West Seattle and Burien Routes Add Stops in Pioneer Square

1st & King SB With the Spring 2019 service change, routes 21X, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, and C Line began serving two stops on 1st Ave. This will be the first time this century that [ed: some of these] southwest Seattle routes will connect directly to Pioneer Square. Both stops are centered on King Street, albeit at the furthest end of the intersection, with the northbound stop closer to Jackson and the southbound stop nearly at Dearborn.

The two stops add an important connection to routes that previously used the viaduct’s Columbia and Seneca ramps, making them an anomaly amongst the rest of the downtown routes as they did not serve any stops in or near Pioneer Square or the International District. With the viaduct out of commission, routes have been traveling along 1st Avenue South making a quick jog on Dearborn to access the new ramps to SR-99. Continue reading “West Seattle and Burien Routes Add Stops in Pioneer Square”

Sound Transit Looking to Improve Passenger Information Systems

e to Bea

In a Request for Proposals released April 13th, Sound Transit outlined a set of system upgrades for its passenger information systems (PIMS). The most visible component of these systems are the realtime arrival information for ST trains and buses, but they also include backend systems that collect and process the data. This project has three major components: real-time prediction enhancements, better schedule integration, and cross mode messaging, integrating data from multiple transit modes into a single enterprise system. The contract will replace the Public Address system and the station Variable Message Signs currently in place for Link, Sounder and Tacoma Link. Bringing all of this data in to a single combined system may require new or augmented data collection equipment (e.g. tracking or passenger counters).

Passenger-facing improvements include provisions for communicating train size, passenger load, and out-of-service indicators, among a long list of other datapoints. Information would be displayed on station signage, the Sound Transit website, on One Bus Away, and in GTFS/R feeds that interface with third-party services such as Google Transit.

East Link’s budget already funds augmenting the current system to support multiple lines serving the same station. The current two-minute warning announcements would be modified to announce the train’s destination and line color. If the RFP failed for some reason, the existing project would still support multiple lines, while riders would not enjoy any benefits of a more modern information system.

Sound Transit notes that the current Link passenger information system is approaching the end of its life (though some readers may proclaim that has already passed). Replacing the entire PIMS is a disruptive task and Sound Transit has wisely identified that the best time to complete a major overhaul would be in conjunction with the opening of East Link, when major modifications would have been taking place anyways.

The project is backed by lifecycle replacement funds that periodically repair and replace aging equipment as well as a portion of ST3’s technological innovations budget. This RFP covers Link, Tacoma Link and Sounder. Future RFPs will bring ST Express and ST’s future BRT lines in to this system. The RFP boldly states that “multiple, unintegrated systems does not satisfy the [requirements],” but then admits that implementation may come in multiple phases, thus diluting–or at least postponing–the very goal this and the future RFP set out to achieve.

Work on the project is scheduled to begin in 2019; proposers have been asked to offer implementation schedules that deliver benefits as early as realistically achievable. However, some aspects have hard deadlines to coincide with the launch of East Link service.

The full list of features the contract is looking to provide looks like it was lifted out of STB comment threads, and is listed after the break:

Continue reading “Sound Transit Looking to Improve Passenger Information Systems”

Metro Quietly Discontinues Touch-to-Exit

A video showing riders using the touch to exit feature on the first day

When Metro’s XT40 trolleys hit the streets on August 19, 2015 they also introduced the Touch to Exit feature to the fleet. The system, officialy the Vapor CLASS sensing system, uses a set of ultrasonic sensors mounted above the door. One the bus is fully stopped, an indicator light above the doors illuminates and if the sensors notice a break, the system sends a signal to open the doors. Shortly after not noting any breaks, the doors will shut automatically This means that all sets of doors can be operated independently, with the bus operator only having to take control of the front door.

In total, 279 of Metro’s buses have been outfitted with the feature, including all 174 electric trolleys, 20 RapidRide buses and 85 three-door articulated hybrids. King County DOT’s Public Affairs Coordinator Jeff Switzer explains that the goal was to improve the customer’s ability to exit by the back door and activate the back door themselves.

Continue reading “Metro Quietly Discontinues Touch-to-Exit”

What’s in a reroute?

Every year the Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge closes for the Blue Angels performance. As one of only four ways around Lake Washington, the closure hugely impacts the region’s transportation system. It is a safety zone mandated by the FAA to “keep the public and pilots safe and to minimize distractions.” The bridge closures take place midday on weekdays and weekends, and causes 1.5 mile backups, while affecting the two all-day routes over I-90.

These two routes–both Metro-operated Sound Transit routes 550 and 554–miss two stops: The Rainier flyer stops and Mercer Island Park & Ride. It is impossible to serve the Rainier flyer stops during the closure, as the stops can only be accessed from the bus-only express lanes in the center of I-90, and the next accessible exit is on the other side of the bridge that is closed. Luckily, routes 7 and 106 provide a frequent (though not as quick) connection from Downtown to the Rainier flyer stop.

According to data from Sound Transit’s 2017 Service Implementation Plan, Mercer Island passengers account for 10-11% of route 550’s average ridership and 4-7% of route 554’s average ridership. The SIP numbers suggest that about 60-85% of riders originating at Mercer Island are headed towards Seattle.

Neither Metro nor ST were able to provide me with stop-level data, but unofficial ridership numbers show that route 550’s weekday demand drops sharply after about 9:15 and doesn’t pick back up until mid-afternoon. Much of route 550’s demand on Mercer Island centers around parking availability at the 447 stall Park & Ride, so once the lot is full, ridership originating at that stop drops. Weekend ridership is across the board making it difficult to draw conclusions.

Almost two thirds of route 550’s Bellevue ridership uses the three stops in Bellevue’s downtown core; if ridership from the recently-closed South Bellevue Park & Ride is excluded that number jumps to almost 80%.

Despite the majority of the ridership not going to Mercer Island, Metro has designed their reroutes to prioritize Mercer Island ridership. After leaving the tunnel, the route heads over SR-520 (the only logical choice) and sails past Bellevue in order to reach a connection in southern Bellevue to connect to a temporary Metro shuttle. From there it continues on its normal route, albeit on a much delayed schedule. In 2016 and 2017 I inadvertently timed it just right so that I was able to catch a rerouted trip. The reroutes were slightly different each year.

Route 550 Reroutes

Blue: Normal route; Red: Common reroute; Black: 2016 reroute; Green: 2017 route

2016’s reroute was slightly more sensible, but due to the closure of the South Bellevue Park & Ride for East Link construction this was no longer possible in 2017. In 2016, the route used the Bellevue Way ramp from SR-520 and ran without stops between SR-520 and South Bellevue Park & Ride. At the Park & Ride, the bus was able to make a U-turn through the park & ride and continue to/from its normal route. Despite vocal objections from riders, the operator didn’t make any stops in Bellevue while continuing to/from 520.

In 2017, the same route wasn’t possible and the route was extended even further to Eastgate Park & Ride to connect to the Mercer Island shuttle. From Eastgate, the route continued to/from Bellevue Way via I-90 to its regular route.

I asked Metro why stops couldn’t have been made in reverse order, and King County’s Scott Gutierrez explains:

The ST 550 reroute also was seen as the most efficient and least confusing for customers and operators. For customers, this reroute essentially maintained the usual sequence in terms of stops (other than the I-90 stops). Making the Bellevue stops in reverse order would have been very challenging to communicate to customers. For operators, this option allowed them to use an established layover location with access to comfort facilities.

The operator I spoke to mentioned that he didn’t have any access to the comfort station and was running his trip late as a result.

Having a chance to reflect on this, I’ll agree that running in reverse order isn’t the best solution. However, there is a solution that would allow operators adequate layover time, provide access to all regular stops outside Seattle, and prioritize the highest ridership routes.

Similar to Zach’s idea to permanently move route 550 to SR-520, the reroute could be changed to serve Bellevue immediately, with the Mercer Island shuttle connecting in Downtown Bellevue and serving Bellevue Way riders. The rerouted trip could end at the existing layover space next to the Bellevue Library or at the Bellevue Transit Center before looping back to the library. This means the operator of the 550 would likely have a much longer layover, as any delays from 520 would be more than offset by the truncation of the route. However, this means that the Mercer Island/Bellevue Way shuttle would have much higher platform hours. The connection in Bellevue could be made in a “bump and run& fashion–as both routes serve the same stop, and once passengers deboard from one route and board the second, each leaves, ensuring a seamless transfer for all.

There is no doubt that closing off any part of a route is going to cause delays, inconvenience riders, and cause confusion–even if no stops are missed. Despite costing more to implement, it prioritizes the locations where the most riders are headed.

Visualizing DSTT Audible Announcements

Nine minutes and 24 seconds of audio in the DSTT. Dark shaded areas indicate times when announcements were playing

For several months, the elevator at the east end of the pedestrian overpass at SeaTac/Airport station was out of service. Riders requiring the elevator needed to ride Link to Tukwila International Boulevard station and then ride Metro’s RapidRide A Line bus service to South 176th Street. If you were unaware of this, take pride that you didn’t have to listen to the frequent audible reminders played every few minutes throughout Link’s alignment.

That elevator has since been repaired, but right on cue another nonredundant elevator has failed. Not to worry, Sound Transit has you covered with another announcement:

The Tukwila International Boulevard Station ground level elevator is out of service. Southbound Link passengers requiring elevator service, ride Link to SeaTac/Airport station, and from International Boulevard and South 176<supth Street, transfer to northbound RapidRide A Line to Tukwila

If you missed part of that 19 second monologue, never fear, because 22 seconds after it finished it will be replayed in its entirety. And if you missed it the second time around, you needn’t wait even four minutes to hear it twice more.

This message, much like the previous elevator messages, are far too long and play far too often. I had to re-listen to the clip multiple times in order to type an accurate transcript (albeit from a low quality cell phone recording). The fact that the DSTT stations are cavernous echo chambers certainly doesn’t help their intelligibility, but if the announcements are so difficult to understand the answer should be improving their understandability and not increasing their frequency. Further, since the announcement only applies to southbound Link riders, the announcement need not play more than the headways of southbound trains. And much like the train warning announcements, they need only play on the southbound side of the station.

These announcements are in addition to the usual barrage of noise pollution alerting riders to policies that are clearly spelled out with signage and pavement markings throughout the tunnel. Yesterday I recorded the audio during my wait on the platform. For this sample, the total duration of audio announcements is 113.2 seconds which equates to a solid 20% of the time. It would have been slightly longer if one of the quot;train now arriving" message hadn’t preempted one of the security announcements.

With so many announcements playing so frequently they become noise both figuratively and literally. And since the routine announcements sound exactly the same as the urgent announcements, they may have just done the opposite of their intent and trained regular riders to completely ignore them.

Continue reading “Visualizing DSTT Audible Announcements”

Pronto vs Biketown: The Northwest Bike Share Showdown

bike-wars

I recently had the opportunity to check out Portland’s new-launched bike share system, Biketown. While the bikes are similar, the rest of the system is quite different and there are many things Seattle could learn while mulling Pronto’s expansion. I joined Pronto earlier this year and use it several times a week. The two systems are similar but have one very distinct and important difference.

Biketown is operated by Social Bicycles, who operate bikes share systems in 25 other cities in 3 countries. Unlike Pronto’s system operated by Motivate, Biketown does not require users to return bikes to specific stations. At the end of the trip, riders can simply lock up the bike to any public bicycle rack, albeit for a $2 fee. Rescuing a bike from a non-Biketown rack will net the next rider a $1 credit. Riders locking bikes up to racks outside the home area are hit with a $20 fee. By not forcing riders to start and end their trips at specific stations this effectively solves the full or “dead” docks that Pronto users experience. It also enables an additional layer of convenience.I recently had the opportunity to check out Portland’s new-launched bike share system, Biketown. While the bikes are similar, the rest of the system is quite different and there are many things Seattle could learn while mulling Pronto’s expansion. I joined Pronto earlier this year and use it several times a week. The two systems are similar but have one very distinct and important difference.

Pricing

Pronto Biketown
Single ride N/A $2.50
24 hours $8 $12
3 days $16 N/A
Annual $95.40* $144

*$85 if paid up front.
Pronto’s prices do not include sales tax.

All Biketown plans include a set number of minutes per day with overage at 10¢ per minute. Pronto’s prices are capped per-trip (45 minutes for annual members, 30 minutes all others) with overage at $2.00 for the first 30 minutes and $5 for each additional 30 minutes. Each Pronto trip comes with unlimited trips, so you could theoretically keep a bike for 24 hours straight for just $8 if you made sure to visit a dock every 30 minutes.

Signups

Biketown has a mobile app and riders can sign up for any plan through the app. I attempted to do this but the Android app simply displayed an empty screen so I was unable to complete registration through the app and had to do so through the mobile-friendly website. Riders can also purchase any plan at stations that have a kiosk (about half of them). Pronto sells 24-Hour and 3-Day Passes only at stations. Annual passes are only sold online. Pronto does not have a mobile app, but directs to third-party apps that show bike/dock status.

Stations

I won’t pretend to be an expert on Portland’s geography, but with a semi free-floating system the station siting is less important. With Pronto, I often find that bikes are a few blocks away from my origin or destination. Pronto’s station footprint is large enough that it is useful for many short trips in and near Downtown but small enough to not be useful for a majority of Seattle.

Bikes

Both systems use bikes with a step through frame (AKA “girl” bikes). This makes it for riders of all heights easy to start the right way. Both bikes are built with internal hubs. Most bike riders will be familiar with the more popular derailleur design for shifting gears where a chain slides on to differently sized sprockets. In stark contrast internal hubs allow the bike to be shifted while stopped and generally can’t be shifted while pedaling. Shifting is accomplished by twisting a grip on the handlebar near the rider’s thumb. Pronto’s bikes use a 7 speed hub connected to a chain (with a chain guard) whereas Biketown uses an 8 speed hub with a shaft drive. I sometimes experience issues with slipping gears on Pronto, but this wasn’t (yet) an issue on Biketown’s two month old bikes.

I’d need to see the spec sheets or ride both bikes on the same terrain to be certain, but my anecdotal observations were than the first 7 gears had nearly the same ratios. This means that Biketown’s eighth gear is meant for higher speeds on nearly flat terrain. I’d prefer to trade this for a lower gear at the opposite end.

Both feature a front basket. The Biketown basket is larger and fully enclosed and is great for hauling small items whereas the Pronto basket is U shaped with a bungee cord and better for hauling larger items (such as a yoga mat). Both have built-in front and rear lights that turn on automatically. The handlebars on the Biketown bikes feel very narrow; I imagine that those with broad shoulders will be riding with their elbows pressed in to their sides. I found the rubber grips on Biketown’s brake levers to be a nice touch.

Helmets

Unlike King County’s all-ages helmet law, Oregon’s law stipulates that riders 16 and over are not required to wear a helmet. Thus, Biketown encourages the use of but does not offer helmet rentals. Pronto charges $2 for helmet rental except for annual members for which it is free. Helmets are available at every station.

Rental Experience

With Biketown, all interaction takes place on the bike’s built in computer which sits over the rear wheel. Riders can start a trip by entering their 6 digit account number followed by a 4 digit rider-assigned PIN.

With Pronto, 24 hour and 3 day pass holders need to swipe their credit card at the station’s kiosk and then enter a four digit bicycle number to check out a bike. Strangely, this option is not available for annual members, necessitating the use of a Pronto-provided keyfob in order to check out a bike. Non-annual members can purchase a keyfob for $2.50 and enjoy similar convenience.

Biketown also provides a RFID card for annual members and sells them to non-annual members. Checking out a bike still requires entering a PIN, essentially trading the convenience of not having to memorize and type a 6 digit number for yet another card in the rider’s wallet. The account number can also be viewed through the mobile app.

Starting a Pronto trip with a Pronto keyfob usually takes under 5 seconds. Biketown’s on-board computers are laggy and it takes approximately one second to enter each number. Additionally, the displays have poor contrast and I found it to be difficult to read even in the shade. Docking is similar; Pronto trips end nearly instantaneously after rolling the bike in to the dock, whereas Biketown requires sliding the U lock in to place before the trip completes (but requires no other user interaction).

Having a built-in lock is a huge benefit for Biketown. Any trip that requires a stop between stations is easy—riders can simply lock the bike up with the lock they undid to begin the trip. With Pronto, a similar feat would require riders to bring their own lock with them or ensure all their destinations are near Pronto stations. Coupled with Pronto’s small footprint, this has made some trips so inconvenient to the point where I consider them impossible.

After a trip, Pronto members can log in to an online portal to see their rental history which shows the start and end stations as well as start/end times and duration down to the second. The Biketown app and website show all that plus a GPS trail of the trip.

Despite only using the system for a day, I see tremendous advantages in a semi free-floating system compared to Pronto’s forced station-to-station system. While I would definitely welcome the addition of electric pedal assist, I feel that a more successful system could be realized by placing bikes in places where people can access them.

Photos:
Biketown bikes photo by the author.
Pronto at Capitol Hill Station by SounderBruce CC BY-SA on Flickr

Tunnel WiFi is here to stay

The DSTT is no longer an area devoid of communications. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s now a somewhat suspicious-sounding but completely legitimate “Tunnel WiFi” available at all five DSTT stations (but not in the tubes between stations). Launched by King County on March 9, it was promoted so riders could start planning for route changes. King County will continue to maintain it after ST turns on cell coverage but is not planned to be extended in to the tubes.

For cell coverage, ST’s Bruce Gray explains:

The plan is still to have the cell service up and running in the tunnels and stations from UW to downtown by the end of this summer, then in the DSTT this fall and in the Beacon Hill station and tunnels early next year.

Metro’s Battery-Powered Proterra Buses Now Running Revenue Service

King County Metro Proterra Catalyst

On February 17 Metro held a press event to announce that their three all-electric Proterra Catalyst battery-powered buses would be hitting the streets in revenue service that day. The buses will operate on routes 226 and 241—two routes that operate in a loop from the Eastgate Transit Center through downtown Bellevue.

Initially 4602 was entered service at Eastgate at 11:25 but it later broke down completely at Bel-Red Rd & 124 Av NE about an hour later. A diesel hybrid was brought in to replace it, and three hours later a mechanic brought out 4603 to run the rest of the trips for that run.

I rode route 241, and when it arrived at Eastgate TC it had used just 48% of its capacity after running a complete 18 mile loop of almost two hours. The layover time between these two trips is just 12 minutes. Since charging takes approximately 10 minutes and is required after every loop, this may mean that the trip will leave late if there are schedule delays on the incoming trip. Metro has not built in any additional layover padding next shakeup.

The “docking” process of the vehicle pulling in to the charger is almost completely automated; the operator simply holds the go pedal down and the bus takes care of forward acceleration. When the charge is complete, the arm automatically retracts.

The interior layout is designed to maximize seated capacity, with three seats being wedged in transversely between other rows of seats in order to make maximum use of space. The rear door is a passenger-activated plug door–the doors slide parallel to the body rather than pivoting. The rear section features a rear window and will soon be the only vehicles in the fleet to do so.

King County Metro Proterra Catalyst interior looking back

The entire interior of the bus is made of plastic (save for the seats and structural components of course) and despite this the bus was not squeaky on the inside Continue reading “Metro’s Battery-Powered Proterra Buses Now Running Revenue Service”

51 New Double Talls Coming to Puget Sound

Table 1: Quantity of Buses

51 new buses–with options of up to 92 more–are soon coming to the Puget Sound. Sound Transit recently released a Request for Proposals for a joint procurement of double deck transit buses. This joint procurement includes Sound Transit, who currently operates five double deck buses; Community Transit, who operates 45; and Kitsap Transit who evaluated one last year. Presumably Kitsap Transit’s testing went well, despite a driver’s inadvertent attempt to wedge it underneath the overhang at the Bremerton Ferry Terminal.

All three agencies have used the Alexander Dennis Enviro500, which is one of the few double deckers is currently able to meet the contract’s stipulation of the FTA’s “Buy America” regulations, stating that the vehicles must be assembled in the United States and be assembled with 60% domestic content.

Four of the vehicles being purchased by Sound Transit are funded with a Washington State Regional Mobility Grant, and the first 16 vehicles ordered by Sound Transit will hit the streets no later than July 1, 2017. Schedules for Community Transit and Kitsap Transit will depend on contract negotiations.

While the RFP does not specify which routes each agency plans to run them on, based on past usage they can be expected to run on commuter routes.

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, the 272 page RFP details nearly every aspect of every component of the vehicles.

Metro’s Battery Proterra Bus Begins Testing

Last year Metro won a $4.7 million federal TIGGER grant to purchase two Proterra battery-operated buses and two charging stations. Last week Metro finished installing and began testing a fast charger at Eastgate Transit Center. Currently a Proterra factory unit is being used (not the one that visited earlier this year) but later three different vehicles will be delivered. Metro originally intended to purchase two charging stations but decided against a second station and instead applied that funding toward the purchase of a third bus. The first vehicle is expected to be delivered this fall with the other two coming later in the fall.

Proterra Testing

The vehicles won’t go in to revenue service for quite some time; initial testing will last a few weeks after arrival and more in-depth testing will occur for up to a year for Metro to determine how they perform in Metro’s service area. This data will be used to decide how they might fit in with their future fleet plans. While no final decisions have been as to what routes will see some electric action, routes 226 and 241 are the most likely candidates. They are interlined on an 18.25 mile route and terminate at Eastgate TC. If the buses are able to go the distance, 221 and 248 are other possibilities since they both have layovers (in one direction) at Eastgate TC. During the testing period, the vehicles will likely be placed on a variety of routes to gather as much performance data as possible. While the exact numbers will depend on the batteries’ state of charge, Metro’s contract stipulates that the vehicle will need to be able to charge in 10 minutes or less and be able to maintain a 23 mile service route off that charge, and Proterra has been able to meet that requirement.

This project is more of a R&D project for Metro than a rush to put new technology in to revenue service. Metro is using it to determine whether or not battery technology could be used on replacement 40′ buses. A PowerPoint presentation from Metro’s vehicle maintenance outlines the goals and some of the construction of the vehicle. An interesting note is that BYD and New Flyer also bid on the contract (Design Line, E-Bus, Nova, and Skoda dropped out).

A few photos of the testing can be found here.

GTFS for Microsoft Shuttles

I recently found out that Microsoft posts the schedules for its fixed route service on the publicly-accessible msshuttle.mobi. Those that are affiliated with Microsoft can also use the site to book rides for on-demand (e.g. intracampus) shuttles. Note this is not the same as the Microsoft Connector–the commute-oriented bus network whose reservations and schedules are part of a different application available only to Microsoft employees.

I’ve converted the shuttle data to GTFS, which you can download here. The GTFS is generated with a small PHP script.

Could this be added to OneBusAway? Maybe; the (also private) Children’s Hospital Shuttles are already there. Enterprising users can also grab OneBusAway Quickstart to host your own OBA server.

Hack The Commute Winner

wikimedia

Last Wednesday night the City of Seattle and it sponsors held the Hack the Commute Championship Round to determine the winner of the contest which began last month. The panel of judges was comprised of Microsoft Executive Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Planning Kurt DelBene, Google Transit Engineer Brian Ferris, City of Seattle Deputy Mayor of Operations Kate Joncas, SDOT Director Scott Kubly, and Commute Seattle Executive Director Jessica Szelag. Three finalists presented:

Slugg

Slugg is an app to help people create informal on demand carpools. Slugg is very similar to the practice of slugging but with one key difference: users will only be matched with other users that are employed by the same company. Those seeking rides simply open the app and will be presented with a list of those offering rides, and a countdown until the driver is planning on leaving.

Hackcessible – Access Map

Access Map is a web-based map that helps those with mobility issues find routes throughout Seattle. The data, which comes from a variety of sources, includes grade (elevation change) information, the location of curb ramps, public elevators, construction projects, and bus stops. In the future, Access Map hopes to crowdsource some of their data, and also wants to share the data to help the city find problem places or identify the most accessible places of the city.

Work Orbit

Work Orbit is a web-based commute planning tool targeted at newcomers to Seattle. Users input their work address and can view walk sheds, bike sheds, and bus sheds of commutes that are 20, 40, or 60 minutes away. The tool also includes data from Zillow to help users get a feel for various neighborhoods that are within the commute range of their work. Work Orbit also plans to integrate overlays with Pronto! stations as well as existing and future Link stations.

…and the winner is: Hackcessible

The team members will walk away with a prize package and will continue to refine their app. Here’s to hoping the city will provide ongoing support for the project, which seems likely given the city’s commitment to open data. Mayor Ed Murray noted that he was just as excited to meet OneBusAway creator Brian Ferris as he was meeting Russell Wilson.

First Hill Streetcar Testing Has Begun

On Friday SDOT showed off the first completed streetcar for the First Hill line. The streetcar made a one block trip from the maintenance facility to 8th & Lane. Also, SDOT’s Rail Transit Manager Ethan Ethan Melone provided a tour of the facility, which begins at the 5:55 mark of the video. Hit the break for a few photos of the completed cars and the others that are undergoing final assembly.

Continue reading “First Hill Streetcar Testing Has Begun”

Brenda Holes Through at Roosevelt Station


Yesterday the TBM Brenda broke through the north wall at the future Roosevelt Station. Launched from the Maple Leaf portal in April of last year, Brenda completed her 1.5 mile journey digging up to 100 feet per day. The contractor, JCM, shoots for 60 feet per day, and Brenda was routinely digging 80 feet per day. TBM Pamela is currently on the same trek, digging the southbound tube. Pamela is making good progress and is currently at NE 85th St near I-5 and should reach Roosevelt this summer. Both TBMs are named after wives of two of the construction project managers.

Many STB writers can attest that the estimated hour the contractor tells ST’s media relations team is usually many hours before it actually holes through the station wall. Brenda was no different; her nose cone didn’t pierce through until late afternoon despite being told to prepare for a morning hole through. She didn’t fully hole through the station wall before the tunnel workers’ shift ended at 4pm. Sound Transit staff will be on hand during the next shift to capture video of the full hole through.
Continue reading “Brenda Holes Through at Roosevelt Station”

2015 No Pants Light Rail Ride Photos

2015 No Pants Light Rail Ride

Seattle’s sixth annual “No Pants Light Rail Ride” took place today, bewildering airport travelers and locals alike. The event, organized by New York’s Improv Everywhere, began in 2002 with just seven participants. Seattle joined 59 other cities across the globe to participate in this annual winter prank.

If you’re surfing from work, remember that if you hit the break you’ll see a collection of pantsless riders aboard Link.

Continue reading “2015 No Pants Light Rail Ride Photos”

Metro Test-Driving Off-Wire Trolleys

King County Metro XT40

If you’ve been on the streets of Seattle lately, you may have noticed one of Metro’s prototype 40 foot trolleys cruising the streets. Identical twins 4300 and 4301–officially New Flyer XT40 trolleys–are out simulating service on a 90 day test run. This allows Metro to identify any minor adjustments that might be needed prior to New Flyer’s production run beginning in early 2015. The remaining 84 vehicles will start arriving in June and will hit the streets after they’ve been tested and had various accessories installed (farebox, bike rack, radios, etc). The 60 foot prototype will arrive around March 2015, with production of the remaining 54 beginning in late 2015 or early 2016.

Continue reading “Metro Test-Driving Off-Wire Trolleys”

Metro’s Xcelsiors hit the streets

Metro’s 35 foot Xcelsiors hit the streets for the first time this week. These coaches replace and supplement the retired 35 foot Gilligs (3185-3199). Coaches 3702-3705 have been seen on routes 246 and 269. The coaches will be numbered 3700-3759 and will be spread out amongst South Base (28), North Base (12) and Bellevue Base (20). Next year we should begin to see sixty 40 foot Xcelsiors arriving at Bellevue Base.

King County Metro New Flyer XDE35
Photo by the author
Continue reading “Metro’s Xcelsiors hit the streets”

Rider Report: The New SR-520 Freeway Stations

92nd/Yarrow Point Freeway Station Platform

As part of the Eastside Transit and HOV project, WSDOT recently opened replacements for the Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point Freeway Stations. For the latter, Metro refers to the station as Clyde Hill/Yarrow Point but WSDOT refers to it as the 92nd Ave Transit Station. Regardless what name you call them, each of these stops are located in the center of the freeway and are a vast improvement over their former roadside counterparts. Evergreen Point opened June 16, and Yarrow opened July 14.

If you’ve used the freeway stops at the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station, you’ll feel right at home at the new pair of stops on 520. There is a small plaza connecting to the roadway overpass and a pair of platforms in the median below. All platforms are completely weather protected. The platforms can accommodate at least three 60 foot coaches simultaneously, and there is enough shoulder space for coaches to pass each other. I measured sound levels and each station averaged around 74 dBC during commute hours. Mountlake Terrace was about 3dB higher, or twice as loud. Mountlake Terrace is surrounded by 10 lanes of traffic versus Evergreen and Yarrow’s four.

Continue reading “Rider Report: The New SR-520 Freeway Stations”