Scans from the Central Link EIS

Elevated Alaska St (Columbia City) Station on MLK
Elevated Alaska St (Columbia City) Station on MLK

I wasn’t around for the public process of Central Link and I was curious to what was being considered before the preferred alignment was selected. I found a book of drawings from the 1999 Central Link Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) at the UW’s Engineering Library. Combing through the pages, I took some photos of a few pages that I was interested in. You can view the entire set on Flickr. Here are some findings that you may find interesting. It would be nice if someone who was involved could share their stories.

Focusing on the south section, there were quite a few alignment options. Getting to Mount Baker, there’s a I-90/Rainier path and the SODO/Beacon Hill path. Between Mount Baker and Othello, Link could’ve gone down the side of Rainier with a station at Columbia City then tunneling to a Graham St Station or elevated down MLK to Graham. There’s even a cross-section of a Graham Station in a cut below grade.

There was consideration of a center platform for Mount Baker Station. The Mount Baker Transit Center was going to be right next to the station instead of across the street. Rainier Beach Station had a full-fledged transit center. Both of them would be served by trolley buses.

You can see what Boeing Access Road Station might’ve looked like, complete with a Sounder platform and bus bays. Then there’s the Tukwila surface alignment on 99 or a Southcenter alignment with a station by the mall and an integrated Tukwila Sounder & Link station. We all know what we got in the end.

What I wasn’t aware of was the multiple options for serving Sea-Tac. Yes, there was an option with a station next to the terminal. There’s also one that expected shuttle buses to get people to the terminal, one integrated with the automated airport shuttle trains, and one that actually veered away from the airport before heading back to a station at International Blvd and S 200th St.

First Ad on Link Spotted

Apartments ad
Looking to Rent? Light Rail Stops Here!

Presenting the first advertisement on Link light rail. It is an ad for III Marks Apartments next to Tukwila International Boulevard Station. I like the station symbol included, as it gets people thinking about locations relative to Link stations (and transit lines, in general).

Last November, Clear Channel Outdoor was awarded a contract from Sound Transit to manage all revenue-generating advertising for the agency. This likely explains the absence of ads in the first few months of service of Link. Even after November, there’s a dearth of advertising on Link. The economy obviously affects ad sales but there must be some other reasons why we haven’t seen more ads. I’ve joked that we should have some ads for the blog on the train. Is it a policy to only allow businesses along the line to advertise on Link? Neither Sound Transit nor Clear Channel Outdoor have responded to a request for more information.

Metro’s February Service Change Now Online

Details on the changes in Metro bus service, effective February 6th, are available online. New red timetables and a special rider alert brochure will soon be available. The changes are now live on the Trip Planner and timetables will be posted online on February 5. This is a major service change, with over 80 bus routes affected. Highlights are:

  • New Route 156 to replace part of Route 140 service in McMicken Heights and will serve Southcenter, SeaTac/Airport Link, and Tukwila Sounder stations.
  • Route 194 replaced by Link light rail and expanded service on ST Express routes 574, 577, and 578.
  • Route 140 now serves Tukwila International Blvd station via Southcenter Blvd. It no longer serves McMicken Heights (use Route 156), the airport (use Link), and Air Cargo Rd (use Route 180).
  • ST 560 and 574 will be the only routes serving the Sea-Tac Airport terminal stops. All other routes will serve SeaTac/Airport Station (including ST 574)
  • Routes 76, 77, 216, 218, and 316 move to the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel
  • Long-term construction reroutes for 73, 77, and 316 373 in the Northgate area.
  • More frequent service on routes 8, 9, 36 and 60 to improve connections to Link
  • More trips on routes between West Seattle, SODO, and downtown Seattle as mitigation for Viaduct construction.
  • Trip reductions on approximately 40 Metro routes

Previously covered: Sound Transit service changes, also on Feb 6.

Shield Your ORCA with Aluminum Foil

Many people, like myself, now have ORCA cards issued by their employer in addition to the personal card they own. I carry both of them in my wallet. The problem is I can’t tap my wallet on the reader with two cards. The reader tells me “one card at a time please” and prevents double-charging, which is a good thing but it requires me to take the card out to tap. My solution to this is to wrap my personal card in aluminum foil, then keep the card separated from the other ORCA card with the other cards in my wallet. The first time I did this was with 10 layers of foil but I tried with just a single layer and it works. The metallic foil effectively shields the card from radio waves and prevents it from being read. The other cards keep the foil far enough from the card you want to be readable. This means only the side of the wallet that the unwrapped card is on can be read.

I’m aware that there are similar products for passports, enhanced drivers licenses, debit cards and other contactless cards but this is a quick and cheap solution you can do at home. This trick also appeals to people who don’t want strangers ‘sniffing’ their contactless cards for potentially malicious purposes.

Disposable ORCA Card Coming?

MARTA Breeze Ticket, photo by Oran
MARTA Breeze Ticket, photo: author

Low-income transit riders and tourists may not have to pay $10 to get an ORCA card if a disposable, low-cost version is offered. According to an article by Krista Kipp of the Seattle Jobs Initiative in the November 2009 issue of the ATU Local 587 News Review, a disposable card was planned to be offered when ORCA was being developed, but it was dropped due to security concerns. Kipp writes that the ORCA transit agencies are bringing this option back. It is currently under development and won’t be available after mid-2010, at the earliest.

A 2004 press release from Phillips, the vendor providing the MIFARE smart card technology for the ORCA project, reveals more details about what the disposable ORCA card would’ve been like. The disposable card is “specifically aimed at the collector, tourism and human service program application areas” and “will have specialized graphics and be pre-valued with a set amount of money (e.g. $20), a set number of rides (e.g. 10), or a set period of time (e.g. 7 days after first use).”

The article also mentions King County Metro’s efforts to mitigate the impact of ORCA on low-income residents by extending the Commuter Bonus Voucher program for human services agencies and allowing those agencies to purchase ORCA cards for $3 with a $3 minimum load. The vouchers can be exchanged for bus tickets, which will continue to be sold.

Low-income transit riders and tourists are affected by the transition to ORCA because of the initial cost of acquiring the card and new fare policies. Inter-system transfers and intra-system transfers on most agencies except Metro and Pierce Transit will require an ORCA card beginning January 1, 2010. After January 31, an ORCA card will cost $5 and $5 is the minimum value that must be loaded on the card at purchase, for a total cost of $10.

An example of a disposable smart card is MARTA’s Breeze Ticket, which costs 50¢, expires after 90 days and has limited functionality.

Swift Preview Ride

Swift bus at Airport Road (photo by author)
Swift bus at Airport Road (photo by author)

Community Transit conducted a dry run (simulated operations) of Swift BRT on Monday and STB was offered an opportunity to ride. CT is doing final testing and driver training before service begins on Sunday afternoon.

I boarded Swift with Community Transit representative Mike Allende at the Airport Road Northbound Station for Everett. The Swift bus pulled in really close to the curb and the doors lined up with markers on the platform called “welcome mats”. This process currently takes about 10 seconds but should be reduced as drivers get used to it. As to why no level boarding? CT considered it but decided to go with a slight step. One reason given was that roadway and vehicle conditions can vary, making it difficult to guarantee a level boarding every time. A fully loaded bus, tire pressure, ruts in the roadway, for example, creates a height difference. Combine that with the expectation of level boarding and people might trip when it isn’t truly level. The bus dwelled for 10 seconds and then we were on our way. Swift will make stops at every station like a light rail train. There are no bell cords but there’s a special request button for wheelchair users.

Continue reading after the jump…

Continue reading “Swift Preview Ride”

Tweaking Metro’s Homepage

Metro Online
Metro Online

Adam, in the previous post, showed an example of presenting important service alerts and said that Metro can improve the usability of its website with simple fixes. So I played the role of webmaster and took a look at Metro’s homepage. I found several issues and developed small fixes that cost very little to implement and doesn’t involve redesigning the entire website, summarized in the list below:

  • Get a timetable function not useful if you don’t know what route to look up.
  • No Quick Link to system map
  • Quick Link icon for ORCA should represent the card
  • Quick Link icon for fares should use standard symbol that Sound Transit uses
  • Some graphical banners don’t link to specific information and requires user to search for it
  • Minor trip planner usability issues
  • Shortcut menu doesn’t work without JavaScript enabled.
  • Structure of the website in relation to the shortcut menu

Specific and technical details follow after the jump.

Continue reading “Tweaking Metro’s Homepage”

Kitsap Transit to Replace Paper Transfers with ORCA

Kitsap Transit “No More Paper Transfers” flyer
Kitsap Transit “No More Paper Transfers” flyer by Mike F

This Saturday, October 31, 2009, will be the last day Kitsap Transit issues paper transfers for cash paying customers. Beginning the next day, Sunday, November 1, cash paying customers must pay for each leg of their trip or use an ORCA card to receive a two-hour transfer. [Update: Commenter Mike F notes that there is no Sunday service in Kitsap Transit so the new policy will take effect on Monday.] ORCA cards can be obtained for free online or in person at various locations until the end of January 2010. The cards will cost $5 afterwards.

Kitsap Transit is not the first local transit agency to eliminate paper transfers. In 2006, Everett Transit stopped issuing paper transfers and reduced their fare by 25¢. With Everett Transit as part of the ORCA system, transfers are once again issued and honored. Community Transit and Sound Transit will follow Kitsap Transit in replacing paper transfers with ORCA cards beginning January 1, 2010. Also starting in the new year, ORCA will be the only way for cash paying customers to transfer between transit systems. So if your trip involves services from more than one agency and you pay your fare in cash, you’ll need to get an ORCA card and put money in your E-purse to get a two-hour transfer. While King County Metro and Pierce Transit will keep paper transfers for use within their systems, I recommend getting an ORCA card while they’re free.

Open Houses for ST2 Bus Improvements

Sound Transit Route 522 on 2008 DE60LF
ST Route 522, by the author

Sound Transit is seeking public comment on its bus service improvement proposals that will begin in September 2010 and February 2011. This will be the third and final phase of bus service improvements as part of the Sound Transit 2 package approved by voters last year. A summary of the proposals:

  • New Route 542 Redmond – I-5/NE 65th St P&R via University District Express with 15-minute service in both directions, from 6 am to 10 am and from 2 pm to 7 pm, beginning September 2010
  • Increased service on routes 511, 513, 522, 532, and 554, beginning February 2011. Route 511 Seattle-Lynnwood and 554 Seattle-Issaquah will have 15-minute service throughout the day on weekdays.
  • New stop at the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station for routes 511 and 513, beginning February 2011.
  • Extension of Route 566 in February 2011 (replacing the 564 and 565 next February) from Overlake to the Redmond Transit Center.

Sound Transit will hold open houses at the Overlake Transit Center on October 27, Mountlake Terrace Library on October 29, and the University Heights Center on November 5, all from 4 pm to 7 pm, followed by a public hearing in Union Station on November 19 at 11:30 am. Details of the service improvements and open houses are in the Fall 2009 issue of Regional Transit News.

Mount Baker Transit Center’s First Day

Route 8 at Mount Baker TC
Route 8 at Mount Baker TC

The Mount Baker Transit Center opened Saturday along with the Southwest Seattle service revisions. The transit center is very plain with standard shelters. New-style bus stop signs that list routes, their destinations, and the bus stop number (handy for One Bus Away users) have been installed. The new style signs can also be found near Othello and Rainier Beach Stations.

At the transit center, Metro service planner Jack Latteman was part of the street team out helping riders figure out the service change. A few people were confused but most seemed to know which route to transfer to. One old lady asked for the 42 which no longer runs weekends.

Many people are still taking the 7 instead of Link. Latteman explained that many people were afraid to try Link or didn’t know how. Frequently asked Link questions were fare related. Many weren’t sure how reduced fares worked or whether their bus pass was accepted on Link. While there are signs that direct riders to the Link station, there’s no information at the transit center about Link itself. A suggestion would be to install a Link information kiosk similar to those at stations at the transit center.

Latteman answered a question that was raised on this blog as to why the transit center isn’t a timepoint for Route 8. It actually is, at least internally for drivers. He said that was a mistake on part of the timetable production group and it’ll definitely be fixed by the next service change in February. A few other mistakes are the map for the 8 doesn’t show the route directly serving the transit center, the timetable doesn’t indicate which bay the 8 serves, and a timetable symbol reference to a 5-minute layover at the transit center that appears nowhere on the timetable itself. All of these mistakes have been noted for correction.

Route 8 and 48 are scheduled for easy connections at the transit center. The timed connections can be viewed in this Metro document (PDF).

Sunday Open Thread

Here’s an excellent video presentation of the Paris Tramway line T3 from concept to reality. From the computer renderings, stages of construction, before and after construction scenes, delivery of the trams, to the finished product, it ends with a time-lapse cab view test ride on the line.


Tram de paris
Uploaded by ar168.

The 7.9 km, 17 station line runs along a peripheral boulevard on the southern edge of Paris proper. The line began construction in 2003 and opened in 2006 at a cost of 311 million euros ($400 million US at 2006 rates). It took away 2 traffic lanes from the boulevard and replaced one of the busiest bus routes in Paris. It currently carries 100,000 riders every weekday at an average speed of 18 km/h (target 20 km/h) with trains running every 4 minutes during peak hours. Trains get signal priority. The RATP expects to reduce traffic on the boulevard by 25%. Parks, cycle tracks, public art, and a grassed trackway help the tram integrate well into the urban fabric.

You can also tour the line with Google Street View.

In comparison, it is a mile longer than the proposed Seattle Streetcar Central Line and the Link light rail surface segment between Mount Baker and Rainier Beach stations. It has more than 4 times the stops and half the average speed of that Link segment.

Swift BRT Update

Transit dignitaries break ground for BRT terminal
The obligatory VIPs shoveling dirt photo

On Monday, there was a groundbreaking ceremony at Everett Station for the northern terminal of Community Transit’s Swift BRT line. Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson, Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, and Stan Suchan from WSDOT’s Office of Transit Mobility spoke at the ceremony.

Hingson spoke of the partnership between Everett Transit and Community Transit to streamline and reduce duplication of service on the SR 99 corridor. The increased service will provide traffic relief for everyone, including freight truck drivers, Hingson said. He also acknowledged engineering consultants, Perteet and IBI Group, among others, for their continual collaboration with the agencies during the design of Swift.

Eleanor was proud to say that Swift, to be Washington’s first BRT line, took only 4 years to get from concept to reality. Swift will begin service on November 30, 2009. She noted that the brand design (name, logo, etc.) was done in-house by Community Transit’s marketing department. She also announced that the project is coming in under budget at $29.5 million, down from the estimated $32 million, thanks to lower construction costs. The Everett terminal is located just south of the current bus loop, next to the pedestrian bridge to the east parking lot across the tracks, on city property that was designated for parking.

More after the jump, with some tidbits I learned. Continue reading “Swift BRT Update”

A Journey from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. on Transit

New Flyer trolleybuses in Vancouver rush hour traffic
New Flyer trolleybuses in Vancouver rush hour traffic

It’s the perfect occasion for a transit adventure to Vancouver, B.C. The brand new Canada Line opens today at 1 pm for free rides until 9 pm. If you’re feeling adventurous and have the time, it is possible to travel from Seattle to Vancouver on public transit by making a series of transfers and some walking or cycling across the border. The journey costs $12 and takes at least 7.5 hours. Back in March, wanting to do a transit field trip up north, I decided to try the schedule on Evan Siroky’s Regional Transit Transfers page. The following (after the jump) is an account of my experience with lots of pictures!

Continue reading “A Journey from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. on Transit”

Sunday Open Thread

KBFI
"KBFI US NAVY Blue Angels", by wings777

I rode Link to Othello yesterday for a quick look at people riding to and from Seafair. My train was well used with lots of people and bikes. Then I went to Alki for some fish-and-chips. I had to go back downtown and catch a bus. It made me wish there were better east-west connections.

In a totally unrelated note, South Seattle hip-hop duo Blue Scholars, the same guys who brought us our official theme song “Joe Metro”, have a short video featuring Link light rail. The video has their DJ Sabzi riding Link on opening weekend (sorry, I’m having trouble embedding it). At the end of the video he announces a new partnership with Duck Down Records and Caffe Vita for their upcoming projects. I hope to see another video or song featuring Seattle’s newest form of transit in the future.

This is an open thread.

ORCA passes now accepted on SLUT

Seattle Streetcar, by Mike Bjork
"Seattle Streetcar", by Mike Bjork

The Seattle Streetcar official website welcomed the arrival of Link light rail and the ORCA smartcard. It announced that ORCA card readers will be installed on streetcar station platforms next year.

While ORCA e-purse users have to wait until next year to pay with their card, ORCA passholders can show their card as proof of payment. Funnily enough, an ORCA card looks the exact same whether it carries a monthly PugetPass or an e-purse… So draw your own conclusions.

Hopefully we can get ORCA readers installed into the streetcars themselves some day. Now that the South Lake Union Streetcar connects with Link, has anyone noticed an uptick in ridership?

Metro Receives Stimulus Funds for New Buses

Orion VII bus from Daimler Buses (manufacturer photo)
Orion VII bus from Daimler Buses (manufacturer photo)

King County Metro Transit announced today that it will be purchasing 93 new buses from Daimler Buses through a $46 million grant awarded under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. King County Metro originally requested funds for 60 new buses but lower costs than expected allowed them to get 33 more. The agreement includes options to purchase 400 more buses in addition to the initial 93 buses over 5 years. Metro said they expect to see the first prototype delivered in about a year and the rest of the ordered buses delivered in early 2011.

The Orion VII buses will feature a modern look, low floors, air conditioning, and hybrid-electric technology which reduces fuel consumption, noise and emissions. They will replace Metro’s aging fleet of 40-foot Gilligs, which will be 14 years old when the new buses arrive. That’s two years longer than the expected life span of a transit bus. The Gilligs that Metro currently has are high floor and don’t have air conditioning. Over 700 hybrid-electric Orion VIIs are currently in service in New York City, Toronto, and San Francisco.

Via Capitol Hill Seattle blog, NWCN

Do You Have Link/Street Signaling Questions?

Photo by the Author

Link light rail runs at grade on Martin Luther King Jr Way S with street traffic and pedestrians crossing the track at regular intervals. Coordinating signals to ensure that trains and cross traffic flow safely with minimal delays is an ongoing process that will continue after light rail opens for service.

Do you have questions about how traffic signals work together with Link light rail signals? If you do, please leave them in the comments. I will be meeting with an SDOT signal operations engineer this Thursday and will try to have your questions answered.

Sound Transit is the twelfth man

Sound Transit is the 12th Man

Apparently, Sound Transit is a huge Seattle Seahawks fan. Link hasn’t opened yet and it’s already being the twelfth man (upper half). The new Sounder destination signs are proclaiming their support, too (lower half). There will be Sounder service to and from the last home game of the season tomorrow if weather doesn’t force any delays or cancellations . Come next year, we’ll welcome Link Light Rail as well as Seattle’s brand new Major League Soccer team, Seattle Sounders FC. Will we soon see a “Sounder to the Sounders” train?

Snow on Santa’s Lights Tour

After Santa's Lights Tour

Hi, my name is Oran. You have probably seen my work featured on STB numerous times. I would like to thank Andrew for giving me the opportunity to do “media blogging” for STB. Basically, I will post a photo or design with a caption. Let us know how you like it. Here’s the caption for the photo above:

“This is Seattle Transit System coach 724, a GM ‘New Look’ bus from 1968, at the end of MEHVA‘s annual Santa’s Lights Tour of stunning holiday light displays around Seattle. Snow began falling before we took off and Santa (yes Santa!) told us this was the first time it snowed on the tour in 20 years. It was an enjoyable ride and I highly recommend it but I cannot guarantee snow on that night next year. “