Third Avenue Renovation

The Downtown Seattle Association released an update to its Third Avenue street reconfiguration vision. The DSA is a private organization of business leaders dedicated to promoting shopping and jobs downtown. Here’s our previous coverage in June, and a comment thread in September.

The vision describes Third Avenue as “a critical north-south transportation route in downtown Seattle.” It goes on to say, “For a variety of reasons, significant sections of the corridor feel unwelcoming and unsafe. Over the past decade, several planning efforts have yielded incremental improvements, but the underlying challenges remain the same.”

It cites a corridor study by Seattle and King County that identifies five problems downtown (including Belltown and Pioneer Square): insufficient open space, deferred maintenance, few middle-class people lingering (in spite of the large volume of people walking or waiting for buses), blank walls, too much concrete and too little color, and underused lobbies in office towers.

Continue reading “Third Avenue Renovation”

Fresh Open Thread

Snow is expected today, although it continues to be unpredictable as it was three weeks ago. Here’s a fresh open thread to discuss it and other topics. Wednesday and Thursday will be unusually cold in the low 20s. Beware of black ice.

Metro’s Snow Guide dashboard has a map of which subareas are on snow routes or the Emergency Snow Network. The page has a map of ESN routes, and links to the route-specific Service Advisories page and to subscribe to Alerts.

In East Seattle I’ve found Pine Street is the easiest way to get around in the snow, as it’s relatively flat from 1st Avenue to 14th Avenue. The worst part is crossing I-5 at Boren, where the bridge sidewalk can be icy.

ST2 Link Progress

Sound Transit is getting more serious about an East Link starter line until the defective plinths delaying the lake crossing can be replaced. We earlier covered Claudia Balducci’s original proposal and Sherwin Lee’s plea for good transfers. The delay of the lake crossing has cascading impacts on the Lynnwood extension, which will finish construction first but won’t have access to the Eastside train base (OMF East). Meanwhile, the Federal Way extension needs more time to design a “long-span bridge structure”. The System Expansion Committee proposed a new opening schedule:

  • Spring 2024: East Link Starter Line (Line 2: South Bellevue to Redmond Technology).
  • Fall/Winter 2024: Lynnwood (Line 1: Lynnwood to Angle Lake).
  • Spring 2025: East Link (Line 2: Lynnwood to Redmond Downtown).
  • TBD: Federal Way (Line 1: Lynnwood to Federal Way).

The ST board will meet in January to consider whether to pursue the starter line. If it doesn’t, Lynnwood would open a quarter earlier (Summer/Fall 2024) and East Link would open as above (Spring 2025).

The starter line’s frequency would be 10 minutes peak, midday, and weekends; and 15 minutes late evening/early morning.

ST Express routes would remain unchanged. The 550 would overlap the starter line between South Bellevue and Bellevue Downtown. The 542 and 545 would meet the line at one station, Redmond Technology. The 554 would continue going from Issaquah to Seattle with no direct access to the line.

A trip from Issaquah to downtown Bellevue would be the same as now: peak-only 556, slow 271, or 554+550 transfer at Mercer Island. Train enthusiasts could do a three-seat 554+550+Link trip transferring at Mercer Island and South Bellevue, or drive from Issaquah to the South Bellevue P&R and take the train from there.

ST’s presentation in the first link says opening Lynnwood before OMF East runs the risk of overcrowding on the 1 Line, and finding overnight storage for 16 trains along the Line 1 track. East Link trains are also arriving more slowly than expected. The testing window for new track, when trains will run without passengers before the opening, is four months.

On-topic comments for this article are the proposed Link changes, and riding transit in the 2023-2029 timeframe. Other restructures will be happening around the same time: the East Link bus restructure (now in 2025), Stride 1 (Burien-Bellevue), Stride 2 (Lynnwood-Bellevue), Stride 3 (Shoreline-Bothell), RapidRide G (Madison), H (Delridge), I (Renton-Kent-Auburn), J (Eastlake), T Line (Tacoma Link MLK extension).

News Roundup

Link public art: history and review ($).

Jarrett Walker is writing a second edition of his book “Human Transit”, and is asking for input on what to include.

Population-weighted density, or, is Los Angeles denser than New York City? (Pedestrian Observations)

Video of San Francisco’s new Central Subway. (Stroll With Me)

The most important rail line in the world, Tokyo’s Yamamote ring line. (RMTransit)

Whistler is a walkable small town. (RMTransit)

Seattle is still seeking input on its comprehensive plan update. I still need to get my comments in. Public hearings are December 12 and January 10.

This is an open thread.

Metro Cancellations

Metro sent an email alert today: “After two Metro operators identified a manufacturing issue in the steering system in some vehicles, Metro proactively removed 126 buses from service out of its 1,500-vehicle fleet. The identified problem did not lead to any accidents or injuries. Metro inspected all its buses to ensure all vehicles in service continue to perform safely and within specifications. The defect does not extend to all New Flyer buses and many remain in service.”

Metro recommends checking whether your trip is affected:

  • Text your bus stop number to 62550.
  • Sign up for text or email Transit Alerts.
  • Follow Twitter @kcmetroalerts.
  • Use Metro’s Trip Planner, One Bus Away, Google Maps, Bing Maps, etc.
  • Call Metro Customer Service at 206-553-3000 weekdays between 6am and 6pm.

We’ve been on a roller coaster of transit expansions and contractions almost every year for a decade:

In 2012 the Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle ended due to cost pressure from the 2008 recession.

In 2014 Metro had major cuts and laid off most of its non-operations staff as a 2-year recession tax surcharge expired.

Sometime around then Rapid Ride C, D and E opened, and Link went from 8-minute to 6-minute peak frequency.

In 2015 the economic recovery allowed the next three rounds of cuts to be canceled.

In 2016 University Link opened, ST3 passed, and the Seattle Transit Benefit District started funding additional Metro service in Seattle, starting with splitting the C and D and extending the C to South Lake Union.

In 2019 buses were kicked out of the downtown tunnel.

In 2020, COVID and lockdowns led to another major round of cuts, capping bus capacity at 25%, limiting transit to “Essential Trips Only”, half-hourly frequency on Link, and a reduced renewal of Seattle’s Transit Benefit District.

In 2021 most of the all-day service recovered but is still lower than 2019 levels, and Northgate Link opened. Metro and ST Express planned increases and has the money for them but new problem arose: a driver shortage prevents them from expanding or running all their intended service. Link and RapidRide expansions were delayed by the concrete strike, and Link by track plinths in the Eastside and other factors.

It feels like we’ve been a transit recession since 2020 with no end in sight. And now defective buses have caused even more cancellations. I just wish we could get closer to 2019 levels and at least remain stable there.

To top it off, Metro bus reliability is lower than in 2021. (Urbanist) The first 24,750 additional service hours Metro gets will have to go to “the 40 routes where 20% or more of trips are running late” before it can add additional frequency or coverage. This also feels like déjà vu since it happened before in the past fifteen years: Metro had to add buses just to maintain reliability amidst worsening traffic congestion before it could add frequency.

On-topic comments for this article are trip cancellations, transit reliability, and the roller coaster of expansions and contractions. Please keep current cancellations in separate threads from longer-term issues so that people can find urgent information quickly.