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.

Transit and land use in Seattle’s ‘Green New Deal’ resolution

Seattle City Council blog:

Selected highlights of the Resolution include making Seattle climate pollution-free by 2030; prioritizing public investments in neighborhoods that have historically been underinvested in and disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards and other injustices; exploring the creation of Free, Prior, and Informed consent policies with federally recognized tribal nations; and, creating a fund and establish dedicated revenue sources for achieving the Green New Deal that will be used to make investments in communities, along with an associated accountability body.

This is a non-binding resolution, of course, so it’s easy to throw the kitchen sink at it. But it moves the needle on an issue that is very much in need of needle mobility.

Here are some of the transit and land use components. (Note this is the draft text that’s on the city’s website. SCC Insight posted an updated copy with some changes but I don’t see a final version).

Continue reading “Transit and land use in Seattle’s ‘Green New Deal’ resolution”

MASS transportation package kicks off at City Hall tomorrow

MASS Coalition:

The MASS Transportation Package is a proposal from the MASS Coalition to make walking, rolling, biking, and using transit in Seattle safer and more accessible. It’s not a comprehensive vision for transportation in Seattle, but it is a set of projects and policies we believe the City can advance rapidly in 2019. The package includes long overdue policy reforms and investments in sidewalks, bus lanes, and bike paths that our growing city needs.

The first piece of legislation is focused on bike safety and complete streets. Upcoming pieces will include bus priority. This Friday at 2pm there will be a special session of the Council’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee to discuss it.

Learn how to take action and RSVP on Facebook.

Metro looking at South King restructures to complement RapidRide I

Metro is looking for your feedback on RapidRide I, a major investment in South King mobility that will provide frequent service between Renton, Kent and Auburn. See our previous coverage here.

At over 15 miles in length, the I line will beat out the E for the title of longest RapidRide line. It’ll also probably be the one that passes by the most farmland. For now, anyway. The Kent Valley has seen rapid suburbanization in recent years, and the arrival of frequent, all-day transit service is welcome.

Meanwhile, Metro is taking advantage of this increased increased frequency to restructure some routes in South King. One of the most significant changes would create a mini-grid around Kent Station with some through-routed buses to provide greater connectivity.

A map of proposed bus service in Kent.

Both surveys (RapidRide, S. King Restructures) close on August 25. I’m not a frequent South King transit rider so tell us what else is interesting.

Sound Transit wants feedback on station access funds

Holgate Street Crossing

Sound Transit:

Approved by voters in 2016, the Sound Transit 3 System Plan included a $100 million System Access Fund. This year, the Sound Transit Board wants your input as it considers how to award up to $50 million of the System Access Fund for projects to improve rider connections in each of Sound Transit’s five subareas.

The online open house ends August 23. Be sure to read this piece from Erica on the politics, which includes this money quote:

In other words: Cities that have made an effort to improve safety, access, and housing opportunities around light rail stations in advance should get priority for their projects.

Makes sense! While it’s regrettable that cities have to do a Hunger Games-style competition for projects that provide basic pedestrian and bicycle access to transit stations, the real problem is that these municipalities too often choose to site their train stations in out-of-the-way spots where there are no businesses to “impact” or NIMBYs to complain. The resulting poor pedestrian access is entirely predictable.

Montlake exit’s temporary bus lane is closing

WSDOT:

[C]rews will restripe the westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake and remove the ramp’s temporary bus-only lane that currently allows buses to bypass general-purpose vehicles to reach Montlake Boulevard. The bus lane was temporarily put in place last October, with a plan to close it in March for the Montlake Project construction. Recognizing the value that the temporary lane provided to transit, WSDOT worked with the contractor to keep the lane open as long as possible without affecting construction.

At the request of several Eastside cities, WSDOT looked at ways to preserve the bus lane, but none were deemed viable. It’s frustrating to see it go, but the project was a good reminder that agencies and concerned commuters can work together to make short-term improvements.

News Roundup: Eastrail

Photo via King County Parks on Twitter
  • Two big proposals from the Mayor on affordable housing: MFTE reform and more permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness
  • The King County Council approves paid spots at some popular park-and-rides
  • Sound Transit starts construction on the innovative I-90 light rail tracks
  • Not good: injuries and collisions on Seattle streets are at a nine-year high
  • Self-driving cars are really hard, but self-driving minibuses are on the march. What was that about autonomy killing transit again?
  • TRU’s Katie Wilson on Seattle’s need for a transportation revolution to tackle climate and what we can do to get one
  • Introducing “Eastrail
  • Protected intersections. You love to see a cryptic Dongho Chang tweet spur an entire Times article.
  • The “interim” 1st Ave re-route for West Seattle buses continues to be terrible
  • Metro adds paid parking permits for some popular park-and-rides
  • Bill Savage reminds us that elevated trains are beautiful (and cost effective!)
  • Metro and SDOT will be at Capitol Hill-area farmers markets this weekend to talk RapidRide G
  • New bus stops for the reconstructed “Borealis Avenue” at Denny Way

Metro tweaks the 41 & 271 as “Seattle Squeeze” gets real

Montlake Triangle improvements under construction (Photo by the author)

Metro is continuing to adjust routes and frequencies with the closure of the bus tunnel and, more recently, the Montlake freeway ramps.

Route 41, one of few routes with over 10,000 daily riders, was moved to surface streets and has been stuck using the punctuality-melting Stewart Street I-5 offramp ever since. In an effort to amputate the leg and save the patient, Metro has opted to send the 41 into downtown via Union Street starting July 27. This will eliminate stops at 7th & Stewart and 3rd and Pine in the southbound direction only – northbound is unchanged. Folks will have a longer walk in the AM (or a transfer) but should see a more reliable ride. The agency thinks it’s worth the tradeoff:

Metro’s planning and service quality teams surveyed riders and bus drivers and showed them the benefits and tradeoffs of the Union Street routing. A large majority (79 percent of riders surveyed and 94 percent of Route 41 bus drivers) supported having the faster travel times and better reliability with having to potentially travel farther between the new bus stops and their destination.

Route 271, the cross-lake superstar with over 5,000 daily riders, has only gotten more critical recently. Riders appear to be opting for Link-271 as an alternative to the 550, which is on long-term reroute as part of East Link construction. As of July 18 the 271 added 7 additional trips, 4 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon, to relieve the associated crowding.

Continue reading “Metro tweaks the 41 & 271 as “Seattle Squeeze” gets real”

On transit priority to Expedia

Photo by Martin H. Duke

Danny Westneat, in a very good Seattle Times column last week, tears into the hypocrisy of parking being built at downtown and SLU corporate campuses, particularly Expedia:

This two-step between quietly nodding to our car-focused reality while espousing the greenest dreams perfectly captures what passes for transportation planning in the Emerald City.

We wish you wouldn’t drive, the government announces. But we know you’re gonna, the private market whispers in echo.

In fact the market is so certain you’ll drive that it’s building more space for your cars at this new high-tech campus than will fit in the garage at the Mariners’ stadium.

1000% agree. Developers are building a ton of new garages but no new road capacity. It’s worse than pointless. Seattle does have regulations that attempt to curb the amount of parking constructed in high-transit neighborhoods, but they’re not aggressive enough.

Later in the column, though, Westneat laments the lack of transit options to Expedia:

My view is that Seattle desperately needs more mass transit faster, to give better alternatives to all this driving. I’m a longtime fan of forcing this change sooner by turning some car lanes over to true mass transit, such as buses or light rail (not piddly stuff like the streetcar).

Yes, it’s true the train to Expedia is 16 years away. But it’s important to note that Expedia does have a very frequent bus: the D line. There’s also the 19/24/33 on Elliott. Unfortunately, both corridors have only intermittent transit priority. The D Line needs exclusive lanes through Uptown, and/or an Express variant, and the others need full-time bi-directional bus lanes all the way from Interbay to Denny Way.

The column prompted me to reach out to SDOT, where I learned that D Line and Elliott Avenue improvements are being studied this year as part of the ST3-funded “quick wins” (remember those? Still coming!) for Ballard and West Seattle. When Expedia first announced their move in 2015, SDOT also told us that they would consider off-peak bus priority on Elliott. As far as I can tell from Google Street View, nothing has changed since 2015: it’s still peak-only BAT lanes that end well short of Denny. If we want to make a dent in driving, we have to do more, and it’s disappointing that so little progress has been made in the four years since the Expedia announcement.

(In fairness, I’ll take a mulligan on this one as well: when I listed places to add bus lanes last fall, Elliott didn’t make the cut. I mistakenly assumed it was already a done deal.)

If SDOT does come back next year with a proposal for improving bus service on Elliott and in Uptown, there will no doubt be opposition from local businesses in those corridors. When that happens, it will be helpful to have Seattle Times opinion columnists, and not just us lowly bloggers, pushing back.