Bruce Englehardt, also known by the handle "SounderBruce", is a college student in northern Snohomish County. Frequent routes include the 201/202, 421/422 and 510/511/512, with occasional trips on Sounder North.
At Friday’s regular board meeting, the Sound Transit Board heard a report about the state of elevators and escalators on the Link light rail system. Some stations, like University of Washington, are not meeting the escalator availability standard because of frequent and long-term outages that is being blamed on premature component failure, among other issues.
Sound Transit broke ground last Friday on Northgate Station, bringing the opening for Northgate Link one day closer (though still four years away). As we’ve reported before on the blog, the station will be elevated above NE 103rd Street on the east side of 1st Avenue NE, just west of the current transit center and southwest of the Northgate Mall.
A 455-stall parking garage, the subject of much controversy, will be built on the north side of NE 103rd Street to replace the existing park and ride. The County plans to build at least 200 affordable housing units on the former park and ride to the east of the station (along with a relocated bus station), as part of a mixed-use development funded in part by the City. SDOT will also build a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5 (funded by Move Seattle) that will extend the station’s walkshed to North Seattle College and surrounding neighborhoods.
Sound Transit has unveiled the first designs for its stations on the Lynnwood Link Extension, a 8.5-mile light rail project that will continue the current line north past Northgate to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. While there were several open houses this week where comments were taken, the public can also use an online open house to look at the stations and submit comments until November 30.
The extension has four stations planned to open in 2023, and two provisional stations that will have accommodations to be built at a later date as infill stations. One of the provisional stations, at NE 130th Street, was included in ST3 and could open in 2031 (or earlier), while the other at 220th Street SW in Mountlake Terrace has not been approved.
While we celebrate a huge victory for transit here in Seattle and lament the result of the presidential race, one must not forget about the plethora of other transportation ballot measures put on by other cities across the country Tuesday night. Out of a total of 48 local and state transit measures, 33 were approved as of Tuesday night (including ST3 and the Kitsap fast ferries measure), a success rate of 71%, and representing over $200 billion in transit investments (the lion’s share of which is taken by Seattle and Los Angeles).
The Transport Politic has an excellent list of measures, results, and a basic summary of what is required for each to pass (and what is in each package). Streetsblog USA has also been going around the country and looking into the measure during the run-up to the election, and each piece is worth a read.
On a quiet Tuesday night last month, Sound Transit held its final design open house for Judkins Park Station, located at the site of the Rainier Freeway Station on Interstate 90. The open house, hosted at the Northwest African American Museum in the Central District, was attended by a few dozen members of the community and regional advocates for transit, cycling and walking.
At the meeting, Sound Transit staff, architect David Hewitt, and artist Barbara Earl Thomas presented elements of the station’s designs, divided into three sections (the west entrances on Rainier Avenue, the platform itself, and the east entrance on 23rd Avenue). With an emphasis on pedestrian, bike and bus access to both entrances, which build upon existing bike trails and bus routes that converge on I-90, Judkins Park will become an important transfer point between modes, especially to access the Central District.
One of the most notable and visible features of the station —and surrounding area— is the incorporation of Jimi Hendrix imagery in the art and nearby parks. The entrances will feature two archival photos of a young Hendrix, who was raised nearly a mile north of the station, rendered in a dot-matrix pattern by artist Hank Willis Thomas; the design will be harder to distinguish from close up, but come in focus from further distances.
The station itself will stretch over 1,300 feet from end to end, with station utilities and auxiliary rooms located mid-way between the Rainier entrance and platform. From Rainier Avenue, riders can use one of two entrances on each side of the street, with the west side connected by a pedestrian bridge over the street attached to the westbound lanes of I-90, and converge into a common ticketing area. Once in the station, riders will walk under a sheltered walkway attached to a maintenance building and cross over the westbound track in order to reach the platform in the middle of the tracks. Sound Transit officials told me at the open house that a configuration with the station entrance between the two tracks would have not brought enough daylight onto Rainier Avenue and require more new ramps to be constructed at additional cost and risk.
From the east end on 23rd Avenue, station access is much simpler. A single entrance, located next to a bulbed-out pedestrian signal and two bus stops, and a series of stairs, escalators and elevators descending straight onto the platform. Both sides of the station will also feature a wide variety of trees and shrubs meant to mask the concrete sound walls that shield the station from Interstate 90.
Overall, the Judkins Park Station is much more interesting than it would appear at first glance. It will bridge the gap between Rainier and 23rd avenues, both in distance and elevation, and serve as an important transfer point for bus routes 7 and 48, as well as for cyclists coming off the Mountains-to-Sound Trail. With the amount of thought, work, and sensible compromise put into the station by Sound Transit and Hewitt Architects, I can foresee few design decisions that we will come to regret after opening day.
The new station will open in 2023 as part of East Link and replace the current Rainier bus station, as well as the express lanes of Interstate 90. To accommodate this, the bus station will be closed next summer alongside the HOV lanes on Interstate 90; construction on the station will begin in 2018 and service will begin in 2023. Sound Transit has also posted the slides from the presentation on their website, which has a full set of renderings and other notes.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or Community Transit, 7100 Hardeson Road, Everett 98203.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).