Link will have another split-spine repair period August 12-19 similar to the reduction in April. This time it’s to repair a section of track that has settled at Royal Brougham Way. For the first two days the downtown tunnel will simply be closed, with a bus replacement between Capitol Hill and SODO. Then for six days all trains will terminate at Pioneer Square, and you’ll have to transfer to the other platform to continue north or south. Pedestrian access from Stadium Station to the Greyhound terminal or the stadiums will be blocked. We’ll have an article on this when it starts.

While you’re transferring at Pioneer Square you can contemplate how a center platform would make transferring faster, how this is now a regular problem, and how future transfers to the second tunnel will be several times worse.

The Free Waterfront Shuttle bus is running again for the summer. It runs in two loops from Pier 56 (the Great Wheel). The south loop goes to Pioneer Square and King Street Station. The north loop goes to the Space Needle. Buses run every 15 minutes (subject to traffic) from 10am to 8pm until September 24. Ferry passengers should use the stop at Pier 56 because of construction at Pier 52.

The perfect transit system. (RMTransit video)

What I would build in Vancouver. (RMTransit video)

How feasible is a wholesale switch to electric cars? (Sabine Hossenfelder video)

Amtrak’s endless ridership vs coverage problem. (Human Transit)

This is an open thread.

114 Replies to “Open Thread 12”

  1. Don’t forget the REM opening in Montreal!

    Video links:
    RM Transit —

    CBC –

    Note the many significant features:
    1. Fully automated.
    2. Platform doors.
    3. 5 years from groundbreaking to open.
    4. New station where there was nothing urban a few years ago.

    Granted that this is just part of the line. Still, it looks like Montreal with CDPQ has set up a mostly successful project delivery strategy.

    1. The story is a little more complicated. I blew through my free Toronto Star articles for the month so I can’t get quotes from there – instead I will link to a Montreal source with which I am less familiar and which discusses the next phase in the project.

      Note that there is quite a bit of controversy, summarized in this quote: “the REM de l’Est would be costly to run, disfigure Montreal and provide no clear benefit to most east-end commuters.”

      Criticism points in the Toronto Star article I read about the phase which just opened were similar, though IMHO the biggest issue was one not included here, that of funding (the system is run by a for profit entity). This led to interesting choices, such as running in the freeway envelope in some areas, etc. They also condemned a bunch of properties and pushed through legislation to make that process easier. All in all, similar complaints to what we see in the US.

    2. REM de l’Est is an entirely different project and corridor than the original REM is. It’s the project development/ funding strategy that’s similar.

      It’s even more obvious than confusing ST2 and ST3 is.

      1. Sorry, I thought that I was clear but I was not.

        You are correct that the article I linked is about a different project, what I called “the next phase in the project” in my first paragraph.

        You, I believe, are mistaken in assuming that my last paragraph, referring to the Toronto Star article, also refers to REM de l’Est, not REM – what I called “the phase which just opened”. If you did not make that mistake, I apologize, but your comment suggests that it did.

        Just to restate it even more explicitly, though: the criticism in the Toronto Star article is about REM, not REM de l’Est.

        Not sure what the analogy to ST2 vs. ST3 is – would you be so kind as to elaborate?


      2. The “next phases” of REM open to the west and southwest of Downtown Montreal and not northeast (like REM de l’Est). They repurposed an old commuter rail line including a central tunnel and that should be ready for two branches next year with the third Airport branch complete in 2027.

        I think you may be referring to this Toronto Star article:

        The article raises some broad questions about the REM decision making model. It mentions that the new segments were mostly in highway medians. It also mentions Griffintown noise impacts, but that seems strange in that that segment is adjacent to existing rail tracks although the prior tracks weren’t being used continuously.

        It’s notable too that nearby new developments had to pay a fee — appearing to be a rail transit development/ impact fee. That’s something that I think could be considered with WSBLE as the funding gap grows.

        The most exciting aspect of the project to me is the introduction of automated trains and platform screen doors. Fully automated technology appears to be preferred around the world where entire new lines are being planned — except for here in the US and especially in the Puget Sound region.

      3. That is the article, yes.

        As I mentioned, the thing that I found more interesting is the fact that they had to pass legislation to speed up acquisition of ROW etc. To me that suggests that the model is unsustainable at scale without general opposition from the public. The fact that it was questionable even in Quebec suggests that it would be received much more poorly here.

        I agree that the noise complaints were strange, but I can see the argument if the testing was done only during the day when fewer people were around. Noise at 5am tends to be received differently from noise at 1pm. Noise pollution affects different people very differently, though – and different types of noise tend to affect people differently, too. For what it’s worth, I find the white noise of freeways much more palatable than the more staccato-like noise of trucks or buses on city streets; and I find the screeching of rail positively intolerable. Others have different responses, though.

        I’m enough of a luddite that I don’t feel like automation, in itself, is a positive; however automation in service of a particular feature (e.g. better ADA compliance) is certainly welcome, in my mind.

      4. “Not sure what the analogy to ST2 vs. ST3 is – would you be so kind as to elaborate?”

        Same decision/ project delivery method and tax collection method. Different corridor segments.

      5. Thank you for the clarification. I guess I was confused because I had not mentioned ST2 and ST3, so I was not sure where that comparison was coming from. Did someone make that mistake in the past about ST2 and ST3? I don’t think that I did, at least. But now I see what you mean, and yes, it does make sense as an analogy.

    3. “similar complaints to what we see in the US.”

      The complaints may be the same but the context is different. It’s like an overton window in two different places. If they succeed in stopping a project, the net result is not as dire as in the US. They still have better transit and walkability to fall back on. They probably ride transit more on average and support other projects. If they were in danger of getting a US-like situation, they might not oppose the project. Vancouverites debated about light rail vs skytrain for the Broadway line, but it wasn’t a choice of transit vs no transit or transit vs ineffective transit –they already had an ultra-frequent bus on that corridor, three skytrain lines in the city, high-quality BRT in Surrey, and frequent buses throughout. It’s like how Canadians and Brits complain about the cost and quality of their healthcare systems, but when faced with a choice of a US-like system — where only the well-off get care, one major illness can bankrupt you, and the social programs that exist leave many people falling through the cracks or can get cancelled by spiteful governors — they turn away in horror and say they don’t want that.

      1. I’ll comment briefly on the health care in Canada (Ontario, specifically) bit as I am second hand familiar with anecdotes of people I know there.

        I think that what you said is entirely accurate – they would not want to replace what they have with the US system. However, it’s important to note what __is__ missing. Dental coverage is similar to here (i.e. not covered by Ontario Health Insurance Plan, aka OHIP); I believe eye care is also similar. Getting an almost full set of dental implants would cost someone I know about twenty thousand CAD – so they made the “choice” to suffer with poorly fitting dentures and/or just gum their food up because they cannot afford to spend a year’s worth of rent on replacing the ill fitting ones. Wait times in the ER can be atrocious – the same person was literally waiting in the hallway for about twelve hours while in excruciating pain with a kidney stone. By the time they were finally seen, the stone was almost passed – by the time the imaging came back, it was gone. Of course, they didn’t “know” it was a kidney stone until after that point, so just waiting it out was not the ideal scenario (the doctor who saw them agreed), but they were just that slammed. There are many month long waits for more sophisticated imaging tests – someone else I know had to wait for 3 months for a head MRI despite being elderly and having serious mobility issues which were suspected (fortunately not found) to be due to a brain tumor.

        Not saying that none of these things happen in the US; of course they do. But it is worth understanding the limitations of the Canadian system, and these are some of the ones I am familiar with (all in one of the large cities in Southern Ontario, not in a small town in the middle of nowhere).

      2. It should be noted that Ontario has also privatized a considerable portion of its healthcare system, leading many hospitals in rural areas to close and numerous other problems.

  2. Starting from millions of dollars (lmfao) to however many billion dollars, how much do you think it would cost sound transit to quite likely costly retrofit what we see in Honolulu and Montreal into the link system? What number amount would you personally estimate?

    Obviously this covers the bare minimums like platform heights and grade separation but also the lesser thought about differences such station approaches and softening (rebuilding) elevated or underground curves

    Sound transit has said in the past they are not considering this because they have only been given money for expansions, maintenance, and operation. But if they were given a price tag for what they would need to ask voters for in regards to turning link into a full fledged metro with metro-like frequencies and reliability (if that is even possible) what do you personally think that asking price would be?

    1. I think it would require a new vote, with autonomous Link called out specifically as an enhancement in the capital program. Otherwise, staff is too risk adverse to advocate for the change, and the union push back will be immense (BART’s vehicles can be driven remotely but they still carrying drivers solely to placate the union). The pitch to the voters would be excellent all day frequency.

      Cost wise, probably only a few hundred million, mostly in IT and vehicle retrofits. I’m firmly convince the technology already exists such that there would be zero need to alter the ROW or stations: robot buses can drive in closed loops where there is risk of pedestrians and vehicles stepping into the route, which is a more difficult operating environment than Link.

      1. The union would probably be fine, it’s just a matter of where the jobs would go and if employees can be moved to a different aspect of operations.

      2. The KCM Local has successfully blocked the ST2 bus base for years, and tried to kill the ST3 bus base, because they objected to the jobs going to non-KCM drivers, enough though ST guarantees the drivers would all be unionized.

        BART’s union has blocked automatization for decades. Same for MTA.

        Zach, can you point to a single example in the Western world where a rail line was automated without a public sector union objecting?

    2. Conceptually, I’m pretty sure that they don’t specify manned trains in ST3. I think ST could automate trains and seemingly not violate an ST3 mandate.

      Practically speaking, converting to automated would be done as a phased approach. For example, everything from Lynnwood to IDC Station could be run in an automated mode. In SODO there are street grade crossings — but those could probably be cleared with slow speeds at the crossings. ST is supposed to put in a grade separation for everything in SODO but Royal Brougham eventually. East Link has pedestrian crossings at Judkins Park, East Main, Bel-Red/130th, Overlake Village and Marymoor stations as well as a surface segment between 130th Ave NE and NE 20th Street — so those would need some gate system along with slow trains but trains at stations are already moving slowly at stations.

      That pretty much just leaves MLK.. I wonder if they can have drivers only between the OMF and BAR and automate everything else.

      The bigger issue is probably the cost. Cost savings are possible with automated trains in that they can be better programmed to run at higher frequencies. There are two capital cost saving aspects — shorter trains and more trains per hour. For example, the WSBLE train platforms could be reduced if trains were more frequently. DSTT could probably handle three lines if they were fully automated. Still, I’m not sure how the expansion budget could be used instead for automating existing tracks.

      I could see a scenario where automation kicked on or off at Beacon Hill or Judkins Park with West Seattle fully automated. Trains leaving those stations to head to Downtown could switch from manual mode to automatic mode at the station and the system could perfectly space the trains.

      Of course, this is ST. This is the agency that still announces northbound trains even though there is no word “northbound” on the platforms. They have their own reality where the only logic they cling to being the logic that they internally invent.

      1. “East Link has pedestrian crossings at Judkins Park”

        I don’t think so. The train is above the road at Rainier and below the road at 23rd. Is there a crossing inside the station?

      2. Legal it’s a gray enough area that I think most people will take a preferred policy view and then work backward to the legal position. I agree that any future vehicle series could be bid out as autonomous capable, which would cover both the 3rd series “ST3” and replacements for series 1 & 2, all of which are fully funded. Also FWIW, I did have an engineer at ST say to me once that the language for Kirkland-Issaquah is vague specifically because the consultants thought that trains should be autonomous by then.

        I firmly believe the at grade crossings are irrelevant. If they system is automated, it will be automated the full length of the system. If the train can run autonomously in SoDo and Bel-Red, it can run on MLK.

      3. The beauty too of course of automation is the frequency you can achieve with automation drives ridership… no wait for trains

      4. If autonomous cars can have some semblance of safety at random intersections that weren’t designed for them, then it must be easier to make Link safe at a handful of well-known intersections that ST is monitoring.

      5. @Mike Orr,

        Automating the existing Link LRV’s would be much easier than developing full self driving cars, but not because ST is monitoring the intersections. The main reason a self driving LRV is so much easier is because the LRV is on, you know, rails!

        Being on rails means the LRV knows exactly where it is at all times, and (combined with speed data) knows exactly where it will be at any time in the future. This makes the self driving tech a lot simpler than for a car that has to position itself safely in various random street geometries.

        Essentially the self driving LRV tech becomes mainly a problem of throttle management and intrusion detection and response, which even automated systems like Skytrain have been doing in various forms for decades.

        That said, automating Link with self driving LRV’s wouldn’t increase frequency at all. Frequency is set by the street grid in the RV, and automation doesn’t change that. So the best we will see in the future is 8 mins base frequency, 4 mins interlined.

      6. Lazarus explains the automation details well.

        And yes, the peak frequency may not improve on the ST2 network, but with automation the peak frequency can be sustained through a much longer time period, and then during periods of very low ridership (i.e. late evenings), ST can shorten train lengths to minimize O&M expense while still running peak-ish frequency.

        To boost peak frequency, ST could interline turnback trains, which would be easier to implement without needing to switch/reverse drivers. But I generally try not to assume boosting peak frequency and instead only project enhanced service outside peak.

        For WSBLE, OTOH, if automation is assumed upfront, the system can be designed for much higher frequency, more like Skytrain with shorter trains & high frequency.

      7. That said, automating Link with self driving LRV’s wouldn’t increase frequency at all. Frequency is set by the street grid in the RV, and automation doesn’t change that. So the best we will see in the future is 8 mins base frequency, 4 mins interlined.

        Right, except 8 mins base frequency is more frequent than they run now, and will likely run in the future. Right now the trains run 10 minute most of the day, and every 15 at night. Automated trains would also increase capacity, thus reducing crowding.

        It probably isn’t worth it for Rainier Valley, but it would make sense for the Ballard Line, if it was independent (as it should be). The trains could be smaller, but run a lot more often. This would drop the cost of building it substantially. We don’t know what the savings would look like, but it is clear that Sound Transit is having a really hard time building the stations for anywhere near the very high cost they estimated, so smaller stations (with automated trains) is worth pursuing.

      8. @AJ,

        Thanks for the compliment. Much appreciated.

        Since automation won’t affect frequency or capacity on the 1&2-Lines due to the street-running in the RV, the only major reason to do it would be to save money by eliminating the operator. This is a major incentive however, so maybe some day we will see self operating LRV’s. But from a user perspective the system will appear essentially the same.

        Regarding shrinking trains to maintain high frequency while matching demand changes, ST would be highly to do this. The cost in maintenance of putting extra hours on an LRV is fairly small compared to the operational costs of decoupling trains, or compared to the capital costs of maintaining a secondary LRV reserve fleet of a different length. ST will just continue to run the overly long trains at whatever frequency they deem necessary.

        Also, while ST could design WSBLE with different tech, they are highly unlikely to. They will stick with the tech they have now for reasons of operational efficiency. And designing a new system that is capacity constrained out of the gate (short trains, high frequency) doesn’t leave any room for future growth. It is a bad idea.

      9. Since automation won’t affect frequency or capacity on the 1&2-Lines

        If the trains were automated, they would likely run more often outside of peak. They also wouldn’t need driver sections on either end. This would mean that each train car could carry a lot more more people, even when the trains run as often as they do now. So it would increase frequency (outside of peak) and increase capacity (all day long).

        And designing a new system that is capacity constrained out of the gate (short trains, high frequency) doesn’t leave any room for future growth.

        Wait a second. The plan is to connect the Ballard line with the Rainier Valley line. According to you, we will never run trains more than every 8 minutes down Rainier Valley. Each train car has a section for the driver on both ends. The new, independent line could be designed for trains half the size of our existing ones. The trains would be half as big, but have more than half the capacity because they wouldn’t have the driver compartments. They would also be high floor trains, which means easier boarding and alighting, as well as more space to move around (no step to get above the bogeys). So automated trains running every 4 minutes would have much more capacity than planned. Trains running 2 minutes would more than double the capacity of what is planned. It is quite common to design for systems that run trains more more often than that. It is the current set of plans are not designed for future growth.

        Also, while ST could design WSBLE with different tech, they are highly unlikely to.

        Yes, on that we agree. ST has no interest in best practices when it comes to designing or operating this mass transit system. By no means is automation a silver bullet. It is just one aspect of the system. But the fact that they haven’t even considered it just points to a larger problem: They don’t know what they are doing. Every decision is made based on false assumptions. We need a second tunnel. Why? We already decided. We need to run the train from Tacoma to Everett, because that is “the spine”. Then, when things get tough, and they realize that it is way too expensive to build much of anything, they start making things worse. Transfers will be worse, stations will be worse. Even capacity will not be as high as it would be if Ballard was a separate line, with smaller, more frequent automated trains. As it turns out, capacity is unlikely to a big problem, simply because so much of our system is poorly built. A lot of the potential riders (in South Lake Union) will largely ignore the train, and continue to be dependent on surface transit.

      10. 1. Automated trains are really not “different tech” than what ST is running now. At least one line in Los Angeles uses the same light rail car design as their street running light rail lines. They disable the automated feature on street running. It’s not really that complicated.

        They’d probably want platform doors, and that could be complicated.

        • For Link, the most likely big advantage is the ability to operate the trains on a longer segment of track than allowed by human operators. Eg, they could operate Tacoma Dome to Everett if part of the line were automated. This would allow better operating flexibility when it comes to mixing what line goes to what.

      11. Ross said “ But the fact that they haven’t even considered it just points to a larger problem: They don’t know what they are doing. ”

        As a broad statement it rings generally true. However, I think it’s more complicated.

        1. Certain key staff know there are newer and better ways to do things but simply don’t want to do anything differently. They limit open discussions on things like automation potential. They seem to believe they are smarter than anyone else. Their solution to innovation is to assume that nothing more can be done better than they’ve done it. I would call it institutional arrogance ore than institutional stupidity.

        2. Most of the Board seems content to avoid dealing with any unwise past decisions that ST makes. They seem to want compliant, unvisionary types in management that won’t throw a wrench into the parade of interested parties lobbying for favors out of the massive construction contracts that make big engineering and construction companies salivate. They don’t want to burden their time and take any risk to jeopardize their powerful two-hour-a-month positions as contract-approving Santa Clauses.

        Evidence of these things are everywhere. People with nearby property intentions are declared valuable “Stakeholders” even though they have no interest in riding a train. The more important “stakeholders” should be the transit-riding public — and yet there is deliberately no forum or approach to discuss their needs and concerns.

        I would put it more like this: ST has created an agency where deal-making is more important than building, building is more important than operating, and operating problems are never attributed to bad choices made in the past.

        It’s all about getting that groundbreaking photo op in!

      12. before Covid, the MLK service had six-minute headway. Today, ST is choosing to provide longer headway and waits.

      13. @Glenn,

        You are correct, automated LRV’s aren’t that different from human operated LRV’s on the vehicle level. What is different though is what is under the hood. Basically all the communication and control systems, software, and intrusion detection systems that automation requires.

        And you are also right that there is a range of different ways to implement automation. However, what people on this blog seem to gloss over is that implementing automation is basically an economic decision, and the big swinger in LRV economics is operator hours.

        Increased capacity by removing the cabs? Blah, really small potatoes. Adding a couple more seats where the operator sits just doesn’t move the needle much on economics, and no agency is going to spend a boatload of money just to add a couple of seats.

        And if ST really found themselves in dire need of a minuscule increase in capacity there are a lot easier ways to achieve it than automation – namely frequency changes and a possible urban overlay.

        Just changing frequency from 8 mins to 7.5 increases capacity by 6.7%. That is substantial, and it is easy, quick, and cost effective to implement. And low risk.

        And an urban overlay might even perform better economically. Reduce base frequency from 8 mins to 10 and you reduce operator hours by 25%. Then reinvest some of those saved operator hours in running the urban overlay. Do it right and you have the potential to both fully meet ridership demand while STILL saving money.

        Dow Constantine was prodding ST about overlays many years ago, and for exactly these reasons. I don’t know what ever happened to those discussions, but Dow gets it.

  3. Regarding “another split-spine repair period August 12-19 similar to the reduction in April,” I lived in San Francisco for years, riding BART and MUNI everywhere, and I don’t remember “repair periods” like this.

    Smack me upside the head if I’m mistaken, but other metropolitan areas are able to run much larger and more complex systems than our one-line Link, without such recurring interruptions of service.

    1. In ST’s defense, these other larger systems also likely have a much larger deferred maintenance backlog, so when they have problems, they’re unplanned and much more severe (see Boston, NYC, and DC). That said, I do find it frustrating that we have these extended service disruptions on top of what seem like weekly unplanned “signal” and “mechanical” problems, many of which apparently require ST to scramble Metro buses that presumably Metro can’t really afford and lead to even more bus system unreliability.

    2. Certainly maintenance issues will occur and those will disrupt service.

      However, ST seems to unrealistically struggle with excessive timelines by which to get work completed. They seem to paint a picture of a long disruption then complete the work in about 60 percent of the announced disruption time.

      Why? It is better to open things early rather than late. An agency looks good saying something takes to weeks but completing the work in a week as opposed to the other way around.

      However, many times I witness ST or it’s contractors only working on projects on weekdays rather than evenings or weekends. I’m not sure how much internal schedule pushback happens from management. I could be wrong about internal discussions, but does however appear that management as ST goes along with whatever project schedule the staff recommends and the staff seems to care little about disrupting service. We lose service quality for 1-2 weeks to address issues that most systems would resolve in overnight work or in a weekend closure with continual 24/7 work crews. (There are 56 hours between 8 PM on a Friday and 4 AM on a Monday, or 80 hours if Monday is a holiday and service resumes on Tuesday at 4 AM.)

      I will say that the East Link plinth replacements appear to be being addressed on evenings and weekends — even though the work crews appear to only be tackling the problem a segment at a time.

      I never see discussion about “lost revenue”. The East Link delay appears to cost ST $50M in fares (with about 30-40% or $15-20M recovered in ST Express fares). ST loses rider fare revenue even with short disruptions that could be a bigger loss than merely paying workers overtime on a weekend would be. Frequent disruptions reduce overall confidence and interest in using Link.

  4. Yesterday, I rode the bus from Kirkland to Carkeek Park. Getting to Northgate on the 255, followed by Link was quite quick, but getting that last mile and half along a major Seattle bus route ended up taking about as much time as getting to Northgate all the way from Kirkland.

    First, the 40 was conveniently scheduled to leave right as the incoming train was arriving, leaving a 15 minute wait until the next one. Then, the next one was 5 minutes late in spite of Northgate being the very first stop of the route, so the wait time was 20 minutes. Then, the ride. Passenger stops were frequent, but quick. But what really hurt was the traffic. 6-8 minutes waiting in line behind a bunch of cars to get through the light at Aurora on a Saturday afternoon. At one point, the bus driver had to let people off about 100 feet past the bus stop to avoid the bus losing it’s place in line due to drivers cutting in front while the bus is stopped. Then, another 3 minutes to get through the light at Greenwood, which the bus would have actually made except that the bus stop is before the intersection and 10 seconds to let one person on the bus was just enough time for the light to turn red and make the bus sit there for a full, very long light cycle.

    The 40 is a big bus route and should do better than this, especially since this was a weekend and weekdays would presumably be worse. A bus connection to go the final 1.5 miles should not add 35 minutes to the trip.

    The solution is obvious. BAT lanes on Northgate Way would have made a huge difference in getting the bus through traffic. In combination with bus lanes along other parts of route 40, enough running time is saved to allow the route to run more often without any additional buses or drivers, thereby reducing the wait time. It is simply a matter of will.

    1. I thinks it’s weird that the north end of the 40 is being snubbed in the TPMC upgrades being planned for the route.

      The only improvements north of Market are a few blocks of northbound bus lane between 8th and Greenwood. There are no (apparent) plans to address bus reliability east of Greenwood, despite congestion being immense.

      I am hopeful that the implementation of Bus+Truck lanes on Westlake will open up opportunities for more Bus + Truck lanes on major freight corridors like 105th.

  5. A curious fact emerged in the June Link ridership report. ( Note that while June isn’t yet listed for the full system, Link data is provided for a June in the Link tab. The curious fact was how average Saturday ridership was 96 percent of average weekday ridership! Even Sunday was 79 percent of average weekday ridership.

    There are many important questions here. For starters, how crowded are peak trains during normal commute times? Is Link getting a lower share of commute trips than initially forecast? How does this affect parking? Are peak trains full? Should weekday peak frequencies be pulled back in favor of instead running trains later?

    Of course, June is a popular sporting event and urban festival month. I would expect these numbers to be closest in June. But 96 percent really does put a very different focus on how the public uses Link on Saturdays. Saturdays were running about 80-90 percent of weekdays before June.

    I think it highlights too how a rail system is can be an asset beyond serving mainly work commuters.

    1. Wow! Station boarding data is now available for each month of 2023 back to January, by weekday, Saturday, and Sunday. Thank you!!

  6. Wow #2:

    The vertical conveyance dashboard and other alerts are the first thing that come up when I ST’s website.

    A new age of perestroika seems to have been ushered in at Union Station!

  7. The 520/I-5 express lanes ramp is postponed ($) to 2030 when the rest of the 520 upgrade is finished.

    “The main losers will be riders on Sound Transit Route 545, across the Highway 520 bridge, who will continue to weave through mainline traffic snarls approaching downtown. The line carries 4,075 passengers per weekday as of May, and 102,813 monthly between Redmond and Seattle. Private commuter buses, along with a few peak-only Metro and Community Transit routes, also go between 520 and downtown.”

    “The state and transit managers decided it’s no longer worthwhile to complete the reversible 520-to-I-5 ramp now, in light of the fact transit agencies aren’t ready to boost their 520 service anytime soon, Dawn Yankauskas, deputy administrator for the Highway 520 replacement megaproject.”

    “King County Metro Transit intended to use the special ramp for a new Route 256, from Woodinville across the 520 bridge to South Lake Union, that’s now been deferred.”

    “A Sound Transit delay in opening its Bellevue-Seattle light-rail line has caused a shortage of transit resources,”

    “Metro was already struggling with a recent 4% cut to overall service, because of a driver shortage, lack of mechanics, and about 40% of its buses unfit to operate as of July.”

    1. I think the 545 gets eliminated when East LINK is fully operational between Overlake Tech Center – Lynnwood.

      1. Yes, according to all the East Link restructure proposals. The 545 will be replaced with more 542 service to the U-District. So the 545 will only be in traffic for two more years if the full Line 2 opens in 2025.

      2. Route 545 could have been absorbed into a very frequent Route 542 any time after U Link. Using Link was faster in both directions in both peaks. Now Seattle has slowed 5th Avenue (March 2019) and 4th Avenue (fall 2020) by taking a lane from each for PBL and the 5th/6th pathway, respectively. Link takes only six minutes between the UW and Westlake.

      3. The 544 is being restored … that is a route that would have leveraged this reversible lane?

    2. We wrote about this in the comments a while back. The Urbanist also covered it. As we noted (and the Urbanist did as well) the big issue is getting the buses from 520 to the UW. In contrast, this is not a big transit corridor. A handful of trips during peak for the 544 and 256, and that’s it. It will be handy for car pool and private bus riders though.

      In contrast, the state (and city) need to get the connection between the UW and 520 right, as plenty of buses will go there, all day long. This is not only congested during peak, but also congested when the bridge goes up. If the bus can essentially go to the front of the line (right up to the bridge) it basically solves the problem. Connecting the HOV lanes to Montlake Boulevard will be a very important step. They may need to do some other minor modifications, but not that much from what I can tell. They also need to fix the connection to 24th, so that the 48 can avoid congestion as well.

      1. “We wrote about this in the comments a while back.”

        It was a few days ago, and people complained about ramps being built that buses wouldn’t use. The new thing is that WSDOT is postponing the project because buses won’t use it.

    3. Another interesting aspect of this project: The HOV lanes from the express lanes to Mercer will be ready around 2024, right about the time that Metro stops using them. There are no plans for ST or CT to use them either. The only buses that could use them are the buses from 520, but since they can’t access the express lanes, they can’t either. So they are building ramps that buses can’t use until 2030. It would not surprise me if ST and Metro decide to stop running those express buses to South Lake Union/Downtown at that point.

      Carpools and private buses can use them though. So there is that.

      1. These 520/I-5 HOV lanes should be part of an improved 520 HOV network. 520 is a very strong transit corridor with high quality stations and which complements the light rail system. Sure it could have been built better but what is built is not bad. More Eastside buses should be sent to SLU and that 544(?) route should be made all day. The UW-Kirkland, UW- Redmond and some new UW-Bellevue routes should be branded similar to ST Stride. Meanwhile the bus connection between 520 Montlake and UW station should be improved with bus lanes and a bus loop around the UW headhouse to greatly improve this key transfer point.

      2. “The only buses that could use them are the buses from 520, but since they can’t access the express lanes, they can’t either.” I don’t get this comment. Wouldn’t an SR520 bus use the HOV lanes across the Lake and under the Montlake lid, and then on the Portage bridge would simply need to merge over a lane (or 2?) to then catch the express lane?

        I’m with Poncho – routes like the 544 & 256 haven’t gotten staff support because they don’t run enough to build support, but Eastside-SLU will be the primary cross-lake trip pair that will not be well served once East Link is fully open. Before the 520 rebuild, layering routes on the 520 was just lighting platform hour on fire, but in the future the 520 will have the infrastructure to layer frequent routes, some Eastside-UW and some Eastside-SLU/Downtown, with the 520 freeway stations facilitating easy same-platform transfers. ST staff is going down this path by sending the 544 to SLU while the 542 goes to UW, and the routes should be staggered so that there is always a short transfer at Evergreen Point.
        For example, the 256 would be the lone route connecting downtown Woodinville directly to 405, right? Riders can exit at Totem Lake FS to catch Stride to Bellevue TC, exit at Evergreen Point FS to catch a bus to UW, or remain on the bus to get to SLU.

      3. The thing about SLU, people talk about it like it’s a point, but it’s really a whole area, and the type of transit you want really depends on which specific parts of SLU you’re going to, and the lines between two adjacent neighborhoods can be somewhat blurry.

        For example, the tallest buildings in SLU are actually within 3-4 blocks of Westlake Station, and are served by the existing Link line rather nicely. Among the rest of SLU, the 544 isn’t nearly as useful as it seems. As an example, let’s consider this trip:

        To ride the 544, which goes only to Overlake, you have to start on either Link or the 542. Now, you have a choice. You can transfer to the 544 at Yarrow Point or Evergreen Point, or you can stay on the 542 and transfer to Link at UW Station. Going the 544 route avoids the overhead of getting from 520 to the Link station, but you have to wait longer for it at the bus stop, then, even with the 520/I-5 express lane ramp, you still have to sit in a long line of cars to get off of I-5 at Stewart St. And then, when the bus finally gets to SLU, it only goes down Fairview, so you still have to walk half a mile from the bus stop to the actual building at the end of the trip.

        Or, given that you’re already on the 542 anyway, maybe you just stay on the bus to UW Station. You pay some overhead getting from the freeway to the station and down the escalators, but you save on wait time (peak-hour Link will run every 4 minutes) and completely avoid all of the I-5 exit ramp mess and all of the traffic and stoplights on Boren and Fairview and hop off the train at Westlake Station. Now, it is true that Westlake Station is a little bit further from the final destination than the closest route 544 stop, but we’re talking about 0.8 miles vs. 0.5 miles, a 0.3 mile difference, equivalent to about 6 additional minutes of walking. Door to door, this seems like a wash at worse, but less delay-prone than the 544 option, assuming Montlake lid completion, given that neither Link nor walking can be delayed by traffic congestion. And, even if you don’t want to walk the last leg (maybe there’s a downpour, for instance), you’ve got lots of frequent bus options – the 5 and E-line go right to the front door of the target building, while the 40 and streetcar get within a couple blocks of it. All get you closer than the 544 would, unless you make an additional transfer to the very-delay-prone #8, which would make the trip even longer.

        Or, going all the way back to Redmond, maybe you start on Link instead of the 542 and ride to Westlake the other way – longer, but saves a transfer. Again, I don’t see a good reason to get off of Link at Overlake and wait for a 544.

        Even if you live in an apartment complex within walking distance of 520/40th St., I still see little reason to take the 544 for this trip over the 542. You don’t need to transfer to get on the 544, but you have to sit through a detour to South Kirkland P&R instead, which the 542 bypasses. Once you get to Seattle, it’s the same calculations as before. In fact, about the *only* situation I can see the 544 really being useful is if we shift the final destination to the east. But, at that point, what we think of as an express bus to South Lake Union is actually just an express bus to Fred Hutch, which hardly seems big enough to warrant express buses from the eastside, just for them.

        The people who are pro-544 and mostly just casually looking at the map and going “we need a bus from the Eastside to South Lake Union”. Once you start looking at the actual route and trying to plan actual trips around it, it’s usefulness over competing transit options starts to drop considerably.

      4. “The only buses that could use them are the buses from 520, but since they can’t access the express lanes, they can’t either.” I don’t get this comment.

        520 won’t be connected to the express lanes until 2030.

      5. “ 520 is a very strong transit corridor with high quality stations and which complements the light rail system. ”

        Should 520 be rebranded as Stride 4? It’s set up with freeway stations already. It could use better linkages through new exclusive transit lanes that connect to Link stations, but that could come about in focused studies once it’s designated as a Stride corridor.

        To do this would mean changing ST Express drivers to Stride drivers. Some way to deal with Metro routes in the corridor would be necessary. Overall though, it seems like a reasonable thing to do.


      6. Al, it’s a very interesting idea. Would that work if it’s considered not just one route/corridor but a trunk-and-branch system with branches to Kirkland, Bellevue, and Redmond?

      7. Thanks Ross – I read that as they couldn’t use after 2030 as well.

        Al – a “Stride 520” would be a specific line, like the 544 and 545 are specific routes ( So there could eventually be a “Stride 520” alongside the Stride 522, but ST would need to pick a specific trip pair (say, Redmond TC to UW) to ‘upgrade’ to Stride. Along SR 520 itself the change would be little more than a different bus fleet and some modest station improvements, so I would look at which route tails would benefit most from Stride improvements on the arterials.

      8. Thanks Ross – I read that as they couldn’t use after 2030 as well.

        My point is that they are adding HOV ramps to the Express Lanes at Mercer in 2024. However, the only buses that use the Express Lanes exit (303, 322) don’t use that exit. Thus they are building ramps in 2024 that won’t be used until 2030.

      9. Should 520 be rebranded as Stride 4? It’s set up with freeway stations already. It could use better linkages through new exclusive transit lanes that connect to Link stations, but that could come about in focused studies once it’s designated as a Stride corridor.

        Maybe, but in my opinion you don’t gain much by converting these into Stride. Stride adds a number of things over a regular bus: fancy bus stops, off-board payment and branding. Several of our bus stops — especially those around Link stations — are already fancy. Off-board payment is great, but makes the most difference for a bus that has lots of stops. The RapidRide E, for example, has about 25 “stations”, or places where riders can pay at the bus stop, and get on at any door. In contrast, most of these buses will only have a handful of stops, unless they spend a significant time away from the freeway. Given this is ST, that seems unlikely.

        So that basically leaves branding. I could see it. For example, Woodinville may feel left out with the Stride 3 plans. But they could be included with a line that goes from Woodinville to the UW (stopping at all the freeway stops along the way). Calling this “Stride 4” allows them to take advantage of the brand (and re-use the stop infrastructure). It would cost a bit more (and might not be worth it) but you would be able to leverage what is already there. It also means that 405 becomes the Stride corridor. For example, the only buses that serve Totem Lake Freeway Station in the middle of the day (if not all day) would be Stride buses.

        You could do the same thing with the 542, but in that case, you wouldn’t be leveraging anything we are planning on building. It also just muddles things. The 542 will never have the ridership of the 255 or 270 (the bus that replaces the 271) even though they are similar.

        The 520 corridor is fast, but can only support so many routes. Crossing the bridge is pretty cheap (assuming they iron out the various issues) but then there are two choices. If the bus goes to the U-District, there would be more one-seat rides. But that is more expensive than just turning around at the triangle. So while I could see several overlapping routes, my guess is there would only one from Kirkland (the 255), one from Downtown Bellevue (270), one from Redmond (542), and one from north 405. I suggested Woodinville (for the 405-520 bus) but simply ending at UW Bothell Transit Center is a possibility. Another alternative is to go to Totem Lake itself (and the college). But I would imagine that you could only support one of those, unless you ran it infrequently, which would be a bad idea. You are better running feeder buses to the 405-520 bus (what I’ll call Stride 4).

        I would get rid of all of the express buses to downtown (or downtown-adjacent) destinations. They simply aren’t worth it. The UW is a major destination in its own right, sending buses there makes a lot more sense. I could see some peak-only expresses serving the neighborhoods and going directly to the UW. This would make it easier for some riders. Outside of peak, they would then have to transfer from the Stride 4 to a local bus. This also simplifies things. Let’s say you live in Rose Hill and work downtown. Metro runs an express from Rose Hill to the UW during rush hour. You transfer from there to Link, and get downtown. Coming back, you usually do the reverse. But if you leave work early or late, you take the Stride 4, and then transfer at a freeway station to a local bus.

  8. The 544 begins at Redmond Tech Center. The 542 is the one bus that begins in Redmond (the 541 will be eliminated).

    Is the thinking folks will take the 542 bus from Bear Creek/Redmond to Redmond Tech Center and transfer to East Link or they will stay on the 542 to the UW or Westlake? Which will be faster when taking into consideration transfer times, either to UW or downtown Seattle? East Link has seventeen stops from Redmond Tech to UW including Redmond Tech. 18 to U. Dist.

    Also what is the expected first/last mile access to the 544 at Redmond Tech Center? It will be interesting to see whether folks arriving at Redmond Tech by car or other mode take East Link or the 542/544.

    I suppose when Redmond Link opens the question will be whether to take East Link from Redmond or the one seat 542.

    1. From Redmond Tech to UW Station, Route 542 is listed at 19 minutes and Link will be 40 minutes if the info on the ST web site is correct. From Downtown Redmond it appears to be 26 minutes on Route 542 and an anticipated 47 minutes on Link.

      Is the savings of about 20 minutes worth it?

      Route 542 today runs every 20 minutes peak and 30 minutes at other times. Missing a bus can erase a time advantage. ST could reduce bus frequency if ridership drops when East Link / Redmond Link opens fully.

      Plus there is the destination distance that may affect things. Then there is the time and effort to change vehicles like making transfers or getting in and out of stations that may affect things.

      While using Route 542 always appears significantly faster by about 20 minutes, it’s the practicality of the trip details that will affect a rider’s decision.

      For example, a driver from Sammamish may want to park at Marymoor Village Station. Using Link to get off at another station for Route 542 could be slightly faster, but with the transfer hassle and the risk of missing the connecting 542, that rider may just choose to stay on Link and play with their phone.

      Similarly, if someone goes from their home in Shoreline to Redmond Tech or Downtown Redmond, will they get off at UW Station and ride Route 542 or just stay on Link? It takes a few minutes to get out of the UW Station deep hole. With the transfer hassle and the risk of missing the connecting 542, that rider May again just choose to stay on Link and play with their phone.

      I would finally mention that getting a seat is important to some. Sitting is preferred to standing, and standing on rail is preferred to standing on a bus. Which vehicle has no seats would end up being determined by making multiple trips using each path.

      I can’t speak for everyone, but I do think that any trip savings of under 10-15 minutes will result in people choosing to stay on the train just for the ease of staying seated as well as piece of mind about not missing a connection. At 20 minutes time savings the tradeoff becomes more interesting, especially if there is no time savings if a rider barely misses a Route 542 bus. Of course, if someone has a mobility issue like carrying luggage or suffering from arthritis, they will place more value on not making transfers.

      1. I think that it really depends on the exact destination and origin pairs. I could see people wanting the faster option if they can time the transfers right, as you noted – if there’s a lot of trips between say Redmond Tech Center (for local employers within walking distance) and the U District or Green Lake area, the 542 will remain very competitive. If the trains get very crowded through downtown and North of downtown, then I could see wanting to switch modes. A difference of 20 minutes is significant, also – 26 minutes makes it “about half an hour”, which is eminently reasonable. 47 minutes is easily interpreted as “more than 45” which makes it feel closer to 1h. I don’t like hour-long commutes, myself, and I actually sometimes like to break that commute with a fast transfer because it breaks the monotony.

        One last thing to think about is – the person who just missed the 542 may just drive the rest of the way if they’re in a hurry and didn’t budget the extra time. I’ve had coworkers do that when we were all commuting into downtown from the North end (Lynnwood, etc.) – we would meet at Ash Way P&R but if they didn’t find a spot in time or were late, they’d just drive, whereas I’d get there by bus and just catch the 413 into the city.

      2. I would place value on the reliability of Link. Route 542 would lose some appeal if it often got bogged down in traffic by several minutes. Link may take longer but at least the travel time would likely be consistent at least 95 percent of the time. I seems more polite to contact someone from a train and saying “I’ll be about 10 minutes late” a half hour before arrival than to contact someone just five minutes from an appointment saying “My bus is stuck in traffic and I’ll be anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes late”.

      3. The improvements to the 520/Montlake interchange Ross discusses would make any bus coming across 520 much less prone to traffic congestion. 520 has dedicated HOV lanes, and not too much traffic due to the toll. Buses have very little congestion today on I-90, so much that they often don’t even move over to the HOV lane. 520 is much better than pre-pandemic too, especially east of Marymoor Park.

        I think mentally folks in Redmond will think taking East Link around the lake to UW is out of the way. Yes, it is more consistent, but much longer with 17 stops. But to get to the CBD my guess is it will be a toss-up between Link and buses because Link hits most of the necessary stops in the CBD (or at least DSTT1 does), and hits the CBD before UW. If the bus has little traffic and can get from 520 to the UW station quickly it is the better choice, especially if you are already on it because Redmond Link has not opened (although my guess is East and Redmond Link will open very close to each other).

        Just conceptually boarding East Link in Redmond to get to UW or U. Dist. seems like a very long way to go around. I don’t think many folks in that area of E KC will do that. Granted they are probably used to having to take transit a long way if going west of the lake, but most don’t. They work at Microsoft or somewhere in Bellevue.

        There are two bridges for a reason.

      4. I think that the variability in arrival time is a good point, yes – but it depends on how predictable trips are in practice. For example, I had the opportunity to structure my commute as the 271 + 65 for a while. In theory, it was possible to make the transfer at the UW Station (Montlake + Pacific) with 2 minutes to spare; in practice, the 271 was always late by just long enough that I would see the 65 leave about half the time, and the rest of the time was already gone by the time I got off the bus. Therefore, I knew that it was not worth trying, and just caught the 372 after walking up the hill to Stevens Way instead.

        The point of the anecdote is, if the 542 is always late by 5 minutes in the afternoon, but not 20 minutes about 95% of the time, then people can accommodate that and still get to their destination faster than Link.

        I think DT also makes a good point about the “going around the long way” bit. Some people will definitely feel that way.

        One other anecdote… FWIW, I was visiting NYC once and took the (I believe) 1 train the long way around all the way from JFK airport to somewhere North Manhattan (I think 95th st. maybe?) It was a much longer but one-leg trip, and I didn’t want to figure out where to switch trains to get there sooner. Nevertheless, the trip was long enough that by the end of it I regretted not switching trains, as I was even more tired than I would have been by lugging my heavy backpack around the station I would have switched trains at.

      5. I do think it’s important to offer Route 542. It’s a way to cross Lake Washington if Link cannot. Redundancy doesn’t get much thought in transit until a route or line isn’t running. It takes time to create a bus bridge if Link isn’t running across Lake Washington.

      6. “I do think it’s important to offer Route 542. It’s a way to cross Lake Washington if Link cannot. Redundancy doesn’t get much thought in transit until a route or line isn’t running. It takes time to create a bus bridge if Link isn’t running across Lake Washington.”

        That is pretty much what we have today. Buses won’t be able to run in the center roadway because of the raised rail beds but will be able to use the HOV lanes (unless converted into general purpose lanes, but even today the buses mostly use the outer non-HOV lanes).

        On the Seattle side buses could turn around at CID or Judkins Park, or just do the route they do today to Westlake and back to avoid the transfers for those going to the CBD. On the eastside S. Bellevue is the logical terminus unless like the 550 the bus continues to Bellevue Way to avoid a transfer to East Link that goes to 112/110th. The large park and ride and 554 will help serve the Issaquah area. (and by that time Issaquah may run a direct bus to Seattle anyway).

      7. “Buses have very little congestion today on I-90, so much that they often don’t even move over to the HOV lane”

        Not all passengers are satisfied that buses don’t move over. The buses slow down to 35 or 30 mph because they didn’t move to the HOV lane. That’s not “very little congestion”; it’s significant congestion. I’ve been on the 550 multiple times through that.

        That’s one of the advantages of Link: it won’t slow down, doesn’t have to cross traffic lanes, and doesn’t have to go to freeway exits and surface streets to get to bus stops.

      8. Then there are the days when traffic is unusually heavy, a collision blocks one or all lanes, there’s highway construction, or a ballgame. Then the authorities will urge people not to use 520 or I-5 or I-90 but to take light rail instead if they can. Then those people will be grateful Link exists.

      9. “Then there are the days when traffic is unusually heavy”

        These happen at least once a week somewhere in Pugetopolis according to the traffic reports on the radio. That’s enough reason for transit that’s not subject to those bottlenecks.

    2. “Is the thinking folks will take the 542 bus from Bear Creek/Redmond to Redmond Tech Center and transfer to East Link or they will stay on the 542 to the UW or Westlake?”

      They’ll ride the 542 to UW. Otherwise there would be no reason for the 542 to exist, and ST wouldn’t be proposing to increase it. They can’t stay on the 542 to Westlake because it won’t go there, so they’ll have to either transfer to Link at UW or take Link all the way. That’s not the important point or the purpose of the 542. The purpose of the 542 is for trips to the U-District or North Seattle where Link makes too much of a U-shaped detour and takes too long. In these kinds of cases it’s always a judgment call whether a bypass bus is warranted or Link should be the only choice. ST is judging the 542 is justified in this case, and is assuming that ridership on the 542 will be significant. We won’t know whether that’s accurate until Link opens and the 542 is increased and we see what people do.

      “what is the expected first/last mile access to the 544 at Redmond Tech Center?”

      Ask Metro or look at the East Link restructure. That’s not ST’s responsibility.

      1. “what is the expected first/last mile access to the 544 at Redmond Tech Center?”

        “Ask Metro or look at the East Link restructure. That’s not ST’s responsibility.”

        That is a strange comment for a transit blog Mike, although unfortunately ST does not think first/last mile access is its issue (except for the huge park and rides). I am surprised you are so disinterested in first/last mile access to Link, especially suburban Link.

        Grade separated transit, especially rail, has two main advantages: grade separation from traffic congestion which helps with frequency and reliability over cars and buses, and capacity. Which is why subways and rail are usually located in urban areas.

        Rail like Link has two big disadvantages: cost (dollar per rider mile) because as the MTA proves as that money runs out and the O&M backlog grows the service becomes unusable, and first/last mile access since the route is fixed and serves a tiny segment of an area.

        Today, post pandemic, with WFH, congestion is way down, except in the most urban areas: U Dist., Capitol Hill, maybe downtown, and basically that is it as Link begins to enter the suburbs.

        The reason subways or light rail are usually placed in urban areas is because they will get the ridership to pencil out, first/last mile access is walking which does not cost a fortune on top of the rail or subway, and at least one end of the trip has walkable first/last mile access, ideally both.

        Walkable first/last mile access is very rare with Link. Maybe U Dist. to Capitol Hill and downtown, except so few riders are going downtown. So we need to spend a fortune on a fleet of buses to serve Link.

        Where Link really begins to fail is when neither end of the trip has walkable first/ or last mile access.

        Pre-pandemic, although very few Link stations had first mile access, many riders were going to downtown Seattle that had walkable last mile access, and walkable stop spacing. But that is gone for many riders, especially suburbanites.

        Now, especially in the suburban areas — basically anything north of U Dist. and south of CID — you have non-walkable first AND last mile Link access, and folks just don’t want to do that if they can drive instead. One end of the trip needs to be walkable access or it is too inconvenient to use for normal people.

        Take East Link. Maybe MI has some walkable first mile access (around 10% of the population although who will take East Link to MI), but after that East Link has almost no walkable first mile access. Instead it is large park and rides because buses (also not walkable first mile access which starts at one’s doorstep) can’t service the undense areas surrounding East Link stations.

        But then East Link has no walkable last mile access either. S. Bellevue, E. Main, Main, Wilburton, The Spring Dist, Overlake, Red. Tech., even Redmond with only 1300 estimated daily boardings, are not walkable last mile access because there is nothing there folks can walk to. ST and transit advocates claim some day there wil be, but there isn’t today, and East Link was suppose to open in 2021. Or they want to walk to. Or can’t drive to easier with free parking.

        Downtown Seattle was always the walkable last mile access on the trip in, and walkable first mile access on the trip back out. It is why Sounder S. ridership has plummeted. Sounder S. not going to downtown has no first and no last mile walkable access.

        Nowhere else really has walkable Link access, at least not outside the U. Dist. to CID line. I find it odd that some on this blog claim riders on the 322 can just walk up First Hill in the weather and dark, but a short flat, lighted tunnel from CID N to PS station is impossible.

        Now that so few suburbanites are going to downtown Seattle their Link has no walkable first mile access, and no walkable last mile access (and hasn’t even opened), which pretty much negates one of Link’s strengths, at least in congestion: time of trip, that now includes non-walkable first and last mile access wherever they are going which makes transfers to and from Link not worth it.

      2. “Today, post pandemic, with WFH, congestion is way down, except in the most urban areas:”

        My anecdotal experience this summer is that congestion has mostly returned. Many of those articles saying that congestion is down are based on 2022 data. There’s always a time lag on data reporting.

        The congestion nowadays is occurring at different times and in different ways. It seems to be sustained for more hours more than spiking at 8 am or 5 pm. Saturdays seem like bigger travel days than they were.

        This recent increased demand is evident to me both of freeways and on Link.

        The one thing that historically dampens driving — high gas prices — is increasingly irrelevant as all electric and even hybrid vehicles get more popular.

      3. It is just the opposite for me Al. Congestion is way down.

        Especially downtown Seattle (absent an event), and on I-90. 405 is still bad during peak hours. I-5 has a flawed design that creates congestion due to lane narrowing and exits and entrances on the wrong side. I-5 through Seattle could have 20% to 25% greater capacity if the design were fixed, which would help congestion in downtown Seattle. When I-90 went from 3 to 4 lanes in each direction with the same amount of total lane width it eliminated some bottlenecks due to lane narrowing and merging and traffic flow increased dramatically pre-pandemic.

        Congestion on the eastside for the most part is quite light. The park and rides are pretty empty. I don’t know about the buses except what I see walking to and from work (550, 554, 216–218) but the buses look pretty empty. It isn’t as though there has been a surge from transit to cars. Mostly not taking the trip (commute) in the first place, with non-peak trips remaining mostly cars and not transit, as pre-pandemic.

        Last Wednesday and tomorrow my wife and I are driving to U Village at 6 pm for the music. Pre-pandemic that trip would have taken hours (although school is out). Last Wednesday it took maybe 20 minutes, with the only slow down where I-90 merges into I-5. I-5 and Montlake were a breeze. And although the parking lot was jammed there were still some stalls at U Village. Less congestion is a good thing.

        Our road, highway and transit systems were designed for peak travel volumes. Once those were reduced, non-peak travel rarely has or had congestion issues (405 peak starts around one hour earlier because trades people start and end one-hour earlier than office workers/commuters). It is why we see so little ridership on Sounder S and N, or east–west buses.

        Fewer trips are a good thing, on any mode, except for farebox recovery. Fewer peak trips are critical because that is the one time use exceeded ridership. Our current road and transit system is overkill for non-peak hours.

        I understand transit advocates think congestion is critical to the survival of transit, or validating it, but I disagree. Transit — and roads — just need to be re-scaled to meet current ridership, including the rise of Uber. I really don’t think the lack of congestion moves the needle that much when it comes to transit vs. car use. The lack of congestion is due to WFH which means no trips, and in suburbia (including Seattle) cars always dominated non-peak trips. The region simply can’t afford a transit grid from county border to county border, or frequency that is divorced from ridership. Metro is grudgingly beginning this reduction, and ST will have to as well because it is so underfunded when it comes to future O&M costs.

      4. “That is a strange comment for a transit blog Mike, although unfortunately ST does not think first/last mile access is its issue (except for the huge park and rides). I am surprised you are so disinterested in first/last mile access to Link, especially suburban Link.”

        You’re acting like cities/county/Metro don’t exist. It’s their responsibility to provide last-mile access. That’s built into Sound Transit’s structure and the agreements between the governments. You’re demanding that Sound Transit provide something that’s outside its control.

    3. I wish the new 542 would run at least every 10-15 minutes, 7 days a week. 30 minute frequency is going to really hurt the 542’s ridership, as it’s a route that is fast, but not fast enough to be worth waiting 25 minutes for.

      I also wish East Marymoor station has a ped bridge over SR-202 to Fred Meyer and that the 542 had a freeway station by the new pes bridge to serve Overlake Village. Can’t have everything.

      1. I wish the new 542 would run at least every 10-15 minutes, 7 days a week.

        That would be quite reasonable, given the corridor. The alternative is to take Link all the way around. From Downtown Redmond that will be about 45 minutes on the train. It takes about a half hour on the bus (and you are on the surface). But if the bus only runs every half hour, it just isn’t very good.

        In general it looks like there just aren’t enough buses along the 520 corridor. It is a fast corridor, with the ability to serve several relatively distant neighborhoods easily. It makes for regional service (the type that ST is good at).

  9. New York to invest congestion toll money into subway upgrades. ($) The MTA is considering charging drivers who enter Manhattan south of 60th Street $23 peak hours or $17 off-peak. It’s considering spending it on subway signal upgrades, elevators, platform screen doors, fare gates (taller than the existing turnstyles), and security-camera software to catch fare evaders going through emergency gates. The money can only be spent on capital projects, not operations. Platform doors are seen as a solution to the perennial problem of people falling onto the tracks.

    New Jersey has a lawsuit against the FTA’s decision to approve the toll. ($) ‘“The bottom line is that we have to put our foot down to protect New Jerseyans,” Governor Murphy said at a news conference on Friday. “We’re not going to allow this poorly designed proposal to be fast-tracked.”’ The lawsuit claims that New Jersey drivers who work in Manhattan should not have to pay the toll, that drivers detouring around the toll area would add traffic and soot to Bergen County, NJ, and that the FTA didn’t study enough whether the tolls would harm disadvantaged people.

    New York Governor Kathy Hochul said “congestion pricing is going to happen”, and that 80% of New Jersey residents who work in New York take public transit.

    Similar tolls have been implemented in London, Singapore, and Stockholm.

    Before people start talking about a congestion toll for downtown Seattle, let me point out that the situations are quite different. New York and London have a much larger area within the perimeter, a larger percent of the region’s jobs, much more of a “complete city” within the area (jobs/housing/retail), and much more public transit to cross the barrier on without paying the toll. Seattle also has an hourglass design with downtown at the center, which forces people to go through downtown because there are few other roads. Even somebody going from Capitol Hill to SODO has to go through downtown or or via Beacon Hill/Holgate Street. A comparison to Manhattan’s 60th Street toll would be an area from downtown to the U-District.

    1. One issue I have seen mentioned before in this context is that NJT has no capacity (and in fact pre-pandemic it was significantly over capacity on the lines going to NYC, i.e. from Newark and Hoboken I guess). So some of the money should go not to MTA but to NJT or to tunnel upgrades to get more trains in (assuming that that is even technically possible, of course).

      My own personal experience with NJT is very limited, but I generally found it less close to being crush-loaded than the CalTrain, for example. Curious what others who’ve spent time in the NYC area have to say about it.

    2. New Jersey’s lawsuit is interesting. What happens if states begin charging out-of-state cars or trucks to enter the state?

      Recently I posted some articles about The City of London’s congestion tax. Naturally it moved more poor residents entering the City onto transit but didn’t affect the wealthy drivers who enjoy the reduced congestion. What it did do however is incentivize a large force of Uber drivers who remain in the City to avoid the entrance tax and ferry around workers and visitors within the City.

      The issue with NYC’s congestion tax is it really isn’t about congestion but about raising taxes for the MTA when the MTA’s real problem is declining ridership due to WFH and safety concerns and mismanagement (and of course Uber which like The City will stay within the City to avoid the tax but create as much street congestion).

      The City of London is different than Manhattan because it is such a specialized and dense part of London that is not essential to enter for most, and the AMI for most residents or workers is very high. Plus the congestion tax was actually about reducing congestion (and was marginally successful) not funding a decrepit subway system like MTA that is badly managed.

      My guess is NY ‘s tax will get struck down but make it to the Supreme Court (which has original jurisdiction in disputes between states but assigns the initial proceedings to a trial court). The interesting issue is where jurisdiction really lies: NYC where the tax applies, or NJ where the affected plaintiffs reside. My guess is a NJ judge would be more likely to strike down the tax. Plus NJ is not in the same federal circuit (2nd) as NY.

      I agree with Mike a congestion tax for downtown Seattle would be problematic. First the CBD has little congestion today, and so the tax would mostly affect Seattleites. Second the CBD is desperate for workers, shoppers and diners who generated a lot more tax revenue than a congestion tax when they came to the CBD, and returning those is the central theme of Harrell’s seven goal plan. Third, Uber and ride shares that don’t enter and exit the tax area don’t pay the tax. Fourth, Seattle funds only a proportionate amount of transit, either Metro or ST, and so Seattle’s congestion tax revenue would end up going to the County or ST if the goal was to use the revenue for transit, which I doubt Seattle would do since it is looking at tax sources like a capital gains tax to offset the upcoming $250 million operating budget deficit due to the decline of the CBD’s tax revenue.

      One city I doubt would file suit against Seattle if it adopted a congestion tax would be Bellevue, which would figure the gifts keep on coming.

      1. I’ve always seen any congestion tax for Downtown Seattle as messy. That’s because Downtown is situated to force drivers onto Downtown streets. To go from SeaTac to Magnolia without going through Downtown would be a huge headache. Ferry vehicle drivers are another market that would have to be considered. The reduction of lanes on crosstown “bypass” streets like 23rd Ave make those streets poor path choices too if they get used more.

        I’ve found it ironic that the 99 tunnel toll is in place. That pushes people more to choose to drive on Downtown streets. It’s kind of a “reverse congestion toll”.

      2. Those are good points Al, especially the ferry users and the increase in traffic on parallel streets like 23rd.

        Tolls for tunnels or bridges — or HOT lanes — work best when there is lots of congestion. Right now there isn’t, except on some roads like 405, and tolls for 520 and the 99 tunnel are well behind assumptions. As you note, unless the congestion is bad most will drive through Seattle to avoid the toll.

        Still, even on weekends if I am say at Swanson’s nursery trying to get back to MI — when any east–west– east road in Seattle is tough — I will take 99 and the tunnel because it is a straight shot to I-90 east with no congestion. Of course, I have a Good to Go Pass attached to my windshield, and run the costs through the office, and don’t do it every day.

      3. “The City of London’s congestion tax. Naturally it moved more poor residents entering the City onto transit but didn’t affect the wealthy drivers who enjoy the reduced congestion.”

        There’s a huge gap between poor residents and the wealthy, which is where most of us are and most London-area residents are. They’re not poor but at the same time they’re not wealthy enough to throw away money on tolls without thinking about it. Some of them probably switched to transit too. That’s what all that increased transit was for.

        “What it did do however is incentivize a large force of Uber drivers who remain in the City to avoid the entrance tax and ferry around workers and visitors within the City.”

        That seems like a non-issue, or a fortunate outcome. What matters is not Uber but people’s trips. Some of those trips cross the boundary and others don’t. Some of those trips are most important to them, others not. So the issue is whether they can still make their most important trips, and whether the transit alternatives are good or better than the were. Whether those trips end up being on Uber is unimportant.

        At the same time, if more Uber drivers are staying within the boundary, then maybe some customers within the boundary are switching to destinations within it rather than going outside it. That sounds like a well-functioning city, if people are both living and doing their errands within the boundary.

      4. >>The City of London is different than Manhattan because it is such a specialized and dense part of London that is not essential to enter for most

        It’s true that the City is specialized towards finance. The City of London is a small part of the congestion zone, though.

        The rest of Central London is more diversified. It’s true that most residents could go elsewhere for things…but isn’t that a bit beside the point? The more a place is essential, the more preferable it is that it be de-congested. And, while it’s true that benefits of reduced congestion will accrue to people who take taxis and private vehicles, it will also help buses and other surface transit.

        The congestion zone for London is approximately a circle with a radius of 2 miles, for an approximate area of 12 miles. The Manhattan zone will be approximately a rectangle with sides of 5 and 2 miles, or an area of 10 miles. The sizes are quite comparable.

      5. @ Al S.

        I think that if there were a congestion charge for Seattle, it would appropriately exclude I-5 thru-traffic, or at least SR99 thru-traffic. It would charge drivers who exit into downtown. For a trip like you are describing from Sea-Tac to Magnolia, someone could exit at Mercer St and go from there, or take the long way around north of the canal (depending on how large the congestion zone is).

        It’s hard for me to imagine because I can’t see downtown Seattle actually being busy enough to merit a congestion charge. But I assume this approach would reduce congestion on downtown streets without charging people who just need to pass through.

      6. @Daniel @Mike

        Regarding Uber inside congestion zones…

        Absent regulation, taxi companies produce outsize congestion. For one, compared to a private vehicle, taxis drive longer because of deadheading/cruising for fares. Taxis also tend to stay in the busiest areas because that’s where the highest density of customers is, but that is the worst place for them to hang out congestion-wise.

        Historically, municipalities have regulated taxis through licenses, not just for revenue, but because limiting taxis reduces the negative externalities (read: congestion) caused by taxi services.

        When Uber entered the market, they circumvented these regulations and flooded cities with cars. This increased congestion in downtowns significantly.

        It seems to me that Ubers milling around downtown and not paying the congestion charge are not a congestion charge problem; they are a taxi regulation problem.

        Andrew Bowen

      7. “someone could exit at Mercer St and go from there, or take the long way around north of the canal”

        Mercer Street is only one lane in each direction between First Ave W and Elliott. The same configuration is true for most other crosstown streets too — 23rd Ave, Broadway, Holgate, Denny/ John, Lucile, Nickerson and the North Seattle streets west of I-5. That’s because many Downtown streets are one-way with more than one lane per direction and sequential signal timings so these streets didn’t ever need to be widened — and many have actually had lanes taken away for bikes or transit because their volumes were low enough to be deemed “excess capacity”.

        If Seattle had a developed a robust street network that didn’t push people onto Downtown streets then congestion pricing could have had a chance. Think all streets Downtown as slow two-way streets with only one lane per direction while crosstown arterials were all built with multiple lanes. But that’s not the network that Seattle chose to build. Seattle chose to intentionally use Downtown streets as the preferred way to cross town and that layout choice is part of why these streets get high traffic volumes. Thus, trying to introduce congestion pricing into a mature street network that has served a through street function for many many decades is fraught with unintended congestion consequences.

      8. Andrew, I think a key to the litigation over NYC’s congestion tax (other than jurisdiction and venue of the reviewing courts) is that the Governor has been explicit the main goal is not to reduce congestion but to raise tax revenue for MTA.

        New Jersey is arguing its citizens who must enter NYC will end up paying for MTA. (I imagine other surrounding states would join the litigation). So will delivery trucks. Someone else on this blog (I think Anonymouse) made an excellent point: the congestion tax revenue should go toward improving transit between NJ and NYC (and other states), not intra-NY transit like MTA, if reducing congestion is the primary goal. Have the tax allocated to the area or state the vehicle is registered in. NYC could easily pedestrianize downtown streets if congestion relief was the issue. Or reduce the number of Ubers, except those are critical to the tourist business.

        I think this is a slippery slope the Supreme Court would review. Freedom of travel is a key aspect of America and the federation of states. So the tax would receive strict scrutiny.

        The main point is the MTA is badly managed, and today dangerous. None of the Covid relief went to capital maintenance. For decades the MTA has skimped on future M&O, and loses, according to the articles about using AI to catch fare evaders, $288 million/year simply from not collecting fares. Future maintenance shortfalls based on current ridership are staggering.
        The state simply does not want to pay to upgrade MTA, or take the steps to make levels of service more in line with current ridership and needed fares.

        Gov. Hochul’s original plan was to levy another employee tax on NYC businesses to fund MTA, which makes more sense if congestion is the issue, except that does not segregate who arrives by transit and who arrives by car (or helicopter). The problem is NYC is hemorrhaging businesses, which are already the highest taxed businesses in the U.S. Encouraging businesses to leave NYC or move to a WFH model won’t solve MTA’s funding problems, although ironically it would relieve NYC congestion, which I imagine would be an argument before a court: reduce the number of employees in NYC through WFH or licensing fewer businesses rather than taxing vehicles entering the city. Of course, WFH and businesses leaving NYC are reducing tax revenue although lowering congestion, when the congestion tax is all about increasing tax revenue rather than reducing congestion.

        MTA is broken. A congestion tax won’t return riders and will have unanticipated side effects for NYC. Fix MTA, make it more efficient and more pleasant and safer, make NYC more inviting for businesses, and those will fix MTA, but with WFH it will never be what it once was, and the dollar per rider mile like every system like MTA — even if newer and without the huge backlog of ignored capital maintenance like ST — is going up and up because mass transit needs mass riders to pencil out.

        If you build a transit system, especially rail, for way more riders than who use it, and don’t correlate fares to costs, it won’t be sustainable unless huge amounts of general fund taxes are poured in, which NY and other states like CA don’t want to do, at least with their money.

      9. “I think that if there were a congestion charge for Seattle, it would appropriately exclude I-5 thru-traffic, or at least SR99 thru-traffic. It would charge drivers who exit into downtown”

        Seattle doesn’t have the authority to toll I-5 or 99. There has been no concrete congestion-boundary proposal, but the ideas raised have suggested tolling the I-5 downtown exists and some north-east-south perimeter somewhere. (Denny Way? Valley Street? Weller Street? I-5? Broadway? 12th? Nobody has specified.)

      10. The argument that NYC congestion tax violates New Jersey drivers’ freedom of movement is ridiculous. If it were really unconstitutional, you could make the same argument to argue that every highway or bridge toll is unconstitutional, which is clearly not the case.

        In any case, the congestion charge only applies to drivers who drive on Manhattan city streets. Drivers who pass through Manhattan on the freeway to go between New Jersey and somewhere like Queens or Long Island would not be paying it. Manhattan itself has tons of transit, both to and within it. Except for commercial drivers, who can past the costs of congestion pricing on to their customers, very few people really need to drive there, and those that do are predominantly wealthy and can pay.

        Nor am I swayed by the argument of the MTA being mismanaged. Sure, it’s governance may be less than ideal, but starving the agency of funds does not magically make the agency any better at managing money, it just means New Yorkers get less transit service. I’ll also note that you like to bring up crime/safety, but if making people feel safer on NYC transit requires hiring more security guards, that costs money. Without new revenue, the only way to pay for it is by cutting train or bus service, which means fewer “eyes on the street”, which leads to increased crime, as security cannot possibly be everywhere.

      11. Reece Martin (RMTransit) argues that the toll allows the subway to finally have a stable funding source.

      12. “The argument that NYC congestion tax violates New Jersey drivers’ freedom of movement is ridiculous. If it were really unconstitutional, you could make the same argument to argue that every highway or bridge toll is unconstitutional, which is clearly not the case.”

        That could be the case. NYC has not implemented the congestion tax and NJ has not filed suit so I can’t say what the legal objections will be. I think a big issue will be jurisdiction and venue (NY or NJ) and whether NJ can get an injunction because that would pause any tax for many years as the case wound through the courts. I don’t think there is any precedent for a congestion tax in the U.S. or litigation by neighboring cities/states (and another NY city or neighboring state like Connecticut could join the litigation or enact their own congestion tax).

        I do think a court will scrutinize the alleged need and use of the tax and whether the tax really accomplishes it. It is called a congestion tax, but really it is a MTA tax that really is designed to remedy years and years of MTA deficits rather than future service. I wonder how many on this blog would be in favor of this tax if the proceeds went to better roads and bridges in NYC.

        “Nor am I swayed by the argument of the MTA being mismanaged. Sure, it’s governance may be less than ideal, but starving the agency of funds does not magically make the agency any better at managing money, it just means New Yorkers get less transit service”.

        I don’t think the MTA has been starved of funding in the past. The MTA got over $6 billion in federal Covid stimulus funds, which of course comes from all taxpayers. NYC’s transit system could receive up to $10 billion from the infrastructure bill.

        The congestion tax will only raise around $1 billion/year, and some think it will result in more losses in tax revenue from other sources. $1 billion/year won’t solve MTA’s funding issues, especially if the congestion tax results in less travel to NYC by folks who pay taxes in the city including income taxes. Simple fare evasion today — despite the huge decline in ridership on MTA — costs the MTA $288 million/year.

        The mismanagement I see with the MTA is two-fold:

        1. Despite all the stimulus very little went to the huge backlog of capital maintenance, which is supposed to explode over the next decade. This is common: agencies raid future capital maintenance funds for current operations that are usually underestimated, equipment ages, whether it is ST or the city of Seattle putting aside nothing for $3.5 billion in bridge repair and replacement that took a state auditor to expose because the council certainly wasn’t looking. Where is the plan to address this capital shortfall in the MTA in the future without endless amounts of federal stimulus or other states paying?

        2. The issue with the MTA is fairly simple: too few riders. I liked the comment in an article I linked to: mass transit requires mass ridership. WFH has removed around 50% of the riders because those jobs are ideal for WFH, which has a double whammy by reducing NYC’s tax revenue. Without WFH and a 50% decline in ridership on MTA we wouldn’t be talking about a congestion tax (although the capital backlog would remain).

        At some point transit agencies have to accept the new normal. For some like MTA that is really tough because the O&M costs and mode really require a huge number of fare paying riders. Yes, you can improve safety even with fewer eyes on the train and stations (although I didn’t see a lot of those billions in stimulus going to security guards on the MTA) but you can’t reverse WFH, which is the governor’s and mayor’s real dream for NYC (a city that is collapsing under the weight of 91,000 recently arrived immigrants

        NYC like many large urban blue cities has some major headwinds post pandemic (compounded by homelessness and immigrants in NYC that alone is costing the city over $1 billion/year). I don’t know if the loss of ridership on MTA and loss of farebox recovery can be made up, or the huge backlog of capital maintenance, from a congestion tax that will only raise $1 billion/year, and if I were NYC I would want to make damn sure the congestion tax does not result in a loss of other tax revenue like city income tax or more WFH that exceeds the revenue from the congestion tax. Because the congestion tax has almost nothing to do with congestion. It is about finding a way to replace all the other tax revenue NYC is losing from WFH and businesses leaving the city, and huge new costs like 91,000 immigrants.

      13. “I don’t think the MTA has been starved of funding in the past.”
        It has and was starved of funding for various periods as any New Yorker who follows state and city politics there will tell you. It being both a state & city level agency made it susceptible to the whims of the Governor and NYC Mayor at various points in time. Mayor Rudy Guliani cut city’s portion of funding to the MTA by $400 million back in the 90s as the subway was finally getting out of it’s slump during the 70s (when NYC went through its big recession that made the city unsafe with exponentially rising crime rates) and state reinvestment in the 80s to improve service, maintenance, and safety on the MTA.

        Then NY Governor George Pataki followed suit in following Guliani’s lead to cut funding and divert it elsewhere in the state’s budget. Governor Pataki also sold MTA debt for a cash infusion around the same time to Wall Street Investors (who were backing funding for his reelection campaign) and the MTA is still paying off the loans they were forced to take out from Wall Street by Pataki. Alongside the fact that the MTA has had to pay $328+ Million in bond issuance fees to the state over multiple decades. All of these culminated in an agency not being able to afford necessary upgrades (like their ancient signaling system that dates to the BMT and INT days when they still privately owned systems. And youre left with an agency that is starved the funds despite it being very profitable venture because the NY government viewed it as a piggybank that could be abused and pilfered for other politicans pet projects.

        Speaking of pet projects there’s also the matter of Fulton Street. A project that was basically a money sink on the MTA despite no one wanting to do such extravagant station upgrades other than then former speaker of the NY state assembly, Sheldon Silver who represented Lower Manhattan where Fulton Street Station was. Silver envisioned Fulton Street as “The Grand Central of Lower Manhattan” and was adamant it be built. He got pushbacked from MTA board members when the project was overbudget and past opening date. And in return threatened to veto the state state capital budget if he didn’t see Fulton Street built as intended. And Fulton Street was built as how Silver wanted it to be.

        So the congestion pricing is a means to add a consistent and stable funding source to improve NYC transit experience. A billion dollars per year can go a long way towards improving signaling, rider safety, mitigating fare evasion, modernize stations, and improve subway accessibility for the MTA. All things people complain about the system currently.

    1. Do you know if the passenger on the northbound 1 Line train who was stabbed in the head at SODO Station Saturday is okay? I was on the next train northbound that picked up a lot of the witnesses at the west platform.

      The train itself had to be held as a crime scene while nearly all of the witnesses were allowed to walk away within minutes, as best I could tell. The video and injury should be enough to put away the assailant for a long time, once he is found competent to stand trial.

      I found out later that some southbound trains were delayed as much as half an hour. But that may have been partially due to the signal outage between SeaTac and Angle Lake.

      I could not find any mention of the attack in the news or on the ST site.

    1. Van didn’t signal. The biker doesn’t have a strong sense for survival.

      It’s clearly the double-decker’s fault.

      1. “Van didn’t signal. The biker doesn’t have a strong sense for survival. It’s clearly the double-decker’s fault.”

        I noticed that too. But it was a dead-end road and did not continue straight through so a turn signal was not necessary. The bicyclist was trying to pass despite there being no lane there. He had to know the van was going to go left because it looks like the bus in the right-hand lane was going right. A bicyclist has the same rights and responsibilities as a car or motorcycle on the road. A motorcycle would not be allowed to pass on the inside in the same lane. A car couldn’t pass. So the van driver would never imagine the bicyclist trying to pass, even though it was not on his blind side (the right side is the blind side).

        The bicyclist admitted he was in the wrong. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

    2. I’ve been there. Cabbie signals left to turn up Denny from Melrose. I pass on the right on his blindside. Cabbie turns right. I go over his hood. Bent my front wheel, but otherwise okay. I’m usually more cautious (and fragile) these days.

  10. Mariners are playing the Orioles on the 12th & 13th: there are going to be thousands of surprised and pissed off fans attempting to reach the stadium that weekend.

  11. Does the right hand talk to the left hand at ST.

    The reason I say that is that I received an email from them at 12:32 saying that shuttle buses would replace Light Rail between Capitol Hill and Sodo stations on Saturday, August 12th and Sunday August 13th because of track maintenace.

    Two minutes later another email stating that the link shuttle on Saturday, August 12th has ended. How can something end when it never started. I presume that when they send out the first email it was supposed to say that the shuttle service would only be on Sunday, August 13th but they didn’t proofread it before sending it.

    I really wonder about a public agency that spends billions of dollars but can’t make sure that when they send out public announcements that they are correct.

    1. I got those emails too. I assume the second one was mistaken, or applied to the wrong outage. If ST is changing the plan it would doubtless publish a dedicated announcement and press release.

    2. The reduction has been extended a day. The project page (first link in article) now says a 2-day closure followed by 7 days of single-tracking (previously 6). The total reduction is August 12-20 (instead of 12-19).

  12. More theater of the absurd:

    Except state law prohibits cities from enacting rent control.

    “If CB 120606 is approved the measure would create a “trigger law” for rent control citywide, meaning if the statewide ban is lifted or overturned at some point, Seattle would immediately enact controls on how much a landlord could raise rent and how much notice it would have to give them.

    “State law prohibits a city from enacting, maintaining or enforce ordinances or other provisions which regulate the amount of rent to be charged.

    “The legislation is designed to establish rent control by capping rent increases to the rate of inflation.”

    I guess the outgoing worst council in the history of Seattle doesn’t have anything better to do.

    1. I’m entertained that the first thing the article shows is an invitation to read the article on their app.

  13. Has anyone else read UW’s report on high-speed rail in the PNW that was published in May? I just got through it, and found it very well-researched. A lot of the report explains how the rest of the world has built HSR, and the pitfalls that we are likely to run into. In particular, it calls out the tendency to think of HSR as just a highway project, where the specifics of routing and urban development can be compromised without totally destroying the value of the project.

    The takeaway I got from it is PNW HSR is marginal at best, given the challenges in getting a route that supports true HSR and isn’t compromised away, and the relatively low populations of the connected cities relative even to California and Texas HSR.

    It’s definitely worth a read for anyone who’s interested in the topic.

  14. I don’t know why I’m surprised but this sudden need to replace track north of stadium seems curious. Sound Transit has been seemingly happily running trains over that section for what 14 years.?ah if only they’d built it right the first time we wouldn’t have all this angst about the missing venture platform at pioneer Square. Too must to ask if a public transit agency I guess…

    1. It has been known for some time that this section of the track needed to be replaced and trains have been limited to a slow speed through this area for quite some time and I believe it is 5 or 10 mph. Tracks do wear out after constant daily use and in this case it seems that water over the track has not helped.

      The problem in scheduling the replacement was finding a weekend where there were no games or concerts at the stadiums and it seems that every weekend there was a major event scheduled. Even the weekend of August 12th and 13th the Mariners are at home and it is the weekend that Felix Hernandez will be inducted into the teams Hall of Fame. The following weekend the Seahawks have a Saturday home game and on August 26th there is a concert at Lumen Field. The following weekend is Labor Day so they probable didn’t want to do it on that weekend. The following weekend is the Seahawks regular season opener with the Mariners at home the following weekend against the Dodgers which will bring big crowds. So it was not easy to find a weekend without some event scheduled at the stadiums and the weekend they picked will have something going on.

      It will be pain for the users of Light Rail for that period of time but the track needs to be replaced before it completely wears out and can no longer be used and do it before the weather turns to fall.

  15. Predictions for rider experience before and after the Mariners games August 12-13 when Link runs every 15 minutes and is replaced with a bus bridge between SODO and Capitol Hill?

    Operationally, why can’t they terminate north end trains at International District these two days?

    1. I don’t understand why Pioneer Square is the chosen transfer point and it will have been Pioneer Square at least three times. International District and Westlake are the natural transfer points, which are significant destinations and bus transfers in themselves. That would mean a lot of people would be just leaving rather than transferring to another train. Unless the purpose is to choose a lesser-used station to shrink the crowd.

    2. Given the postgame crowds, I think simply walking to Pioneer Square Station to go north will end up being faster than trying to board Link at Stadium and switching trains.

      Of course, that does mean running the homeless gauntlet, but right after a game, there should be enough other people doing it that it won’t be too bad.

      1. That won’t be possible during the two games on August 12-13 because there won’t be train service at Pioneer Square station. Everything between Sodo and Capitol Hill is going to be bus bridge shuttle only.


    Here is the kind of project that can improve the function of I-5 and reduce congestion, both on I-5 and traffic backing up into Seattle. There are several other areas on I-5 that could benefit by modification, including prohibiting cars from entering I-5 southbound from 45th and getting over to 520, although historically Montlake and Roosevelt object to rerouting that traffic to those entrances.

    When the I-90 roadway was closed (many years ago now) for East Link the outer roadways were converted from 3 to 4 lanes in each direction with narrowing lane width. This removed some bottlenecks and resulted in much better traffic flow (at least until I-90 runs into 405 or I-5). I think WSDOT should look at the same for I-5, and maybe converting the HOV lanes into non-reversible HOV lanes in each direction since buses on I-5 will be truncated to Link for the most part.

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