News roundup: President Amtrak

Yesler Cable Car #20, 3rd and Yesler, Seattle, 1940

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South Bellevue garage to open in September

South Bellevue garage facade and station. Image: Sound Transit

As the Sound Transit 3 news gets worse and worse, Sound Transit 2 continues a stream of good news as the bulk of the projects converge on opening. Today, we found out the South Bellevue parking garage will open in September, which restores the spaces for route 550 and 241 riders, and then some. This may be as much as two years before the Link line itself.

The garage has 1,500 spaces.

This publication is not a big fan of parking garages. But if there’s anywhere in the Link system there ought to be a garage, it’s here: hemmed in by a wetland and a neighborhood that won’t countenance upzoning (also up a steep hill), this station exists because it is on the way to downtown Bellevue, sits at an elbow in the line that allows it to draw from a wide swath of the Eastside, and proximity to two interstates.

Help guide Metro’s return to service

Orange Shoes and Shorts

As the County returns to full economic life, Metro is ramping up service. In keeping with their normal service reorganization procedure, there will be a citizen advisory board:

We are looking for participants for a workshop to provide input on how we prioritize what service to restore. 

Participants will: 

·         Attend a virtual workshop in the first two weeks of February 2021 to review Metro’s response to the COVID outbreak, 

·         Help Metro planning staff evaluate what types of service are most important to communities, 

·         Be compensated for their time and participation, and 

·         Be accommodated through interpretation and ADA access, as needed.  

If you are interested in this opportunity to participate in Metro’s planning, please respond to mjahshan@kingcounty.gov by January 21, 2021.

Longtime readers know I did one of these boards back in 2008 (unfortunately for me, well before one got paid to do so). It was an interesting window into the many considerations planners actually balance, as well as an education into what ordinary people in your community really think.

As always, I think people with a solid grasp of planning principles and a system view can be a useful corrective to narrower interests, as long they are willing to listen, open-minded, and empathetic.

News roundup: resuming

King County Metro

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News roundup: about right

waiting for the bus

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What’s the point of RapidRide?

RapidRide R Concept via Metro

Ashley Archibald reports some locals aren’t so sad Metro is shelving RapidRide R (Rainier):

Much of the Rainier Valley community “doesn’t really want the RapidRide R,” Kidde [of Rainier Valley Greenways] said, adding that they don’t like the reduction in the number of stops, the removal of the Prentice loop at the south end of the route nor the RapidRide-style fare enforcement where officers check payment on the bus. Advocates fear that the new fare enforcement will result in disproportionate enforcement against people of color.

Important source material includes longtime 7 driver Nathan Vass’ essay opposing the R line. It has some valuable firsthand testimony and some ideas I completely agree with. It also has not a lot of data and a weird assertion that RapidRide “counts as gentrification.”

Notably, Metro is going ahead with the BAT lanes, probably the most important substantive improvement. But really, what is RapidRide?

Continue reading “What’s the point of RapidRide?”

What to watch for: 2021

Northgate Station

2020 was not… great, but 2021 will be a major year for transit openings and restructuring:

News roundup: testing

M/V Evergreen State waiting off Fauntleroy

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ST suspends fare enforcement another year

Sound Transit Fare Enforcement...

In addition to formally approving lower concession fares for Sounder, last week the Sound Transit board approved a fare enforcement pilot which would replace fare enforcement security contractors with Sound Transit staff “fare ambassadors” with different uniforms and an emphasis on rider education and de-escalation. As part of the pilot, there will be no citations in 2021.

The board is pushing the clearly reluctant CEO, Peter Rogoff, to severely weaken the threat of getting caught. The “Fare Enforcement Action Plan,” a guideline for what the Board expects from staff in 2022, envisions no law enforcement involvement in pure payment disputes, more warnings, and a lower fine.

The big question, of course, is if lax enforcement eventually leads to much less observance by the fare-paying public. Letting the poorest riders keep their $1.50 will not make a real difference in Sound Transit’s finances, but broader indifference to fares (which some activists ultimately want) definitely would.

News roundup: seamless

King County Metro 2015 New Flyer XT60 4524

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Metro’s new “The Dash”

Yesterday, Metro announced “The Dash“, a new data visualization tool (also available in Spanish with other languages coming soon). Metro continues to lap other agencies in putting data about its service quality out in a timely and attractive format.

If you’re just trying to catch a bus that won’t pass you by due to capacity limits, this data isn’t particularly helpful. Instead, this data might provide a more informed kind of public comment, leveraging data instead of anecdotes, and aware of how other routes are faring in the current environment.

“King County Metro is committed to providing mobility for all, but that does not just mean providing the mobility services themselves, but also the information that will empower the public to use them,” said Terry White, Metro’s general manager. “At Metro, we value transparency and continuous improvement, and recognized the interconnectedness between the two. We’re pleased that The Dash will help move us forward on both of those fronts, and help the public be better informed about our services.”

News roundup: more chatter

Kitsap Transit Foot Ferry Waterman

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Repair is the right choice

Last month Mayor Durkan decided to repair the West Seattle Bridge instead of replacing it. This is faster and cheaper, but means the next big bridge project in this corridor (except Link construction) will be decades sooner.

I don’t know if the war-on-cars people ever converged to a position on this subject, but this is the right call, for three reasons:

1. It’s a bad time for new capital commitments. We all have opinions on the post-pandemic future of commuting, but any honest person doesn’t know for sure what traffic patterns will be in 2025. It makes sense to wrap up projects that are almost done (like Sound Transit 2), or putter along in the planning phase of far-out stuff (like ST3), but it’s a uniquely bad time to start motion on a giant transportation project. In other words, it’s premature to take a big step back by canceling something, but also unnecessarily risky to add big new commitments.

Continue reading “Repair is the right choice”

Link frequency dropping again

Link Freight

In what is becoming a remarkable year of operational failures, beginning Monday Link peak frequency will drop to 12 minute intervals (from 8 minutes) because they’re running out of operators due to Covid-19. Things will remain the same at off-peak times.

Link operators are provided by Metro. While Link is obviously more critical than most (if not all) bus routes, Metro’s Jeff Switzer explains that “Transit operators in bus operations aren’t directly interchangeable with Link light rail operators, so it’s not as simple as taking a bus driver off the street and putting them in a light rail vehicle.”

Tacoma Link, directly operated by Sound Transit, will run a Sunday schedule both today and December 12th, for similar reasons.

The various online schedule and real-time tools are likely to be inaccurate during this period.

There is no word on when the previous week’s level of service will be restored, which in itself is reduced from what we enjoyed in the before times.

News roundup: snapshot

Kitsap Transit 2005 Gillig Low Floor 779

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Free ORCA through February

Four ORCA cards. Photo by Oran.

Yesterday Metro announced that they are waiving the $5 ORCA fee through February 28th, 2021. The stated reason is to encourage contactless payment during the pandemic.

To avoid hoarding, adults are limited to three cards and youth to one. However, adults can get the cards at ticket vending machines, so I’m not sure how this limit is enforced. From the announcement:

“You can get your free ORCA card by:

  • Calling ORCA Customer Service: 888-988-6722 (ORCA cards typically take 5-7 business days to arrive by mail) – adult cards only
  • Visiting a store that sells ORCA cardsadult cards only
  • Using ORCA ticket vending machinesadult cards only
  • Completing and mailing in this ORCA Card order formadult or youth cards
  • Visiting an ORCA Customer Service Office (NOTE: You may experience extended wait times in person while measures are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19) – adult or youth cards

Please note that this offer is NOT available for cards purchased on ORCAcard.com. Due to technical limitations, cards on the website will continue to be $5.

Agencies have been extremely reluctant to reduce or eliminate the fee, but instead have had free ORCA events every few years. If you’ve been holding out, it’s a good opportunity to finally get a card.

Choice riders, and not

Where transit boardings have fallen the most (blue) vs the routes with the least ridership loss (yellow) (image: King County Metro)

There were many interesting themes in the recent struggle over a legislative “striker” trying to keep North Seattle service hours from moving south. But one of the interesting threads is a shift of emphasis in transit activism from quantitative ridership metrics towards economic and racial equity.

In public comment to the King County Council, Disability Rights Washington’s Anna Zivarts proposed a fairly extreme version of this trend, which deserves to be quoted in full:

Continue reading “Choice riders, and not”