I-976’s impacts on bus service

Yesterday Dan laid out the impacts of I-976 on Sound Transit. Now let’s talk about Metro and Seattle. Unlike with ST, the situation is both simpler and more dire. KC Exec Constantine has already pledged a lawsuit, and Mayor Durkan is expected to follow today on behalf of the city.

Metro calculates it will lose over $100M in state funds over the next five years. These are primarily capital grants from the state’s mobility fund that go to projects like RapidRide and other speed and reliability improvements, as well as funds to support Access vans.

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District is funded by a combination of sales taxes and the $60 vehicle license fee or VLF. (The older $20 councilmanic TBD goes away as well). If the VLF goes away, SDOT estimates a $32M budget hole.

If no new revenue is found, SDOT would have to start buying less bus service as soon as next spring. The roughly 350,000 service hours funded by the STBD comes in two main flavors.

Weekend, evening, and night owl service (77% of hours) enables the car free living that is actually putting a dent in our car ownership rates. As SDOT’s report states, in 2015 there were only five routes in Seattle that met the definition of ‘very frequent.’ today there are 16.

Continue reading “I-976’s impacts on bus service”

News roundup: the future

King County Metro
  • Seattle Times has a deep dive on the impact of I-976. You never like to see “hunger games” used as a metaphor in a headline.
  • CM Pacheco comes out for scooters. Seattle Bike Blog has some ideas for the rollout.
  • The city of LA wants to know every move you make on a scooter, in real time. Uber and Lime are resisting providing it.
  • 3-day Cascadia HSR conference coming to Microsoft campus.
  • Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, soon you’ll be able to take high-speed rail from Disney World to a Disney Cruise line.
  • Development along the Everett waterfront.
  • Metro’s Trailhead Direct service grew 75 percent in 2019 but still isn’t funded for 2020.
  • Next lane shift for the 520 bridge coming Nov 8-11.
  • SR99 tunnel tolls start Nov 9, Aurora bridge emergency repairs ongoing.
  • Bus lanes and bike lanes are great, but really any kind of asphalt art is a winner.
  • The long, painful history of Seattle-area transit funding.
  • Great to see Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ Home Zone pilot get some national press
  • The future of transportation looks a lot like the past
  • New York City Council working on a big bike/bus/ped package
  • Bike lanes and bus lanes are often put in a zero-sum competition, but in Delridge, as ever, the real culprit is parking. CM Herbold, over to you.
  • Mountlake Terrace upzones around light rail

This is an open thread

ST544: for Kirkland, Redmond, or both?

UPDATE: 11/2/19: Sound Transit’s final (not draft) Service Implementation Plan recommends “temporarily” keeping up to 10 one-way trips of the 541. The analysis still stands.

Because it replaces the Overlake-UW 541, the proposed Sound Transit Route 544 at first glance seem designed for Redmond/Overlake users, albeit one that serves them awkwardly.  But I think a better way to conceive of it is as a bus for Eastsiders in general, and Kirkland-Seattle commuters in particular. 

When we first wrote about the 544 last month, a few readers gave it a huh? reaction. Commenter asdf2:

In the afternoon commute, I’m guess you’d start on the 544 from SLU. But, even then, getting off at Yarrow Point and transferring to a 542/545 will likely be faster than sitting through the South Kirkland P&R detour. 

And RossB:

This bus will only appeal to a small number of riders. If you are in Redmond, it makes sense to take the 545, which serves a bigger part of downtown, and has oodles of options for getting to South Lake Union. If you are at South Kirkland Park and Ride, and headed to South Lake Union, it is great. 

That last line is key. The route’s main benefit is the connection to SLU, and the beneficiaries are going to be mostly in Kirkland.

Metro and ST are keen to start sending some buses to the neighborhood in advance of the direct 520-Mercer connection being planned for 2023. Downtown is multipolar, and it’s good in general for agencies to recognize that not all buses must go to the CBD. Unfortunately in the short term the Stewart exit will make this specific route a bit of a bummer, but you can see some appeal of having a 1- or 2-seat ride to SLU from nearly all of Kirkland.

For Overlake riders, especially those not going directly to SLU, the 544 will be a regression from the 541, as the detour to South Kirkland will cost 5-10 minutes in the PM peak. Add to that the fact that the 545 will no longer do the costly afternoon loop into the OTC bus bays and instead only serve the 520 freeway stop, and the meandering 544 is now the only ST service on the east side of 520 in Overlake. So riders will either take it or face a long walk across the freeway to and from the flyer stops on the west side.

For Overlake-UW, it will be possible to transfer to the 542 or 255 at Evergreen Point, and the increased frequency of the 255 (6 minutes at peak) should make that transfer smoother, but still not as good as today’s 541.

So I think you have to think of the 544 as mostly being a peace offering for Kirkland riders who are losing the 540 and (likely) having the 255 truncated at UW. Overlake riders can console themselves with the fact that that the blue line opens in just a few short years, while South Kirkland will be buses only for a couple of decades.

Report shows how e-bikes and scooters can complement transit

The Micromobility Coalition:

On average, workers living in the City of Seattle have access to 382,000 jobs within a 45-minute walk, e-bike/e-scooter, or transit commute, versus 283,000 jobs within a 45-minute commute from home by walk or transit only. This increase is equivalent to making 35 percent more jobs reachable without lengthening commutes or adding cars to the road.

The report details how e-bikes and scooters can help solve last mile problems, effectively extending transit’s reach. This has always been the scooter boosters’ main argument but now we have it quantified and localized within Seattle. The increase in accessible jobs is dramatic in some cases:

Of course, this assumes that:

  1. A bike or scooter can be found relatively close by
  2. The bike or scooter is functioning
  3. There exists safe infrastructure to get the rider to and from the bus stop

The legacy of Jim Ellis

Ellis with STB’s Ben Schiendelman riding Link in 2008

Seattle civic icon Jim Ellis passed away yesterday. Here’s a brief summary of his legacy, from a 2013 Seattle Times profile by Thanh Tan:

Ellis has played a vital role in shaping our region’s heritage, from the cleanup of Lake Washington in the 1950s to the formation of Metro and founding of “Forward Thrust,” a series of bold bond measures in 1968 that created the Kingdome, parks and trails, public swimming pools, fire departments, sewage districts, neighborhood improvement, arterial highways and a youth service center. In the 1980s, he led efforts to develop the convention center in downtown Seattle. By the 1990s, Ellis was still active, helping to create the Mountains to Sound Greenway.

“I don’t like the ‘I’ word,” he says emphatically throughout our two-hour visit. All those efforts “were very much a committee thing. It’s fascinating to see how everything we’ve undertaken, when we had far-sided leadership — and were willing to pay for the bill — has met expectations and is serving us well today.”

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First of several weekend Link closures start this weekend

The new platform at Pioneer Square Station takes shape (SounderBruce)

Sound Transit:

Trains will run as usual between SODO-Angle Lake and Capitol Hill-UW, with three-car trains every 10 minutes during most hours of the day. Free bus shuttles will run every 7 minutes in groups of two buses at a time, serving SODO, Stadium, International District/Chinatown, Pioneer Square, University Street, Westlake and Capitol Hill.

Plan accordingly. Weekend closures will happen again from Oct 25-28 and Nov 8-11. This is all in preparation for Connect 2020, the project to tie East Link (a.k.a. the Blue Line) in with the downtown tunnel.

WSDOT is also closing the westbound lanes of the SR 520 Floating Bridge over the weekend to prepare for several years of Montlake construction. Bus routes using the bridge will detour via Interstate 90 and will skip some stops, so check the Metro Alerts page. Eastbound service will use all normal stops, but may be affected because of the longer trip times.

Red paint coming to Olive Way

Weather permitting, this weekend SDOT will install a full-time bus lane on Olive Way between 4th Avenue and 8th Avenue. This will help 39 major regional bus routes from Metro, Sound Transit and Community Transit. SDOT estimates these routes combine for 33,000 daily riders.

You may recall that this stretch of downtown was where bus lane violations had gotten so bad that a frustrated bus rider recently took matters into her own hands to kick the cars out, prompting a follow-up citizen action from Seattle Greenways the following week.

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Roosevelt-Eastlake BRT is officially RapidRide J

Atomic Taco (Flickr)

SDOT and Metro are kicking off another feedback session for the newly-named RapidRide J, formerly known as Roosevelt-Eastlake BRT. The route combines pieces of Metro Routes 67 and 70 to provide service through South Lake Union, Eastlake, the University District, and Roosevelt, terminating at the Roosevelt Link station.

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Help rename University Street Station

University Street Station

Sound Transit has seen the light:

 With three new stations coming to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate in 2021, renaming University Street Station will reduce confusion and provide a better customer experience. 

Options under consideration:

  • Benaroya Hall
  • Symphony
  • Arts District
  • Midtown
  • Downtown Arts District
  • Seneca Street

I’m not sure where Seattle’s true arts district is, but if you asked me to guess I’d probably name at least five other neigbhorhoods before I got to 3rd and University. Plus DAD station is a terrible acronym.

“Midtown” is the provisional name for the 5th & Madison station that’s part of ST3, which could lead to issues down the line. That leaves Benaroya, Symphony, or Seneca. Either one seems fine. Rich Smith at The Stranger makes a case for Symphony. But In most cities the station name comes to define the neighborhood anyway.

On a related note, I present one of my favorite recent twitter threads (click through and read all the replies).

Seven considerations for a TBD that’s still TBD

Rainy Third Avenue with lots of buses
Third Avenue in 2018-appropriate weather. Photo by Wings777.

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District (TBD) expires in 2021.   It’s an open question as to whether Seattle will go it alone or try to partner with the county on a joint measure (previous county measure failed in 2014, which led to the TBD’s creation).

To date, no decision has been made. Regardless, another ballot measure is a given at this point. Here are a few ways to think about the state of play for our next ballot measure, whenever it arrives.

Area

The most obvious question for a future TBD is what area it will cover: Seattle or all of King County.  A county-wide TBD makes logical sense, since it mirrors Metro’s operational area. As of February, the County council was still considering it.

For Seattle, though, the bus service provided by the current TBD is more critical than ever, while county voters have been less willing to fund buses lately (we’ll get to that in a minute). So while having one bus system with two different fundings levels is problematic, it’s better than not having the additional service in Seattle at all.

Continue reading “Seven considerations for a TBD that’s still TBD”

Metro reverts West Seattle buses to 4th Avenue

Buses waiting to turn onto South Dearborn Street (SounderBruce)

Mike Lindblom, The Seattle Times:

Twelve Metro bus routes from downtown to West Seattle, White Center and Burien will move from their temporary path on gridlocked First Avenue South to Fourth Avenue South beginning Sept. 9.

This route change follows rider complaints that public transit crawls so slowly along First Avenue that it can sometimes take an hour to travel a few blocks.

The 1st Avenue alignment has been a disaster, we’re happy to see Metro cut bait. Big props to Lindblom for calling the city out specifically here for failing to create transit lanes:

Transportation leaders didn’t grasp beforehand how badly First would clog, as [Metro’s Bill] Bryant speculated this spring about 15-minute delays. The city is unwilling to deter private vehicles from Pioneer Square by creating bus-only lanes.

Yep.

Update: more details from Metro’s blog:

There are few alternatives, but the best option is a shift to Fourth Avenue South. Making the alternative pathway work meant analyzing travel times and consistency, weighing the impact to other routes that travel through the central business district, and determining where buses slowed down and required attention. That took time but was necessary to ensure the revision would work.

Our evaluations determined that a pathway that took Second Avenue (via Columbia Street) to Second Avenue Extension South to Fourth Avenue South was viable. Speed times were slightly slower under normal conditions, but the consistency improved dramatically. This new pathway appeared to have little effect on the travel time of other nearby routes, and we were able to identify areas that could be addressed directly by our partners at SDOT.

First set of weekend Link closures announced

Sound Transit:

We’re laying the groundwork to open the Blue Line, a new Link line that will begin taking riders from Northgate to Redmond in 2023.

As part of that work, we need to reduce Link service for three weekends this fall. On the weekends of October 12-13October 26-27, and November 9-10, there will be no Link service between SODO-Capitol Hill.

Trains will run from Angle Lake-SODO and UW-Capitol Hill, and free buses will connect the six stations in between. (We chose those particular weekends because there are no Seahawks or Husky games.)

This is prep work. The real Connect 2020 closures start next year. See our previous coverage here.

Metro re-jiggers the Stevens Way construction detour

From Metro’s service advisory email:

From Wednesday, August 21, through Friday, August 30, at all times, Metro routes 31, 32, 65, 67, 75, 78 and 372 will continue to be rerouted off the University of Washington campus, but will be revised to serve the south campus and UW Link Station.

During this time, these routes will travel instead via Montlake Blvd NE, NE Pacific St and 15th Av NE in both directions between NE 45th St and NE Campus Parkway.

Buses will no longer be rerouted via NE 45th St

All regular and temporary stops along the revised routings will be served.

The Route 277 reroute has not been revised. This route will continue to be rerouted off the campus, but is making its regular stops on NE Pacific St and 15th Av NE.

The previous reroute via 45th was the source of some complaints, including some of you in our comment section. Another good sign of Metro being nimble enough to realize that a reroute is not working and might need adjustments.

That this reroute was unacceptable to so many riders shows in part how successful the 2016 U-Link restructure was. Perhaps 5 or 10 years ago it might have been okay to reroute buses off Stevens Way when school was out of session but these days all of NE Seattle is funneling to Husky Stadium (as bad as it is for transfers).

Long term, getting the buses out of campus and on to an exclusive lane on Montlake Blvd NE seems like a better bet, especially if UW moves ahead with 16 story buildings on that street.

Carsharing probably needs more cars

map

Share Now (neé Car2go), in an email to members:

In an effort to improve the availability of the SHARE NOW fleet in areas of Seattle where they are most frequently requested, we are instituting a zone based pricing system, that will include either a Zone Fee or Zone Discount depending on the type of trip a member takes. The new model enables us to continue to offer our service to all areas of Seattle, a city requirement, while also providing incentives to members who bring our vehicles out of areas where cars sit idle for extended periods of time and into areas where they are most in-demand.

Less urbanized areas of the city, where cars were presumably seeing less utilization. Erica has a quote from the company’s spokespeople:

Kendell Kelton, the North America communications manager for Share Now, says the new policy is designed to eliminate the problem of cars getting “stranded for 12 hours or more, effectively making them unavailable for a majority of our Seattle members who would otherwise use those vehicles.” Currently, she says, one in five Share Now cars has to be relocated “in order to be close enough for members who need them.” (That might explain why it’s consistently so hard to find cars in West and Southeast Seattle.) “It should be noted we see much higher usage in more commercialized areas than residential ones,” Kelton says.

The current city car sharing regulations allow up to 4 companies to offer 750 cars each. With BMW’s Reach Now out of the picture, we have just two: Share Now and Lime (I don’t believe Getaround or Zipcar count towards the 4?). Share Now is maxed out, while Lime’s service, which started in the Spring, has grown by 300% and “has seen extraordinary success” according to spokesman (and friend of STB) Jonathan Hopkins.

The idea is clearly popular, and it seems likely that Seattlites would use the cars more often if there were more around. According to one study we covered, each carshare vehicle in the city removes as many as 10 private cars.

Carsharing has enormous capital outlays (the Mercedez-Benz GLA starts at $34k) and there seem to be winner-take-all dynamics to vehicle sharing, which says to me that it’s unlikely we’ll see four companies dive in to this market.

Since companies are forced to cover the entire city by the terms of their agreement, it would probably make more sense to raise or eliminate the cap and let the remaining companies determine how many cars the market will bear.