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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17267029

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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News roundup: setback

Summer Shoes and a Pair of Wellies
prima seadiva/Flickr

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ST adds new light rail options to the mix

West Seattle Junction from above (SounderBruce)

At the direction of the Sound Transit board, staff studied several new ST3 alignment options to the same level of design as existing options. They looked at new variants at Delridge, Sodo, and in the core of Ballard. They presented the result to the system expansion committee yesterday.


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News roundup: problematic

South Bellevue Station (SounderBruce/Wikimedia)

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Link Transit expanding

Link Transit’s electric bus in Wenatchee (SounderBruce/Wikimedia Commons)

In a ballot measure that escaped our notice, on August 6 voters in Chelan and Douglas Counties approved a two-phase sales tax increase (by 12 points) to fund a service expansion. The first 0.1% will come into effect in January 2020, and the second in 2022. The current rate is 0.4% out of a possible 0.9%.

Link Transit

Next July, the agency promises increases in Saturday service. If they are able to fill open positions, Link will also start running service on Sundays. For urbanite tourists, Sunday service opens up a wealth of possibilities to get around the area after traveling to Wenatchee without a car, which is not difficult.

You can find more details about Link Transit’s plan for the next few years here.

News Roundup: a new name

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ShareNow corner cases

Earlier this month, ShareNow announced a tiered pricing model where drives that left a car outside an inner “Zone A” would incur a $4.95 surcharge, and drives that brought cars back into Zone A would receive a credit of “up to” $4.95.

A spokesperson from ShareNow confirmed that the latter phrasing simply meant that the credit cannot exceed the actual cost of the trip. That is, a $3.00 ride from Zone B to Zone A would receive a credit of $3.

For many regular commuters between Zones A and B, then, this should turn out to be a wash. But the coarseness of this price signal has created some odd boundary conditions. A person that is a $3 ride away from a Link station in the boundary will continually incur $4.95 charges out and only $3 credits in.

These second-order details will get swamped by larger arguments about equity and economic sustainability, but I suspect they may also result in some unintended consequences. A simple tweak to the policy — limiting the surcharge to 100% of the cost of the trip — would remove this problem.

News roundup: worthwhile Canadian initiative

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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News roundup: catching fire

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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