Ballot Statement Bad Math

[Note: The precise text of this post has changed since original publication thanks to my inept version management. – Martin]

King County voters will soon be receiving their ballots for the April 22 special election, featuring King County Proposition 1, which is needed to stave off a 17% cut in Metro bus service. The Pro and Con statements for the Voters’ Guide are now available online.

The Con statement contains this math-challenged whopper:

Proposed new taxes would burden low-income and transit-dependent individuals, through highly regressive impacts, while unjustly skyrocketing taxes on motorists from $40 for every vehicle over two years to $600 each over 10 years: an unacceptable 1,500% increase.

First, let’s fill in the blanks. The county car tab that is about to expire was $20 per year, for two years. The car tab in Proposition 1 is $60 per year, for ten years. Unmentioned in the Con statement is the fact that the county will rebate $20 off the tab for low-income drivers. Don’t be confused into thinking the car tab is $600 per year, as the Con statement might lead you to believe.

Next, one can only get close to a 1500% increase by comparing ten years of car tabs to two. This is a completely meaningless and dishonest calculation. The one-time increase in the car tab is $40 (200%), or $20 (100%) for low-income drivers.  After the first year, the car tabs stay the same. Don’t let the deceptively-phrased Con statement lead you to believe the county car tab will continue to go up each year.

Additionally, the County Council, acting as the King County Transportation District Board, will have the power to discontinue the 0.1% sales tax increase and car tab at any time, should it find a more progressive funding source (and hopefully the state legislature will someday allow that to happen).

Here is another whopper, from the rebuttal to the statement For:

End bus subsidies for wealthy riders at the expense of the transit dependent.

This statement got it wrong in so many ways. Every transit-dependent resident of King County stands to benefit from staving off the 17% bus service cuts all over the county. Nothing about this proposition is being done at the expense of the bus-dependent. Nor will anybody’s bus service be improved by voting down Proposition 1. Fares are being increased for those who can afford to pay, while low-income riders will have a new, lower fare, but only if Proposition 1 passes and provides the funding for the low-income fare program.

Attempts to reach the un-named oppostion statement writers at their advertised website were blocked by a password request.

Sound Transit Will Soon Be Able to Issue Notices of Infraction On the Spot

Avgeek Joe/Flickr

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2111, which will enable Sound Transit fare enforcement officers to print out and issue citations notices of infraction to fare evaders on the spot, as previously reported here, here, and here, came up for a vote in the House Monday. The House voted to concur in the Senate amendment and pass the bill, 95-3.

The Senate accepted the striking amendment offered by the Senate Transportation Committee on Friday, and then passed the bill as amended, 38-11. The effect of the amendment was simply to remove the requirement for the citation notice of infraction to include the information about the citee’s personal vehicle. Since the citations notices of infraction fare enforcement officers issue are for fare evasion, personal vehicle information is irrelevant. Without having to include space for this information, the citations notices of infraction can be printed by portable printer devices small enough that officers can carry the printers with them.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk, where there is no reason to believe he won’t sign it. The law is expected to go into effect 90 days after adjournment of the session (March 13), which would be June 11.

Senator Wants Sound Transit to Pay for City Residential Parking Permits

As mentioned in Thursday’s news roundup and in a recent Publicola article, on Tuesday, the State Senate passed Senate Bill 6001, its supplemental transportation appropriations bill. Among the amendments tacked onto the bill was this strike at Sound Transit, sponsored by Sen. Bob Hasegawa:

“(10) As a condition of eligibility to receive grant funds under this section, a regional transit authority must:
(a) Consider the potential impacts of that facility on parking availability for residents nearby;
(b) Provide appropriate parking impact mitigation for residents, as determined by the authority in collaboration with the local government of the area in which the parking impacts occur. Parking impact mitigation may include, but is not limited to, subsidizing zoned residential parking permits in the vicinity of the facility; and
(c) Pay for the costs of the parking permits in the vicinity of the facility, if a local government implements zoned residential parking permits as a direct result of the parking impacts of the facility.”


The language of this amendment is similar to Senate Bill 6489, also sponsored by Sen. Hasegawa. That bill got out of the Senate Transportation Committee, but made it no further.

The amendment does not define “vicinity”. Nor does it specify a cap on how much a city can charge for Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) permits. In theory, the City of Bellevue could deem the whole city to be in the “vicinity” of Sound Transit infrastructure, declare the whole city to be an RPZ, charge $1 million per annual permit, and require Sound Transit to pay the entire cost of these $1 million annual parking permits.

It is unclear why Sound Transit should be accountible for difficulties neighbors have parking their cars, in the public right-of-way, in front of their own homes, when other public infrastructure, like colleges and ferry docks, have RPZs around them, and their governing agencies are not being asked required to pay for RPZ permits.

It is also unknown whether the senator tried to intercede with the City of Seattle over the $65 cost of a 2-year parking permit (or $10, for those who qualify as low-income). If the neighbors don’t want to pay this small amount to park in front of their homes, they have a more direct option: Dissolve their RPZ.

Requests to Sen. Hasegawa’s office for comment on the amendment have gone unanswered.

Update: Commenter cuyahoga points out that permits in some of the 33 RPZs (2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 18, 19, 20, A, and B) are fully or partially subsidized by the University of Washington, North Seattle Community College, Harborview Hospital, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Providence Hospital, Group Health Cooperative, Swedish Hospital, and Landmark Theater.

Sounder to Serve First Two Sounders Matches

Zargoman/Flickr

Update: The North Sounder train has been cancelled for Saturday, March 8, due to a mudsline. This will also affect some Amtrak runs Saturday, and possibly some Sunday. Any mudsline on the track triggers a 48-hour waiting period before passenger train service can resume through the affected area.

Sound Transit has just announced that it will be running Sounder train service to the Sounders’ season opener match, this Saturday, March 8, against Sporting Kansas City. Sounder will also serve the second match on Saturday, March 15, against Toronto FC.

Notice the unusual schedule for this Saturday, as first kick is at high noon. Trains depart Lakewood at 9:45am and Everett at 10:15am. Returning trains depart 35 minutes after the match.

The match on the 15th is at 1:30 p.m. The Sounder schedule for next week is not yet set.

Sound Transit’s media team graciously provided this poster with some details regarding ramping up ST Express and Link service. Link is expected to run its normal schedule pre-match, and roll out however many trains it takes to clear the crowd after the match. Sending trains to go into service at Stadium Station is a possibility, if needed. But the public information officer assures me that if you head to Stadium Station to go south, you won’t be watching full train after full train pass you by.

There will be extra buses on stand-by after the matches, which will go into service as needed.

For getting to the match this Saturday, a couple extra 594 buses will depart from Tacoma Dome Station at times that will be determined live-day to handle overload. A couple extra 512 buses will depart Lynnwood Transit Center at 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. Metro-operated routes will deploy extra service as needed.

If you haven’t been to a Sounders match before, consider going to the pre-match party in Pioneer Square that starts an hour and a half before the match, followed by the March to the Match an hour before the match. The party is family friendly, with prizes being distributed to a few lucky kids. The party and march feature the tunes of what is probably the only professional soccer marching band in the world, Sound Wave.

If you come by bike, be sure to be there early. There is lots of bike parking on the northwest side of the stadium, but it all gets used.

Regardless, plan to show up early, as there is a line to get through the security check, and make sure any bag you bring with you fits within the size regulations. If you plan to bring food or drink, take a look through those regulations.

ESHB 2111 advances out of Senate Transportation Committee

The Washington State Capitol
The Washington State Capitol by aidaneus

Ben originally reported on House Bill 2111, which would enable Sound Transit fare inspectors to issue citations immediately to fare evaders when they are caught, instead of having to mail the citations. The bill was amended on the floor of the House and passed out of the House unanimously on February 13, as Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2111.

ESHB 2111 got a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on February 24 and was amended to allow the citation to not include information on the perpetrator’s personal vehicle (which would seem a common-sense improvement, when one is being ticketed for riding a train without paying).

Amazingly, a representative from the Municipal and District Court Judges Association objected to the idea of Sound Transit not including this information, as it would make the citation non-uniform with other traffic citations in the state. In particular, it would allow Sound Transit to print a smaller form than the standard one. The irony here is that it was a district court administrator who had requested Sound Transit to find a way to not have to mail out citations in the first place, since the district courts handle that expense. Indeed, the Administrative Office of the Court has been denying Sound Transit’s requests to print a smaller form that doesn’t include the perpetrator’s personal vehicle information since 2012, and has been bureaucratically unhelpful in how they would do a better form.

On Wednesday, the committee members gave the concern a collective facepalm and voted to pass the bill out of committee, with the amendment, and just one No vote.

The bill next has to get out of the Senate Rules Committee, and get voted on by the full Senate by next Friday, March 7. Members of the Rules Committee are listed here. If you wish to contact your state senator, you can look her/him up here.

ESHB 2111 Moves to State Senate

The Washington State Capitol
The Washington State Capitol by aidaneus

Update: ESHB 2111 has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Transportation Monday, February 24, 2014, at 3:30 p.m.

Ben previously reported on House Bill 2111, which would allow fare inspectors to hand citations directly to fare evaders at the time they are caught. This bill passed out of the House unanimously (with one representative excused) last Thursday, after being amended.

Once inspectors are able to print out citations on the spot, they will be able to spend an extra 1.7 hours each day checking fares instead of sitting behind a desk entering data for the court system to then mail out the citations.

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2111 (which ESHB 2111 is now officially called since it was amended on the Floor of the House), appears to have answered the concerns of the court administrators about the details of the bill, and will move on to the Senate next.

Want the low-income fare? Support the sales-tax/car-tab increase.

Fresh off of its unanimous approval for the creation of a Transportation Benefit District needed for the sales-tax and car-tab increase that is expected to be on the ballot in April, the King County Council will have a hearing on Tuesday, February 18 at 1:30 p.m. on Metro’s fare change proposal.

The proposed low-income fare has been a pet project of the Seattle Transit Riders Union, and has received a lot of support from this blog’s staff. Editor-in-Chief Martin Duke called for a low-income ORCA long before TRU existed.

Answering the call to incentivize ORCA use by making cash fares more expensive than electronic fares, Metro is proposing to make the low-income fare only available electronically. That important element of the program will end up helping fund the program through travel-time efficiencies. It will also give non-low-income riders whose rides will have just gotten faster a reason to like the program, and thereby help the program survive.

But now, TRU and the Seattle Human Services Coalition are calling for the low-income fare to be reduced to $1. In principle, I’d love to see that. In practice, such an outcome would require the youth fare to also be rolled back to $1 (from its current $1.25) in order to avoid making the line for the low-income ORCA a lot longer and creating significant additional administrative burden in perpetuity.

Reducing service in order to fund the low-income fare helps nobody, which is why the implementation of the low-income fare should be contingent upon the passage of the sales-tax/car-tab increase.

Even if the low-income fare and the tax package aren’t explicity linked, the financial reality is that if the tax package fails, the county council will have to scrap the low-income fare program in order to preserve more service.

Everyone who wants to see the low-income fare program become a reality needs to get behind the tax package.

Thank you to all of the County Councilmembers for taking the lead in saving Metro bus service!

Chicago Transit Bridges Gap Between Contactless Transit Passes and Private Cards

transitchicago.com

The Chicago Transit Authority rolled out it’s new Ventra Card last October, becoming the first transit agency in the US to offer a fare payment card that can hold both passes and cash value, and that can be used as a debit card for non-transit transactions.

With Chicago’s transition to contactless open payment technology, CTA becomes the second US transit agency to allow open payment, joining the Utah Transit Authority in accepting payment from private debit and credit cards that have contactless technology, when boarding a bus or paying at a train turnstile.

For either Ventra or your private card, you would need to set up separate transit and debit accounts on the card, but once the transit account is set up, your private contactless card can hold passes, just like Ventra.

The transition has not been without hiccups. CTA has been holding off payments to the vendor, Cubic, Inc., until Cubic meets its contractual performance requirements. Cubic has been meeting the requirements in January, and will start receiving its contractual payments upon two consecutive months of meeting the performance standards.

Just three months after rollout, over 75% of rides are being paid for with Ventra. Here are some possible reasons why:

· The cash bus fare is $2.25. The electronic bus fare is $2. For reduced-fare riders, the fare is $1.10 cash or $1 electronically.
· There is a $5 fee to get the Ventra card, but it comes with $5 cash value loaded once you register the card within 90 days.
· CTA has 1-, 3-, 7-, and 30-day passes, all available through electronic media.
· Ventra can be used to pay for multiple riders.

CTA also offers Ventra Tickets, for single rides and 1-day passes.

Have a Safe Super Bowl Sunday!

wikimedia

With most of the bars in town showing the Super Bowl today, and scarcely a mention of any family-friendly party venues, today is a really good day to not get behind the wheel.

A short list of restaurants and bars showing the Super Bowl and billed as “Kid-Friendly” is available here.

The Seattle Center is offering a no-alcohol place to view the Super Bowl for free, in the Armory / Center House Main Floor. But there are no plans for big screens, if that is what you are seeking.

If you know of other transit-friendly/family-friendly establishments showing the Super Bowl, please list them in the comments below. Any cab companies or for-hire driver services, or any other free or discounted service to get people home today, can also promote their specials in the comments below.

If you plan to watch the game somewhere other than at home, and plan to drink, plan not to drive. Please and thanks.

Update: The big screen in the Microsoft Auditorium at the Seattle Central Library will show the Super Bowl for free. Doors open at 2:30 p.m. The Bothell branch of King County Libraries will also show it for free.

What If Metro Were to Have a Low-Income Access ORCA?

SD70MACMAN/Flickr

As part of the fare increases being considered by the King County Council to take effect March 2015, Metro is planning to raise Access fares by $0.50 per ride, to $1.75. That’s a big “ouch” for some of the poorest paratransit users in King County, an extra $216 a year for monthly pass buyers.

Assuredly, Metro must have pondered applying the low-income fare category to Access fares during the deliberations of the Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee. The lawyers might have been squeamish about the idea of asking paratransit riders to provide proof of income, since federal law prohibits income-based requirements in determining who is eligible to ride paratransit. Of course, offering a discounted fare to those who can prove they are at or below 200% of the poverty level is a separate issue, and one that has not hamstrung the other U.S. transit agencies that offer a low-income paratransit fare.

Indeed, the low-income paratransit fare has gone hand-in-hand with low-income fixed route fares at Lincoln, Nebraska’s StarTrans, Tucson, Arizona’s SunTrans, and San Mateo County, California’s SamTrans.

The industry standard for paratransit fares is drifting toward charging the federal legal limit: twice the regular fare for a fixed-route trip of similar length. (See question 12 on the linked page.) However, some have interpreted Fell v. Spokane Transit as limiting paratransit fares in Washington State to merely equal to the regular fare for a fixed-route trip of similar length. Metro has stated its intent to move Access fares toward that level.

SamTrans has collected a lot of useful demographic data that may or may not translate well to King County. In particular, 15% of SamTrans paratransit registrants qualify for a low-income fare, but these riders account for 50% of all trips taken.

Extrapolating from this data, Metro would likely have to raise the non-low-income Access fare at least as much as it lowers the new low-income Access fare from the proposed $1.75 in order to make the roll-out of a low-income Access ORCA revenue-neutral. Metro could freeze the low-income Access fare at $1.25, while introducing a 25-cent surcharge for paying at the time of the ride instead of pre-paying through the rider’s ORCA account. That 25-cent deterrent would hopefully reduce cash handling to nearly zero, and pretty much eliminate Access fare evasion.

To offset this fare freeze, the non-low-income Access fare could go all the way up to $2.50 (plus a 25-cent cash payment surcharge), which is in line with the ratio used by the other agencies. If San Mateo County’s demographics can be translated to King County, this alternative to the $1.75 proposal should end up yielding more revenue. At the same time, cash-strapped riders who depend on Access to get around would not be nickeled and dimed into being housebound. Those who don’t qualify for the discount would still be getting an incredible bargain at $2.50 for curb-to-curb service, and could obviously afford to pay the higher fare.

Instead of inching toward one fare policy goal, Metro could reach that goal in one jump and simultaneously hold to King County’s commitment to social equity.

Special Seahawks Sounder Service & Suburban Shuttles Sunday

This is an updated version of our earlier post.

This Sunday, when the Seahawks host the San Fransisco 49ers in the NFC title game, Metro and Sound Transit will both be providing the same Seahawks game-day service they have been providing for all regular-season games and Saturday’s divisional match.

Metro will once again be providing $4 (each way) cash-only shuttles from Northgate Transit Center, Eastgate Park&Ride, and South Kirkland Park & Ride, leaving each lot from 1:25 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and then picking up at 5th Ave S & S Weller St (on the east side of International District / Chinatown Station) after the game.

Sounder will once again be running pre-game trips to Century Link Field and post-game trips back to all Sounder stations. The schedule is a bit different due to the 3:30 start time.

For those flying in from out of town, Link Light Rail gets you from the airport to Century Link Field. You can get an all-day ticket on Link at any ORCA vending machine, including the ones at Seatac/Airport Station, for $5.50. Set Seatac/Airport Station and Westlake Station as the termini of your trips so that you can travel anywhere Link goes all day. The best station for getting to the stadium is International District / Chinatown Station. Stadium Station is designed for the best connection to Safeco Field (where the Mariners play), but is also a decent option if you will be in the south end zone.

If you plan to be staying multiple days and want a free transfer to the bus system, consider getting a $5 ORCA smart card at any ORCA vending machine, and loading it up with several dollars of “e-purse”. There are no day passes, but you get 2 hours of transfer credit from each ride.

$2/hour parking is available in a section of the airport parking garage closest to the station. (I confirmed by phone that the deal extends through the 2014 playoff games, and, oh yeah, the Link ticket price listed on their page is three years out-of-date.) However, you may be lucky and find an open free parking spot at Tukwila International Boulevard Station if you arrive early enough.

If you happen to be riding Amtrak into town, look southeast after you ascend from King Street Station, and that is Century Link Field. You have arrived!

Thanks are due to the Metro and Sound Transit staff who have pulled this service together and re-arranged their schedules to provide this service, as well as overflow runs on all the regular routes and Link.

If you happen to be a 49ers fan, any smack talk about the Seahawks will be considered off-topic for purposes of this post. If you happen to be a Seahawks fan, smack talk about the 49ers will not be considered off-topic, but keep it PG.

Metro Shuttle and Sounder Service for Seahawks Playoff Game this Saturday

  • This Saturday, when the Seahawks host the New Orleans Saints in an NFL divisional playoff game, Metro and Sound Transit will both be providing the same Seahawks game-day service they have been providing for all regular-season games.

    Metro will once again be providing $4 (each way) cash-only shuttles from Northgate Transit Center, Eastgate Park&Ride, and South Kirkland Park & Ride, leaving each lot from 11:25 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and then picking up at 5th Ave S & S Weller St (on the east side of International District / Chinatown Station) after the game.

    Sounder will once again be running pre-game trips to Century Link Field and post-game trips back to all Sounder stations. The schedule may look familiar because it is identical to the regular season game-day schedule. The only difference is this game is on a Saturday.

    For those flying in from out of town, Link Light Rail gets you from the airport to Century Link Field. You can get an all-day ticket on Link at any ORCA vending machine, including the ones at Seatac/Airport Station, for $5.50. Set Seatac/Airport Station and Westlake Station as the termini of your trips so that you can travel anywhere Link goes all day. The best station for getting to the stadium is International District / Chinatown Station. Stadium Station is designed for the best connection to Safeco Field (where the Mariners play), but is also a decent option if you will be in the south end zone.

    If you plan to be staying multiple days and want a free transfer to the bus system, consider getting a $5 ORCA smart card at any ORCA vending machine, and loading it up with several dollars of “e-purse”. There are no day passes, but you get 2 hours of transfer credit from each ride.

    $2/hour parking is available in a section of the airport parking garage closest to the station. (I confirmed by phone that the deal extends through the 2014 playoff games, and, oh yeah, the Link ticket price listed on their page is three years out-of-date.) However, you may be lucky and find an open free parking spot at Tukwila International Boulevard Station if you arrive early enough.

    If you happen to be riding Amtrak into town, look southeast after you ascend from King Street Station, and that is Century Link Field. You have arrived!

    Thanks are due to the Metro and Sound Transit staff who have pulled this service together and re-arranged their schedules to provide this service, as well as overflow runs on all the regular routes and Link.

    If you happen to be a Saints fan, any smack talk about the Seahawks will be considered off-topic for purposes of this post. If you happen to be a Seahawks fan, smack talk about the Saints will not be considered off-topic, but keep it PG.

  • Improving the 131 and 132 Using Fewer Platform Hours

    Since nearly the dawn of time, South Park has been served by a pair of painfully scoliated, hourly routes, the 131 and 132. South Park came out one of the huge winners in the October 2012 route restructure, getting half-hourly service on a more direct version of the 132. In exchange, the 131 ceased serving South Park, and instead now makes a beeline down 4th Ave S to Highland Park and White Center, and has advanced to half-hourly all-day service. I cannot stop thanking Metro for this fantastic restructure. Neither, apparently, can the riders, who have filled these two routes quite fully during peak and on event nights, and have had load factors well above 0.5 on nearly every trip I’ve taken off-peak on either bus.

    In my experience, the northbound 132 has done a fabulous job in on-time performance, albeit occasionally leaving stops early, and quite frequently holding up at stops to let the schedule catch up. Southbound is another story, but that’s what happens to the second half of a coupled route going through downtown. The 131 and 132 were originally planned to provide 15-minute interlined headway on 4th Ave S. That has turned out to be a fantasy, with southbound 131s and 132s showing up at random times.

    The new-and-improved 131 and 132 are now under the gun, with Metro putting out one of the weirdest parts of its Plan B service restructure proposal that includes using route numbers 131 and 132 at night for “shuttles” that bear little resemblance to the daytime routing.

    I’d like to suggest how this lemon of a proposal for the mutilation of the 131 and 132 could be turned into lemonade, and an improved experience for riders on these routes, while helping to reduce platform hours.

    My proposal is simple: De-couple the 131 and 132, and start both routes from the proximity of International District/Chinatown Station.

    Reasoning is below the jump.
    Continue reading “Improving the 131 and 132 Using Fewer Platform Hours”

    Lege Gives Boeing What They Want; Adjourns

    Brad Shannon at the Tacoma News Tribune gives an excellent play-by-play of the 3-day special session of the Washington State Legislature that just ended.

    Per the article:

    Icing on the cake for Boeing would come later in the month if lawmakers can finally agree on a transportation package of up to $10 billion. A key Republican, Sen. Curtis King, said Saturday that a deal might be brokered as soon as Nov. 21-22, leading to what could become the fourth special session of the year.

    Sen. King (R-Yakima) is Co-Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

    Sounder to Sounders Playoff Match Today / Seahawks Sunday

    Sound Transit has made a quick arrangement to provide Sounder service to the playoff match between Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers FC tonight at 7 p.m. Trains take off from Lakewood at 4:30 and Everett at 4:50, each getting to Century Link Field ca. 5:45, giving riders 15 minutes to get to Occidental Park and participate in the March to the Match. Return trains take off 35 minutes after the final whistle.

    Good luck getting tickets at the Sounders’ website before the Timbers Army gobbles them up.

    Sounder service will also be provided to the Sunday afternoon Seahawks game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as per tradition.

    Metro continues to provide $4 (each way) shuttle service to the Seahawks games from and back to Northgate TC, South Kirkland P&R, and Eastgate P&R. ORCA, transfers, and passes are not accepted on these shuttles. Return trips board at 5th & Weller. The 41, 255, and 554 provide direct service from downtown to these locations, too.

    Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour after tonight.

    Special Service to Fair and Football this Weekend

    Zargoman/Flickr

    If you are going to the Huskies football game, the Seahawks, or the State Fair this weekend, Metro and Sound Transit have some extra service lined up for you.

    As we previously covered, Sounder will be running an all-day schedule Saturday, with the State Fair being the star attraction. The first South Sounder run leaving Lakewood at 9 a.m. and arriving in downtown Seattle at 10:13 a.m. will also be convenient for those trying to get to the Huskies noon football game. Arriving that early is probably a good idea, given how crowded the buses from downtown to UW are on game days.

    For those willing to pay a little more for the convenience of quick service, Metro will be running shuttles from seven park & rides to the Huskies game, and back. These shuttles cost $5, unless you have a UW Athletics Season Pass. No ORCA passes are accepted. But the shuttles depart as soon as they fill up.

    Sunday will feature the first Sounder service to a Seahawks game for this season, and the first-ever Sounder trains to a Seahawks game from Lakewood and South Tacoma, departing Lakewood at 9:50 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Pierce County residents can also use this service if they want to spend the day at the Fair (its final day), and catch the train back after the Seahawks game, with the first of the two returning trains reaching Puyallup Station sometime after 5 p.m. Seahawks fans can also jump on one of those two trains (making sure not to jump on the train that skips Puyallup) to catch the final hours of the Fair, and then catch the 578 back.

    Metro will also have special shuttles to the Seahawks from Northgate, South Kirkland P&R, and Eastgate P&R, costing $4 cash each way, with no ORCA passes accepted. If you just want to use your ORCA pass, the 41, 255, and 554 will get you from these locations to very close to the stadium. You can still take the shuttle back for $4 if you don’t want to wait for the regular bus. The shuttle pick-up point is 5th Ave S and S Weller St.

    The Costs of Not Building the Turn-Back Track in a Tunnel Station Further North

    At its meeting of July 25, 2013, the Sound Transit Board approved a pair of contracts for engineering studies to design a turn-back track at International District Station (IDS) for East Link trains going in and out of service at the SODO Operations & Maintenance Facility (O&MF).

    The background for the engineering study contracts state:

    An interdisciplinary Sound Transit team agreed that a turn-back track facility along the Central Link alignment would improve train movements between East Link and the OMF. These improvements include the ability to add or remove light rail vehicles for early morning start up and peak period demand as well as the ability to accommodate a disabled train. Various options were evaluated for cost, construction impacts, service impacts, and operational efficiency. The option of a turn-back track facility at IDS was selected.

    Sound Transit staff declined to elaborate on whether a turn-back track at one of the other stations was considered as part of this process.

    Since the contracts were merely for engineering studies, and much larger construction contracts have yet to be approved for this work, there is still time to take a look at the alternatives that allow for a center platform at IDS instead, and put the turn-back track(s) in Pioneer Square Station (PSS), University Street Station (USS), or Westlake Station (WS).

    Another group of options would be to have a crossover track from the northbound platform of one or more of these stations to the southbound exit at that station. That is to say, East Link trains going out of service would pull up along the platform, and then turn back along a crossover track at the south end of the station splitting from the northbound track about 20-30 feet north of the south end of the station, merging with the southbound track a few feet north of the south end of the station. In order to avoid tracks crossing over each other, no station could simultaneously have both a center turn-back track and a crossover track.

    It bears repeating that the center platform option we’ve been talking about in IDS is to add a center platform, not to remove the outer platforms, which would enable use of all 32 train doors while at IDS, in a variation of the “Spanish Solution” (in which passengers enter the train on one side and exit to a separate platform on the other).

    In the comparison and analysis below, I will focus on the following aspects: operational safety, operational cost, construction cost, trip time, and peak operational throughput.

    Continue reading “The Costs of Not Building the Turn-Back Track in a Tunnel Station Further North”

    Special Sounder Service this Weekend

    Zargoman/Flickr

    In a departure from the normal routine of providing weekend Sounder service only to mid-day Seahawks, Sounders, and Mariners games, Sound Transit has announced a special free Sounder run from Lakewood to downtown Tacoma Saturday evening for military members and their families attending the inaugural parade of the Daffodil Festival, and special Sounder service Sunday evening to the Sounders-Timbers match. This is in addition to the regularly-scheduled Sunday mid-day service for the Mariners game against the Angels.

    The free train Saturday departs Lakewood Station at 3 p.m., arriving at Tacoma Dome Station at 3:14 p.m. The return train departs TDS at 8:30 p.m.

    The Sounder runs for the Mariners game Sunday depart at the usual 10:45 a.m. from Lakewood and 11:15 a.m. from Everett. Return trips depart 35 minutes after the game ends. The evening runs for the Sounders match depart Lakewood at 4:45 p.m. and Everett at 5:15 p.m. Both return trains depart 35 minutes after the match. This will likely be the first time two North Sounder trains in revenue service pass each other. A round trip involving a quick bite near Edmonds Station might even be doable for the first time ever, depending on how long the baseball game goes.

    These announcements come on the heels of the announcement of all-day Sounder service to the Washington State Fair on September 14 and 21.

    TRU Takes Hard Line; Electeds Pin Blame on Sen. Tom

    The Seattle Transit Riders Union held a WtF, Olympia? rally last Saturday afternoon. Elected officials who spoke included County Executive Dow Constantine, Mayor Mike McGinn, State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D – 36th District – northwest Seattle), and State Representative Gael Tarleton (D – 36th District).

    Mayor McGinn described how a coalition of mayors presented a united front for transit funding, including Mayor Skip Priest (R – Federal Way). However, when the mayor talked with a Senate Republican leader, who he did not name, he was told, “We want Seattle to starve until we get what we want.”

    Sen. Kohl-Welles said the votes were there in the Senate to pass the transportation package (House Bill 1954), but that leadership would not allow it to come up for a vote. In a telling sign that transit advocates did not have a presence in Olympia, the senator said “I wish you were down here with us.” She offered that “There is hope the governor will call a special session.”

    City Council Candidate Kshama Sawant also spoke. She called for an income tax on millionaires to help fund transit and other human services.

    Speakers from a few other organizations expressed their solidarity with TRU. A few TRU members told their stories. A couple dozen gold-t-shirt-clad members worked the crowd, collecting testimonials on how people would be affected by cuts to Metro bus service. Some of those testimonials were read before being dropped into a cardboard bus that is slated to be delivered to Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom (D – Medina). Each mention of Sen. Tom’s name elicited booes from the crowd.

    Among the decorations were several cardboard tombstones, including one stating “No cuts”. Others listed Seattle bus routes on the chopping block, including the 19, the 27, and the 7 Express.

    ST Board Approves Northgate Link Tunneling Contract & Other Items

    Sound Transit

    The Sound Transit Board of Directors met this Thursday afternoon and took action on several big items. Video is available here. Supporting materials are available here.

    Northgate Tunneling Contract

    The highlight of the meeting was the approval of a $440 million contract for the tunneling from University of Washington Station to Northgate Station.

    Before the meeting, there was some doubt that the Board would act on the contract, due to a protest from losing bidder Traylor/Frontier-Kemper.  That all ended when ST CEO Joni Earl announced that she had received a letter from TFK the previous day that they would not pursue a rebid.

    Despite TFK clearing the path, there was still protest from a couple truckers who had some harsh things to say about ST’s record on minority subcontracting.  Elton Mason, owner of Washington State Trucking, complained that the winning bidder, JCM Northlink LLC, had used questionable and decertified subcontractors in its bid.  Elton said he sent a letter to ST a week ago with his concerns, and has now filed a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration.

    Eli Mason, Vice President of the Minority Contractors Association, echoed the concerns about decertified contractors.

    Though it wasn’t mentioned by name, Grady Excavating, a prodigious recipient of contracts under the state’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, was kicked out of the minority-contracting program over a year ago.

    When the item for the contract approval came up, staff went through how the subcontracting process was working for Northgate Link.  In particular, no actual minority percentage goals have been set on the overall project, as agency rules required that the disparity study from University Link be completed first.  That study is due to the Board in a few months.  Minority contracting goals are then set for each contract, but can vary from contract to contract.  Federal regulations call for an overall minority subcontracting goal for the project.

    More after the jump.

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