This is my 485th and final post here at Seattle Transit Blog. As I move on to an exciting new opportunity, I wanted to take a minute to thank the reader community here. For the past 7 years I have been able to take for granted having substantive policy conversations every day, a rare treat in today’s media landscape. What passes as contentious or petty in our comment threads is downright graceful just about anywhere else. And your generous support has allowed me to get paid to do this for the final two years, a blessing given the bleak outlook for the economics of journalism.
This has been a consistently rewarding experience, a supplement to my professional life at Pierce Transit, Commute Seattle, as a business owner, and soon at Sound Transit. Numerous agency officials have become confidants and friends, and I hope I’ve earned their respect as much as they’ve earned mine.
This blog analyzes the tiniest needles on each policy tree, but as I reflect back on the last 7 years, I am astounded at how healthy the forest has become. Growing up in Coeur d’Alene, my experience of Seattle was limited to semi-annual trips to the Kingdome and Pacific Science Center. We’d drive over and park in “South Lake Union”, then a bleak stretch of concrete the workaday crowd drove through on the way out of town, with the remnant neighborhood of Cascade hanging on by a thread. We’d walk over to 1st Avenue to catch a free bus to Pioneer Square, and 1st Avenue’s then much seedier nature shocked my young evangelical eyes.
After 8 years of college and graduate school on the East Coast and abroad, I finally moved to Seattle in 2009. Freshly minted with a master’s degree and desperate for income, I took seasonal retail jobs at Bellevue Square and Pacific Place. My first experience of Puget Sound’s transit was the monthly trek up to Kemper Freeman’s offices to pick up my paper Puget Pass. Link opened the month I moved here.
In 2017 there is still much to criticize, of course. Our agencies still struggle to coordinate on matters of service and fare integration. The customer ‘friction’ of our overlapping, complex systems still presents a psychological barrier to the average citizen. We struggle to provide sufficient transit priority, and we waste taxpayer resources spending excessive amounts of transit funds on the resulting schedule padding. There are still too many injury and fatality collisions in our city, and bike facilities remain fragmented. Our one-way grid in Center City still prioritizes the fast movement of vehicles over people, and continues to revolve around access to/from I-5. And our transit activist community remains too white, too male, too nerdy, and on its worst days, too condescending to new entrants. A ton of work remains to build an inclusive, mobile city.
But consider the growth we’ve experienced . Thankfully I missed the days when the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel closed on nights and weekends, or the pre-Sound Transit days when just getting to Everett or Tacoma without a car was an epic adventure. When I moved here real-time information was in its infancy, a graduate student project that I used by text message on my flip phone. Now I use one app in most major cities in the world, and it works nearly flawlessly. Not so long ago the flagship 71/72/73 were all hourly in the evening, combining for 20-minute service in the University District. When RapidRide C and D launched, they planned for half-hourly evening service. For crying out loud, until 2012 you couldn’t even take a bus between Ballard and Fremont without crossing the Ship Canal twice, via Route 17. Today, Route 40 is something we’d never again try to do without.
These days, Seattle is down to just one hourly weekday service (Route 22), and frequent service has become both an expectation and (mostly) a reality citywide. The Night Owl network is about to be radically improved after a half-century of waiting. Link has shrunk the city and brought us closer to our friends, family, and partners. Trips that were difficult and frustrating just two years ago (Capitol Hill to Safeco Field, say) are now effortless and reliable. Outside my Beacon Hill bedroom window, I watch my Route 36 go by every 5 minutes, taking me to a train that comes every 6.
Voters have consistently opened their wallets to boost service, with affirmative votes on ST2, multiple Metro measures, an unprecedented city top-up of Metro service, and of course ST3. Metro’s Long Range Plan proclaims a solid vision for our future network. The next few years will be ones of painful growth and transformation, and I can’t wait to see what things look like when we emerge on the other side in 2023, take a quick breath, and then start digging to Ballard. I now have the chance to work on these things from the inside, and I can’t wait. But thank you all for your indulgence and grace. It’s been fun!