Action Alert: Full funding for Sound Transit

Seattle Subway LogoSEATTLE SUBWAY
Seattle Subway has learned that ESSB 5988 which authorizes transportation projects and a funding source for Sound Transit’s next big regional transit package (ST3) may make it out of committee this week and come to a vote on the House floor.

It is also our understanding that the Seattle delegation is not fully committed to pushing for $15B in funding authority for ST3. In order for Seattle to get the number and quality of projects we so desperately need, Sound Transit must have the full $15B they asked for.

You can find out who represents you here.

Please email (or better yet, call) your Representatives TODAY to tell them you want the full $15B funding for ST3 so we can continue to build the Seattle Subway.

15 Minutes or Better


Hello Seattle!

Neil from Detroit here. I am working on a project that you all may find appealing. It has a Seattle connection. More importantly, is has broad relevance for the entire public transit space.

The effort is called 15 Minutes or Better. It’s a series of short videos to highlight the fundamentals of effective public transit: coverage, connectivity, speed, span, frequency, accessibility.

To longtime transit enthusiasts, these elements are painfully obvious. Today, thanks to increased academic interest and a chatty internet, more and more people are describing themselves as transit enthusiasts. It’s a positive phenomenon – we need all the support we can get.

However, many newcomers are overlooking the core ingredients of effective transit. Essential service attributes are regularly dismissed as “too technical” – while the conversation drifts toward trendy sub-topics of transit: policy, technology, private financing, real estate development.

Those are all worthwhile matters. Taken alone, though, none can significantly improve the full experience of using transit. As such, 15 Minutes or Better intends to give proper due to the meat-and-potatoes of transit service. We’ll address each “technical” component in a fun, engaging and decidedly non-technical way. In so doing, we’ll equip the growing ranks of transit enthusiasts with a more thorough, more powerful understanding of the issue.

The project starts in Detroit because our transit conversation is astoundingly incomplete. Despite well-documented deficiencies with our transit service, the official discussion is revolving around secondary themes. We talk of apps and websites and TOD and attracting millennials – while practically ignoring route coverage and service levels. We know that other cities have effective transit systems, but we’ve failed to identify – or even ask – what makes those systems effective.

So we’re hitting the road. We are travelling to multiple US cities – including Seattle – to showcase effective transit service in its natural, everyday habitat. In each city, we’ll walk the viewer through an actual transit trip and point out what is working. The message is clear: the elements of quality transit service should not be taken for granted. If you want to improve transit in your city – Detroit or elsewhere – insist on this element!

In Seattle, our particular element-of-focus is connectivity – how transit can downplay political boundaries to link logical destinations. For example, we may start at the Tacoma Dome and travel to UW. Anyone can see why this trip makes sense: a big population center to a big university. In too many other places, transit couldn’t connect these dots because they’re in different counties. But Puget Sound gets it right. Let’s bring that to light – and set it as a precedent for all metropolitan areas.

And – you had to see this coming – 15 Minutes or Better will cost us to produce. We’ve figured about $45,000 to film, edit and compile the whole video series. We are attempting to raise $15,000 of that through crowdfunding – check out the campaign, along with the trailer, at Our first target audience is Detroit. Beyond the Motor City, our findings can help inform the national dialogue. We want to ensure that the transit conversation doesn’t forget to talk about transit.

We’d love your support – a small contribution, ideas for local transit highlights, even your knowledge on-camera as a “local host”. If you have any questions, please contact me directly.

Thank you!

Op-Ed: NE 130th Street Station will Provide Access to Underserved Communities

by JANINE BLAELOCH (Coordinator, Lake City Greenways and Vice-Chair, Lake City Neighborhood Alliance), SANDY MOTZER (Chair, Lake City Neighborhood Alliance and Chair, Lake City Emergency Communication Hub) with support from STB EDITORIAL BOARD

Sound Transit is expected to make a decision in April 2015 regarding light rail station locations in the Northgate to Lynnwood extension, and a NE 130th Street/I-5 station remains under consideration. As Lake City residents working to make our community healthier and more accessible for people traveling in all modes, we are urging Sound Transit to include a NE 130th Street station among the stations that will open in 2023.

The Lake City Hub Urban Village is the third densest urban village in Seattle.  It has one of the lowest median household incomes and home ownership rates in Seattle while also having one of the largest increases in percentage of persons of color in the city.*

The proposed NE 130th Street station would be a critical link to light rail for the Lake City community, which consists of many residential neighborhoods and a fast-densifying Hub Urban Village. In the near future, Lake City will be growing and changing dramatically, as the Pierre family car lots undergo redevelopment. And let us not forget our neighbors to the west in Bitter Lake, who are underserved by public transportation–they, too, would benefit from a station at NE 130th.

The 130th/125th corridor has far more room for additional capacity than Northgate Way or NE 145th Street and offers faster travel between the heart of Lake City and the station.  A new bus route could easily and efficiently serve the community with quick access to light rail without the delays and congestion on NE 145th and Northgate Way.

A NE 130th station:

  • Would bring fast and dependable light rail access to two of the densest and most underserved communities in North Seattle: Lake City and Bitter Lake.
  • Would promote more walking and biking to light rail.  Many commuters in the walkshed of a NE 130th station would easily be able to walk to light rail at NE 130th when they would otherwise need to drive or take a bus to the Northgate or NE 145th stations.
  • Would reduce pressure on demand for building expensive parking garages at both the Northgate and NE 145th stations.
  • Would increase ridership on LINK light rail. At least 3,200 riders daily are projected to board at a 130th Street station from the nearby neighborhoods by foot, bike or transit.
  • Would be relatively inexpensive compared with other stations.

While we still have time to make these decisions, we should plan wisely and maximize the benefits light rail will bring to all of our communities. A NE 130th station makes great sense, and deserves to be part of the light rail plan.

*For all of these facts, see pages 51 and 52 of this DPD document.

Sounder to Olympia is Not Out of Reach


Sound Transit EMD F59PHI

For years, doubters have said that Sounder to Olympia is impossible, or prohibitively expensive. Recently a News Tribune article reported Senator Sam Hunt as saying it would be “eons away.” None of these objections are necessarily true.

Extending Sounder to Olympia is far easier than some many think, as they don’t realize that the Capital Division branch line from East Olympia into Downtown Olympia runs within walking distance to the Capitol. The former Lacey branch line (now Woodland Trail) that would have been the preferred route and served a far greater potential for ridership was ripped out nearly 10 years ago. To rebuild the Lacey branch line would be nearly cost prohibitive considering the bridge over I-5 would need to be rebuilt, and many homes on some parts of the former right of way would have to be condemned.

The Capital Division is a branch line that serves Olympia and the Port of Olympia with roughly 10 miles of total track. Tacoma Rail leases this route from Union Pacific on a long-term agreement and UP has hinted at selling this branch line. Sounder would use 7 miles of this line between East Olympia and Downtown Olympia.

Continue reading “Sounder to Olympia is Not Out of Reach”

WSF Reaches the Fare Tipping Point


At the December 10, 2014 meeting of the Washington State Transportation Commission, Chair Anne Haley questioned whether ferry fares might be in danger of rising above the tipping point, where a small increase in fares causes households to make major life changes to dramatically reduce their ferry expenditures. Survey responses, Census data, and changing ridership and fare revenue patterns indicate that has already occurred for some ferry users:

  • Ferry ridership dropped over 15% from its 1999 peak, while regional population grew. “An expanding pool of customers ride the system less frequently
  • Fare revenue from multi-ride fare media declined more than $5M between 2006 and 2010, from $48.5M to $43.1M.
  • According to the 2014 FROG summer survey, which targeted regular riders, including commuters, “The percentage of riders saying WSF is a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ value in the summer period has decreased significantly compared to 2012 (68% vs. 80%).” But 91% of respondents to the 2014 summer on-board recreational survey (target: out of state riders) felt WSF was a good or very good value.
  • In Kitsap County, where more than half of all ferry trips start or end, Census data shows “[t]he share of households with children dropped 17.7% between 2000 and 2010, while the share with persons 65 and over jumped 25.5%.” King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties had much smaller shifts in household composition.

Which customers have reached the tipping point? Research points to high volume households – those that purchase multi-ride tickets, especially commuters. While single trip passengers and drivers (including seniors) are buying more tickets than they did in 2002, multi-ride ticket sales fell dramatically.

Continue reading “WSF Reaches the Fare Tipping Point”

Rider Info: Small Details Make a Big Difference


Is it really 21 minutes late, or is it ready to start on time?
Is it really 21 minutes late, or is it ready to start on time?

When I have friends visiting for the holidays, I like to take them on a “Best of Seattle” transit tour.  We could ride the route 98 to Lake Union Park or maybe catch Link to “St Light Rail & S Edmunds St” station for lunch.  Even though it’s the holidays, I’m sure I can trust all these scheduled arrivals I see in my favorite transit app.

What’s that?  You’ve never heard of the 98?  Did Sound Transit secretly add a new in-fill station when you weren’t paying attention?  Or maybe you spent the holidays like me, waiting for buses that were actually running late or not at all.

If you are using any one of the apps most Seattle riders use to navigate our transit system on a daily basis, I’ll forgive your confusion.  Apps like OneBusAway, Transit App, Google Maps, and others are all powered by transit data from local agencies and increasingly, that data is just plain wrong.

Route 98?  Better known as the SLU Streetcar.  “St Light Rail & S Edmunds St” Station?  Try Columbia City Station instead.  Yet these are the names King County Metro publishes in the official schedule data they release to developers.  Issues with holiday schedules and real-time data have been a problem for years and this season was no exception [Ed. note; Sound Transit says it has now resolved the holiday schedule issue.].  Even worse, there have been persistent issues with Metro real-time data, especially near the start of routes, since the upgrade to GPS years ago.

A transit agency might be tempted to dismiss these issues as minor, especially compared to the challenges of keeping buses running under perennial budget pressures.  However, at a time when service is in flux and traffic snarls even the most frequent routes, timely and accurate rider information is critical.  Given a choice between accurate real-time info and a slight reduction in headway on their favorite routes, I think many riders would actually pick real-time.

Continue reading “Rider Info: Small Details Make a Big Difference”

185th Street Station FEIS and Subarea Plan Public Comment



The updated Final Environmental Impact Statement for the N 185th Street Station was released on 26 December 2014, in addition to the 185th Street Station Subarea Plan.

One of the goals of the Subarea Plan is to rezone the area surrounding the station. This includes a significant amount of MUR-85’ (Mixed Use Residential – 85’ Tall) in the vicinity of the new station. Those familiar with area recognize the area is currently occupied by Shoreline Center and single family homes under R-6 (6 residences per acre).

The N 185th Street Station FEIS and Subarea Plan will be subject of a public hearing before the City of Shoreline Planning Commission on January 15, 2015. Comments can be submitted email to Miranda Redinger (

Additional Shoreline City Council discussion will take place on 9 and 23 February with public comment available. Council adoption of the Subarea Plan is tentatively scheduled for 23 February. Be advised, residents in the North City, Meridian Park and Echo Lake Communities are none too pleased with the FEIS and Subarea Plan. As Zach posted on Christmas, neighborhoods are setting up Facebook groups and websites to take on City Council and the Planning Commission.

Tim McCall is a resident of Shoreline.

Rainier Station 60% Design Open House


Rainier Station Platform Rendering
Rainier Station Platform Rendering

On Thursday night Sound Transit hosted the last 60% design open house (30% report here) for East Link at the Northwest African American Museum. The event was well attended with an estimated 50 people seated for the presentation. The presentation included comments by the project managers Tia Raamot & Cynthia Padilla, project consultant architect David Hewitt, STart program manager Barbara Luecke (with an assist from Tia Raamot) and a short Q & A session. Of note:

  • Construction on the I-90 express lane reconfiguration starts in 2015
  • Construction for EastLink starts in 2017 and continues until 2022

David Hewitt (Hewitt Architects) gave an overview of the design enhancements including acoustical and aesthetic treatments to sound walls (see above). More after the jump.

Continue reading “Rainier Station 60% Design Open House”

Ballard-UW Should Be The Next Light Rail Line in Seattle

Ballard-Downtown via UW. Map by Oran.
Ballard-Downtown via UW. Map by Oran.


[Update 3/30/2015: the author has published an update to this article.]

Keith Kyle wrote a very good article suggesting that we build a Ballard spur with added stations (which he calls “A4”). I would go even farther than Mr. Kyle and suggest that a Ballard-UW line would provide much greater value than anything Sound Transit is in the process of studying or proposing.  In fact, it should be the highest priority corridor for ST3.

Why Ballard?

Take a look at this interactive census map and zoom into Seattle. Keep in mind that the darker the area, the more densely populated it is. I think it should be obvious that almost of the dark (populous) areas are in the Central Area, downtown or the U-District.

Of course, population isn’t everything. People travel for various reasons, including employment, education and recreation. That criteria is harder to quantify, but since the UW is a major university, Capitol Hill has a lot of nightlife, and downtown is by far the biggest employment center in the area, all three rank really high on those standards as well. Given all that, it is no surprise that Sound Transit calls downtown, Capitol Hill and the UW the “three largest urban centers in the state of Washington”.  The UW in particular is growing, and will grow substantially in the coming years (even with current zoning).

Additionally, we must consider how light rail will interact with other forms of transit.  Looking at the census map again, it is clear that if we only serve the areas with really high density, we won’t have much of a light rail system. On the other hand, it is fairly easy to find contiguous, broad areas of Seattle that could be considered moderately high density (for this state).  While, most of these areas are not likely to be served by high-capacity transit for a long time, buses can serve these areas quite well.  Therefore any proposed light rail lines should provide good connections to the bus network.

Superior to the Queen Anne Routing

Continue reading “Ballard-UW Should Be The Next Light Rail Line in Seattle”

A Better Light Rail for Kirkland and Issaquah



Recently, Sound Transit completed its Central and East High Capacity Transit Corridor Study (Part 1 & Part 2). Martin summarized the Issaquah-Kirkland options last week. Along with similar studies of South King County and Lynnwood to Everett, the Central and East studies presumably lay the groundwork for a future Sound Transit 3 ballot measure. It is just a study and not a formal proposal, but it would be easy to take this document and make a proposal out of it.

As an Issaquah resident, I’m excited to see a future where Light Rail is a part of the transportation mix. Our town is seeking “Regional Growth Center” status and has a new “Central Issaquah Plan” which approves projects up to 10 stories. Yet, this study’s Eastside options seemed to have missed the boat (or train!).

The study makes heavy use of options involving so-called Bus Rapid Transit – of the 8 options considered for Kirkland / Bellevue Issaquah, 5 are BRT. As readers of this blog know, BRT, at least as currently managed in the Puget Sound area, is frequently not Rapid. Also, Kirkland and Issaquah already have decent BRT options via the 554, 540 and 555/556 (which combined have > 3,600 boardings per day, almost half the ridership of the Sounder trains). It would seem unlikely that spending a bunch of money on new buses is going to make this service much better than it is already. Many of the proposals essentially turn the Eastside Rail Corridor into a dedicated bus lane, which will share some of the downsides mentioned later in this article.

Continue reading “A Better Light Rail for Kirkland and Issaquah”

Let’s Build The Ballard Spur!

By KEITH KYLE, Outreach Director, Seattle Subway

The Ballard to University District line is why I got involved in transit advocacy in the first place. In November 2011, I was frustrated with the lack of progress on getting rail to Ballard and created The Ballard Spur Facebook page with a nice graphic made by my friend Cathy Rundell. Within a week I was getting calls from local papers who were intrigued by the idea and wanted more information, a true testament to how starved this town is for high quality transit. Soon I joined forces with Seattle Subway, and with a lot of help, we got the powers that be to get moving on transit relief for our city.

The fruit of our labor:  The Ballard to University District study is available for review and the year is 2014 – NOT 2020.

When reviewing options for high capacity transit, Seattle Subway starts by throwing out all the options that are not 100% grade separated because any portion of the line that interacts with traffic subverts the speed, reliability, and utility of the whole line. Unfortunately, that leaves us with only one presented option: Alternative A3, titled “via Wallingford Tunnel.”

A3 is a very good start. It is fully grade separated and very fast. Travel time would be as low as just 6 minutes, ridership as high as 26,000/day, and the cost would be just under $1.4-1.9 Billion. This corridor is the highest performing in cost per rider of any corridor Sound Transit has studied so far.

The Ballard Spur (Alternative “A4”)

A3 does have one glaring weakness, however: it needs more stations. A density map of that part of Seattle shows that several dense areas along the A3 alignment would be ideal for walking, biking, and transit connections if Sound Transit carefully located the stations.  A3 offers only one station in the 3.5 miles between Ballard and the University District. This stop spacing is too suburban for an area with many dense neighborhoods and attractions. Closer stops would maximize the utility for both pedestrian access and transfers from other modes.  This corridor is dense enough to justify full subway spacing of stops — which would mean full coverage of the corridor by the new line, replacing the need for the slow-as-molasses 44.

The good news is that adding just two stations and moving the Wallingford Station would maximize connections to both attractions and transit.

Continue reading “Let’s Build The Ballard Spur!”

Northgate Pedestrian Bridge Meeting


Option 3

Tuesday night SDOT held an open house for the proposed Northgate Station pedestrian bridge. It showcased three design alternatives and provided a brief funding update. The bridge itself will be 15-20 feet wide and have an overall length of 1800-2200 feet depending on the alignment. The trek from the station to College Way would be about 1/4 mile; the current trip is about 1.2 miles via either the north on Northgate Way or via the south on 92nd. 7,000 daily crossings are expected once Lynnwood Link comes online. The student population of North Seattle Community College is 14,000 plus about 400 staff. The bus stops in front of NSCC see about 600 daily riders today.

The bridge will connect at three points: ground level on the west side of I-5, ground level on the east side and at the mezzanine level of Northgate Station. For the west side there are two options: at the end of 103rd at College Way (W1) and at 100th (W2). For the east side: 1st and 103rd (E1), 1st and 100th (E3) or half way between the two (E2).

The bridge deck will be about 40 feet off the ground and the western approach would gently slope down. The east approach will cloverleaf and touch down on the west side of 1st. A cycle track is to be constructed running on the west side of 1st between 103rd and 92nd. A multi-use path is being constructed on the east side of 1st from 103rd to Northgate Way. There is a planned, unfunded greenway along 100th between College Way and Fremont Ave.

Design option 1: Cable stayed bridge

Continue reading “Northgate Pedestrian Bridge Meeting”

Lynnwood Link: Shoreline Community Meetings and Workshops



Those affected by, and interested in, the planned construction of light rail on the Lynnwood Link Corridor are encouraged to attend a series of community meetings related to planning for the two station areas in Shoreline, adjacent I-5 at 145th St and 185th St.

The topic of these meetings will be the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for 185th Street, and a Design Workshop for the 145th Station near Jackson Park. The meetings will be held at Shoreline City Hall on Midvale Avenue and N 175th Street. Shoreline City Hall is accessible via King County Metro routes 301, 348 (with a short walk from N 185th) and RapidRide E, 301, and 348.

The 185th Street Light Rail Station Subarea Plan community meeting (flyer) will be held on June 3rd. In a recent newsletter from the City of Shoreline, proposals for upzoning parcels in the immediate vicinity of the light rail station was developed. The upzoning of N 185th Street from Aurora to I-5 was envisioned. In addition to the 185th Street DEIS community meeting on June 3rd, the City has planned a walking tour around the 185th Street Station Subarea on June 13th (14:00-16:00).

The 145th Street Light Rail Station Design Workshop (flyer) will take place from 18:00 – 20:00 on June 12th. The design workshop appears to be looking for ideas to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to and from the light rail facility within the mobility study area. Similar to the walking tours around the 185th Street Station Subarea, a 145th Street Station Subarea walking tour is planned for June 27th (14:00 – 16:00).

Tim McCall is a resident of Shoreline.

Angle Lake Open House


Sound Transit
Sound Transit

Thursday night Sound Transit held an open house on the progress of the 1.6 mile South 200th Link extension. Construction of the guideway is approximately 40% complete to date. 50 of the 70 columns that support the elevated guideway have been erected thus far. Construction of the columns should be complete in about two months. Construction of the 1,166 pre-cast concrete segments, which takes place in Enumclaw, is 42% complete. The typical span between columns is comprised of 13 segments.

The most notable part of the presentation was the design of the 1,050 stall parking garage. Harbor Pacific / Graham won the design/build contract earlier this year. The garage will have five stories above ground and one below. The garage is sited immediately west of the station and will be C-shaped to fit around the existing PSE substation. There will be four vehicular entrances to the garage spread among each of the three streets that border the garage. A triangle-shaped piece of land to the west of the garage is being reserved for future TOD and has the potential to house 35,000 square feet of space.

View from Above the Station (Sound Transit)
View from Above the Station (Sound Transit)

The garage was designed with the “environment in motion” theme and will not be a “big plain concrete box”. Lengths of tubular steel will be placed around the perimeter of the garage and plaza to give it a flowing design. The station’s ground level plaza could be used for farmers markets and has provisions for food trucks. The ground floor of the garage will have retail space that will open up to the plaza. 10 spaces will be reserved in the garage for patrons of the retail business.

There will not be a specifically designed bus transfer facility but rather a pair of bus pullouts on each side of S 200th Street. No provisions are being made for bus layovers. A pair of sidewalks and five foot wide bicycle lanes will be installed on South 200th Street connecting to the Des Moines Creek trail 1/3 mile downhill.

Angle Lake station still scheduled to open around September 2016, which was the scheduled opening for U-Link (now pushed up to Q1 2016). There are five months of float in the systems testing phase, so it’s still possible that both extensions could open simultaneously at the end of Q1 2016.

Angle Lake Construction Photos


Atomic Taco/Flickr

[UPDATE: Cellphone waiting lot photo now actually shows the new lot.]

On Wednesday Sound Transit invited media to see the 365 foot long gantry being used to construct the guideway between SeaTac/Airport Station and the future Angle Lake Station. The 400 ton gantry hoists pre-cast concrete segments, each weighing 35-45 tons, in to place. The spans between columns are typically 150 feet long and a crew of 12 can be construct a span in 2-3 days. Approximately 80% of the columns in the 1.6 mile extension have been constructed to date.

The spans shown in the photos here are the two southernmost ones. Angle Lake Station will be a center platform station, so two separate spans come out of the station and merge in to one, which will eventually continue to Kent/Des Moines Road.

In August, construction will begin on the 1,050 stall garage, sited just north of the station.

In a somewhat related story, SeaTac’s Cell Phone Lot moved last week to a location on S 170th between the Airport Expressway. The lot has 200 spaces, up from 130 and trades mediocre tarmac views for a panorama of the Airport Link extension alignment.

More photos below the jump.

Continue reading “Angle Lake Construction Photos”

Bellevue TC & Hospital Station 60% Design


Bellevue Transit Center Station - Aerial View
Bellevue Transit Center Station – Aerial View

On Tuesday Sound Transit hosted an open house to present the 60% designs for the Bellevue Transit Center and Hospital stations on East Link, incorporating feedback from the 30% design presentation last May and the cost-savings changes approved in April 2013. These stations are expected to open in 2023 and will generate 7,000 of East Link’s projected 50,000 daily riders in 2030. The presentation and meeting materials are available on Sound Transit’s website. As elsewhere along East Link, ST is still in the process of selecting final names for these stations.

Highlights of the design changes include:

  • Canopies at the Bellevue Transit Center now cover the majority of the platforms.
  • A new eastern entrance to the Bellevue Transit Center station due to the revised station location along NE 6th St.
  • Hospital Station will have stops for RapidRide curbside along 8th in the existing locations and a drop-off loop for Access paratransit immediately adjacent to the station.
  • A Sound Transit owned and maintained pedestrian path will connect Hospital station directly to 116th Ave NE.
  • The tunnel underneath 110th Ave NE will be dug using the Sequential Excavation Method instead of the previously proposed cut-and-cover method.

Representatives from the City of Bellevue and the Bellevue Light Rail Permitting Citizen’s Advisory Committee were also present to introduce the Downtown Livability initiative, station area planning, the redesign of the Bellevue City Hall plaza, and a new downtown neighborhood association.

Continue reading “Bellevue TC & Hospital Station 60% Design”

OneBusAway for the Visually Impaired


Locating and reaching an unfamiliar bus stop may not be a great source of anxiety for most transit riders, especially when making use of a visual navigation tool with GPS. However, for people with visual impairments, orientation and mobility can be a challenge, particularly when navigating unfamiliar areas. Technologies such as Blinput and multi-sensors for the white cane aim to reduce certain challenges involved with navigation for the blind, yet they are often standalone tools developed particularly for the blind and low-vision community.

So how can popular navigation apps such as Google Maps or OneBusAway achieve equal access for this population? Can they also improve orientation and mobility for blind and low-vision transit riders? These are questions that my research group at the University of Washington seeks to answer as we continue to improve the reliability and usability of the Seattle-born transit app OneBusAway. Recently, we launched a new feature called StopInfo in the iPhone version of the app that provides information about the location and physical landmarks of bus stops in Puget Sound, largely motivated by helping visually-impaired transit riders locate stops.

A screenshot of StopInfo in the OneBusAway iPhone appStopInfo (left) is accessible through Apple’s native screen reader, VoiceOver, and provides information such as stop position from an intersection, whether there is a bus shelter, what type of sign is present and how far from the curb, as well as what other physical objects (such as trash cans and benches) are around. For visually-impaired pedestrians using a white cane, advance knowledge of what landmarks are present at a certain bus stop can help them know what to feel for, while positional information can let them know approximately how far they should expect to travel from the intersection. But this information is not only useful to the visually-impaired. Information such as how well-lit the stop is might help people travel more safely and confidently at night. Displaying whether a stop is temporarily or permanently closed can also be useful for all people using the app.

One of of the more novel features of StopInfo is how the information itself is collected. While the starting information comes from King County Metro’s database, anyone using OneBusAway on an iPhone can add data that Metro doesn’t track. In particular, we hope that Seattle Transit Blog readers will help out – when you are looking at the arrival information for a stop on the OneBusAway iPhone app, tap the information symbol and you’ll land on the StopInfo page. There you can view, add ,or verify information. Logging in via a Google, Facebook, or Twitter account is only required to add free-form comments, but is helpful for the research group to see who is participating.

We hope to soon expand to other platforms for which OneBusAway is available, including Android and Windows Phone. We are currently in the preliminary stage of our study, and are working with visually-impaired participants to evaluate usefulness and design. If results look promising, we are looking to make this a permanent addition to the app, and make it available for other regions covered by OneBusAway.

For more information on the research study and how you can become involved, check out the announcement on OneBusAway’s blog, read about it on the StopInfo page itself, or contact us by e-mail.

RapidRide E and 65 Inauguration Ride Saturday


[Ed. Note: I’m unable to confirm that any STB staff writers will be there, but consider this is a semi-official meetup of the STB reader community.]

Tomorrow is Metro’s service change, so I invite you to join me on a tour of RapidRide E’s first day and the #65 Jackson Park extension. Meet at the Yesler Way and Prefontaine Place station at 9:30am. Here’s the schedule:

9:35-10:24am, RapidRide E (#675 in the trip planner), Yesler & Prefontaine Place – Aurora Village TC. See the new Linden configuration.

10:33-11:10, RapidRide E, Aurora Village TC – 46th & Aurora. See the Aurora routing without Linden.

11:15-11:30, #44, 46th & Aurora – 45th & University Way NE

11:33-12:05pm, leisurely walk down University Way, possible quick glimpse of the Farmer’s Market, takeout lunch opportunities at Thanh Vi (banh mi), Gyro-cery (gyros), Pagliacci (pizza)

12:05-12:42, #65, Campus Pkwy & University Way NE – 145th & 19th NE. See the 145th Street extension. Walk four blocks to 15th.

12:53-1:15, #348, 15th NE & 145th – Northgate TC.

1:16-1:45, #41, Northgate TC – Westlake Station.

If you’re coming for just part of the tour, the 9:35 E and the 12:05 #65 are the best meeting points.

Previously I had suggested an earlier 65 but that doesn’t leave enough time in case one of the buses is late, it’s better to wait in the U-District than elsewhere, and it gives time for a lunch. I nixed the 512 because the 347/348 is both more frequent and closer than walking to I-5.

What Seattle Can Learn From New Jersey’s Superbowl


Attending the Superbowl was never my plan, but when tickets that I could afford came my way I found myself saying “Why not me?”  I went, and the rest is history.

The New York/New Jersey metro area is massive, with multiple transportation options that would make any transit wonk beam with pride — feet, bike, notorious cabs, car services, busses, light rail, and heavy rail.  All proportionally allocated serving not just daily commuters, but also special events.  New York/New Jersey is so huge, hosting a major event like the Superbowl dominates one avenue, but walk two blocks away and you wouldn’t know 50,000 people are partying behind you in the streets.

To get attendees to the site the word was put out: take the train or a fan bus, no cabs, no walk-ups, no tailgating. The NJ rail network is sturdy and capable, but confusing at the best of times.  There is no one-seat ride from Manhattan and most of Jersey, and while the transfer is doable it isn’t glamorous.  Attendees were funneled into Secaucus where they were screened before transferring to a line to the stadium.  Queues backed up through the station to the platforms, leaving arriving trains unable to unload. People waited for hours, fights broke out, it was less than awesome.

Advanced tickets on chartered fan busses that left from several Manhattan locations were made available, and quickly sold out.  These one-seat rides were arranged by the Port Authority, staffed by volunteers and licensed drivers.  NYC police escorted these busses through traffic and into the Holland Tunnel where they rode lanes dedicated for the event to the stadium.  Average time from mid-town to the stadium was under 1 hour.

So how, with all of this infrastructure and planning, could thousands of people be left stranded for hours on platforms?  The sweltering heat inside stations (we dressed for an Ice Bowl) caused some to panic and be overcome, requiring medical attention.  How could you not, with ticket in hand, simply walk to an entry gate and expect to get in?  Those to tried were turned away to a station to pay for a bus ride to the parking lot.  How could busses, with dedicated lanes, be the only sane transportation option?
Continue reading “What Seattle Can Learn From New Jersey’s Superbowl”

Seattle 2035


Futurama citySeattle is in the midst of its update to the city’s comprehensive plan, dubbed “Seattle 2035“. Washington State’s Growth Management Act requires that cities and counties across the state update their comprehensive plans every 10 years to adequately plan for a 20-year horizon. The current update cycle has many other cities and counties working to complete their updates by the state-required June 30, 2015 deadline.* Prior to the update process, a lot of behind the scenes work is done: buildable land and capacity analyses, reviews of effectiveness metrics from past plans, demographic and job projections, analysis of current levels of service, and much more.

With the launch of Seattle 2035, two years of public engagement begins, led by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). The public can review the background profile of the comprehensive plan and comment about where future planning policy should go. Whatever ultimately comes out of the comprehensive plan update, these policies will guide implementing regulations over the next decade and more.

If you would like to get involved, be sure to check out the website, comment, and attend future meetings. A great upcoming kick-off is the Seattle Pecha Kucha and open house Thursday:

Pecha Kucha Seattle, the City of Seattle and the Seattle Art Museum are collaborating on Big Ideas – Imagining Seattle’s Future, 2035 & Beyond, an evening of presentations by leaders from across Seattle’s innovation / creation community. The theme will be exploring grand visions of Seattle’s future. These discussion will hopefully inspire great conversations and ideas as we begin the process of updating Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan.

The event will be held Thursday, January 30th, 5:30 – 8:30 pm at the PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park.   There will be an Open House ahead of the event featuring information about the Comprehensive Plan and Seattle’s growth over the past twenty years. (4:30 – 5:30 pm)

*I probably should plug Snohomish County’s 2015 Update.

Stephen Fesler is a land use planner working for Snohomish County’s planning department. He is passionate about urbanist land use practices like urban design, heritage preservation, transport, and rural and environmental conservation. He moved from Kent to Seattle in Spring 2012 and now resides in the University District. He commutes via the 512 and regularly can be seen on the 44, 49, and 70s.