San Francisco’s Van Ness BRT

The ROI on bus lanes is remarkable:

Another benefit of the lanes is a more consistent trip time for riders. Travel-time variability decreased by up to 26% northbound and 55% southbound, according to the data. And the lanes appear to have encouraged more people to take the bus, with ridership increasing 13% in the first week the Bus Rapid Transit lanes were in service, a pattern that has remained consistent in the following weeks, Tumlin said.

Eliminating cash fares

Erica has an excellent overview of Metro’s latest report on the possibility:

In a recent report on the future of Metro’s fare system, the agency outlined its plans for smoothing the transition to eliminating cash fares, which—according to Metro—will make boarding faster, ease conflicts between riders and drivers, and eliminate the need to periodically repair Metro’s 1,509 on-board fareboxes, which are a decades-old model that is no longer being produced. Replacing fareboxes with new ones that accommodate cash payments would cost around $29 million, Metro estimates—a substantial cost for a system that is still recovering from the pandemic. Cash riders also have to pay a second fare to transfer to Sound Transit trains and buses, a problem that will only become more acute as Metro terminates more routes at light rail stations.

The flip side is access: many people simply don’t have ORCA cards. It would be impossible to even contemplate until next-gen ORCA is more widespread. Getting ORCA cards into more pockets is always a good thing, and if this facilitates wider distribution of ORCA LIFT and other similar low-income programs, all the better.

New ORCA app and website coming next month

Beginning in May 2022, the new myORCA mobile app and website will make paying for transit rides in the Puget Sound region faster and easier.

Later in 2022, we’re adding more retail locations where you can buy and reload ORCA cards and launching a new card design.

MyORCA replaces the aging and sites, which was never really usable on mobile phones (and barely usable on desktops). It will include exciting new features like instant fare uploading. There will be a virtual open house on May 4 to learn more.

It’s the first milestone for the next-generation ORCA system. Previous coverage of next-generation ORCA here and here.

Local agencies lift mask requirements

After a somewhat confused day of messaging, all local transit agencies jointly lifted their mask requirements after a federal judge knocked down the CDC’s rule. David Kroman in the Times:

Immediately after the Monday ruling, Seattle-area agencies largely kept their current policies in place, albeit without strong enforcement mechanisms. By late Monday and early Tuesday, however, that shifted.

Eight Seattle-area transit agencies — Community TransitEverett TransitKing County MetroKitsap TransitPierce TransitSeattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Center Monorail and Sound Transit — said in a joint statement Tuesday that masks are now optional.

The rule was set to expire on May 3. The administration may appeal.

Seattle Subway’s summary recommendations for the ST3 DEIS

As the public comment window for Sound Transit’s West Seattle Ballard Link Extension draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) comes to a close, it’s time to make your voice heard about what will be built as part of ST3. 

As always, powerful stakeholders who do not prioritize transit quality are very well represented in this process – we need your voice to make sure that our leaders hear from future transit riders.  When evaluating options, we focus  on what will be best for transit riders: reliability, expandability, and accessibility.  

There were a lot of surprises in this round of Sound Transit planning. Some of them were positive, such as options in West Seattle that seem to address both community and transit riders’ concerns, and cost parity between elevated and tunnel options in both Ballard and West Seattle.  

Some surprises were cause for alarm, such as deep stations, slow transfers, and lack of options that serve Central Ballard and South Lake Union. Sound Transit made significant steps  during this round but still has a long way to go. Sound Transit needs to study more options; because of that, we are not ready to recommend specific options for every alignment and station presented. After reviewing the draft plan, these are Seattle Subway’s recommendations for giving feedback on Sound Transit’s DEIS.  


Continue reading “Seattle Subway’s summary recommendations for the ST3 DEIS”

Put First Hill back on the table?

As Sound Transit has moved the West Seattle-Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) through the EIS process, several challenges have emerged, with early concerns focused on the Ballard and West Seattle termini. These are nowhere near solved, but a compromise alignment seems within reach.

The middle of the line is another question: serious disruption in Chinatown / ID, deep stations with poor transfers, and some really complicated maneuvering and bridging required in SODO to add a second set of tracks that isn’t strictly necessary. Meanwhile, the only palatable option in CID, a shallow 4th Avenue station, adds $500M to the project budget and has some nasty impacts.

So, since it’s Saturday and we’re waiting for the EIS comment period to close, let us indulge ourselves in an alternative alignment through downtown that avoids some of these problems.

Continue reading “Put First Hill back on the table?”

SLU Station Can Be Better, Cheaper, and Easier to Build on Westlake

When looking at the two options presented by Sound Transit for South Lake Union (SLU) in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), we’re struck by how poorly the station will serve South Lake Union.  The Harrison option is deep at about 120’ and all the way on the western edge of SLU.  The Mercer option is slightly less deep at about 85’ but its location west of highway 99 isn’t really in SLU and involves an extremely poor pedestrian environment.  Both stations are monumentally difficult to build and expensive due to their proximity to highway 99.  We can avoid all of those issues and build a station that serves South Lake Union far better by building the SLU station on Westlake.  

The Center of SLU deserves a station.

A station under Westlake located approximately between Harrison and Republican has a lot of advantages. Though it’s still slightly to the west of the center of South Lake Union, the walkshed includes nearly all of this dense neighborhood.  It’s aligned with the Denny station which means isolated construction impacts and the potential for a shallow station.  It can also cross SR 99 further north where it isn’t as deep while avoiding the need for a complex and expensive mined station under the highway.  

Central SLU is somewhere around Westlake and Republican

A SLU station under Westlake aligned north/south can also serve the dense population and job centers to the north and east far better than the proposed DEIS SLU station locations.  Aligning the station north/south will also enable a future Link extension along the highway 99 corridor much easier – opening up one of the best corridors for transit oriented development opportunities in the country.  

Continue reading “SLU Station Can Be Better, Cheaper, and Easier to Build on Westlake”

Route 48 Electrification Expected in 2026

STB has been on the 23rd Ave electrification beat since 2011, and the last update was via CHS in 2016, when trolleybus service was projected to begin in 2018. The street repaving and pole installation described in 2016 is long ago complete, and 2018 was a while ago, but Route 48 is, alas, still plied only by diesel hybrids. I contacted King County Metro for an update on this project, and here’s what I heard (emphasis added):

Continue reading “Route 48 Electrification Expected in 2026”

Diagramming station depths

Sound transit has a blog post up that pairs well with our recent discussions of transfers and deep stations:

As people have begun to study the recently published Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), some have wondered about the depths of the stations and what the rider experience would be like to access the platforms and transfer between lines.

There are several factors in the Downtown segment that influence the depths of the tunnel stations.

In addition to physical considerations like existing terrain, soil properties, and existing underground infrastructure or building foundations, geometric design constraints imposed by the depths of adjacent stations also may determine how deep underground a station must be built.

Click through for a visual comparison of the station depths. You can see that a “shallow” station on 4th in the CD would be deeper than Capitol Hill, for example. Or that a deep station in the CID would require an even deeper Midtown one.

Regarding Midtown, one interesting idea that’s stuck with me is, given the steepness of the hill, a street-level entrance on 2nd & Madison, with a long pedestrian tunnel, could connect directly to a 5th & Madison station that would otherwise be only accessible by elevator.