News roundup: shear wave velocity

King County Metro 2015 New Flyer XT40 4381 and Sound Transit 2017 Alexander Dennis Enviro 500 91719C
Zack Heistand/Flickr

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Which avenue?

At first glance, there is little rhyme or reason to which buses use which avenues in Downtown Seattle. In fact, there is some structure to these allocations, although there are a bunch of exceptions. Assigning rules does point to some situations where a swap or two could allow heavy bus users to commit it to memory.

For simplicity, let’s only worry ourselves with outbound buses.

AvenueRuleBuses that meet the rule but aren’t hereBuses that don’t meet the rule but are here
1stNo busesN/A125
2ndDeparting via I-5 South, I-90, or SR 50963037, 412*, 413*, 415*, 421*, 425*, 435*
3rdLeaving by neither I-5, I-90, SR 509, nor SR 52037, 12541, 304*, 355*
4thCT and ST buses that leave via I-5 North or SR 520412, 413, 415, 421, 425, 435
5thMetro buses leaving via I-5 North or SR 52041, 304, 355630

* Although the bus is ultimately heading north, board it at a southbound stop.

There are presumably myriad reasons for deviations from the rules. The 630, for instance, starts from First Hill so going all the way to 2nd would take time. But the simplicity advantages of swapping, say, the 41 for the 37 and 125 are pretty clear.

A glance at the CT system map doesn’t reveal any obvious rhyme or reason to the 2nd/4th split . As we have 5 years before all of those routes go away, perhaps a revision is not in the cards.

If I’ve missed something, please indicate that in the comments.

News roundup: Happy Thanksgiving

Seattle Metro Bus in Bellevue, WA. New Modern Electric buses are now replacing the dirty diesel polluting buses.

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ST considers stopping some buses at Northgate

Sound Transit is considering reworking both ST and Community Transit buses that come down I-5 from Snohomish County when Northgate Station opens in 2021.

  • Sound Transit buses 510, 511, 512, and 513 would all turn around at Northgate, allowing them to run more frequently.
  • 800-series Community Transit routes would also turn around at Northgate instead of serving the University District Directly.
  • 400-series CT routes would continue downtown, as they do today.

There is a survey. Public meetings begin Nov. 20th, and are listed at the end.

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News roundup: go it alone


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Vacant luxury condos are only a problem if you have crappy zoning

Four Seasons under construction. (Joe Mabel [CC BY-SA 3.0 (])

Katherine Khashimova Long recently published a fine piece of reporting ($) on how many “luxury” condos have unclear ownership, potentially mere financial assets that are left “empty as the city grows less affordable for its middle- and lower-class residents.”

That may very well be the outcome thanks to our many arbitrary restrictions on building enough housing supply to meet demand. But in a more-forward thinking policy environment, the desire of the world’s super-wealthy to park their cash in Seattle would be a huge opportunity.

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News roundup: dropping

Sound Transit Express

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Election results

One can get election results at virtually any local outlet, but since you rightly eschew all news sources besides Seattle Transit Blog, here’s the stuff you won’t get anywhere else. Candidates we endorsed in bold.

I-976: Yes (55%) leads No (45%) statewide.

King County District 2: Zahilay leads Gossett 62-37

King County District 4: Kohl-Welles beats Doerr 73-26.

King County District 6: Balducci over Hirt 77-23.

King County District 8: McDermott over Neher 82-17.

Seattle District 1: Herbold 51, Tavel 48

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Seattle TBD Annual Report

Just in time for you to vote on gutting it via I-976, the Seattle Transportation Benefit District issued its fourth Annual Report on what it’s doing with your $60 vehicle license fee and 0.1% sales tax. It’s long but there are lots of pretty graphs. Some takeaways:

More bus service

The percentage of households within a 10-minute walk of “very frequent transit” has grown from 25% to 70% since 2015, well on the way to the 2025 goal of 72%. (More housing construction in frequent transit corridors, as well as U-Link and its associated restructure, have also undoubtedly helped).


Impressively, a sixth of households can walk to 2 or 3 very frequent routes, and 12.8% can walk to four or more. From five very frequent routes in 2015, Seattle is now up to eleven. It’s not hard to see how Seattle has bucked national ridership trends.

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We get a weekend of Link back

As the first stage of the project to connect the East Link track to the existing line, Sound Transit planned three weekend closures to build a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square. ST needs it to continue operations during a 10-week project to actually build the track switch, from January to March 2020.

The second of these weekend closures finished the platform, so that ST could cancel the third closure yesterday. The closure would have been November 9-10.

Each closure involved a bus bridge serving stations from Sodo to Capitol Hill. Usually a feature of unplanned service disruptions, the bridge will return for three complete closures next year. They were supposed to run in pairs every 7 minutes.

Sound Transit

I had bus alternatives (and, in one pinch, a car) and didn’t miss Link much on a quiet weekend. How did others think ST and Metro did with the bridge? How was signage, frequency, crowding, and reliability?

News roundup: a mystery

Redmond Technology Center

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For “rich cities”, read “exclusionary zoning”

Lake Sammamish and City. By Jelson25 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In a metropolitan area, or in a very large city that encompasses a wide range of economic activity, a high median income is a badge of honor. It usually involves some combination of an educated populace, vibrant research institutions, policies that help entrepreneurs, and high quality of life.

For a city, like Sammamish ($), that is a small part of a larger area, it means something slightly different. Policies in Sammamish are not creating high-paying jobs in Puget Sound; instead, they are skimming off the cream of that growth through exclusionary zoning.

Sammamish residents don’t have higher-paying jobs due to the business environment there. It’s because the zoning is designed to ban any home that a person in a less remunerative profession could afford, or any features that are attractive to most young people starting out in their careers.

This isn’t to slag on the personal choices of Sammamish residents: a place without poor people is likely to have less violent crime and schools with higher test scores. It’s a practical choice, if not an idealistic or commendable one. And if the merely affluent cutting themselves off from the poor is less than ideal, the plutocratic communities designed to ensure low property tax rates ($) that don’t pay for anyone else’s services are an inequality Chernobyl.

If County and State leaders are interested in doing something about inequality without entering the choppy waters of an income tax, they could do worse than forcing the annexation of these wealthy enclaves into larger neighboring cities, and shifting more of the tax burden from the local level to higher ones that make it harder to opt out of providing services for society.

News roundup: bonfire of the Limebikes

Bikes and Transit
Paul Kimo McGregor/Flickr

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News roundup: outer counties

King County Water Taxi Seattle
Paul Kimo McGregor/Flickr

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Comment on the Sound Transit 2020 SIP

It’s Service Implementation Plan time again. The 2020 (draft) version of the plan has three fairly significant bus route changes:

  1. The 540 and 541, both variations on a line from the U-District to the Eastside, would go away in favor of the 544, a Microsoft-SLU run with a few key stops in between. It would run every 15 minutes in the peak.
  2. Weekend 577 trips would continue on from Federal Way to go to Auburn, to increase frequency between the two cities.
  3. Route 566 would abandon 2 stops on I-405.

The first change certainly opens up a lot of interesting transfer opportunities. Although midday and weekend frequencies aren’t high enough to make it work, the emerging system certainly resembles canonical “open BRT” with relatively clear right-of-way on the 520 bottleneck and tendrils fanning out to UW, Downtown, SLU, Kirkland, Redmond, and Bellevue.

You can take a survey or show up for the Oct. 3 public hearing at 12:30 at Union Station.

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ShareNow, regulation, and the future

SounderBruce / Flickr

The “carshare” business (free-floating, short-term rentals) is on the ropes. ReachNow is long gone. Limepod is closing its Seattle operation in December. The survivor, ShareNow (née Car2Go), is pulling out of 5 North American cities including Portland. A few weeks ago, ShareNow rolled out its $4.99 fee to park outside of high-traffic areas, and “up to” $4.99 credit to move it back in, in an effort to cover some costs. It’s enough for some to decide the business model is in a death spiral.

That would be a shame, because carshare has some societal benefits. It changes driving from a large fixed cost to an incremental one, which should discourage driving. It also eliminates one of the main objections to getting rid of a car entirely. So it’d be nice to keep these businesses around or create a public equivalent.

At the moment, we don’t really know if the business model is sustainable, because the current market is shaped by lossmaking “rideshare” providers flooding the market with cheap door-to-door service. As with anything unsustainable, this will one day end and leave one of three equilibria:

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News Roundup: skyrocketing

Buses severely backed up by the rally
Spencer Thomas/Flickr

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