. So wouldn’t work at a high volume interchange; It’s an interesting idea for a different use case for a DDI, but I’m not sure how it would be better for transit? A ‘center lane’ bus stop is useful because it pulls the bus out of the typically slower right turning lane, but here the ‘center’ lane is still the typical right hand lane.

    3. Is the DDI convincingly better than a pair of roundabouts? Outside of the US they seem quite rare (12 across 7 countries). It seems that traffic lights add significant cost, and driving on the opposite side is unintuitive?

      1. DDI is certainly most expensive than roundabout, but I think the traffic studies show they handle peak volumes better.

      2. responding to AJ:
        > traffic studies show [DDIs] handle peak volumes better

        studies of actual [American] drivers, or theoretical models of ideal drivers?

        the roundabouts seem to handle the “wrong exit” or “missed exit” scenarios more cleanly

      3. Studies and models, I believe. A signalized intersection can handle higher volumes than a double-lane roundabout, DDI or otherwise. A DDI, in turn, is safer and more efficient than a typical signalized intersection.

        Ross speculates that a DDI is safer than a roundabout interchange; I haven’t see data or studies that support that, but I’d wager he is right.

        Yes, roundabouts allow for U-turns, which is super helpful when it eliminates left turns across 2-way traffic from side streets & driveways, but “I took the wrong exit” is a pretty fringe use case.

      4. I thought roundabouts supported higher volumes of cars than signalized intersections because cars never have to completely stop.

      5. My understanding is roundabouts have better throughput than stop signs at all volumes and better than signalized at most volumes, but doesn’t have the same max capacity as a signalized intersection.

        From the FHWA: “A roundabout that operates *within its capacity* will generally produce lower delays than a signalized intersection operating with the same traffic volumes and right-of-way limitations. ” [emphasis added].
        Further in the same document, “a roundabout will provide better operational performance than a signal in terms of stops, delay, fuel consumption, and pollution emissions For planning purposes, this may generally be assumed to be the case *provided that the roundabout is operating within its capacity.* The task then becomes to assess whether any roundabout configuration can be made to work satisfactorily. If not, then a signal or grade separation are remaining alternatives. ” [again, emphasis added]

        Here’s a study that says 4,000 vehicles/hour is the cutoff for roundabouts, down to maybe 3,000 vehicles/hour depending on the typical turning actions:

        A roundabout will also generally recover faster from a random disruption, which is why they are great in rural and suburban contexts where congestion can occur in short bursts. And rural/suburban also usually don’t have geometric constraints or high land values, as space is the primary draw back of a typical roundabout.

  3. “did I read in these pages that Madison BRT is now to be run with diesels?”

    It was downgraded; I don’t remember exactly from what to what. From trolley to battery/hybrid, from battery to hybrid, from battery/hybrid to diesel, something like that. Something about how the specs SDOT wanted weren’t available from an American manufacturer or didn’t perform well enough, so it fell back to a more conventional option.

    1. If I remember right, the manufacturer builds trolley buses, and builds buses with doors on both sides, but they don’t build trolley buses with doors on both sides. We would be the first, and unless we made a bigger order, it wasn’t worth it. So they simply sold us the diesel (or maybe diesel/electric) buses that have doors on both sides.

      If Seattle ever builds more routes that requires doors on both sides *and* it gets wired, then it is possible that the buses could be replaced in the future with what we wanted. Or maybe some other city wants a bunch, and it isn’t such an oddball. The diesel buses could then simply be used for a typical route (while ignoring the other set of doors).

      1. The artic trolleybus by that vendor could not climb the Madison grades. SF Muni got the same buses. SDOT also wants left side doors. See summer 2018 Seattle Times piece.

    2. If a regular bus can have left-side doors and electric propulsion from a wire or battery, the project should just do that. If it gets too crowded, just design the platforms to hold two regular buses than one articulated bus — and run two buses in tandem one right behind the other during those hours that need it. At some point, the technology will be there.

      1. The project course is set with hybrid attics with doors on both sides; the FTA grant is the missing piece; it has ST3 funds.

  4. One of the things that the linked transit-aware hiking article misses is a big advantage of not having a car when going on hikes: the possibility of through-hikes (not having to return to your origin to pick up the car). Another thing that is more of a personal preference is considering the possibility of hikes-to-hikes; many trip planners don’t give route options for destinations that are more than a mile or so from a stop, but if the point is to get outdoors, get some exercise, and see new places, it can make sense to expand that radius a bit. Finally, while probably obvious to many people on this blog, we find it easier to time hikes from less-frequent routes to frequent routes rather than the reverse, which drives our direction decisions.

    Here’s the outside-Seattle transit hikes we’ve done this year:

    * St. Edward Park/Big Finn Hill Park – take the 522 to 68th Ave NE and then either transfer to the 225, or just walk up the hill to St. Edward (it’s ~2 miles, and there’s a wide shoulder marked as a sidewalk/bike lane for the entire way). Note that the one time this year we tried to transfer to the 225, the driver missed the fact that they’re supposed to turn around from their layover point, and left ~6 of us at the first stop, so we ended up just walking anyways. If you go through St. Edward to Big Finn, you can pick up the 225 on 84th, and either take it to Totem Lake/Redmond or back to the 522 (minimizes the problematic one-hour headways on weekends, though the schedule is still a bit uneven).

    * Redmond Pipeline Trail – take the 250 from Redmond all the way to the end at Avondale, walk north on Avondale till the sidewalk runs out at 133rd, and then wind your way through side streets until you get to the trail. From there, you can just walk to the Sammamish River Trail and back to Redmond. If you want a shorter hike, you can get off the 250 at the Powerline trail instead (there’s even a stop specifically for it). The frequency boost on the 250 corridor really helps make these hikes less time-consuming on weekends.

    * East Lake Sammamish Trail – walk from Issaquah TC to 56th & East Lake Sammamish, then walk north all the way to Redmond. If you’re doing the hike on weekdays, you can take advantage of the 269 to get from Issaquah to the start of the trail, and also at the end if you don’t want to walk all the way into Redmond (leave the trail at 187th and walk to SR202). You could do this the other direction as well, but the 542/545 combo is much faster and more frequent than the 271/554 combo for getting home.

    * Cougar Mountain – take the 271 to 163rd & Newport, then walk up 164th and start winding through neighborhood streets to get to the Harvey Manning Trailhead. If you’re OK staying on the east side of the mountain, you can easily get to Issaquah TC via Harvey Manning Park, and then walk through the Talus neighborhood to SR900. You could do this the other direction too, but then will have to tolerate the slow 271 all the way back to Seattle. Another thing to note is that the eastbound 271 gets full on weekend mornings due to its hourly headway, but I think you could workaround this by either catching it from Bellevue or Eastgate TCs. Leaving via the west side of the mountain is also possible, but involves a much longer hike through the Red Town Trailhead, crossing the street to the Coal Creek Natural Area (part of the Bellevue park system), and then walking back to Newcastle for the 240.

    * Weowna Park/Lake Hills Greenbelt – from Eastgate TC, take the 221 to Weowna Park (apparently one of the few parks in the area with actual old-growth forest) then you can walk to the Greenbelt trail system at Phantom Lake. If you’re heading back to Seattle, you can catch the 271 from a variety of places close to the Greenbelt trails.

    Big advice I have for people doing this by bus is to have a spare mask for the return trip – you’re going to foul up your original mask hiking, and damp masks are much less effective than dry masks.

    1. Yeah, there is a lot of good one way hikes that can be done via the bus. The old “Footsore” books had bus route(s) listed for each hike (some routes are outdated, some not) while of course mentioning how you can connect the various hikes. I’ve done that sort of thing a lot in the city (just keep walking one direction and then take the bus back). Typically I take the bus first (which suggests taking the least frequent bus first if you are taking the bus both ways). It just seems like less of a big deal to wait after a hike than before.

    2. One of my favorite transit hikes is a traverse from Coal Creek to Cougar Mountain. Enter at the #240 stop just east of 405, just south of Coal Creek Parkway, exit out the other side, and walk to Issaquah Transit Center for the return trip. One interesting thing about the #240 stop – it’s a rare trailhead that has a bus stop right there, but zero car parking anywhere in the vacinity. So, if you want to reach this trailhead, you have to do it on the bus.

      Another good transit hike is to take the 554 to Issaquah City Hall and hike up Tiger Mountain. There are tons of opportunities here, including some that have views and significant elevation, similar to Mt. Si. Even when Trailhead Direct was running, I often still preferred the 554 for hiking Tiger because it gets you to/from downtown faster (by not having to go through Mt. Baker).

      It is also possible, though more difficult, to transit-hike Mt. Si by riding the 208 to North Bend. But, that bus runs only every two hours so you need to know your pace and time your departure from the summit accordingly to avoid a long wait for the ride back.

  5. Essential Riders Get Free Scooter Rides.

    According to the article, in 2018 1/3 of Seattle’s 360,000 essential workers used transit to get to and from work. The average scooter ride in Seattle so far has been 1.5 miles, and if I remember correctly from a past post most of those trips have been in neighborhoods.

    This program allows an essential rider to apply for up to $50 in free scooter rides, according to the article mainly to help with first/last mile access. However qualifications for the $50 subsidy are based on occupation (essential worker) not where the scooter ride is used for. So an essential worker could take a joy ride on a scooter and it would still be free.

    This program mirrors one in Rome in which not a single qualified applicant used the full $50 subsidy. I think the ultimate intent is to familiarize workers who take transit with first/last mile options by scooter, and maybe jump start the scooter business.

    I don’t know if the data will be collated but I would be interested to see how many subsidized scooter trips are actually to and from essential businesses, and to and from transit stops. Right now with so many fewer riders taking transit — including essential workers — I am not sure the data will be helpful to determine the benefit of scooters for first/last mile transit service, or how much this program will benefit essential workers if they are not taking transit.

    Has anyone on this blog used a scooter for first/last mile access to transit, and what was your experience?

    1. The $50 in free rides for essential workers is more of a publicity gimmick than a useful service.

      To illustrate way, let’s imagine that the “last mile” gap that the scooter is for is exactly one mile and takes 5 minutes to ride. $1 (unlock) + $0.36/min*5 min = $2.80/ride. Ride both directions, that’s $5.60/day for the round trip commute. At that rate, you’ll burn through the entire $50 of ride credits in less than two weeks. To continue riding, you’ll have to pay out of pocket. If you work 250 days/year, that adds up $1400 annually in scooter fares, from which a $50 discount for being an essential worker no longer feels all that generous.

      A much cheaper commuting option is to just buy your own e-scooter; a quick search on Amazon shows one retailing for $550, which you can fold up and carry on board any bus. It will pay for itself within a few months.

  6. And guess what?


    Anybody not quite up to driving a bus like that? For new-hired crew, don’t be afraid. If you don’t think you can handle one, I’m sure that if your attitude is good, your shop steward can work out arrangements.

    After that Once you’ve got it “Down” the fear goes away. to set up your turn in advance, sixty feet of machinery find their way around Madison Park Beach wire up, and dent-free.

    “Buy American” What’s wrong with that? It worked fine with Saint Louis Car Company’s every piece of rolling stock. A very long life-time ago. While the massive talent-search our country will need to discover one thing :


    In short, the exact kind of machine that, when it has to, will pull The Queen Anne Counterbalance, and Jefferson Avenue from the the shoreline to Leschi. Not only refusing to spin wheels or stall. But with well-trained hands at the controls, will not let anybody, sitting or hanging on, even feel a lurch.

    Eddiew, can you please get me the contact info with the exact person, preferably on the procurement team, for the posting I’m afraid I’ve run out of excuses for not delivering? Even a couple of hints. Somebody’s gotta do it.

    Mark Dublin

    1. ““Buy American” What’s wrong with that?”

      US manufacturers are way behind in bus and train technology, and the US is not a large enough market for international manufacturers to set up American factories, so we end up with the old has-beens other countries have moved away from. Boeing and other American companies who could make them aren’t interested because the market for cars, trucks, and airplanes is so large they don’t need transit’s money. Only a few cities each year have transit expansion or modernization plans, and many corridors that would have frequent transit in other countries don’t in the US, so those are lost orders. It takes years to get a transit plan approved and funded, and often they get watered down or canceled. So there’s only a few fleets a year across the country, and they want widely different things. So what we get is expensive one-offs, in contrast to something like the 737 where there’s a steady stream of buyers one after the other for years. When the Portland streetcar company started building streetcars for Portland and Seattle, Inkeon was willing to license it an archaic model that it could no longer sell profitably because it had later generations of fleets. And then the Portland company eventually went out of business because it couldn’t get enough orders long-term. That’s not because the streetcars didn’t work, but because not enough American cities were buying streetcars. So the feds need to either make transit an exception to Buy America or come up with some other solution, because it’s one of the things that’s holding transit back in this country. The RapidRide G (Madison) left-door trolleybus problem is one example. The SLU and First Hill streetcars are another.

      1. I agree. Buy America for transit has always been a large contributor to excessive costs.

        But that requires resisting the lobbies of the American manufacturing companies and their unions, which is hard to do, as both parties are far more interested in courting union voters in Swing States than they are in making transit construction more efficient.

  7. I’d be careful about this whole trail of thought that there’s something wrong about buying a piece of electric rail because it happened to have been manufactured somewhere in the continental United States. If the piece is well-cared for in addition to “Historic” , wouldn’t we more or less “money ahead” for selecting it?

    Instead of……… This whole evening’s effort of yours to use cats themselves to insult the wholesomeness of the feline railroad world will have its price. Convince them it’s time to spray you and it’ll take you a month to get it off.

    Though who knows? Maybe what you you perpetrators are really doing is creating a sofa that is now theirs ’til the beginning of Time Revivified Forever? Like they say in the Old Country, smell it in good health!

    Mark Dublin

  8. The Stranger article is less than fully transit-aware. Link doesn’t connect with metro route 165.

  9. Does anyone have a prediction what December 2021 will look like? Will cancelled routes be back? Will ridership return to 2019 levels? Will offices and restaurants will be fully reopen? As far as the eastside goes, I think it will take many years for ridership to recover, no matter how effective the vaccine is.

    1. There’s a lag period between when the pandemic ends and when the effects of the economic rebound show up in Metro’s sales tax revenue. So, even if the risk of infection is low by then, the service budget will still likely be constrained similar to today. So, here’s my prediction for the state of service one year from now:

      – Most, but not all, people are vaccinated.
      – Statewide mask requirement is dropped in places like grocery stores, but remains in effect on buses and trains because the people running them are more conservative.
      – Large downtown events, such as sports stadiums filled with 50,000 people, remain suspended, which suppresses evening/weekend ridership.
      – Overall service levels remain essentially the same as today, although there will be restructures around the opening of Northgate and Roosevelt Link Stations. Most currently suspended routes remain suspended.
      – Overall ridership is higher than today, but still well below 2019 levels.

  10. Thank you for the articles on STB. I also thank the different views of the commentors. And Happy New Year.

  11. In comments to news of WSDOT’s two new Diverging Diamond intersections in the Seattle Times, someone suggested this would be a good arrangement for NE 175th Street at I-5.

    Positives? Negatives?

    1. Because the traffic signals near the interchange are several blocks away at 175th, it maybe could work operationally. The problem is that the right of way looks tight and I’m not sure if the congestion is bad enough to warrant the expense of rebuilding it.

      Usually these are put in with interchanges with huge traffic volumes. The 167 interchange at I-5 in Fife (under construction) is designed to have one.

      I trust that WSDOT knows where they would work best.

  12. I’ve been meaning to go to Bridle Trails sometime, and I saw the Saltwater park in the stranger article (although the article says Kent but the location seems to be the Des Moines coast). The article says a Discover Pass is required to visit state parks (although not on New Year’s Day). I looked it up and it’s $11.50 per day or $35 per year. Do you really have to pay $11.50 just to walk around in Bridle Trails for an hour? Or is that just for cars parking? That’s… a lot, and makes me think about not going to those parks. It would be worth it for a full day, but not just for an hour or half an hour.

  13. You got me curious, so I looked it up. Under the section that is labeled “About the Pass” , it states that the pass is for motor vehicles. Walking in the park is free, if I read it right. So you should be able to go there if you want to without a car for free. I usually camp at state parks and the pass comes as part of the sight fee. So I have never bought a Discover Pass. Also there are several free days for those with cars. I hope I am right and it helps you plan tour trip.

    1. Thank you, I found it on that page. “You do not need the pass to access state recreation lands by boat or by non-motorized means (foot, horse, bicycle, etc.)”

      I may make a donation for upkeep if they have a box for that, but I’d rather set the rate myself.

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