Station Design Open Houses for Lynnwood Link Coming Next Month

The current bus bays at Lynnwood Transit Center, future light rail terminus (photo by author)
The current bus bays at Lynnwood Transit Center, future light rail terminus (photo by author)

The Lynnwood Link Extension, which will bring light rail service to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, is seven years away from opening and is preparing to break ground on construction in 2018. Sound Transit is holding a series of open houses in November on the final station designs, including renderings and concepts for new stations, at three locations in the three cities. Each open house will focus on the specific stations in the area, but an overview will be available at an online open house at Sound transit’s site  beginning November 15.

Sound Transit staff will be present at the three open houses to answer questions and respond to feedback from the public on a variety of issues, including designs, project plans, station names, potential impacts, public art, and related projects from other agencies.

Continue reading “Station Design Open Houses for Lynnwood Link Coming Next Month”

Community Transit’s Proposed 2017 Budget: More Buses and More Swift

CT 9165 at Everett Station
Likely to be replaced in 2017, under the proposed budget

Community Transit has released their proposed 2017 budget, which estimates $19 million in additional sales tax revenue thanks to the passage of the 2015 ballot measure, for a total of $172 million in operating revenue and $134 million in operating expenses.

CT plans to use the additional funding to increase bus service by 6 percent, building on recent expansions and service improvements. More detailed plans will be released closer to planned implementation in March and September, but the transit development plan from May proposes 6,000 service hours spent mostly on evening service for the Swift Blue Line and routes 101, 113, 115, 201, 202, and 222. Routes 119 and 120 would also see an increase in mid-day service. Conceptual plans for a South Snohomish County route restructure in the September service change would come along with additional weekend service and additional trips on commuter routes. A final plan for the September service change will be released early next year for public comment.

CT placed an order for at least 57 buses from three different manufactures in August, and plans to operate new service and replace older vehicles with the new fleet. The 2017 budget allocates $63.4 million for the new buses, taking a plurality (but not majority) of capital funds; the rest is spent on upgrades to transit centers and building the Swift Green Line ($50 million), machine upgrades and new security cameras ($13.6 million), and other costs ($4.7 million total). The entire Green Line will cost $73 million, but operations will be funded by an expected $50 million in federal grants; the project will be CT’s largest, surpassing the Blue Line when it opened in 2009 for $29 million.

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One possible route for the Swift Orange Line: Edmonds-Lynnwood-Mill Creek

Of the leftover funds, including routine administrative costs and wages for employees, $4.4 million is allocated towards planning and development. With planning and design work on the Green Line about to wind down, CT will fund early planning of a possible Swift Orange Line that would open in 2023 to feed Link light rail at Lynnwood Transit Center, likely to serve southern Snohomish County. CT expects Swift lines to open every few years, with a goal of a complete network by 2030, extending to Edmonds, Marysville, eastern Mill Creek, and Arlington.

A public hearing on the 2017 Proposed Budget will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, November 3 at the monthly Community Transit Board of Directors meeting at 7100 Hardeson Road in Everett (accessible on Everett Transit route 8). Written comments can be sent to riders@commtrans.org or Community Transit, 7100 Hardeson Road, Everett 98203.

Vancouver’s “Vine” BRT Begins Service January 8

Vancouver’s C-Tran, one of the largest suburban transit agencies in the state, will open its bus rapid transit system, “The Vine“, on Sunday, January 8, during a weekend of celebrations.

It is the first bus rapid transit system in the Portland region, and has been over a half-decade in the making. The $53 million project was funded with a $38.5 million federal grant, state contributions, and $7.4 million in local funds from C-Tran, using reserve funding after a sales tax increase was defeated at the ballot. Opponents tried to stop the project with a lawsuit, arguing that BRT did not meet the legal requirements of high-capacity transit that was specified in the ballot text. Next City has a nice write-up of the project’s troubles and general history.

The Vine will operate more like Community Transit’s Swift than Metro’s RapidRide, featuring a wider variety of traditional BRT features. Stations are spaced a third of a mile apart, with only 17 pairs on the 6.7 miles from Downtown Vancouver to Vancouver Mall. Platforms are raised to be level with buses, which have three doors for boarding and three interior bicycle racks for roll-on boarding through the back door. Payment is done off-board, with ticket vending machines at all stations; the Portland region’s new Hop Fastpass fare card will debut next year and C-Tran is one of the launch agencies, so integration with The Vine is expected soon. Sections of Fourth Plain Boulevard, where The Vine runs, will have transit signal priority to help speed up bus travel through the corridor by as much as 10 minutes, despite remaining in mixed traffic.

Fourth Plain is currently served by route 4, and formerly by route 44, which will be replaced by The Vine in January. Replacement of the two routes, among the agency’s most popular, is expected to cost less to operate for C-Tran. The two routes also continued to a transfer with the MAX Yellow Line across the river at Delta Park, which will instead be served by a “frequent cross-river shuttle” from Downtown Vancouver.

Community Transit: 40 Years of Snohomish County Transit

CT 25811 at Mountlake Terrace TC
A U District-bound bus at Mountlake Terrace TC

For the past few months, Community Transit has been celebrating its 40th anniversary, culminating this week with a Customer Appreciation Day this morning, Employee Appreciation Day on Wednesday, and a special board meeting on Thursday with Governor Jay Inslee in attendance.

Community Transit is the largest suburban agency in the Seattle area, barely eclipsing Pierce Transit in ridership, and has one of the most visible presences on Seattle’s streets at rush hour in the form of their “Double Tall” buses. To celebrate, I’ve hastily prepared this history of the agency using notes I had compiled during earlier research for other projects. Enjoy the read and wish a happy 40th to Community Transit.

Origins

Continue reading “Community Transit: 40 Years of Snohomish County Transit”

League of Women Voters Hosting ST3 Forums

Snohomish Co. Executive John Lovick at ST3 Open House

The League of Women Voters is hosting a series of free public forums on Sound Transit 3 at five locations around the region. Each forum will feature pro and con speakers, including Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Transportation Choices Coalition’s Shefali Ranganathan, and Smarter Transit’s Maggie Fimia.

  • Tacoma – Monday, Sept. 12 at 7 pm (tonight): Phillips Hall, UW Tacoma Campus, 1918 Pacific Ave. (use Tacoma Link)
  • Bellevue – Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 pm: St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall, 2650 148th Ave. SE (use Metro routes 221, 226, 245, and 271 from Eastgate P&R)
  • Auburn – Saturday, Sept. 17 at 10 am: All Saints’ Lutheran Church, 27225 Military Road S (use Metro route 183 or ST Express route 574)
  • Lynnwood – Monday, Sept. 19 at 7 pm: Lynnwood Library, 19200 44th Ave. W (use CT route 112)
  • Seattle – Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7 pm: Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave. (use Metro route 2)

Pierce Transit Restoring Midday and Night Service

PT 224 on Pacific Avenue

Beginning tomorrow, September 11, Pierce Transit will improve midday frequency and expand weeknight service on 13 of its routes. This is the second major expansion of the system since the Great Recession, during which the agency cut much of its service, withdrew from several cities, and failed to pass two ballot measures. Pierce Transit joins Metro, Sound Transit and Community Transit in adding service this weekend, during a coordinated region-wide schedule change.

The system’s busiest corridor, route 1 on Pacific Avenue and 6th Avenue, will see midday frequency restored to 15 minutes. Route 2, serving Lakewood and University Place, will see midday frequency boosted to 20 minutes. Route 51 will be revised to terminate in the Springbrook area of Lakewood instead of the Lakewood Sounder station. Other routes are receiving additional trips to extend service later on weeknights.

A full list of changes is available after the jump.

Continue reading “Pierce Transit Restoring Midday and Night Service”

Community Transit to Purchase More Buses, Adding More Routes

Community Transit 16804 in U District
New buses, like this one, are coming to Community Transit (photo by author)

Community Transit announced Friday that the agency’s board of directors has approved the purchase of at least 57 buses to be delivered beginning next year. The buses ordered were part of three contracts awarded to three different manufacturers: Alexander Dennis for 17 double-decker (“Double Tall”) buses, Gillig for 26 40-foot buses to be used on expanded local service, and New Flyer for 14 60-foot articulated buses that will replace older commuter buses.

The order for double-deckers came as part of a joint procurement with Sound Transit and Kitsap Transit, which the former approved last month. The additional double-deckers would bring the fleet to 62 vehicles, cementing CT’s place as the operator of the second-largest double-decker fleet in the United States, after Las Vegas.

(Community Transit's 2016-2021 Transit Development Plan)
(Community Transit’s 2016-2021 Transit Development Plan)

These bus replacements and additions are in line with Community Transit’s 5-year plan, which lays out a need to continually replace articulated buses with new models and Double Talls through 2021. The 40-foot buses used for local service are estimated to need a large replacement order in 2019 and 2020. Community Transit will also need to hire at least 115 new coach operators for these new buses and trips, during a time where other agencies are facing shortages.

The choice of Gillig for this order of 40-foot buses comes as a surprise, as they beat out New Flyer, who has been building most of CT’s buses for the last 20 years. Community Transit does, however, operate a fleet of 30-foot Gillig buses for their rural and lower-frequency services that have been running for three years.

An additional order of 15 articulated buses for the Swift Green Line will also be considered in the next few months, as Community Transit nears the line’s 2019 launch date. Delivery of those buses, which will be inter-operable with the existing Blue Line, is expected in late 2018.

Routes 109 (purple) and 209 (orange) begin service September 11.
Routes 109 (purple) and 209 (orange) begin service September 11.

In addition to the fleet changes, the previously discussed service changes will take effect on Saturday, September 11. Two new routes, 109 and 209, will create a loop around Everett using Highway 9, serving Ash Way, Mill Creek, Snohomish, Lake Stevens and Marysville every 30 minutes during weekday peaks. To accommodate the new route 209, route 222 in Marysville will be given a new route that restores service to the city’s library and serves the Getchell High Schoool and city’s new Walmart. Additional trips on commuter routes to Downtown Seattle and UW will be used to boost schedule reliability and keep up with rising congestion on I-5. Route 417 from Mukilteo will no longer serve the Lynnwood Transit Center, shaving a few minutes off the commute through the area.

Next March, Community Transit is planning to adjust local routes with additional morning and evening trips and frequency boosts at midday. In total, the changes in September and next March will eat up about 38,000 new bus hours funded by Proposition 1 in 2015. Details of the March changes will come in the next few months.

Transit Report Card: Washington, D.C.

WMATA 7000 series interior
The 7000-series cars: sleek, modern, filled with screens, and with clean floors.

It’s high time for a resurrection of this blog’s classic Transit Report Card series, in which STB writers wildly generalize another city’s transit system based on limited experiences.

I’m here to report from two separate car-free trips to Washington, D.C., home to the (in)famous Metrorail system. Over the course of two cumulative weeks in October and June, I managed to ride the entire 117-mile system, on a car of each of the seven fleet series, the near-infamous streetcar, a few Metrobus and DC Circulator routes, and Capital Bikeshare for good measure; unfortunately, I didn’t have quite enough time to fit any commuter rail service into my trip. The second trip also coincided with the first month of “SafeTrack“, a massive maintenance and repair program that is systematically shutting down and reducing service on a new segment every 2 weeks, give or take, until March (or longer).

Enjoy this ride-by review of the other Washington’s transit system, complete with a gallery at the end.

Segments ridden

  • All six Metrorail lines, all segments during normal service patterns
  • Metrobus: X2 (Downtown to Minnesota Ave), T18 (Rhode Island to Mount Rainier), 2A (East Falls Church to Ballston-MU)
  • Other Systems: DC Streetcar, Metroway, DC Calculator, Fairfax Connector routes 90 and 983, Capital Bikeshare

Scope: B+

The Metrorail system is the 2nd busiest rapid transit system in the country, and one of the oldest in the post-war class that nearly included Seattle. Since 1976, the network has expanded into 6 lines that sprawl across the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, with stop spacing and park-and-rides in garages that make it a suitable commuter rail system. It covers most of the region’s major destinations, some of which developed around the system, and was a part of just about every trip I needed/wanted to make. A handful of popular places like Georgetown are excluded from Metrorail, but are not completely inaccessible if you know to use Metrobus and could be on the cards for a future expansion.

Continue reading “Transit Report Card: Washington, D.C.”

Community Transit Unveils Colors for its Swift Lines

Swift bus at Everett Station

During a press conference Friday morning with U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene (1st district) and Rick Larsen (2nd district), Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath introduced details about the upcoming second Swift bus rapid transit line, including the all-important line colors.

As speculated during the planning process, the first line, which opened in 2009 and runs along Highway 99 from Everett to Aurora Village, will become the Blue Line; and the second line, set to open in 2019 and run from Paine Field through Mill Creek to Canyon Park in Bothell, will become the Green Line. The two lines intersect at Airport Road in southern Everett, forming an X-shaped network in southwestern Snohomish County. Both colors coincide with those of the Seahawks, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this month.

While Community Transit’s 5-year plan published in May anticipated a September 2018 opening for the Green Line, Community Transit spokesperson Martin Munguia stated that hitting 60 percent design on the project brought a “more realistic picture of both cost and schedule.” Other hold-ups include construction on the 128th Street overpass crossing Interstate 5, where WSDOT is restricting construction to one side of a time to minimize traffic disruptions and thus will be split between the summers of 2017 and 2018 along with station construction. The early 2019 launch will fall a few months shy of the Blue Line’s 10th anniversary in November, and come only four years before the possible launch of a third line to feed Lynnwood Link at Lynnwood Transit Center.

15 new articulated buses will also be ordered and delivered in late 2018, and are planned to be inter-operable with the Blue Line, sharing the same branding and similar features.

Sound Transit’s decision last year to name its lines after colors poses some potential confusion with Swift’s new lines, but Munguia says that the two agencies came together and felt that the two modes were distinct enough to not be easily confused. For the time being, Community Transit will append the Swift brand to every mention of the project.

The $73 million cost of construction will be funded mostly by a $50 million FTA Small Starts grant that is part of the 2017 budget. $17 million from the state will help build the line’s northern terminus at Seaway Transit Center, adjacent to Boeing’s massive Everett factory. Operations will be funded in part by a portion of the 0.3 sales tax approved by voters last November as well as a $5 million FTA Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality grant for the first two years, allowing for the voter-approved increase to fund other services.

The line ends at Canyon Park P&R to the south, a few miles short of downtown Bothell, where an extension has been considered and put on the back-burner until the completion of a major road project by the city; as the line would fall into King County like routes 105 and 106 do today, Community Transit has held discussions with King County Metro about the extension.

The “Blue Line” moniker will begin appearing in schedules, on bus headsigns and at stations near you this fall. When the Green Line begins service in 2019, it will operate at 12-minute headways on weekdays and 20 minutes at night and on weekends, and is expected to attract 3,300 riders in its first year. Additional lines are also planned on major corridors, stretching as far north as Arlington and as far east as Highway 9 near Silver Firs.

SwiftGreen_SystemMap_Web2016

Everett Transit and Pierce Transit to Buy Electric Buses

Proterra electric bus at Eastgate P&R

Everett Transit and Pierce Transit are the lucky recipients of federal grants to purchase new buses powered by electric batteries, similar to those operated by King County Metro on the Eastside. The Federal Transit Administration’s “Low or No Emission Vehicle Program” awarded $55 million in grants to 21 transit agencies nationwide.

Everett Transit will use its $3.4 million grant, which requires a $600,000 match from the city budget, to purchase four buses from Proterra, but will not build a fast-charging station like Metro’s at Eastgate Park and Ride in Bellevue. The new buses will replace the agency’s 4 oldest high-floor buses, dating back to 1994 and 1996, and will be used on the city’s busiest routes, including route 7 on Evergreen Way. Everett Transit cited the high cost of diesel fuel, which has now become the largest operations expense for the system, as a reason for their pursuit of the grant.

Pierce Transit, meanwhile, will only receive $2.6 million after it had requested $6.3 million. They will be able to afford only two electric buses from Proterra, as well as a fast-charging station. The agency already uses a fleet of buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), which are cleaner burning than traditional diesels, but the new electric buses will further reduce emissions.

Across the mountains, Link Transit in Wenatchee is also set to receive $3.8 million from the same program to purchase five buses and a fast-charging station. They already operate electric “trolley replica” buses on their frequent circulator routes in downtown Wenatchee and East Wenatchee, funded in 2010 by a different FTA grant.

100 More Double-Deckers for Snohomish and Kitsap Counties

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During Thursday’s meeting of the Sound Transit Board, a motion was approved to order 32 double-decker buses from Alexander Dennis for $33 million. The order is a joint procurement with Community Transit and Kitsap Transit for a total of 143 total buses; Community Transit will receive 57 buses for its commuter routes and Kitsap Transit will receive 11; Sound Transit also has the option to purchase 43 more buses at a later date, to support their goal of having all Snohomish County trips operated by double-deckers.

By 2018, Sound Transit expects to operate double-deckers on all Snohomish County routes. That includes routes 532 and 535, which currently do not have double-decker service because of vertical clearance issues at Bellevue Transit Center. Last November, Sound Transit began operating its double-decker buses in Snohomish County, contracted out to Community Transit (whose facilities are the only ones in the region that can handle them). Community Transit had begun using double-decker buses in 2007 and ordered additional fleets in 2011 and 2013, with the latter including the Sound Transit order. Kitsap Transit tried out a double-decker bus last summer while seeking higher-capacity options for its ferry feeder service.

As part of the deal, 32 articulated buses currently used on ST Express routes in Snohomish County will be transferred to King County Metro, replacing older buses and being used for future service expansion.

Production of the buses will begin in November and delivery will begin in April 2017. The relatively fast turnaround and delivery was made possible by a new parallel production line at the Alexander Dennis/ElDorado National factory in Riverside, California. Each bus has 81 seats, a 30 percent increase over typical articulated buses, and is only 42 feet long.

WSDOT and City of Tacoma Kick Off Construction of New Amtrak Station

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Local officials standing in front of a rendering of the new station

The planned move of Tacoma’s Amtrak station to Freighthouse Square, already home to Tacoma Dome Station, moved closer to fruition on July 13, as local officials celebrated the start of construction. Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar was joined by Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland at the Tacoma Dome Station plaza, and both spoke about the change that the new station will bring to the city and how they were welcome to embrace it.

The new station is part of the Point Defiance Bypass project, which will create an inland route for passenger rail between the Nisqually River and Tacoma Dome, increasing reliability and allowing for additional daily roundtrips on Amtrak Cascades between Seattle and Portland. When the station opens late next year, Amtrak will abandon its current 1970s-era station on Puyallup Avenue, and be located in close proximity to Tacoma Link and Sounder service.

The ceremony also honored the contributions of a citizen advisory committee that played a key role in the design of the station, suggesting a slew of incremental improvements to the initial concepts presented by WSDOT. The new station will integrate the existing warehouse on the site, which was built in the early 20th century for the Milwaukee Road, and instead build a glass facade next to the current Sounder entrance; an earlier plan had proposed a complete demolition and replacement of the structure with a modern steel-and-glass station and was met with backlash from Tacomans.

The project has, however, not been without controversy. Negotiations with the owner of the Freighthouse Square mall stalled earlier this year after he attempted to raise the price of land on the station site, resulting in WSDOT considering the use of eminent domain to acquire it; a month later, the owner backed down and signed an agreement with WSDOT, allowing for construction to move forward while the final price is determined at a later date.

Angle Lake Station Nearing Completion

Angle Lake Station under construction, June 2016

With the dust starting to settle on University Link, some have turned their attention towards to the other end of the Link light rail system–the south end–and the upcoming opening of Angle Lake Station in SeaTac. With only weeks remaining until the anticipated opening in September, construction on the station and the 1.6 miles of track leading to it from Sea-Tac Airport look just about complete and the first train tests have started. Sound Transit reports that the project is 94 percent complete, with the only substantial construction left for the station being the installation of electrical and mechanical systems, the parking garage, and street-level finishes such as bike lanes and sidewalks.

While the station is not expected to garner much more than a fraction of University Link’s ridership, it brings the system one step closer to Federal Way and points south, to be funded fully by ST3. A station at South 200th Street has been on the books since Sound Move in 1996, having been selected as the original southern terminus of the light rail system until significant revisions to the plan happened in 2001. The $383 million project was funded in the 2008 ST2 measure, with an anticipated completion date of 2020, but was accelerated using federal TIGER grants. Most of the design work wrapped up in 2012 and construction began in 2013.

Angle Lake Station escalators and stairs

Many of Angle Lake Station’s features herald a return to the architecture and design of the initial Central Link segment, sharing more in common with Mount Baker Station than the likes of UW and Capitol Hill’s new stations. Each entrance has only one escalator, which will presumably be set in the up direction, and a set of stairs up to the platform. The somewhat functional and ill-designed LCD screens introduced with University Link, is replaced with the two-line electronic signs used installed at most stations since 2009, lacking the ability to display real-time arrival information; for the time being, the signs will be sufficient, as they will only need to indicate which parked train will be the next to leave.

Continue reading “Angle Lake Station Nearing Completion”

OneBusAway Unveils Redesigned Android App

OneBusAway
(OneBusAway)

OneBusAway, one of the essential transit rider tools available to us, has unveiled its updated Android app with a major redesign to its interface. The app now adheres to Google’s “Material Design” guidelines, emphasizing the use of “cards” and responsive animation, bringing a modern look that is a far cry from the bland look of yesteryear.

In addition to the redesign, the app now features live trip status and displays real-time positions of buses on a given route. The live tracking also features fleet numbers, allowing transit nerds to select their bus type of choice and ensure that they never trip over the stairs of a high-floor bus ever again.

The app still displays real-time arrival information for participating systems (as of this writing, King County Metro, Pierce Transit, Intercity Transit, and Washington State Ferries) and scheduled arrivals for other agencies (including Community Transit, Everett Transit, Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail and Link light rail, the King County Water Taxi, and Seattle Streetcar). The app also has an online client, an iOS app on the App Store, and Windows Store app (for mobile and desktop).

Sound Transit Presents Paine Spur Option at Everett ST3 Meeting

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On Monday night, Sound Transit held an open house at Everett Station regarding its plans for Snohomish County in ST3, mainly focusing on the light rail extension from Lynnwood to Everett via Paine Field. Over the last month, much had been said over the disapproval of county residents and politicians over the proposed 2041 delivery date for light rail to reach Downtown Everett, with county leaders coming up with alternative proposals that sought to preserve service to Paine Field at the expense of any rail on Evergreen Way. ST presented its new solution to the Paine Field problem, building a spur and keeping the main line on Interstate 5 for a decade-faster delivery in 2031 at a lower cost and faster route. A spur, either a short rail line along the Boeing Freeway towards Boeing’s Everett factory or bus rapid transit between Everett Station and Mariner Park & Ride via Evergreen Way and Airport Road (both part of Community Transit’s Swift BRT network, the latter coming online in 2018).

The spur would cost in the range of $320 million (for 11.6 miles of BRT) to $500 million (for 2.8 miles of rail), bringing down the cost of the entire line from $4 billion to only $3.5 billion at most, which would help with the Snohomish subarea’s ability to fund the project without inter-subarea loans. Travel times between Downtown Everett and Lynnwood Transit Center would also be reduced by 7 minutes from 32 under the Paine Field option to 25; riding the rail spur would add 5 minutes of travel time and a few minutes for a transfer at the Everett Mall, adding a small amount of time for Boeing-bound riders. The distance between Lynnwood and Everett would be reduced from the proposed 15-16 miles to only 12.6, saving riders 50 cents per round-trip under the current light rail fare formula. Total ridership would increase under either of the Paine Spur options well into the 40,000 range if not higher when including the two spurs, with the slower and longer BRT option netting 7,000 to 9,000 daily riders and the light rail spur only 1,000.

Turnout at the Everett meeting was high enough for Sound Transit staff to use their prepared overflow room, just down the hall from the main meeting space on the fourth floor of Everett Station. A dozen or so local politicians were on hand to make speeches and have their opinions be heard, including representatives from cities outside of the Sound Transit district such as Marysville, Lake Stevens, and Stanwood. Many in attendance were wearing t-shirts distributed by the Light Rail to Everett group, funded by the Economic Alliance Snohomish County, reading “Light rail to Everett…in our lifetime”; the group’s official position is similar to that of the Snohomish County politicians on the Sound Transit Board, who want both sooner delivery of light rail as well as service to Paine Field’s employment center. The question-and-answer session was handled at a much faster pace than a previous session I observed at the similarly-contentious Ballard meeting, though it did continue well past the scheduled end point as people were happy to stay and listen for longer as a majority of those wanting questions answered were heard. ST CEO Peter Rogoff seemed eager to inject a healthy amount of his humor into his responses to various questions that would have been better left unanswered for their irrelevance. With the exception of an attempted filibustering from an anti-rail speaker, who had his microphone rescinded by staffers, questions touched on concerns ranging from the upcoming Tim Eyman initiative and its possible effects to ST’s plans, to possible annexation and extension of Sounder and Sound Transit Express to Marysville and Smokey Point (where the former would be time-competitive with existing peak express service).

At the end of the night, many in attendance seem to come away satisfied with the new proposals and their timeliness as well as their preservation of Paine Field service. While the lack of any rail options on Evergreen Way may disappoint those who push for TOD in Snohomish County, an Interstate 5 alignment (with Paine Field spurs) is ultimately the lesser of two evils and would be wholly acceptable and palatable to all parties in Snohomish County, from commuters to businesses and leaders.

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Capacity crowd at Everett Station, Monday night (photo by author)

Sound Transit Breaks Ground on East Link Construction

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On an overcast Friday afternoon at a gravel lot in downtown Bellevue, Sound Transit broke ground on the East Link light rail extension, bringing rail transit from Seattle to Overlake via Bellevue one step closer to realization.

The ceremony, attended by Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, current Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, former Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, Mayor John Stokes of Bellevue, King County Council member and former Bellevue mayor Claudia Balducci, and other local politicians, was attended by a few dozen Sound Transit staff, contractors, and members of the public, who listened to a series of short speeches and enjoyed live music from the Mercer Island High School Jazz Band. Of note was the clever use of biodegradable chalk marking out the Sound Transit logo on the dirt that was dug up by dignitaries with their golden shovels for the actual groundbreaking.

Since it was approved as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot in 2008, East Link has been mired in setbacks and delays ranging from routing choices and station placements in Downtown Bellevue to lawsuits launched in opposition to the project by various groups. The $3.7 billion project, funded partially by a $1.7 billion federal loan, is scheduled to open in 2023 as the Blue Line and projected to carry 50,000 riders every weekday; end-to-end travel times between the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and Redmond Technology Center on the Microsoft campus is estimated at 29 minutes, which is as fast as existing bus service during the best of traffic conditions.

Some homes in the Surrey Downs area, near the future East Main Station at the south end of the Bellevue Tunnel, have already been demolished in preparation for the start of tunneling. Construction on the 1/3-mile tunnel through downtown Bellevue is scheduled to last well into 2020 and will be excavated conventionally by hand via the Sequential Excavation Method (SEM), a departure from tunnel-boring machines used on other Link tunnels. The Overlake and South Bellevue segments will both begin construction later this year. Other work in downtown Bellevue, including the construction of a station at Bellevue City Hall a block east of the transit center, will begin in mid-2017 at the same time as major work on the Bel-Red and Interstate 90 segments of the line, the latter of which includes retrofitting the Homer M. Hadley floating bridge and existing tunnels in Mount Baker and Mercer Island for light rail trains.

The Bellevue Tunnel segment of East Link is expected to play a large role in the proposed Sound Transit 3 expansion, with the possibility of trains from Seattle and Issaquah/Eastgate interlining through Downtown Bellevue before splitting off to serve Redmond and Kirkland. The proposed southern transfer between the lines has moved from Wilburton Station (near the Overlake Hospital east of downtown) to East Main Station, providing direct service from Issaquah to Downtown Bellevue but also inciting the wrath of nearby homeowners demanding less frequent trains. Even as East Link construction moves forward, there may be further changes afoot for the line in the near and (very) far future.

Sound Transit Opens New Sounder Platform at Mukilteo Station

Mukilteo Station South Platform opening - April 2016

After a delay of over a year, Sound Transit opened the south platform at Mukilteo’s Sounder station on Monday. The platform and accompanying pedestrian bridge wesre opened with a ribbon-cutting that afternoon attended by Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Everett City Councilmember and Sound Transit Boardmember Paul Roberts, and Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit Boardmember Dave Somers. The celebration was originally scheduled for Monday, March 28, but was delayed because of a mudslide earlier that day on the tracks between Mukilteo and Everett.

All northbound Sounder trains headed towards Everett now use the new platform, requiring alighting passengers to cross over the tracks on the new pedestrian bridge. The original platform, which will now only serve southbound trains, was opened in 2008 and was intended to be quickly supplemented by a second platform, with only temporary shelters installed. Instead, the project to build the second platform was delayed during negotiations with BNSF Railway over service time needed for construction, which began in the summer of 2014.

The $18.1 million project was originally scheduled to open in early 2015, but the date was pushed back—first to autumn of that year and later into 2016—because of a limited time-frame for construction imposed by BNSF and state inspectors identifying problems with the new elevators on the overpass in late October; it was declared complete in January and is not expected to exceed its budget despite the delay. The station is the last Sounder station to receive a second platform and to use a second track and is one of the last pieces of the 1996 Sound Move measure to be built and opened.

As of 2015, Mukilteo Station has an average of 142 boardings and alightings every weekday. It is located adjacent to the Mukilteo ferry terminal, which is planned to be replaced with a new terminal sited closer to the station by 2019, and is served by three Community Transit routes and two Everett Transit routes.

TBM 1 Cutterhead Removed from UW Station

Northgate Link TBM 1 (Brenda)

At around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the cutterhead of TBM #1 (formerly known as “Brenda”) was lifted out of a 95-foot deep retrieval shaft just north of the University of Washington Link station. The 21-foot diameter cutterhead is the first part of the machine to be removed from UW Station, a week after completion of the northbound Northgate Link tunnel.

The cutterhead will stay put at the UW Station staging area, easily seen from the pedestrian overpass, until early next week, according to Sound Transit. Over the next few weeks, contractors will continue to remove other parts of the machine and transport them to a lot near Rainier Beach Station.

During that time, Sound Transit will inspect the TBM and determine whether or not it could be used to dig the last segment of Northgate Link’s tunnels, the southbound tube from U District Station to UW Station. TBM #2 (formerly “Pamela”) is still undergoing refurbishment and repairs at U District Station after arriving on March 24 despite suffering minor damage and figuratively limping to the station. Mining of the segment is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a hole-through at a further date.

In late 2011 and early 2012, Brenda was twice lifted out near Convention Place Station after the completing the Capitol Hill-Westlake segment of University Link.

Community Transit Adds New Trips to Existing Routes Next Week

A standing room-only run of route 415 seen in January.
A standing room-only run of route 415 seen in January.

As previously reported, Community Transit is moving ahead with a minor increase in service brought on by the successful passage of Proposition 1 last November. Beginning Sunday, March 27, 15 new trips and six extended trips will be put in place on seven local routes (including Swift) and nine commuter routes; other routes will receive schedule adjustments to reflect actual trip times or to facilitate transfers. The service change is made possible by reserve funds that Community Transit is able to use ahead of April 1, when the collection of an additional 0.3% of sales tax approved in Proposition 1 begins.

The full list of changes from Community Transit’s website includes reasoning behind some of the changes, such as ridership demand on some commuter routes.

  • Swift: Two new early morning trips are added at 4:40 a.m., one northbound and one southbound.
  • Route 112: Seven new trips are added in the middle of the day, providing 30-minute service until evening. This creates a more frequent all-day connection between Ash Way P&R and Swamp Creek P&R, and also more frequent service for Mountlake Terrace.
  • Route 113: Minor schedule adjustments.
  • Route 120: First two morning eastbound trips on Route 120 will leave 3 minutes earlier to improve connections with Route 435 at Canyon Park.
  • Route 240: One new eastbound trip is added at 8:25 p.m., providing later evening service from Stanwood.
  • Route 271: One new westbound trip is added at 8:55 p.m., providing later evening service from Gold Bar.
  • Route 280: Weekday trip adjustments of 5 or more minutes, including two afternoon trips leaving the Boeing Plant shifted 5 minutes earlier.
  • Route 410: All southbound trips will serve Ash Way, similar to how northbound trips operate. A bay change at Mariner P&R is also included in the changes.
  • Route 413: One new morning southbound trip is added at 6:25 a.m. to accommodate ridership demand.
  • Route 415: One new afternoon northbound trip is added at 3:15 p.m. to accommodate ridership demand. The first northbound trip to Lynnwood will leave 4th & Jackson 5 minutes earlier.
  • Route 421: One new morning southbound trip is added at 5:51 a.m. to accommodate ridership demand.
  • Route 424: The two morning southbound trips starting at the same time as currently scheduled, but the travel times are adjusted to better match actual travel time, providing more schedule reliability.
  • Route 435: One new afternoon northbound trip is added at 3:55 p.m. to accommodate ridership demand. The northbound trip leaving Stewart & 9th Ave at 4:05 p.m. will leave 10 minutes later at 4:15 p.m.
  • Route 810: The first two northbound trips leaving Stevens & Memorial Way will leave 15 minutes later at 6:15 and 6:45 p.m.
  • Route 860: All southbound trips will serve Ash Way, similar to how northbound trips operate.
  • Route 880: All trips will be extended to the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal.

A much larger service expansion, funded directly by new sales tax revenue approved by Proposition 1, is planned for this September. Community Transit presented its first proposal for the service change during a board meeting this month and is taking public comment until April 8.

Community Transit is also adjusting its University District service to serve the new University of Washington Link station, by adding a stop on Stevens Way NE at Rainier Vista. 84 trips every weekday run between the U District and Snohomish County and will stop within walking distance of the station, but will otherwise remain unchanged.

Everett Transit Proposes Changes to Service in North Everett and Silver Lake

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Everett Transit has laid out plans for some major service changes to its bus routes in North Everett and Silver Lake, slated to take place this August.

Under the new proposal, the North Everett Circulator (routes 4 and 5, which run in opposite directions in a loop around the neighborhood every hour) would be split and partially merged with existing route 17 (Everett Mall to Everett Station via Beverly Boulevard and Colby Avenue) to provide bi-directional service. The western half would become an extension of route 17 to College Station, while the eastern half would be route 4; as a result of the change, route 17 service would be extended into the weekend and run at similar times to the current route 5.

The second part of the proposal is a minor adjustment to route 7, one of the busiest routes in the city, in downtown Everett. Taking advantage of the newly-rebuilt Broadway Bridge, it would eliminate a few extra turns near Everett Station and restore the original route on Broadway used before 2012.

The third and final part of the proposal is the rerouting of all route 29 trips to serve the southern portion of Silver Lake, which is served by roughly half of the route’s trips on weekdays and a third on weekends. This would increase travel times by about five minutes, according to the current schedule.

Everett Transit is taking comments on the proposals until April 1 via an online form at EverettTransit.org, e-mail, phone calls and mail. The agency is also holding four public meetings discussing the changes, to be held at Everett Station and two other venues on the next two Wednesdays and Thursdays. The final proposal will be presented on May 13 at a public meeting to be held at Everett Station.

Public meetings

Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Everett Station
3201 Smith Ave. Room 412 – Dan Snow Room (4th Floor)

Thursday, March 17, 2016, 4 – 6 p.m.
Everett Public Library Evergreen Branch
9512 Evergreen Way – Activity Room

Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 5 – 7 p.m.
Everett Station
3201 Smith Ave. Room 412 – Dan Snow Room (4th Floor)

Thursday, March 24, 2016, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The Vintage at Everett
1001 E Marine View Dr. – Lobby