News roundup: all caught up,_2021.jpg”>Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Mount Rainier, 2021

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One more week to apply for bus tickets

If you’re an organization that works with populations eligible for free bus tickets, you can apply to distribute them in 2022. Apply here; the deadline is November 30th.

There is a pool of $4m in tickets at face value. Of course, to the extent that this doesn’t displace fare-paying ridership, there is no actual budget impact to distributing as many of these as possible.

Streamlined Bellevue College service may really happen

Over 10 years ago (!) I wrote that rebuilding a short road near Bellevue College to support buses would straighten multiple Bellevue trunk routes and save millions in annual operating expenses. I’m pleased to announce that the project has now reached the municipal hype video stage:

Today, the 221, 226, 245, and 271 all travel in this corridor. The project page suggests that these trips could save about 6 minutes by taking a more direct route that avoids multiple turns.

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South Bellevue Park & Ride reopens to little fanfare

New South Bellevue P&R garage / photo by Bob Bengford

Over the weekend, the South Bellevue P&R inconspicuously reopened to the public after being closed for more than 4 years of East Link station construction. The new park-and-ride greatly expands capacity from the previous 500 some surface stalls to around 1500 spaces. Prior to its closure, the park-and-ride was a major source of commuter ridership for those coming from east via I-90 and south via 405.

East Link service itself is still some two years out but the City of Bellevue had prioritized early reopening of the park-and-ride. However, with ridership still hampered due to the pandemic, the garage is unlikely to see substantial use for now. With the reopening, routes 241, 249, 550, and 556 are also now using the new bus loop, sparing riders the unpleasant experience of having to wait on busy and pedestrian-unfriendly Bellevue Way.

Longer-time readers will remember that the location of the park-and-ride was in dispute when Bellevue bitterly clashed with Sound Transit over the alignment. There was a brief period of time when an alternative station location straddling I-90 was proposed. Although we would view picking between mega-garages as choosing the lesser of two evils, the existing site is far superior, in terms of pedestrian and transit accessibility.

With the park-and-ride reopening and live train testing finally commencing on the Bellevue-Overlake segment, glimpses of operational rail transit should plenty whet the appetite of Eastside transit riders for 2023.

News roundup: October highlights

A Sound Transit Train in the Pre-Dawn Northgate Fog

Maybe we can back to weekly roundups soon…

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Improving connectivity and frequency to Everett

ST Express 511 with CT livery / photo by author

The recent bus service change that coincided with the extension of the 1 Line to Northgate Station altered Seattle-Everett service in a clunky way. Riding between Everett and Seattle during off-peak hours and in the reverse-peak direction during peak hours now involves transferring between Sound Transit Express 512 and the 1 Line at Northgate Station. Peak-direction travel goes directly between Everett and downtown Seattle on ST Express 510, with no peak-direction route during peak hours between Everett and Northgate.

Going southbound on a weekday, route 510 leaves Everett Station at 4:13, 4:30, 4:42, 4:55, 5:17, 5:32, 5:48, 6:04, 6:18, 6:33, 6:50, 6:58, 7:14, 7:45, and 8:17 am. Route 512 starts up at 8:37 am, runs roughly every 10 minutes until 1:56 pm, then runs roughly every 16 minutes until 5:56 pm, then runs roughly every 20 from 6:19 to 9:02, then spreads out to 30 minutes with the last 512 heading south at 11:20 pm, with plenty of time to spare to catch the last southbound train of the evening.

Going northbound on weekdays, route 512 leaves Northgate every 12-16 minutes from 5:05 to 9:33 am. Then it hits its every-10-minutes stride at 9:49 am, which lasts until 2:49 pm. Then, route 512 disappears until 7:11 pm, at which point it starts running roughly every 10 minutes again, until 10:29. Frequency starts decreasing, until riders catch route 512 from the last northbound train of the day at 12:48 am.

During afternoon peak, route 510 starts northbound trips from 4th Ave & S Jackson St ca. every 16 minutes 2:30-6:53 pm.

With some clever scheduling, commuters heading back to Everett during afternoon peak could have a bus leaving Northgate Station for Everett waiting for them every 8 minutes.

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DSTT escalators still a problem

Out of service escalators at Westlake Station.
Credit: Bruce Englehardt

Last Thursday’s Rider Experience Committee meeting featured an update on the parlous state of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel’s escalators. While the overall system has recovered from some early hiccups with the three new stations, the current snapshot* shows 1 elevator and 13 escalators out of service, all in the DSTT. This involves all four stations, which have 36 escalators in total. None of these have an official repair date.

Deputy Director of Vertical Conveyances John Carini reports that four of these outages are due to “water intrusion” issues and they hope to recover these by mid-November. A source reports that the narrow street-level up escalator for the NE corner of Pioneer Square is among these four.

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Real-time arrival out for the winter?

Regular Link riders might notice that real-time arrival information did not, in fact, come back with the Northgate stations as promised in September. ST’s John Gallagher says that “While the system was accurate the majority of the time, when it was wrong, it was really wrong.” It would cost “a significant amount of money” to correct these problems.

On the other hand, I saw real time data on the signboards at Westlake on Sunday, so maybe they’re under-promising and engineers have hacked something together?

Regardless, the good news is that ST’s PIMS program is set to wrap up in Quarter 2 of 2022, so the next-generation system will be here soon enough that it’s not worth it to patch up the old one. The result of an RFP in 2018, in 2019 ST shared some early mockups (at right in the picture above) and projected it to be ready with East Link. It appears we’ll get these many months early.

Pierce Transit reduces bus service due to operator shortages

Pierce Transit 2002 New Flyer C40LF CNG 174
Pierce Transit bus in Tacoma (source: Shane Ramkissoon on Flickr)

Beginning Sunday, November 7th, Pierce Transit will reduce service on some routes, including some PT-operated ST Express routes, due to persistent shortage of bus operators. The hope is that with service reduced to match the level of service that current operators can reliably provide, trip cancellations will be much rarer, and you can be more reasonably sure that scheduled bus service will be delivered. Here are the changes by route:

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Podcast #101: My Betrayal of All That is Good

Bruce Nourish joins me to discuss a bunch of stuff.

  • (0:00) Hot takes on the election; we basically agree on all issues and then vote in opposite ways. Warning: we go way off-topic beyond transit and land use, to where we probably know less than you do. So skip ahead if this will just irritate you.
  • (32:15) On STB’s long hiatus this year
  • (35:10) Transit advocacy and journalism in 2021 (Katie Wilson’s fares op-ed)
  • (46:00) Martin and Bruce’s pet issues going forward (Martin’s misinterpreted legislative agenda piece)

Download link

Did you remember to vote?

You can drop off your ballot at a box on the north side of Schmitz Hall, a couple blocks south and one block east of U-District Station, among other places, by 8 pm today / map by King County Elections Dept

It may have snuck up on you, but today is election day. Ballots are due in drop boxes by 8 pm sharp.

There are a lot of drop boxes, including several very close to 1 Line stations. There are also a few Vote Centers where you can register to vote if you have not already, and vote privately on one of the accessible electronic voting machines.

STB did not do an endorsement process this time, but there are plenty of other groups that did, including:

… and many others. That’s probably more than you have time to read today. 8 pm sharp. Get your ballot in.

To reduce masklessness on trains, add more dispensers

Mask dispenser by door of Kinkysharyo light rail vehicle / photo by author

As I was boarding a bus a few days ago, I saw a young gentleman sitting close to the middle of the bus, maskless. I pulled a mask out of the dispenser at the front of the bus, walked back to the gentleman, and handed the mask to him. He thanked me and put it on.

Then, I caught the 1 Line. I sat in the fourth car, per usual, to be in the least-populated part of the train. A maskless gentleman claimed a standing position a few feet away from me. I got up and headed toward the raised seating section at the end of the car, where there is a 50/50 chance of being a mask dispenser. Unfortunately, this car’s dispenser was on the far side of the traincar, and the maskless guy was standing between me and the dispenser. So, I settled for keeping my distance from the guy.

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