News roundup: September highlights
- “Pingo” Microtransit in Kent
- STRide lines will open in 2026 and 2027
- New bus to Portland ($) on high-traffic days
- Pierce Transit expanding its “Runner” microtransit to the Port
- Bike helmet law may be on the way out
- PSRC allotment of Federal transit subsidies more contentious than usual
- Local businesses vs ped/bus improvements
- A new website for Everett Link
- Dow putting more money into bus electrification
- Metro sued over hit-and-run
- Long after it was supposed to be done, RapidRide G construction ($) finally about to start
- The Victoria Clipper is back
- Streetcars to Fremont? Magnolia!?!
- Double tracking in Edmonds (2023)
- HOV snitch line is closing down
- All Aboard Washington has a new vision map
- In case you don’t know what local treasure Mike Lindblom looks and sounds like
- Electric buses have teething troubles ($)
This is an open thread
How to park at Northgate Station
Something else debuted this month alongside three new Link stations. Can you guess what it was? No? Surprise: it was Sound Transit’s first parking garage inside the Seattle city limits.
Now, the official position of Seattle Transit Blog is that building parking garages near train stations is generally not the best use of taxpayer money (sometime obscenely wasteful, in fact). But of course Sound Transit, the board, and probably a healthy chunk of the electorate disagrees with us here, so ST continues to build parking garages, making gradual steps to even charge for their usage.
So ideally you should walk, bike, bus or roll to the station. But let’s say you’ve decided to take a car, because, say, an unscrupulous real estate agent sold you a house with “close to light rail” in the description when in fact the nearest station was 40 minutes away via an infrequent bus line.
Whatever your reasons, you’ll find several parking garages and lots in the immediate vicinity of the station.
- The Metro Park & Ride (one corner of which is slated to become affordable housing, after much back and forth)
- Thornton Place (the movie theater)
- Northgate Mall (first two levels)
- And a brand new Sound Transit-built garage, which we have written about going back nearly a decade.
Most of the lots are free to park. Just don’t park in mall parking. The exception is Sound Transit’s, which charges $15 but only on the top floor, attempting to ensure at least some weekday availability for commuters.
Speaking of which, there’s something humorous (to me, at least) about the signage, which refers to all riders as “commuters.” Sound Transit’s singular focus on work trips as the main reason one might ride public transit trickles all the way down to the wayfinding department, apparently.
When I visited, during a Husky game, one of the Northgate lots was selling Husky game parking. Maybe car-storage next to a train station is worth paying for after all?
The Fate of Washington State Highway 304
[UPDATE: An earlier version of this article claimed that WSDOT has purchased no new ferries for a decade. There have been four.]
The Washington State Ferry Service (WSF) is in the news. And not in a good way. After 70 years of steady, dependable service, it is falling apart. Out of the blue, we are lead to believe. But the falling apart has everything to do with that 70 years of steady, dependable service.Continue reading “The Fate of Washington State Highway 304”
Weekend open thread: Zoning in Japan
City goals: have a simple zoning/land use code that can be casually explained in under 15 minutes and is more permissive of mixed uses.
A Photo Tour of Link Construction
Northgate Link ExtensionWe begin at Northgate Station; these photos were shot just prior to the opening of the extension:
Looking north at Northgate Station. Northgate Mall is the large cluster of properties in the center of the photo. On the far left, the alignment under construction can be seen running along the northbound lanes of I-5
Continue reading “A Photo Tour of Link Construction”
Improving East Link connections in Issaquah and Newcastle
With the East Link Connections survey wrapping up Monday, it’s a good time to make suggestions if you haven’t already. The process of restructuring is about tradeoffs, and in any result, there will be both winners and losers. While no plan is perfect, I have two ideas for how I think the plan can be improved to further expand and speed up access to Link in the south and east study areas. One of them is in Newcastle and Renton, around routes 240 and 114, the latter of which is proposed to be deleted. The other is in Issaquah, around routes 215 and 269.Continue reading “Improving East Link connections in Issaquah and Newcastle”
News roundup: August highlights
One day I’ll catch up to the present…
- More security on Metro
- New ST bus base will be at Canyon Park
- USDOT approves $3.84 billion loan for ST, will save $500m in interest payments
- It would personally benefit me, but the land use around this spot is not all that promising for a Link Station; best to mourn First Hill instead
- A good year for bike lanes ($)
- See Sound Transit’s latest Transit Development Plan
- Lizz says Vision Zero is a long way off
- PT’s Stream BRT already watering down
- Seattle expanding street-level uses
- Kyte is yet another choice to only have a car when you need one
- SDOT finally figuring out that road construction needs more bus lanes, not fewer; now tell WSDOT
- Lindblom tackles the question of high rail construction costs ($)
- Broad support for regional high-speed rail
- Yard in Bellingham launches a hydrogen-powered ferry
- Still talking about Spokane light rail ($)
- A Bellingham-Friday Harbor foot ferry?
- “Environmental” rules actually used to thwart environmentally useful projects
This is an open thread.
A libertarian case for robust transit investment
Seattle Transit Blog is officially a non-partisan publication, but it’s no secret that our favored policy positions tend to align with those on the progressive left. As someone with a libertarian streak, I want to make the case that pro-transit libertarianism has a strong ideological foundation, and in so doing, disabuse anyone of the notion that progressives monopolize the transit advocacy space.
Several years ago, I interviewed Bill Lind for a short piece on the conservative case for rail transit. Lind was a shining light among transportation thinkers, but he – like many fellow conservatives – disdained bus transit in favor of rail. Nonetheless, I found his insight to be refreshing among a cohort that has historically fought against transit.
Unfortunately, Lind’s views are largely a minority in the modern Republican and Libertarian Parties. Although ambivalence around transit is fairly pervasive at the federal level, local Republicans have historically lobbied hard against regional transit spending and initiatives.Continue reading “A libertarian case for robust transit investment”
Weekend open thread: floating slabs under UW
Extraordinary engineering work went into floating slab track designed to minimize ground vibrations and electromagnetic noise from trains running under sensitive research labs on the University of Washington campus.
Seattle Subway 2021 General Election Endorsements
We are excited to share our endorsements for the 2021 general election!
Our picks are based on hearing from candidates at our June forums (Seattle City Council Position 9 & Mayor of Seattle), in questionnaires sent in May (City, County and Port), and keeping in mind track records and our prior meetings with candidates during our constant advocacy work. We endorsed the following candidates who will appear on your November 2nd ballot. Don’t forget to mail your ballot or drop your ballot in a dropbox before 8:00pm on Tuesday, November 2.
Summary of General Election Endorsements:
Seattle Mayor: M. Lorena Gonzȧlez
Seattle City Council, Citywide, Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda
Seattle City Council, Citywide, Position 9: Nikkita Oliver
King County Executive: Dow Constantine
Port of Seattle Commission, Position 1: Ryan Calkins
Port of Seattle Commission, Position 3: Hamdi Mohamed
Port of Seattle Commission, Position 4: Toshiko Grace Hasegawa
Continue reading “Seattle Subway 2021 General Election Endorsements”
Eastside’s exclusionary community council is on the ballot
The Houghton Community Council, which controls land use and other policies for a large chunk of central Kirkland, is up for renewal in November. We wrote about the HCC (and its sibling, the East Bellevue Community Council) back in 2017, when it was working to water down mixed-use development near the Google campus:
The Kirkland City Council has yet to review the proposal, but can only rubber stamp it (a first study session is scheduled for Tuesday). The undersized zoning changes are the creation of the Houghton Community Council (HCC). The HCC has veto power over land use changes in most of Kirkland south of 68th St, and will block any Kirkland Council action that differs from their proposal.
Community Councils (“municipal corporations” in state law) were authorized by the Legislature in 1967 to ease annexation into larger cities, and were generally viewed as transitional arrangements. There were never many, and most were dissolved over time even though state law does not require a sunset. Just two remain. The Houghton Council dates to the annexation of the city of Houghton to Kirkland in 1968.
It’s worth emphasizing that these CC’s aren’t like the informal advisory boards that exist in Seattle. They have real power, and the ~10,000 residents of Houghton vote every four years to retain that power, inequitable as it may be. This time around, there’s an active campaign against renewal. From the “No on 1” website:Continue reading “Eastside’s exclusionary community council is on the ballot”
Fixing ST’s costs requires a legislative agenda
Sound Transit 3’s cost explosion has forced the politicians in charge to make tough decisions that displease constituents. In the ‘realignment’ endgame, Mayor Durkan produced a “cost savings amendment” to create regular reports about costs, hire outside consultants, and tell the Board “where any delays in these pre-construction activities are likely to trigger a delay in the final delivery date of any project” (see page 7 of this).
The last bit is especially rich from a Mayor whose office ignored Sound Transit’s pleas to quickly produce a single preferred alternative from West Seattle to Ballard, instead blowing it up into dozens of combinations (still unresolved) and picking entirely new fights like a very deep station under Chinatown that raises costs and worsens transit outcomes. Indeed, the City is still pining for an added revenue options to chase its dream of a tunnel to West Seattle, that, again, raises costs and does not improve transit outcomes — unless process mismanagement has erased the cost difference.
I have no doubt that a project spending over $54 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars will have some suboptimal line items a consultant can flag. With luck, that consultant might even pay for itself. But the effort to close the budget gap by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse isn’t nearly ambitious enough. The real savings is in treating Sound Transit like a transit project instead of a vessel for a series of community objectives. A change in mindset from relevant leaders would be useful, but ultimately legislation in Olympia is necessary.Continue reading “Fixing ST’s costs requires a legislative agenda”
Weekend open thread: Canadian observations on Northgate Link
Locals are not the only ones celebrating Northgate Link. Transit fans from across North America are watching Seattle, often held as a model of success (relative to this part of the world). Here is one mostly positive take from Canadian transit content creator and analyst Reece Martin with comparisons to his hometown Vancouver.
An encore for Symphony station at University Street
Sound Transit is once again considering Symphony as the new name for University Street Station in downtown Seattle. This is intended to reduce confusion with two other Link stations in the University District and University of Washington campus. This time, renaming will be done in conjunction with East Link extension work to minimize costs, about $800,000.
Last year, ST’s Board decided to rename University Street station to Union Street/Symphony only to pause the renaming two weeks later. The new name was to be implemented for Northgate Link’s opening. Board members had second thoughts and the public questioned the compromise name, an attempt to save the expense of changing the USS internal station code while satisfying the public’s preference.
In the meantime, Sound Transit is mitigating the customer experience issues through improved maps and announcements. On
the new Siemens trains, a n optional “stay on the train for University of Washington campus” announcement can be played. New Link 1 Line maps in stations and onboard trains more clearly indicate downtown Seattle stations and UW campus stations.
Update: It is now official. The ST Board on October 28, 2021 approved Motion M2021-61, renaming University Street Station to Symphony Station effective with East Link’s opening.
Open things when they’re ready
[UPDATE: the John Lewis Bridge was a hypothetical example, but SDOT would like me to say that it was a minor miracle it opened as soon as it did. Point taken.]
When U-Link opened in 2016, trains operated after a 9am opening ceremony and about $858,000 in additional festivities. This of course brought out the bad-faith complaints ($) from anti-transit people pretending not to understand marketing. But they did us a favor: Sound Transit should just operate things when they’re complete.
For last weekend’s big event, die-hards showed up for the first 4:51am departure before any formal event. At a more reasonable hour, the U-District business community did a great job of providing all the lookie-loos like me something to do. And it was fine.
More than that, transit’s purpose, to give people better alternatives, was fulfilled that much faster. Certainly, someone had an easier commute or airport trip because the train didn’t wait a few hours for a ribbon cutting.
This lesson is more broadly applicable: certainly the John Lewis Bridge, if SDOT had opened it a few days early, would have improved access to the Northgate Transit Center that was already there, instead of waiting for the ribbon cutting Saturday. So why not open it?
I’ll take it even further: whenever East Link is ready, they should start operating it. Perhaps Metro will have the flexibility to implement a service change at that date instead of their usual, collectively bargained changeover, or not. But even if the supporting bus service has to follow a bit later, fast high-capacity transit to the Eastside can start helping people immediately.
Some people to thank
Saturday’s Link opening was the largest product of 2008’s Sound Transit 2 vote to date. In the 15-year package envisioned at ballot time, Northgate opened about a year late, Lynnwood and North Federal Way are scheduled to do the same, and East Link will lag by no more than two years. Given a Great Recession and Bellevue’s wrangling over the route through downtown, that’s an astonishing record unlikely to be matched by Sound Transit 3 or other large American transit projects.
As someone who got his start in transit advocacy around the time of ST2, on Saturday my thoughts turned to many of the friends and STB colleagues I met at that time. Thousands of people made Saturday happen, activists and politicians and staff and (obviously) building trades. But my thoughts also turned to the two people that, in my opinion, are most to thank for the new reality that arrived on Saturday.
The first is Joni Earl, who as CEO through 2016 got Sound Transit to a place where it could even contemplate a Sound Transit 2, and later took those projects through some of the most risk-laden stretches. The second is former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who in the aftermath of the failed 2007 vote bashed heads together to go again in 2008, and then worked hard to pass it.
I was glad to see that both were able to be at the VIP function October 1st. I can only imagine the quiet pride and satisfaction they deservedly feel.
The ribbon is cut for Northgate Link
On the eve of Northgate Link’s grand opening, a ceremony and preview ride kicks off a month-long celebration of the Puget Sound region’s latest expansion of rapid transit, this time 4.3 miles north to 3 new stations in the U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. For a summary of the speeches, read STB’s live coverage of the ceremony on Twitter. On opening day Saturday, various community organizations have prepared events and activities at each station beginning at 10 am.
At Northgate Station, there will be a grand opening ceremony for the John Lewis Memorial Bridge, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning I-5 to North Seattle College from 10 am to noon. For Roosevelt Station, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association has organized an opening celebration with live music & dancing and food trucks from 10 am to 4 pm at 12th Ave NE & NE 66th St between the station entrances. The U District Station opening festival runs from 10 am to 8 pm and features a $3 food walk, live entertainment, activities for kids, and a beer garden. Sound Transit has exhibits explaining design features and public art along with photo/selfie spots at all three stations that will be up throughout October.
Decades in the making, the Northgate extension to the Link 1 Line, formerly Central Link, will transform travel within North Seattle and beyond by providing a fast, frequent, and reliable transit artery that combined with frequent buses forms a network that expands access to work, education, and leisure opportunities. Metro and Sound Transit bus service in north Seattle as well as ST and Community Transit service from Snohomish County has been restructured to take advantage of Link’s strengths.
The first train departs Northgate for Angle Lake at 4:51 am. At 5:01 am, the first train to Northgate arrives from SODO. Trains will run every 10 minutes for most of the day, every 8 during peak, and every 12-15 in the early and late hours.
For those who have not yet a chance to visit the stations, here are our first impressions from the preview ride. UPDATE: Photos from the event and more are on Flickr. Share yours in the comments below.Continue reading “The ribbon is cut for Northgate Link”
East Link restructure in the I-90 corridor and east subarea
In the East Link restructure online open house, the entire restructure proposal is broken up into five sections: North, Central, South, East, and Seattle. We’ve covered the south subarea previously. The east subarea covers Issaquah, Sammamish, Preston, Snoqualmie, and North Bend, but also throws in Mercer Island as part of the I-90 corridor (but omits Eastgate and Factoria, which are part of the central subarea). I’m also including the Seattle subarea since it includes only one minor change to route 8 in the vicinity of I-90. Like other areas, there are some route reconfigurations, but these changes don’t seem as significant as in other areas, with local service on the main routes 204, 208, and 269 looking largely the same as today. But the changes are nonetheless dramatic, with all service east of Lake Sammamish being extended along I-90 to either Merce Island or Bellevue, and reducing the two-hour headways seen on today’s route 208. So let’s jump in!Continue reading “East Link restructure in the I-90 corridor and east subarea”