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.

Continue reading “ST Board Approves Northgate Link Tunneling Contract & Other Items”

Transit Riders Union to Protest Olympia Inaction Saturday

The Seattle Transit Riders Union will be having a rally this Saturday to protest the state legislature’s failure to give King County Metro Transit any new funding options to stave off deep cuts in bus service. It will be at noon at City Hall Park, the grassy area just south of the King County Courthouse.  This is the WTF? Olympia Rally that was scheduled for a wees ago but postponed.  WTF as in, “Where’s the Funding?”:

“The failure of the State Senate to pass a transit funding option for King County is irresponsible and unacceptable,” says Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the all-volunteer Transit Riders Union. “How are we supposed to get to work, school, or to look for a job? How are disabled people, seniors and students supposed to get around? Our legislature failed all of us: not only will bus riders lose service, traffic congestion will get worse, and the economy and the environment will suffer too.” […]

In this legislative session, bills that would have improved the quality of life for workers, students, immigrants, women, bus riders – for all of us – struggled to make it through but failed, because an obstructionist bloc of Republicans and turncoat Democrats betrayed us. We’re fed up, and we know many others are too – so it’s time to get organized!

LIFOAC Issues Recommendations, Unwittingly Supports ORCAzation

King County Metro’s Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee has now issued its report and recommendations.

A general fare restructure proposal that may include some action on these recommendations is expected to go the county council in the next couple months.

At a recent forum sponsored by the Transportation Choices Coalition, a couple of committee members – Kate Joncas of the Downtown Seattle Association, and Alison Eisinger from the Seattle Coalition on Homelessness – were joined by Metro project director Doug Hodson to discuss the recommendations.

The recommendations, some of the discussion from the panel, and analysis, are below the fold.

Continue reading “LIFOAC Issues Recommendations, Unwittingly Supports ORCAzation”

We Are the 201%

Senior RRFP
Photo: Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services

King County Metro’s Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee met for the last time in person Wednesday. They are still wordsmithing the document that will be transmitted to the County Executive and the County Council, but plan to have that finalized document sent by July 1st.

The committee will be recommending 200% of the federal poverty level as the breakpoint for qualifying for a low-income fare, mostly because several federal programs use that threshold, and the documentation from those other programs would enable Metro to stay out of the business of income determination. (For those unfamiliar with the federal poverty level, it is based on a combination of income and family size.)

The committee still wants Metro to do some direct income determination for riders who are either ineligible or uninterested in those other programs for reasons unrelated to income, but did not appear to have a plan for how to limit income determination to just those who fall in that category. Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond expressed discomfort with the idea of putting Metro in that position.

The committee appears ready to recommend the farebox as one of the more immediate sources of revenue to fund a low-income fare program. Indeed, they could not agree to recommend any other source. But they also don’t want Metro to become the primary funder, much less the sole funder. Still, the committee seems willing to move forward with a program funded solely be farebox revenue if no other revenue sources can be found. The idea of the farebox approach is that as fares increase, a portion of each increase would go to funding the low-income fare program. Metro could raise fares more steeply than originally planned, raising more money to save more service while offsetting the increase for those least able to afford it with a robust low-income fare program.

Kate Joncas, representing the Downtown Seattle Association, raised a troubling question: How does someone who earns 205% of the federal poverty level feel about having his or her fare substantially increased in order to fund a discount for someone earning 197% of the federal poverty level. Nobody on the committee had a good answer. After the jump, I’ll try to give a good answer, from the vantage point of someone earning over 201% of the federal poverty level.

Continue reading “We Are the 201%”

Metro Low-Income Fare Committee Almost Done


desmond_chart

King County Metro’s Low-Income Fare Options Advisory Committee (LIFOAC) is close to wrapping up its work and sending a recommendations document to Metro and the County Council. It has two remaining meetings scheduled to come to a consensus: May 29 and June 12, both at 4 pm in the 8th floor conference room of the King Street Center, 201 S Jackson St.

They will also continue taking comments online. For those who want a full play-by-play, you can access all the committee materials, meeting notes, and written comments here.

The bulk of the committee seems to agree that a general low-income fare program is far more expensive than what Metro can afford right now. The value of the program has to be weighed against the service that could be deployed for the same money.

A no-income fare program (namely, free) might be a much smaller and more doable program in the here and now, and can be done in a way that reduces current administrative costs, while enabling recipients to gain real mobility.

Personally, I think the committee should discuss giving out free monthly passes on regular ORCA cards, which they have not done to date. Funding for the no-income fare program, and hopefully an eventual low-income fare program, is unlikely to come from any source other than a Title VI mitigation fund (another idea the committee has not discussed).

Formally, the committee was charged by the county council with seven tasks. I’ll discuss them in order below the jump.

Continue reading “Metro Low-Income Fare Committee Almost Done”

Route 50 is a Chance to Show Train-Bus Connections Can Work


One of Metro’s most thankless efforts to preserve neighborhood service on low-ridership corridors in the fall restructure proposal is the proposed route 50. The new 50 would replace route 56 between SODO and Alki, and route 39 between SODO and Othello Station. The downtown portion of the 39 would go away, with the savings reinvested in increased off-peak frequency on the 50, or elsewhere.

Route 34, which shadows the 39 from S Othello St and Seward Park Ave S to Rainier Ave S and S Genessee St, but then expresses downtown with stops by the Mount Baker Transfer Center and the I-90/Rainier freeway stop, is also scheduled to be eliminated in favor of the new 50. The 34 has three northbound runs in the morning and three southbound runs in the evening. It has a unique tail continuing down Seward Park Ave S to S Henderson St, turning west at Rainier Beach High School, and terminating at Rainier Ave S and S Henderson St. Due to being one-way only, it is of no use for anyone commuting to or from Rainier Beach High. It is about 200-300 feet away from Rainier Ave S for most of it’s tail’s length, but access to Rainier Ave is limited by hills and dead-ends.

One of the proponents of the 34 recently laid down the challenge to Metro at the final open house for the restructure: She didn’t need a one-seat ride downtown, necessarily, and didn’t mind transferring to Link. However, she did mind having to make the long walk to Rainier Ave S, and did not feel safe waiting on Rainier Ave S for the 7.

Proponents of the 39 laid out similar concerns: They didn’t mind transferring to Link, but did mind waiting a long time in the dark and rain at Columbia City Station, and that, furthermore, they never knew when the bus would finally show up.

The proposed route 50 is an opportunity for Metro to gain the confidence of one-seat commuters that a smoothe train-to-bus transfer can happen, without an excessively long wait at a bus stop, so that future efficiencies involving transfers to Link can become politically viable.

Three steps would help facilitate the success of the 50, should the county council decide to create it:

  1. List the departure times from each Link station. Currently, Columbia City Station and SODO Station are not mentioned in the printed 34/39 schedule.
  2. Make “Connection Protection” a policy at Columbia City Station and Othello Station. Metro’s new On-Board System will let operators know the estimated time of arrival for key connecting buses at timed-transfer bus stops. Adding southbound Link trips to that list should eliminate the painful miss of having an eastbound 50 take off from Columbia City Station a minute before a slow southbound Link train arrives.
  3. Time train-to-bus connections so that the eastbound bus departures are spread out among the southbound Link runs. This is where scheduling math comes in.

I’ll leave it to the pros to determine whether the third and fourth steps are truly viable, but for purposes of this post, let me offer some fun armchair math, below the jump:

Continue reading “Route 50 is a Chance to Show Train-Bus Connections Can Work”