- How the state transpo budget affects area projects
- New ORCA TVMs on their way
- Sound Transit’s service change
- and Metro’s
- SBB reflects on the bike helmet law repeal
- Disagreement as to whether ST vehicles are lawless, dangerous or not
- Brooke Belman will be the interim ST CEO after May 31
- Kent’s microtransit experiment is called Pingo
- Bill would provide raises for Uber/Lyft drivers ($)
- CT cutting 164 daily trips due to driver shortage
- New bus stops in Pioneer Square
- Hilltop Tacoma Link now to open 1Q2023
- Streateries overwhelmingly popular
This is an open thread.
85 Replies to “News roundup: service change”
Read all about the schedules here!
Curiously, the Hilltop delay was not anticipated in January although there was no float left. From p. 67:
“Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension baseline schedule included 232 days of project float to support revenue service on May 23, 2022. The current HTLE master schedule indicates all the remaining project float has been consumed.”
P. 27 of the January 2022 progress report says that East Link is already 42 days behind::
“ East Link was baselined with 273 days of program float, and
is currently forecast to finish 42 days behind the target
Revenue Service Date of June 30, 2023. ”
Given the lack of wires on the Lake Washington Bridge, it still appears that there is quite a bit of key tasks still left to do before testing can begins on some key segments.I wouldn’t be surprised if ST pushes back East Link’s opening date next.
To think that some folks were hopeful of a late 2022 opening for East Link… it seems that the main delay is the plinth repair, which was significantly delayed by the concrete strike.
I’m not a Tacoma resident but have visited the 6th Ave and S Tacoma Way corridor before – quite busy and filled with fantastic small businesses. But does anyone think the Tacoma Streetcar is a waste of money and completely unnecessary??
I think you will find some with that opinion here, for sure. If I could trade the streetcar for a staffed, full region 15-minute network, I’d take it. But that isn’t being offered. So something is better than nothing, and I’m on the line, and it will take me places I want to go.
Also, I think you may be confused about it’s routing. It won’t serve the two areas you mention. I do agree with your assessment of their commercial attractiveness, and I visit them as often as I can. But not be streetcar.
A few follow-up thoughts.
1. ST has been entirely disingenuous about the delays with the Tacoma Link Hilltop project, going so far as to retain the 2022 opening date in their recent PR mailer.
2. The Lynnwood Link project also appears to be slipping behind schedule per the last couple of progress reports.
3. I find it interesting that ST has continued to be able to produce these capital program progress reports (thankfully), which are quite involved and require significant amounts of updated info, but has tossed their hands up in the air when it comes to providing the public with published quarterly performance (i.e., ridership) reports.
If January progress report says May 2022 and now it’s announced as Q1 2023 just six weeks later, it’s clear that ST PR is either incompetent or deceptive. The delay should have been identified several months ago.
Regarding #2 in my previous comment, there are two motions on the agenda of this week’s System Expansion Committee meeting that hint at the Lynnwood Link project falling behind schedule. They involve contract modifications for two of the project’s vendors that considered together potentially add another $33 million to the project’s cost.
See Motions 2022-22 and 2022-23 for the details. There is quite a bit of spin contained in the staff reports when it comes to the reasons stated for the needed contract modifications.
Tlsgwm, is the $33 million related to change orders or is it just the vendor saying, “I underbid to get the deal, I can’t do it for what I said, and I’m going to leave you out in the cold with a half finished bridge if you don’t give me more money!”
From reading the document it sounds like this is the typical City getting all the free street work they can from ST in exchange for granting the required permits.
As someone who bikes and walks that road, I do really appreciate the streetwork. Smooth and glass.
To me this seems to be more of the latter than the former.
There are two vendor contracts involved here. Motion 2022-23 pertains to the contract with HNTB Jacobs Trusted Design Partners (a Joint Venture of HNTB Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.) for civil design services during construction. Its purpose is to increase the contract by $13.4 million, making the total, not to exceed contract value some $154 million. This follows on top of Motion 2019-14, approved by the board in Feb 2019, which increased the contract by $25.8 million to provide these services through a similar contract modification. At that time, the staff report that was included with the earlier motion explicitly stated:
“The amount requested will fund DSDC through completion of civil construction, anticipated for October 2023.”
(DSDC=design services during construction)
Despite ST’s spin in the staff report accompanying Motion 2022-23, the scope for the contracted design services during construction seems to be consistent with the 2019 contract modification request. For example, one of the reasons given in the pending motion for the “additional capacity” needed in the existing contract is for “support for the construction of additional construction packages (e.g. the 200th Street SW widening)”. However, if one reviews the 2019 motion this is to be found:
“This contract modification provides DSDC for the Lynnwood Link Extension work packages associated with the following construction contracts and planned modifications.
•Northgate Way to NE 200th Street (early work package) – authorized by the Board in December 2018 under Motion No. M2018-166.
•NE 200th Street to Lynnwood Transit Center (early work package) – scheduled for Board consideration in February 2019. •Northgate Way to NE 200th Street (main work package), which includes all guideway, civil, stations, and garages – a contract modification anticipated for Board consideration in second quarter 2019.
•NE 200th Street to Lynnwood Transit Center (main work package), which includes all guideway, civil, stations, garage, and 200th Street improvements – a contract modification anticipated for Board consideration in third quarter 2019.”
The other pending contract modification is covered in Motion 2022-22. It pertains to a contract with PGH Wong Engineering, Inc. to provide construction management support services in their role of consultants for the two heavy civil GC/CM contractors. This motion seeks to increase the contract with PCH Wong by about $20 million, thereby making the total, not to to exceed contract value $104.8 million. There’s a lot of staff spin on this one too and I would suggest reading the details in the accompanying staff report.
The previous total, not to exceed contract value was set at $83.7 million following approval of board Motion 2018-150 in Nov 2018. As with the the situation with the other vendor contract discussed above, the scope for the contracted construction management support services seems to be consistent with the 2018 contract modification request:
“The proposed action authorizes Phase Two – Construction Management Services.
•PGH Wong Engineering, Inc. will provide construction management support to the Lynnwood Link Extension team in managing ALL construction elements of the two heavy civil General Contractor/ Construction Manager (GC/CM) contracts.
•The construction management services includes: project management; resident engineering; office engineering; technical support and inspection; construction cost estimating; contract change management; scheduling; construction safety support; quality assurance activities; environmental inspection and testing; document control and commissioning support.”
Thank you very much, Tlsgwm.
Wow, all that money and it’s just for paper pushing. How much would Sound Transit have saved had it actually gone out and built its own “internal” contracts management office instead of paying yet another contractor to “manage” the contracts of its friends?
They’ve been at this for twenty years and face another twenty-five in the future. That’s PLENTY of job security for a bunch of engineers who want to deep-dive into PERT charts and flash-audits.
What a fuster-cluck of a private sector handout.
“What a fuster-cluck of a private sector handout.”
Yeah that pretty much sums it up. I can’t help but wonder sometimes what ST’s own DECM staff actually do on a daily basis. The last org chart I looked at (from 2021 I believe) listed 328 ee’s in that department.
Normally, I would be celebrating added service. However, adding trips at a time when Metro does not have drivers to fully operate its existing trips makes me nervous. Will more trips in the schedule actually translate into more trips for riders? Or, will it simply equate to more cancelled trips?
That’s my worry. Maybe they’re looking ahead to the summer, and planning for the service that they think they can deliver. Another thing to consider is that reducing peak frequencies on the 550 and 545 could free up a LOT of operators.
But also throw in the fact that Metro is taking over the 566, and it gets even worse for Metro. But at least Metro has been making slow progress. I’d reluctantly say that Pierce Transit needs some relief, since (as far as I can tell) they’ve made near zero progress in hiring. Pierce Transit has some serious reductions, like the 1 being every half hour on weekdays.
This whole thing is so frustrating. We want people to have an alternative to driving, but due to this dumb labor shortage, the only person available to drive you might just be you. This is unacceptable when gas prices are set to spike and people are just starting to look at taking the bus again. Plus, we got East Link fast approaching, which will require a huge number of operators that come right out of Metro bus operations. Do Metro, and state/county executive leaders have a medium-term plan to make sure buses can roll? I hope so. They need to look at every questionable barrier to employment and reevaluate them in the face of a labor shortage. This needs to be fixed or bus service will stagnate for years to come, and will potentially miss huge waves of ridership in doing so (not to mention the people for whom riding the bus is the only available option).
Why is there a current shortage of drivers, and what could Metro, PT and CT do to remedy that?
Is there a solution that will increase drivers, because if not that is going to cause problems, including for Link that is so heavily based on feeder bus service but which ST never really considered its responsibility despite sucking out $130 billion in transit revenue from the region.
Yes I suppose transit agencies could raise salaries and benefits, but the additional cost will come out of operations budgets, which again means cuts to coverage or frequency. Unless transit levies pass in the counties, but I would think passing a transit levy even in King Co. today would be very difficult because I don’t think the eastside swing voter would vote yes because they are not riding transit.
I agree the 550 and 554 today could have peak service cut. I drove to work the other weekday at a little before 9 am next to a 550 on I-90 and it was totally empty. Not a single rider.
The personnel shortage is far larger than Metro or Pugetopolis. Transit agencies across the country don’t have enough drivers. Restaurants and stores don’t have enough workers to open their full hours. The downtown library doesn’t have enough clerks to open its upper floors (the non-fiction section); you have to ask at the 3rd floor desk for a particular book. Some Metro drivers have apparently gone to private bus companies or truck driving jobs, where the pay is higher and there are no hazards of exacerbating or violent passengers. Metro also has a shortage of maintenance workers and the schools aren’t graduating enough mechanics to fill it. Most of these things have never occurred before in my lifetime and they’re all happening at once. So where will Metro find enough drivers when so many other companies are begging for workers too?
Peter Zeihan, a geopoliticist, says the pandemic accelerated trends that were going to happen anyway. The Baby Boomers are retiring and the younger workers aren’t numerous enough to replace all of them. The lockdowns and layoffs incentivized or forced people to retire early. The two-year hiatus gave people an opportunity to rethink their careers, and many aren’t willing to work at low-paid, unreliable, high-hazard, no-consistent-schedule jobs anymore. Metro is unionized so it’s not the worst job, but it’s high-hazard and not particularly high-pay, and the part-time split shifts for peak-only routes (work AM peak, off midday, work PM peak) are especially undesirable.
The comment section said about people smoking fentanyl on buses, it’s only a small fraction of riders who do so, so it’s not a big problem. Well, it’s only a small fraction of bus trips that are cancelled, so it’s not a big problem.
There’s Sam, always looking at the bright side.
ST trains dangerous is complete bull. I only ride late at night and have never seen any safety concerns. Hell, I’ve been on the 3 AM metro bus and had no safety concerns.
If they really cared about nighttime passengers, they’d ask ST to run a late night bus bridge when the trains are closed. But they don’t ask because they don’t really care.
Regarding “Streateries”: Some folks have very vocally opposed the “handing over” of public space (as “public” as you could call parking space) to restaurants and retail hoping to increase their outdoor footprint. Other folks have brought up complaints of being seated next to unpleasant road traffic and associated pollution.
I think that what “streateries” offer is a pathway to transition blocks from vehicle dominance to a more people-oriented atmosphere. Once SDOT determines an appropriate permitting and maintenance cost for these privatized outdoor service areas, I think we’ll see many of the isolated and otherwise poorly placed Safe Starts spots dissolve, while blocks with successful Streateries (most listed here: https://seattle.eater.com/2020/8/31/21408826/list-of-seattle-street-closures-outdoor-plazas-restaurants-patios) will hopefully grow into permanence. I’d love to see Ballard Ave closed to non-emergency vehicles from 10am to 2am. Already there’s hardly anywhere to park on Ballard Avenue during the day, and the sidewalk is often very crowded during the day and evening.
“Route 535 … Frequency reductions due to operator shortages.”
Route 535 is half-hourly on weekdays. Nowhere to go but hourly. It’s hard to imagine them dropping it down to that (this is still supposed to become BRT sometime in the late ’20s), and this was supposed to get all-week 30-minute frequency sometime in 2022.
Of course, can’t really tell if it is going hourly because the new schedules are not published anywhere that I can tell, even though it’s 11 days away…
Pretty bad to have the 535 be hourly when the alternatives through Seattle are 3-4 seat rides depending on where you are in Lynnwood.
If private contractors don’t work to fulfill essential jobs, and those jobs are expected to be needed in perpetuity, why contract them out? Oh, yeah. They are tools to keep wages and benefits down and keep people from making careers in those jobs. And then, when people don’t stick around in those temped jobs, management is surprised. Just admit those jobs are permanent, hire for a family wage, and see the workers start to stick around and become better and better at that job.
Imagine how much worse bus/train operator staffing would be if Metro hired drivers through a private or even temp agency. Agencies that contract out large segments of their permanent job force to keep compensation down are getting the results they deserve.
Train maintenance is a career-allowed job, but what about the train cleaners? Are they hired or contracted? Most trains seem pretty clean to me. Occasionally some of the floors later in the evening get a little gnarly.
Indeed, one maskless guy on the train late one evening I offered a mask to told me it did not matter, because people could get salmonella from all the dirty floors. He did not seem drunk or anything. A guy near me commented as the jerk departed the train, “What an (beep)!”
Many cultures have a custom of taking your shoes off at the door. It’s a great hygiene practice. But not wearing a mask in a crowded indoor setting is more dangerous than a dirty floor, still resulting in over a thousand deaths daily in this country, more than the Ukraine (beep). The dirty floors, I’m pretty sure, are not killing anyone.
I went to Seattle on Sunday with my wife and kids. Used the 249, 542, Link, 106, and 545. Lots of bus trip cancellations to deal with… in fact, although I intended to use the 249, it turned out to be almost totally infeasible, and I got a ride to 520 and 40th Street instead, and then back home when we returned.
I tried to buy a Link day pass for my daughter at three separate ticket machines at the UW station, but they were all malfunctioning, so she rode south without paying. I don’t feel guilty about this at all, because my request for a youth ORCA card for her several weeks ago has been ignored, and we had to pay 4 more fares for her (switching between Metro and Sound Transit) throughout the day.
I did not happen to go to either 3rd and Pike or 12 and Jackson on this trip, but there was a noticeable police presence most places we went, which I have never seen before in Seattle.
We went all the way down to Rainier Beach Station on Link, and while I’ve previously complained about the lack of development along MLK Drive, Rainier Beach is really quite desolate. I’m not going to bother looking at the zoning map there (as I have for Othello, Columbia City and Mount Baker). It would be too depressing.
It’s too bad the legislature didn’t pass an upzoning bill this year. Hopefully next year. Although it seems possible that Democrats will lose control of the legislature after the election, which would obviously doom any upzoning until they take it back.
I see three fundamental challenges with Rainier Beach Station:
1. Henderson and MLK feels both overrun with cars and every one is delayed, as pedestrians feel unsafe crossing the street.
2. The high voltage lines north and west of the station depress redevelopment opportunities.
3. The area south of the station is running through a ravine. Thus the station was never built with two access points to both the north and south like Othello and Columbia City.
As a user, it doesn’t feel “dangerous” as much as it feels “desolate” to me.
A solution will require some major rethinking of the streets or the tracks. That costs tens of millions at the very least. Expecting the market to incrementally solve the challenges is just not realistic.
Generally, solutions would likely consider:
1. Grade separation of the station and tracks, or of the MLK intersection. That could mean moving the platforms a bit although I think they are currently in the best possible location.
2. Rerouting Henderson to create two three way intersections rather than the current massive one. That would make access safer as well as reduce delay for pedestrians, cars and buses waiting for a green light.
3. Creating a southbound station entrance that crosses over MLK to overcome the vertical challenges and.connect developable hillside properties.
Because these are not cheap or easy things to build, I can think of many other ways to more cheaply improve Link on MLK — starting by adding the Graham station.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with the station itself. Just that there is almost nothing besides (probably expensive) single-family houses around there.
Actually… I’m going to look at it now. (Funny enough, when you put “Rainier Beach” into Zillow, it does not include the area around the station.) I see a range of prices for recently-sold houses, from about $500k (quite cheap for Seattle, but that’s probably still $250k just for the land) to $3m. Averaging about $600k. So this area definitely has demand. Not too long ago, $600k was a lot of money for a house in Seattle.
For zoning… yeah, it’s even worse than Othello. Single-family-zoned lots only two blocks from the station, in almost every direction. Unlike Othello, there are actually a few single-family houses that are zoned for multi-family. Those comprise all the ones that recently sold for over $1m.
So I guess we can expect a bit more development (but not much) around the Rainier Beach Station area sooner or later, whereas Othello Station is almost completely maxed out already.
Ugh, looking at this zoning map is just as depressing as I thought. The only big rezoning on the map in recent times is in Cascade, which continues to have mediocre transit access.
I think the political tides are looking good, though. If not next year, then sometime this decade we will see a big state-initiated upzoning.
Rainier Beach Link station needs more riders. First, add electric trolleybus overhead to South Henderson Street so that the Rainier Avenue South service with 10-minute headway can reach the Link station directly. Add a Prentice Street electric trolleybus shuttle route. Improve Route 107 midday headway to 15-minutes (why is Metro spending scarce funds on Via?). Second, verify that the zoning is suitable to allow the mixed use village on Rainier to grow to the west.
If a developer wanted to build townhomes next to Rainier Beach Station, his plans are going to hit a brick wall almost immediately, and it has nothing to do with high voltage lines or a nearby hill.
Here is the zoning map for the station area, and the one to the west:
An aerial view of the area also helps (I use Google Maps), and for the nitty gritty, you can look at parcel viewer (https://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/parcelviewer2/). I would imagine it is accurate for the property details, but I’ve found some contradictions as far as the zoning (I trust the city maps).
Much of the land that is zoned for townhouses (and not commercial) has been developed (e. g. Greenbelt Station Townhomes). In other cases it looks like they are well on the way to developing it. For example, between Barton and Shell, west of 45th Ave. South, there is one house sitting there, surrounded by empty lots. From what I can tell, the other lots are all owned by a developer. My guess is they are waiting for that person to sell, as that would make development a lot easier. But that begs the question? Why not develop the grassland to the east? Because it is owned by the city for the power lines. Why not develop to the west? Because it is wetlands. Clearly these two issue play a big part in the lack of new housing development in the area.
What I don’t see a lot of is small development. In some areas, you could buy up a house, and replace it with a duplex (or whatever it is you can do for low rise 1 or 2). There is a mix of property types. Some lots are pretty tiny already. Other places have pretty big houses. There aren’t a huge number of small houses on big lots (ideal for conversion). But that’s not the biggest problem — people just aren’t selling. Redfin allows you to look at past sales years, and other than the townhouses, I see only one in the area zoned for low rise: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/8624-44th-Ave-S-98118/home/174753. That is too nice a house to tear down and replace by a duplex.
Most of the area around the station is zoned mixed use. There is very little nearby that is zoned single family. It is a special designation centered around the station. That is why you see all of the “RB” before the zoning codes. The rest is common zoning terms. “SM” is Seattle Mixed. “C” is commercial. The special designation may slow down development, but I think it is more about the pandemic. It is difficult to justify spending a lot on a commercial center, when in-person commerce is suffering (they aren’t building a lot of new restaurants these days).
As folks have mentioned, the area doesn’t have a lot going for it, other than the station. Henderson and MLK is a mess. The greenbelt and walking trails are nice, but it feels empty, until you head north. You are too far from the cultural center of the area (to the east) which has seen plenty of development (of all kinds). Not only does Rainier Beach itself feel more lively, but it has an actual beach, with refurbished parks (and a high school). Throw in the weird parcels by the station (some still owned by ST) and it isn’t going to change that quickly.
I think eddie is right. Eventually this area will develop. In the meantime we can improve transit to the area. Along with the changes he suggested, we should send the 7 there (and convert it to RapidRide). We might need to backfill service on Waters (maybe extend the 50 down there) but connecting the 7 to the station would help that neighborhood a lot (and give riders headed to the airport and easier trip). Link is great, but it doesn’t tie together the various nearby neighborhoods the way the 7 does.
I’ve experienced cancellations on the 45, 62, and 255. Two were weekend afternoons (maybe all Sundays), and the third was a weekday morning post-peak. We’ve gotten anecdotal reports of early-morning or late-night cancellations but I never expected them on core routes midday.
I’ve occasionally had ticket machines not read my credit card, and ORCA readers not read my ORCA card, but it’s been one machine at a time rather than all of them. I assume they’ve been letting maintenance slide because ORCA is being upgraded to a new version this year and may have new equipment.
I see 3rd & Pine every couple days when I’m walking to Pike Place Market for produce or taking the C, 131, or 132. I’ve been to 12th & Jackson two or three times in the past couple months. 3rd Avenue goes up and down in terms of the number of loiterers and tents. Usually there’s a small crowd, sometimes a large crowd, sometimes just a few.
I hadn’t been to 12th & Jackson since the pandemic started, but after the Seattle Times reports I went to see, and there was a crowd of a hundred people (or it seemed like it). More people than I’ve ever seen downtown outside a parade/demonstration or pre-pandemic peak commuters. One tried to sell somebody a pack of toilet paper for $5. Others had things commuters wouldn’t typically carry, like a hair curler box. Now, it’s possible they’d just bought a hair curler or were reusing the box to transport something, but when I transport books or a lamp on the bus or take donations to Goodwill it doesn’t look like that, nor are several people doing it simultaneously. Some storefronts are closed. The southwest corner strip mall has a chain-link fence around the parking lot, with a one-car opening. The open businesses could use some transit-fan customers to help them recover.
After the raid, I took an out-of-town friend on a tour of southeast Seattle and Renton so he could see the area and find an inexpensive apartment. (Renton because it’s between his job and a potential job.) From Capitol Hill we took the 60 to 12th & Jackson. It was back to normal. We walked to Goodwill and spent an hour there. Then we took the 7 to Rainier Beach and the 106 to Renton. We walked around the river trail and found a Texas barbecue restaurant. Then we took the 106 all the way back to Intl Dist and another bus to downtown. At 3rd & Pine there was an unprecedentedly-large crowd: it looked like that hundred-person underground market had moved from Little Saigon to there. I thought the police should make a lot of arrests. Since then the 3rd Avenue crowd has continued to go up and down.
All the MLK Link stations allow mixed-use buildings but developer interest hasn’t reached Rainier Beach. It’s spreading outward from Columbia City. The main reason is location: it’s the furthest from downtown. Rainier Beach and its bus routes were where the most gang violence occurred in the 1990s and the most lingering shootings after that, so it’s the least-desirable part of the valley. The city planned upzones for all the MLK stations during the citywide HALA rezoning. Mt Baker, Columbia City, and Othello are either done or are being finalized now. Rainier Beach is on a slow track to give the low-income community time to prepare for growth and minimize displacement. Since developers aren’t ready yet to invest in Rainier Beach yet anyway, it makes little difference. The community has talked about some kind of working-class amenities like a community college branch, food store/cooperative, or culinary arts training, but I don’t know if anything concrete is being pursued.
The legislature needs to ban single-family zones. They’re on 70-85% of the buildable land in Pugetopolis’ cities. Seattle’s original zoning in the 1920s and 1950s was more permissive: it allowed corner stores, duplexes, and small 4-8 unit apartment buildings in single-family areas. It also allowed SROS (“single-room occupancy”; i.e., small rooms with a shared bathroom and kitchen). That’s why so many of them exist in Seattle but not in the suburbs. But it tightened zoning in the 1970s, and downzoned areas that had allowed apartments but hadn’t gotten them yet, and banned sub-studio sized apartments. (“Apodments” came through a loophole: they could be called single-family houses if they had less than 9 units. That loophole was later closed. An apodment is essentially a modern kind of SRO.) Single-family zones would be tolerable on 30% of the land — the outermost periphery — but not on 70% of the land and two blocks from urban village centers (N 45th St, Aurora, California Ave SW, Mt Baker Station, etc). That’s squeezing all the apartments and new residents into 30% of the land, and giving extraordinary privilege to a shrinking minority of existing single-family homeowners — a kind of aristocratic subsidy. That low density and parking minimums push everything apart and make everything harder to walk to and harder for transit to serve. We should be like Chicago’s North Side, Paris, Boston, etc.
I hear shouting outside; there must be a demonstration in southwest Capitol Hill.
I biked from Seattle, then all the way through Renton and that trail, past Maple Valley once, about 20 years ago. It’s actually pretty nice over there.
I didn’t know the single-family zoning came in the 70s. That’s interesting.
Single-family zoning goes back to the 1920s. Perhaps I should have said that the shoulder areas around neighborhood centers were more permissive. You can see these courtyard apartments and dingbat apartments on 16th and 17th Ave E, and on NW 65th Street just west of 15th, and a few places on 32nd Ave NW. Tiny commercial villages are at Mt Baker Park (4-5 stores) and Fuhrman Ave E (1 store), and 32nd Ave NW & 65th), to name the first few off the top of my head. Some of these blocks actually got a few apartments or corner stores while others didn’t. In the 1970s the city freezed them as-is and downgraded many of them to single-family to prevent any future growth.
But won’t somebody think of the neighborhood character!
If you let property owners across the whole city put anything more than a SFH, ADU or DADU on their 5000 sqft lot, that might allow enough people to find enough housing that they won’t want to bid $100k over my asking price! No, I’m not planning to replace the 60-year-old roof on my craftsman and yes, it’s still running on oil heat, but I really think that if you can’t afford $800k for my 2 bed, 1 bath, century-old house with its cracked foundation and unfinished basement, you don’t deserve to live on my street! Besides, have you seen those new “townhouses”? They’re so ugly and boxy and boring! You couldn’t pay me to live in one – and I heard they just sit empty forever since no one wants to live there. Anyways, I wanted to go the open house for the new set of townhomes a few blocks over but they were all sold before they even finished building installing the appliances.
You know the worst part? Some of those new homes don’t even have parking! There goes the street parking… didn’t they consider where my wife and I will park our cars? I would park in our garage, but it’s full of stuff we use every few years and my wife parks on the driveway it her car barely fits – you wouldn’t believe how angry people get about it blocking the sidewalk! Anyways, the parking on the main street turns into a bus lane for 4 hours a day, so now I have to move my car every day even though I work from home. What am I supposed to do, sell it?? Sure, my work gives me an ORCA card, but the bus is so gross. I have no idea how I used to do it every day. It was so crowded!
Anyways, someone knocked over my yard signs – do I really need to replace the “In This House” sign? It’s a good thing I got a bunch of those “Celebrate Historic Wallingford” signs, though, since that’s what I really care about. I believe in the free market and private property, but if my neighbors sell their house, the new owners shouldn’t be able to do anything with it that I don’t agree with. Is that so wrong?
It’s called Democracy Nathan. Zoning is a local, not state issue. If your city wants to change its zoning, like UGA’s, it can do that. Or like Tacoma do mild upzones of the residential zones and see what happens. Or like Bellevue allow ADU’s but not DADU’s, or like Mercer Island allow both but require the owner of the property to live in one of the units if renting out the other, which Seattle required just a few years ago. Or allow housing in all commercial zones which I don’t think Seattle allows. Strange there is no housing in the densest parts of the city, although no one would want to live there today. https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDCI/Codes/CommercialZoningSummary.pdf
Or live in a HOA neighborhood, or petition to have your neighborhood declared an historic zone because the truth is 90% of citizens don’t use or care about transit. They drive. Or move to another city, which a lot of folks are doing which is why my house increased in value 39% last year (and no, the regional population did not increase 39% last year, more like 1%).
If citizens don’t like the zoning changes then they can elect new leaders like Harrell. There will be those who support upzones (especially if they make a tidy profit) and those who oppose. There is nothing moral about zoning. It is just politics. For example, an early supporter of some of the state upzoning bills was Tana Senn from the 41st District. Very strong progressive, but interestingly enough a post on our Nextdoor noted the PDC showed she received 70% of her campaign donations from builders, developers and realtors. When did the Democrats and progressives get into bed with the developers, builders and realtors, because every person I know who is one of those groups is right of Attila the Hun and hates transit (and taxes).
Even more progressive is My-Linh Thai from the 41st, but she makes every upzoning bill has a population threshold so the very expensive but small cities in her district like Medina, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point and Yarrow Point that have closer to 10,000 to 15,000 sf lots don’t have to have any DADU/ADU’s or God forbid multi-family housing.
You will die and someone will buy your house and tear it down and rebuild unless the property taxes force you out first, and the developer/builder will be happy they were able to buy an old and unmaintained house to replace at a lower price since it will be torn down, because that is the crux of property development: buy an older, smaller less expensive house like yours and replace it with something that is new and can command the highest price possible based on the zoning. And guess what? Your heirs will demand the highest sales price they can get — and so would you if alive — so don’t get too moral. Probably the neighbors will be happy too at the upgrade. It is the cycle of gentrification in a wealthy city, which tends to be very white with demands for extravagant underground rail stations and lines to maintain the “neighborhood character”.
This is a strange feeling. I can’t tell if you could tell my post was satire. Or maybe I was too subtle?
Maybe it was too subtle.
“Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.”
It is much more effective if not devoid of wit.
You’re right, it is hard to satirize the witless.
The upzoning in the bill that failed was so mild, it would have negligible impact on neighborhood character.
The problem is that people perceive it to be bigger than it really is and imagine the state trying to force cities to allow 40 storey skyscrapers in their neighborhood (which it definitely doesn’t). The perception issue makes it very difficult for politicians, state or local, to pass any zoning reform bills.
I personally think the zoning reform bill is good policy, but I also worry about how it will be perceived by campaign opponents, and whether it will have the effect of turning all of the Daniel Thompson NIMBY’s into Republicans, with the end result being WA governed like Texas. I sincerely hope that worry is overblown, but I still worry.
Nathan, Tremens is not known for his sense of humor. Perhaps a closing snark tag would help next time.
It’s called Democracy Nathan. Zoning is a local, not state issue.
I love how you write so many sentences, and yet your argument fails within two. A savvy middle school student would start punching your argument full of holes, just by asking questions. For example:
Wouldn’t the state be more democratic than a city, since the more people it includes, the more democratic it is? Doesn’t this give special privilege to those who live there already, at the expense of people of who want to live there, but can’t (making it less democratic)? Given our racist history as Americans, isn’t this just an extension of previous racial privilege? By that I mean that since white people are much, much wealthier than black people because of previous redlining, a typical black person can’t move into a wealthy white neighborhood unless they allow more housing, the very thing the white neighborhood is trying to prevent. Isn’t this simply another way of extending our racist heritage, even if many of the proponents are unaware of it, or deny it? If three of the cornerstones of democracy are liberty, equality and minority rights (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy) isn’t zoning by its very nature undemocratic?
There are arguments for zoning at the city level, but being democratic isn’t one of them.
I don’t know Ross, Bellevue is much less white than Seattle, especially West Bellevue that has some of the most restrictive zoning on the eastside (no DADU’s, no ADU/DADU’s, very large minimum lots sizes, no multi-family housing). One irony is just a few years ago Mercer Island was considered to have the model ADU/DADU ordinance, and is one of the few cities ahead of its GMPC housing growth targets. (MI has a population density nearly 3000% of the state average https://letstalk.mercergov.org/adtrail?tool=guest_book#tool_tab and not surprisingly it is well above average for Asians but like north Seattle low for Blacks). Meanwhile it is the Black groups in South Seattle who are most opposed to upzoning because of the gentrification and displacement. I assume they know what is best for them.
Downtown Bellevue has lots of multi-family housing, and will have much more. Will that housing result in better integration of the races? Not if you are poor. Has the multi-family housing in the Issaquah Highlands resulted in an influx of Blacks from Seattle? No. Why? For one, too expensive, despite the housing density.
The reality is housing segregation today is based on wealth, not race. It is true that due to racism Blacks have a disproportionate amount of wealth, which was the actual point of the original founders of CRT (they advocated for “anti-racism”, or what we today call affirmative action). But Seattle’s residential upzone has not seen a great migration of Seattle Blacks from south Seattle to North Seattle, and it won’t. The founders of CRT would laugh if you told them upzoning would mean poor Blacks could move to expensive white neighborhoods. In the past upzoning for Blacks meant the projects.
Too often we like federal or state mandates when we agree with them. Republicans loved Trump’s mandates, progressives hated them.
The problem today IMO is the upzoning game is totally driven by money, mainly campaign contributions from the MBA, developers and realtors–those historically progressive groups — to the Democrats who are more than happy to take the money. Big, big money in the property game.
That is why the two biggest demands by the MBA are for: 1. minimum DADU size at around 1325 sf to essentially subdivide every residential lot into two houses when of course the larger the DADU the less affordable it will be (MI limits DADU’s to 220 sf to 900 sf and allows an additional 5% GFAR on lots 10,000 sf and below for a DADU/ADU), and 2. that the property owner does not have to live onsite if renting out one of the properties because they don’t want to live in their own rentals or rental neighborhoods. They live in West Bellevue.
Ironically it was only a few years ago that MI was considered to have the model ADU/DADU ordinance for the reasons listed above, and because it applied to every residential lot. As noted in the link above one forgotten demographic is the average MI house has twice the population of Seattle’s multi-family housing. Upzoning creates more legal dwellings, and more kitchens and bathrooms per lot, but not more actual housing which is usually measured by bedrooms.
Except the MBA and realtors are not interested in affordable housing, and don’t want to live onsite, and don’t want smaller and more affordable DADU’s.
I think some progressives (who all tend to be white) mean well with upzoning, some just resent SFH’s, some think upzoning will somehow rescue transit’s plunging ridership numbers, some think everyone will move back to the city and create a wonderful urbanist utopia they don’t create themselves, some think it will stop global warming, some think it will make poor or Black residents suddenly able to live in the expensive white Seattle neighborhoods rather than displacing them and Blacks just don’t understand that or history won’t repeat itself, but the reality is progressives tend to have very little real world experience with property development, or what incentivizes a builder, and so are naive folks the vested interests can manipulate.
The idea mild residential upzones in wealthy white neighborhoods in Seattle or on the eastside will result in poor Blacks moving there is — as the founders of CRT would say — laughable, and very white.
For nearly every issue I think Democracy begins with the individual, and then flows upwards, and that is how the founders envisioned Democracy. I can’t tell you how your neighborhood should be zoned or how you should think because I don’t know your neighborhood, although you think you understand every other neighborhood, but you don’t. The GMA as originally enacted gave wide discretion to cities to plan; it just required them to plan, and delineate their different critical areas.
Wealth disparity among some races (and it is not all white by the way, and not all whites are rich) is a very big issue this country needs to get more serious about — mostly through tax codes — but zoning won’t change wealth disparities, because if you don’t have the wealth to begin with to move to a more expensive, white, upzoned neighborhood in brand new construction you are just blowing the smoke of self virtue.
If you believe some level of upzoning is a good idea for your city ok, although the upzones — and your desired upzones — are pretty mild and arbitrary, and require new construction to replace older construction to implement the new zoning. If you want to upzone my city and the city does not want that — and is one of the very few cities ahead of its GMPC housing growth targets with a model ADU/DADU ordinance — then we will fight that.
But please don’t claim your position is more moral, or your arbitrary upzoning is the salvation for poor Blacks living in south Seattle, especially when you look at the campaign contributions of the legislators pushing upzoning. It is and always has been about the money, but I think some on this blog think money or the motivation of money is a bad, or an immoral thing, but are oblivious to the fact money is driving the upzoning push, and NO ONE WANTS TO BUILD AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
Asian MOTU’s are still MOTU’s.
Some irrefutable facts: Greyfield housing is expensive housing. If someone can afford new housing they like in a neighborhood they like, they’ll buy it. If no new housing is available, they’ll buy whatever old housing is available and renovate it to their liking. People who can only afford old housing are always outbid by those who can afford to renovate. The Earth is round.
As a wealthy person, Daniel ought to understand that wealthy people prefer to live near wealthy people. As a professional logician, he also ought to understand that logically, wealthy people only buy into poor neighborhoods if there’s nothing available in wealthy neighborhoods. Therefore, if new housing is built in neighborhoods saturated with folks that can afford the basic cost of new construction, then wealthy folks will move there, and leave the poor neighborhoods alone. The Central District didn’t gentrify because of upzones, it gentrified because it was/is on the fringe of wealthy neighborhoods and it was already zoned for dense development (since black people were corralled into dense neighborhood by racist redlining and racist zoning).
You cannot gentrify neighborhoods that are already full of gentry. Therefore, upzoning wealthy or otherwise advantaged neighborhoods is anti-gentrification, because it diverts the interests of wealthy homebuyers away from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Daniel claims he simply questions the “orthodoxy” followed by the blog. The problem is that he’s conflating the authority of his dogma (opinions considered to be absolutely true without evidence to support it), with urbanist theory which he refutes while refusing to provide his own plausible solutions.
I haven’t been to space, but I believe NASA when they say the Earth is an oblate spheroid that rotates once every 23.93 hours. Daniel would likely also question the “orthodoxy” of a round earth if it impacted his ability to justify his hoard of property and wealth, too.
STB alum/ex freelancer on Ballard and West Seattle light rail. Discussion of pipe dream 20th Ave location
Hardly a dismissal as a “pipe dream”, – and also not necessarily true (it’d probably only require a SEPA addendum, like the Shoreline station move). Otherwise, the article is probably the least biased write-up I’ve seen summarizing the tradeoffs being considered between the alternatives.
Well, if SDOT were to demand it , I suppose it is less of a pipe dream. Of course, it might help if SDOT had a leader (I doubt that an acting head would have that much sway).
Yeah, it’s going to be up to the Seattleite members of the ST Board to listen to a very small constituency (STB readers) to direct the WSBLE team even study the option.
A conspiracy theory building off of DT’s financial assertions (despite his lack of financial training): The ST board knows the continued explosion of cost estimates will necessitate third-party funding for WSBLE, which they have decided will have to come from a ESZ in Seattle.
Regardless, with the passage of SB 5528, my guess is that they’ll propose an ESZ that does the following:
1. Increases all-day frequency of Central Link (but not East Link)
2. Creates a discounted or free fares for certain geographies, and
3. Funds WSBLE from Smith Cove to Ballard and pays for putting the West Seattle station(s) underground instead of on the surface. My “pipe dream” would be that passage of the ESZ would support study of an underground station at 20th/56th in Ballard. A real pipe dream would be the ESZ starting groundwork for Ballard-UW.
Depending on whatever political analysis is going on next year, the tax rate of the ESZ will determine if it can pay for the icing on the cake: Delivery of WSBLE within the original schedule.
“Regardless, with the passage of SB 5528, my guess is that they’ll propose an ESZ that does the following:
“1. Increases all-day frequency of Central Link (but not East Link).”
A Seattle ESZ would not apply to East King Co. However, East Link is limited to 8-minute frequencies max, which will be more than needed even during peak hours based on more current ridership estimates. But when East Link opens those trains cross-lake will continue through downtown Seattle doubling frequency on Central Link. With zero cost to N. King Co./Seattle.
“2. Creates a discounted or free fares for certain geographies.”
According to Rogoff that is effectively what ST has right now. All the ESZ would do is plug the hole in farebox recovery for operations, which is necessary.
“3. Depending on whatever political analysis is going on next year, the tax rate of the ESZ will determine if it can pay for the icing on the cake: Delivery of WSBLE within the original schedule.”
I am not worried about the icing, but more the cake. The question I was raising is how much tax revenue can an ESZ tax possibly raise in Seattle if it is limited to a 1.5% MVET and increase in commercial parking tax above the current 12.5%?
I think the ST MVET was raised to 1.1% by ST 3 throughout the taxing district. Will those two sources of tax revenue in Seattle — considering commercial parking is way down with SFH and businesses moving to the eastside — raise the necessary “third party funding”? The total commercial parking tax raised around $21 million in 2010 when it was still 10%. https://vtpi.org/seattle_parking_tax.pdf That is spit in the ocean when it comes to WSBLE. I think an ESZ in Seattle will need to raise well over $100 million/year to have any effect on WSBLE, probably closer to $250 million/year if tunnels and underground stations and a very deep DSTT2 are the goal.
Then of course there is the thorny issue about which car valuations to use. https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2020/01/30/liias-bill-mvet-valuations/
Whether it would pass is another issue, let alone get placed on a ballot under a Harrell administration which will have a large say, and his number one and two goals are crime and revitalizing downtown business. And how much the four other subareas can contribute to DSTT2.
But I guess I do wonder why ST is pursuing a DEIS right now if it will have to wait for passage of an ESZ levy in Seattle, and the collection of the revenue. SB 5288 has passed so let’s see what it looks like on a ballot and whether it passes, how much it will raise, and then revisit the DEIS. But that has never been how ST has operated. Or this blog.
“The 14th Avenue location provides better transfers between buses and trains than alternatives on 15th Avenue”
How could that be possible? The D is on 15th, not 14th. This concerns me because a number of our existing Link stations violate the principle of “be on the way”, and require buses to turn off their natural routing to stop at the Link station.
Technically, the station organization at 14th is designed such that all potential bus lines serving it would have direct connections to a station entrance, whereas riders arriving via bus on the north side of Market would have to cross the street. The 14th Ave station would also likely have a bus/ped-only plaza which would result in easier access for all users. The main difference, that you’ve recognized, is that pretty much all the bus stops at 15th and Market would be moved to 14th, so they’d have to figure out how to best change the routes to accommodate that shift.
This is a very simplistic approach towards transfers and transit in general. So much so that you wonder if the people coming up with these ideas ever actually ride the bus. Buses making detours to the middle of nowhere so that people can avoid crossing the street is not the best option.
As with all transit decisions, it is best to consider the big picture: the network. When Ballard Link is built, the D runs down 15th, and no longer goes over the Ballard Bridge. Where does it go? The obvious answer is to the nearest significant destination, which is central Ballard (roughly 20th and Market). It can continue on Market and layover with the 44. Now consider the station locations:
20th and Market — The bus would run by the station. If there are entrances on both sides of the street, the transfer would be trivial.
15th and Market — The bus would run by the station. At most a rider would have to cross the street. This still might be faster than the other options, since there would be less time spent on the bus.
14th and Market — Worst possible choice, even if the bus would run by the station. You have the disadvantage of having to wait longer on the bus to get to Link, but there is no clear destination at the station, or after. The bus would have to loop around to serve the main part of Ballard. Chances are they wouldn’t bother, so instead it lays over in West Woodland — a much smaller destination.
Now consider the influence the stations have on the 40:
20th and Market — The bus would likely be altered slightly to turn at 20th.
15th and Market — The bus would continue onto 15th. From there it could head south to Leary.
14th and Market — Same idea, with the bus turning on 14th.
In every case you create a service hole. But the farther east you turn, the bigger the hole. If the bus turns at 20th, the inconvenience is minor. You simply move the existing stops on Leary across the street, or around the corner on 20th (e. g. https://goo.gl/maps/jFeDgcgDdkXC13qB8 or https://goo.gl/maps/kMeQE76cU12Ct669A). No matter where you are headed, the additional distance is minor (and in many cases you are closer).
In contrast, the other stations would require some significant walking if you are close to the ship canal. If the bus goes on 15th, then this stop would be midway between bus stops: https://goo.gl/maps/UJLB6EFVYwD2gSAZ6. That means a six minute walk from either direction (https://goo.gl/maps/55WGVF8YFAVrYijd9) and longer for some other places. It gets worse for 14th.
As I wrote on the other blog, it is fairly simple: 20th is best, 15th second best, and 14th worst.
Counterpoint: a 14th station would work fine if the D line was rerouted to serve central Fremont rather than central Ballard. That’s not as major a destination but still significant.
“there is no clear destination at the station,” you honestly have zero expectation of Seattle’s neighborhoods evolving in response to billion dollar Link stations, do you? The station is the destination, and the built environment responds accordingly.
I wouldn’t touch the D regardless of where the station goes; it’s a good route because it’s a straight route. If the station is at 14th, then D riders can transfer at Interbay; only when the bridge is up would a rider get off and walk over the 3 blocks. I would expect the 15, 17, and 18 all terminate north of the canal, and perhaps ST staff was looking at those routes and superior termination/loop/layover environment at 14th vs 15th?
“[T]here is no clear destination at the station,” you honestly have zero expectation of Seattle’s neighborhoods evolving in response to billion dollar Link stations, do you? The station is the destination, and the built environment responds accordingly.
Sorry AJ, I think that kind of light rail/transit hubris is part of the problem ST has. I have always thought Ross got this right: you build transit where the people already are because people choose to live where they do for about 10 reasons more important (or necessary like cost) than transit. People and neighborhoods have existed well before Link. A Link station changes little.
Light rail won’t magically create density or ridership over buses because you build it, unless the factors are there for it. As Ross noted, if ridership exceeds one mode you move to the next, and so on, with light rail being the very last mode for only the densest areas with the highest ridership because it so exorbitantly expensive. Mode just isn’t the biggest factor in why someone takes transit, or lives where they do, unless like Link you eliminate the other modes (except for express service from Lake City and probably Issaquah to downtown Seattle). Otherwise you will never get the ridership to cover the costs.
TOD is a mixed blessing. Some areas like along East Link will be so expensive it is unlikely those folks will ride transit. Even in less wealthy areas TOD is new construction, and if not publicly subsidized has a base cost any new construction has, so you gentrify the area but that means less of the nearby residents have to take transit, or will take it. Bellevue Way will be fine without Link, and Ballard and West Seattle would not suffer without Link.
Light rail doesn’t have that many advantages over buses. It’s route is fixed, it often requires a transfer, it often has underground stations that add to trip time, it is slow, it isn’t cheap at nearly $6 round trip, and it has the same disadvantages any public transit has, especially if there are few discretionary riders.
What light rail has going for it are: 1. it is mostly grade separated so good when there is a lot of traffic congestion and it goes where you are going; 2. if parking at the destination is very expensive (certainly more than the round trip on rail); and 3. it can carry more riders at one time than buses.
Those advantages right now are gone. Traffic congestion is very light even during peak times, few office workers have returned, and parking costs have gone down while businesses have gone from transit subsidies to subsidized shared parking which is about the same cost per worker if working 2-3 days in the office/week. Link does not serve First Hill, Bellevue Way, or SLU. But ST still approaches ridership like the transit slave is still a slave.
This whole PSRC approach that people will live where they are told to live so light rail will meet its inflated ridership estimates and farebox recovery was very shaky to begin with before the pandemic. At least in the subarea I live in, East Link ridership is looking like it will be 50% of ST’s pre-pandemic estimates (and it is 2/3 on Central Link with the stations with the heaviest ridership completed), and any commuters look like they will balk at transfers, hence the 630, and 554 running all the way to Bellevue Way, and express buses from Lake City Way.
If ST wants folks to ride Link (and not just live near it which often means living next to I-5, and who claims building a freeway means folks want to live in the freeway’s walkshed, or the freeway IS the destination, or living next to an airport is the destination) it needs to be safe, fast, convenient, clean, cost advantageous over driving or Uber/Lyft, and that means getting the discretionary rider back to improve the atmosphere on all public transit (because Link usually requires transfers from buses).
A Link station will never be the destination. People go to a transit station —
whether an airport, bus station, ferry terminal, or light rail station — to get TO their destination, and quite frankly much of Link is based on downtown Seattle being the destination which it is not right now.
A transit station will never be the destination, especially if folks are not voluntarily riding it, because then you have lost the discretionary rider, and Link has so many disadvantages to begin with compared to other modes as noted above.
Things might change, but Rogoff is right to raise alarms over ridership and farebox recovery.
The RossB comments are sound. All along the WSBLE, the three agencies chose to use the Metro Connects network and revise it to meet the stations along the alignments. They appear not to have shifted the station locations along the alignments to help pedestrians and transit riders cross busy arterials. In Sound Move, ST makes bus riders cross busy arterials at the airport, Mt. Baker, and the UW. Riders have complained ever since. In West Seattle, they would make bus riders cross Delridge Way SW and 35th Avenue SW; in Interbay, they would make riders cross West Dravus Street or Elliott Avenue West. Is that what Trans Link would do? A network could have routes go past the Link station with very short walk transfers and go on to make direct connections not made by the current network. For example, Magnolia radial routes might extend to Uptown and Capitol Hill or Fremont. Several of the WSBLE stations have bus routes deviate to serve stations just off the transit arterial. That deviation takes minutes for through riders that could be oriented to other markets. So, as RossB asserts, it is a network issue. Could ST3 spend a bit more on capital at the start to save riders minutes for decades. Note that ST ridership modeling is not sensitive enough to measure the impact of those minutes, but we as riders sense it intuitively. Martin made that point in the STB post introducing the deep stations of ST3.
Counterpoint: a 14th station would work fine if the D line was rerouted to serve central Fremont rather than central Ballard. That’s not as major a destination but still significant.
There is no existing layover in Fremont, and my guess is turning around would be difficult. You could extend it farther east, but we already have enough buses headed that way.
It would also take longer. To get to the locks, a bus takes one turn (on 15th and Market). To get to Fremont, a bus would have to make a similar turn (going the other direction) and then another turn off of Market (e. g. 8th) and then a turn to get onto Leary. It just takes longer.
The station is the destination, and the built environment responds accordingly
The area around 14th will never be the destination that exists to the west (what is called “Central Ballard” or just “Ballard”). For the same reason, no one expects the station at Smith Cove or Dravus to be as attractive as Ballard or even Fremont. It is why no one expects Beacon Hill to have the same number of riders as Capitol Hill. It has been a dozen years since Link opened (and 20 years since folks knew it was coming) and yet Rainier Beach Station is still not as built up as Rainier Beach itself, even after the biggest housing boom in the United States in the last 20 years. It is why we don’t expect every station to have exactly the same ridership.
But you are missing the point. Even if the area around 14th magically becomes as popular as Ballard, Ballard isn’t going away. It won’t shrink, and disappear, just because there is a station ten minutes away. Right now West Woodland is a secondary destination compared to Ballard. It is quite reasonable for a 15th Avenue bus to ignore it, and head towards Ballard. At best West Woodland will equal Ballard, making serving the two destinations with a bus running down 15th difficult — exactly the opposite of what people claimed.
I wouldn’t touch the D regardless of where the station goes;
Wait, what? You would continue to send the bus downtown? Holy cow, ridership for that station would be terrible, unless it was at 20th. Folks on the 40 aren’t going to transfer, why would the folks on the D? This really is starting to sound like Mount Baker Station.
I would expect the 15, 17, and 18 all terminate north of the canal, and perhaps ST staff was looking at those routes and superior termination/loop/layover environment at 14th vs 15th?
Yes, I would imagine that is the case. They are taking an overly simplistic view of transfers, like I wrote. I seriously doubt that they are consulting with Metro about this. The planners I know at Metro agree with my assessment.
If the station is at 14th , route 15 would become the primary Link feeder Crown Hill, terminating at the Link station, while D would serve riders heading to not-Link. Ridership will shift between the routes, and the 15 should run more all day. There’s also an opportunity to rethink the tails, as Ross has covered before – maybe the D would take the 15’s tail, while the all-day 15 would switch to Holman and perhaps run all the way to Northgate … at that point, if you want to instead say “the D should truncate at Link and run all the way to Northgate, and an all-day local 15 should stay on 15th Ave and run downtown (or at least to Smith Cove or LQA),” then that’s the same thing but switching the route labels.
And again, I’m only advocating for a station at 14th in the context of a 2nd station in Ballard, so long term the 40’s main Link transfer would be the station within old Ballard. If the “West Woodland” station opens a few years before “Ballard” station, then the 40 probably would need an awkward detour or a long walk to transfer during the intermediate time period (and at least during peak, most 40 riders could simply catch a 18/15/28 heading directly to the station)
A slightly frivolous question, inspired by the above conversation about Rainier Beach Station: How many Link stations has everyone used?
For myself, I’ve used every Link station except Rainer Beach Station at least once. There are a few stations that I’ve only used once, so far (Angle Lake, Roosevelt, and Northgate), and a couple stations that I’ve only used for transfers (Mount Baker and SoDo).
The ones I’ve least used are Stadium, TIB, Angle Lake, and Northgate.
Stadium: I don’t go to ballgames. I haven’t used Greyhound much since its terminus moved to Stadium. Most industrial-district destinations are closer to SODO.
TIB: There’s nothing there except an occasional F transfer.
Angle Lake: There’s little there except Angle Lake Park (nice), Des Moines Creek Trail Park (a long steep walk to), and an A transfer (which I can do at SeaTac).
Northgate: Most of the destinations I would go to are no longer there (Macy’s, Target, Silver Platters, Farrell’s, the Chinese buffet, a friend off 5th, another friend on College Way), I no longer go to (a job on Meridian, a class at the college), I haven’t returned to my pre-pandemic trips (512 transfers), or others use but I don’t (Kraken arena, Northgate library, medical clinic, Thornton Creek cinema).
The stations I use most are Capitol Hill and Westlake (my home stations), Roosevelt (several destinations), SODO (Costco transfer).
In between are Intl Dist (Little Saigon transfer), Beacon Hill (library and Jefferson Park), Mt Baker (the park, Mekong Rainier grocery store), Othello (the Asian businesses) , Rainier Beach (Kubota Garden transfer, Renton transfer, a friend).
The thing about TIB transfers is, it’s faster to transfer anywhere else. If you’re going to Southcenter it’s faster to take the 150. If you’re going to Renton it’s faster to take the 101. If you’re going to Des Moines or Federal Way it’s faster to transfer at SeaTac or take the 577/578. If you’re going to 128-land you might as well transfer in West Seattle. I don’t know about Burien. TIB was all about the park & ride and a future urban village.
I’ve used TIB once to get from Amtrak at Tukwila up the hill to TIB and then Link to SeaTac Airport. It was the evening train so I think maybe the 574 from Tacoma wasn’t an option that late or something.
The thing that makes it take long is trying to cross the street to get into the station (this was when some construction project or other had the buses routed through on the street – maybe 2018?). A pedestrian bridge would sure help connect the buses to the station. There was a pretty impressive group of passengers that got on the bus about 5 stops after the Amtrak station, and at least a few of those transferred to Link, so alternatives don’t necessarily work for all destinations.
I’ve considered it from Tacoma to go West to Burien or West Seattle, but I think Seatac makes more sense.
“The thing that makes it take long is trying to cross the street to get into the station”
My examples were all based on downtown Seattle. Coming from Tacoma would be a different calculus. Going from anywhere and downtown via TIB is hampered by Link’s travel time, which dwarfs the time crossing the street. The south end has a handicap that the north end and Eastside don’t have. Link to Lynnwood and Everett will be in the midrange of the 512 (faster than peak hours, slower than Sunday morning). Link to Everett will be the same as Sounder. Link to Bellevue or Redmond will be faster than the 550 or 545. But Link to TIB has the surface segments and detours east to go west, so it takes 37 minutes from Westlake to SeaTac compared to the old 194 at 28 minutes. In the 34 minutes it takes Link to reach TIB, the 150 is already at Southcenter, and the 101 is at the Renton Fred Meyer.
Some have suggested taking Sounder+F+Link from Tacoma or South King County to SeaTac, or if there’s ever a Sounder BAR station, Sounder+Link. That may be practical in rare cases, but Sounder runs only a few times a day, and if you miss Sounder you’ll miss your flight.
“There was a pretty impressive group of passengers that got on the bus about 5 stops after the Amtrak station”
That sounds like the Southcenter stop. It gets as many riders as everything east of it.
Yeah, sorry. I am not trying to get to Seatac. It’s just a bit better jumping off point than taking Sounder, if going West. When the quickest way to Westwood is through downtown, your system is broken.
I’d love if they just blew-off The Junction and ran Link elevated down the Delridge gully to White Center, on to Burien and then connected to the other line at Seatac. Not sure it would be useful for anyone but me, but it seems like would do much more to provide fast transit to the region, not just a handful of rich people in condos.
Probably just being salty.
TIB is another example of an overengineered station that worsens the rider experience with too many levels and difficult transfers. Not as bad as University of Wash station though, that thing is maze!
They did a beautiful job on Northgate though. I hope to see more like that.
ST has murmured about maybe extending the 574 to Westwood Village when Stride eliminates that part of the 560. If you want to see it happen, tell the ST board you support it.
The height of TIB is constrained by the height of the highways Link crosses around it. So it couldn’t be lower. I don’t know what you mean by “difficult transfers”.
The West Seattle Junction isn’t just “rich condo dwellers”; it’s the center of the largest urban village in West Seattle and centrally located. Delridge is the area that’s isolated. South Seattle has several north-south ridges and waterways that break it up into almost islands that are more oriented more toward downtown than to each other.
And if you’re in Renton and miss the 101 but the F is right there, the fastest way to Seattle is to take the F to Southcenter and transfer to the 150, if the 150 is running every 15 minutes.
I have been to every single station at least once and for a legitimate season (except for Angle Lake. That was a joy ride)
The most I use are stations between Northgate and Capitol Hill, with Roosevelt being my “home” station.
I’ll transfer to buses at Northgate, U-Dist and Cap Hill. I don’t go downtown anymore because of its deteriorating condition. I’ll use Rainier Valley stations to see friends, often transferring to the #7 at Mount Baker.
And I always use Link for SEA.
The most beautiful and fun part of the route is between Rainier Beach and Angle lake. Beautiful because of the panoramic views of Mount Rainier as it approaches SR-518. They’re absolutely stunning during summer sunsets. Fun because the tracks run along side the airport perimeter, providing great views of active airplanes. Then you are treated to upclose aerial views of the terminal and planes after leaving SeaTac station for Angle Lake. It’s worth the short extra jaunt the next time you have a flight : )
Columbia City is my home station. I’ve been on and off at every station except Angle Lake. I’ve not used Tacoma Link or Sounder.
Perhaps more importantly, I have ridden urban rail systems several times in Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia, DC, New York, Boston, Edmonton and Montreal. I think that it’s invaluable to ride systems in other cities. I think it provides an immediate undetanding of what ST has done both wrong and right. I even believe that ST should have organized a series of trips to periodically visit other systems in North America for people to join at their own expense. Even just visiting the Bay Area to witness BART cross-platform transfers at MacArthur or 12th St, the Oakland Airport cable connector, the bus transfers at Forest Hill and other places really show what other things are possible. To this day, I enjoy YouTube tours and discussions of rail systems (and everyone who cares about urban rail transit should probably be watching RMTransit videos).
Understanding the way things work for the rider is key to discussing good station placement and layout). Imagine building a house from scratch without ever going to an open house or even living in one. Real world experience really helps to clarify what’s more important to do well.
I’d argue that visiting European cities may have also helped as well. It might’ve woken up people in SDOT and ST to how much Trams are a better option than streetcars for addressing a middle solution between buses and metros for transit.
When the Seattle Bus Tunnel opened in 1990, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. They even had tracks in it for future expansion. Even though we know these were almost fake light rail tracks that were never be used. But it was cool to me. When I went to Europe in 1991, my eyes were opened. Many smaller cities had a decent transit system. Most of the bigger ones had a tram system, or a full metro. I even took a transit bus in to a Roman ruin site. I couldn’t get a car so I took the bus there. Apperently, teen agers with travelers checks were not good enough to be trusted. I wish we had snartphones back then. I lost many pictures. Coming back to Seattle was a major let down. The 1.3 mile tunnel after my trip now looked like nothing.
My point is that riding other systems gave me a better view of what a good system could be.
Thanks for the YT suggestion, subscribed.
Columbia City is also my home station. Most common destinations are downtown – University St., Pioneer Square primarily. I use SEA for the occasional flight. Next most common has probably been the UW Stadium station when a group bicycle ride ends further north than I wish to ride home. Occasional use of Stadium for Mariners/Hawks games (RW fan in mourning here), ID and Cap Hill for restaurants and friend visits. Excited for the eastside openings for expanded reasonable rail + bicycle range.
I’ve used and enjoyed the systems in Chicago, Athens, Paris, and was particularly impressed with D.C.
I’ve been in every Link station at least once, though we live in North Seattle so Northgate – ID are very common for us to use.
Reasons for going to the ones south of there are:
Stadium and SODO for transfers for buses that use the busway.
Beacon Hill – walked from Georgetown Steam Plant to the station when the weather was nice. In the last couple years we’ve made a point of hitting up neighborhood greenways in parts of the city we don’t go to often for variety, and used the station to get back home.
Mount Baker is the starting point for Trailhead Direct in the summer, plus lets you get the earliest Link train in the morning with the 44->48 night owl (useful for early morning flights).
Columbia City and Othello are served by route 50 and is a way to get to Seward Park.
Rainier Beach is ~1 mile from Kubota Gardens along the Chief Sealth Trail.
TIBS is also rare, but in the past Trailhead Direct served it, plus we used it to get to Southcenter once.
Seatac – flights
Angle Lake – went berry-picking once along the Des Moines Creek Trail, which was nice aside from being directly under the flight path of planes taking off from Seatac.
how about the possibility of higher gasoline prices driving droves of people back to the buses and trains eh?
I have used all the Link stations multiple times. My closest one is Roosevelt. Note the good ST board decision to locate it on 12th Avenue NE and not next to I-5. My current favorite may be Northgate; note several agencies had to convince ST to allow the NTC to shift to 1st Avenue NE next to the guideway. Consider the UW; ST and the UW had to spend extra funds to improve the bus, pedestrian, and bike connectivity. One awkward one is Columbia City, quite distant from that village and with a fairly awkward transfer with an infrequent Route 50. I like the historical cable car gear in the south mezzanine of Pioneer Square. It is fun to walk between 1st Avenue and the west entrance of USS.
Yeah, I’ve walked and ridden all over West Seattle, including east-west, and am aware of it’s topography. Maybe we should be picking a middle-fold rather the than the western-most to place rail then. 35th?
The walkshed to the west of the Junction is extremely unlikely to be upzoned substantially. Those are million dollar views, and those homeowners have clout. It’s less than a 15 minute walk, and fairly flat from Easy Street to Avalon station . The area between Fauntleroy and 35th has far less valuable housing stock, and hence is much more likely to be upzoned and developed. Maybe it’s Avalon that needs to stay and the Junction station that needs to go?
Run the train where you have the potential for a full 360 degree upzone with substantial density. But still walkable for the Junction. I would bet it would also be substantially cheaper. Turn the train south at 35th.
Yeah, extending the 574 would be a much more realistic option, and one I would support. I will submit a comment.
Sorry. My comment got teleported from a reply to Mike Orr down here. Such is WordPress.
The walkshed to the west of the Junction is extremely unlikely to be upzoned substantially.
Yeah, but The Junction itself is one of the few destinations in West Seattle (along with Alki and the college). This is why the original plan was the best. The station would be oriented east-west, and close enough to The Junction that you can actually see it (especially with the elevated train). It becomes like the U-District Station. You get out of the station, and it takes you a second to get your bearings, and then you think “I know where I am, The Ave is right over there”. You feel like you are in the heart of the action, even though you aren’t quite (unlike Capitol Hill). But you are close enough, without a doubt.
In contrast, if you get dumped out at Fauntleroy, this is what you are looking at: https://goo.gl/maps/7gD73hPp6HqghJu87. That is not exactly inviting. I can just imagine the conversation:
“So where is this club we are headed to? … (cars passing) … Are you sure this is the right way? … (more cars) … Next time I’m catching a cab … “.
That is all before they get to the cultural and commercial center and start walking north or south on California. It is just about the worst possible way to introduce someone to what is arguably the most charming part of West Seattle. Without people trying to get to West Seattle, Link just becomes an all-day commuter train, with stunted ridership as a result. You want to be east of The Junction, definitely; just not too far east.
Yeah, you are probably right. I don’t find much reason to spend time at the Junction. Maybe the farmer’s market. White Center on the other hand. That area is much more interesting and inviting than a 5th Matador and a couple breweries that honestly don’t make very good beer. I wish the train would go there. That is the cultural heart of West Seattle for me. Even though: not really West Seattle.
I believe that it’s further from Ballard Ave and Market (several blocks east of the west edge of the high density area) to 14th and Market than it is from Alaska and California (the west edge of the high density Junction area as mentioned above) to the Avalon station sites — although it’s not flat. Plus a third of the Avalon walkshed can walk to Delridge.
Ballard Station = 13100 total boardings; Avalon + Alaska Jct = 7600 combined total boardings
Ballard Station = 5400 boardings from walk; Avalon + Alaska Jct = 3200 combined boardings from walk
In other words, It appears to have no quantifiable reason to have both Avalon and Alaska Jct. A single station halfway in between (like Fauntleroy and Oregon) would seem justified.
Look at the numbers!
Sources from Advisory groups presentation #2.
There’s more at the Junction than Columbia City. People aren’t coming just from California & Alaska, they’re coming from areas north and south along California. 10 minutes is the maximum average Americans will walk to transit, so if it takes 15 minutes to walk to Avalon from California & Alaska that’s already the outer fringe of ridership and it becomes even less likely if you’re starting from a few blocks away. The beauty of 43rd & Brooklyn is it serves people from 52nd & UWay, 40th & UWay, 42rd & 8th, and classrooms on campus.
I find the Junction now has an atmosphere like the Ave in the 80s. It’s not quite the same businesses or classes of people, but the diversity of destinations and walkability breathe possibilities and future potential. That’s impressive for a suburbanish area.
A few of my Junction destinations are Husky Grind (homemade ice cream, deli sandwiches, European groceries), Bakery Nouveau, Pizzeria Credo (Neapolitan), Easy Street Records, friends in the condos. And it’s on the way to Lincoln Park, Alki, and the Admiral Theater. For others there are pet shops and performing arts.
Avalon and Delridge are mostly about the bus transfers, since they’re not really destinations. There’s an argument for consolidating them into one since it would only add a few blocks to the bus trip.
Since the density ends hard at California, there’s reason to have the station a couple blocks east of it. But not all the way to Avalon, and not an alignment that goes down Delridge and misses central West Seattle completely.
I was really hoping for a separate STB post to discuss West Seattle. How about we wait for that? The mention here is merely to point out that the Ballard area has better demand for two stations than West Seattle beyond Delridge does.
Attributing to the ballot measure is in my mind a huge structural logic problem. Large packages were assembled for ST3 without proper study and public input. Some kid from a flat Chicago (Kubly) led the backroom alternatives with lousy lowballed cost estimates, no adjustments based on ridership forecasts and backroom pressures from certain elected officials and rich stakeholders meeting privately. They were called “representative alignments” in the measure and those morphed into hard and fast locations after the measure vote occurred. Dare I mention that suggested 20th/ Market is further from the representative alignment than First Hill is?
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