The Streetcar is Back

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s solution to revitalizing downtown includes reviving the City Center Connector streetcar ($). “Where the pitch for the line was once purely transit-based, its new title as a ‘Culture Connector’ bestows a loftier purpose of injecting life into a part of town lacking it in recent years.”

The article says “transit advocates still want it to move forward” but that’s inaccurate. Transit advocates are divided, including on this blog. Some editors want the City Center Connector to move forward, while others like myself want the city to focus on other transit priorities instead.

The article calls it a “third line” but I’m not sure the operational plan is changing. The original plan had two lines overlapping on First Avenue: Lake Union Park to Chinatown/International District, and Westlake to First Hill.

Jarrett Walker, international transit consultant, says in the article, “Cities must look seriously at what they’re hoping to accomplish with a streetcar and whether that’s more valuable than a bus.”

I’ll leave it at that for now.

Open Thread 8

The West Seattle Link extension (WSLE) is proceeding to a final EiS expected in 2024. The Ballard Link extension [BLE] with DSTT2 is heading to a new Draft EIS, timeline TBD. (Per Sound Transit email update.)

Federal Way Link is now expected in 2026. The bridge over weak soil will add $72 million ($) to the cost.

The Seatte Times surveyed 45 Seattle city council candidates ($) on their views and background.

The Route 40 upgrade has reached 60% design, and has a survey on new alternatives for Westlake Avenue North. One of the proposals is to pilot a freight-and-bus (FAB) lane. It would run for one year, and then SDOT would decide whether to install it permanently and consider FAB lanes in other areas. The survey ends June 19.

The monorail is on a roll with with high Kraken ridership. ($) David Kroman of the Seattle Times calls it a “golden age” for the monorail.

Seattle public school students want more bike racks at school. ($) “I have a friend who goes to Franklin and is forced to rent a bike locker at the nearby Mount Baker light-rail station.”

More below the fold.

Continue reading “Open Thread 8”

Open Thread 7

Sound Transit is reenvisioning Sounder South, and will update its strategic plan this year. Sign up for email announcements; there’s not much else to do at this point yet. ST had been planning to lengthen trains and platforms, but is now looking at running more trains at more times instead. It will depend on negotiations with BNSF over the cost of new time-slots.

ST staff recommend prioritizing opening Lynnwood Link over an East Link Starter Line. (Everett Herald) The article also discusses strategies to handle the 41 Lynnwood Link railcars that can’t access the Bellevue Operations and Maintenance base until the fill East Link opens. Twelve cars can be stored at Northgate station, and eight at Angle Lake station. That still leaves 21 cars with no place to sleep. To avoid deploying those, staff suggest ST “can run shorter trains (two or three cars instead of four) with eight-minute frequency, run four-car trains with lower peak frequency, or shorten trips from running the entire span of Angle Lake to Lynnwood and boost frequency in areas with highest demand, such as between Northgate and downtown Seattle.” Also, “to mitigate crowding, Sound Transit is working with other agencies such as Community Transit. Sound Transit could use a bus shuttle service, restore two Sounder North commuter train trips and restructure its Express bus routes.”

West Seattle Link has rising costs too. (The Urbanist via Twitter) Rising land costs could impact the project.

RMTransit evaluates cut-and-cover construction, and says we should do more of it, but not everywhere.

Hamburg has “crazy good transit“. (RMTransit video)

This is an open thread.

Metro Cuts in September

On September 2nd Metro will suspend or reduce some bus routes to make the remaining service more reliable. The problem is a shortage of bus drivers and mechanics, and supply-chain challenges. Currently 5% of scheduled bus runs are being cancelled due to lack of drivers or buses. The change aims to shrink the schedule to match what can actually be delivered in the current environment, to minimize cancellations. Here’s a list of affected routes:

  • 15, 16, 18, 29, 55, 64, 114, 121, 167, 190, 214, 216, 217, 232, 237, 268, 301, 304, 320, 342: Suspended (no service).
  • 79, 225, 230, 231: Hourly across the board.
  • 7: 10-minute frequency in AM peak, 7.5 minute in PM peak.
  • 10: 15-minute peak, 30-minute evening and weekend.
  • 20: Half-hourly most times (including peak), hourly night.
  • 28: Hourly off-peak.
  • 36: 10-minute most times (including AM peak), 7-8 minutes PM peak.
  • 73: Half-hourly across the board.
  • 255: Half-hourly evenings.
  • 345: Hourly night.

[Correction: Route 28 and 345.]

Metro’s blog has a list of alternatives for the suspended routes, and other information about the change.

More below the fold.

Continue reading “Metro Cuts in September”

Open Thread 6: Timm Q&A

Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm answered questions in a forum hosted by The Urbanist. Among the questions were the Link downtown reduction, the East Link Starter Line, Lynnwood Link, Federal Way Link, the CID station alternatives, all-day Sounder, and ST Express in the ST2/3 era.

Alon Levy is not impressed with the overuse of transit consultants, and uses the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) as an example. Alon is further unimpressed with transit agencies throughout North American and Europe doing the wrong projects, or doing the right projects the wrong way. (Pedestrian Observations)

Transit fares and finances in the post-covid world. (Vox)

WSDOT and four Eastside microcities disagree on who should mow the lawn ($) on the Highway 520 lids at Evergreen Point Road, 84th, and 92nd.

There’s still a lot going on; I’ll save some videos for the next open thread.

This is an open thread.

Open Thread 5

Metro’s weekend newsletter has several things this weekend:

3rd Avenue will be closed for construction between Pine and Union Streets from 8am Saturday to 5pm Sunday. RapidRide C, D, E, and other north-south bus routes I spot checked will stop at 2nd & Pike southbound or 4th & Pike northbound. Route 49 westbound will stop at Pine & 9th and at 3rd & Union; eastbound at 3rd & Seneca and at Pine & 6th. Routes 10 and 11 aren’t listed but may do something similar.

The Montlake Bridge will be closed for the Opening Day of Boating Seasion on Saturday from 9 am to 4:30pm. Routes 48, 255, 271, and 542 will be rerouted.

The Link reduction is still on. The Seattle Times has an analysis ($) of how sidewalk work broke the underground Westlake Station ceiling. Sound Transit has a blog post on it.

Route 162 will be suspended May 8-12 due to the driver and bus shortage. This is the peak express from Kent East Hill to Kent Station, Kent-Des Moines P&R, and downtown Seattle.

Trailhead Direct starts May 13th, running weekends and holidays until September 4th. The only route is Mount Si, stopping at Broadway & Denny, 4th & Spring, the Eastgate freeway station, North Bend P&R, Mt Teneriffe trailhead, Mt Si trailhead, and Little Si trailhead. A Metro Matters blog post has more information. ST Express route 554 goes to several Issaquah trails, south and east of the Issaquah City Hall stop.

This is an open thread.

Link Reduction Day 3

Trains are running every 15-20 minutes. All trains terminate at Pioneer Square Station and require transferring to the other platform continue further north or south. ST has a useful chart of bus alternatives for various station pairs, and urges people to use them if feasible to avoid the downtown tunnel. ST’s alert page has the latest official status. Here’s our previous coverage of the reduction.

To recap, a sidewalk project on Pine Street broke the ceiling of underground Westlake Station above the northbound platform. The platform is closed for two weeks maybe. All trains in both directions are using the southbound platforms at Westlake and University Street, and the northbound platforms at Chinatown/International District and Stadium.

I went down this afternoon to confirm the situation.

Continue reading “Link Reduction Day 3”

Open Thread 4

This is an open thread for miscellaneous comments related to transit or land use. The News Roundup will resume when things calm down. A Link update will be coming later today, and a non-Link article in couple days. The RapidRide G article is still open for comments, two articles before this.

Link Reduction Downtown

Update 4/28/2023 11pm: Trains are running every 15-20 minutes. All trains terminate at Pioneer Square Station and require transferring to continue further north or south. ST urges people to use other alternatives if feasible. (The link has a very nice chart of bus alternatives.) Westlake, University Street, and International District/Chinatown are using only one platform for both directions, so make sure the train is going the direction you want.

Link is reduced to 30-minute service [see above] downtown between Capitol Hill and Stadium Stations due to a leak in Westlake Station’s ceiling over the northbound platform. Mike Lindblom in the Seattle Times writes that the disruption will last two weeks ($), and that “the concrete lid was punctured while a crew was working on the city’s Pine Street renovation project”. (We covered the Pike/Pine rechannelization project in the second item here.)

All southbound passengers will transfer at Capitol Hill, and all northbound passengers at Stadium. Downtown trains will travel both directions on the southbound (Angle Lake) track. North of Capitol Hill and south of Stadium, trains will run every 10 minutes according to ST’s website.

Continue reading “Link Reduction Downtown”

RapidRide G Restructure

The RapidRide G (Madison) restructure is finally here. Construction is 50% complete, and the line is expected to launch in Fall 2024. Metro has a survey until May 8 about changes to other routes around it. Metro proposes to reroute the 10, 11, and 12, and to delete the currently-suspended 47.

The G will run along Madison Street between 1st Avenue downtown and Martin Luther King Way in Madison Valley. The stations will be at 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th, Terry, Boyleston, 12th, 17th, 22nd, 24th, and MLK. West of 8th Avenue will be a one-way couplet on Madison and Spring Streets. The middle section between 9th and 13th will have center transit-only lanes with left-side doors (like the First Hill streetcar on Jackson Street). East of 13th it will run in mixed-traffic lanes.

Metro wants to exchange the 10 and 11 between Bellevue Avenue and 15th. The 10 would return to Pine Street like it was before 2016. The 11 would move to Olive-John to replace it. The 12 would move from Madison Street to Pine Street to reduce duplication with the G. The 47 would be deleted. (It has been suspended since 2020.) Routes not listed will remain as is. The 49 would continue to be a Pine-Broadway route, and the 8 a Denny-John-Madison-MLK route.

The 10 and 12 would overlap on Pine Street between 3rd and 15th and alternate evenly, giving full-time 15-minute or better service to the top of Capitol Hill. On Olive-John, the 8 and 11 would overlap between Summit Avenue and MLK. Transfers between the 12 and G would be at 17th & Madison. Transfers between the 8, 11, and G would be at MLK & Madison.

Continue reading “RapidRide G Restructure”

Open Thread 2

I’ve started numbering open threads if there’s no compelling title.

A Link contractor blames the T-line delay ($) on government red tape. (This is the MLK extension to Tacoma Link, not related to the 1 Line extension to Tacoma Dome.) The article has a few quotes applicable to general ST/contractor/Link issues, too many to list here.

Did you know Toronto has a mostly-useless subway line? RMTransit says a short extension to Line 4 (Sheppard) would make it much more useful and increase ridership. Are there any comparable cases in Pugetopolis or the US?

This is an open thread. (P.S. I’m working on a single-topic article which will be ready in a couple days.)

Open Thread

More people are falling behind in car debt. (NPR) People whose car is repossessed need transit to do errands.

Bye bye Southport ($). The office complex near Renton Landing will be auctioned due to no leases. The hotel, convention center, and apartments in the business center don’t appear to be affected. It’s another blow for a Seattle-Renton ferry.

City Observatory finds 16 flaws in the Interstate Bridge Replacement, the I-5 bridge between Washington and Oregon.

Are urban growth boundaries effective? (City Beautiful)

This is an open thread.

Open Thread: Rural Transit

Transit in rural America. An NPR radio story about rural transit in various parts of the US.

Nobody Lives Here ($), an exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum on the impact of I-5 on Chinatown.

Where people who move from King County go to ($).

Denver transit. (Alan Fisher video)

Toronto rail junction is completed. (RMTransit video)

Can North America have walkable cities? (RMTransit video)

It can have pedestrianized streets. (CityNerd video)

This is an open thread.

Open Thread: Redmond

Redmond 2050 is having hearings on the Southeast Redmond and Redmond Downtown Link station areas. I can’t find the specific proposals online, but maybe somebody can describe them and the recent open house. (Thanks AJ and Nathan D for the link.)

Pike/Pine rechannelization. Next year SDOT plans to extend the one-way streets on Pike and Pine Streets east to Bellevue Avenue in southwest Capitol Hill. A rendering of the bridge over I-5 seems to show one car lane on each street, an additional lane’s worth of sidewalk, and a more distinct bike lane. This follows several projects over the past four years that have installed transit lanes, bike lanes, stop lights, four-way stop signs, and a parklet to parts of Pike and Pine streets east to Broadway. This is part of the Waterfront Seattle vision, and partly funded by Convention Center expansion mitigation.

Sound Transit is deliberating Lynnwood Link’s initial logistics. The Operations committee met April 6 (livestream, slide deck). The current Northgate-Angle Lake travel time was expected to be 50 minutes with 74 rail cars, but it’s now 57 minutes with 92 cars, and the cars have more maintenance issues than expected. East Link’s delay mean the upcoming Lynnwood Link trains won’t be able to cross the lake to the second base for the first couple years. So ST is considering temporarily reducing service between Lynnwood Link’s opening and the full East Link opening. Possible alternatives include shorter trains, lower peak frequency, and/or short runs (e.g., Lynnwood-Stadium). (Thanks WL and Lazarus.)

Transit Center held a panel discussion with Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm and two other transit executives from BART and southwest Ohio, on ridership changes and other emerging issues in the covid/post-covid era. (Tnanks Tlsgwm.)

WSDOT is updating the SR 167 master plan (the freeway that goes south from Renton to Puyallup and west to Tacoma). Proposed concepts include BRT from Puyallup to Renton and possibly Link, four BRT/RapidRide routes, increased Sounder, and other car- and bike-oriented features. View the online open house and send feedback by April 15. These projects would still have to be funded by ST/Metro, but getting them into the master plan means the state would allow them, and would cooperate on modifying the highway to accommodate them as it did with 405.

Mayor Harrell is asking for ideas on how to to redesign downtown Seattle for more residential use. (MyNorthwest) Compared to 2019, downtown currently has 47% of pre-pandemic worker pedestrians, and 4,000 more apartment units.

More mixed-use buildings are coming to the West Seattle Junction. Hand-wringing about parking, and questions about whether housing is the best use of the lots. The community supports a hopsital there, but one provider who was considering it declined. (Westside Seattle)

Madison Street is torn up between around 28th to 23rd for RapidRide G construction. I rode the 8 westbound through it yesterday, and it looks like only one or two narrow lanes are open. Route 12 is also rerouted between 14th and 12th. (Ed: updated locations.)

This is an open thread.

Open Thread: Cable Car

RapidRide G construction is closing East Madison Street between 16th and 14th westbound to extract “old cable car infrastructure located under the roadway. This closure is expected to be in place for at least a week.” (SDOT)

Sound Transit press release on choosing a preferred alignment for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) last Thursday.

Interview with Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm. Among other things, “Timm explained that Sound Transit is in a transition from a building agency to an operational agency, and that takes a 180-degree shift in perspective to focus on the rider experience and communication. She knows the trains need to be clean. She understands that many people don’t feel safe on the trains. She also knows that communication is a huge challenge for the agency.” (MyNorthwest, found by Alonso.)

Metro is participating in a 16-city international survey on customer satisfaction with their local bus service.

Berlin U-Bahn expansion. (Pedestrian Observations.)

Saving public transit will require fast, frequent, and reliable service.

The Bahamas has jitneys, a car-dependent layout, and insane traffic.

Carlos Moreno, the French researcher who created the “15-Minute City” concept, is targeted by conspiracy theories and death threats ($).

This is an open thread.

Open Thread: Train Daddy

A little light reading after a busy transit week.

Train Daddy is Andy Byford, a British transit administrator who has gotten a lot of accolades for his work at train and subway agencies in Sydney, Toronto, New York City, and London. He’s now moving to Amtrak to become executive vice president. Sound Transit needs one of these. (RMTransit video) Streetsblog article.

USDOT gave Sound Transit a grant to improve safety at fhe level crossings along Link’s MLK Way segment. SDOT will implement it.

Cancellations and maintenance: Metro’s weekly newsletter has a bit about this. “King County Metro will operate all bus routes Monday, March 27, through Sunday, April 2, although some individual weekday bus trips will be canceled. All weekend routes and trips are expected to operate as scheduled. Fleet repairs continue and our maintenance crews are focused on returning buses to service, as well as working with vendors to stabilize the supply chain challenges affecting our industry.

Does your city have enough parks? (City Beautiful video)

Upcoming articles: I’m working on an article on the RapidRide G restructure. Martin is working on an article on the WSBLE aftermath.

This is an open thread.

ST Board Meeting on WSBLE

This is a live discussion of Sound Transit’s monthly board meeting, which is choosing a preferred alignment for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) environmental impact statement (EIS).

Meeting page with video link and documents
Proposed amendments

Update: The following amendment descriptions weren’t quite accurate, and they’re too complicated to explain here.

Amendment #2 is the Balducci/Millar proposal, to include the Restored Spine alternative and the 4th Avenue Shallow alternative.
Amendment #3 is the Constantine/Harrell proposal, for North of CID and South of CID stations.

Amendment #4 asks to activate Union Station with activities regardless of the ultimate CID station alternative.
Amendment #5 seems to be choosing a WSBLE preferred alignment.

Some comments on the public testimony are in the previous open thread.

Open Thread: RapidRide H Destinations

Destinations on RapidRide H. (Urbanist)

Hannah Krieg of The Stranger compares the arguments for and against the North of CID Link station. (The list is useful even if the wording is juvenile.)

Mike Lindblom on ongoing repairs in DSTT stations. ($)

The worst transit project in the US is canceled, on an extension in Philadelphia. (Alan Fisher video)

New York chooses bus over AirTrain for La Guardia airport. ($)

The Seattle Times editorial board comes out for real but fair fare enforcement ($).

South Park gets a federal grant to study removing a redundant part of Highway 99 through the neighborhood ($).

This is an open thread.

Open Thread: No Fare Police

Washington Supreme Court struck down fare-enforcement checks by police. ($) Fare ambassadors, who are not police and focus on education, still appear allowed. Sound Transit and Metro switched to fare ambassadors several months ago. The decision (thanks Tlsgwm).

Downtown Seattle work commutes continue to evolve. ($) (Mike Lindblom) 60% of 320,000 workers come to the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and above 50% on Thursdays. Mondays and Fridays are lower. This study by Commute Seattle and UW used the larger “Center City” definition of downtown, which includes Uptown, Capitol Hill, and the CID. Comparing 2019 to 2022 in the AM peak, workers using transit fell from 46% to 22%, teleworking soared to 46%, and walking fell from 7% to 3%. On a good note, driving alone didn’t increase; it fell from 26% to 21%. Volumes on the West Seattle Bridge, which had been close to 100,000 pre-pandemic, are now 60-65,000. (That leaves more room for transit lanes?)

City councilmember Tammy Morales supports the “North and South of CID” alternatives for DSTT2 (the second downtown Link tunnel). We disagree, and are leaning toward a DSTT1-only alternative.

KUOW on the new Burke-Gilman bike trail option in Ballard. The report starts a minute or two into the audio clip; it doesn’t show an exact timestamp.

This is an open thread.