News roundup: have no impact

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA (]

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The ST3 Sounder plan is still not very clear

Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

Ever since voters first had a look in 2016, the exact plan for South Sounder expansion in ST3 has been vague. Key elements are subject to negotiation with BNSF, who owns the track between Seattle and Tacoma. However, staff briefed the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee last Thursday on the recommendations they’ve been able to form since the last report in September, in the form of a draft Strategic Development and Implementation Plan.

Rider feedback is what one would expect: they would like trains to be reliable, less crowded, have the stations be nicer, and have more trips. Notably, there was more excitement about trips adjacent to current trips (in the peak, the shoulder of the peak, and evenings) than opening up entirely new times of day or weekends.

Staff is recommending progress on every axis of Sounder expansion (stations at Tillicum and Dupont in 2036 are already baked in the cake). They would make gradual station improvements over the next 20 years, especially at King Street Station where volumes are highest.

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News roundup: designed to get your attention

Pioneer Square Station

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No realtime data for Connect 2020

With Link headways now around 15 minutes all day, real time data would allow Link’s quality of service to at least match that of a frequent bus route. Unfortunately, that’s not to be.

ST’s David Jackson, answering when we could expect an accurate GTFS feed:

Because of the lead time required for the GTFS data to go live and our very recent headway tweak, GTFS won’t be accurate for Connect 2020 trains.

It doesn’t appear we’ll even have accurate schedules, much less a clue as to a train’s actual position.

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News roundup: not nearly enough

Sound Transit Bus # 535 Lynnwood to Bellevue, WA

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NE 130th Station discussion tomorrow

Looking north from NE 130th Street at the future station (SounderBruce)

Voters approved an ST3 plan that included a NE 130th Street “infill” station opening in 2031. Of course, the segment it is “infilling” has barely started construction and won’t open until 2024. In principle, completing all the work in one go would simplify the project and give riders 7 more years of high-quality service. On the other hand, this would mean spending money earlier when the general trend is to move it back.

Tomorrow afternoon, the System Expansion Committee will hear a presentation about the possibilities for opening 130th in 2024. This report is the result of a mandate to study the idea in 2018. The Snohomish delegation, in particular, will need convincing that yet another Seattle station is worth the additional cost and schedule risk for a project that has already seen overruns on both.

We’ll see tomorrow what the options are for a project estimated at $67m in 2016. Whatever the sentiments of the Snohomish delegation, they should seek to build at least enough to prevent a construction service interruption. Severely curtailing service in 2030 will hurt Snohomish County riders far more than a small risk of delay in 2024 and a bad headline or two. And if the additional risk of full construction is small, doing so would be best for everyone.

News roundup: not afraid

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

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ShareNow ceasing operations, Limebike pauses

Car2Go in Pioneer Square
Shane in the City/Flickr

Geekwire reports that the carshare company will shut down across North America in February. Cars will start disappearing well before then.

This step is not surprising. Lime recently shut down their similar Limepod service. ShareNow itself is a merger from weakness of two previous competitors. Recent tinkering with the fee structure was a likely signal of operational problems. Only Zipcar, with a membership fee and slightly longer rental periods, remains.

Meanwhile, Limebike is using the December expiry of its permit to punt on the unprofitable winter season, coming back in the Spring when Seattle starts allowing electric scooters. If other cities’ experience is an indication, the scooters will dominate and the bikes will wind down. Only Jump remains as a bikeshare option this winter.

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News roundup: Merry Christmas

Kitsap Transit 2019 Gillig Low Floor 3502

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News roundup: someone had to say it

King County Metro bus onboard the M/V Cathlamet
LB Bryce/Flickr

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Book review: Transit

If you’re reading this, there’s some year in which you became very interested in Puget Sound area transit services. For me, that year was 2006, and I found Jim Kershner’s Transit: The Story of Public Transportation in the Puget Sound Region to be a concise, readable, and richly illustrated overview of all that has gone before.

Unlike other books ($) in this genre, this work starts all the way at the beginning, with horse-drawn streetcars, and takes us to the ST3 vote and beyond.

Seattle’s streetcar system began as an amenity common to all modern cities, and entered a period of public ownership in 1919. The system ultimately collapsed due to poor fiscal judgment among city leaders, the apparent superiority of auto ownership at Seattle’s mid-century wealth and population level, and even competition from “jitneys” — the Uber and Lyft of their day. For a work targeted at transit fans, Kershner is admirably clear-eyed about the system’s weaknesses. Partially legitimate critiques of modern streetcars were doubly so for their poorly maintained, always-stuck-in-traffic forebears.

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News roundup: a bad year

Fairhaven Station (SounderBruce/wikimedia)

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Federal Way Link survey is out

The latest round of Federal Way Link public meetings came with a website. There isn’t anything of interest in terms of station area design that Bruce didn’t cover in detail over two years ago.

Nevertheless, there’s new information about the artists that have been selected for each station. I’m of no use for art criticism, but the word “plaza” comes up far too much. Except where the environment is already quite dense, for plazas read “long walks where buildings should be”.

ST did itself no favors four years ago by publishing a map that exaggerated the turns and deviation necessary to mostly run down I-5. But in the end, there’s one station with a college nearby and in the heart of a very ambitious rezone; one unexciting freeway station with little around it; and one right in the core of Federal Way. If you’re super-bullish about the SR99 corridor’s potential, ST has forgone the possibility of more infill there. But otherwise, the stations are pretty well placed.

Anyway, ST wants your opinion on station names, so fill out the survey.

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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