News roundup: service change

Pierce Transit 2021 Gillig Low Floor Electric 526

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News roundup: safety

SEATTLE--303 at Westlake

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Join the Lynnwood Link Mobility Board

Light rail tracks running toward Northgate Transit Center (Lizz Giordano)

Metro usually gathers a citizen sounding board when it’s planning a major service change. It’s a way to gather impressions after detailed technical discussion instead of drive-by comments.

They’re currently collecting applicants for the service change associated with Lynnwood Link. If you’re willing to approach it with an open mind, think about the community as a whole instead of your own needs, and commit the necessary time, it can be a rewarding experience and do some good for the region. Please consider it!

News roundup: enforcement

Buses jammed on 3rd Ave

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Comment on the WSBLE

Last week Sound Transit released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the West Seattle/Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE), the long-awaited Link line from Alaska Junction to 15th and Market, via Sodo, Downtown, South Lake Union, Uptown, and 15th. The comment period began today. View the online open house and comment here.

Really Deep Stations

Both Doug Trumm and Mike Lindblom ($) have already explained the very deep stations proposed along underground segments downtown quite thoroughly. But briefly: typically, the deepest stations in a system are among the lower-ridership ones (like Washington Park in Portland). Westlake, Midtown, and Chinatown would be among the deepest in North America but also among the busiest in the system. Stations this deep mostly depend on elevators, which limit throughput, have an (ahem) spotty maintenance record, and increase the length of every trip that uses the station.

Worse, there is no engineering reason for Chinatown to be deep. It’s a potential concession to a neighborhood that is tired of decades of disruptive construction projects nearby. There is also no appetite to cheaply and shallowly cut-and-cover 5th Avenue downtown for similar reasons. Hopefully, early media attention will help politicians stand up for future riders, and engineers to get a little more creative.

Ridership

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Big housing bills in the legislature

Duplexes

Seattle’s new Mayor does not seem to be a fertile source of pro-housing legislation, having campaigned on skepticism about changing single family zones. But instead of struggling for dimes, we can pick up dollar bills at the state level. The bills are SB 5670 and HB 1782, and as explained by local treasure Dan Bertolet, would legalize:

Up to sixplexes on all residential lots within a half-mile of a major transit stop in cities with populations of 20,000 or more.

Up to fourplexes on all residential lots elsewhere in cities of 20,000 or more.

Duplexes on all residential lots in cities with populations of at least 10,000.

There are also substantial limits on parking minima, and some anti-displacement measures. Cities could skip these prescriptions and instead adopt city-wide density minima, but they would have to show this did not have disparate impacts — no putting all the growth in the “urban renewal” sectors and leaving the upscale places untouched.

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Link a little slower than expected

Focus on the Sexy Light Rail

Sound Transit recently released a revised Link schedule that will take effect January 8th “to better reflect actual trip times.” The main difference is that a Northgate-Angle Lake trip turns out to be 4 minutes slower, from 53 minutes to 57.

There are four spots where it loses one of those minutes: Roosevelt-Northgate, UW-U District, Westlake-Capitol Hill, and Mt. Baker-Beacon Hill. No doubt, to some extent these particular segments are not the only source of delay, but just where it rounds up to full minutes.

This is actually a good news story: Columbia City-Capitol Hill will still be 21 minutes, 1 minutes less than the time pre-pandemic. I’d speculate it to be a function of recovering ridership, and the resulting frictions adding 7% to overall times. But ST’s John Gallagher says that the Northgate segment is a bit slower than expected, and on the older segments two more minutes makes it easier to stay on schedule and respect timed transfers.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan Headshot

No one is going to remember the Durkan administration, positively or negatively, based on its transit or land use legacy. The twin crises of the pandemic and a reckoning with racist policing will dominate the historical record. But here at STB, we always size up the outgoing mayor (Murray, McGinn, Nickels) on this basis. And her legacy will largely be stasis, with isolated progress and some major setbacks.

The preceding Murray administration had largely locked in a transportation agenda with a vehicle license fee for bus service, Move Seattle, and Sound Transit 3. A first Durkan term would therefore always have been one of consolidation. Ms. Durkan campaigned as a policy continuity candidate from a productive but scandal-ridden predecessor. On this measure, her term was a disappointment.

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News roundup: no better friend

B&W of A Sound Transit Link Leaving A Foggy Northgate for Angle Lake
Avgeek Joe/Flickr

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ST Board makes the obvious decision

OMF at S. 336th St is “preferred”

On Thursday, the Sound Transit Board made the responsible decision and designated S. 336th St in Federal Way as the “preferred” site of South Link’s Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF). It has not actually eliminated the other two sites from consideration, but the process will put somewhat more weight on 336th.

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News roundup: more

Watch Your Step

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Stay Healthy Streets aren’t bold, they’re a layup

Stay Healthy Streets temporary signage on 17th Ave NW

One of the better local initiatives to come out of the pandemic are Stay Healthy Streets, roads minimally reconfigured (usually by putting a sign in the roadway) to prioritize non-auto uses. Theoretically, these roads are for local access only.

There’s a happy narrative where Seattle stood up to the car interests and the NIMBYs in favor of healthier modes of transport. Sometimes the government has to implement a policy for people to see that it works and make it popular. Indeed, a recent NPI poll of Seattlites reveals supporters exceed opponents by 39 points. But it seems to me the neighbors didn’t need to be convinced of anything.

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