- A chance to weigh in on changes to Aurora.
- 520 to be shutdown later this month; buses will have to go around.
- The transit driver shortage is not just local. Maybe we should listen to the drivers (or give them bonuses).
- New York City tries to speed up the buses.
- State Patrol tickets a lot of HOV violators.
- Downtowns are adapting, not dying.
- Local Khmer organization members ride the 120.
- Ride Now offers important lessons for the future of transit in the area.
This is an open thread.
214 Replies to “Sunday News Roundup”
Reimagining Aurora is a great idea! I just hope that better alternatives get developed to make walk access to stops safer and easier.
And given its volumes and speeds, putting in median stops seems to make riding transit worse. That would force every rider to cross many lanes of Aurora traffic no matter what the direction.
My ideal would be to build a busway on one side of Aurora with perhaps grade separations over or under some major cross streets. Then, Aurora would take less time and effort to walk across, transfers could happen without crossing Aurora and the busway could be easily converted to rail in the future.
I like the idea of a busway, though I imagine the pushback from the rabidly loud pro-car businesses would make it politically non-viable at least for now. I also wonder how rigorously it could be kept clear, given that right turns would have to be allowed, and almost certainly drivers are going to be turning across the busway illegally. Maybe there could be crossing gates like Link has in Rainier Valley?
In any event, it is ridiculous how little investment the E has gotten despite being the busiest bus route in the state by far. In particular, the lack of 24×7 bidirectional bus lanes is a huge hit to reliability.
Oh I would make the busway a separate street, with a small median between it and the traffic. No cars would be allowed like a BAT lane has.
The difficulty is how to get get streets to cross the busway. The configuration could work like having railroad tracks on one side of a highway — but with buses arriving every few minutes that could get disruptive. That’s why some spot grade separation could be needed. The design may have to vary up and down the corridor.
Shoreline and South King County have full BAT lanes on their portions of the A and E. Seattle doesn’t because the car-friendly businesses on Aurora objected. One of the biggest activists owns businesses there and markets the area as one place in Seattle that has plenty of parking and low-cost storefronts.
I don’t know about South King County, but Shoreline widened the roadway to add BAT lanes. They didn’t take a lane (even though it is much cheaper). They wanted to have the same number of lanes for cars. It was also part of a big beautification project (similar to what they are planning for Aurora). The retailers liked all of it for obvious reasons.
There already was a ‘busway’ ROW available north of Seattle.
The Interurban route.
What the BAT lanes are is a way to widen Aurora, claiming transit as the reason, but effectively creating a 3rd lane in each direction, especially for the drivers with a really big set of cajones who blow past everyone waiting at the traffic light.
But, EVERYONE loves cars, Daniel has said so.
What I said Jim is in this three county area 90% of residents PREFER cars for their trips. Some do love cars, and car auctions are popular on TV (Bonhams is holding its Carmel auction this week but starting prices are around $10 million). But the ordinary citizen simply chooses the mode that works best for them. They don’t ”love” any of the modes. Some are just safer, faster and more convenient for them.
That being said, I can’t imagine a less “walkable” area of Seattle than Aurora, unless you want to get a soda at a strip joint while your car is getting an oil change or like hotels that rent rooms by the hour.
Transit advocates are talking about BAT lanes on Aurora to get them through Aurora faster. Merchants want people to stop and shop in Aurora. So naturally the two groups have different views although only one group has skin in the game when it comes to that community.
I’ve spent about a quarter of my adult working life in the automotive industry.
Having knowledge of the workings of that industry is why I do all my own work on my vehicles. I have been accused by neighbors that I really do it because I love working on cars. I’ll confess, I’m definitely a gearhead, and despite my other career in IT (making the modern cars more of a nightmare to work on (Just great, it’s not just a physical design screw-up by the engineers, it’s also a software screw-up, and it’s proprietary software to boot))…
I still enjoy cars.
They Aren’t Screwed to My Ass!
The reason ‘everyone drives’ is because if they want anything else, they have to vote for extra taxes to get it.
Save for the 2003 Nickel Funding Package, I haven’t seen a voter approved road funding plan.
The reason ‘everyone drives’ is because the have no other option, and in reality, if they knew the actual costs, and how their gas-tax pennies got distributed, they would happily vote for a roads-only package.
I think transit historians will look back and realize one the biggest mistakes ST made was kicking the 550 out of the transit tunnel years before East Link opened, and rerouting the 554 along a route ST had to have known those riders would perceive as unsafe.
Ridership on the 550 plunged 1/3 before the pandemic and 17% on the 554. Because employers required these Eastside workers to commute to Seattle, traffic congestion during the peak commute, and artificially high parking rates ST (and Metro) had an opportunity to build a relationship with a demographic that normally they never get to meet or serve.
Instead ST poisoned that relationship with this Eastside demographic with the 550 and 554 reroutes because ST is so used to serving poor folks with few options who tend to complain less.
The move by businessss to the Eastside began well before the pandemic. WFH, safety issues in Seattle, the great resignation, and the decline of downtown Seattle simply accelerated this move, that really began with a revolt against the surface routes the 554 and 550 took.
ST will NEVER see this customer again, and those customers felt abused and poorly treated by ST, and these are the swing voters that determine whether ST or county wide transit levies pass. Instead ST balkanized the subarea division, and as usual the market found an alternative to a situation these Eastside commuters felt was intolerable.
So each has gone their own way like an acrimonious divorce.
Daniel, what is the mood like on Mercer Island after it received the devastating news that East Link would be delayed?
Sam, there was a post on Nextdoor that serves MI and some communities in Bellevue about the delay. So far 5 reply posts, four of them humorous jabs at ST. One reply post genuinely asked what is East Link? Since posts reset to the top of the feed when there is a reply the post soon dropped into oblivion when once East Link and the intercept would get hundreds of replies. These are the same people who think cutting down a tree or euthanizing a coyote or not composting your food scraps is the end of world.
I thought about copying and posting Tisgwm’s post because I thought it was short and precise about the actual problems and page cite to the report but didn’t because no one really cares, and after all the issues over the years who is going to believe anything in a report prepared by ST?
East Link means nothing to their lives, although our town center is torn up while ST SLOWLY builds a roundabout for buses that may never come and an intercept half the intensity ST predicted. And hopefully the entrance on 80th is finally landscaped since ST removed all the vegetation months ago.
“I can’t imagine a less “walkable” area of Seattle than Aurora”
Northeast Seattle between U Village and Lake City. Rainier View. Magnolia. 16th Ave SW. West Marginal Way. These are a few areas where it’s a long walk to anything from any particular residents. Except other residences. When I went to Swanson’s nursery at 15th Ave NW and 100th, I found it was a long walk from the nearest bus stop.
“Transit advocates are talking about BAT lanes on Aurora to get them through Aurora faster. Merchants want people to stop and shop in Aurora.”
Transit advocates are customers of those merchants, and want to be able to get to them easier. Probably 90% of E trips have destinations/origins along Aurora. About the only people going “through” Aurora are going between Seattle and Snohomish County, especially before Northgate Link. And that number is three or four at Aurora Village, compared to an entire busload that gets on and off along Aurora. There are also “express” trips between downtown and 46th, but that’s irrelevant to the part of Aurora we’re talking about between 65th and 145th.
“one the biggest mistakes ST made was kicking the 550 out of the transit tunnel years before East Link opened”
I’d hesitate to say the 550 was one of ST’s biggest mistakes across all subareas. In any case, buses had to leave the tunnel to build East Link. ST installed a maintenance turn track for East Link at Intl Dist that was incompatible with buses in the tunnel. The Convention Center expansion pushed the date up, but only by nine months. Inevitably there would have been no 550 in the tunnel in 2021 and 2022.
The convention center expansion was not ST’s choice to make. That was some other agency (not sure which).
I think the big mistake on that front was on the 550 buses being out of the tunnel for a couple years where we had a pandemic and ridership was in the toilet anyway. It was not planning the convention center and Ballard Link together. If planned properly, trains to SLU would use the existing tunnel, not a new tunnel, and use the convention place pathway to tie into the existing tunnel without needing to bust in a hole. The convention place site also would have been the perfect launching area for a TBM. But, because different agencies didn’t talk to each other, that option is gone, and without an easy way to connect the lines, the result is an entirely new downtown tunnel.
Mike, I was at Swanson’s nursery late this afternoon. The 15 has a stop right at the entrance.
Although I don’t know why anyone would tame transit to a nursery. Even though it is getting near the end of summer we still left with four bags of potting soil, several plants, and an 80 pound ceramic planting pot
The 15 is unidirectional peak only. The only time you can take it to Swanson’s is in the PM peak. I probably went on a weekend. I went to get plants for the pots on my apartment deck. Most often I go to City People’s at 29th & Madison because it’s closest. Second is Sky Nursery at 185th & Aurora, where I take the E to it. Another one was on MLK near Renton I think but it’s gone now. I went to Swanson’s once to see what it’s like. It has a good selection if a little high-priced, but the long walk from the D or 28 deters me from going again. I think there are another couple nurseries in West Seattle and on 45th/Market Street I haven’t tried yet. And a tiny plant store on Pike/Pine that probably doesn’t have most of what I want but may have succulents.
Shoreline has a lot of areas with no sidewalks, and some of those are pretty busy streets. A large number of the streets don’t go through, with no pedestrian pathway.
Magnolia is quite a bit more walkable from that perspective, though there is quite a bit more in Shoreline (grocery stores, library, restaurants, other retail) to walk to, if you can figure out the maze of busy streets with no sidewalks and only a few safe places to cross.
Oh, Daniel, what a dumb thing to say. You are MUCH smarter than that. What has ST operated heretofore? Initially it operated a bunch of suburban express buses!. Then, when construction had been completed from Westlake to Tukwila International Boulevard, it also operated Link. A few months later it was extended to Sea-Tac and several years later to Angle Lake. At just about the same time, the extension north to UW was opened and now, finally, it has reached Northgate.
As of the onset of Covid, express buses ridership was about 60% as large as Link ridership. In 2015, before the extension of Link to UW, ST Express ridership was about 140% of Link’s. So the change between 2015 and 2019, in which Link ridership went from 65% of STEX’s to 150% was clearly the opening of the Husky Stadium Station and Capitol Hill.
So unless you believe that suburban express buses are the haunts of the destitute, your fundamental assumption that ST’s experience of bus ridership is just biased ignorance. At your own admission most of those suburban express riders where peak hour workers, not “po’ folks”.
Daniel, the 15 is a “directional” peak-jours express like the Holy 630. It isn’t “real” transit, just a 40 foot Carpool.
“Although I don’t know why anyone would tame transit to a nursery.”
First off, not every trip to a nursery involves buying heavy stuff. A tiny pot of lettuce is easy to take back on a bus.
Even if you are carrying heavy stuff, taking transit to the nursery does not mean you have to take transit back. If you don’t have a car, a one way Uber ride is usually cheaper than doing the entire trip in a rental car. And, if you account for the overhead of picking up and returning the rental car, the transit/Uber combo is probably faster too, even if the transit trip takes twice as long as driving does.
Another reason for taking transit to a nursery is, course, the daily commute of the people who work at the nursery. They’re not carrying anything.
Please do not jump to conclusions and just assume that because your particular trip did not fit the transit use case, that nobody else’s trip does either. Sure, a nursery is not a big enough ridership draw for buses to go out of their way to serve. But, if it’s on the way to wherever the bus is going anyway, it does at least deserve a pole in the ground, and, yes, somebody will use it.
“peak-hours”, not “peak-jours” (though since it ran only Mon-Fri it was “peak-days”, No?)
Seattle has not funded curbs and sidewalks. It has provided in-lanes stops in the peak periods.
Daniel: “I think transit historians will look back and realize one the biggest mistakes ST made was kicking the 550 out of the transit tunnel years before East Link opened, and rerouting the 554 along a route ST had to have known those riders would perceive as unsafe.”
Bus service was ended prematurely when King County, led by its Executive, sold the Convention Place Station to the Washington State Convention Center. The loss of CPS (e.g., access to/from the DSTT, I-5, and the surface streets ended joint operations. It was not a ST decision per se, though Constantine was the leader of both agencies.
Yes, Route 550 became much less attractive; it was about 10 minutes slower due to losing the center roadway, the D-2 roadway, and the DSTT. The first two were for East Link construction; the CPS sale pushed bus service from the DSTT. But for the sale, buses could have remained in the DSTT until Link headway was shorter. With six-minute headway, there were 45 bus trips per hour per direction. DSTT ridership fell significantly when joint operation ended, as it was no longer as attractive for circulation trips as it had longer headway; in the midday, Link ran every 10 minutes. The CPS sale was probably the largest factor in transit ridership falling in 2019 relative to 2018.
East Link did not end bus operations in the DSTT. It ended the layover just south of the International District Station. ST figured out how to do the Connection 2020 project. Bus service could have continued in the DSTT but for the CPS sale.
I think it is unfortunate that the buses got kicked out early, but I don’t think it will change anything in the long run. I just don’t think it matters. I just don’t buy the idea that the quality of the bus service makes any difference once you add the train (or better bus service, for that matter). People are quick to adapt. If the train works for them, they’ll take it. If not, they won’t. It might take a while, but that is true regardless of the quality of the old transit line.
RossB asserts that the premature end of DSTT bus service will not make much difference in the long term. That may be true. Recall Keynes: in the long run, we are all dead. We each live in the short term. With the ST pace, the broken egg stage of the omelet is quite long and the transit of the moment matters. 2019 was a bad year for transit; downtown was congested and confusing; ridership fell; it need not have; each agency had its role in the decline. Sound Move was in 1996; the initial segment was in 2009, or 13 years later; ST2 was in 2008, East Link and Lynnwood Link may be in 2024, or 16 years later; U Link was eight years after ST2; Northgate was 13 years after ST2. The 2002 ST choice to build Link south-first put tremedous pressure on the transit capacity of downtown Seattle. So, we have decades of broken eggs. That matters to the riders of today. Today, it would be good for Seattle to pay attention to ST2 and current ST service allocation and not just to ST3 WSBLE.
The 550 lost the tunnel, the center I-90 lanes, and the South Bellevue P&R and the Rainier freeway station, all around the same time. And Connect 2020 was right before covid hit. Nobody foresaw how much covid would change things, or the sudden jump in work-from-home. There has also been construction reroutes around South Bellevue and the transit center. Sometimes the eastbound 550 gets on 405 and exits at 4th. Sometimes it goes on 405 to SE 8th Street, goes south on 112th, and north where it converges with Bellevue Way north of the P&R. Other times 108th is closed next to the transit center, and it goes around on 110th instead. Other times there were reroutes between the transit center and Main Street, although those were earlier and may not have been related to East Link.
When the Mercer Island Bridge is closed, I’m not sure if the 550 does the truly boneheaded thing of going on I-5, 520, 405, and I-90 to Mercer Island and then continuing its Eastside stops. Some of the Metro alerts I’ve seen seem to suggest that.
In earlier years when the Mercer Island Bridge was closed, the 550 ran express to the transit center or to South Bellevue, and there was a shuttle from Mercer Island to the intercept point. That’s what a sensible policy would be.
It could also go express to the transit center, and reverse-direction to Mercer Island. That would require explaining to riders to catch it on the opposite side of the street, but it would be feasible. When the DSTT is closed, ST has agents all day at all the stations explaining where the bus stop is, how frequently it comes, and where shuttle trains stop from. It could do that at Eastside 550 stops; there’s not a large number of them. And three stand out as most-used: the transit center, 4th & Bellevue Way, and Main & Bellevue Way. So manning just those stops would get most of the riders.
“Nobody foresaw how much covid would change things, or the sudden jump in work-from-home.”
Or how the tech-heavy Eastside would have the biggest ridership loss.
Once Lynnwood Link opens, I think there will emerge more of a rider interest to get to Link ASAP rather than to ride on Aurora all the way from Shoreline. I’m not sure where the preferences change for those headed Downtown, but I think two RapidRide lines on Aurora — one to Downtown and one to Roosevelt or U-District Link — could be a useful service design.
I’d love to have something like a Northgate – Aurora corridor express now, that would get people to Link and also skip a bunch of Aurora stops. The E is fine for shorter trips, but it’s an hour slog to get to northern Shoreline from Seattle, no matter how you slice it now. With the 373 no longer operating, it’s not even possible to pull the handle on the bus slot machine and try for a 512 to 373 transfer at 145th.
Once Lynnwood Link opens, I think there will emerge more of a rider interest to get to Link ASAP rather than to ride on Aurora all the way from Shoreline.
I agree. There will be plenty of riders who will switch from heading south to heading east.
I’m not sure where the preferences change for those headed Downtown, but I think two RapidRide lines on Aurora — one to Downtown and one to Roosevelt or U-District Link — could be a useful service design.
I don’t think that would work well. It would be very costly to double up service along Aurora. The E is popular, but not that popular. You could split the line, but that splits a lot of trips. You could halve the service on the E, but that again splits the headway on a lot of trips. The E is popular in part because of all the trips along Aurora — you don’t want to mess that up.
It makes more sense to just run buses east-west. A few parts of Aurora won’t have a direct connection to Link, but parts of Greenwood Avenue and Meridian would. There are a number of different options, but these are the sorts of things I mean:
Snohomish County — Swift Blue will do exactly what you are talking about, albeit with fewer stops.
200th to 185th — In an ideal world, Swift would run on Aurora until 185th (with stops along the way) but that isn’t the plan. But at least the Aurora Village stop isn’t too far from 200th and Aurora.
185th — Likely served by the 348.
160th/155th — A frequent (e. g. all-day 15 minute) bus from Shoreline Community College (SCC) to the 148th station along the 330 corridor is likely. I would tack that onto a bus that serves Lake City. For example, instead of the 372 going to Bothell, it would send it to SCC.
130th — Likely served by a bus that goes along Greenwood Avenue, 130th/125th and through Lake City. I would have this as an extension of the 75, although the 65 could work as well (with only one additional turn).
Everything south of there would likely continue as is. I wouldn’t rule out some “L” shaped routes, but only during rush hour. This would replace the other rush-hour routes that are designed to deal with crowding on the E (like the 301, 302, etc.). Unlike some of those routes, they would not go downtown. Either they would end at a station, or end at another significant north end location (e. g. Lake City). While “ending” there, they would likely continue, but just deadhead to some other location, where they would do the same thing for a different corridor (e. g. SR 522).
For routes like this, I don’t think it makes sense to go south of 130th. Both Northgate and 65th are difficult to access from the east. Once you get to 45th, it is faster to downtown on Aurora than it is to head over to Link. If the HOV lanes along I-5 were designed to serve the UW from the north that would work, but they aren’t.
I’d like an Aurora-Link express, but it can serve only one part of Aurora. Aurora is on ST’s long-term list of potential BRT expansions, so that could supplement the E.
Most likely the 75 will be rerouted west on 125th/130th, then north on Aurora or Greenwood to Shoreline Community College. The 65 is likely to continue north to 155th and west to Shoreline Community College.
Most likely the 75 will be rerouted west on 125th/130th, then north on Aurora or Greenwood to Shoreline Community College. The 65 is likely to continue north to 155th and west to Shoreline Community College.
I think that routing of the 75 makes the most sense. It basically means the bus doesn’t make any turns from U-Village to Bitter Lake. The bus would be heading different directions (first east, then north, then west) but it wouldn’t put on its blinker, and wait to make a turn until it got to 130th and Greenwood Avenue.
But I’ve heard rumors that planners want to send the 65 that way. From a ridership perspective, that has value. The 65 gets more riders, and has been running more often than the 75. Since we want a crosstown bus to run frequently, pairing the two would add value. I still prefer sending the 75 across, but I could definitely live with the 65 being sent that way.
Initially I agreed with sending the 65 up north (basically just extending it). But the 65 has to make an awkward set of turns around the Lake City library. It can’t make a regular right turn up 30th. In contrast, sending a Lake City Way bus (like the 372) up to Shoreline is easier. Either it turns left on Lake City Way (like the 330) or gets on 30th directly off of Lake City Way (https://goo.gl/maps/1XLnTvkjsmoWcjtL7). This is a subtle thing, but these sorts of decisions are often based on subtleties. Fewer turns means faster, more efficient bus service.
There are issues, such as buses overlapping, and whether this enhances the systems (by providing double or triple the headways) or is just redundant. For example, Metro is going to have to backfill service from the 522. At a minimum, that means a bus from Fred Meyer (on Lake City Way) to Green Lake Park and Ride. I would have the bus go further north to 145th, even if it means making a live loop (using 30th and Lake City Way). If that bus was timed with the 372 (running opposite each other) you would have a longer combined section. Riders along Lake City Way would have a big stretch (potentially 95th to 145th) where they would have 7.5 minute frequency. Providing this sort of service along a big corridor is what made the 7, E and other buses very popular.
Another big issue is layovers and through-routing buses in the U-District. I have opinions on all that, but it will eventually make its way to a Page 2 post.
Glenn, I still think a gondola between Aurora and the 130th Link station (or Northgate) could provide such connection. The E would collect people along Aurora and the gondola could drop them off at the Link station without having to wait for another bus. Ross, redirecting the 65 or 75 certainly makes sense, but you still lose too much time for a transfer. It might even make sense to extend the gondola line to Shoreline College and/or Lake City. Even cyclists from the Interurban may choose to ride it as 130th is not very inviting. I bet it would bring a lot of riders to that station.
Today, Route 301 connects the north part of Aurora with Link at Northgate. Routes 44, 45, and 348 also cross Aurora and connect with Link. Hours will always be scarce; the most important margin may be keep the E Line waits short.
Right, the 301 now goes to Northgate. It really isn’t the 301 of old. It isn’t just peak-direction oriented. But it is still very similar, in that it only runs during rush-hour. The 302 and 303 are closer, but still aren’t quite what the 301 used to be.
My point is that running a bus like the 301 only makes sense during rush hour. When these buses are running, the E is running every four minutes. It is obviously crowded. Thus they have a couple choices:
1) Run the E more often.
2) Run some sort of express bus.
The second choice is the obvious one. There is little benefit for riders if you run every three minutes instead of four. In contrast, going somewhere else (either as an express to downtown, or connecting to Link) saves the agency money, and provides an additional benefit for riders. In that sense it is just a variation on the same theme.
I could definitely see something like that continue, but go to a different station. I just don’t think you can justify a route like that in the middle of the day, unless it is tacked onto a longer route (e. g. the tail of Swift Blue). The E is popular, but it doesn’t have the most riders per mile, nor are they all clustered to the north (where a connection to Link provides the most benefit). If we had a lot more money, then I could see it, but we don’t.
The Seattle portion of Aurora Avenue North will be limited by funding and ROW constraints. It would be great to duplicate the Shoreline project. Shoreline had to buy ROW to add sidewalks and the BAT (business access and transit); they also consolidated driveways and controlled left turns. I doubt Seattle would have to buy much ROW; it is now in undisciplined shoulder. The most critical improvements needed are curbs, sidewalks, and access management north of North 115th Street. SDOT did restrict some parking when the E Line was implemented; the next step is to do so at all times.
Shoreline has more arterials with sidewalks than Seattle north of 85th Street. They are spending funds on it; their voters approved it.
I think the state is chipping in for the improvements on Aurora. The problem is, it is only for part of it. It is basically an experiment, even though there are plenty of people who would say “Just do what Shoreline did”. I suppose you could make the case that even with the aesthetic improvements in Shoreline, and all the BAT lanes, it is still too wide, and thus not pleasant for walking. I suppose, but I somehow doubt you can pull off anything better, especially if you are limited to a short section. If the road narrows, then you have backups, which means you need (at a minimum) BAT lanes extending much farther (south) and then you are back to where you started (there is no money for that). I think the idea of a “test area” is misguided — we need to look at all of Aurora, not just a tiny section.
Is anyone else following the ongoing rail transit expansion project delays occurring in other places in the US? I don’t want to hyperlink each one, but a search engine will provide results on their gradual accumulating delays.
– Silver Line to Dulles and Loundon County is finally supposed to open in October.
– SF Central Subway still doesn’t have an opening date.
– LAX/ Crenshaw is closer but still not open; it will open in segments. LA Regional Connector is two years behind schedule but may open in a few months. The LA Westside Purple Line extension first phase is delayed another year to 2024.
– Honolulu seems closer but still won’t fully open through the heat of the city until after the outer segment has been running for a few years.
As bad as the ST delays are, the delays pale in comparison to these projects elsewhere in the US. Many of these were supposed to open in 2018 or 2019!
The industry track record of late looks terrible! It makes me wonder if we need to nationalize or otherwise reform the planning and construction process to make it more cost and time efficient. The piecemeal local agency oversight model seems to be universally failing.
…are there any heavy-civil public transportation projects in the USA that are on schedule?
The delays for the Medford Green Line extension (MBTA), San Diego’s Mid Coast blue line extension and even Northgate extension here appear to not be so embarrassingly bad as these other ones are.
Serious question: How does eminent domain work in this country?
I posed a question on one of those YouTube transit videos asking how European municipalities get their local train systems built so efficiently, and someone said they use a lot of eminent domain. However, it seems to me that in the USA, eminent domain = lawsuit. (The Texas Brightline project just got out of a legal challenge about this.)
So how do American entities like Sound Transit get to use eminent domain, if they’re allowed at all?
Sound Transit absolutely does use eminent domain – none of the existing Link lines could be built without it.
It tries to get voluntary agreements with the landowners and cities first (for private and public land respectively). If that fails it might resort to eminent domain. But there are senior eminent domain rights above ST. ST couldn’t put a station where UW didn’t want it, because ST is a state institution with an essential educational mission, so what it says goes.
ST has some leverage over cities because it’s building what the legislature recognizes as important transit infrastructure. But it doesn’t want to antagonize cities either, because that could be a long-term disadvantage to ST, if the city becomes uncooperative.
Daniel and Tlsgwm can probably give the best answers, but broadly speaking, eminent domain is held only by “sovereign” governments and — a residue of a hale and hearty time — railroads. There are two levels of “sovereign” government: the Several States and the Federal Government.
Eminent domain is severely constricted in its use, though since the Rhode Island case, less severely than it once was. The government can’t just come in and take your land because it feels like it; there has to be a public benefit that can’t be obtained by any other alternative.
And the government can’t steal your equity in the land, by say, paying you $1 and saying “suck it up, cupcake!” The government has to give you the intrinsic value of the land; you don’t get to demand a zillion dollars an acre, and they can’t pay you $25 per acre.
Glenn’s discussion of senior rights is important. ST is pretty junior, but it does inherit the State’s right of eminent domain.
Sorry, “Mike’s discussion”, not Glenn’s.
Eminent domain being held by private companies actually was a 1990s thing. One of the GOP transportation bills. They gave it to railroads, pipelines and similar utilities.needing right of way. I think they were mostly doing it for the pipelines but not sure.
Railroads had it throughout the Nineteenth and into the Twentieth Centuries. it was limited to right-of-way acquisition, of course and had to exercised through a court action..
I did not know they had lost it or when. That is implied in your statement that Republicans gave it [back] in the ’90’s.
The big decision I recall is Kelo, in 2005.
In Kelo v. City of New London (2005), the plaintiff, Kelo, sued the city of New London, Connecticut for seizing her property under eminent domain and transferring it to New London Development Corporation. Susette Kelo and others in the area had refused to sell their private property, so the city condemned it to force them to accept compensation. Kelo alleged that the seizure of her property was a violation of the “public use” element of the Fifth Amendment takings clause because the land would be used for economic development, which is not solely public. Kelo’s property was not “blighted,” and it would be transferred to a private firm for economic development.
In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Stevens, the court upheld aspects of its ruling in Berman v. Parker and Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff. The court ruled that redistributing the land was part of a detailed economic plan that included public use. Even though the transfer of land was from one private party to another, the goal of that transfer–economic development–served a definitive public purpose. In this case, the court further defined “public use” by explaining that it was not confined to literal usage by the public. Rather, this term could also describe public benefit or general welfare.
Generally, when a country changed hands, the new owner got to claim the land for full ownership. It’s a fundamental cause of war historically.
In that concept, the US often took government ownership of newly acquired lands. That meant that early eminent domain was often just using government owned land, hence the land giveaway to railroads to settle the West (the public got better access to large areas of the country in return).
That’s changed today, as most government owned land is now only either in existing right of way or is controlled by the National Forest service or another entity. The rest is privately owned. Of course, environmental regulations kick in with public ownership loss too, and that also adds time and effort to document and maybe mitigate.
Things are different in other parts of the world. It’s how China can build HSR pretty quickly as there are few land disputes to settle. Even Canada and Australia have an easier time providing use of land owned by the government as well as they own a higher percentage of land than the US government does.
I’m being very simplistic here and I’m not a real estate ownership expert. I’m sure there are complex legal processes that others can detail. I’m just adding my comment to explain why railroads and utilities got the land in the first place.
Before the transportation bill that granted transportation companies eminent domain, railroads didn’t have it.
Land grants were the government allowing the railroad to be built through an area already taken by the government (purchased via an agreement to move government freight at a discounted rate until 1945), but they themselves didn’t have the ability to seize land from private citizens.
I believe granting transportation providers eminent domain was part of the Interstate Commerce Termonation Act of 1995, and between 1888 and 1995 cases where transportation utilities need right of way, the Interstate Commerce Commission handled it. When they eliminated the ICC in 1995, the solution to who should take over that function was assigned to the corporations.
Your understanding of “Land Grants” is massively over-extended. Only ten railroads received land grants:
1) The Northern Pacific from Duluth to Gold Bar Montana Territory and Pasco to Tacoma.
2) The Oregon-Washington Railway and Navigation Company from Portland to Gold Bar. When it was merged into NP temporarily in the late 1880’s the land grant between Pasco and Gold Bar came with it. So did Portland to Pasco, but when UP got control of the subsidiary, that land grant followed the company.
3) The Union Pacific from Omaha to Ogden and the inherited section from Portland to Pasco.
4) The Kansas Pacific from Kansas City, KS to Denver CO. It was subsumed by the Union Pacific.
4) The Southern Pacific from Sacramento CA to Ogden UT and from Sacramento to Sierra Blanca TX via LA.
5) The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe from Atchison KS to Deming NM where it was to join with the SP to create the southern connection.
6) The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad from Belen, NM to Mojave CA. This was transferred to the Santa Fe when the Santa Fe bought the A&P
7) The Texas and Pacific from Shreveport to Sierra Blanca, CA
8) The Illinois Central from the North Border of Illinois north of Rockford to Cairo and a “branch” from Centralia to Chicago which of course became the “main line”.
9) The Mobile and Ohio Railroad from Cairo to Mobile.
10) The Oregon and California between Portland and Sacramento. This grant was forfeited when the line failed to be completed within a certain time frame. The alternate blocks of land became the “O&C Lands” owned by the Bureau of Land Management in southern Oregon.
So how did the massive network of “granger” lines west of the Missippi and the industrial network in the Great Lakes States come about? They’re all mostly arrow-straight, sometimes cutting diagonally across the north-south roads laid out by the Section-Township-Range system. Most of that land was settled before the rail lines were built.
A single farmer refusing to allow a track to cross his property would have stopped them. So the various States gave the railroads eminent domain within limits. They couldn’t take land for any purpose other than trackways, including yard facilities, and they had to go through court to exercise it.
Sure, most farmers were willing to sell a strip of land across their field in order to get a station within wagon distance, but some were not.
Land grants were used as a funding mechanism, and involved the railroad not just getting land for the right of way, but also land it could sell off to fund construction.
However, in the era prior to the 1888 creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission, quite a large portion of the land used for railroad construction didn’t have to be purchased as it had not yet been sold or homesteaded to private owners. Surveys were done, and the government granted permission to construct such a line across the land that it had taken.
Those landowners that did exist recognized the value of having a means of transportation, and were generally more willing to allow easement than now. In fact, I think you will find pretty much all of the right of way built across private land was purchased outright or was built as an easement.
If a property owner was unwilling, it was a quite different process, as the railroads were not granted the government-equivalent right of eminent domain as is understood today until the 1990s.
Glenn, most of the land in the Northwest Territories states (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan) was settled before the Civil War. The first tier of states to the west (Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota) were not fully settled by 1861, but had largely filled by 1880. Kansas and Nebraska were also populated to the “Lime Line” by 1890.
Nearly all the dense network of rail lines in each of these four regions was mostly completed after these respective dates. I already agreed that most farmers were very happy to have a rail line cross their property if a station were to be located in the nearest settlement. But not al, were and, given the craven greed infesting the hearts of humans, in every case there would have been some landowner who wanted to get a sky-high price for the forty foot strip of land crossing his property. So all the states in the northern agricultural belt gave the railroads wihtin their borders limited rights of condemnation.
Further west the land was still owned by the Federal government, which was unreservedly pro-railroad.
Even non-land grant lines were allowed to buy rights of way for low prices.
You might be right that at the Federal level railroads did not have eminent domain until they no longer needed it and then only as an addendum to a pipeline bill. But they most definitely had it throughout the Midwest and Corn Belt at the state level where it mattered whrpen they were expanding.
I know of 0 cases before 1995 where railroads directly acquired land using eminent domain we know today. What you typically see is something along the lines of what was done for the B&O Canal construction: papers get filed at the federal level, and the route is granted at the federal level. Any land taken had to be done by a government entity for the specific route. The company itself could not take the land, as it can today.
You can imagine how much more damage the Robber Barons would have inflicted if the did have that power.
They did indeed “inflict” quite a bit of “damage”. There was a railroad every thirty miles through the flat places in Kansas, Nebraska (to the Lime Line), Iowa, Illinois’ Southern Michigan and Indiana north of the Terre Haute-indianapolis-Muncie line. You’re missing the point; STATES gave them limited domain. It could only be for trackways, facilities and stations, but they could — and did — muscle landowners in their way.
The Federal government gave away out of the land, though early on a couple of states did too. But just like today, MOST takings were at the behest of the states.
I agree, I’m much more concerned about the operational problems ST has rather than the temporary construction problems. For instance, if ST wants people to depend on Link and go car-free, it needs to commit to never doing what it did during COVID when it reduced Link to half-hour frequencies even when it was clear parallel bus routes that preserved their frequency still had riders. It also needs to find ways to do maintenance and construction without bringing the entire Link system to its knees like it proposed initially for the tilework repairs, and obviously also needs to take other basic station maintenance seriously like its escalators. In other words, it might help if the ST staff actually gave the appearance of using the system they’re designing, building, and operating…
The construction problems, on the other hand, are relatively minor compared to their competition, and have pretty clear solutions and relatively minor impacts for now.
I alluded to this in the prior thread, but I think a lot of the problem lies in the way transit projects are approved. Unlike highway projects, which are funded by the legislature, transit projects require a public vote. We have to vote yes or no, knowing only a vague alignment and a vague cost estimate, knowing that both the cost and the scope are heavily in flux. Plus, we don’t know what, if any alternative, gets proposed next if the measure fails, so any voter that wants anything built at all has little choice but to vote yes, whether they like the chosen routes or cost budget, or not. And, of course, there are huge, decades-long gaps between a vote to build something and the start of construction, with no opportunity to re-assess if circumstances change.
In an ideal world, the agency would get all of the preliminary work done before the vote, and vote on each line only when it is shovel ready, with a fully known cost, with construction ready to start within months of vote. Or, even better, get multiple options shovel ready and make the ballot measure ranked-choice, with “no build” listed as one of three or four options, rather than one of two.
In this ideal world, voters would have more choice, and much higher likelihood than when they vote to build something, they actually get to see it built. But, all this comes with some big catches that makes it not work well electorally. Each individual project, in one particular area, gets subjected to a separate regionwide vote, and probably gets voted down. The above also requires the agency to spend far more than it does today on engineering work, before the vote, much of which would be wasted on projects that never get built. If simply funding the engineering work requires another levy, that levy probably fails because the anti-tax people will absolutely vote no, but the pro-transit people will be unenthusiastic about voting yes, since it wouldn’t actually find construction of anything. The fact that you need a presidential election, which happens only ever four years, to pass a regionwide transit measure, also makes it difficult.
So, in the real world, the two-stage funding mechanism is not really an option. The real choices facing elected officials is to either do what Sound Transit did in 2016, or simply build nothing.
Highways, of course, avoid all of these problems because the legislative funds them directly. The projects get preliminary work funded in one budget, and construction funded in another. Nothing is subjected to the whims of a public vote. Of course, highway overruns definitely do happen, but when they do, the legislature simply coughs up additional money, and the project gets built. It’s not that way at all with transit projects.
Asdf2, why do you state transit levies can only pass in Presidential election years? Local school levies are usually placed on odd ballots like February in this area and pass, usually not in Presidential election years.
I think it’s too strong of a statement to say that a transit levy can pass only in a presidential election year. But, there is conventional wisdom that many young voters, who tend to be the most pro-transit, tend to vote only in presidential elections. Officials who schedule transit ballot measures are aware of this, and, when possible, prefer to wait until a presidential election year in order to maximize the chances of it passing.
In practical terms, this means that if a measure fails, it’s a minimum of 4 years before they try again.
I don’t know how much of that conventional wisdom is actually true, especially in a vote-by-mail state. But, as long as it has enough of an impact for officials to consider it when scheduling ballot measures, it doesn’t matter.
We have correlation. The RTA and ST had elections in April 1995, November 1996, November 2007 (with the RTID), November 2008, and November 2016. ST won in the Presidential election years; they lost in the other two. My guess is that the high turnaround elections draw more young voters; they are more willing to tax themselves for transit.
There are only so many construction workers available in the USA, especially since immigration has been closed down so severely.
Projects that are being built quickly are those where budget is less of a concern.
In the northwest, quite a number of railroad contractors are working on the new BNSF Lake Pend Orielle. Union Pacific is having to do forest fire recovery. BNSF just finished a major project in Illinois where they under cut a series of road crossings to produce road underpasses.
So, stuff where the track owner is willling to pay money to get stuff done is being finished on time.
Transportation is the second highest expense!?? It’s never even been in my top 5. The price of ‘freedom,’ I guess.
Despite WSDOT trumpeting the “full closure” line for the SR520 bridge, it’s not really a full closure. Unlike some previous “full closures”, the pedestrian/bike path will stay open, and will be much more pleasant without all the vehicle traffic!
Good point. People will still be able to bike or walk across the bridge. But their bus will go around, taking a lot longer than usual.
On my e-bike, downtown Kirkland to UW takes about 30 minutes each way, State St.->Lakeview Dr.->Lake Washington Blvd.->520 trail. A steady 18-20 mph the whole way. Including walking and waiting, the 255 takes the same 30 minutes on a normal day. With the bridge closure, the bike will definitely be faster. Given likely traffic congestion on I-5 and I-90, the e-bike will probably even be faster than a private car, most of the day.
Sam, strictly speaking, this is not “funny”, but it is pretty accurate. In all honesty, though, the skilled high earners (and lucky inheritors of a family house) who live in successful cities are willing to pay some taxes to provide housing for people “pushed out” by gentrification.
However, they’re not willing to pay enough taxes to provide much more housing than single-room-with-no-kitchen “extended stay” shelter in the expensive regions, if that.
Therefore housing policy should be Federalized and focus on developing opportunities in the small cities of the Midwest and Southeast where land is dramatically less expensive and environmental diversity is less impacted than in the rarer coastal and Southwestern desert zones.
I understand that literally tens of millions of people “would prefer” to live in the fragile zones rather than the humid (and cold in winter) areas. But there is simply insufficient land area for all the people who want to live along the coasts to do so without eviscerating the unique ecosystems found there. Other forms of life deserve aid as well.
Obviously, such a policy would mean that people in the desirable regions and cities will have to pay more for everything they purchase, because wages for service providers would rise without the marginally housed population holding them down.
True, not funny. Didn’t put any thought into how to describe it. Another way to look at the video, is how some of us are in denial about how little diversity, racial and otherwise, our neighborhood or town actually has.
Every time I travel through St Louis, I feel saddened that the Metro feels so abandoned. Over a century ago, it was the fourth largest city in the US! The infrastructure seems to be built for a population twice the Metro’s size. Nice industrial buildings sit next to the freeway empty in many places. Vacant lots surround light rail stations in East St Louis. While the same can be said for many “heartland” metros, this one seems to be the poster child of missed opportunities. It certainly looks more livable than Houston.
Saint Louis is mentioned in the Strong Towns book. He specifically mentions Ferguson. Ferguson is famous for the Micheal Brown shooting, and the riots that followed. Like most problems in America you can’t ignore race, but it is almost always more complicated than that.
Ferguson is fairly old. It then became one of the early suburbs, in the post-war period. When it was new, it was part of the American dream, and attracted the wealthy for that reason. But it didn’t age well. Public debt rose, and decline spread. Those with pensions stuck around longer, which partially explains how the police force was mostly white, while the citizenry became mostly black. It is deeply in debt. As with Detroit, the racial problems were simply an accelerator for the fundamental issues with post-war American suburban development. It isn’t sustainable.
I think the writing in the book is more succinct when it comes to Ferguson (and similar places, which is basically most of America) but if you don’t want to buy the book, here is a pretty good essay: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2014/8/25/stroad-nation.html.
Oh, and Ferguson is not unique, even in the Saint Louis area. I have relatives who are black and they talk about Saint Louis being one of the roughest areas of the U. S. (making Compton look like paradise). It suffered from an industrial decline, but there were other, uniquely American factors. To quote Wikipedia: The construction of freeways also contributed to East St. Louis’ decline. They were constructed through and broke up functioning neighborhoods and community networks, adding to the social disruption of the period. The freeways made it easier for residents to commute back and forth from suburban homes, so the wealthier people moved out to newer housing.
This isn’t the place to discuss fixing St Louis. Their issues run deep and have fundamentally existed for decades. It’s tied up in a fixed city boundary surrounded by hundreds of small incorporated towns, with many below 20,000 residents like Ferguson and many even smaller. It’s tied up in decades of race relations in an area of high minority population surrounded by rednecks. It’s tied up from massive “urban removal” more than 50 years ago (both for highways and slum removal) without a vision of how to reset neighborhoods. The Illinois side is saddled with even worse problems stemming from that arcane state government.
My comment is merely to point out that its location, topography and less harsh winter climate (compared to more northerly metros) should have created a more prosperous metro. After all, 1000 years ago, the Metro had the most populous city within the current US boundaries (Cahokia) and that was true for hundreds of years.
” It [St. Louis City] separated from St. Louis County in 1877, becoming an independent city and limiting its political boundaries. In 1904, it hosted the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the Summer Olympics.”
“St. Louis, like many Midwestern cities, expanded in the early 20th century due to industrialization, which provided jobs to new generations of immigrants and migrants from the South. It reached its peak population of 856,796 at the 1950 census. Suburbanization from the 1950s through the 1990s dramatically reduced the city’s population, as did restructuring of industry and loss of jobs. The effects of suburbanization were exacerbated by the small geographical size of St. Louis due to its earlier decision to become an independent city, and it lost much of its tax base. During the 19th and 20th century, most major cities aggressively annexed surrounding areas as residential development occurred away from the central city; however, St. Louis was unable to do so.”
“Urban revitalization continued in the new century. Gentrification has taken place in the Washington Avenue Historic District, Central West End and Forest Park Southeast neighborhoods. This helped St. Louis win the World Leadership Award for urban renewal in 2006. In 2017 the US Census Bureau estimated that St. Louis had a population of 308,826, down from 319,371 in 2010.”
In the 21st century, the city of St. Louis contains 11% of the total metropolitan population. (The top 20 U.S. metro areas have an average of 24% of their populations in their central cities.) St. Louis grew slightly during the early 2000s, but lost population from 2000 to 2010. Immigration has continued, with the city attracting Vietnamese, Latin Americans predominantly from Mexico, and Bosnians, who make up the largest Bosnian community outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Obviously because St. Louis sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers it flourished when the U.S. economy focused on heavy industry and raw materials which are much cheaper to barge. But it was the decision by St. Louis City to become an independent city and close its borders to its suburbs that caused many of its problems, not suburbanization. The city wanted to segregate itself from the surrounding “suburbs”. It would be like downtown Seattle deciding long ago to become an independent city from the surrounding neighborhoods.
East St. Louis is a completely different world (and as Al notes in a different state). One could properly call it a suburb, but it is a very poor and dangerous suburb. Urban vs. suburb really does not explain the decline of St. Louis City, or the relative success of the surrounding suburbs.
Daniel, many of the St Louis suburbs are stagnant too. It’s not just St Louis and East St Louis. The two Illinois counties across from St Louis have not grown for a few decades. St Louis County has not been growing for a few decades. The only “success” happening is mainly with St Charles County, which is still living out the “white flight” phenomenon as more employers relocate there.
[The problems in Saint Louis] run deep and have fundamentally existed for decades.
Yes, but my point is that those fundamental problems exist in the vast majority of American cities. Marohn calls it a “suburban Ponzi scheme” which is a good analogy. They need to grow, or they die. This doesn’t happen to cities around the world. They are more resilient.
My comment is merely to point out that its location, topography and less harsh winter climate (compared to more northerly metros) should have created a more prosperous metro.
Yes, absolutely. And if it didn’t follow the pattern of so many American cities, it would have. Imagine the city without the freeways, without the big suburbs, with a big mix of uses downtown and spreading outward. Of course there would be big racial strife — just about every American city has had that. The loss of industrial jobs would have been brutal (especially in East Saint Louis) as it was in London (which lost close to a million jobs in the post-war, post-industrial period) but it would eventually recover. Like Brooklyn, many of the buildings built for industry would become apartments, breweries or big retail centers. But instead they made their bets on the great suburban American dream, and when the bills came (decades later) they couldn’t pay them. Those that could afford it just moved to the next suburb over (newly subsidized with infrastructure that will last fifty years or so before it runs into the same problem). Those that couldn’t just toughed it out.
I was in St Louis once, for a long plane transfer in the late 90s or mid 00’s. I took the light rail to downtown and back to see what St Louis was like. At the first few stations near the airport the riders were mostly white. Then in the middle section they were almost all black. Then near downtown they turned mostly white again. Or maybe it was the other way around, black-white-black. I still have no idea which neighborhoods it goes through, how they compare to the rest of the metro area, or whether Ferguson is nearby. I’d never heard of Ferguson until the Floyd murder in 2020. I just know the color reversed twice, as if each third of the route has a different ridership.
The closest comparison was taking the Los Angeles Blue Line to Long Beach, which goes through Watts and Compton. But I know something about LA and what’s where, and about the Crips and Bloods, while I know nothing about St Louis. (And a couple people on the Blue Line were dressed all in matching blue, in a way that nobody else would.)
It would be like if on the E, most of the downtown riders got off by 46th, and were replaced by a second set of riders that got off by 145th, and were replaced by a third set of riders in Shoreline. Some people travel within those segments, but there are heavy overlaps. Downtown riders going to 85th, 105th, 155th, and Snohomish County. Shoreline riders going to 85th or 46th, often to transfer to an east-west route.
When I got to the downtown terminus, signs pointed to an arch, and promoted it as a tourist attraction. So I visited the arch, which was in a park next to the river. I didn’t understand what all the hoopla was about a stainless-steel arch, or why St Louis chose that. Maybe there’s a local reason, like the unity of the river or something. I also saw the river, and offshore a paddlewheel boat casino. And then I went back to the airport.
I made another attempt at riding the orcas shuttle, to try to add to the article in limbo I have stored in a draft state in the STB queue.
They decided to not operate that week.
I spent the time over at San Juan Island, which has two bus companies that operate an actual schedule rather than attempting an app based flexible service.
I remain skeptical that this is a good solution for most places.
At the end of the last news roundup/open thread (over a month ago!), past the point when anyone noticed, I asked when Metro substantially redesigned their timetables for the first time in forever, since I noticed that they’d been updated when I was in Seattle at that time.
I believe the first timetables in the new format were the Fall 2021 ones. IIRC the correction timetables for the previous set were in the “new” format, so they presumably changed their software in later spring 2021.
Being from Tulsa, and a fan of this blog and a transit enthusiast, I am so happy to see there is a place where such things can be discussed. As someone who works in logistics, wow! I couldnt deal with that amount of feedback and emotional considerations. Can the thing get to the place is my mantra. The thing will get to the place but it might not be pretty in between. Godspeed!
That Khmer 120 bus trip report is interesting, notably, that many of them were under the impression that Downtown Seattle is dangerous. I sometimes hear from my wife, who is from Cambodia and gets all her news from Khmer language sources, about how dangerous certain places supposedly are. But she goes to Seattle pretty regularly, so she doesn’t think it’s too bad there. It’s obviously much safer than Philadelphia or Phnom Penh, other places we have previously lived in. Strangely, she does think Downtown Bellevue is dangerous at night, I think because there is no foot traffic.
Denver is upgrading it’s smart card system, RTD MyRide this month. The big changes being…
-New fare validators that can read credit cards, transit cards, and mobile tickets
– Fare Capping for daily and monthly passes
– integrating all the disparate RTD account systems into a single app and web portal.
-purchasing of transit cards available at grocery stores in the gift cards section
It’s a well needed upgrade from the very clunky original MyRide system that no one really used (only 2% actively used the system) and was difficult to get a card for it on top of the awful to use web portal which could take 3 days to load money onto the card itself.
Repeating the links to my weekend Podcast about RTD; it’s a fascinating series, which has many parallels in transit here too. Many of the issues discussed at length in this blog are covered.
Each episode is about 30 minutes each:
Part 1: https://www.cpr.org/podcast-episode/the-vote/
Part 2: https://www.cpr.org/podcast-episode/part-2-the-mission/
Part 3: https://www.cpr.org/podcast-episode/part-3-an-unexpected-solution/
Part 4: https://www.cpr.org/podcast-episode/part-4-waiting-on-a-train/
Yeah, I’ve been wanting to listen to this series for awhile. Denver’s RTD suffers from a lot of the same issues ST does.
– Size of district covering 8 counties across the Front Range
– Expensive Fares ($3, $5.25, and $10.50 for a local, regional, and airport ticket respectively)
– Disconnect between board and upper management & operations and bus/rail drivers on projects, maintenance, and day to day operations,
– State funding and tax mechanisms hampering proper funding of the system (TABOR)
– Some terrible projects that we wonder why we keep pursuing (B line extension to Boulder and Longmont) despite how bad they are in terms of ridership and cost
– Bus system that is fairly infrequent outside of 6 or 7 trunk routes with a lot of emphasis on Suburban bus coverage over good frequency in Denver, Aurora, and Lakewood.
– Dragging of feet on some BRT projects that would help fill the gap of service and improve ride quality and passanger experience, they’ve been pondering a Colfax BRT for 20+ years and only now does it start to happen but only on East Colfax.
I like RTD as it has decent bones and the ingredients to make a good transit system but is hampered by a lot issues that have plagued it for what seems like years in particular after the passing of Fast Tracks.
Efforts to remove part of Highway 99 in South Park have gone mainstream ($). An older article from February has a map ($). This is a less-used part of 99 north of Des Moines Memorial Drive. It conveges with Highway 509 at the 1st Ave S bridge. So highway alternatives include 509 and I-5. A group called Reconnect South Park has been spearheading an effort to decomission that part of 99. The state legislature has been conducting hearings on whether it would be a good idea. “The Washington Legislature last session budgeted $600,000 to study the feasibility of decommissioning the section of highway and placing the land into a community trust…. The federal infrastructure bill included $1 billion to go toward reversing harms caused to communities by highway construction.” Pete Buttegieg, federal transportation secretary, indicated that South Park might be just such a place for this.
The idea that traffic can divert to 509 is only feasible because WSDOT is doing more highway construction in the form of the SR509 “Completion” Project (https://wsdot.wa.gov/construction-planning/search-projects/sr-509-completion-project)
Freight is an interesting wrinkle in this sort of transportation network planning. I used to do a good amount of environmental monitoring at intermodal truck yards along the stretch of SR99 between 509 and I-5, whose trucks which would basically be forced to use I-5 to get to the Port if 99 were removed. I’d say that the ideal would be that we move freight transportation off trucks and back onto rails, but I have no idea how close BNSF is to capacity (or if it’s beyond capacity) at its yards throughout Seattle.
The far-left impulse would be to nationalize the freight roads, but that’s… beyond a pipe-dream.
Another article on Chinatown/ID activists against another Link station in the district ($).
I don’t normally read Ishisaka because every article is the same, but this article sounds like CID opposition is growing and becoming more organized across ethnicities that don’t always meld, even in Ishisaka’s white/black world.
4th Ave. appears to be as objectionable as 5th Ave. due to 10-11 years of construction that would route traffic through the CID. Normally when I read a ST official state the issue has been studied for years it means ST has no intent of changing its mind.
This is different. Race, class, color, ethnicity, age, disability, and the growing feeling ST is an agency is crisis. will all be weapons against an agency many find arrogant, white, and that always favors wealthy (and white) neighborhoods over poor neighborhoods of color, which unfortunately for ST happens to be true.
The deal breaker will be Harrell. He will never consent to or support a SB5528 levy to complete WSBLE and knows it is unaffordable based on subarea revenue , with or without DSTT2 which ST only calculates will cost N. King Co. $1.1 billion based on 2016 cost estimates and subarea contribution, so he will side with the CID because there is no political gain to side with ST that more and more is looking like a train wreck, forgive the pun (or history).
So what do you do if you are the Board and love to preen about racism, classicism, ageism etc. when you are being accused of these things by actual low income people of color?
If there were the money for WSBLE even without DSTT2 I think we all agree interlining is the logical solution with some kind of branch to SLU and Ballard.
If there isn’t the money my guess is the Board pretends there is, prays for a ST 4 in the future because Federal Way, Lynnwood and East Link will be fabulously popular, or claim WSBLE will be built in parts beginning with the least effective but politically necessary for Dow section, the West Seattle Stub, ideally with riders from the south getting the transfer while West Seattle gets the one seat ride through DSTT1. Doesn’t sound like a racist or classist plan to me although residents from the south might disagree.
Nobody is going to agree to making people from as far away as Federal Way transfer at SoDo, especially since Metro will still run the C and Delridge RapidRides to and from downtown. I doubt that West Seattle will ever actually operate as a “stub” from SoDo either.
West Seattle will never require truly frequent service, so it will be straightforward to send all three lines through the existing tunnel. How to turnback Line 1 once it goes beyond FW is an issue, but it can certainly go to Lynnwood for a while until the Northgate turnback is improved.
Obviously, this leaves Ballard un-served, so IT will be the stub.
So, if the ID community (or its loudest stakeholders) have effective veto power over anything Sound Transit does in their neighborhood, and wants no station in their neighborhood, why didn’t they raise their objection before the 2016 vote? What’s the point in voting on anything if a few loud people who don’t like it can decide after the vote passes to shut it down.
Even though, in this case, the merits of the second tunnel are dubious, this sets a bad precedent. Had a better line been proposed, passing through the international district, they could and would object exactly the same. This kind of veto power by shouting effectively makes it impossible to build anything anywhere, as there will always be someone who objects.
A dot on a map is not the same as finding out the potential impacts of over-construction. I’m sure many folks assumed that ST would somehow “simply” expand the existing CID station to accommodate the BLE, and not have to dig a massive hole and put a blanket over the Chinatown Gate for over half a decade.
Asdf2, what you are recommending is the DEIS be performed before the vote on a levy, which I agree is a good idea, especially with an agency like ST and such an ad hoc levy as ST 3 that was riddled with “optimism”.
Every city or community uses SEPA or the political process to amend or mitigate or eliminate large projects that are claimed to be “essential public facilities”. In fact, right now in Congress, Joe Manchin has proposed in exchange for the Inflation Reduction Act a companion bill that limits appeals for gas and oil pipelines and new drilling. The powers that be and special interests always want to limit local objections, including for housing.
The UW dictated station placement and got $80 million in cash which I highly doubt the CID will get. Bellevue rerouted East Link and got $150 million towards a tunnel. Mercer Island could have gotten the moon if it didn’t have an imbecile for a mayor who believed ST’s oral promises (or at least SOV access from ICW, no drop offs on the north side of NMW so bus layovers were at the point of origination, and around another $35 million in cash which is what Bellevue got along with a 1500 stall park and ride).
WSBLE is different. It is unaffordable. Simply look at subarea ST tax revenue for N. King Co. in the 2021 subarea report, deduct stations for Graham St. and 130th which have exploded in cost, add $1.1 billiion for subarea contribution, multiply the remainder over the next 20–22 years, and see if it comes it to $19 billion.
It doesn’t come close and the DEIS recognizes that. So why would Harrell fall on his sword against the main Asian community in Seattle over a line that ST cannot afford?
“ So, if the ID community (or its loudest stakeholders) have effective veto power over anything Sound Transit does in their neighborhood, and wants no station in their neighborhood, why didn’t they raise their objection before the 2016 vote?”
This has a two part answer.
1. The original West Seattle studies before ST3 all assumed using the existing ID-C station platforms. DSTT2 south of Westlake was not proposed until after West Seattle and Ballard rail studies were completed. These interests had no advanced knowledge of this possible impact.
2. ST3 only put a dot there before the vote. Subsequent early drawings even after the vote presented a stacked (two level) station just east of the existing Northbound platform, creating a northbound cross-platform transfer and a simple single escalator ride down to the other platform. The original drawings would have required simply closing 5th Ave to expand the existing vault by less than 20 feet although it would have been deeper. It wasn’t until the Board approved alternatives for the DEIS did they find out about the more harsh impacts.
In other words, the harsh impacts were never made public until well after the ST3 vote.
Most apt complexes around Overlake Transit Center/Redmond Technology Station are garden-style apartments. Spread-out, 2 to 3 stories. Driving by 40th and 156th I noticed a large complex called Eaves is redeveloping a corner section of their property into 5 to 6 story style of apartment buildings. The type that have proliferated over by Overlake Village Station. I wonder if this will become a trend. Are the days of all the garden-style apts near Microsoft numbered?
This site shows what Eaves is doing …
This project is a good example of zoning and comprehensive plans not creating what was intended or promised, and the risk of allowing use zoning to be changed based on phony promises.
The zone is high density residential, R-30. The existing use is 48 two story multi-family buildings with three residential amenity buildings. The new building will be seven stories (the maximum height for wood framed) creating 214 units with 279 underground parking stalls. The property is in an area of primarily SFH and low multi-family structures.
“The overall site is bounded on the east and north by R-12 and OBAT on the west and south. Adjacent land uses consist of a multi-family apartment complex to the north and Microsoft to the south and west. The property is diagonally across from the Overlake Transit Center, where a new light rail station is scheduled to provide service starting in 2023.”
“The sub-area where the project is located has predominantly single-family and multi-family residential.”
The neighborhood comp. plan states development should:
• Developments space buildings to maintain interspersed views of tree lines.
• Developments contribute to the creation of an urban place that feels comfortable for pedestrians.
• Facades in the public view are varied and articulated, and
• Buildings do not appear bulky or massive.
“OV-68 Design buildings and sites in areas designated Multifamily Urban to have a residential character. Encourage balconies overlooking streets and courtyards.”
” The Comprehensive plan for the Overlake Neighborhood Residential subarea envisions creating a distinct design separate from Downtown Redmond. The focus is on creating a human scale design that reduces the of bulk or mass of new buildings with specific focus on green design and pedestrian connections.”
But when one looks at the architectural renderings the proposed buildings do not accomplish any of the goals in the comp. plan. The massing of the budlings is dramatic and creates no walkable street scene, and are anything but human scale. There is no mention at all of any street level retail in the entire massive building complex. This is how cities and planners manipulate citizens by language in comp. plans that appears to protect neighborhoods when the zoning and regulatory limits do the opposite. If I am not mistaken the planner use to work in planning for Seattle.
The comments by staff are the same mistakes Mercer Island made with its town center plan: that building materials, decks, “modulation” can soften or ameliorate massing from height and bulk right out to the street edge. Just compare the photos of the current site which is heavily treed and the proposed building which has no trees.
There was a good link on STB a while back explaining why modern architecture like this all looks the same, which is pretty industrial and monolithic. If the comp. plan had been more honest about zoning this property for this scale of development due to Link I could see that, although no doubt the planners would point out the use is “Multi-family Urban”, but when you read the goals of the comp. plan for development, they are unrealistic and dishonest for urban development.
My guess is we are going to see more conflicts over development in these eastern neighborhoods whose existing use is SFH or small-scale multi-family, which is what the comp. plan promises to preserve their character vs. the massive industrial style UGA-style development we seen in the photos.
Which is why eastside SFH only neighborhoods insist on SFH only uses to prevent this kind of sleight of hand between promises in the comp. plan to preserve the character of the existing development and the actual zoning and allowed development that is really industrial in scale. If a city changes the use zoning to “multi-family urban” it is foolish for a neighborhood to believe a bunch of goals in a comp. plan that promise a style of development that is fundamentally opposite of multi-family urban although most residents are not aware of the change in use zoning and what it means. The irony is this structure would never be allowed in Paris proper.
None of this new housing will be affordable, is probably geared toward Microsoft employees with such high parking limits (although of course all the executives live in SFH zones in West Bellevue), and of course what this is is gentrification. The new 214 units will all be much more expensive than the existing 48 two story units they replace. But that is life so get use to it. Average median housing prices are going up forever as new construction replaces older construction so don’t whine about it.
But never, never let the use zoning be changed with any kind of promise the regulatory zoning will stay the same if you like your SFH zone, or dishonest planner claims like facades or covered decks or daylight planing or “modulation” will turn urban multi-family development into anything consistent with a lower existing use zone.
“The new building will be seven stories (the maximum height for wood framed) creating 214 units with 279 underground parking stalls. The property is in an area of primarily SFH and low multi-family structures.”
What this shows is that the demand for housing is far beyond the supply, so that anything that gets upzoned gets built to the maximum allowed.
I don’t see much wrong with their plans. This is not a quiet neighborhood. 40th is a six lane road, while 156th varies from six to seven lanes. The corner on which this will be built lies less than 200 yards from the freeway. This is not “human scale”, and hasn’t been for a very long time. This is an area where the automobile dominates.
A six story apartment in a neighborhood like that is not really a big deal. The massing won’t matter because the street is massive. The neighborhood is largely made up of Microsoft buildings — not exactly Parisian architecture. As for being “walkable”, that depends more on what is around there, than the buildings themselves. This is basically a tiny project, in a sea of previous development. From what I can tell, the streets are huge, with little to no mid-block crossing. This leads to walks like this: https://goo.gl/maps/XL4Aa7G19RE5vvq58. There are far worse street designs, but it isn’t very good either.
I agree though, that it should have ground floor retail. It is on the corner, so it is possible that people in the area will walk there. But it is a stretch to say this somehow ruins a neighborhood that has been based around the automobile, with very wide streets.
As I see it, there are only two ways out of a mess like that. Either it shrinks dramatically (with much smaller, slower, quieter streets) or it goes the other direction. It gets build up in this manner, and can justify street improvements (better pedestrian crossings, more retail, etc.). This seems like a step in that direction, however clumsy.
“This is not a quiet neighborhood.”
I don’t know as much about 40th, but Overlake Village has no single-family houses or garden apartments within sight or in the neighborhood. The houses start east of 156th. At 124th they’re behind that Bellevue Technology Center with the giant front lawn, and a row of apartments south of it. On 24th and Northup it’s all businesses, no residential. There may have been garden apartments at and around the former Overlake Village apartment complex, but they’re long gone. I’ve never been to 40th or 56th much but I assume it’s similar, with single-family houses and garden apartments no closer
And there are no single-family houses or garden apartments in the area or in line of sight to object. The houses start east of 164th
When I wrote that the neighborhood is quiet, I meant literally. There are plenty of neighborhoods that are busy and quiet, as well as ones where you see hardly anyone walking, but are quite noisy. This is more of the latter.
To be fair, it may have people walking, but the point is, from a physical standpoint, it is noisy and unattractive, simply because of the very wide, very busy street. It is not a quiet, lonely rural back road. Nor is it a busy area where cars run at 10 MPH simply because there is so much going on. It is a place where large swaths of land have been given over to driving, and the result is noise — both literally and visually.
If there is an argument against building big buildings there, that is it. We shouldn’t subject so many people to living in that environment. Unfortunately, the damage is done, as Microsoft is located just across the street. Thus it makes sense to actually build up around there, in the same way that downtown Seattle is built up, despite the terrible freeways that cut across it. Hopefully, in time, it will be quieter. Maybe as more people live there, people will prioritize actually living in the area, instead of assuming that everyone is just driving through. Maybe they can shrink the roads, widen the sidewalks, and add bike lanes. Or maybe it is just one of those places that people endure — at least you can walk to work, and at least there is a green belt the other direction. Add a few restaurants and it might be tolerable, if not ideal. I’ve lived in worse.
There used to be an apartment complex called the Lamplighter in Crossroads near the corner of 8th and 156th. For decades, it consisted of seven buildings, with a large inner courtyard with three separate pools. Then, around eight or so years ago, they replaced the courtyard and pool with three more residential buildings. Now the apt complex is called the Madison. That’s another thing Microsoft-area garden-style apartments may do. Rather than replace some existing residential buildings with taller buildings, like Eaves is doing, they’ll just fill in the garden and pool areas with more residential buildings.
Anyone check out the Green Lake Outer Loop project on the Aurora Improvement site? It looks fantastic! But it would be nice to incorporate a bus stop so the E-Line can remain on Aurora, rather than having to deviate along Woodland Place.
That has been one of my concerns about the project. There is no bus stop there, but this probably kills any option for adding one in the future. It is too bad, as other changes that have occurred would make one possible. It used to be very difficult to cross that street — now there is a nice crosswalk and traffic light. I don’t like the way the E deviates — it is hard to justify — but we may have to keep living with it.
The E Line deviation to Linden Avenue North is worthwhile due to its ridership and the lack of sidewalks on the east side of Aurora Avenue North. Routes 6, 359, and 358 all served Linden in both directions. Route 6 was electric trolleybus between 1940 and 1963; there is multifamily housing.
The detour isn’t worth the extra service time. You aren’t really adding coverage, as it only serves it one direction. If there are problems with the sidewalk on that side of Aurora, they should be addressed. Likewise if they want to add another crosswalk. Just because other buses used to follow the current path doesn’t mean it makes sense now. Back in the day, Seattle didn’t care if you wanted to cross Aurora — you were on your own. Now, obviously, they are willing to make investments in the area.
A very compelling case for regional rail in Puget Sound surfaced last week. https://www.theurbanist.org/2022/08/16/puget-sound-regional-rail/
The Urbanist no longer allows comments, which is too bad. I like that author, but this is one of the most hair-brained ideas he has come up with. There simply isn’t enough demand to justify a regional rail system like the one he envisions. The buses that run to these places *are not full*. You don’t replace half empty buses with trains that are slower, cost more to operate, and run less often. This falls under the “fantasy map” category that Reece Martin mentioned a while back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JyBeZCGMoM.
It’s not hair brained, it’s what other countries just do. I keep hearing people saying we’re a unique or special case for a country in the world in terms of transit, even though that’s not the case. We’re so obessed with subsidizing car vehicle travel instead of making rail travel a bigger prioroty. We’re just stubborn as a nation about modernizing ourselves and moving away from cars. Buses are great but can’t go everywhere rail does or should we try to limit ourselves to only bus transit like i keep a lot of American transit people advocate for. Along with I’d point out that many many small or rural areas around the world have rail access compared to even some big US cities which should embarrass every single American. So no, it’s not hair brained. It’s just what other countries do to serve their populace.
Yeah, it’s pretty hair-brained. What other countries do is electrify their already extensive rail networks and set up frequent regional service to supplement the intercity service the lines were built for. These cities built large rail networks in the pre-automobile era when cities were much more compact and surrounded by open countryside. Putting in regional rail afterwards like Crossrail or RER is an expensive undertaking and only justified by heavy demand.
That said, I wouldn’t say this is out of the question well in the future. When tunnelling is mostly done my robots, HSR in the region will be possible, and as part of that project, a regional rail system might be a useful adjunct. Actually it would probably make more sense than Link going from Tacoma to Everett.
It’s not hair brained, it’s what other countries just do.
No, it isn’t what other countries do. You won’t find any country that replaces half-empty buses with slower trains. It just doesn’t make sense. The regions that have extensive rail systems have dense cities and towns built up around the train stations. The rail is often the fastest way to get from one place to another. None of that actually applies to us, which is why various Sounder runs have been so disappointing.
It is reminiscent of the Des Moines ferry idea. Yeah, sure there are places around the world with passenger ferries. We have them right in this very state! But that particular ferry is just not a good idea.
We really don’t have to speculate. We can just look at the data. South Sounder is way more popular than North Sounder. Yet outside of peak, South Sounder gets hardly anyone. Adding more trains would lead to fewer riders per train. Even if we didn’t lease space from BNSF, it would be a bad value. The fact that each additional trip costs *more* than the previous one just makes it more and more expensive per rider. All the while, there are plenty of places that decent local service, let alone intercity bus service.
Speaking of which, those places in the rest of the world with good train service also have very good buses. There are many places that are accessible by bus and not by train.
In Berlin, South Sounder would be a half hourly RE train with a maximum speed of 100 mph, with perhaps a third of the staffing requirements of Sounder. Some operations in Europe use the economies of scale of rail operations to make operating a train on the line cheaper than a bus (the rail and stations are already there and maintained, so they just add a train with a single operator).
Almost none of these conditions apply to rail operations in the USA. You should be able to get Sounder to the point it’s faster than the bus, but not without better separation from freight.
In Germany, I’ve been told the measure of investment in rail operations is “Csn we make it faster than driving?” If not, it’s not worth building, no matter if it’s streetcar with lane and signal priority or high speed rail.
Even if all of that rail ROW was gifted to the State for free, it wouldn’t make sense to build out that network. Some of those corridors would just paved over to be nice bike paths like Eastrail, not regional rail.
It already is a trail in Kirkland, and is being built in Bellevue, and the ultimate plan is a trail from Renton to Woodinville. That would be a major transportation/recreation asset on its own, the emerging Eastside trail network. East Link uses a small part of it with a paved bike lane on one side — no greenery — but I don’t expect other cities to consent to more of that.
You do know that regional rail on the Eastrail corridor (That’s the Snohomish to Tukwila segment of R6 on that map) was cheaper than Stride, right?
Of course you do.
Sound Transit, the PSRC, & WSDOT all have reports that lay out the ridership and costs that show that.
Gold Bar? Twice an hour??? My floor can’t handle any more!
And Zach, “other countries” have a lot more people living in a lot less space! than we do.
The basis for the Urbanist’s claim that “regional” rail (i.e. between Everett and Tacoma basically mirroring the route Link takes but with fewer stops) is necessary is because Link is too slow:
“When Link finally reaches Tacoma in the early 2030s, the typical travel time to Downtown Seattle (a distance of about 36 miles) will be 74 minutes. Between Everett and Tacoma (a distance of about 66 miles), a trip would be 131 minutes when the Everett Link extension opens in the late 2030s or early 2040s. That, of course, doesn’t factor in the gamble of service disruptions in Rainier Valley on the 1 Line’s at-grade segment (though we could lessen that if we wanted to). These aren’t travel times that indicate a region really accessible by transit and competitive with driving outside peak hours.”
Too bad the Urbanist didn’t point this out before ST pursued the spine.
Is there the money for a separate regional rail system. No, and Fesler should have listed ridership levels on Sounder post pandemic (or pre pandemic). After all, how many travel between Everett and Tacoma today on any mode? The Urbanist like the PSRC has never understood the three-county area outside the Seattle urban core, and making this HUGE and undense region “accessible” by transit is fool’s gold.
Is the current existing regional rail between Everett and Tacoma any faster? Not really, and of course The Urbanist fails to account for first/last mile issues on both ends of both Link and regional rail. Will Link be too slow to compete with driving outside the urban core — especially post pandemic? Yes. Ross and Tom have been saying that for a very long time. The real question the Urbanist should be asking is who thought it was a good idea to spend tens of billions of dollars connecting Everett and Tacoma and points in between with slow commuter rail? Oh, it was the Urbanist.
The Urbanist posts are often just commentaries and not endorsements of ideas.
I do think there is merit to a study of a systems “mix” of both regional rail and Link — mainly because of speed, capacity and driver requirements.
It could be possible to redesignate some ST3 segments for regional rail rather than Link to both save money and make trips faster. It may be even possible to convert some ST2 segments to regional rail. ST won’t even study it, though.
To me, the place where a change could particularly be powerful is in Pierce County. Link will crawl from Federal Way and the stations are all in horrible locations for anyone but a casino or event goer. In contrast, a cheaper regional rail could have multiple faster lines that radiate out from a South Federal Way Link terminus.
Even DSTT2 could be restructured for regional rail. It would be tricky to configure, but dropping so many deep and expensive Downtown stations in favor of using Link or streetcars for local distribution could be a big win.
Finally, such an approach could set the stage for eventual intercity higher speed rail using the tracks to get to other cities further away.
I take the perspective that Link to Tacoma serves more of an interurban service than a metro. Sounder is the line for Seattle service. Tacoma and Pierce have made it clear that Link to Seattle is a secondary destination compared to SeaTac where they see a lot of the value coming through for the extension
Tacoma and Pierce have made it clear that Link to Seattle is a secondary destination compared to SeaTac where they see a lot of the value coming through for the extension.
I’ve heard that before, and it just shows how ridiculous the Tacoma Dome extension is. Sound Transit can’t justify running the bus from downtown Tacoma to SeaTac every fifteen minutes. The reason is obvious. There just isn’t the demand. The buses don’t get many riders. Yet somehow a train — which would force more riders to transfer — will get way more riders. So many riders that it will need the extra cost and capacity that a train has. Sorry, but it is just silly. If this really was a priority, they would just run the bus twice as often.
A city the size and density of Tacoma (that is, sprawling) simply can’t justify the cost of building a train line to its airport (with a handful of stops along the way). I really can’t think of any city that size that has done that — and in America we have built some really stupid transit projects. This is just grasping at straws. The “Spine” was a very stupid idea. As time has gone on, people have done the math, and realized that it doesn’t really make sense for a lot of trips (e. g. anywhere in Tacoma to anywhere in Seattle). So they have to come up with some reason for this boondoggle, and that is pretend that Tacoma is much bigger, SeaTac as a destination is much bigger, and that the route to the airport conveniently covers a handful of huge neighborhoods that are very close to the freeway and are on the way.
Unfortunately for Tacoma, Tacoma Dome Link will do very little to improve the transit situation in the city (or around it). Their transit future rests on the various bus projects they have planned, as well as increasing service on their system in general. Oh, and improving density, thus reversing the sprawl that makes transit (and so many other aspects of running a city) very difficult.
Seattle folks say Tacoma isn’t worthy of any rail as if Seattle is so superior and hotty totty with Tacoma and Everett as the podunk rural backwater from the perspective of Seattle folks. Smaller cities than Tacoma and Everett around the world have better rail service and yet Tacoma and Everett are seen by local urbanists as “not worthy” of being blessed with rail service, so no this argument is not up to snuff as someone who actually grew up in this city, read the history on our streetcar system and looked at streetcar maps which actually passed near my home in the city back in the day. We need actual investment my hometown city’s infrastructure and not just a bunch of busses will do that.
“Sound Transit can’t justify running the bus from downtown Tacoma to SeaTac every fifteen minutes.”
Current service is not necessarily optimal service! The 574 and 594 are 30-minutes not because of ridership but because of budget limitations, driver shortages, and the percent of the budget ST is willing to allocate to ST Express (all routes). It has explicitly said the 594 should have 15-minute service, the 550 should have 15-minute Sundays, the 535 should have Sunday service, and the 522 should be more frequent in the Northgate Link era than it is. It intended to fufill all that in the early 2020s — right now — but the covid recession and subsequent driver shortage dashed that. I don’t understand what ST intends the 574’s role to be, so I’m focusing on the 594 which is more straightforward.
The best thing that happened to Snohomish County was when the 512 replaced the 510/511 off-peak and doubled frequency to 15-20 minutes at all stops. That’s what’s missing in the south end re the 577 and 594. Each runs half-hourly and has no common stops. We’ve suggested ST merge the 577 and 594, but ST won’t listen. But they didn’t listen about the 512 either for many years until they finally did. ST’s reasoning then was, “We won’t merge the 510 and 511 unless we get so low on resources that we can’t run them both half-hourly.” That’s not the point! The point is that riders need 15-minute service! Even if it’s slightly slower! Those 15 minutes make the difference in whether many riders are willing to take it, are willing to go to the bus stop if they don’t know the schedule, or are close to missing it, or can fit their total desired trips into a day.
In other words, the 574’s and 594’s infrequency is a major reason why ridership is so low. If you make it more frequent, latent demand will turn into actual ridership, and the route’s convenience will attract even more riders beyond that. You can’t just say the US has a skeletal transit system because ridership is so low. Ridership is so low because the transit system is so minimal. It’s worse than what people can reasonably be expected to tolerate, it’s not competitive with driving, and it’s not what people in other countries have. If you improve the transit network, riders will come, as they do in other cities. If you contract the transit network, riders will leave. This has happened consistently in city after city. You only have to look at the transit network compared to Europe, to understand why ridership is low compared to Europe. Jarrett Walker has said that ridership consistently goes up and down as the transit network expands/contracts, and Canadian cities and suburbs similar in similar-size/density to US suburbs have both more transit and higher ridership. It can work in suburbia, if only the transit were there. Even if unwalkability and car-dependent layouts limit how much transit can do, it can still do something more than Americans think it can, even in the US.
This is true for literally all of Pierce County. No one uses transit because transit is unusable.
The bigger problem with the 574 and 594 is they go to hourly at 9, making the return trip for a night out in Seattle an extremely dicey proposition.
Seattle folks say Tacoma isn’t worthy of any rail as if Seattle is so superior and hotty totty with Tacoma and Everett as the podunk rural backwater from the perspective of Seattle folks.
Wow. OK, I appreciate the honesty with the comments. It explains a lot. This sort of attitude is unfortunately very common, which is how American cities end up with crap. It would be like landlocked countries spending money on a navy and saying “you English think you are so superior and hotty totty …”.
Look, no is trying to denigrate Tacoma. Not a single comment here is a criticism of Tacoma. We are simply pointing out that it is ridiculous for a city its size (and density) to consider rail, especially since it doesn’t even have a decent bus system. I realize you think Tacoma is big, but it isn’t. Just look at a population (or employment) census map and compare to a typical city with a good subway system. Tacoma is way too small and too spread out to need rail.
Or just look at the existing transit system. The most popular bus in Pierce County is the 1. It has a mere 5,300 riders. The second most popular route is the 2, with just under 2,500. Every other route carries less than 2,000, and most are under a thousand. The entire Pierce Transit bus system carries a mere 29,000 — this is for the entire county. This is for the entire, sprawling county!
To put it bluntly, if you don’t people to ride the buses, they sure as hell aren’t going to ride the train. Spending a bunch of money hoping they will is just a waste of money. That isn’t how it works, anywhere. Really.
“Sound Transit can’t justify running the bus from downtown Tacoma to SeaTac every fifteen minutes.”
Current service is not necessarily optimal service! The 574 and 594 are 30-minutes not because of ridership but because of budget limitations, driver shortages, and the percent of the budget ST is willing to allocate to ST Express (all routes).
Nonsense. It is all about ridership. Just look at the numbers. Look at page 155 of this document: https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/2020-service-implementation-plan.pdf. Notice that the 574 usually carries less than 30 people per trip. The only time it even comes close to filling a bus is very early in the morning (when Link doesn’t run). Yes, it runs every half hour. But imagine if it ran twice as often. The buses would have fewer people! That is the way it always works. People like me who push for more frequency will point out that doubling frequency can lead to *almost* double the ridership. But it doesn’t increase ridership by more than double. That means that the buses will continue to average around 20 riders a trip at best. That is tiny. There is never a reason to use an articulated bus, like Metro routinely runs. Yet folks think we need a freakin’ four car train?
Hell, there aren’t even that many riders to SeaTac from Seattle! Clearly the biggest ridership for SeaTac is bound to be from downtown Seattle, and even with all of that, SeaTac got less than 6,000 riders *before* the pandemic. The idea that Tacoma will get more is ridiculous. The idea that this will form the foundation of a major, multi-billion dollar investment in mass transit is just delusional.
I get that some think this is some huge insult to Tacoma. It isn’t. Tacoma is getting screwed. They are being asked to pay for something that will benefit only a handful, while what they really need — a decent bus system — is not being provided.
“We are simply pointing out that it is ridiculous for a city its size (and density) to consider rail,”
There’s clear sense of either “it’s fine” or “there’s potential here” from what I’ve seen here. There wouldn’t be merit building some form of rail in Tacoma if there wasn’t precedent in the area or good bones in terms of layout and walkability, which we have in the streetcar and interurban from back in the day. The city is also looking at the future as well, they’ve made it clear they want to be seen as their own city distinct from Seattle and on some level that is the same for Everett as well. Both want to step out of the shadow of Seattle. Along with understand that the housing market has forced their hand in terms of addressing long term population growth in the region during the last decade. Tacoma has built up a lot of
“Tacoma is way too small and too spread out to need rail.”
I never said a subway once. Not once. I just said trams and light rail which I consider very different from a subway system and would work fine here. At most I could see is a section of subway(ish) through downtown Tacoma connecting all the major points before fanning out onto the major streets or districts of Tacoma that are pretty dense or are popular destinations within the city (6th Ave, Proctor, MLK, Lincoln, South End, Pearl, Point Defiance, etc.)
“Or just look at the existing transit system. The most popular bus in Pierce County is the 1. It has a mere 5,300 riders. The second most popular route is the 2, with just under 2,500. Every other route carries less than 2,000, and most are under a thousand. The entire Pierce Transit bus system carries a mere 29,000 — this is for the entire county. This is for the entire, sprawling county!”
1. Pierce Transit doesn’t serve the entire county, it only serves the urban parts of it. So the system is not that sprawling as your saying it is and has actually shrunk in recent years when Buckley, Bonney Lake, and Sumner left the transit district for a variety of reasons.
2. The low ridership I’d argue is an issue of frequency and COVID, no bus runs less than 30 minutes apart anymore which makes it difficult to encourage good ridership.
Pierce Transit I will admit has had a bit of an identity crisis since 08 in terms of how they want their transit system to actually work for the region it serves on top of just not a lot of investment from the cities or county on what to do about fixing it. Some people see the Link extension as the kick in the pants PT has needed. Alongside the BRT buildout of the 3 main trunk routes of the system.
Tacoma at the end of the days has good bones for transit in part from it’s location and geography alongside the city being mostly designed around the streetcar and walking during the prewar era before the big suburbanization of US Metros during the 50s and 60s. Which did affect some parts (mainly the mall area), but not all of it. And no city is in stasis forever. Which is my point and why I care about my hometown. I have seen the city grow and change in the last 25 years i have lived and visited here. It used to be the place you didn’t live unless you had a reason to be there. But that has significantly changed in recent decades, slowly starting in the 90s and 00s before seeing bigger changes in the 10s. Where there are people moving to this city for work, education, etc. Tacoma doesn’t want to live in the shadow of Seattle anymore and be it’s own thing.
I’ll add that I see transit in Tacoma needing a mix of services on top of the needed improvements in bus services to have a lot more frequent buses on every route to be 10, 15, or 20 minutes at least for the most parts of the county. But there is a need at least in Tacoma proper for trams to be running on key streets or areas like 6th, Proctor District, Old Town, TCC etc. Which is mainly the North of I-5 and 16 portion of Tacoma. There is some need in rhe South End connecting downtown Tacoma, but I would say should be more of a future long term thing than one of the first things they build out if they were to do such a thing. There is also just making the Sounder commuter section in Tacoma-Lakewood and longer term to DuPont and Puyallup it’s own frequent in county commuter rail line that has 15 to 20 minute frequency along the route itself. As for the buses it’s not just frequency, but also coverage. Lack of a proper grid system with good transfer points has been the main hinderence to ridership. North End of Tacoma has a lot of East West but not so many North South ones, whereas the South End has the opposite problem.
Zach, while I agree that the “Bypass” ROW through South Tacoma to Lakewood is potentially an excellent asset, it runs alongside car-sewer South Tacoma Way. The street hosts a bunch of used car lots, which are the sort of “tax revenue with no costs” bonanza that County Councils protect with Evangelical zeal. So the obvious opportunities for dense development won’t occur.
The perpendicular bus lines reach such hotbed of dense development [“/snark”…] as University Place, the Chambers Bay golf course and Steilacoom.
In short, who’s gonna’ ride your 15 minute commuter train? Show me the development plans and the changed zoning, and then we can talk about a “local train.
Some of the most substantial upzones are in around S Tacoma Way, with substantial mid zone development all along 56th, 46-56th on STW designated as a neighborhood center, and the nearby mall a regional growth center.
That said, you are right that a local train just won’t be used. That ROW is where it would be easy, not where it would be needed.
I haven’t been in Tacoma long enough to know if it ever had good bus service, but I do know it doesn’t have good service now. While I usually agree with Ross, he is making a classic error in judging an areas potential service by its current ridership. That is fine when the service is usable beyond just the desperate, but it is not currently usable.
I love transit, love riding the bus, have a house and a job with bus stops right on route 1, and I don’t take the bus.
Let that sink in.
“I haven’t been in Tacoma long enough to know if it ever had good bus service”
It was worse in the 80s when I spent a summer in the Hilltop. The 1-digit routes didn’t exist, nor the Tacoma-Seattle express. Most routes were hourly, with half-hourly daytime in a few corridors like Pacific Ave and 11th Street (for TCC). I was between 19th and 23rd. The 19th Avenue route had an “A” variation on 23rd, so every other bus served one street or the other hourly. The community had asked for the variation to get service on 23rd which has some businesses, but the resulting hourly service was practically unusable. To get to Seattle you had to take the 500 local to Federal Way, and the 174 local to downtown, or maybe the 194 express to SeaTac and downtown was running then. I had to go to the U-District to replace my contacts with glasses. I was lucky to get an express from Federal Way to the U-District.
But King County and Snohomish County weren’t much better then. Most Seattle routes were half-hourly, and suburban King County routes hourly. It was the low point for transit after the breathless freeway/suburban expansion of the 1960s. Many Metro routes were very log milk runs that stopped at every haystack, like the 194 to Federal Way and the 210 to North Bend.
In Snohomish County in the early 80s there was no bus service except some peak Metro expresses to Lynnwood and Edmonds, and the 6 (now E) terminated just north of the border. Then Community Transit appeared and took over the 4xx expresses and had some hourly local routes. In the early 90s I went to a church in north Lynnwood on Sundays, and I took the 48 to 85th, the 6 to Aurora Village, and a 700-something route to 164th in Lynnwood.
The 594 started in the 1990s, first by Pierce Transit, then by Sound Transit when ST Express launched. The 1-digit routes started in that era, and were 15-minutes weekdays, 30 minutes weekends. That doubled the existing frequency on Pacific Ave, 6th Ave, and I think a route to Lakewood.
Thanks for the history, Mike.
So it sounds like at some point that Route 1 was 15 minutes. It’s been 30 minutes (and unreliably so) since I’ve attempted to use it. Ross may be pulling data from that earlier, more frequent and reliable period, though I have no idea what spells he casts to find that data, and whether we can look at it temporally.
“That is fine when the service is usable beyond just the desperate, but it is not currently usable”
This is my preview on trying to build future growth. While I do think quanitative data is important, at the same time it doesn’t always tell the whole story or picture. Which is on some level my issue with regards to saying “z is not the answer for x place because y” because it’s on some level placing judgement on something that may be only looked through a cursory or surface level lens rather than through a holistic one. Now will I say that the holistic view always works, no not always but I still see it as a necessary step in trying to understand how transit should function in an area.
First of all, it doesn’t matter if Tacoma once had trams. They don’t now (except, of course for the one that performs poorly and wasn’t worth the money).
Second, you missed the point with ridership. The numbers I quoted were before Covid. If this was only Tacoma it would be tiny. The fact that it also included “only the urban parts of [the county]” shows how few people ride transit in Tacoma. You did get one thing right though. Ridership would be better with higher frequency. But that is exactly why running trams is a terrible idea. You seem to ignore one key item here:
The whole point of trams are to run them less frequently.
That’s it. OK sure, if you have the track and especially if you are already running trains, then it is cheaper to just keep running them. But Tacoma doesn’t have that.
Trams aren’t magic. Paris didn’t add trams to their already outstanding bus and metro system because they thought it would attract riders, or add charm (Paris has plenty of both already). They did it because the buses were too crowded. Instead of running buses every minute, they could run a tram every five.
If Tacoma spends money on trams, it means that the trams can run less often the buses. It likely means they will, since the agency will have less money. Do you really want that?
The obvious way to improve transit in Tacoma is to run the buses more often, and make them faster.
Ross may be pulling data from that earlier, more frequent and reliable period, though I have no idea what spells he casts to find that data, and whether we can look at it temporally.
Yes, I look it up. I’m a wizard.
Seriously though, the documents aren’t that hard to find: https://www.piercetransit.org/documents. Now look at one of the transit development plans. Each has ridership data from the previous year. So “2019 to 2024” has data from 2018. I think I referenced 2017 data. Ridership went down in 2018 (but not by much).
While I usually agree with Ross, he is making a classic error in judging an areas potential service by its current ridership. That is fine when the service is usable beyond just the desperate, but it is not currently usable.
I think you are misinterpreting my argument. I am simply pointing out that trams make no sense for Tacoma, given the low ridership on every corridor (before Covid). If there is low ridership because of slow buses, make them faster. If it is because the buses are infrequent, run them more often. Spending money on switching modes would be silly. It won’t actually get you anything except capacity (for which there is clearly no need).
Thanks, Ross. When I dug around PT transit and followed a couple links with likely names like Ridership Data, they were all dead.
I am not advocating for trams. You are confusing me with Zach. I am advocating for not basing future decisions on past data, when that past data is basically meaningless.
I did find some documents where the implemented improved routing in 2018, and that increased ridership a smidge.
But until you provide consistent, long-term service that is usable (frequent and reliable, and goes places reasonably directly and doesn’t have a huge penelty to driving) you can’t just throw up your hands and say “people just don’t use transit, so we shouldn’t invest in transit.”
That’s basically what the PSRC does in allocating the lion’s share of resources to King County.
It takes a while to build a transit culture. You first need to not consistenly burn people who try it. My buddy got his catalytic converter cut out a couple weeks ago. He’s like “I’ll try transit!” The second day he sat at the bus stop for over an hour. That destroyed any hope of him using transit for maybe a decade.
But if he’d ridden the bus, it was on time, fast and frequent, he would have maybe committed to it. And maybe started bragging to friends and coworkers about how easy and cheap it was. And he would have won more converts. And some of those folks would done the same, and maybe won some of their own converts.
It takes time, after a system is usable to build ridership. Transit for most people has often been horrible. It’s an uphill battle, but if you provide good service, the people eventually figure it out.
When you don’t, as Tacoma hasn’t as far as I know. Or you provide for a bit, then snatch it away or make it worse, you build haters, not riders.
So yeah, Maybe Tacoma provided 15 minute service for a brief window before the pandemic hit on a few lines. But if you think that’s a reasonable sample to write off the whole town as nonn-transit, you are mistaken.
The town is poor. I constantly hear complaints about how people hate cars here. They are expensive and dangerous. But there is no alternative to driving.
Theoretically I agree with Ross: Tacoma Link could have been better as better bus service.
Reality is that I don’t think Tacoma gets even the limited transit lanes that T Link has without it being built as a rail line.
Ideally? I think you build T Link as an elevated automated people mover, probably a cable hauled design to make it as quiet as possible. This allows the long distance express buses and the local buses to do whatever they need to serve their routes without diverting them to serve a local connection purpose, you get the high frequency you really need with a local circulator, and you get the higher than surface speed you need to attract riders.
I am not advocating for trams. You are confusing me with Zach. I am advocating for not basing future decisions on past data, when that past data is basically meaningless.
I am not confusing you two. I think we are on the same page. Every time I mentioned the data for this thread it was concerning rail. With trams the math is fairly simple. Either the buses are crowded, or trams don’t make sense.
I would never suggest that Tacoma be ignored when it comes to transit. We should definitely invest in transit there — but it should be for buses.
I quibble about ignoring data though. Examining the data means more than just looking at ridership. It means looking at other factors, like speed and frequency. But lacking other info, the Tacoma BRT plans seem sensible. There may be flaws, but based on the data, they are starting in the right place. There are other considerations (e. g. spurring development) but if you are focused on increasing ridership and saving riders time, then that’s the corridor. The 1 gets way more riders than any other PT bus. There is nothing like that in King County. I’m not saying that the first priority should be BRT (maybe a more broad investment would make more sense) but if you are going to pick a corridor, that is highly likely to be the best choice.
There seems to me to be two different approaches by transit advocates:
1. The “build it and they will come” induced demand approach. Ridership data is always meaningless to them because until coverage and frequency match cars ridership data is artificially low. If ridership is still low then more and more frequency. Cost per rider mile is also a meaningless metric because if you build it or just keep increasing frequency and/or coverage the riders will come to fund what was built. That is why mode and the cost of each mode is not relevant to this group. Cable cars or trams or light rail in Pierce Co. make sense to them because they will manufacture the ridership to cover the cost despite very low ridership today. It seems inconceivable to them that residents of Pierce Co. will always prefer to drive no matter how great coverage and frequency are.
2. The second group believes you begin with ridership data, and believes there are many factors why someone rides or doesn’t ride transit, especially the fickle discretionary rider. Ridership data they believe can be accurately estimated (unless purposefully inflated to sell levies ) even before building more transit from things like number of jobs, population and population density, ridership overall for the area, number of cars making the same trip, etc. The most important difference with this group — that includes most transit agencies — is they know funding is finite and so cost per rider mile — now and in the future — determines levels of service, not the other way around. They know there are other modes, and the majority of citizens prefer those modes now extensive transit coverage is (because it almost never reaches your front door or garage) or how great frequency is.
The pandemic was a wake up call for every transit agency, especially now that Covid stimulus is running out and inflation is no longer zero or 1%. For reasons that have nothing to do with frequency or coverage a huge segment of the population stopped taking transit. What this told transit planners is these folks were not riding transit because they wanted to ride transit. As soon as they could stop riding they did.
In the next five years or so — despite the new infrastructure bill that mainly goes toward capital maintenance for existing systems — transit operations revenue is going to force planners (and transit advocates) to abandon the build it and they will come approach and to prioritize based on cost per rider mile because new riders didn’t just not come but prior riders left. Ridership went down and stayed down.
Things like current ridership, areas where folks have to take transit (“equity”), destinations that have little parking or parking that is available, congestion like a sporting event, will determine where coverage and frequency go, because if funding is fixed — and declining — frequency has to go down if you insist on more coverage.
In that world the bus is king because of its flexibility and relatively low cost to adjust frequency and route. The great flaw with Link is it doesn’t go where folks want to live (and transit is a minor consideration for most when deciding where to live) and in many cases it doesn’t go where they want to go, which translates into the dreaded transfer so it is even slower.
The key I think is for transit to stop reaching for the discretionary rider. The pandemic proved the majority of those riders won’t ride transit unless forced to, and today there are very few ways to force them, especially with WFH. An area like downtown Seattle can create artificially high parking rates but then retail suffers and Uber prospers, until they try to disadvantage Uber which is risky when Seattle is in an existential fight with Bellevue, and even Tacoma and Everett.
Find the people who will and do ride transit, today, and serve them first. Those are your loyal customers, in part because they have no choice (and little voice on this blog).
Daniel is right that “[transit’s] loyal customers” don’t have “a voice on this blog”. Very few live in two-million dollar houses on Mercer Island, work in a family law firm or marry Asian Tiger Moms.
But they have Daniel who does to speak for them —pro bono of course — so they’re good.
Tom, if I can find out where you live I am going there to beat the shit out of you for insulting my wife on this blog. You can say whatever you want about me — which only reveals your intense bitterness at how life turned out for you — but leave my family out of it. And for the record I started my law firm in 1990. There are no other family members in it. I did something I think is foreign to you: I worked hard and earned what I have.
For the record you completely miss the point I was making: there are too few transit voices on this blog who HAVE to take transit because it is the only mode they can afford. People who actually work and have jobs they have to go. . Too much “theory” by amateur engineers like you on this blog while cashing government checks.
They are “loyal” because they have to be. I am not advocating for not funding transit but allocating more of the funding to them because I don’t live in the “other people’s money” fantasy land, or what Metro calls “equity”. Less on zillion dollar trains to east King Co. based on false ridership estimates and underground stations and tunnels for neighborhoods in N. Seattle amd more for those actually riding transit rather than typing about it.
Of all the blogs I participate on this is the only one in which racist and sexist insults about someone’s spouse who doesn’t even participate on this blog is considered appropriate. Needlessly to say, my wife wondered why I would participate on a blog that allows her race and sex and motherhood to be publicly insulted.
Such a comment would certainly result in a suspension on ND and outrage from the other members.
And what was it that I posted that led Tom Terrific to trot out his usual racist and sexist comments about my wife? That I felt future transit operations revenue will likely be less than estimated and needed and so limited funding should be allocated to those who must ride transit because they are poor but still need transportation, usually to work.
It is unfortunate that one unhappy, ugly and anonymous person like Tom Terrific can spoil a blog. And this wasn’t even one of his late night drunk rants.
Daniel: not everyone has hours per day of unused time to devote to moderating the comments section here.
If we go back to that, keep in mind it means a solid half of your comments probably get deleted and replaced with [off topic].
I don’t have any objections, but people don’t have time to wander through the weeds when moderating this space.
Pretty wild for a tort lawyer to complain about the lack of moderation immediately after making an actionable treat.
Glenn, how is a post on an open thread off topic?
I wasn’t asking for moderation. I was just noting there is more vitriol on this blog than any of the other blogs I participate on. Maybe it is the anonymity allowed on this blog.
The reality is half the posts are “off topic”. For example, I am tired of reading about masking. The issue is over. A new Link line won’t open for at least another three years. Statistically around 20% of this blog will be dead by then. Or trams throughout Pierce Co. when bus service is so poorly funded. There are few articles because there is nothing new re:transit these days, and re-zoning takes decades to make a difference, if any.
But at least let’s not post insults about other people’s spouses. We should be able to self-moderate.
I agree, Daniel. Uncalled for. Over the line.
If the wife comment is “Asian Tiger Moms”, then yes, it’s uncalled for. I have no idea who Daniel’s wife is, but if she is Asian and financially successful, that seems irrelevant to our transit discussions. It’s enough to say that Mercer Island houses cost $2+ million (the top 1%), a lawyer’s salary explains a lot of it, many families have a husband+wife+children, and leave it at that
“1. build it and they will come –or– 2. begin with ridership data”
3. Begin with the comparable level of transit in other industrialized countries. They don’t have the uniquely American fallacies and blind spots. Their transit level is closer to the optimal level for a city that size.
Tacoma/Pierce and Everett/Lynnwood/Snohomish should both have around six good RapidRide-like lines. In Pierce the 1S and T-Line are like RapidRide. In Snohomish Swift provides limited-stop service, which is slightly different but better for longer distances (Bothell-Boeing, Lynnwood-Smokey Point), while worse for in-between stops. The point is, they need one of these models or something similar, not zero. East King County and South King County also need about four similar lines.
THEN, there will be good transit corridors between all the larger suburban cities and activity centers. They’ll be full-time frequent (15 minutes until 10pm every day), so that people can actually use them when they’re available to travel. That’s what we don’t have now, and why ridership is so anemic compared to other countries, and why people feel like they need their cars so much. They don’t ride Bellevue-Redmond, Bellevue-Kirkland, Bellevue-Issaquah because the transit is so infrequent and takes so long. Some people will always drive, but there’s latent demand for better transit. That’s proven in both Canadian cities and US cities that improve their local bus service: ridership goes up. And when frequency and coverage shrink, ridership goes down. That happens time and again.
The huge loss in Eastside all-day ridership is only on the Eastside. South King County and Seattle ridership didn’t drop off as much and is closer to its 2019 level, as is the 512. That’s because the Eastside is especially rich and in tech jobs, so it’s the most prone to work-from-home and not using transit outside the no-longer commute.
The other big loss in all subareas is office commuters, who used to flood transit peak hours. That’s not a completely bad thing for transit. It’s more expensive to provide peak-relief service than it is to provide all-day baseline service. So make bus routes 15-minutes all day and evening instead of 10 minutes peak, 15 midday, 30 evening/Sunday. 75% of people’s trips are non-work, and this would allow them to use transit for more of those trips. It would also help people who work non-peak shifts.
“Build it and they will come” has its limits of diminishing returns, as everything does. But we can look at the gap between US service/ridership and other countries to see the level at which they will come.
You can start by comparing Canada and Australia, which are the closest to US density and car-oriented cities. Then you can look at Scandinavia, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, where the transit level is more appropriate for the city size.
For Tacoma/Pierce, and Everett/Lynnwood/Snohomish, the Eastside, and South King County, you can focus on bus solutions and exclude tram solutions if you wish. Assume Link to Lynnwood/Redmond/Federal Way is the backbone, and fill in RapidRide and all-day express bus routes around it. Or assume Everett and Tacoma Dome Link, regardless of its merits, because they’ve already been decided. Then, what transit would you add on top of that?
Tacoma’s T-line and earlier 6-line surface rail plan are unnecessary, but without them you need a BRT network. Snohomish never asked for surface rail lines; it went with Swift instead.
Tacoma, Everett, Bellevue, and Renton are in the middle of where either trams or BRT would work: some comparable European cities have one, some the other. If you want to exclude trams, fine, but build the 4-5 BRT/RapidRide lines so that people can get around without extraordinary hardship.
“With trams the math is fairly simple. Either the buses are crowded, or trams don’t make sense.”
Travel time is also an issue. Trams can be significantly faster than buses if they can avoid turns, stoplights, and congestion that buses get stuck in. The 574 has to get off at an exit, turn perpendicular for a few blocks, and wait for stoplights to get to the bus stops at Federal Way and Redondo. Link just sails through and stops at the tracks. To give a bus the same kind of advantage, you’d have to build two new street lanes that mimic the Link track. The cost of doing that would approach the cost of Link. And they would be wider and asphalt-covered (an eyesore, and probably more expensive). So it’s not just whether buses are overcrowded and can’t get more frequent without bus bunching, but whether the bus route is adequately fast for its corridor, and whether it can be made adequately fast without building new right of way for it.
The problem with Daniels – “Prioritize the desperate” model is that it assumes an inferior, degraded level of service.
If it didn’t, it would really be a “prioritize everyone” model.
Because if you make transit work for the desperate, you also make it work for everyone else.
… and to think, me sharing a story about my transvestite friend’s method for bus security got moderated out.
I guess it’s all about whose ox gets gored.
Just for the record folks, Daniel has mentioned several times that his wife, who HE has said a couple of those times has certain strict, safety-focused attitudes about their childrens’ rearing, is Asian, and offered that as the reason for her point of view.
That sounds like the meme of a “Tiger Mom” to me, but your mileage may vary. And not to be too sticky about, the term is usually meant as a compliment for their diligence.
Tom, your use of “Asian Tiger Mom,” is generally considered a racist neo-stereotype that is best left for individual parents to decide if that’s how they’d like to describe themselves – not that it excuses Daniel making an actionable threat.
There are many examples of stereotypes (like the older “Welfare Queen”) that are typically seen as derogatory and unacceptable until/unless the person you’re describing has said that they’re comfortable with that descriptor.
It’s not “woke” or “PC” as some would call it (another mild slur); it’s just common decency to be aware of derogatory/diminutive phrasing – obviously Daniel took it as an insult to his wife, even though you considered it an accurate descriptor. If you’re going to insult Daniel’s lifestyle, it’s probably best to stick to just insulting him directly, and as he said, leaving his family out of it (since they seem to have the better sense to not be terminally online as many of us are).
And since I guess I’m in the mood to police language – Jim, does your “transvestite” friend still use that term to self-identify? My understanding is that “transvestite” is now considered outdated and offensive when describing to folks who experience(d) gender dysphoria. Assuming you’re describing someone who identifies as transgender or genderfluid, even more recently common terms like “transsexual” have been depreciated in favor of a more nuanced understanding of sex and gender. Something to double-check.
It depends on whether you use the Urban Dictionary, or Wikipedia for your definition.
At least ‘Tiger Mom’ has a bit more panache than ‘Helicopter Mom’.
I feel that my method of participation trophies and little discipline is superior.
“…And since I guess I’m in the mood to police language – Jim, does your “transvestite” friend still use that term to self-identify? My understanding is…
Please, give it a rest, Nathan.
Your use of “My understand is…” sounds as though you might not have a broad circle of friends and co-workers you accept. You don’t know anything about me, so don’t bother trying to ‘inform’ me about how I should interact with all the varied types of people I enjoy working and socializing with.
Hell, one of my Dearest Friends is a Trump Supporter.
Cam, my comment was based on my assumption transit operations revenue will stay the same or decline over the next five years, and the driver shortage will only get worse, so there isn’t the funding or drivers to provide maximum coverage and frequency to all areas. The reality is the “desperate”, or those who must use transit, generally don’t live among the wealthy discretionary transit rider. So providing good transit to one group usually comes at the expense of the other group.
I think Metro’s and Seattle’s upcoming transportation plan will allocate transit coverage and frequency based on “equity”, which they define based on who rode transit during the pandemic because they obviously had to go somewhere and had to take transit.
I suppose an argument could be made that wealthy Eastside citizens pay more per capita in transit taxes but get less coverage and frequency, but that is how I think it should be. These folks have the money to tax themselves if they want additional transit service, and have alternatives.
When I first saw you use the term “desperate” I thought it was hyperbole. But now I think that is an apt term. Someone has to be pretty desperate to get on a bus during the wave of Delta deaths before a vaccine was available, and transit ridership numbers show those desperate folks tend to live in specific areas. So look for Metro and SDOT to allocate transit dollars and service there, which I support although it disadvantages where I live.
Unless of course I am mistaken and future transit operations revenue is infinite and young kids decide they want to drive a bus. ’
Damn, Jim, seems I struck a nerve. Fortunately, this is an open thread, so delving into identity politics is ostensibly fair game.
No, I don’t know you or your friend, but you also don’t know me and why I would bother with your comment. I’m not part of the transgender community, and clearly neither are you. None of my genderqueer friends use the term transvestite since they exist outside Rocky Horror, so I tried to be gentle with asking about your use of the term. Explaining non-normative identity preferences to normative folks is exhausting, so it’s up to folks to help check each other when they have the energy. I’ve read enough perspectives from transgender folks about the current distaste regarding “transvestite” to feel comfortable in sharing it with folks still use it without regard for modern sensibilities.
But, if you’ve checked with your friend recently regarding the term
and they said it’s okay, then great! I’ll happily stand corrected. I’m didn’t intend to get you riled up about it, just to maybe reconsider use of the term with the changing times.
I’m leaving this this particular thread after this note: anyone who still openly supports Trump is someone who has severe trouble discerning between myth and reality, which is the unfortunate product of the extremely effective disinformation campaigns and propaganda refined by the conservative media machine and echo-chamber social media groups. Unfortunately, they’d probably say the same about self-identified “leftists” like me. Sad.
Trust me Nathan, nobody’s comments here get me ‘riled up’.
(Well, save for the Eastside Rail Corridor. )
I just like calling bullshit when I see it.
Frankly, I find it offensive when I get judged for what I look like, but I have a thick skin.
Mike, yeah this is what I’m getting at in what I’m trying to say and what i advocate for. Strong Towns and Not Just Bikes did a podcast recently where they talked about a lot of what you have said here about building transit in the US and Abroad.
With some of their big points about
– Building transit without development in mind or building development without transit in mind both coexisting in building infrastructure in North America.
– The concept of “charity overlay” for public transit being too much of the norm for a lot of transit agencies in North America. Where’s it functional but mediocre and only exists to he an overlay for car dependent infrastructure as an olive branch for compromise to the people who rely on it.
– Dispelling the myth that “rail wouldn’t work in a lot of North American cities or towns” with Jason Slaughter from Not Just Bikes pointing out that his hometowm of London, ON was saying it doesn’t have the population for rail and yet points out multiple small or medium sized towns or metro areas in Germany (even as small as 10,000 or 20,000l) that have a tram run through their main city center and connect important inner suburbs with destinations people want to go like the city center, employment centers, parks, rec areas etc. Along with pointing out the precedent that already existed back when streetcars were prevalent (which often had similar or smaller populations back then). Like Strong Towns founder Charles Marohn pointing out his hometown of Brainerd, MN had a streetcar back in the day and their population was around 10,000 back in the first half of the 20th century when it operated.
It often takes well over 2 hours to travel between Everett and Tacoma. I go up there to fish sometimes, and dread coming home on I-5. I’d take 6 salmon on a train for sure, if there were a train.
Cam, can you take Sounder between Tacoma and Everett today to go fishing?
How would you get to the train with your tackle and to your fishing beaches from the rail station? I assume you are fishing from the shore if on a train since you won’t have a boat (ugh, Humpies, otherwise your limit won’t be 6).
I am not sure about traffic congestion heading to Everett to fish. As my dad use to say, if you are not putting your bait on with a flashlight you are too late (but that was in a boat).
You just…..walk or take the bus to the Everett waterfront.
I meet a buddy up there who has a boat.
I thought about taking 6am S Sun
Sounder to N sounder, but they aren’t useful for anything but commuters. So that doesnt work.
Yeah, weekends Amtrak is your only option, and you still have to change trains in Seattle.
Yep. This is nothing more than distance-bias.
Oh, and we already have a regional rail system. We already know what works and what doesn’t. Sounder North is a huge waste of money. Sounder South performs well. But it only performs well peak direction (Tacoma to Seattle in the morning, the reverse at night). Midday trains carry about as many as our buses do. The same with reverse peak, when you would expect a reasonable amount of ridership. There just aren’t that many people who want to take the train unless they are commuting into Seattle in the morning.
Making matters worse, they cost way more to operate, because we essentially rent our space from BNSF. The more we rent, the more expensive it will be (per train). It is the exact opposite of normal transit (where costs scale in a positive direction). There is a finite amount of time for BNSF to move goods, and the more time we take, the more they will charge. Thus the cost per rider will go up — way up. This is just a really bad idea with no justification other than “wouldn’t it be neat” — the same line of thinking that got us the spine in the first place. At least no one in power will take this idea seriously.
Half-hourly Sounder South would close most of the gap. Ideally I’d like 10-15 minute frequency like BART, but 30 minutes would make it vastly easier to get to/from Kent and Auburn vs the status quo. That’s the point where those areas would start to become more transit-oriented, and transit riders would be willing to live there by choice (not because they can’t afford anywhere else).
Sounder North just can’t be improved that much. It’s too far from Lynnwood and the 99 corridor where most of the population is. Edmonds and Mukilteo have only half a walkshed because the stations are next to the shore. The track is on a narrow hillside where there’s no room to add more tracks. An S-Bahn-like North line would really have to be new track; e.g., along I-5. That’s what ST was unwilling to consider.
Sounder North could be improved if Edmonds and Mukilteo allowed more density in the station areas.
Edmonds has the “Don’t Screw Up My View” height restrictions. (Edmonds used to get walk-ons from Kingston, until Kitsap Transit started their Fast Ferry service directly to Seattle.)
Mukilteo residents don’t want any density near their station. Hell, they don’t want density anyway, since that means more of ‘those people’.
Edmonds and Mukilteo are shooting themselves in the foot as far as justifying frequent train service.
And with the current Sounder schedule only servicing the morning-in/evening-out crowd, there isn’t more opportunity… unless
Amtrak runs a midday Cascades to Canada train(s), and reactivates the Amtrak Rail-Plus program. Still not hourly, though.
Also, a Bell St./North Portal station would be one way to improve ridership for low cost.
“, they cost way more to operate, because we essentially rent our space from BNSF. The more we rent, the more expensive it will be (per train). ” No, the high cost from BSNF for time slots are one-time purchases of easements. They are indeed very expensive (but much, much cheaper than building new ROW), but they are fixed costs and Sounder’s cost do scale positively just like other transit.
All-day 30 minute Sounder would indeed be very expensive and the capex/rider would be worse than current Sounder investments, which is why ST3’s Sounder investments are instead likely to focus on converting peak South Sounder from 20 minute to 15 minute frequency, which alongside expected ridership growth should result in lower operating cost/rider than the current system.
The high operating costs of a single Sounder train have more to do with FRE regulations and American approach to operating heavy rail and little to do with the high initial cost of the easements.
“Too bad the Urbanist didn’t point this out before ST pursued the spine.”
We’ve been saying it since the beginning: we need a two-tier rail network. A fast/frequent S-Bahn/commuter rail/Caltrain to Everett and Tacoma (ca. 85 mph), and a denser inner subway in Seattle (55 mph is OK). Instead ST chose an intermediate hybrid, which is mediocre at both scales. They chose that because they thought it would be less expensive than two rail systems with different technologies. But as we see, the hybrid alternative is still expensive, it takes painfully long to reach Tacoma, and the lack of more Seattle stations hinders its ridership and usefulness.
As a reminder, the “missing” Seattle stations RossB has identified are First Hill, Pine/Bellevue, 15th/Thomas, 23rd/Aloha, Montlake/520, 85th, and Graham. First Hill would serve First Hill directly. Bellevue, 15th, 23rd, and Montlake would serve most of the 43’s rideshed. That would serve Capitol Hill and 23rd really well, diverting more bus trips to Link. It would allow people to take Link to the top of the hill at 15th, if they’re going to Kaiser Permanente, Trader Joe’s, or any of the other businesses on 15th. Currently people take the 8, 10, or 11 because the Link station is on the side of the hill. And Metro is not emphasizing the 43; instead it’s planning to delete replace it with transfers to/from the north-south 48. And we’re having difficulty getting bus frequency up to the 5-10 minute level necessary for a good transfer. Especially when the two segments are less than two miles long so waiting is a large percent of the total trip. I’ve sometimes contemplated transferring from the 48 to the 2 or 11 when UW Station is closed, but then I remember the 2 and 11 are half-hourly evenings, and that makes for a very bad transfer, especially when the two segments are so short. I either end up taking the 48 and walking to Trader Joe’s for a shopping trip along the way, or if I remember 49 exists I go up to the U-District to take it.
Graham Station would serve a medium-density area, potential largish shopping center, and low-income housing. It’s in ST3.
520 and 85th I’m less convinced about, but they have been mentioned by some transit activists.
As for the outer network to Tacoma and Everett, the current Sounder isn’t it. Sounder was low-hanging fruit: it could be started quickly and “inexpensively” on existing track. Current Sounder runs a few times a day. It takes 60 minutes to get to Tacoma because of the Auburn/Puyallup detour, while driving takes 30 minutes without traffic. It takes 60 minutes to get to Everett, while driving takes 30 minutes and it entirely misses the population centers in Lynnwood and along I-5 and 99 that would increase ridership and usefulness. I envision the outer network as approximating I-5, with a few transfer stations to the inner network; e.g., U-District. That’s how Metra and S-Bahns work.
I imagine the inner network as some kind of light rail/tram/Skytrain, and the outer network as some kind of heavy-rail S-Bahn/BART/MARTA. But those are just vague visions, not specific technology requirements.
“who thought it was a good idea to spend tens of billions of dollars connecting Everett and Tacoma and points in between with slow commuter rail?”
Sound Transit of course. By “slow commuter rail” I assume you’re referring to Link, not Sounder.
Oh, it was the Urbanist.”
The Urbanist probably didn’t exist in the 1990s when ST chose a hybrid network over a two-tier network. STB didn’t exist until around 2007. I didn’t know even a quarter as much about the transit agencies, hearings, technologies, and engineering issues until I discovered STB ca. 2008. And many other transit activists and citizens were probably in the same boat.
We’ve been saying it since the beginning: we need a two-tier rail network. A fast/frequent S-Bahn/commuter rail/Caltrain to Everett and Tacoma (ca. 85 mph), and a denser inner subway in Seattle (55 mph is OK).
Yeah, although in the case of the former, we already have it. Anything more would likely be a waste of money. Of course if they can make the trains faster without spending a bundle, please do, but that is true for trains from Vancouver, BC to Portland, Oregon. It shouldn’t be a major focus, simply because no matter what we do, it won’t result in that many riders taking the train. In contrast, building a very good subway system could make a huge difference in terms of ridership, travel mode, and lots of other metrics.
“SDOT says Spotts plans to ride transit, cycle and walk with residents across the city in hopes of building relationships with Seattleites and hearing their thoughts on the city’s complex transportation system.”
“Residents can request to participate in one of these tours via an online portal.”
Interesting since the vast majority of trips taken within Seattle — let alone outside of Seattle by Seattle residents — are by car. Wonder if Spotts will attend the ceremony for the reopening of the West Seattle Bridge.
I guess my questions would be:
1. How will SDOT address the $3.5 billion backlog of bridge maintenance, repair and replacement so bridges don’t have to be closed for two years in the future.
2. Does he support a local SB5528 levy to complete WSBLE, and if so how much would he support.
3. Does he support renewing Move Seattle 2.0, and will renewal just cover projects promised in Move Seattle 1.0 or new projects. How can voters trust the project cost estimates after Move Seattle 1.0?
4. Does he support a new light rail station on 4th or 5th next to the CID as part of WSBLE?
5. How much does he think WSBLE would actually cost based on the preferred design in the DEIS?
6. Seattle is down over 200 police officers, and despite the council approving additional funding to attract new police officers estimated retirements will far exceed new hires. https://seattlepoliceofficers.com/spsi/#:~:text=The%20SPSI%20measures%20the%20true,public%20safety%20level%20in%20Seattle If the streets and transit stops are not safe does it make sense to prioritize transit?
7. Does he support securing light rail stations in Seattle, and if so how (turnstiles, police officers on the platforms, etc.
8. Why wasn’t a woman or person of color hired when “equity” is such a critical transit factor in Seattle today?
My guess is he wouldn’t answer any of the questions. My guess is Harrell hired someone to appeal to the transit/bike crowd without any intent of implementing any of their desires. Lots of neighborhood tours on bikes and transit but with no policies.
The obvious answers to questions of questionable faith:
1) mix of local, state, and federal funding
2) that’s a good question for ST and local leaders.
3) Move Seattle has been a critical source of funding for critical projects and a new levy on the ballot would go far towards completing more projects. Just because projects are expensive does not mean they are not worthwhile.
4) more community outreach is needed
5) Dependant on the final design chosen.
6) that’s a good question for SPD and neighborhoods.
7) that’s a good question for ST and transit advocates.
8) this question is racist and sexist
I’ve been following Spotts on social media since he was picked; his obvious personal ideology is to deprioritize SOV and level the playing field for transportation alternatives, with a focus on improving the pedestrian experience. The push will come to shove when he takes the reins on the Seattle Transportation Plan.
Nathan, those are exactly the (non) answers I think Spotts would give in any kind of town hall setting, but are the questions he should be thinking hard about in private, even if his advice is just to Harrell. My guess is in this city the fact Spotts is white and male will come up when debates about allocating funding come around, or the transportation plan, or what is in a Move Seattle 2.0 levy, so I think it is relevant. Just look at the debate about a DSTT2 station at the CID.
I agree the transportation plan will be revealing but plans like that often play to small but vocal interests but often never make into actual projects, but if Harrell is interested in “levelling the field” why did he replace Zimbabwe with Spotts? Was Zimbabwe some kind of SOV fan? At the same time I don’t know how many levers or tools Spotts has to “level” the playing field. Are you talking about more dedicated bike lanes?
In the end it will come down to money. Move Seattle, levies for bridges, road repair, levies for WSBLE. The West Seattle Bridge was not cheap, and Harrell will feel the residual anger at its closing and its joy at its opening on Sept. 18, and you know Harrell and Spotts will be there with big scissors to cut the yellow ribbon.
My guess is at least for his first two years Harrell won’t do much if anything when it comes to transit, except hopefully cancel permanently the CCC. The next big test will be renewal of Move Seattle in 2024, and the EIS for WSBLE. Hopefully the transportation plan looks realistically at ridership levels, both overall and for specific routes (dollar per rider mile), rather than a bunch of induced demand predictions, although I think we still don’t know permanent transit ridership levels in the future, whether up or down. In the past the assumption was ridership could only go up. The pandemic showed that is not true.
in this city the fact Spotts is white and male will come up when debates about allocating funding come around …
For a guy who doesn’t even live in this city, you sure make bold predictions. My guess is this won’t come up at all. Neither will they mention that Harrell is mixed race. If he does a good job, he will get reelected. If he doesn’t, he won’t.
Just look at the debate about a DSTT2 station at the CID.
Are you saying there is increased pressure on Harrell because he is Asian, or because he is only half-Asian?
Well, I don’t live in Seattle but I do work here five days/week and have an office downtown. So the issues surrounding Seattle do affect me, at least until next month.
If one just reviews the posts on this thread, or the articles in the Seattle Times, race (and class) is definitely a legitimate issue when it comes to a second station at the CID, and a guiding principle these days for transit is “equity”, which is all about poor communities of color. I think it is fair to assume race and class will also be important issues in any Move Seattle levy or the transportation plan. I don’t think every Seattle resident believes Seattle has reached the goal MLK dreamed of where the color of someone’s skin does not affect how they are treated. So sure I think POC in this area will notice Spotts is white and male (has there ever been a female dir. of SDOT?) and Harrell hired him to replace Zimbabwe.
Seattle’s Transit Benefit District will have to be renewed in 2024 or we’ll lose bus frequency to a more suburban level. In the 2020 renewal it was lowered out of fears of recession and high unemployment. Ideally the city would restore it to its 2019 level. But the driver shortage has created another bottleneck. Now matter how money extra the agencies and cities have to expand operations, the agencies can’t find enough drivers to fulfill it.
Ah, sadly, just for seven more days. I expect you won’t be getting much lawyering done during that brief week, just a whole lot of boxing and taping.
The denizens of Pioneer Square will miss your good Irish cheer.
Dan, apparently every Mayor has installed their own SDOT director. Who knows why Zimbabwe got the boot, and at this point, it doesn’t really matter.
3 prolific years in this comment section and you don’t know what SDOT can do to make buses better, making biking more viable across the city, and make streets safer for people in general? Incredible.
Tom, due to contractor issues it looks like our move is Sept. 15. Still I was born in Seattle and attended undergraduate and graduate school in Seattle, lived the first half of my life in Seattle (longer than Zach has been alive), worked in Pioneer Square five days/week since 1990, and have a son living in and going to school in Seattle so yes I am concerned about issues in Seattle, although I don’t think transit is one of them. I don’t opine on cities like Tacoma or Everett because I don’t know them well. I probably know Seattle as we as anyone on this blog.
Soon I will be living the urbanist dream. I will walk to and from work through a park and through a 15 minute town center that can meet all my necessities. I could go weeks without driving or taking transit (zero carbon). I can bike to work if I want my commute to be 5 minutes rather than 15. How great is that? I won’t have to pay any Seattle taxes from B&O to parking to every other tax Seattle levies on businesses, or $275/mo to park. I like that.
East Link won’t open for at least another 3 years, and the intensity of the bus intercept during peak hours is now half of what ST predicted and likely to be less in reality (although non-peak frequency is almost non-existent) so both are like illusions to me now, to quote Dylan.
I guess I will return to Nextdoor and lost pets, park related development, declining enrollment in the public schools that is affecting state funding, the decline of Seattle, and how to cure black spot, the suburban quotidian issues that are why average home prices in the SFH zone are above $4 million.
I will let you and Nathan solve Seattle’s problems — and will wait breathlessly for lower rents — while waiting for the next catastrophe to happen on the I-90 bridge from the construction of East Link because more and more I like the idea of East Link truncating at MI (at least from the east).
Wow, you had some pretty good questions, and then you just fell apart. Question 6, 7 and 8 are all ridiculous.
Here is how I would answer the other questions:
1. We have to face an economic reality in the city and the region. We simply can’t support the automobile infrastructure we built in the past. It isn’t sustainable. That means some bridges — like the Magnolia Bridge — won’t be replaced. We have to look at cost effective ways of moving people without it (and similar bridges and roads).
2. It depends. We should look at the cost of building the Ballard station closer to Ballard (e. g. 20th). This would be underground, but if it is not more expensive than the above ground option, there is no need for a levy. Any transfer of funds would be symbolic (the city can write a check to ST for one dollar). If it does cost extra, it is a matter of negotiating with Sound Transit.
3. Yes, absolutely. We will be more transparent with the costs than the Murray/Kubley administration (that hid many things — not just the cost of the Move Seattle projects). But even with the terrible cost overruns a lot of good projects came from it. The people of Seattle clearly want more.
4. The first thing to do is look at interlining. This would mean that all the lines would use the same downtown stations. This would be better for riders, and likely save money. This could help with the problem mentioned in question 2 earlier.
5. We will have a better idea as time goes on. A lot depends on the results of these studies, like interlining and an underground station in the heart of Ballard.
I’m surprised you didn’t ask about the streetcar.
Anyway, chances are he won’t answer these the way I would. Being blunt in this manner doesn’t really help you politically. Much of the work — e. g. telling Magnolia that they won’t have a new bridge — can be done later.
“Why wasn’t a woman or person of color hired when “equity” is such a critical transit factor in Seattle today?”
“this question is racist and sexist”
And it’s identity politics. The most experienced person may be a woman or person of color, or they may not be. Probabilities say both are likely. And a transportation director needs to have experience with engineering, design, competing projects, and treating their staff well, not just checking a demographic box.
I do see a point in having certain demographics represented. Justices Sotamayor and Kagen have proven that a women’s experience and Hispanic’s experience leads to more informed and fair decisions on abortion, immigration, and livelyhood/social issues than an all-male court can accomplish, simply because men miss those issues or don’t perceive their importance because it doesn’t affect them. But I fail to see how that translates to an SDOT director. A judge’s duties are very different from a transportation directors, and judges are more prone to be involved in cases where this experience matters. It’s hard to see how the director’s gender or color makes road, rail line, or bus route better than it would otherwise be.
Interesting since the vast majority of trips taken within Seattle — let alone outside of Seattle by Seattle residents — are by car.
If that is the case then one of the main goals of the administration is to change that, or at least keep things moving in the right direction (which was the case before COVID).
The rampant masklessness encourged by Sound Transit has left me taking essential trips only on the 1 Line, and most other transit. I’ve been trying to avoid transit like the plague, literally, even more so than when “essential trips only” was the policy.
I made the mistake of getting my backlog of booster shots at Capitol Hill, on a baseball day, in the middle of Re-Cement 2022. When it comes to having the courtesy to wear a mask in a crowded indoor setting that even immunocompromised people have to be in from time to time, sportsball fans are the absolute worst.
BA.5 is still spreading. BA.4.6 and BA.2.75 may be even catchier. Long COVID is still something worth not getting. Omicron-specific vaccines and/or boosters may be just weeks away.
Do public officials have the patience or attention span to encourage the public to keep masking up until then?
Covid is endemic. Get over it.
Thanks for telling me you’re ok with me dying. Really helps put things in perspective.
Do you wash your hands after pooping? Do you cover your mouth when you sneeze? Aren’t you the least bit concerned about spreading this terrible disease, given the fact that lots of people are still dying from it, and many more need treatment? Speaking of which, aren’t you the least bit concerned about the overworked health care workers?
Gregg Spotts has answered the written questions posed to him by the Seattle City Council: http://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=11163928&GUID=3D4E9D93-575F-42D2-AA8A-74232121A50F
Thanks for the link Nathan. The answers were pretty vague and generic but the questions were revealing. Lots of “equity”in any future transit planning and funding.
Spotts states he will live in a furnished apartment near downtown for the first few months — which I have previously noted is a good thing because street safety is critical to transit — and won’t bring his car up until later. I still can’t tell if he is married or has kids which would likely affect his decision where to live along with cost. I am not sure what a SFH rents for in West Seattle, Ballard or Seattle’s other northern SFH neighborhoods these days.
The answers sound like Spotts will be doing more outreach than actual planning at first. The thing to remember is major players like the Chamber meet in private (with Harrell in the room) with Spotts while ordinary citizens and transit/bike groups get public Zoom meetings.
Is anyone on this blog attending the reopening ceremony for the West Seattle Bridge. Who attends and what they say — and how many citizens turn out — should be revealing. If I were Spotts and read the state auditor’s report on Seattle Bridges I would be worried another bridge closure could dominate my message and schedule (and funding) for several years just like the closure of the West Seattle Bridge did.
Of course he is going to be there. It is the role of an SDOT director to attend any bridge opening ceremony no matter what mode of transportation the bridge is used for. And no, attending the opening ceremony for a car bridge does not make the SDOT directory anti-everything-but-cars, regardless of what spin you may try to put on it.
And, no, whatever vague platitudes the officials say at a ceremony is not going to be indicative of much of anything. I do not intend to pay any attention to it.
Just to be clear, asdf2, that the West Seattle Bridge is a car + bus bridge. The 2019 traffic data is about 90k vehicles, and my tabulating of the many routes (Annual Metro report) that used the bridge implies about 25-30k riders are on buses on the bridge (not all riders on these routes are going over the bridge). So it appears that a quarter of bridge users have been in buses.
Asdf2, I never stated that Spotts’ attendance at the opening ceremony for the West Seattle Bridge was anti-transit. As Al notes, buses and bikes ride on bridges too (Dan Ryan put pre-pandemic usage on the upper deck at 25,000 bus riders/day and 100,000 cars) something the anti-car crowd on this blog seem to not understand: buses and bikes don’t fly or float.
It isn’t Spotts’ attendance that is important because he follows policies others create: it is whether Harrell, City Council members, Constantine, ST Board members, members of Congress, and the West Seattle Chamber show up.
IMO the existential issue is not some silly car/transit competition but the fact several major bridges in Seattle have reached the fail designation, and the seismic retrofits were not done as part of Move Seattle. Unlike some on The Urbanist think, cities don’t wait until a bridge falls down and then not replace it to spite car drivers. They close the bridge before it falls down.
The closure of the West Seattle Bridge shows how something that is predictable can hijack a transportation policy and politics in a city if ignored. SDOT in the past has been INCREDIBLY irresponsible when it comes to addressing bridges while focusing on fluff in Move Seattle, and in the end a two year closure and accelerated repair saves no money. Ignorance and neglect cost money, and waiting until a bridge must be closed prevents long term strategic planning using the money for replacement. Unfortunately for Spotts the auditor has identified and quantified the problem and will be watching.
Do I think Spotts’ comments at the bridge reopening ceremony will reveal policies. Not really, no more than his show bike/transit/walking tour will. Spotts will do what he is told to do. He comes from LA with a very weak transportation resume.
What is key for those attending the reopening ceremony is another major bridge cannot be closed for two years, and as Spotts is biking/walking/taking transit around Seattle he should look down at the water he is crossing.
What it comes down to is money. The state auditor put the cost at $3.5 billion. The very irresponsible Council thought maybe bonding the $20 car tab fee for ten years to bond $100 million (before municipal bond rates exploded) would cover it.
Seattle needs renewal of Move Seattle. In fact it needs three Move Seattle’s in 2024. Just for the bridges. Otherwise that money is going to have to come at the expense of other priorities in the transportation budget just like the West Seattle bridge emergency trait did, in a city that has been balancing its budgets with Covid relief funds that have run out.
For the second time, I’ve seen ORCA readers at each door onboard the E-Line. Does anyone know if this will be the new standard for RapidRide? Is this a planning choice or a logistics choice due to maintenance/vandalism of outside readers? I know CT is having chronic vandalism issues of their ORCA readers, even the new ones…and they have a low supply.
It has been since July iirc as I rode the F line and they had them.
The ORCA readers on buses have a new message. It tells when your pass expires and your e-purse balance. I haven’t had a chance to see whether the Link messages have changed.
Link messages have not changed. For customer’s who lack online skills, the missing balance info has been a major complaint with NextGen ORCA. That and the quieter beep. The balance info should return by this fall. But making the beep louder has been more difficult for agencies.
Since school is starting up soon, here’s a video on pedestrian safety for students walking to school. It was filmed here on the Eastside, mostly in Lake Hills and Crossroads.
The clothing from 1974 brought back memories. And the cars in the video. Plus everyone in the video isn’t obese.
I wonder how many on this blog have K-12 children. My guess is few.
The big change between 1974 and today comes toward the end of the video: never accept rides from strangers. Very few parents today allow smaller kids to walk to school, at least not without a parent.
Then in a city like Seattle 23% of all K-12 kids go to private schools, and walking to school is not possible. Even a school bus is not available although some of the private schools help form vanpools or carpools. Many parents I know with kids in private school state one of the happiest days in their lives is when their private school kids gets their drivers license and can drive themselves to school.
On the Eastside most school districts at least through middle school provide school buses for students living in the district, and parking or Orca passes for HS students. A big issue on MI is parents who drop off and pick up elementary school kids (kids don’t like to be dropped of by mom in middle school) due to traffic congestion but this is a VERY powerful constituency so the school dist. and city go along. Even when K-5 school kids take the school bus you will see a parent waiting with them. I did it for many years as my wife’s job started quite early.
I guess the one thing I’m curious about on MI is why bicycling to school isn’t more encouraged on the island from what you’re saying as a transportation option for children getting to school. Seems like a solution that could address the traffic issue and save money on school buses that would really only be needed either by request or for people with disabilities. Mind you, you’d probably have to fix a lot of the roads to be more bike friendly and safe. But the city’s residents would likely have a net benefit as well for doing such a thing as well.
The elementary schools have a ride your bike to school day but that is with a parent.
One problem is all the schools are at the top of the Island which is quite steep. So after a long walk pushing your bike up a steep driveway you have a long ride uphill. Plus the one middle school (there were two when I attended “junior high) is at the far south of the Island which is a very long ride from the north.
Kids in middle and high school are very conscious of their appearance. Hair, make up, shoes, clothes, backpacks etc. are important and you don’t want to arrive all sweated out. I suppose you could shower but kids don’t shower at school anymore. My son played three years of sports and never once showered at school. When I went to school you were required to shower after PE and sports, but I think the schools feel that creates a risky environment.
Finally the roads are not very safe, especially in the dark or wet. . If you live north or west of the town center you have to ride through the town center to get to any school. The route along The Mercers is ok for experienced fast bicyclists but not kids. Once you get to HS it isn’t cool to arrive on a bike when your classmates are driving.
Some kids walk but all the schools are in the residential zone because that is the land reserved for suburban schools that are one story with lots of parking for staff and parents and surrounded by acres of ballfields. So there os little density. No schools in the town center.
Do many kids ride bikes to school in Seattle?
With electric bikes wildly available, the hills should really be a non-issue.
My experience in Seattle schools is elementary school, bike racks were often full, middle you still had some riders, HS racks are empty.
My son has always ridden or walked to school, and still does in HS, because I don’t give him a choice. But he is one of the few. I do sometimes look the other way when he “forgets” his helmet, because. Hair.
But I was privileged to be able to afford, and target, neighborhoods where biking is safe and possible. Those neighborhood are often unaffordable to many, because demand far outstrips supply.
I vaguely remember those safety reel to reel films like that. Is that one real or a great simulated spoof? That one is so anti pedestrian it is almost Archie Bunker cringe funny.
If a 2nd tunnel isn’t built. Then all Ballard could get is a stub from Westlake requiring a transfer at Westlake to get anywhere else.
From Wedt Seattle go up First, put a station near Starbucks HQ, go east and cross the existing line at Sodo with a station and transfer point. Continue to airport way, turn south and interline with the existing going toward Beacon Hill. Leave the tunnel and just before mt baker station diverge to first hill and continue as per Frank’s idea with the transfer at Westlake and continuing on to Ballard.
Drawbacks: Might not be possible to build that way. Riders from Ballard And West Seattle have to transfer to get to the bulk of downtown. Have to figure out where to switch operators on the long line from Tacoma to Everett. Level junctions?
Advantage: first hill gets served and a station near Starbucks increases coverage. No new station in Chinatown. Ballard and west Seattle riders are treated equally as far as transfers go, and they have great access to first hill. No one loses their existing one seat rides to the airport or stadium station for events.
In case someone else finds it helpful: I created a Chrome browser extension to help organize the comments in this blog. I realize there is already https://seattletransitblog.com/latest-comments/, but that page does not help me screen out topics that I’ve already seen and/or have decided not to follow.
Please see the link for a screenshot and description:
– collapse all comments, unless included as URL hash, to show just the author and date of comment
– expand a collapsed comment by clicking close to, but not directly on, the displayed author and date
– sort root comments in order of the most recent descendant comment.
I can also create this as a WordPress plugin instead, but a blog developer would have to install.
forgot to add the link to the browser extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stb-comments-organizer/lnohighafjgkholmdahbgopcfdjhplkf
You young’uns got it all easy with the blue highlighting and blue stripe on new comments. I used to have to remember what the last comment in a subthread was to see if there’s an unseen one after it. Of course, the comment threads weren’t as large: just fifty or a hundred. They get unwieldly after a hundred and fifty or so, and I reduce my own comments then.
Yeah, the large number of replies is really hard to wade through, especially when some replies are really long. So much scrolling through things I’ve already read or wouldn’t mind skipping.
And unfortunately, this extension is specific to the desktop Chrome browser, so on my phone the only option is to use the latest comments page, which is useful except the loss of thread context.
Interesting background on Chicago: https://www.segregationbydesign.com/chicago/transit
I wonder whether the construction of I-5/I-90 had anything to do with the collapse of the Seattle tram network or the Interurban.
It would have been Highway 99, in that era (in Seattle it was all gone by 1939, except for what remained on the railroad lines).
In places like Los Angeles or Chicago, where the interurbans and trams lasted into the 1960s, the freeways definitely played a role.
* 1932: Aurora Bridge opens, the first Ship Canal bridge without a streetcar.
* 1939: Everett-Seattle Interurban ends.
* 1940: Mercer Island Bridge opens.
* 1941: Streetcars demolished. ($) (Or free article.)
* 1960s: I-5 is built in sections. Downtown routing proposed in 1954 and 1957.
There was a general push for car infrastructure that led to US 99, the Aurora Bridge, removing the streetcars, and making downtown streets one-way. Then there was a 13-year gap until the first proposals for I-5 through downtown. The original Mercer Island Bridge freeway may have terminated at Rainier. When I arrived in 1972 there was a freeway extension to Dearborn near Goodwill. The western part to I-5 and 4th Ave S was built in the 1980s and finished in 1993.
Re Chicago, “The formerly quad-track Metropolitan Main Line (capable of express services) was swallowed by the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) when it was demolished and replaced with a smaller two track line within the highway’s median (not capable of express). ” Is that the O’Hare Line? I’d always assumed it was a new corridor that didn’t have service before the expressway. Because the airport and expressway must have been built around the same time? But there was previously express service that was lost? That’s bad. It takes 45 minutes to get from O’Hare to the Loop or Clark Street on current service, and that seems longer than it should be. (No matter which bus you transfer to between Larence and Fullerton to get to Clark, it still takes the same 45 minutes, even though some alternatives have a longer train segment and others have a longer bus segment due to the diagonal nature of the line.)
Someone asked me a question about the future Madsion Rapid Ride line I had never thought of. If the bus is going to have 5 doors, will there be an ADA wheel chair ramp on both sides of the bus? Any body know?
I think there has to be. If people in wheelchairs can only board at some of the stops, that would be a gross ADA violation.
Zach, there is a big difference between Germany and North America, especially the United States of America. In Germany “towns” and “cities” end in a hard edge. A hard edge. In the US they just sort of dribble off into ragged forgetfulness and then you’re (mostly) in the countryside.
In Germany, more than 50% of homes are rented. In the USA, 75+% are owner occupied. In Germany citizens pay on the order of 55-60% of their incomes as various levels of taxes. In the US it’s about 35%.
What “works” in Germany in oh so MANY ways, doesn’t in the US. It’s very nice that Germans have become staunch defenders of democracy and personal freedom so that we can stand together against the jerks east of Poland, but our societies are very different.
Sure, there is a growing recognition in the US that miles upon miles of suburbia uninterrupted by any thing at all interesting, is pretty depressing. People want to live where there is some entertainment other than their 70″ Surround Sound 4K Ultra TV.
But that doesn’t mean that a rail line can be built in a vacuum and suddenly Cambridge-on-the-Nisqually will result.
Wow, that was surely mis-placed. It’s supposed to be in response to Zach B way up here: https://seattletransitblog.com/2022/08/21/sunday-news-roundup/#comment-898373
Agreed. Reminds me of this (scroll down to “One of these things is not like the other”). It also reminds me of this exact situation.
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