Is Spokane the Next in Line for Streetcars?

Early last year, we uncovered some dirt on a potential streetcar study for Spokane.  The Spokesman Review is now reporting that new information has come to light about the Lilac City’s most recent efforts to employ streetcars in its downtown transit network.  The Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is using $360,000 in federal and state grant funds to commission the study. As part of the plan, the agency is asking local residents to become part of its Sounding Board to help plan for what it calls a High Performance Transit Network, which could either be implemented via electric trolleybuses, streetcars, or other modes.

While light rail has been a hot concept in Spokane for several years,  the political effort was ditched in 2006 when STA disbanded a LRT planning committee. However, Susan Meyer, STA’s CEO, has raised the possibility of some kind of tram/light rail hybrid with an exclusive right-of-way for the Spokane Valley corridor[UPDATE: Commenter Bobby Bebar says that Meyer is referring to an electric trolleybus.]:

Along with other alternatives, Meyer wants the agency to study the possibility of electric rapid transit on separated traffic alignment, which can be accomplished for about 15 percent of the cost of light rail. That Spokane Valley corridor study would update work previously done for a light rail project.

In related news, the Idaho Statesman is reporting that Boise’s proposed LID (local improvement district) for its streetcar loop is getting mixed reviews, particularly from tax-exempt non-profit organizations who will end up having to chip in anyway.

Smartly Disallowing Park & Rides along Central Link

Othello TOD Rising by Oran
'Othello TOD Rising' by Oran

Back in October, on a Sound Transit 554 Express to Issaquah, I overheard a conversation between an elderly passenger and the bus driver.  The older gentleman praised our bus system (in comparison to MTA in Los Angeles) and lauded the ease of traveling between Issaquah and Seattle.  After a few minutes, the conversation shifted to Link Light Rail, where the passenger further expressed content with the region’s efforts to expand rail.  The driver had an interesting response: “You know what’s really dumb, though?  They didn’t build any park and rides along the line!  How are you gonna take the train if you can’t even get to the station?”

With the exception of Tukwila/Int’l Blvd. Station, the decision not to add park and rides along Central Link’s initial segment has touched off this fiery debate among transit proponents: should parking be added at rail stations?  This issue has been a bigger point of contention when it comes to low-density suburbs, like South Bellevue.   However, the absence of park and ride facilities in the case of the Rainier Valley segment was probably a wisely measured decision by Sound Transit.   Most importantly, we should remember that the benefits of disallowing parking at rail stations aren’t generally realized in the short-term.  Rail and real estate development, being long-term investments, yield tremendous return when done right in the present.

More below the jump.

Continue reading “Smartly Disallowing Park & Rides along Central Link”

Kevin Wallace Responds

Kevin Wallace (Wallace Properties)
Kevin Wallace (Wallace Properties)

We wanted to give Kevin Wallace a chance to address the many concerns that you had with his recent Vision Line proposal and to defend the premise behind his idea.  I had the opportunity to bring forth some of the questions that arose during our open question thread and hear more about Wallace’s reasoning for picking the controversial alignment.  Prior to asking him your specific questions, he briefed me on why he developed the Vision Line the way he did.

Wallace has four basic premises behind the proposal:

  • The minimization of impacts on homes, businesses, and roads.
  • An alignment within Sound Transit’s budget.
  • Rail that will enhance the city’s multi-modal transportation system and preserve city roads.
  • A system that provides potential for [transit-oriented] development.

More below the jump.

Continue reading “Kevin Wallace Responds”

Vision Line Comments and DT Bellevue Workshop Recap

The C4A Preferred Alternative from Sound Transit
The C4A Preferred Alternative from Sound Transit

I attended last night’s workshop for the Downtown Bellevue segment of East Link.  After the meeting, I talked to Kevin Wallace briefly about the Vision Line.  I will be meeting with him on Friday to further discuss details about the plan.  I’ll also compile a list of questions or concerns that you might have, so leave a comment below if you have a question you want to ask Kevin about this new proposal.  As much as you may disagree with this proposed line or even the premise of it, keep the comments civil and practical.  Avoid statements like “What’s with the circusy station?  It’s ugly!”  I won’t be able to ask him all of your questions, but I will bring forth the most pressing issues.

Below is a recap of the workshop written in real-time.


I’m currently at the Downtown Bellevue workshop for East Link at Bellevue City Hall.  Like the three neighborhood workshops that came before this one, public comment booths for each downtown alternative are out with strip plots and maps detailing the plan and elevation of each alignment.  Vision Line Coalition folks are aggressively lobbying outside the meeting area and handing out literature to attendees about Kevin Wallace’s proposed alternative.  The turnout is fairly high tonight with at least 100, give or take, in attendance.  The minutes of the presentation are below the jump.

Continue reading “Vision Line Comments and DT Bellevue Workshop Recap”

Kevin Wallace’s ‘Vision Line’

Painting of the proposed 'Vision Line'
Painting of the Vision Line © 2009 J. Craig Thorpe commissioned by Vision Line Coalition, LLC

The Bellevue Reporter released details this morning on Kevin Wallace’s proposed alignment of East Link— what he dubs the ‘Vision Line.’  The proposal essentially calls for the use of the BNSF corridor (B7 alternative), which would bypass the South Bellevue Park and Ride, and an alignment along 114th Ave NE through downtown before crossing I-405.  This alternative would run right along the freeway and is furthest from the downtown core than any of the other DEIS alternatives.  To address the distance factor, the plan calls for a covered walkway that leads to the Bellevue Transit Center.  Wallace has stated before that he believes a surface alignment would be too disruptive and a tunnel would be too costly.

From the Bellevue Reporter:

The Vision Line aims to protect residential homes and downtown businesses. But it adds another option to a growing list of alternatives for Sound Transit’s East Link light rail project.

Wallace is asking that Sound Transit consider his plan as part of the East Link environmental-review process.

Arup, the San-Francisco based consulting firm that undertook the study, has full details of its Phase A study here.  One important thing to remember is that this first phase of the plan has not taken ridership into account, an integral factor into making East Link cost-effective.  However, Wallace believes that the ridership will be comparable with the other alternatives while still bringing down the costs of the Bellevue alignment.  We’ll have a follow-up soon with these concerns and questions addressed directly by Wallace.

Sound Transit to hold Downtown Bellevue Workshop

East Link rendering from Sound Transit
East Link rendering from Sound Transit

Sound Transit will have its fourth public neighborhood workshop for East Link on Wednesday, November 18th, from 4 – 7pm (presentation will begin at 5pm) at Bellevue City Hall.  This workshop will be specific to the Downtown neighborhood and will likely be similar to the ones held last month for South Bellevue, Bel-Red, and Overlake (you can read our recap of the South Bellevue workshop here).

From Sound Transit:

This workshop will be focused on the downtown Bellevue preferred route and stations, identified by the Sound Transit Board, as well as the tunnel alternatives. Additional public meetings will be scheduled throughout the East Link project area as Sound Transit continues to progress into preliminary engineering along the preferred alternative.

We expect a lot of folks coming out against the preferred surface alignment and South Bellevue residents still continuing to lobby for the B7 alignment coming into Downtown.  Also expect input regarding the new C9T tunnel option.  This is all part of a public outreach period to collect comments before Sound Transit publishes its FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) next year.  I will be there to cover the workshop and we’ll have a recap up soon afterwards.

[UPDATE:] On Thursday, the Sound Transit board was briefed on yet another new Downtown alternative.  This alignment would be an elevated-surface hybrid with the  main downtown station being just south of the Bellevue Transit Center along 110th Ave NE.  Considering that a surface segment is still part of the plan, it’s unclear how the council members-elect will react to the new alternative.  We expect to hear the details of Kevin Wallace’s full plan soon, so stay tuned for our continuing coverage of East Link.

Metro Reroutes for Friday Morning’s Procession

To accommodate Friday morning’s procession for slain officer Timothy Brenton, King County Metro has released the rerouted detours for all routes that will be affected by lie in the path of the procession, which is expected to last from 9am to 11am.  However, traffic is expected to be affected as early as 8am and as late as 1pm.  As far as we know, Metro has not made a clear update linking to all of the reroutes, so we’ve taken the liberty of identifying all of them (pdf).*

[UPDATE: 11:28am] *The procession is now over and Metro has pulled most, if not all, of the reroutes.  A statement was issued:

The procession has concluded.  All buses are back to regular route.  While there are still some delays, most buses are back on schedule.   Expect trolley routes to take a little longer to get back on regular schedule.

While there are no post memorial reroutes, you may experience delays due to heavy traffic around the Seattle Center during and after the event.

Thank you for your understanding and patience during this event.

[UPDATE: 6:53am] Metro has added information about the shuttle and more reroutes.  Commenter Transit Supervisor was also kind enough to post specific information about the Queen Anne Shuttle:

– From 2/Clay, via 3 Av, Broad St, Western Av, Western Av W, 2 Av W, via Rt 1 to Kinnear, via the wire to the Rt 2 terminal, continues as inbound 2 to Queen Anne/Galer, left on Queen Anne via Rt 13 to SPU. Opposite in reverse, except that the motor coach will follow regular Rt 1 routing SB on Queen Anne Av N. NB signed “W Queen Anne via SHUTTLE” and SB signed as “To Seattle Center West”

– The other is the Rt 4 Night/Sun routing between the top of the hill and 5 Av N & Valley St. Signed NB “4 E Queen Anne via Nite/Sun Rt” and SB “To Seattle Center East”

See the list of links to individual bus routes below the jump. Continue reading “Metro Reroutes for Friday Morning’s Procession”

Editorial: Reasons why Central Link wasn’t a political ploy

ZOOM!, by Mike Bjork
ZOOM!, by Mike Bjork

Frankly, I wasn’t around actively advocating for Sound Transit’s Central Link when it was being conceived, but one common criticism that I’ve heard rail opponents iterate time and time again is that the Central Link alignment was some sort of a political ploy or gimmick. “Why Tukwila of all places? People don’t go to the airport on a daily basis. Why not the suburbs first?”  First of all, it’s rather ironic that the same people wanting to block light rail to the Eastside (and anywhere else in general) are tied with those who criticize the Central Link alignment and throw their hands up in the air asking why the suburbs were not Link’s first destination.  It’s a fair indication that these people are just against rail transit in general under the pretense of a number of other excuses up their sleeves.

More below the jump.

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The Highway vs. Fixed Transit Debate

40mph, by Mike Bjork
40mph, by Mike Bjork

There is a lot of manipulation and fact distorting when it comes to the debate between highway and road benefits versus fixed rail transit.  One of the biggest claims to have been made against Link is that it’s a “boondoggle,” a “waste of money,” and that “no one” ever rides the trains.  I pulled up an old document from the American Dream Coalition (ADC), a big anti-rail group, which compiled a laundry list of “facts” against what it calls “myths” of rail transit.  It’s a long list of points, many of which we’ve already debunked, but I thought I’d highlight a few that are relevant to the comparison often being made between roads and rail.

Rebuttals below the jump.

Continue reading “The Highway vs. Fixed Transit Debate”

South Bellevue East Link workshop recap

Sound Transit
South Bellevue Preferred Alignment (Sound Transit)

[Ed. Note: Our newest Contributor, Sherwin Lee, wrote this last week at his Lingua Urbana blog. We’ll be cross-posting some of his greatest hits as he starts writing original pieces for STB.]

I’m currently at the South Bellevue East Link workshop to take notes and ask about some key issues facing Link.  I’ve got no access to wi-fi or internet, so I won’t be live blogging, but these are real-time notes as they happened.

5:16pm: I’ve arrived at Bellevue High School for the South Bellevue East Link workshop.  Supporters of the B7/BNSF right-of-way alignment are outside handing out literature in defense of that particular alternative.  I take one and politely brush past them.

5:20pm: An open workshop with a number of booths is set up for public input.  The presentation is scheduled to begin around roughly 5:30pm.  Each booth has renderings and drafts of different phases of the guideway that follows the preferred alternative.  I hear a very elderly gentleman utter “that from everything [he’s] read, those trains can’t run across the I-90 bridge!”  I hold my tongue.

More of the workshop below the jump.

Continue reading “South Bellevue East Link workshop recap”