SDOT and Metro have some big ideas for Route 44

Source: SDOT

Last election cycle, virtually every city council candidate knew enough about Seattle transit to say they supported “better east-west connections.” You don’t have to ride the bus very much to know that getting across town can be a slog. Promising to fix it turns out to be a popular idea.

At a series of open houses last week, SDOT, in partnership with King County Metro, previewed Level 1 concepts for one of the most important of the east-west routes in the city: the 44. The route, which runs from Ballard to the University District, had been initially proposed as RapidRide but then de-scoped to “multimodal improvements” when the Move Seattle Levy was reset.

While the RapidRide amenities and branding are nice to have, the most important things are the speed and mobility improvements. With these initial concepts – which are drafts for discussion purposes – SDOT is trying to get creative in making east-west transit faster.

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Book Review: Saving America’s Cities

I recently followed the recommendation of a bunch of folks on Twitter and picked up Lizabeth Cohen’s Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age. It’s fairly weeds-y, and I’ll admit that I skimmed a few sections here and there.  But overall I was glad to read a book about urban renewal that goes beyond the simple Jane Jacobs / Robert Moses dichotomy to which we’ve become so accustomed.

The book follows Ed Logue, a New Deal-era labor organizer and lawyer who, after World War II, leads redevelopment efforts in New Haven, Boston, and New York between the 1960s and 1980s, successively.  The book tells the story of urban renewal through Logue’s career, as he learns from his mistakes in one city and makes new ones in the next one, all fueled by Great-Society-era federal largesse and modernist hubris. 

In New Haven, he tries to bring the suburbs to the city with the Chapel Square Mall, a bog-standard renewal project that raises the ire of local merchants and bulldozes mostly low-income minority neighborhoods.  While you can understand the city’s plight — tax bases and federal dollars are fleeing to the suburbs, while the remaining businesses like Yale are tax exempt — the approach here is more machete than scalpel.

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Policy choices matter

Paxtyn Merten, Puget Sound Business Journal [$]:

Since moving entirely into downtown Seattle’s F5 Tower in August, workers have capitalized on those benefits. Phillips said drive-alone rates among employees are just under 25 percent, down from 55 percent at the former headquarters.

About 29 percent drive and park vehicles, which F5 partially subsidizes within the tower, though there’s only 322 parking stalls in the tower for F5’s 1,500 headquarters employees. When the neighboring Rainier Club hosts events, 60 of those spots disappear as well, Phillips said.

“There’s a long waitlist for the garage because we had more parking at Elliott,” Phillips said. “We see that waitlist get smaller and smaller and smaller. The method to the madness of the waitlist is people will rethink, ‘Why not try the bus? Why not try light rail?’”

For context, 25% is the average drive-alone rate for all of downtown, per Commute Seattle’s mode split survey. For the commercial core, the drive-alone rate is actually lower, at 15%.

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News Roundup: Protected

Sound Transit Double Deckers

This is an open thread

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.

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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. 

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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:

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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.

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