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.
90 Replies to “News roundup: August highlights”
Regarding Kyte: One of my distant friends applied to be some sort of fleet coordinator (didn’t get a callback, likely because he doesn’t live in Seattle). It seems their business model is having gig workers ride transit or small ev’s to car rental companies to drive cars to people who otherwise can’t get the car or are willing to pay to have the car delivered. Once the car is delivered, the gig worker walks or rides off to go get another car, either from a customer or another rental agency. An interesting model for sure, especially since they (at the time) didn’t provide transit benefits as part of employment.
That is indeed an interesting model. I could see this model working well in places like Bellevue, which lack traditional carsharing options (but the population still has the money to pay for the premium pick up and drop off service).
If people have a car for multiple days they’ll have to park it somewhere. That limits its use to out-of-town or suburban trips, since inner-city dwellers would have to pay $10-50 a day to park it in a garage. The $40 combined dropoff/pickup fee also seems steep. I could see using it for a weekend trip to Aberdeen or Spokane, where $40 looks reasonable compared to compared to bus fare for two or hotel nights, but it’s too much for most of the things people use short-term cars for.
I’m thinking the primary use case is not people that have to pay for parking near their home. That’s why I was thinking Bellevue.
Of course, another unknown is what hours of the day pick up and returns are allowed. It it’s midday only, this effectively requires you to pay for two days to go hiking in the mountains one day, which makes the effective rental rate much higher than it seems. This is a problem with many conventional rental car offices.
Of course, the actual service area is largely confined to central Seattle. Even within the city, the boundaries are somewhat weird, including Crown Hill, but not the U-district for reasons I don’t understand.
I hope this eventually expands to not just all of Seattle, but beyond the city limit boundaries into the suburbs. The delivery model looks very scalable to lower-demand locations, since you only have to send a person and car out to places where there is actually a customer. Traditional car rental offices exists throughout the Puget Sound region, not just in the central city, so the demand should be there. Even people that already own cars could be potential customers if their car breaks down and they need something to get around while it’s in the shop, or they want to go on a long road trip, but don’t trust their 20-year-old car to make it.
It is something to keep in mind if I go carless. Between this, zipcar, and Gig (which I use to get to the airport because uber and lyft prices are really high compared to other cities), it would be a consideration to selling my relatively new car (which I generally only need for weekends) if the chip shortage continues and causes the carvana’s of the world to offer a really good price.
Anecdotal yes, but here we go anyway. I’ve used kyte a few times and I’ve seen drivers with bus transfers, solowheels, and scooters. One driver said he lived nearby and was walking home. If that’s true across the fleet I imagine kyte would lead to less miles driven than uber once you factor in dead heading. Big if and I don’t know if that scales, but encouraging at least.
Lizz says Vision Zero is a long way off
Considering I can’t safely cross a street in my neighborhood, something that has gotten markedly worse in the past 10 years, I would argue that we are moving in the opposite direction of Vision Zero, never to reach it.
At this point, it’s seeming like self-driving cars will be pedestrian and cyclists only hope for Vision Zero, so about 25 years from now?
The only hope for vision zero is zero cars in dense city cores and a much more rigorous driving licensure requirements, with much harder penalties for driving incidents. I argue with my more conservative friends frequently about this, but I firmly believe we’ll be dealing with deadly drivers until they’re held 100% culpable in every* pedestrian/bicyclist strike.
* unless malice is somehow proven on behalf of the non-driver
I argue with my more conservative friends frequently about this, but I firmly believe we’ll be dealing with deadly drivers until they’re held 100% culpable in every* pedestrian/bicyclist strike.
This is a major contributing factor in the worsening of pedestrian safety in Seattle. There’s hasn’t been much enforcement for a long time. Now both new drivers and formerly out of state drivers are learning that there is zero consequence for their actions. They rely on pedestrians and cyclists to be too timid to exercise their rights-of-way.
Changing this will require some bravery at the state legislative level that isn’t there. War on cars and all…
Self-driving cars may be worse if they kill pedestrians more than driven cars, or if the number of cars on the road doubles because it’s easier to go by car or they’re driving around empty waiting for their owner to finish their appointment.
Self-driving cars may be worse if they kill pedestrians more than driven cars, or if the number of cars on the road doubles because it’s easier to go by car or they’re driving around empty waiting for their owner to finish their appointment.
I would hope that by the time self driving cars are allowed, their pedestrian detection systems are nearly perfect. Self driving cars also won’t speed, won’t run stop signs or red lights, won’t park in bike lanes, won’t come to a stop in the middle of a crosswalk, etc.
If it takes twice as many cars on the road to reach some semblance of safety in some bizarro twist, then so be it.
Maybe I missed the announcement. Are middle and rear door ORCA readers coming to Rapid Rides?
My understanding is that they’re installing the pads now for when ORCA 2.0 arrives and they have the new readers ready to install for all-door boarding and fare-payment.
I see Metro is cancelling a lot of trips again today. Does anyone know why? Yes, I know it has to do with staffing shortages, but what is causing the staffing shortages? Is there a sickout going on? Or, are drivers not calling in sick, but Metro simply doesn’t have enough drivers employed at the moment to drive every trip on every route?
“Separation” due to not complying with the State mandate to be vaccinated or lose your job. The WSF system was hit really hard. State wide about 10% of employees refused to get vaccinated and are no longer employed by the State.
What Bernie says has definitely been a problem, but there has been a shortage of bus drivers going on region-wide long before the pandemic. It combines all the stresses of city driving plus all the hazards of retail customer service, so it isn’t something many people want to do.
Yes, there’s been a shortage since before the pandemic. The pandemic made it worse (odd since you’d think there would be a bunch of people competing for the lower number of routes). Then we’ve had all this time (how long?) where people have just moved on or retired while at the same time there was virtually no new hires. Metro knew all this but for some bizarre reason, even though extensions to stay at home because of Delta were well known, decided to restore all service to what it used to be (the good, the bad & the ugly). Even without the Covid Mandate any scarecrow would have known this wasn’t going to work. But geez, doing something smart is just way too hard. Sometimes failure is used as a tactic to “prove”… we just need more money.
I applied for a Metro driving job a few years back. I didn’t meet the diversity goals but ended up driving for BSD instead. A better job with comparable pay and the same State benefits. School bus drivers are in even more demand since they got totally screwed by the extended school closures. Most school bus drivers are people bridging a job to retirement with the intention of boosting retirement income. There’s a 5-10 year window on how long most say. With many “aging out” and no new hires this is going to be a huge problem. Much harder/longer to sort out than Metro. And if kids can’t get to school a lot of parents can’t go to work.
The decision to restore service was made in the summer when Delta was just emerging in the US. Even several people on this blog were saying the worst is over and transit shouldn’t be the only place with mask requirements. I was pessimistic as I usually am, and pessimism turned out to be right.
Apparently Belair has also over promised on its schedules, based on what one driver has told me. So, it’s not limited to King County Metro or even the public sector.
If Metro is cancelling a lot of trips due to a driver shortage, why does their website say they aren’t accepting job applications for drivers?
Metro hires in “cohorts”. They open applications and after the testing and interview process they select a class of around 30 trainees. As that group nears the end of their training they open up applications to select the next cohort. IIRC they run four training classes a year. They only look at new applications because it wastes too much time contacting prior applicants that may no longer be interested. In the past they’ve had no shortage of applicants. The trick was to get people through the class and retain them. Once you have your CDL a lot of employment opportunities are available that are going to be full time and not some gawd awful shift on the opposite side of town from where you live.
Metro route 12’s been running diesel buses weekdays for a while now (its a trolley route, typically running diesels weekend-only). And when the dieselization started, Metro was running old artics on the route—quite the rarity. Perhaps this was a test of how the artics perform on the Madison & Marion hills downtown? Maybe this is related to RapidRide G (Madison) construction that started yesterday?
I’ve never understood why every trolley route systemwide is replaced with diesels every single weekend. What’s the point of having trolley wire in the first place if you’re not going to use it?
I’m guessing the reason likely has to do with beurocracy – Seattle City Light does maintenance on the wires on weekends, but doesn’t bother to tell Metro which wires actually need to be de-energized which days, so Metro must err on the side of caution and assume that the entire trolley system is offline every Saturday and Sunday.
Interestingly enough, though, major holidays are still treated as weekdays for purposes of diesel vs. trolley decisions, even when the buses themselves are operating on a Sunday schedule.
Metro says it’s because of construction or maintenance, there’s always something happening most weekends somewhere along the routes.
“PT’s Stream BRT already watering down”
Please rewrite this – this is not an accurate description of the article that you linked to, which notes that the most recent revision of the Pacific Ave BRT has more exclusive bus lanes than the previous plan.
(That said, PT is using an outdated map that implies that they’ve watered it down)
After experiencing the painful ART center lane BRT in Albuquerque weaving through various ranges of exclusivity, and the confusion and public/political nightmare this caused, i am worried PT is making the same mistakes.
Just suck it up and do it right. Consistent and complete seperation. You are never going to satisfy the whiners, so dont even try. Just produce a quality finished product and people will forgive you the minor inconveniences imposed.
If the final product is confusing, poorly engineered spaghetti, that doesnt deliver on its promises, it will be a huge setback for PT, and their longer term BRT goals.
Is it that confusing? New bus lane designs strike me as simillar to the first time a roundabout in built in a community – there is confusion, consternation, and gnashing of teeth, but after 6~8 months everyone figures out how they work and conclude they are an improvement.
ART was a disaster because the vehicles didn’t work, so the center running infrastructure just sat unused for years. Now that it is running, is it that bad?
I was in Indy and saw their center running BRT line and it seemed to function just fine.
I thought it was ok, but it wasnt me that mattered. The design and engineering werent great, with platforms that were different levels than buses, and design flaws that made it easy for the buses to rip off hunks of platform. It was also killing pedestrians around the university bacause it would weave back and forth from northside to southside.
For a poor, car-centric town with little transit love, with a blown budget, and years of delay, and the perceived destruction of the beloved route 66, it is not likely any politician will ever suggest transit expansion again.
The one thing i didnt like was ithat they chose to basically skip the Warzone, the one area of high pedestrian activity and density and low car ownership that could have benefited from BRT. They decided to space the stops to skip past it, in an effort to serve wealthier neighborhoods up the hill. Thats when i stopped supporting it as vocally.
Walking Pacific yesterday, i was already seeing anti BRT signs in business windows. Gave a strong sense of Deja Vu.
I happen to be in Albuquerque right now.
The interface with Google maps from their web site is so terrible that when you click the link to “Where to Buy Tickets” it scattered blue dots all over a Google map, and then makes it impossible to get Google maps to show anything else- not even streets.
I’ll probably have to reinstall Google maps tonight or something.
The Pacific Ave BRT corridor is a difficult project because the street/road itself changes character — with much of the City of Tacoma section being single family homes. It’s also very “porous” for both cars and pedestrians. The ST vision to ultimately take light rail to Tacoma Mall rather than Pacific Ave is illustrative of the lack of attractiveness in the Pacific Ave segment in Tacoma. I don’t think it will ever reach an operation beyond what RapidRide is.
Seeing the Tacoma Dome diversion really illustrates to me how TDLE should have gone that extra half mile to UWT/ Pacific Ave as its end station (rather than end at Tacoma Dome). I sure wish there was a way to at least do an advance study to analyze its cost and ridership.
The advanced study for the extension beyond TD is already in the ST3 plan, it’s just not in the short term budget. The Pierce board members just need to ask for staff to pull that forward to start looking at a Pacific Ave station, under the framework of an extension to the Maall.
I think it’s very plausible that ST4 might include an short Pacific Ave extension as an ‘early win,’ with a further extension to the mall much further back in the ST4 timeline.
The Rapport building shows the problem of delaying upzones too long. Broadway had a 4-story maximum, and when Safeway and QFC near Roy closed, they wouldn’t redevelop because they were holding out for taller heights someday. Bellevue Avenue already had a 6-7 story limit and the taller buildings weren’t harming anyone. The 4-story Rapport building was built. Finally the city upzoned Broadway to 6-7 stories, and the Safeway and QFC lots were quickly rebuilt. So the top of Broadway, visible from a block away because of the curve in the street, has only 4 stories when it could have had 7, so only half the people who could have potentially lived there can. That’s a waste, especially so close to Capitol Hill Station and the retail/pedestrian district.
It looks like the proposed alignment for Spokane’s light rail is along I-90. So essentially it’ll be worthless. Maybe in another 20 years when the city reaches 300k people, light rail MIGHT be a feasible option.
And it’s going through Spokane Valley, which is more anti-tax and anti-transit than Spokane is, being the exurbs and halfway toward Idaho. It would be like putting light rail in Spanaway.
Looking at page 8, I wouldn’t consider any of alignment “along I-90.” Reading through the document, I think the alignment only interacts with the I90 envelope once. Very different than Link. Strikes me as an alignment that would complement, not overlap, express bus service on I90.
Much of it is single tracked, so this is closer to the Tacoma streetcar than anything like “light rail,” but reading through the details, looks like some of the alignment will share ROW with BNSF and UPRR, which may indicate the decision to run rail is reasonable. It’s possible this might be a good use-case for a tram-train, i.e a train that leverages existing heavy rail alignment when possible and also operates at-grade in urban setting (downtown Spokane) where existing rail ROW isn’t available (https://pedestrianobservations.com/2020/11/03/tram-trains/)
But if it cannot share trackage with UP or BNSF, it should probably just be a busway leverage rail ROW, much like LA’s G line, unless they are REALLY jazzed about the economic development opportunities of a streetcar. Hopefully the City Line is a sufficient success for this alignment to be reimagined as BRT.
Sound Transit has finally published* its Quarterly Financial Performance Report for Q2 2021. There are a lot of interesting nuggets contained in the report. Two of the biggest are that YTD revenues are significantly higher than budgeted (mainly due to higher tax revenues and federal grants) and YTD project expenses are significantly behind budget (mainly due to slower than planned construction activity). I encourage those interested in such matters to read the report in its entirety.
*Just for absolute clarity, the second quarter closed on June 30, some three and a half months ago.
I just visited PDX, saw their fare capping and am surprised ST & KCM doesn’t have it as a Orca LIFT card user. Any know if we’ve considered it and if so why not beside the investment and benefits?
When TriMet started their card consideration, they realized there was a practical choice: fare capping to make a day ticket, or allow the card to be used by others.
For ORCA, they decided to make it so you could pay for multiple people with one card.
In practicality, I’m not sure how often this is done. I’ve only used that option once when a friend and I went to one festival or other in 2010 or so and they didn’t have a card yet. It seems really rare for people to do this, especially now.
Portland’s system is way better. ORCA should be put on the endangered species list… and then made extinct. It’s like a store saying we only take our house brand debit card. In the free market they’d be out of business in a NY second. But hey, transit has a monopoly, “We don’t care, we don’t have to” (AT&TTM).
the “sup” tag doesn’t work?
ORCA is on the endangered list. The 2nd generation ORCA work is well underway and will allow for a much more open system.
Hop still the only card TriMet works with, but that’s pretty much the route most transit agencies are going. It’s really annoying, especially when you consider that it seems like it’s just one vendor selling all this stuff.
You apparently can use Apple or Google Pay with TriMet, but I’ve never tried it. My phone at the time didn’t have that ability.
Hop still the only card TriMet works
When I visited I put my Visa in a TVM and it spit out two HOP cards, one for me and one for my son in a single credit card transaction. What more do you need? Of course after riding for the day I realized I really didn’t need to pay but would have anyway. Didn’t “tap” until half way through the day when we figured out how/where to do it and even then only bothered less than half the time. Transit use on a record setting heat wave weekend was so low a fare enforcement officer would have been net negative for revenue. Amazingly, there were few street people getting on the Max cars just to beat the heat.
I thought you were referring to systems where NFC credit / debit cards were also accepted by the card readers, which would be a pretty radical difference from what either HOP or ORCA are doing.
I don’t think anyone in North America is doing that yet.
In Portland the TVM prints out a paper HOP card. No need to have every bus reader be capable of doing credit card transactions. Just have enough places here this is possible; and a day pass. In Nashville the bus can accept cash and prints out a magnetic card with your change credited to it. IIRC that also worked as your transfer. Seattle makes it really difficult for occasional or out of town users; different fares and different transfer policies among agencies all sharing the same stops. If the system can currently allow an app that lets event goers at the Seattle Center board for free then the system already can let you pay by phone.
All NYC buses and subways take any NFC credit/debit card plus Apple and Google Pay. You no longer need to buy a mag strip Metrocard.
Chicago has been directly accepting tap credit cards for years.
With the extensions to Link both North & South is ST still adding net more buses that they are eliminating? ST Express was in large part billed as a place holder until light rail was built. I guess light rail on the 405 corridor was never in the plans so STRIDE is a major departure from the original ST charter. I’m not saying investment in bus service that leverages WSDOT funded freeway lanes is bad. I do think there needs to be a close watch on transit funds being used to just rebuild interchanges (Rose Hill) or bridges (new HOV lanes over 522 up to Brickyard). A whole new OMF though I didn’t know was part of the deal. And if they need one north then they probably need another facility down in Renton/Kent.
“I guess light rail on the 405 corridor was never in the plans…”
The Privileged would never allow ANY rail.
I have no idea what you’re talking about. Issaquah and Kirkland are pushing light rail between those two cities via Kirkland. Are the “Privileged” Mill Creek and Renton??? Eastside sentiment, right or wrong, has always been, “why don’t you run it down the freeway (405) where we all want to go?” Buses probably make more sense but the average or “privileged” voter perceives light rail as being the gold standard. And if you follow the freeway (no problem, right)… “I’ll vote for that” because when every one else is on the stupid train I’ll have a congestion free commute.
those two cities via Bellevue, not Kirkland
Light rail in the I-405 corridor cost too much for the ridership generated within the time frame that was being used in the original study.
At the time of the study there was no specific alignment decided. Just lines on the map between population centers along with the ridership calculations.
LR Cost (Too high)/Benefit (not enough riders, Too Low) within the 30 year time frame.
The only alignment for rail, was the then operational Woodinville Subdivision (ERC)
The PSRC had done a study in 1992 which basically was replacing the then Metro 360 route between South Kirkland and Renton with a commuter rail service. (Relatively low cost, with favorable ridership numbers)
During the I-405 Corridor Program study, some analysis was done extending the service to Tukwila, hooking up with what is now South Sounder, and stopping at Woodinville.
The boundaries of the I-405 program study stopped there, so ridership wasn’t studied for the complete Woodinville Subdivision.
By the way, Mill Creek isn’t within the Corridor boundaries, either.
Ridership numbers (3100/day)were favorable, and the speculative Cost (BNSF wasn’t entertaining selling at that time) was around $300m.
That’s when Rail on the ERC died. The Kennydale Neighborhood along with the help of then Renton mayor Jesse Tanner sent a letter to the Executive Committee asking that study of the ERC be stopped.
That’s all it took.
End of Subject.
Does this mean that ST will soon no longer use KCM or CT drivers for Stride routes?
It also makes me wonder if any remaining ST Express routes will eventually be operated by ST and not one of the bus operators.
Stride routes don’t currently exist.
For 405 routes, ST uses CT drivers. With the new bus base, ST may hire drivers directly but will likely competitively bid out the work. As First Transit already operates in CT bases, the are well positioned to win the bid, so it’s possible the exact same drivers might operate these routes, but as First Transit drivers contracted to ST directly rather than contracted to Ct and then subcontracted to ST
Yes my phrasing could be better. I should have said …
“ Does this mean that ST will not use KCM or CT drivers for Stride routes?”
I’m aware that ST can have separate facilities but can still get drivers through another operator. This is why I’m asking.
Yes, it is highly likely that ST will either hire drivers directly or contract directly with a provider like First Transit, rather than contract through a KCM or CT.
It is possible that ST could contract with CT, particularly if CT wanted to share the facility, but my understanding is it will be 100% ST facility.
“SOUND TRANSIT 3 SYSTEM PLAN PROJECT LIST
The following list describes projects approved as part of the Sound Transit 3 Plan adopted by the Sound Transit Board of Directors on June 23, 2016.
“Bus Operations and
This project would construct a new bus operations and maintenance facility to accommodate a portion of the existing and future bus fleet required for ST3 BRT and ST Express bus service. The facility would be located in the vicinity of the I-405/SR 522 corridors.”
The accompanying project template listed the estimated cost at $139-149M in 2014$. Some of the details in said template were as follows:
This project would construct a new bus operations and maintenance facility to accommodate a portion of the existing and future bus fleet required for ST3 BRT and ST Express bus service. The facility would be located in the vicinity of the I-405/SR 522 corridors. Capital funding for heavy
maintenance (i.e., paint/body work and component rebuild) is provided by an ST2 bus base project.”
•Facility would be sized to accommodate approximately 60 buses and be expandable to 80 buses in a future (unfunded) phase.
•Capital funding for heavy maintenance (i.e., paint/body work and component rebuild) is provided by the ST2 project
•The ST3 project provides funding for additional storage and light maintenance functions only, which would include the following:
▪Offices and support areas for bus maintenance activities
▪Shop for bus maintenance
▪Fuel, wash, service areas
▪Bus operations, dispatching and employee facilities
▪Employee and visitor parking
▪Space and equipment for secure entry to bus parking and maintenance areas
▪1 percent for art per Sound Transit policy
–Stormwater detention and treatment”
Sound Transit has been very quiet about the aforementioned ST2 bus base project, likely hoping that voters have long since forgotten about it.
ST2 bus base project is still there in the long term plan for all to see. It’s only ‘quiet’ because it’s not an active project. Every time it is brought up for discussion it is a political hot potato because KCM and its union (but I repeat myself) don’t like it.
Nice try, but that excuse just doesn’t fly.
The 2010 capital program realignment put the STX bus bases into Table 2:
The following projects will proceed through design and construction, consistent with board approved
budgets, and are fully funded within the agency’s long-term financial plan.
Final delivery schedules for the projects, given the early stage of design and uncertainties of agency local tax revenue collection levels, will have to be monitored and evaluated.”
Some of the other projects put into this same category are:
•Seattle to Overlake (East Link) (#600)
•North Corridor HCT- Northgate to Lynnwood (#115)
•Light Rail Maintenance Facility (ST2) (#009)
•South Link – Airport to S 200m (#420)
•Light Rail Fleet Expansion (ST2)
•Tacoma Link Expansion (#008)
•ST Express Bus Base (Sound Move) (#261)
•ST Express Bus Fleet (ST2) (#705)
•ST Express Bus Base (ST2) – Snohomish (#005)
•ST Express Bus Base (ST2) – EKC (#005)
•ST Express Bus Base (ST2) – SKC (#005)
•ST Express Bus Base (ST2) – Pierce (#005)
Now how many of these listed ST2 projects are in the same position as the STX bus base in question? (RQ) So, yeah, this STX bus base project funded from ST2 authorization remains an unfulfilled promise that the agency has given short shrift. Since this flies in the face of ST’s spin on the completion of ST2, it’s no wonder they don’t want to discuss it.
You’ll have to take that up with the KCM union that has killed the bus base project each time staff tries to get it moving again.
“… the KCM union that has killed the bus base project each time staff tries to get it moving again.”
Source (otherwise it’s just hearsay)?
I offer myself as a primary source, or you can watch any of the ST public meetings the last time the ST tried to open its own bus base. The bus base capacity report I linked above was a direct response to the kerfuffle when ST staff proposed opening a temporary, 3rd party bus base a few months earlier to alleviate the capacity issues at KCM East Base.
BRT OMF was definitely included in the Stride capital plan from the beginning. Total ST bus hours will likely go down with the FW and Lynnwood restructures, but on 405 itself Stride will deploy more buses than STX, as Stride is an improvement over STX in frequency and span of service. Stride is a ‘departure’ from the original charter insofar as it is a new mode introduced in ST3.
“needs to be a close watch on transit funds being used to just rebuild interchanges ” – any different than how ST manages all other capital projects?
“And if they need one north then they probably need another facility down in Renton/Kent.” Yes, though it is more likely in eastern Pierce so ST can avoid King County unions. There’s good reason Bus Base North is just across the county line.
So net, when this all plays out, there will be an increase in the number of blue & white buses on the order of ~100? I though ST was trying to get out of the bus business long term and become purely a capital investment entity. I doubt the agency would want to get involved with contracting directly. I think the only operations they handle is Tacoma Link because there were no rail operations in PT. Are T Link operators employed directly by ST?
Another reason ST might want the new bus OMF in Snohomish Co. is CT is experienced with double talls whereas KC Metro will not change from using artics.
Correct, T-Link is the only mode where ST employs drivers (and mechanics) directly. ST contracts with BNSF directly for Sounder operations and maintenance and contracts directly with vendors for facilities and Link ROW maintenance. The county agencies only operate as an intermediary for vehicle operations and vehicle maintenance for bus and Link.
My personal opinion is ST sees both Link and Stride as central to their existence and will seek to cut out the county agencies from everything aside from some ST Express feeder service provided by PT. Once ST has full ownership of the DSTT, there is no operational reason to place Link operations within the KCM org chart. ST is ~40% of PT’s deployment, so there won’t be a need for a bus base south until PT grows significantly, at which point there will be analysis (& politics) around whether ST should built a standalone base or PT should built a 3rd base.
In the short term, there will probably be a slight decrease in overall ST fleet, as the elimination of the 550 and the truncation of routes from the East, Lynnwood, and FW Link extensions will shrink the fleet by more than Stride will grow. This is pre-COVID project delays, but this presentation indicates ST Express fleet will roughly halve after the ST2 build-out to <200 buses, with perhaps a third in Bus Base North and the remainder down in PT.
Right now I believe it is a contractual if not legal requirement that ST subcontract ST Express through the county the trip originates in. So something (law or contract) needs to change first and that would likely be a fight in King County ST as an agency doesn’t want with the King County block controlling the board. I don’t see ST wanting to get into the front lines of negotiating labor contracts. The purpose of ST is to be a funding mechanism and secondarily provide some engineering oversight and coordination of capital projects. There’s plenty of room for improvement on both fronts and the skill set you bring in for that with the new CEO are very different than someone in charge of a transit agency.
“There’s plenty of room for improvement on both fronts and the skill set you bring in for that with the new CEO are very different than someone in charge of a transit agency.”
I agree. It will be interesting to see in which direction this goes as the network is built out.
One little quibble….
I would caution against referencing the Snohomish and Pierce Counties’ PBTAs as “county agencies”, even for shorthand.
It took a bit of searching but in the Kitsap Transit 101 document I found, “Public Transportation Benefit Area (PBTA)”. So why isn’t it PTBA? Anyway, IIRC the exact requirement is for ST to contract with KC Metro and Community Transit. Or that decision could possibly be at the county government level and the county council or executive have made the transit agencies responsible. KC Metro is a department of King County government. Don’t know about Pierce and Snohomish.
Pretty sure PT runs some STX routes that are only within King.
Sound Transit was originally just a contracting body with engineering oversight, but with ST3, the establishment of the Stride mode, permanent funding for STX (beyond the ST3 build out), and funding of a permanent HQ, I think ST has clearly evolved into a full transit agency, coequal with the county agencies (and yes, ‘county agency’ is a effective shorthand for the PTBAs)
” I don’t see ST wanting to get into the front lines of negotiating labor contracts.” What? Negotiating contacts is their primary function.
Yes, PTBA. Thanks for correcting my transposition error.
“(and yes, ‘county agency’ is a effective shorthand for the PTBAs)”
Nope. It’s just sloppy and lazy.
“KC Metro is a department of King County government. Don’t know about Pierce and Snohomish.”
CT and PT are organized as PTBAs, as stated previously. As such, they are not departments or divisions of the county, like with KCM.
Here’s some info that you may find helpful, as well as a link to the controlling statutes. The relevant RCW chapter is pretty detailed as it gets into all of the rules for formation of a PTBA, its governance and its authority.
Negotiating contacts is their primary function.
Putting out contracts for bid is very different than negotiating labor contracts and managing HR when you’ve got a bunch of PT employees and a relatively high turnover. They could go the contract route like First Transit which would be easier than having employees but they are then also negotiating as an agency with the ST Board which cares about getting re-elected more than the cost/quality of transit. Just seems like a big pile they wouldn’t want to step in.
In the Kitsap Transit 101 document they did the same thing (pg 25).
Light rail in the I-405 corridor cost too much for the ridership generated
Exactly. That should have been obvious from the beginning. People see the freeway, and think that is where you should put the train. It is the opposite. The freeway competes with mass transit and make it difficult to build good stations. That is why trains that follow the freeway into the distant suburbs always get low ridership. Or rather, they get ridership that is quite similar to what they would get if they saved their money, and just ran buses. https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/economics-of-urban-light-rail-CH.pdf.
It is also quite normal for Sound Transit to run a bus on a corridor for which they have no plans for rail. The agency was created to build regional light rail, commuter trains, and express buses. There is no requirement that the express buses be a precursor for rail. There is quite a bit of flexibility in their spending (as long as they lay it all out in the proposal to voters). For example, ST3 has money for building a park and ride in north Sammamish. There is no requirement that ST serve the park and ride, or where it will actually be (other than “north Sammamish”, which is a pretty vague term). Obviously there will never be rail there. Along with 405 BRT, there are proposals to run the bus on the shoulder, on I-5, 405, 167 and 518. Some of these areas will have rail — most will not. Likewise, they are supposed to chip in for Madison BRT (AKA RapidRide G). This has nothing to do with future rail.
ST can run express buses wherever they want. The fact that some lines mimic future rail lines is merely an argument for the proposal — not a requirement. In my opinion, it is a weird argument (supposedly it is supposed to “build support” before rail) but whatever.
It’s a hard corridor for Link light rail because it has difficult terrain (costly to overcome and difficult to walk to), concentrated development occasionally punctuating low density single family homes and limited excess freeway land. This is especially true south of Downtown Bellevue. Stride is probably the best way to handle the corridor as an possible improvement for the next 25 years.
I do wonder if a more exclusive lane rubber tired treatment may be in order at some point. I could also see larger capacity vehicles but I don’t see demand for that for quite awhile.
It’s always fun to project more rail lines. However, we are just about 20 months from the anticipated East Link opening date. No rethinking on new Eastside rail lines is likely before then. With this in mind, I think the larger public will more easily identify what the next Eastside projects should be. I am also still cautious about how the I-90 light rail bridge will function. In sum, I think it’s best to wait and assess needs and opinions no earlier than 2024 or 2025 in this instance.
Other related tangential thoughts:
One long-term out-of-the-box strategy may be to have 405 be the general Cascadia high speed rail corridor intertwined with an eventual 405 rail corridor. If a few intermediate stations had a bypass for faster inter-city trains, a joint corridor operation could be put together.
At some point, a second north-south rail corridor south of I-90 will emerge as a need. MLK is just too constrained on its capacity because of the median at-grade design. Whether that’s done east of 405 (say an Eastgate to East Renton tunnel bore), near 405, upgrades to MLK (something better than the median running and porous tracks), Duwamish bypass, SR 509 tracks or something else is a complex analysis. I only hope that this deficiency is assessed as a systemic limitation rather than an incremental one because I don’t see any north-south corridor south of 90 ever getting widespread viability by itself.
@ Ross – ST Express probably needs to serve a growth center or a regional destination, so it’s not truly “whether” but a broad enough definition to fit under any reasonable express route. The idea around anticipating future rail lines is to build/grow the ridership base along the corridor, not intangible “support.”
@Al – there are already two rail corridors south of 90, Link and Sounder, we’d only need a 3rd corridor if Link and Sounder are over capacity.
*not truly “wherever”
But otherwise, good summary of STX and freeway routes. The only reason to run a train along a freeway, rather than a bus, is for capacity. For example, if Lynnwood trains are full while running 3 minute headways, then it’s probably good the train goes to Lynnwood.
AJ, as long as ST doesn’t have its own tracks and have directionally limited train sets, I don’t think it’s a true second rail corridor. I’d give it credit of maybe 1/4 of a corridor.
I also feel like the median operation severely limits Link capacity through SE Seattle. If those dozens grade crossings weren’t there, there could be at least twice as many trains. So I’d give that rail corridor something like 3/4 or 1/2 of an actual rail corridor.
ST serves regional growth centers and cities. Some ST Express routes are on the spine, others are on secondary corridors that might get rail long-term (405, 522), others there’s no realistic likelyhood of rail (167). When ST rejected Renton-Bellevue Link for ST3, it said ridership wasn’t there yet, leaving it open that it might be in a few decades.
Madison has a longer history than just RapidRide G. A downtown-First Hill light rail corridor was in ST’s long-range plan in ST2. I don’t know if it goes back to ST1 or was added in the mid 2000s. This was separate from the First Hill Station on the north-south corridor, which was in U-Link but later dropped. In 2014 when ST was updating the long-range plan for ST3, the board debated whether the Madison corridor was still needed; i.e., whether RapidRide G would fully fulfill it or whether it would still need light rail someday. They didn’t know so they left it in. It may have been taken out later.
That intersects with another thing that happened around the same time. One of the concepts for West Seattle-Ballard light rail would have skirted downtown on Yesler-23rd-Denny. An ST staff said that alternative have come from one person’s suggestion at an open house. The board was bewildered with that option and couldn’t think of who would ride it, when the largest demand was to downtown (3rd Avenue). Nobody spoke up to support it and it was dropped. Some time later, transit fans started talking about a Metro 8 line, which in varying concepts would go from Uptown to Capitol Hill Station (straight east) or Uptown to First Hill (diagonal southeast). The missed opportunity is, the Jackson-23rd-Denny routing would have fulfilled part of this transit market, and the Madison corridor could have been flipped to go from First Hill northwest to SLU and Uptown. But nobody realized it early enough to save these ST concepts from the cutting-room floor.
MLK could be retrofitted with overpasses, underpasses, or lowering it to a trench. The problem with a Duwamish bypass is the subareas that would benefit from it (South King and Pierce) don’t want it. It was in ST’s long-range plan in 2015 too, and the board deleted it as unnecessary. Not one boardmember from those subareas said one word to keep it, at least not that I heard. Maybe they’ll rethink that position in the future when Tacoma Link with its mediocre travel time comes closer, but anything can happen in the future.
“ The problem with a Duwamish bypass is the subareas that would benefit from it (South King and Pierce) don’t want it.”
I’ve asserted that the Duwamish Bypass will look more attractive if or when riders in SE Seattle get overcrowded trains. Overcrowding is not a topic that gets much discussion with Link because the trains seem so big! There are many mature rail systems in the US that had overcrowding issues before Covid. With 10 stops before Rainier Beach and 15 before Beacon Hill, overcrowding could easily occur. We should have an inkling of this by 2024 (not that far away) and certainly by 2032.
I do agree with you, Mike, that — unless train overcrowding occurs — there won’t be widespread consensus to upgrade the MLK section . And there are other solutions to overcrowding — like buying new vehicles as “twins” so that there is just one driver cab in each vehicle (open gangways at the other end) and that extra space could probably add 10-15 more rider capacity per train. I’ll even note that work from home has really dampened peak rider surges so overcrowding could be quite a long time away or may never evolve.
As far as “fixing” MLK, I think that would probably be avoided unless collisions are more rampant or the line gets full automation. It just seems too messy to me to introduce incremental grade overcrossings on MLK because the transitions would seem quite expensive and take lots of time to build. I think it would almost have to require redesigning the entire corridor rather than making changes a few blocks at a time.
Fair. But still, if we have 1.5 rail corridors, wouldn’t the next step be to get to 2 rail corridors before we build a 3rd? I’m firmly in the camp that we should look to boost capacity in our existing corridors before building an entirely new corridor.
For example, Sounder is looking to spend ~$1B in YOE to boost frequency by 25% and train size by 40%, boosting peak capacity by >75%. Assuming the overcrowding only occurs during certain windows, even without ownership of the ROW ST will be positioned to continue to add more peak, bidirectional capacity to serve that corridor, and ST/PT/KCM can adjust their pricing and bus network design to nudge riders to the mode that has excess capacity.
If the overcrowding is limited to just SE Seattle, I’m optimistic ST will be able to work with SDOT to boost capacity above current frequencies; perhaps will require some capital investment, at Mike mentions, but nothing like a new corridor. I would imagine the under/over passes to be the road being moved, with the rail untouched, as that would be fair less disruptive regionally and could occur one block at a time. Or as you say, there are other ways to increase capacity.
“ I’m optimistic ST will be able to work with SDOT to boost capacity above current frequencies…”
I’m not optimistic that it can be boosted by very much unless SDOT starts banning pedestrians from crossing MLK. The street is extra wide and the countdown signals plus extra time for walk signs and waiting for yellow lights to change ends up requiring just shy of a minute of red light time for MLK trains and cars as enough time is allocated for pedestrians to get across.
Some people naively think that the solution is to make cars wait longer, but it’s not. The main constraint is actually set by these pedestrian crossings.
I suppose SDOT could dig shallow pedestrian tunnels to run under the tracks, or elevated pedestrian crossings 25-30 feet in the air with elevators on either side. That would let them close the street to letting pedestrians cross at the surface — but that would likely be unacceptable to people who do walk across MLK.
If you have ways to reduce the crosswalk times I think we all would want to hear it. I’m quite skeptical of anything outside of full separations can help much — but maybe I’m not seeing a viable magic solution to this constraint.
If you’re going to quote me to bolster your “Better Bus” argument, you could at least acknowledge that there was more to my statement with a few ellipses.
“Light rail in the I-405 corridor cost too much for the ridership generated” [“…”]
My original statement:
“Light rail in the I-405 corridor cost too much for the ridership generated within the time frame that was being used in the original study.”
That study, being completed in 2001, was using 2030 as the horizon year.
We’re closer to the latter half of that C/B analysis, where the numbers do take a favorable turn.
But that’s not the point.
As you and Al S. are using the Light Rail vs. BRT argument to say that ANY RAIL is not a viable option, I’m going to call you out on this.
The Eastside Rail Corridor was a viable option.
Even back then, when the I-405 Master Plan was being formulated, running a commuter rail service from Tukwila to Woodinville (and beyond), actually showed that to be cheaper than the selected BRT option.
They were using the same ridership models, and the costs came in slightly lower. The only gap in service was between Totem Lake and Bothell. (although there is ROW branching off at Woodinville)
The reason I’m so snarky about our “Privileged” NIMBYs, is that I watched it all happen in real time.
Commuter rail (at even 1/2hr headways) could have been incrementally improved, even to light rail operational levels, since rail is rail. Still the same 4′ 8 1/2′”.
The alignment has reasonable grade, so the ‘difficult terrain’ argument falls flat.
The alignment is closer in most places to activity centers, and certainly closer than freeway bus stops.
I’m happy to contribute my bucket of porcine lip gloss for the BRT option.
But do not change history. The decision was POLITICAL.
Unless someone plans to assassinate me, I will still continue to enlighten people on that.
The well-heeled NIMBY’s won !
(I remember my days being a Bothell City Council groupie, and hearing the planning manager advising the council with “Be aware of the lawsuits”)
That’s it. Those with the means get their way.
But the actual numbers tell a different story.
Don’t put me in the anti-405-rail camp, Jim. I’m just pointing out issues.
Back in 2015, I pointed out in this blog that the 405 study was deliberately sandbagging light rail for the corridor, for example — by assuming that the line had to be single tracked creating 20 minute headways while assigning the high capital costs of light rail to create terrible cost effectiveness. I also pointed out then that the light rail option did not stop at Factoria (why ST 405 planning summarily ignores Factoria yet pumps tens of millions into NE 44th for very few riders has always mystified me).
I’ve pointed out the systemic racism (multi-ethnic) involved by endorsing rail to Issaquah over rail to a much denser and more populous Renton (both in East King subarea). The “excuse” that Renton didn’t do a better job at internal planning and advocacy is a poor excuse (especially since Kirkland did and their plans were summarily ignored in ST3). Simply put, the “haves” knew how to work the system to promote Issaquah over Renton.
I’ve even pointed out that had 405 improvements began with putting the northbound lanes on a structure would clear room underneath for a train so that the ERC would not be needed. Of course, with so much recently committed to 405 express lanes, the roadway won’t be considered for reconfiguration for at least 15-20 years.
So I get your frustration with the ERC use.
One other thought: I think the peak surge directional planning days for supplementary rail is over. Flextime and work from home and employers having nontraditional work hours all combine to point to daylong services on Link and Stride. Outside of “incremental” South Sounder upgrades and the DuPont extension, even ST3 projects are all designed to offer daylong service. Any future long-range rail systems should be planned as daylong service.
I noticed a new bike and ped bridge in Factoria the other day.
Are there a ton of Metro trip cancellations this week? Two people alluded to this, and today my roommate tried to get a 150 northbound at 8:30pm and neither it nor the next one showed up, so he ended up taking Uber. Metro’s alerts page doesn’t have anything for the 150.
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