East Link Mercer Island 60% Design Open House

Mercer Island 60 Percent

Last Thursday, Sound Transit held an open house to present the Mercer Island Station 60% design. In addition, there were several preliminary design options for integrating bus and rail at the station.

An animation of a Link train traveling from International District Station past Mercer Island was playing when I arrived. I didn’t hear many comments and questions as I moved around the room except for one notable exception: Several people expressed concerns about the loss of the express lanes. (For those who are unaware, SOV drivers are currently able to use the express lanes between the Mercer Island and Seattle.)

The station platform will be located between 80th Ave SE and 77th Ave SE where the current I-90 reversible express lanes are. The center platform will be accessible from both ends of the station and will be served by an up escalator, staircase, and elevator at each entrance. In addition, a Kiss & Ride area will be added at the 77th Ave SE entrance, and each entrance will provide seating, ticketing, and ORCA readers. There is even an area near the entrance marked “Future Vending”.

For those looking for bike parking, Mercer Island Park & Ride currently offers bike lockers that can be rented by the month and several well utilized bike racks. In addition to these existing spots, the station will include 8 new bike lockers, a secured bike cage for up to 50 bikes, and a bike rack area. I was told the bike rack area is designed to be convertible to another secured bike cage, should demand warrant it. In short, Mercer Island residents should have no shortage of places to stash a bike when Eastlink opens in 2023.

4 different options were presented for integrating bus and rail operations. These included various bus pick up and drop off locations, layover locations, and routing options. There were two Metro planners discussing these options. Interestingly, they were openly talking about potentially truncating all bus routes that currently travel across Mercer Island into Seattle. Not many people appeared to be paying attention to this information, even though, with increased frequencies, it could provide far better bus service throughout a large portion of the Eastside.

While there are still significant details to work out, especially with the Bus/Rail integration, the designs appeared to be a good example of multi-modal design, especially given the site constraints.
The Open House Boards, Staff Presentation, and details maps can be found here.

ST Population Projections Much Too Low in LRP Studies

Ballard Seafood Fest (wikimedia)

The population projections in the Ballard to Downtown Seattle Transit Expansion Study (table 3-4) are very low and the methodology Sound Transit uses to create these projections should be updated. In the past the media has criticized ST for projections that seemed overly optimistic, but then proved valid post-recession. Sound Transit should avoid over-correcting by using excessively conservative estimates now. Beyond helping to decide which routes to build, the estimates will communicate a potential project’s value to stakeholders and make a case for funding to the federal government.

We were shocked to see that ST was using 29,580 for Ballard’s 2010 population, with expected growth by 2035 of 14% for a total of 33,820. We asked Sound Transit to explain why both numbers were so low. Their explanation was based on an area defined by the Ballard Existing Conditions Report:

The Ballard to Downtown Seattle Transit Expansion Study used a definition of Ballard which covers the area from 8th NW to 32nd NW, the Ship Canal to NW 85th. This includes all of census tracts 30, 32 and 47 and approximately 80% of census tracts 31 and 32 (which extend west to Shilshole Bay). The total population of the five complete census tracts in the 2010 census was 32,502; the 29,580 number reflects the reduction of the western portions of census tracts 31 and 32.

The area covered is where all the growth in Ballard has occurred in the past and is occurring now. Additionally, nearly all of the larger development since 2010 has been apartments; there are currently only two condominium buildings under construction. This makes the comparison pretty easy. We asked the apartment market experts at Dupre & Scott if they had numbers for Ballard since 2010. For this example, to be conservative we assumed anything built 2009 or before was 100% absorbed and anything built in 2010 was 50% absorbed when the census was taken at the end of that year. We will also assume apartment occupancy of 1.8 people per rental unit and 2.3 people per sold unit per the census numbers for Seattle.

Here is what Dupre & Scott sent us:

Ballard Development

Continue reading “ST Population Projections Much Too Low in LRP Studies”

SDOT is Working to Improve Night Owl Service

I wanted to respond on behalf of SDOT to Bruce’s post last week about the structure of today’s Metro Night Owl service.

Our main goal in saving the Night Owls is to avoid any interruption and preserve service for late- and early-shift workers and other people who depend on those routes now. Although ridership seems somewhat low at 150-170 boardings per day, divided among six trips (two each on routes 82, 83, and 84), the numbers are not too bad and represent far more than 150-170 individuals – although most riders are probably regular riders, many ride only occasionally — and this is the only late night service to most parts of the routes.

SDOT and Metro did not have enough time between the April 22 failure of Prop. 1 and the normal June deadline for defining the September service change to seek public input then negotiate and implement a restructure. So initially, SDOT funds are proposed to be used to save existing trips on existing routes, which will include both the loop routes (82, 83, 84) and, if a Seattle Transportation Benefit District measure passes, late night service on high-ridership regular routes like the 7 and 36.

After we have secured continuing service on the existing night owl routes, we and our partners at King County Metro are committed to work on a proposal to modernize the late night bus network in Seattle. In the longer term, our goal — funding permitting — is a late night network that is better than the one we have today, which would add trips in the 2:00 – 4:00 a.m. time frame to most of the busiest routes.

In general, SDOT supports and is working towards many of the goals outlined in your post. In particular, we agree that large-diameter one-way loops are not a rider-friendly service pattern; that the lack of post-1:30 AM service to dense, outlying neighborhoods such as Northgate, Lake City, and Delridge presents an opportunity for improvement; and that Night Owl service should be provided by routes which are as similar to daytime core routes as possible. This is similar to what Metro and SDOT accomplished working together on the C and D Lines, each of which now has a pair of night owl trips which fully replaces a less rider-friendly Night Owl loop route.

Thanks for listening, and for continuing to suggest improvements to the Metro system in Seattle!

Bill Bryant is Manager of Transit Programs at the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Let’s Build a Sand Point Crossing! (Option “SP1”)

Purple Line From Ballard to MSFT
Seattle is defined by its waterways. Seattle congestion is defined by its water crossings. Focusing on existing crossings of Lake Washington may have unnecessarily constrained Sound Transit’s study of the best northerly route across the lake.

Their options to get from UW to Kirkland on to Redmond are on pages 3-9 of the Central and East HCT Corridor Study. Each of the options presented misses opportunities to connect major population and employment centers and contains enormous challenges, such as a new bridge crossing of the Montlake Cut.

STB previously covered many of the problems with a 520 light rail crossing. Using 520 forces ST to double back on the west side of the bridge and deliver riders to the east side far from good transit destinations. Below, we will focus on what we want Sound Transit to study, why we want it, and why you should join us in supporting it.

The Sand Point Crossing (Option “SP1”) Continue reading “Let’s Build a Sand Point Crossing! (Option “SP1”)”