Martin joined the blog in Fall 2007 and became Editor-in-Chief in 2009. He is originally from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., but has lived in the Greater Seattle area since 1997. He resides with his family on Capitol Hill and works as a software engineering manager downtown. Key Routes: Link, 49, 10, 60, 9
On October 8th System Expansion Committee received briefings on various capital projects. The centerpiece was a detailed review of East Link. The system is 85% complete, within the budget set in 2015, and on schedule for opening in July 2023. But there’s also some bad news.
Major civil engineering should be done in early 2021, and systems work by early 2022. Most of 2022 will be “pre-revenue” testing, and from September 2022 is 9 months of “float”. But some things are not going well.
The immediate practical importance is that various transit and transportation agencies will not have to refund the money they have been collecting since I-976 passed, easing pressure on budgets statewide.
All justices but Barbara Madsen, who found only one reason to reject it instead of two, signed the ruling. Story here ($).
Seattle loves its bus service. As pandemic measures temporarily reduce demand, new challenges like the West Seattle Bridge closure arise. It would be irresponsible to reject a measure that doesn’t even fully replace the tax that it succeeds.
In 2014, Seattle approved a $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax to fund increases in bus service that greatly increased the number of Seattle residents within walking distance of bus routes that run every 10 minutes all day. That tax expires on December 31st, and Metro has already cut some service in anticipation of losing that revenue.
Booming tax revenues, and a lack of bus capacity at Metro, led Seattle to find other worthy transit-related goals. Notably, Mayor Durkan introduced the “ORCA Opportunity” program, providing free passes to Seattle Public School students and therefore nearly eliminating youth fares in the City of Seattle.
Two weeks ago I criticized Sound Transit’s 2021 plans for another full year of substandard Link service. Now that I’m corresponding with someone who actually still works at Sound Transit, I was able to get a reply.
I had three concerns: (1) that a high-capacity trunk line should have high frequency even if ridership is low, (2) restoring most service to the peak is perverse if the problem is lower peak ridership, and (3) fears that ST would not be flexible enough to ramp up service as people returned to work in 2021.
The first is essentially unanswerable: it’s not a data-driven argument, but ST can simply choose to meet previous expectations of its customers, and the assumptions that underpin the bus network, or not. But the data they provided does provide reassurance on the other fronts.
From current trends it’s worth reminding everyone that STB has a comment policy. If the post is about a Queen Anne bus lane or the SDOT budget, and you’re deep into homeless policy or Thomas Piketty, you are off topic.
We don’t really encourage non-transit discussions here, but if you must have one, we provide two open threads a week where you’re likely to be left alone.
Commenters compulsively incapable of staying on topic (or routinely violating other aspects of the policy) will have their comments delayed in a moderation queue, and in extreme cases of ill intent will be banned.
Reconnect West Seattle’s bus brainstorm proposed replacing some car trips traveling between West Seattle and Southeast Seattle with an alternative that would take up less road space. This market certainly isn’t well served by transit today. Witness Route 50:
The eastern half of this route used to head downtown as the 39, but this was redundant with Link. The 50 is now a milk run that provides East-West connectivity between the major corridors in both the Rainier Valley (Rainier, MLK, Beacon) and West Seattle (Delridge, 35th, California).
In theory, it also provides a coveted East-West Connection in one of the few southern corridors that can do this in a roughly straight line. Indeed, zipping along the West Seattle Bridge would have been time-competitive with driving. But instead, it takes a costly detour through Sodo for a couple of reasons:
On September 21st, the Council approved 9-0 an agreement for street improvements funded by ArenaCo.
There are three transit improvements:
“Converting a travel lane on 1stAve N to a bus-only lane between Denny Way and Republican St”
“Installing a transit queue jump at 1stAve N and Republican St”
“Converting a travel lane on Queen Anne Ave N to a bus-only lane from Mercer St to John St”
The total project cost is $990,000. $594,000 comes directly from ArenaCo. The remaining $396,000 will also come from ArenaCo, but will count towards the $3.5m in street use fees that ArenaCo previously owed.
The legislation also authorizes another $445,000 in credits for various bike and pedestrian improvements, including a raised protected bike lane.
Today is the last day you can take the survey on Sound Transit’s proposed 2021 service levels. You can read Brent’s summary of the very complicated ST Express changes. It’s worth highlighting that the expectation that Link will run at 15-minute intervals through all of 2021 undermines the entire rationale of light rail.
Given plummeting ridership, sharp cuts at the start of the pandemic and a gradual restoration make a lot of sense. But if “reduced rush hour demand” is the reason to still keep service levels low, it’s perplexing that the worst hit times are everywhere but rush hour, where riders might wait 2 minutes more than they did in 2019:
SDOT’s plan for replacing 4,800 cars per hour that used the West Seattle Bridge at peak includes 1,280 more people per hour riding buses in the peak direction. Once Covid has receded to the point that most people are returning to work, how feasible is this?
That’s a little under 11 full articulated buses over what was running the bridge in 2019, or a 42% increase in people. The July 2020 draft SDOT framework comes up with a bunch of ideas:
Feigned helplessness is one of the least attractive qualities in a state or local politician. Dunking on Olympia, or on President Trump, is the cheapest kind of talk when policy tools exist in Washington to address our most serious problems. Not all of our current crises are solvable with money, but it could blunt the worst effects, and nothing is stopping us except political will at the state level.
Of course, it’s much easier to blame Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell for failing to rescue state and local governments. This blame is richly deserved: the federal government can borrow at very low interest rates, in a currency it can print in theoretically infinite quantities.