- New Eastrail bridge breaks ground next to future Wilburton station. Could open before East Link?
- Capitol Hill Seattle: Seattle city council moving back to some in-person meetings
- West Seattle bridge closer to re-opening in “mid-2022”
- The Atlantic: Jerusalem Demsas takes on the NIMBY-population-growther nexus
- Seattle Times: Gene Balk crunches the data and Seattle is [slightly] losing population
- The Urbanist is launching a letter-writing campaign to try and fix Link’s escalator woes. Write yours here.
65 Replies to “Friday news roundup”
Why not include sound transit’s simultaneous extension of “fare ambassador” program AND reducing the reduced fare?
Ha, I’m sure that 50 cents is going to make all the difference.
If no one needs to pay to ride, no one will pay to ride. With carve outs and reduced fares, enforcing the same rules for everyone is not racist.
But the enforcement of rules can be biased against some minority groups: https://www.theurbanist.org/2019/10/14/sound-transit-fare-enforcement-hits-poc-hardest/
The obvious answer is to simply kick people off the train/bus if they don’t have fare. No fine, just the inconvenience of having to get back on. The vast majority of riders wouldn’t risk the humiliation or inconvenience. A significant portion of those that would endure it are never going to pay anyway. Thus you have a small subset who take their chances — that is OK. Every fare collection system in the world has people who don’t pay.
It is important to note that this is different than other crimes. With shoplifting, for example, a small group of people can cause a huge amount of loss. If 1% of the people repeatedly walk out without paying for goods , it is a big problem. In contrast, if 1% of the riders don’t pay, it doesn’t hurt (fare evasion is usually much higher). It is only if you have a huge amount of fare evasion (which isn’t likely if you start kicking people off the bus or train). (In the case of a train you would escort them out of the station.)
The only potential issue with kicking people off is in delaying all the other passengers when the non-payer starts some kind of fight or refuses to get off.
I applaud the Urbanist for staying the obvious: Escalators are an unsolved problem and can only get worse.
I however think that the issue is much bigger than “fixing escalators”. We need more of them. We need them going in both directions, so if one goes out of service the other one is available to go up. Ideally there would be at least three (two up and one down).
In 2015, ST had escalators at just 3 stations (DSTT still was run by Metro). There are 13 stations with them now (3 more in 2021). By 2025, there will be 29.
There are already problems with the Northgate Extension escalators and the stations have been opened less than a year. However, these stations probably offer the best escalator situation as the stations were designed to have enough for redundancy. The next stations don’t have this supply of escakators.
In other words, I see this not only as a maintenance issue but also as a deficient design issue. I also see this issue as one that will only increase in visibility in the next four years.
Finally, I see ST will have to pivot more from running a planning and construction agency to running a system with stations that have daily operating concerns . The board and management better make this mental switch ASAP or they will find themselves looking pretty bad. They also won’t be able to hire a PR consultant to manage and whitewash any resulting public outrage; they must instead be directly accountable.
When escalators work as expected, the public don’t give accolades to an agency. However when they don’t, the public notices and remembers.
I however think that the issue is much bigger than “fixing escalators”. We need more of them. We need them going in both directions, so if one goes out of service the other one is available to go up. Ideally there would be at least three (two up and one down).
This is something I’ve thought/wondered about in the context of the arguments that happen here about DSTT2/ST3.
I think Sound Transit should take a look at running Ballard Link and West Seattle Link through the existing DSTT (instead of building a new Downtown Tunnel)- the capacity should be there in the tunnel, but I’m less confident that there is sufficient capacity for getting people into and out of the existing stations fast enough to run trains at sub-3 minute headways- especially when the escalators and elevators go down.
I doubt it would be a problem. The downtown stations are quite large, and meant to handle really big loads. I’ve never heard anyone (at ST or any other official agency) suggest their might be a problem.
Having personally witnessed waiting as long as a minute to get on a working escalator at Westlake many times in the past 6 years, I feel like your concerns are valid, PhillipG. I’m concerned that the escalators won’t clear in the three minutes between trains, particularly if one escalator is out of service or if there is a service disruption and a loaded train empties — and if both happen simultaneously it could get dangerous. Keep in mind that Link platforms are low that people can step into the tracks easily, so if the packed crowd doesn’t move, people are going to step onto the track bed and may even try to run across the tracks to use the escalators from the other platform. .
There was no study of DSTT station flows detailed in a study leading up to ST3. I’ve also never read an analysis of existing DSTT station flows in any DEIS for an ST2 or ST3 project published by ST. They are however huge documents so they may have been studied. The recent DSTT transfer time calculations recently presented at ID-C station never differentiated how much additional time it would take to transfer when escalators were more crowded.
To their credit, several members of the advisory committee for the SODO/ ID-C segment of the WSBLE DEIS showed concerns about crowd surges not only from trains but also sporting events at Lumen Field in their final meeting. Many panned the deep station options for this very reason. When they pressed ST staff on analysis if this, ST staff could not point to an answer because it apparently wasn’t studied.
It drives me nuts when an one escalator is out of service and the other operable one is set in the “down” position. I often see this at Northgate, where droves of transferees are forced to walk up stairs or take two cramped elevators that aren’t obvious to locate.
City Beautiful compares zoning in the US and Europe.
The Urbanist has a rundown of Community Transit’s bus restructure following Lynnwood Link: https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/05/24/community-transit-proposes-bus-service-restructure-alongside-arrival-of-link-light-rail/. Here is a map: https://wppo.blob.core.windows.net/ct-transtit2024/2022/04/System-Map-T2024-complete.pdf.
In general I would say it is disappointing. Those of us who hoped that Lynnwood Link would transform transit in Snohomish County (the way that transit was transformed in NE Seattle following UW Link) are disappointed. There is nothing in the way of even marginally frequent service compared to what existed before. The only buses that run every fifteen minutes or better are the 201/202 and the various Swift buses (which did all that before). It seems like aren’t interesting in greatly enhance the cross-county network. Edmonds to Seattle involves a lengthy, infrequent trip to Lynnwood or Mountlake Terrace, not the way anyone in their right mind would drive it (SR 104/SR 99/185th). The very awkward transfer along SR 99 (involving two supposed BRT buses) is as bad as ever. Speaking of which, I found this quote from a CT official to be oblivious to the changes they proposed:
“[Swift] corridors are typically [located on] larger arterials, meaning three or more total travel lanes,” the agency shared in an email. “Larger arterials provide the opportunity to incorporate speed and reliability infrastructure such as transit signal priority at intersections and transit lane priority along the corridor.”
Yeah, than why the hell are you making two extra turns to run on 200th and Meridian instead of just running down Aurora? I get it. You don’t want to add stops in King County. Fine. Just move the stop from 200th to Aurora, and the vast majority of riders save time. Riders who are headed to and from Link save time. Riders transferring from the RapidRide E save time. But instead the bus makes a detour, making the type of stop that the 101 should (and does) make. Only a handful will benefit, while lots more will suffer from this boneheaded decision that contradicts their stated policy.
Anyway, it isn’t all bad news. I really like the 902. This is an express(ish) route, connecting the Lynnwood Transit Center with the Mukilteo Ferry. It runs all day every half hour (both directions) presumably timed with the ferry. This is great for those who want to take a ferry from Whidbey Island to anywhere Link goes.
I see three routes to UW Bothell instead of one, so that’s an improvement. The current network is the gap between Ash Way P&R and Swift Green (at Mariner P&R), making it a three-seat ride to get from the 512 corridor and the Green corridor including Canyon Park and UW Bothell, and the middle seat drops to hourly on weekends. This turns it into a two-seat ride.
The Swift Blue routing doesn’t bother me that much. It continues on rather than backtracking to Aurora, so the overhead of going into the P&R is just a quarter block. There’s a tradeoff between people going to Link and people going to Aurora Village. It is a shopping center, Snohomish transit riders go to it (a couple have commented here), and some of them are probably lower-income people so it would be an equity issue to eliminate a shopping center.
I’m disappointed by the frequency like you are. CT dangled a promise of a 15-minute network between major destinations. That would bring CT’s network closer to Metro’s, and make it not such a hardship to live in Snohomish County without a car. That’s an increasing issue as people move to Snohomish County because they can’t afford housing in King County. If CT can’t do it now, it should give us a clearer roadmap: what year or what staffing level is necessary for which routes to be 15 minutes daytime and weekends? Otherwise we’re left with a vague cloud we can’t plan around. When will it be OK to live or work in Snohomish County? Which neighborhoods or corridors will get frequent service first?
It continues on rather than backtracking to Aurora, so the overhead of going into the P&R is just a quarter block.
What are talking about? No one is suggesting any backtracking.
Look, Swift Blue spends almost its entirety on the same corridor. It doesn’t deviate, even to serve major destinations, like hospitals, or Edmonds College (which is also a transit center). Maybe it should, given the importance of those locations — but it doesn’t, as speed is essential, and there are other buses that can get riders closer. It just stays on the same corridor.
But now, with this change, something truly bizarre happens. When it gets to 200th, it suddenly makes a turn, for no apparent reason. It moves *away* from the protected lanes on Aurora, to the unprotected lanes of Meridian. As a result, it makes two extra turns. It does this: https://goo.gl/maps/5CJr6V8USpgbgtAq7, instead of this: https://goo.gl/maps/6SJXXpaKUjH8dAwWA. This costs it a minute when there is no traffic (according to Google) and likely a lot more when there is.
I’m not suggesting backtracking. I am suggesting just staying on the same road, to avoid turns and delays. Just put the bus stops on Aurora, within short walking distance of where the stops will be added (on 200th). Instead of stopping here: https://goo.gl/maps/eMrWdzNHbRFRwJGo7, the bus should stop here: https://goo.gl/maps/M3soACkpP5qoJHjz8 (and across the street). Either way it will be next to a different (non-Swift) bus stop.
There is simply no good reason for the bus to detour to serve an area that isn’t even Snohomish County! I get why they have the bus stop — otherwise the transfer to other buses (including the E) wouldn’t be possible. But the bus stop should not detour to save the handful of riders who prefer walking east, instead of west on 200th. For those that don’t want to walk literally one minute (again, according to Google) there is the 101.
The end result is that you screw over the riders headed to Link — the entire purpose of this extension. You also make it much worse for riders continuing on the main corridor, from Shoreline to Snohomish County. Holy cow, we are talking about the most popular bus in King County, and the most popular bus in Snohomish County. To get between them — to simply continue on the major corridor that they both serve — requires waiting for buses to make time consuming turns, greatly increasing the chance that you’ll miss your transfer. Just imagine a southbound rider. Swift moves out of the bus lanes, and begins the wait to turn left, towards 200th. The rider sits there waiting, watching cars flow by on Aurora. As the bus finally begins the turn, they notice a bus just pulling out of the transit center, headed west. Not just any bus, but a RapidRide bus, with its telltale red and yellow colors. Frantically, the rider pulls the cord, thinking “Let me out here, maybe I can wave him down” (or at the very least they wish they could). Of course it doesn’t work that way. The rider just has to wait until the bus gets to the next stop, and then walk slowly, sorrowfully across the street, to make the only connection that exists between these two lines.
If the bus just kept going on Aurora, this wouldn’t happen. They would get off the bus, and walk only a few feet to the other bus stop, waiting a short time before they continue their journey.
It is just a bad design, and the only reason it exists is inertia. The agency is sticking to tradition, even though it will make it worse for the vast majority of riders.
A lot of it may be bureaucracy. CT staffers simply don’t feel like undergoing the burden of ***proving*** that moving the stop to Aurora is not discriminating against people with disabilities, people of color, etc. I agree with you, such discrimination arguments are BS and riders as a whole would be better off if they die what you suggest. But proving that it’s BS takes time and effort which they don’t want to do. Simply keeping every existing stop exactly where it is and only adding new stops makes the “proof” trivial.
This is the crap you get into when you have to deal with “priority populations”. You can’t move the stop without conducting a bunch of demographic surveys to find out if the people that live next to Aurora Village are disproportionately POC. Just extending the route, leaving all existing stops as is, avoids that hassle.
It’s not people living next to Aurora Village, it’s people living in Snohomish County who shop at Aurora Village. People living next to Aurora Village are outside CT’s service area so it has no responsibility for them.
It’s not people living next to Aurora Village, it’s people living in Snohomish County who shop at Aurora Village. People living next to Aurora Village are outside CT’s service area so it has no responsibility for them.
Nor do they have a responsibility to Aurora Village. That is my point. Aurora Village is in King County. Aurora Village is not a major shopping center. There are much bigger destinations that Swift skipped (like the college). Besides, a stop on Aurora serves the shopping area just about as well. The “village” itself is largely a parking lot, with only a handful of shops. There are as many outside it as in. Many of those are on Aurora. The walking distance from the bus stop on 200th to the bus stop on Aurora is minimal. It is nuts for a bus to detour to save only a handful of riders a minute of walking, while other riders have to walk more (and the vast majority of riders get delayed substantially).
The only logical explanation is bureaucratic inertia. They didn’t want to bother changing anything. The problem is, this is not a reasonable trade-off, it is screwing over the transit riding public. It is lazy planning, which will forever make transit less competitive with driving.
A lot of it may be bureaucracy.
I definitely agree with that.
CT staffers simply don’t feel like undergoing the burden of ***proving*** that moving the stop to Aurora is not discriminating against people with disabilities, people of color, etc.
I really doubt that. Moving a bus stop doesn’t require that sort of legal analysis, especially since the bus stop will continue to be served by the 101. If doing that was required, no one would be able to move bus stops.
My guess is that it is a mix of several factors. The planners are oblivious to the advantages to having a stop on Aurora, or at the very least, no one is willing to fight hard for it. They are afraid of upsetting the handful of riders who prefer the stop where it is. It is always easy to just do nothing.
It just sucks. I’ll admit, I was hoping that they would cooperate with Metro, and add stops along Aurora (not just the one). A stop at 192nd, for example, would serve a lot of people in apartments in King County, but also provide access to the family YMCA there — one of the most convenient for a lot of people in Snohomish County. (This would be a much bigger benefit for low income people than having a slightly shorter walk to Costco). Maybe Metro could chip in some money, since that could mean they wouldn’t have to run buses that would do the same thing (or Metro could provide similar border-crossing service elsewhere). There is a real opportunity to connect people across the county border, beyond just connecting Swift to the E and Link.
But they aren’t even doing that right! If none of that interests you, just add the bus stops on Aurora (close to 200th) and the vast majority of riders are better off.
If buses, to save time, never enter into transit centers, then transit centers should be eliminated, because there will never be any buses in them.
Because the Swift Blue extension’s main objective is to offer Link transfers and there are operating rules preventing riding a CT bus without leaving King County, I see that the planners have as their primary objective to get between Link and 99 in Snohomish County as quickly as possible. The second is to serve both Aurora Village and connecting buses for Snohomish residents. I don’t know how many riders use Aurora Village TC but presumably that connection off of 99 gets lots of activity or CT planners would keep the route on 99.
Presumably, CT staff have also run field tests to see what’s the fastest way to get to Link — but (as we’ve seen in other local circumstances) staff often don’t run field tests and the results can be a disappointing surprise. Field tests may also have revealed that Aurora signals in Shoreline add lots of time waiting for a green light so that staying off Aurora would be a faster time path even with the added turns.
I expect routes and headways will adjust a bit once Lynnwood Link opens and trains run every 4-5 minutes from early morning to later in the evening. Planners are making their best guesses now — but I expect adjustments within a year or two after opening day. I don’t see these route changes cast in stone. For comparison, SE Seattle routes changed at least three times within the first 6 years of Link opening there. I’m actually a fan of revisiting any restructure about 2-3 years after the opening day of a Link Extension because it’s such a big system change that it can shift what priorities should be and how riders use the new system.
Sam, the advantage of a transit center is that it can make transfers a lot easier. If I want to transfer from (say) the 554 to the 208 in Issaquah, it’s a lot quicker and easier to do that at the transit center rather than trying to guess which stops are shared in Issaquah itself, or scrambling a couple blocks. Ideally, though, major destinations are designed around transit rather than forcing it to detour; UW and downtown Seattle don’t have transit centers (or maybe they’re just huge transit centers) because they incorporate transit into their overall urban planning.
I think transit centers make a lot of sense for routes that end there, but buses that continue onward should not detour into them unless more people use the transit stop than everyone else on the bus combined (a very high bar). When the bar isn’t met, just stop on the street next to the transit center, without going out of the way.
Skylar, it’s Ross who wants to ban all buses from entering transit centers. I’m just saying if Ross got his wish, then we would no longer need transit centers, because they would no longer have buses entering them. Yes, it would suck for everyone trying to transfer, and especially suck for disabled people, but I think Ross is saying the riders on the bus who aren’t transferring … their time is being wasted. They have places to go, and stopping at transit centers are slowing them down.
And Ross is absolutely correct. Even people that are transferring don’t necessarily save time by a detour. What difference does it make if you have to cross a street if your bus isn’t coming for 15 minutes anyway?
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that no transit centers should exist. Transit centers still make sense for routes that end there, especially with the layover space and turnaround space that transit centers offer. But, they routes should nearly always just stop on the street.
The transit center serves a purpose, in that it allows for a layover and turnaround. This comes in handy with both the 101 and the E.
Other than that, it is largely just marketing. Transit centers often have parking. Calling it a “transit center” instead of just a “park and ride” makes it sound more appealing. When I did a search for “Northgate Transit Center” the first thing that came up was a map of the parking. But there are other marketing touches. There is often very nice bus stops, and good signage — things that aren’t unique to centers, but are especially attractive to people who don’t usually take the bus.
As for Swift, I assume that even with this detour, it won’t stop inside the transit center. It will instead stop next to it. Making a loop around the transit center would be even more of a waste of time. It is worth noting that with the addition of Link, the Northgate Transit Center has changed. Buses don’t make the same sort of loops around it like they used to. I get off the train, and catch a bus on First Avenue NE, for example. I expect something similar for Swift.
I think Ross is saying the riders on the bus who aren’t transferring … their time is being wasted.
I’m saying that riders who are transferring are having their time wasted too! I even wrote a paragraph about how terribly frustrating it must be to transfer from the E to Swift. The most popular bus in King County, and the most popular bus in Snohomish County, and yet to just stay on the main corridor they both serve, you have to endure a very time consuming detour. This increases the chance that you miss the bus during that detour.
One way to visualize the difference is to imagine if there is both, running at exactly the same time. The E is the same, but there are two versions of the Swift. One turns on 185th, while the other takes the fast route and continues down Aurora. Now imagine you are headed south, and just crossed the county border. You can have the bus get into the left lane, and wait to turn on 200th, or continue past the intersection, and let you off there. If the E has left the transit center, you want to go straight. If the E is about to leave the transit center, you want to go straight. The only reason to ride the bus over to 200th, and then ride it back if if you are trying to kill time. For that, there is the 101.
I see that the planners have as their primary objective to get between Link and 99 in Snohomish County as quickly as possible.
And yet they are ready to fail in that objective.
Presumably, CT staff have also run field tests to see what’s the fastest way to get to Link
I seriously doubt it. You can gather data from Google, which shows that going via Aurora is faster. It is just common sense — there are fewer turns. Then add in the fact that there are BAT lanes on Aurora (but none on Meridian) and clearly it is the fastest way for a bus (if not a car).
It is worth noting that the difference will only increase over time. The slower Aurora becomes, the more people seek out alternatives (like Meridian) which make them slower. SR 99 curves, which means that cutting over and using Meridian/76th doesn’t add much distance — the roads meet up again later. That is why Google shows it as an alternative: https://goo.gl/maps/F9UK7nQmHzjtsM4J8.
The area around 185th and Meridian will grow (since Shoreline now allows more development there). This will lead to more people walking in the area, which will make that turn harder (pedestrians delay turns). There is little the city can do to make the buses faster there, either. Meridian is one lane each direction (no middle turn lane) although the lanes are fairly wide: https://goo.gl/maps/7AuGEY7AeyAWG4AM9. With parking on the side, it is common for the street to be stalled by people turning left (into their driveway). Then you have the local bus routes. I suppose it is wide enough for the Swift to pass the local bus (https://goo.gl/maps/cz9V6qsTcZmtoFYb6). That still looks like a recipe for more congestion.
Not only does it lower average speed, but it greatly reduces consistency. I have no doubt that there are times when Meridian is just fine. The additional turns don’t take much time, and the street flows quickly. It is a little slower than Aurora, but not much slower. There are other times when it is the opposite. It is easy to imagine this turn taking a while if there are lots of people going both directions: https://goo.gl/maps/1jzE3Vnou6mYS2dC8. There isn’t even a left turn arrow, which means the bus could sit there for a couple cycles. Doesn’t sound very swift to me.
I really don’t think this was optimized from that, or any other perspective. I think they did a tiny poll, and found that existing riders preferred using the transit center. That isn’t surprising. It is what they are used to. No one has actually ridden the bus from Link to Snohomish County. Even the transfer from the E to Swift is something transit nerds think about, but the rest of the world just endures. There is always value in keeping things (more or less) the same, and this does that.
It would be far more worthwhile if they looked at how many people transfer from the E, and how many are expected to transfer from Link. My guess is both dwarf the number that would be inconvenienced by putting the stops on Aurora. Then there are the businesses in Snohomish County, who have employees and customers from across the border. Those should be considered as well. I just don’t think think there was anything like the analysis this decisions deserves. I think the planners just took the easy way out, and made very little in the way of changes.
I don’t see these route changes cast in stone. I’m actually a fan of revisiting any restructure about 2-3 years after the opening day of a Link Extension …
Good point. I’m a fan of that as well. I feel like Swift decisions tend to be a little less flexible. If they move the “station” infrastructure (shelters, ORCA readers, etc.) to 200th, then it seems less likely they will move them again soon after. Of course if they force the bus to make an additional loop through the transit center, it does seem more likely they will eventually move it. Either way, this seems like a lost opportunity, and it can be difficult to get it back. Someone who commutes from Shoreline to Snohomish County might just assume that this bad transfer is set in stone, give up and buy a car. It is tough to get that ridership back.
Some of the comments here suggest that Aurora Village is a major shopping destination. It’s not. You can see from an aerial view that it is mostly parking: https://goo.gl/maps/r9bkvAvqMYgV7xPQ7. A lot of the destinations are up north, next to 205th/244th. This is a major schlep from 200th, which is why the 101 stops just south of 205th.
The major customer for the mall is Costco. There are parking space used for Costco customers that require a longer walk than a bus stop on Aurora. The stop at 200th is roughly the same distance as a stop on Aurora (https://goo.gl/maps/vtdwNX46kzNdei8r9 versus https://goo.gl/maps/79UEeX1AsJs1cff37).
Other than that, there is a little mini-mall with Teriyaki Island and several other shops. Again, these places aren’t much further from a stop on Aurora. You are closer to Home Depot, but let’s face it, almost everyone who goes there is in a car. The handful of people who arrive by bus can always take the 101. The whole point of having the 101 is to serve minor destinations like this mall. It does this better than Swift ever will.
In contrast, consider some of the major destinations that Swift *doesn’t* get that close to. Imagine a detour like so: https://goo.gl/maps/4o7RwpqA1b6UyS8Z6. This is the type of routing that buses do all the time. It is focused on serving the major destinations. In this case, it is a college, a high school, a middle school, and a major medical center. Compared to most of SR 99, this is a very transit rich area. It is quite possible ridership would actually increase as a result. Detouring to serve this would be quite reasonable, if your goal was minimizing the overall walk for riders.
But it isn’t. Swift is designed for speed. For the entire length, it ignores what would be very productive detours, expecting riders to either walk a long ways, or transfer. And yet, in the future, it will throw all that away. It will throw away the stated advantage to staying on major arterials (“speed and reliability infrastructure such as transit signal priority at intersections and transit lane priority along the corridor”). All to save a handful of people a tiny amount of walking.
If this seems extremely inconsistent, it is. Community Transit won’t extend the Green Line to UW Bothell/Cascadia College, because it is afraid of congestion on Bothell Way. It wants to see the city widen the street there before it is extended, so that it can have transit lanes. Yet at the same time, it is sending the most popular Swift line away from Aurora and onto a narrow street, delaying the vast majority of riders.
The one thing that is consistent is a reluctance to change.
It is very disappointing, given that in some cases (like Mukilteo) this really does represent a major change (for the better in my opinion). But for the Swift lines, it seems like timidity rules the day.
“ You can gather data from Google, which shows that going via Aurora is faster. ”
Google data varies by real time versus average time, and what time of day the trip is made. When I play with the Google auto travel times from Aurora and 200th and the Shoreline North station site this morning, most paths show up as pretty similar (6-7 minutes depending on the points). That test doesn’t appear significantly faster to me at this moment in real time.
I would still recommend running a field test. Buses have to make lane changes and other maneuvers that a typical car doesn’t. It takes planning and training to get a driver to maneuver between a bus stop on the right in a BAT lane and a left turn lane. Of course, if Swift Blue doesn’t stop anywhere between Aurora Village and 185th this added travel time could be negligible.
It’s also true that more turns mean other maneuvering problems like a bus making a tight right turn. Again, this can be quickly determined with an inexpensive field test, and it’s a much more reliable (and cheaper) way than to pay an engineer to build the situation in some sort of computer simulation and have someone check that engineer’s work.
“Community Transit won’t extend the Green Line to UW Bothell/Cascadia College, because it is afraid of congestion on Bothell Way.”
The distance is several times longer. Highways get more congested than other streets. Reliability is important for BRT line. I just don’t see Meridian or 200th getting as congested as Aurora or Bothell Way, to the point that it adds half an hour to the trip like it does on highways.
Sounds like the disappointing plan isn’t their fault.
ST Express, Metro, and Pierce Transit are in the same position, as are other bus agencies nationwide. This is a new situation: before, the constraints on service hours were financial. Metro had short-term driver shortages when it rebounded after a recession, as in the cuts in 2014 and the growth in 2015. But that was resolved in a year as hiring caught up. This is a longer-term issue because you have both a service increase, staff out for covid and quarantine, drivers switching to higher-paying private bus/truck jobs without the passenger-misbehavior headache, people retiring or switching to another career, and the bottleneck of training classes.
Yes and no. In terms of frequency, a lot of this is out of their control. No one knew exactly how much money would be saved, and it looks like it is relatively small compared to what they spend. I can’t say I’m shocked, I’m just disappointed in that respect.
But I do think there are some flaws with this plan. I think they could take better advantage of the light rail line, especially from Edmonds. Billions is being spent on light rail, which is designed to fundamentally change the transit network in north King County and south Snohomish County. Yet is seems like they are ignoring this, or at best, treating it like commuter rail.
I think some of the cross-county issues are the result of lack of cooperation with Metro. Overlay this network with Metro’s, and it just doesn’t make sense. Not unless you are told that they are two different agencies, who didn’t bother to cooperate on a useful network.
To be fair, I have no idea what the Sound Transit bus network will look like. Maybe it will fill in some gaps.
Yes, the fact that the Edmonds waterfront and downtown still has only hourly bus service under the restructure is a big disappointment. It should at least be every half hour, ideally every 15 minutes. Hourly bus service is almost unusable.
If only the SWIFT orange line could extend further west…
Um, Ross, “and it looks like it is relatively small compared to what they spend” doesn’t make claims that “expresses are the most expensive form of bus service” look real accurate, does it?
IIRC, you generally lead the pack claiming that, and I’ll agree I’m in there, too. It just suddenly looks pretty specious.
“In terms of frequency, a lot of this is out of their control. No one knew exactly how much money would be saved”
The quote says there is there is more money left over from truncating the express buses, it’s just that CT can’t find enough qualified drivers to hire. Hopefully CT will save the money so that it can augment service or accelerate Swift lines when the labor shortage recedes. It could put it into accelerating the remaining three Swift lines that haven’t started construction.
Express buses *are* expensive, as Jarrett Walker notes here: https://humantransit.org/2017/08/basics-the-high-cost-of-peak-only-transit.html. But I think there are several things going on:
1) There are lots of different express routes that go to downtown Seattle, but most only go a few times during the day.
2) The Community Transit system is huge. So is Metro of course, but that leads me to the third point.
3) It has been common for savings that come from truncations to be focused on improving the areas around the new station(s). It seems like this is designed to improve the larger system.
I’m not saying I would do anything different. I’m just think it is easy to assume that getting rid of the trip to downtown will enable a major transformation. That may be possible, but only if it is focused on one particular area.
For example, I continue to rail against express buses from the north end to First Hill or South Lake Union. But I know the savings wouldn’t alter the overall network for Metro. Cutting those routes wouldn’t pay for a bunch of new routes, or enable the existing routes to run a lot more often. According to my math, though, it would pay for a new frequent, all-day route (e. g. a route from Greenwood to Northgate and Lake City). That would be a lot more useful.
It is quite likely I’m also minimizing the changes here. Several bus routes go from hourly to half hour. This is a huge improvement. It is the lack of fifteen minute service that grabs me (and disappoints me). It is quite possible that this really does represent a major improvement in service for a lot of Snohomish County, it is just that things weren’t very good to begin with.
If only the SWIFT orange line could extend further west…
It is quite possible that will eventually happen. Check this out: https://www.communitytransit.org/docs/default-source/about-documents/community-transit_2021-transit-development-plan_adopted-9-2-21.pdf#page=20. Service on the 166 (196th) and 102 (212th/Main) are considered “core” routes, and thus “Over time, some of these
corridors will transition to Swift service.”. Since the Orange Line already dips south to serve the college, I think it makes sense to keep going, and then head west on 212th/Main.
Even if that is done though, it won’t be the fastest way to get from Edmonds to Seattle (or Shoreline). If you look at the document, the corridor from Edmonds to the county line is considered merely a “feeder” or “commuter route”. I think this is greatly underselling the potential for a bus like so: https://goo.gl/maps/n8HcPqt3H7QPFfsn9. That is not the absolute fastest way to get from Link to Edmonds, but likely a lot faster if you are headed south. It isn’t just “Edmonds to Link”, as there are plenty of destinations along the way (otherwise it would take an even faster route).
Ideally that would make stops in King County (in exchange for buses like the 347 serving Snohomish County). Or Metro could just pay CT. Either way, running a bus for the Metro section of that route would provide benefit for riders along that stretch heading to Link, as well as connecting those King County riders to Edmonds. I think it would be one of the more productive routes for Community Transit, which means that it could eventually run every 15 minutes.
185th itself is not a major destination, but neither is Mountlake Terrace. You would still have direct buses from Edmonds to Lynnwood (eventually a Swift line), but getting from Edmonds to Mountlake Terrace would require a transfer. That seems like a small price to pay for the sort of improvement this would provide.
I like your South Edmonds Gateway route, but I fear it might fall prey to the disapproval by the two Edmonds “C.C’s” [Chamber of Commerce and City Council]. They aren’t going to care for a single-seat ride to “downtown” Shoreline from a good portion of Edmonds’ residential district.
Maybe this bus should take the 200th/Meridian route to Link and Swift 1 go via Aurora as you recommend. That mightbe a good selling point.
My guess is the city council in Edmonds would be OK with that route, and the chamber of commerce would be thrilled. Downtown Edmonds biggest problem is parking, so attracting customers to the area via transit could be a big selling point.
I think the biggest problem is just the county line. It makes the most sense to do a swap, and have Metro pay for the bus running in King County, or in exchange provide service on the eastern tail (of the 130).
Maybe this bus should take the 200th/Meridian route to Link and Swift 1 go via Aurora as you recommend.
Maybe. But the proposal is for Swift to make only two stops in King County (at the transit center and the Link Station). That is quite reasonable. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to cover Aurora, the way that a regular bus, or even the E does. Stopping at 200th, 192nd and 185th would be great, but a lot to ask for. I would be OK if it only made one stop on Aurora, and 200th is the obvious place.
Thus the Swift line wouldn’t really “cover” Aurora. I think some bus (other than the E) should. I think this bus (from Edmonds) would be the best option. It would make all three stops on Aurora, and then express to the station (or at most make a stop at 185th and Meridian). A bus going to Richmond Beach would cover 185th (similar to the 348).
Just about everything would be covered. The eastern part of the 130 (perhaps run by Metro) would cover 200th/76th and the big loop around Lake Ballinger. That only leaves Meridian, between 185th and 200th. To be honest, I don’t think this needs covering. There are similar places with no coverage on the outskirts of the county. But at the same time, I could easily see keeping the 346 the same, north of say, 130th.
Or the 101 could be extended to 185th. Again, I see the biggest problem being a lack of cooperation between Metro and Community Transit.
Recent drone video of Federal Way Link from SeaTac to Federal Way
Positive: Look at that grade separation.
Negative: Look at that minimal walkshed.
About the best thing you can say about this next-to-the-freeway alignment is that is does to some degree limit further widening of the freeway.
Hard to say how much the freeway alignment is responsible for the flaws of Federal Way Link. For example, there aren’t enough stations. But then again, Everett Link cuts away from the freeway, and it has very few stations. Looking at the three stations:
Kent/Des Moines — Ideally this would be above Pacific Highway South, but it is pretty darn close. They put the parking garage on the freeway side, and will develop the area between the station and the college. Not bad at all, really.
South 272nd — This looks pretty bad. It abuts the freeway on one side, and is close to a green belt on the other. There are a few apartments in the area at least, just not enough to make up for the poor location. It will be highly dependent on park and ride users, and feeder bus service (which doesn’t look especially strong). Overall, I don’t expect much from this station.
Federal Way — This isn’t as bad as 272nd, but it is still too close to the freeway. Very few people will come from the east on foot. The station won’t cut off half the walk-up ridership, but close to it. The area does have some potential, but it looks like there will be lots of parking surrounding it. It will have a good freeway intercept with HOV lane connections. They are even bidirectional, so a bus can leave the HOV lanes of the freeway, serve the station, and then get back into the HOV lanes on I-5 and continue. If ST wanted to, they could run express buses from Tacoma to Seattle that way. That would give riders the same fast trip to downtown Seattle, while allowing other riders to connect to Highline College, SeaTac and Rainier Valley (without backtracking). That is more costly than truncating, but it does add value (if I was ST, I would consider charging more for the Federal Way to downtown Seattle section).
It is somewhat a shame that the Kent/Des Moines Station doesn’t have the HOV ramps, because I see that as the most popular destination (because of the college). This will work though, and there is definitely more around the Federal Way Station than the 272nd Station.
Overall, there should be more stations, especially since one of them looks especially weak. It is mind boggling to think of a 7.8-mile extension with only three new stations. Bizarre. Only in America, as they say.
Amen to “not enough stations”. I’d really like them to stub a junction at the transition to the 509 ROW so that a parallel surface line could be added later. Of course, it’s built without it now. ST has 20/200 foresight,
That’s pretty much true about the stations, Ross. 272nd gets the raspberry.
Another Federal Way station access problem is with pedestrians crossing 320th. That road is 8 lanes of traffic flying st 50 mph with not even a pedestrian refuge at 23rd Ave S. I remain amazed at the lack of a pedestrian overpass into the station.
Maybe when they take out the buildings for OMF South soon they’ll figure out some way to get across. I think this project will predate the TDLE.
Another Federal Way station access problem is with pedestrians crossing 320th.
Yeah, oof, that looks bad. I count 8 lanes: https://goo.gl/maps/xyajWbCY1w4afqoG7. There are beg buttons at least. My guess is that light cycle is a long one.
An elevated walkway up to the station platform would be nice. But that is true of a lot of places (that will probably have more riders).
I like the article by Gene Balk. I think it is interesting to talk to some of my friends who believe a few thousand drop in poulation is a massive exodus. Don’t get me wrong, Seattle has major issues to fix. I consider an over 100k increase over 10 years minus a few thousand is still an increase. Seattle city leaders should look closer to these trends than I am willing to and not be dismissive. WFH, housing prices, crime perception, traffic, gas prices, politics, school quality, city only taxes, all come in to play when moving in or out of here. Plus suburb cities are now offering more densor urban type environments at a cheaper cost. You no longer need to live near the core of Seattle to enjoy family owned cafes, or interesting stores that are walking distance from your home. Not in all areas, but more than before. Transit is getting better in some of those places as well. It will take alot to get me to move away from Seattle, but I listen closely to the ones who have.
Good job to Redmond.
You definitely don’t have to live in Seattle to have a walkable neighborhood. When I moved from Seattle to Kirkland, for example, the walking distance to the grocery store actually decreased.
The catch is that the most walkable suburban neighborhoods tend to be nearly as expensive to live in as Seattle. Downtown Kirkland is actually more expensive per square foot than much of Seattle. That’s because there are simply not enough walkable neighborhoods to meet demand, so if you want it, you have to pay for it.
What is funny is to read the comment section, and the number of people who just don’t get it. Comment after comment about how Seattle is dying, even though according to the data, Bellevue is dying faster. Only a couple people figured it out. Clearly this had everything to do with Covid or reporting errors. People aren’t fleeing Seattle and Bellevue. If they were, housing prices (of all sorts) would be a lot cheaper. It is possible that a few thousand people simply left the city, and found temporary lodging elsewhere, during the worst of the pandemic (when this data was gathered). Or maybe they didn’t do a great job gathering the data. Either way, the idea that Bellevue is dying is kind of silly. I get it — there are definitely problems in Bellevue — but dying? Get real.
Yeah, the 2020 population data is all about covid halting international travel. The main reason the Seattle area has been growing in international immigration. Domestic out-migration (cashing out and finding cheaper housing in the hinterlands) has been happening for quite awhile. But without the replacement immigration, 2020 looks artificially bad.
So you get this silliness about urban death based on a blip due to a temporary policy – blocking immigration in a pandemic.
When I first posted about the census population figures on another thread I stated I thought the more relevant information was:
1. King Co. lost over 1% of its population in one year.
2. Nearly every urban growth area/municipal area from Everett to Tacoma lost population, excluding Redmond (which IMO really isn’t an “urban” area but does have Microsoft driving population).
3. Nearly every major northern city lost population. My guess is this had to do with deteriorating safety, a desire for warmer areas, high cost of living if you don’t have to work there, and these area have a higher percentage of workers who can WFH.
The real question is not whether cities will fade away but whether they will continue to grow, or are we entering a period of de urbanization. Most urban planning these days is based on continued growth, density, and transit. If Seattle’s population doesn’t grow over the next one or two decades how does that affect the planning assumptions?
What is really critical is not a 0.6% population loss in Seattle (and Seattle has many different and disparate areas) which is pretty significant but whether the work commuter is gone, because those workers basically funded cities, and the retail/restaurant vibrancy.
Unless you are one of the urbanist advocates and everyone must densify the fact Seattle lost population would be a good thing. What isn’t a good thing is if the tax revenue for tens of thousands of daily commuters has now been reallocated to the suburban areas these workers live in rather the big cities that tend to have high social costs, and that is happening now.
So Daniel, do you think Bellevue is dying, given the extremely high loss of population during this period (much higher from a percentage standpoint than the loss in Seattle)? Because everything I’ve read from you suggests it is wonderful place. I’ll admit, I haven’t been there in a while.
It is absurd. Obviously this is pandemic related, and a blip upon the general trend (in all of these areas). Otherwise, it would be impossible to explain the high cost of housing. When cities really shrink, houses get cheaper, as does rent. This simply isn’t happening in Puget Sound — quite the opposite. This is why I find some of the comments from long term residents on The Seattle Times to be so ridiculous. They talk about selling their house, making a bundle, and leaving the city. OK, but didn’t someone *else* buy your house? How could that possibly account for fewer people in the city unless a smaller family bought your house (and that seems unlikely if you an empty-nester).
Clearly this is merely a statistical anomaly (e. g. a miscount, or a correction on previous numbers) or purely temporary. Just for Seattle this could be explained by the emptying of the UW (and other) campuses. They are back now (of course). If not for the fact that the city itself keeps adding people in other places, Seattle would have a much bigger loss with the empty dorms.
Which probably explains Redmond. Some people left, but more people got apartments there. Just timing I guess (with the construction of the apartments). Or again, just the random fluctuation of data that we know from previous detailed studies is inaccurate.
That reminds me, when homeless tents start becoming as ubiquitous in Bellevue as they are in Seattle, I will be sending out an action alert to area millionaires that’s it’s time to move further east, out to Sammamish and beyond.
“3. Nearly every major northern city lost population. My guess is this had to do with deteriorating safety, a desire for warmer areas, high cost of living if you don’t have to work there, and these area have a higher percentage of workers who can WFH.“
Such factors Daniel lists are long-term factors. Long-term factors do not result in short-term dramatic trend reversals.
So let’s look at the short-term factors.
1. Suspension of on-campus learning. The mere closing of dorms and students living at their parents’ homes rather than off-campus apartments due to the pandemic is more than enough reason to explain an annual population loss between 2020 and 2021 in many places, including Seattle as a major college town.
2. Cooling of the 2010’s boom. Most major cities have had a recent population boom since 2010. The higher housing costs mean more roommates in many situations. The pressure to live with smaller square feet could not be culturally sustainable. Thus, a short-term factor like losing one’s job in food service combined with more roommates working from home temporarily result in a desire to bail from cramped quarters. As more witness return to their desks and food service jobs return, this will reverse from the 2020-21 trend. In Seattle’s case, the population grew by about 129k between 2010 and 2020, so losing 1.2k in the estimates base between 2021 and 2020 is not statistically significant. (Note that the Census itself has a bigger difference between the official count and estimate for April 2020 than the 2020-21 difference).
Admittedly, some new long-term cultural shifts happened because of Covid. However, moving forward these will likely go back in the other direction as the systems recover from the shock. Even now, transit ridership is way up compared to May 2021 or May 2020 even if it’s less than May 2019 as an example .
No Ross, I don’t think Bellevue is dying, and like Seattle it is a big and disparate city.
But I was surprised by Bellevue’s population declines, which is a larger percentage than Seattle’s decline, and would be concerned if I were building a huge office tower or condo building in downtown Bellevue.
I don’t think Seattle is unique. That is what I tried to say. Every “urban” area in the region lost population, as did nearly every major northern city.
I think Bellevue will do better because it will still have some work commuters wanting to go into the office and has a very vibrant retail area. That is the future of cities according to the urban planner from Toronto who predicted this change in commuting and how cities must adapt to survive. I do think Seattle has to change the perception it is unsafe and unclean to make that change.
My point is my guess is population figures for regional “growth” areas will remain flat for some time, which is contrary to the PSRC’s pre-pandemic estimates and much of our TOD planning. If folks don’t have to commute during peak times I don’t think they will want to live in TOD if they can afford not to, and that is what current housing, transit and population data is telling us.
But next year’s housing data may be different, although I don’t think the work commuter is coming back, especially to downtown Seattle, so planners need to prepare for that likelihood. Seattle should be able to do well with those changes if it wants. It is a big lift for Harrell but 2/3 of the voters agree with his goals.
Seattle lost 4,300 people. That’s about as many as live in the UW dorms. A few hundred were covid deaths. And immigration was shut off during the pandemic.
“Unless you are one of the urbanist advocates and everyone must densify the fact Seattle lost population would be a good thing.”
I think both: Seattle should densify, and moderate population loss is not a bad thing. Seattle’s population was almost 200,00 fewer in the mid 2000s, the economy was doing fine, practically everybody had a job, and the cost of housing was much lower. A lower population would give us some breathing room since the city still hasn’t done anything to fix the housing shortage.
@Ross. When I talk to people about Seattle issues, I try to get them to tell me where they get the infornation. Today news is so biased one way or another. I almost can’t respond to an issue without knowing the news media influence of their opinion. Balk’s atrempt to translate trends is probably not perfect. But I like his articles.
“the state’s fastest-growing city, among those with at least 50,000 people, was also in King County. Redmond increased its population by about 2,900, an impressive 4% growth rate.”
Redmond is also the densest city in the state according to some statistics. What? How can that be when downtown Redmond is mostly 1-2 stories, Overlake Village is worse, and Microsoft looks like 4-story office parks? There are some promising new lowrise buildings in downtown Redmond, and an impressive range of local and diverse restaurants, but still. It can only be a peculiarity of the city boundary and number of Microsoft apartments.
Redmond also deserves praise for leading the way in light rail zoning and permitting. It made light rail a blanket allowed use, and streamlined permitting to go the fastest and cheapest feasible. In 2016 we were begging other cities to be like Redmond and slash red tape and bureaucracy.
Downtown Redmond is transforming fast. 6 & 7 story residential buildings are going up everywhere, and it’s not just around the Downtown Redmond Link Station. The same kind of multi-families are going up near Redmond City Hall, and next to SE Redmond/Marymoor Station.
@Jimmy James — I like Balk’s articles as well. I can’t find fault for it from a bias standpoint. I just think it is old news. It has been well reported that urban areas lost population during the pandemic.
I also think it is highly likely that it is just statistical churn. It is quite likely that data collection was disrupted during the pandemic, just like everything else. Even without a pandemic you can get numbers that go up and down, seemingly for no reason. It is best to look at longer periods, especially absent other trends (e. g. housing prices).
Every “urban” area in the region lost population, as did nearly every major northern city.
It isn’t just northern cities — San Fransisco got hammered. The outflow of people from cities during the pandemic was well reported. This is interesting, but nothing new. I have no problem with reporting that confirms it happened here as well.
The ridiculous part is trying to draw some long term conclusion from it. It would be like suggesting that streaming has replaced in-person movies. This is a reasonably conclusion if you just looked at the data. It is easy to see how popular and convenient streaming is. Movie attendance has been way down the last couple of years. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before movie theaters go the way of video stores.
Except no one really believes that. Clearly the pandemic was the cause of the disruption. Movie theaters got hit hard, and some will never recover. But people still like going to movies, and they will return (or have already).
The same is true for living in the city. People have returned. Otherwise, rent in places like San Fransisco would have plummeted, and not recovered. Condo prices would also be lower than before the pandemic. That is what happens when people flee cities. That didn’t happen here, so clearly this loss of population was temporary (or a reporting error). Rent and condo prices are basically what they were before the pandemic (if not a little higher) despite the addition of more units.
“Temporary” seems a huge stretch.
I agree that the CPS estimates, and maybe Census reporting in general, should be taken with a grain of salt. There was a huge discrepancy between the CPS and Census when both were published in 2020, and there’s a lot of unusual reporting issues post-pandemic. Some of the local numbers (why did South King County cities lose so much population? Why Bellevue and Redmond heading in such opposite directions?), simply look weird.
That said, we know a fair amount about how housing preferences have changed. We know that a meaningful proportion of the population don’t like going to the office five days a week. They will go in less often on a permanent basis and will demand more working space at home.
This gets us two certain facts about housing demand. People will care much less about living near the office. Driving from Auburn to Seattle sucks a lot less if it’s twice a week only. People want a lot more space at home. You already see this in the market. Prices are up everywhere, much more than rents, because the demand is for larger units. Similarly, suburban housing is appreciating faster than big-city housing. (Why Eastside tax assessments increased so much more than Seattle). This isn’t a temporary effect. When somebody buys a house, they are making decisions about where they expect to live many years into the future.
Might it just as much have to do with housing prices?
If you can’t afford Queen Anne or Magnolia then you have to look elsewhere.
There are only so many people who are able to afford $1 million homes. Once that market has been met, prices aren’t going to go up too much, but those that can afford $750k will still have to look elsewhere.
Seattle’s not dying, of course. It has enormous advantages as a business center, which is why it grew employment and hence population so much faster than other center cities in the 2010s.
But there are real reasons to believe that Seattle’s exceptional run is over, and it’s going to look like a normal big city in the 2020s (where a normal big city has roughly stagnant population and is losing share to its suburbs).
Seattle has quality of life issues, with worsening crime downtown. Not exceptional perhaps for larger cities since 2020, but probably on a worse trajectory because we seem so determined not to do anything about it.
Retailing is shifting out of downtown. Look at how many of the retailers closing in downtown are still present at University Village or Bellevue. There’s a lot of happy talk about the return of tourism, and let’s hope it’s true, but it’s not manifesting as investment in retail stores downtown yet.
Seattle’s employment boom has decisively shifted to the suburbs. Don’t even try to make me debate that. Seattle’s a bigger business center than Bellevue, but the shares are rapidly shifting. Look at how little general-purpose (i.e. outside the specialist life sciences sector) office space is in development in Seattle anymore. It’s been near-zero since Amazon bailed on Rainier Tower, more than four years ago now.
None of this adds up to the death of Seattle. That’s just a dumb straw man. But Seattle is under-aware of how unusual the last decade was. There’s a blind spot in local politics where we think this kind of growth is normal, whereas it’s really an artifact of Seattle hitching itself to the company that has added urban jobs like none other in decades.
No other city had this experience, and we’re not likely to have it again soon.
East King has accelerated to add jobs at the same pace as Seattle, but even if Seattle is cooling slightly the Class A office pipeline suggest it is simply Bellevue CBD getting the one-off Amazon boom but otherwise the other markets aren’t notably different than before, particularly if tourism returns to form post-Covid. Check out Figure 8 below (CBRE creates this table every quarter, so very interesting to see trends), especially rents, absorption, and the construction pipeline. Rents still indicate a strong market preference for Seattle proper, simillar to housing & land prices.
There’s also an interesting shift towards biotech – several big developments have pivoting from 30~40 story office or apartment towers to 10~15 story lab space. A lab building won’t have the sheer number of jobs a traditional class A office tower will … but it will also have jobs that will require continual in-person work, rather than floors of conference rooms that get filled up only one or two days a week, so it’s plausible the biotech cluster growing around SLU may be more supportive of urban life.
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