Everett Transit Wants Frequent Routes

Projected transit frequency during peak hours, 2040 (Everett Transit)

Everett Transit has released its Draft Long-Range Plan, which proposes a huge increase in frequent service by 2040 to feed into Link and Swift. Earlier network concepts were refined down to two ideas: coverage or frequency, and the latter won out in the minds of Everett’s planners. During peak hours, a handful of routes would have frequencies of up to 15-20 minutes, including corridors that have poor service today or don’t exist yet. Feedback is being accepted until March 30 via an online survey and a final plan is planned to be adopted in April.

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Community Transit Proposes Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 Service Changes

Under the service proposal, Route 196 buses would make an additional stop at Lynnwood Transit Center

Community Transit plans to expand once again, restoring pre-recession frequency on the Swift Blue Line and re-routing local buses for better connections and usability. The service expansion proposal covers Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 and would add about 49,000 annual service hours (12 percent over March 2018). It would be funded by the 0.3% sales tax increase approved by voters in 2015, as well as a 25-cent increase in fares for local and DART service due in October 2018.

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2017 Regional Transit Ridership Grows By Leaps and Bounds

Rush hour at University Street station

Sound Transit and Metro have released their 2017 ridership numbers, and they paint a rosy picture for our regional transit system amid a national decline in transit ridership (particularly among buses). The two agencies alone carried 155 million total passengers within King County; add estimated figures from Pierce and Snohomish counties and the number of total transit trips taken in 2017 increases to over 190 million. Leading the way is Link, which averaged 72,028 weekday riders and carried 23 million total passengers, an increase of 22 percent over 2016’s huge ridership. Sound Transit’s ridership grew by 10 percent overall, with only a small decline in ST Express ridership holding it back.

To put things into perspective, Link is now ~40 daily passengers away from surpassing the Minneapolis–St. Paul light rail system, which averages 72,064 riders on 23 miles of track. Even without the boost from the Northgate Link extension, ridership could come close to – or surpass – Denver’s RTD light rail system, which carries 75,900 daily riders over a sprawling 59 miles of track.

More numbers after the jump.

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West Seattle and Ballard Link’s Draft Alignment and Many Comments

The tried-and-true method of taking public comments, as seen at West Seattle

On Tuesday night, Sound Transit put on an open house in West Seattle that was well attended (a little crowded, at that) and seemed to generate good ideas. It had all the standard fare: a looping video of the project alignment; some rollplots with maps that vaguely showed the alignment over some aerial imagery; boards with basic information about the project; a venue with ample parking and a decent bus connection; and an audience of older people who were able to make the 6:00 pm start time by not working downtown. This post isn’t about that meeting, however.

This is the 21st century, and it seems like Sound Transit has finally updated the public comment process to suit it. The online scoping open house (which is open until March 5) features a neat comment system that allows you to place notes over an interactive map of the representative project alignment and vote on the comments of others. The comments can be sorted by the number of “likes”, providing a rough way of gauging the popularity of particular ideas, which makes the lives of us bloggers a bit easier. It seems to be a hit too, with over 600 comments generated in the first week of going online. While some of the comments were off-topic, off-kilter, or repetitive, a lot of the more popular comments offered good ideas, including some that transit advocates overlooked while pushing their own agendas.

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New Swift Green Line Stations and Queue Jumps Going Up in Everett

The new eastbound bus lane on 128th Street SW in Everett (courtesy of Community Transit)

In the last few months, Community Transit has been hard at work on the Swift Green Line, the new bus rapid transit line linking Everett’s Paine Field area to the future Mariner Link station, Mill Creek, and Canyon Park. Last week, they celebrated the opening of a new bus-only lane on 128th Street SW near its interchange with Interstate 5, which will form part of a queue jump for eastbound buses, complete with a merge pocket on the bridge itself.

A queue jump and merge pocket on the westbound lanes approaching the interchange, which will instead have a shared bus-and-turning traffic lane, is planned to be completed by the end of the year. While Swift buses won’t be in service until early 2019, the queue jump will be used by a few of the buses that cross the 128th Street interchange, which previously took up to 17 minutes during heavy congestion.

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Tacoma Dome Link Moves Slowly Into Preliminary Engineering

Tacoma Dome Station will have Sounder, Amtrak, and two flavors of Link by 2030 (Photo by author)

Last week, the Sound Transit Board signed off on a $125.7 million budget for preliminary engineering on the Tacoma Dome Link Extension and a $10.3 million consultant contract for the same project. When the extension opens in 2030, trains will run all the way to the Tacoma Dome multimodal complex on 10 miles of mostly elevated track, passing through three intermediate stations before reaching Federal Way. Trains will take about 20 minutes to make the trip from Tacoma to Federal Way, and about 35 minutes from Tacoma to Sea-Tac Airport.

Like the “accelerated” schedule for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions, Tacoma Dome Link will take until 2019 to decide a preferred alternative and a final environmental impact statement may not be published until 2021. Construction won’t begin until 2025, a year after light rail trains start serving Federal Way.

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A Brief History of the Point Defiance Bypass

Lakewood Station
Lakewood Station and the Point Defiance Bypass beyond it (Adam Moss / Flickr)

With the national attention that yesterday’s tragic derailment is getting, we felt it would be best to provide a bit of context about the accident’s site: the Point Defiance Bypass. While it is a “new” railroad, built primarily for passenger use, the corridor is over a century old and some pieces date back decades. The bridge over Interstate 5 in particular was built in 1936 over an older highway and was given new tracks as part of the project.

On May 1, 1891, the Tacoma, Olympia & Grays Harbor Railroad announced the completion of a 25-mile railway from Lacey to Lakeview (approximately where South Tacoma station is today), forming a new branch of the Northern Pacific Railway. The main line from Lakeview to Tacoma had been built in 1873 and continued south through what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) towards Tenino. Although a parallel route was built along the coast and around Point Defiance in 1914, this inland route was sparsely used as a freight route by Northern Pacific, and later Burlington Northern to access the JBLM and South Tacoma areas.

By the 1990s, the railway was underused and caught the interest of WSDOT, who were planning what would become the Amtrak Cascades network. While Amtrak trains were using the route along the coast, the state’s 1997 Intercity Passenger Rail Plan envisioned a faster, inland route coupled with a new multimodal complex in Tacoma to link up with the Sounder and Link lines that Sound Transit planned for the city. The state legislature approved design and property acquisition funds in 2005, beginning a long series of back and forth meetings with cities, residents, the military, and other groups along the route. Sound Transit later acquired the whole corridor from BNSF in 2004.

President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package gave the bypass the boost it needed, providing much of the funding for the $181 million project and accelerating the completion date from 2019 to 2017 (a deadline mandated by the federal grant). By the following year, WSDOT was deep in environmental assessment and Sound Transit had already started moving dirt on the Lakewood to Tacoma segment. It received final approval from the Federal Railroad Administration in early 2013 and began construction in 2015, with work on the Nisqually junction completed later that year. The new station at Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square encountered a speed bump late into property acquisition negotiations, but was ultimately able to break ground in July 2016. Extensive testing on the whole corridor began in January of this year, with WSDOT and Sound Transit rolling out public service announcements about train safety. Passenger service began yesterday morning, and seemed to be going smoothly, until the train reached one of the final turns on the approach to Nisqually junction at 7:30 am. While the investigation has not determined the exact cause of the crash, early indications show that the train was traveling overspeed on a downhill section before the turn.

Sound Transit Approves Station Names and Vehicles for Tacoma Link Extension

An updated map of the Tacoma Link Extension, with the new station names (Sound Transit)

The extension of Tacoma Link to the Hilltop neighborhood is nearing the start of construction, slated for next year, and Sound Transit has recently finalized several key details, including an order for new light rail vehicles, the permanent names for the stations, and the final design of the stations after public feedback.

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Election Night 2017: Open Thread

It’s that time of the year, again. We here at STB will be posting results for races in which we endorsed (or have a general interest in) in this thread and on Twitter. Make sure to get your ballot in a box or postmarked by 8 p.m.

Races to Watch (STB endorsed candidates listed with bold text):

  • Seattle Mayor: Cary Moon vs. Jenny Durkan
  • Seattle City Council Position 8: Teresa Mosqueda vs. Jon Grant
  • Seattle City Council Position 9: Lorena González vs. Pat Murakami
  • Washington State Senate, 45th District: Manka Dhingra vs. Jinyoung Lee Englund
  • King County Executive: Dow Constantine vs. Bill Hirt
  • Auburn Mayor: Nancy Backus vs. Largo Wales
  • Tacoma Mayor: Jim Merritt vs. Victoria Woodards
  • Everett Mayor: Cassie Franklin vs. Judy Tuohy

5:30 pm

  • The Stranger has compiled a list of election night parties in Seattle and the Eastside, broken down by candidate.
  • Turnout so far is estimated at 20 percent for King County, with the final turnout expected to reach 48 percent. According to The Everett Herald, Snohomish County has seen 14.8 percent of its ballots returned and expects an overall turnout of 34 percent. Pierce County expects to see a total turnout of 33 percent.
  • The first results will be posted at the following times: approximately 8:00 pm (Snohomish Co.), 8:15 pm (King Co.), and 8:30 pm (Pierce Co.).

8:15 pm

  • Ballot boxes have closed and the first results are streaming in. So far:
Office Candidate % Candidate %
Seattle, Mayor Cary Moon 39.38 Jenny Durkan 60.62
Seattle, Council No. 8 Teresa Mosqueda 61.51 Jon Grant 38.49
Seattle, Council No. 5 Lorena González 67.68 Pat Murakami 32.32
Senate, 45th District Manka Dhingra 55.42 Jinyoung Lee Englund 44.58
Tacoma, Mayor Jim Merritt 48.02 Victoria Woodards 51.98
Everett, Mayor Cassie Franklin 49.69 Judy Tuohy 50.31

Sound Transit Adds Special Tacoma Dome Service on Friday and Saturday

Tacoma Dome

Country music star Garth Brooks will be in Tacoma for three nights—Friday through Sunday—for concerts expected to draw over 100,000 fans. To accommodate the influx of fans, who have sold out all three days at the Tacoma Dome, Sound Transit will run special Sounder service on Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4. In addition to these runs, regular service on Sunday, November 5 for a Seahawks game will give Sounder one of its rare weeks with full seven-day service (albeit with limited service).

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Everett’s New Transit Network: Frequency, or Coverage?

Will this bus travel further or more frequently? (photo by author)

Everett Transit’s ongoing work on a 20-year Long Range Plan has reached its halfway milestone, marked by the presentation of service options for the public to discuss. The service options will be up for public feedback until the end of the month, either in person or via an online open house. A draft Long Range Plan will be released early next year and a final version is planned to be adopted by the end of March, guiding the agency’s service standards well into the 2030s.

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Yesler Way Bridge Reopens, Ending Transit Detours

The demolished Yesler Way Bridge, seen last year

After 16 months of construction, the Yesler Way Bridge over 4th and 5th avenues has been reopened to traffic on Tuesday. Several bus routes that were affected by the long-term closure have resumed normal operations. Bus stops at Yesler Way & 3rd Avenue and Terrace Street & 5th Avenue have been re-opened.

Although it won’t have trolleywires, as proposed to accommodate Routes 3/4, the new bridge has curb ramps, some bulb outs, and is engineering to modern safety standards while respecting the original 1910 design.

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Denny Way Bus Lane Delayed

The newly repaved section of Denny Way, just west of Stewart Street

The promise of an eastbound bus lane on Denny Way made waves last month, but the September deadline has come and passed, with not a hint of red paint on the street’s asphalt. So, what gives?

Mike Lindblom at The Seattle Times reports ($) that the announcement was premature and came about due to a misunderstanding between the department and Seattle City Light (SCL). SCL’s Denny Substation, which occupies most of the block between Minor and Yale, has not been completed. One of Denny’s westbound lanes is used by the project’s contractors, and would have been eliminated with the center bus lane in place. Recently, SCL tore up and repaved Denny Way, which SDOT saw as an opportunity to install the new bus lane with minimal disruption. A SCL manager approved of SDOT’s proposed work, mistaking it for mere restriping and not a full lane conversion. SDOT’s original announcement was pulled, and a new schedule for the bus lane pushes back installation until spring of next year.

SDOT Orders 10 CAF Streetcars for Center City Connector

Cincinnati Streetcar Testing
CAF Urbos 3 streetcar in Cincinnati (Travis Estell/Flickr)

The International Rail Journal and El País reported this morning that SDOT will award a $50 million contract to CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles), a Spanish rail manufacturer, to build ten “Urbos” streetcars for the Center City Connector project. Three of the streetcars in the order will be used to replace the oldest cars on the South Lake Union line, which lack off-wire capabilities and could potentially be sold to Portland. The contract also includes testing, spare parts, and options for an additional ten streetcars if needed.

CAF will assemble the cars in their Elmira, New York factory to comply with Buy America requirements. The Urbos 3 model is a 100% low floor vehicle, unlike the current 70% low floor streetcars from Inekon, and has 34 to 38 seats in a mix of transverse and aisle-facing rows. The vehicles, like the newer generation of Inekon streetcars built for First Hill, are able to run off-wire using on-board batteries and a “super-capacitor” developed by CAF.

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West Seattle & Ballard Link Get Green Light

Representative project alignments for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions (courtesy of Sound Transit)

On Thursday, the Sound Transit Board signed off on a $285.9 million budget for preliminary engineering for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions Project, as well as a $24.4 million contract with HNTB to start project development. The project will include both extensions, despite their planned operation as separate lines, and will be the first ST3-original component to be planned.

The project will have an “aggressive” schedule, with alternatives development compressed into one year. By early 2019, with a preferred alternative identified after three rounds of public hearings, Sound Transit aims to wrap up all environmental review and early design work by 2022. Despite the “aggressive” schedule, construction would not begin until 2025 for West Seattle and 2027 for Ballard, leading to their respective openings in 2030 and 2035.

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Sounder South Line Gets New Trains and New Trips

One of the new cab cars during an earlier test run (Sound Transit)

Beginning this coming Monday, September 25, the Sounder South Line will have two new roundtrips, bringing the total number of daily roundtrips to 13. The trips will bring Sounder frequencies down to every 20 minutes during peak hours and 40 minutes during the early afternoon peak.

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