TCC Open House

I went to the Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) open house yesterday. It was a lot of waiting from 5-6pm drinking good wine and talking with individuals that were there. Then there was about 15 minutes of talking from the special guests namely Mayor Nickels. Here is a quick summary of what was brought up in the very brief talks.

Sound Transit and many parties are trying hard to get extended light rail onto the ballot for 2008 for obvious reasons.

The Seattle Streetcar is going to be expanded, they are working on a map right now. They will be waiting to see who steps up with dollars though. Sponsors are going to be a key perhaps in the direction it is expanded to? They are working on a map now as we know already.

As most of us know the 520 and Viaduct are big issues currently being worked on. It was mentioned that progress is occurring on both of those big projects. Not much detail, but Carless In Seattle has a summary of his experience there.

I wasn’t as aware of this, but Vulcan has a good working relationship with TCC and there is a lot of collaboration in each project in relation to transportation. Good to hear! Wish others would do the same. There was also a push to donate to TCC if you have the opportunity to do so, they do a lot of work with very few people and dollars. I think we all agree their efforts are needed for the future of Seattle.

Streetcar Crashes Again

I was on my way home this evening and went to wait for the streetcar only to find the electronic sign saying: Expect Delays 1 Streetcar Running. Shocked, confused, and curious, I found out that yet again another accident has occurred with the streetcar! Everyone jokes about hitting the parked car when you get your license, I think the jokes will start to fly now. The red car hit a parked truck on Terry near Harrison. Sigh….the problem is I have heard they are going to rely on one streetcar for tomorrow. The orange streetcar is in being serviced, and the red one is now obviously bruised and in need of some TLC. So I guess that we will have to expect more delays in the future as only the purple one will be running. So now, a couple questions run through my mind.

1. This is now the third accident in the short 4 months the line has been open. This clearly shows that the future additions to the line need to be away from traffic preferably in its own lane with space to clear all objects. That last part is most important. I don’t get how people still park their vehicles incorrectly, however, clearly there needs to be better information out about this. I have had to get off twice due to illegal parkers and the streetcar not being able to get around it. Perhaps banning parking on the line? That would eliminate that problem.

2. I have been on the streetcar when it has had to stop quickly, although difficult it can be done. Terry is a slow untraveled road, how is this not able to be avoided by the operator especially if it was parked? I am not placing any blame, but it seems odd to me that it couldn’t have been avoided?

I hope this isn’t a series of events that we can expect in the future, perhaps just isolated incidents. Although, they say three is a trend. What do you guys think?

Streetcar Vandalized!

This saddens me. The fact that 2 men would do such an awful thing to our transit systems here is ignorant. I hope these people are caught and have to pay for the cleanup bill. Although, I didn’t notice anything and I was on the orange car today. So I guess the company that removed the graffiti did a really good job.

Streetcar Testing to Begin!

There was a press release sent to us in our mailboxes, I haven’t been able to relocate it anywhere else, but basically it said that over the next 8 weeks the South Lake Union Streetcar will be going through testing. First they will do a walk through test to ensure that the streetcars are able to clear branches, traffic signals, and other erroneous things that may disrupt the streetcar along the whole route. Once that is done they will do speed tests on Valley between Mercer and Westlake to see that the streetcar can achieve and maintain speed. Oh and stopping will also be checked as well. I guess that is important too! After that initial testing, then operators will undergo testing as well. So, literally it will not be long before we see them on the street. I am very excited for this to happen. Again to not have to walk to downtown during the rainy season is going to be wonderful. One thing I have noticed however, the ST Tacoma Link, and Portland Streetcar have electronic signs that alert people at the intersection that the streetcar or LRV is coming. I didn’t see these added to any of the intersections here in SLU. I wonder if they are going to omit these? Seems to be a bad idea if so. I did notice they have “Streetcar Zone” signs telling people not to park to close to the tracks. Should be a very interesting next couple of weeks.

New Streetcar Website

I have been away for a great deal of time, but I noticed upon my return that the South Lake Union Streetcar has a new website with new some helpful information. I see people are sponsoring stops. Great for revenue! My hopes are that they will put all Seattle streetcar information on that website ( I didn’t see anything regarding the Waterfront Streetcar or Capitol Hill streetcar. Check it out though it will be operating soon!

Simms Takes the Fifth

After watching the news last night and reading the PI, Ron Simms neither supports nor rejects the Roads and Transit Package. Last night on the news Simms said, “This is up to the voters to decide”. Leaving no indication whether he was for or against. Clearly those that want transit don’t want roads and vice versa. Although, I wonder, is this a political game? It was not long ago he was all about Transit Now. He was appearing everywhere and was extremely vocal on his pet project for the County. Is this a pro-bus and anti-rail stance? Who knows?

“I’ve always taken this position,” Sims said Tuesday evening. “I’ve told people in political circles I won’t support or oppose it. It’s a very significant proposal that voters are really going to have to dwell on and think about.”

Sims said his neutral stance on the measure has surprised some, but “people made an assumption” about where he’d stand. “You should never assume things about what I’ll do.”

This sounds like a loose canon statement to me, but I fear this may be a bit of a bump-in-the-road so to speak for the ballot! If people look to their politicians for answers then they will be left in the dark. The ST board is full of politicians that will gladly pose for a wonderful photo-op, but is that their true intentions? Is transit really what their concerned about? Seems not too long ago John Ladenburg was also in the loose canon spot not too long ago if his crossbase highway wasn’t supported.

SLU Streetcar On Track

On Harrison, en route to the barn plus my cool shadow!

Harrison and Terry where the last tracks are getting finished
Harrison and Terry view #2

On Westlake between SBRI and Group Health
The Maintenance barn, almost complete

Fairview and Harrison approaching the barn

This may be more of an important issue to me than others here cause I work in South Lake Union, however, the Streetcar is on track to be finished and operating by December. As I was on my bus the other morning my driver was telling me that they were asking for Metro drivers that wanted to drive the streetcar. I guess this is where the seniority rules. My driver has the seniority he says, but he’s holding out for Link. He also said the training for the light rail vehicles is over a week long, where as the training for Streetcars isn’t. I found that interesting. Westlake is literally transforming as we speak, as I write this in fact, they are working to install track beds on certain sections of the line. Westlake Avenue, of which I walk everyday, has been switched to a two way road now, two lanes each direction. This is has been short of a nightmare. I don’t think people quite understand the meaning of the double yellow line? I have seen cars heading southbound slamming on their brakes to avoid accidents, cause people aren’t looking both ways yet. Pedestrians have been dodging cars, meanwhile bikers are huge targets. I have seen near hits. My advice: avoid this area for a few days. I must say though pedestrians on foot have significantly increased and it is completely noticeable. This is different than when I started working in SLU, which was for the most part run down. Group Health is starting to take space in their new building, I imagine others will be on the way shortly. Now it is becoming a transit mecca which if you have ever had to wait for a 17, you are probably as giddy as I am for the streetcar. We were told via email that we could expect testing mid-October-November, and it is on time. I assume this will be after the maintenance barn is completed, which it looks like it is getting there. The streetcar will gain ridership and make the neighborhood much more transit friendly.


It was a beautiful day for most of the day today, and to get out and enjoy it I decided to head to Bellevue Square to start looking for some new threads to wear for the next wedding coming up. I know there is nothing in Bellevue that I can’t get in Seattle, but I wanted to check out the lake and see what the scene was like over in Bellevue. This also meant that I got to take the 550, which is quite fast for bus service. Yes, it costs more, but for the views, express service, and comfortable Sound Transit buses why not? Plus it probably is no secret, I like Sound Transit, I haven’t had any problems every time I have had to take their buses. Except today! It wasn’t anything ST did, but everything the passengers didn’t do. That is: Pay the EXACT fare! Appalled, disgusted, and confused begin to describe some of my thoughts about this experience. I counted today cause it got to be about every other customer, and 5 didn’t meet that requirement! 5. I am not a fan of fare evaders, I pay my fare as do most on the bus. The thing that got under my skin the most enough to cause me to blog about it, was level of disrespect to the driver. If these punks get on a bus they should know ahead of time what they are going to have to pay! All they have to do is look at the fare box! Watching the people who claimed they didn’t have the extra dollar get off the bus and laughing about it with their friends. There is only one word, ignorance. One guy, get this, used his “Sounder” ticket and read ignorantly to the driver that it should count as a transfer on the bus while walking off the bus. What a moron, the Sounder didn’t run today! The offenders today were younger in their teens, one older, mix of male and female. I have ridden the 550 before where 2 offenders did the same thing once in Bellevue except they didn’t give the sob story that they didn’t have the money, they flat out ran off the bus and flipped the rest of us off. Now, I wonder is this something that occurs on certain routes more than others? I see it on intercity routes, and I feel like it would probably occur on those routes more due to increased passengers. I thought while riding, perhaps it is confusing passengers to have ST and KCM buses be different in cost? But then the disrespect makes me think these people know the difference between the two and probably understand the cost breakdown well enough. Seattle to Bellevue is 2 zones, and costs $2.50! They should make no mistakes, $2.50, not $1.30, and definitely not free! Not to take it out on you, I am sure you all express my frustrations as paying transit folk! I wonder if it might make things better if there was a ST ticket vending machine (TVM) like the Sounder uses at multiple locations downtown that people could buy their tickets and show them upon boarding. That way, you won’t slow down the bus, you will have proof of purchase, and I will feel better about the world. Maybe we could even make it a machine that represents all transit agencies in the metropolitan area. What do you think? Have you encountered this before? Feel free to vent if needed, surely I have.

Overheard Conversation

Going back to tunnel security, I was eating lunch the other day and next to me were 4 King County Sheriff Officers, that I believe were part of Metro Transit Division. Seems they are gearing up for securing the Tunnel upon the reopening coming up soon on September 24th. I didn’t invade the conversation they were having, but they were talking through mock situations. It really made my job seem like a boring job. Good to know that they are gearing up for the re-opening. Next time I will barge into the conversation and get more details. Sorry for the delay in posting this has been summer of weddings that I have to be in.

Costly Cities for Commuting

Forbes came out with a list of the top ten cities for the most cost incurred in getting back and forth. Texas, Florida, and Ohio had 2 cities each.

The list:

1. Houston Texas
2. Cleveland Ohio
3. Detroit Michigan
4. Tampa Florida
5. Kansas City Missouri
6. Cincinnati Ohio
7. Dallas Texas
8. Phoenix Arizona
9. Miami Florida
10. Denver Colorado

I was surprised to learn that in Houston, the average commuter spends 20.9% of their household costs on commuting! Doing the math with my costs, I would be spent.
But that’s in part because Houstonians spend a lower than
average proportion of their take-home pay on housing. And that’s the
Transit costs are high because Houston has few policies
hindering sprawl, which in turn allows for cheaper housing. In San Francisco,
which is much denser and has more prohibitive zoning laws than Houston,
residents rank 22nd in commute costs but fifth in the combination of housing and

The article points out that some of the best cities such as New York City and San Fransisco have expensive housing, but cheaper transit costs. I think the main key is that sprawl is going to be costly not just in gas, vehicle wear and tear, and roads. It will place more carbon dioxide in the air which as we know leads to the smog that cities like Los Angeles experience everyday. So there is your trade off, enjoy the cheap housing with views of sprawl, because in a few years, it won’t matter you won’t be able to see 200 yards in front of you. Our very own Seattle didn’t make the list and I wasn’t able to find out where it did land on the list, however, I think there is work to be done here. Seattle labels itself as a forward city in dealing with reducing gases and being stewards to our environment and the Puget Sound. I think that ST2 is going to be extremely important in helping Seattle stay off the these type lists. This will also help reduce the cost of our commute, I imagine we aren’t as good as NYC or SF, but we are working towards getting there or better even. Perhaps we’ll be able to see the Cascades and Mount Rainier for years to come, provided it isn’t rainy and cloudy. As for the cost of living, well that’s another blog, but I only see it going up everyday, at least we’ll have good transit. What do you think the City of Seattle could do? What could a city like Houston could do who is already in the hot seat for costly commutes?

Transit+ Riders – I-5 lanes = Nice Commute

I was going to post Monday evening, but thought I better wait at least another day and see how things go. As you may have heard traffic on I-5 has been better than expected both Monday and Tuesday and at the time I am writing this it is good as well. Perhaps the coolest mode of transportation in my opinion, the Sounder, carried 6,709 people on Monday and about 1000 less on Tuesday. I hope that the influx of new riders will like it and stick with it, certainly, it has to be better than driving alone. This shows that Seattle has the capability of using transit and taking cars off the road! Certainly Sounder wasn’t the only mode to experience increased ridership, the water taxi had 500+ people cross Elliot Bay, Metro had normal levels on Monday and increased levels on Tuesday. This may be people not able to get on Sounder? Who knows. I have read a lot in the local paper comment sections that this was planned, it is a conspiracy that Seattle chose to do this at the time the ST 2 vote was coming up. I have 2 thoughts on that, first being if it is a conspiracy, that is some effective planning across many sections of government in our state, which is extremely unlikely to happen and invalidates that possibility. Second, if it was a conspiracy, which I don’t think it was, maybe it is a good thing to show people this is a good alternative to riding alone? I see nothing wrong with that? It goes to show you that riding transit is a mindset. Certainly there are problems with transit, but without riders you won’t see any changes. Of course, there has to be a Yes vote on ST2 ballot to help. Transit can work and will work in Seattle. All these people could have stayed in their car and dealt with backups to Tacoma, but they didn’t! I think it’s a sign. More transit!

Bus Tunnel Security

King County Metro is making some changes in security when the opening of the tunnel occurs in September according to the Seattle PI. Basically KCM is renting cops to patrol the tunnel during operating hours. Previously it used to be 2 Seattle Police officers patrolling each station that were off duty and working overtime. It appears that will continue to be the case except they won’t be Seattle Police. Due to the rise in concern of safety on 3rd Avenue up above, this has people a little nervous. The new cops will be connected and a quick response away from real authority. However, they will not have authority to arrest or carry weapons.

Metro paid about $1.5 million annually to hire the off-duty Seattle
officers, Jacobson said. O’Neill said officers were paid a flat rate with no
The new plan will cost about $1.7 million, including $984,000 for a
contract with Olympic Security Services Inc. of SeaTac and $770,000 for the
Sheriff’s Office to hire the additional commissioned officers for its Metro
unit, Jacobson said.

Do you feel this is a bad move? Would it prevent you from using the tunnel? I am excited to see it open again, I know I will be using it. I am not sure why now the plan is 200K more than prior service? The tunnel has been an example of cleanliness and safety in transit systems. I hope it continues to stay that way.

Numbers Shine for Sound Transit

Sound Transit released some stats on 2nd Quarter performance and their hard work is starting to pay off! Total ridership on Sounder, Link light rail, and Express buses went up 11% compared to last year. The Sounder alone went up 20% while Express buses went up 10% and Link light rail 2%. This is awesome, especially since Central Link isn’t even completed yet. In fact they had 3.5 Million people use Sound Transit in the 2nd Quarter. When Central Link is completed and rolling on its rails, I only see Sound Transit going up. In my perfect world, when ST Link is running to Everett and Redmond, the numbers will be as high as some other larger cities perhaps? San Francisco? Chicago?

Speaking of ridership the 19 days of pain are almost here, and as you may have heard Sound Transit added a Sounder round trip run for a total of 5 runs. The new trip starts in Puyallup at 6:17am and returns leaving King Street at 4:50pm. They have tweaked the normal schedule so make sure to take a peek if you are a regular. I see this as really the only way to sanity during this stretch of time. It will show the region that we need grade separated transit badly. In fact I hope people will use Sounder and see that it is the way to go even with all I-5 available. It provides Sound Transit with a great opportunity to showcase the Commuter Rail. So tell everyone about it that can use this awesome service. Too bad they couldn’t do 9 or 10 round trip runs! However Sound Transit is the agency that is adding service on buses and trains during the I-5 maintenance project. King County Metro is not adding any additional service as they are maxed out. Is anyone trying Sounder out for the first time? What are you doing to avoid this mess? Vacation? The coffee shop idea Mayor Nickels was talking about?

Double the Fun!

I am sure you may have seen the new Double Decker bus used by Community Transit, if not I snapped the photo above so you could see the massiveness. Community Transit is the second agency in the U.S. to put this type of bus into its regular service, the only other being Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I don’t use the CT route that uses this particular bus, but I have got to imagine the views are awesome! The bus seats 67 with room for 20 standing which is double a regular 40′ bus in the same footprint. I wonder how this compares to the articulated buses? The route 402 is currently using the bus as a testing period which will last approximately two weeks, before it rotates to another route for additional testing by Community Transit. I saw the release on the news and there was a lady who wouldn’t get on cause she was afraid it would hit the overpasses. It does clear the overpasses so don’t worry if that is stopping you. Has anyone rode the Double Decker yet? Any first impressions? I am glad to see CT pushing the envelope for innovation in modern transportation, it shows that this region is serious about transportation.

3rd Ave to Remain Tranist Only

As Andrew mentioned in an earlier post, Mayor Greg Nickels made an official announcement on Friday that 3rd Avenue will in fact remain a transit only corridor according to the Seattle PI.

Eighteen Metro bus routes, now above ground, will reroute to the tunnel
when it reopens, but 22 others will move to Third Avenue from First, Second and
Fourth avenues, theoretically freeing up space on those streets. That means
overall bus traffic will increase on Third once the tunnel reopens.

“By shifting … buses onto Third, the buses will move more quickly and
there’ll be less disruption to traffic,”

This is good that the city is making transit priority. Especially since the people have become accustomed to having that restriction on 3rd Ave, the September shakeup should be really noticeable for downtown traffic.

Queen Anne Getting on the Bus

I found these cool advertising posters all over Lower Queen Anne (Uptown) recently, and thought at first that it was SDOT getting people to consider riding the bus. However, I did a little research and apparently there is a contest/pledge involved with this. Upon signing up for this you will receive 10 Metro tickets and some other goodies. This is put on by In Motion who has teamed up with SDOT, King County Metro, Uptown Alliance, The Greater Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce and Uptown merchants. Apparently there are prizes that you can win during your pledge of riding the bus, carpooling, walking, or biking. Plus as an added bonus if you are caught wearing your In Motion pin, you could win instantly. Sounds like a good deal to me, although I typically am not lucky in these types of situations. There are a few kickers however, you must live or work in Queen Anne specifically in the 98109 or 98119 zip codes (Sad times for me), own a car (you got to have something to reduce), and you must be 16. I think this is a cool way to get people to try making a commitment and potentially making it fun and enjoyable. It also helps get people that typically would be single occupants in one vehicle off the road. Of course, getting them on is one thing, keeping them on is another. Perhaps they will see the benefits outweigh the negatives. Also, if you like me, are kinda bummed out that it isn’t in your neighborhood, apparently it will make its rounds, next up is South Lake Union in the fall. It will be difficult when light rail gets here as it is hard to rhyme, although Get on the Train Jane, sounds cool? Perhaps this is why I don’t come up with these slogans! Is anyone participating in the In Motion contest? I’d be interested to see how much it increases ridership. Sorry for sub par pic, it was foggy, I didn’t want people to think I was too nerdy so I snapped and walked away.

Walkable Neighborhoods

Walking around Pike Place Market (by Greekafella- Wikipedia)

I found an interesting site the other night that rates your neighborhood in terms of walkability. The website Walkscore will search a specific address or whole zip code and based on their algorithm will calculate how walkable your area is. Things that influence scores are being in an area with a center or main street, being close to parks, restaurants, grocery stores, and many other things people go to. In my curiosity I then plugged in my address here in Seattle and it scored a 63 out of 100. I then plugged in every address I could think of. My hometown of Boise sadly was 0. I would have suspected as much though, Boise being extremely car-centric and very spread out. I read their website which basically describes the importance of walkability and they mention transit being important for walkable neighborhoods, however, they don’t use transit in their algorithm which they state is a flaw. Perhaps I would receive a 75-80 I am close to 4 bus lines. They show the importance of transit friendly, dense neighborhoods that help create happy neighborhoods and thriving businesses with plenty of foot traffic to keep them busy. Walking promotes social interaction, reduces C02, and helps promote good health in general. I realize this may be a utopia, but I think it is definitely able to be done. Interestingly, where I work in South Lake Union scored in the high 80’s if I remember correctly (I plugged a lot of addresses) I wonder if the streetcar shoots that up higher to 100 perhaps with a new algorithm? How does your neighborhood score? What might make it higher?

Tukwila Station Resembling Jet City

We are approaching July 2009 (I know we have a while yet), for me personally it couldn’t come fast enough. Certainly you don’t want to wish your life away, but I am really excited for Link. The Seattle Times had a nice article today describing the design of the Tukwila light rail station, which I thought was really cool. The V shape apparently is supposed to represent where the two wings meet the fuselage of a real jet. I have a hard time seeing this, but hey, what a unique way to represent Jet City! I admit, some art I just don’t see! In my fascination with the work of Sound Transit, I didn’t realize this station was the only one with a park and ride facility. I thought at first that it was in a weird spot, but after seeing the graphics on this article, I am convinced otherwise, it actually will be in a good spot for commuters. One reason to check the link is there are lots of pictures of the station, which is nice, because everytime I pass by I am always preoccupied on the bus getting my stuff/luggage ready to enter/leave SeaTac. Being on the freeway makes it hard to stop and look as well! I hear there are some awesome views off the platforms of the Tukwila station too. Pretty cool bonus for the commuter! However the real tingly feeling will come when you wisk by the traffic on I-5 as you cross over the freeway!

Sounder carries 7 Million!

Before its seventh anniversary Sound Transit’s Sounder has carried more than 7 million people to Seattle from Tacoma and Everett hassle free and best of all congestion free! My guess is that the ridership is about to skyrocket, especially in August when the I-5 nightmare begins. Sound Transit and King County Metro will be re-routing all routes that travel through the construction zones. This will be an excellent time to use Sounder. In fact, Sound Transit is allowing standing room to be used during this project. Again this is one of many reasons that show the importance of having rail separated from traffic. Sounder thrived in the snowstorms of 06-07, cruises right along when there are multiple accidents backing up I-5, and hey heavy rain…no problem for Sounder! I know one thing with backups from Seattle to Tacoma expected, I would hate to be that single occupant driver inching along I-5 in August. I think it is really unfortunate that they can’t add additional trains for the construction, but those that ride the Sounder and convert to using this awesome form of transportation they will be in luck because Sound Transit will be adding additional routes including a reverse route in the September shake up. I do wish I could ride the Sounder daily, perhaps someday it will be running all day and night? Anything you would change about Sounder? Anyone planning on starting to use it during construction woes?

Gas usage in Washington is lowest since 1968

An article today in the Seattle PI shows that gas use in Washington State is the lowest it has been in more than three decades. This is great! However there is still work to be done. Our neighbors to the north are using 2.8 gallons of gas per week per capita less than Washingtonians. Looking at the largest cities in these perspective regions (Seattle and Vancouver), this is possible because the densities of the two cities are very different. Vancouver is a little more than double the density of Seattle at 13,602.6/sq. mi. which would require less gasoline usage to get to and from the city. Seattle having a much larger metropolitan population means we are more spread out creating demand for more gasoline. However I think this article compliments Andrew’s nice blogs on Density and the string of density related articles coming from the PI lately.

While mass transit is becoming more widely available and building restrictions have forced more dense development, the gradual decrease — starting in 1999 — seems to also be tied to the increase in gas prices, said Clark Williams-Derry, the Sightline research director of the Cascadia Scorecard 2007 report released in June”.
This is key to building a well-oiled transportation system. Density places more people at the doorstep of transit. If available, people will forget they ever depended on cars.
The lower rate of consumption is partly because of decade-old development rules focused on creating “compact, complete communities,” said Peter Ladner… “.
I think our development is starting to head in this direction as well, take for instance Kent. The development of Kent Station has made living in Kent and the commuting much easier. If we can start making the cities we have more dense, and develop them around a reasonable transportation system, this will make for a better environment overall.