Page Two articles are from our reader community.

AvgeekJoe Endorsements For the 2014 Election…

From the Light Rail Window: "Please Vote Thank You"

My snap of a “Please VOTE” sign from Sound Transit Central Link Light Rail

To begin, this endorsement list is solely my personal endorsement list.  That said, here goes:

[Off topic with respect to transit]

Congressional District 2, Rick Larsen (D): Congressman Rick Larsen is a reliable pro-transit voice, having been there to get our fair share of federal funding for Washington State Ferries, been there in defending our transit infrastructure and even been there in helping Community Transit’s Swift Bus Rapid Transit get started.  His opponent is a class act through and through but sadly the US House of Representatives is a seniority club – not a meritocracy.  Personally I hope B.J. Guillot – although an excellent debater is lacking a position on transit – will get the name recognition from his efforts and run again when Representative Larsen retires.

Congressional District 3, Jaime Herrera Beutler (R): I think frankly the last thing we transit advocates need is another transportation boondoggle to deal with in our state that would have been on par with Bertha, been too low for Columbia River barge traffic and already taken money away from genuinely pressing transit goals.  Congresswoman Herrera Beutler helped pressure if not lead the way in slaying the CRC boondoggle for now and has earned one more term.  For helping impugn the monstrosity that was the Columbia River Crossing project while her opponent Bob Dingethal publicly supports the Columbia River Crossing I-5 Bridge Replacement Project and for being a Republican, AvgeekJoe endorsement for again one more term.

Washington State Senate, District 21, Marko Liias (D): Considering his opponent didn’t get back to me to clarify “Use Public/Private Partnerships to fund transportation infrastructure; end inefficient public transit monopolies by allowing private companies to bid for services?”, that increases fears this is about more than having a private operator of public transit systems.  Furthermore Liias will be “championing ST3”, “voting for more state and local funding” for transit and fight for light rail to service Paine Field.  His opponent is awkwardly silent on all of those.  Hence the AvgeekJoe endorsement for leadership.

Washington State Representative, District 10, Incumbents Norma Smith (R) and Dave Hayes (R): Both of whom are strong transit supporters in a House Republican Caucus with few transit supporters of any kind.  Both of ’em are bringing the heat to hold Island Transit accountable and keep Northwest Washington State interconnected.  With Dave Hayes’ opponent saying on his webpage, he “is intimidated by King County and other large metropolitan areas and will fight for fair and equitable transportation funding” the last thing we need are more wimps in politics.  I’m going to stop there instead of go into Zone 5 Afterburner.

Washington State Representative, District 39, Position Two, Charles Jensen (D): Being his opponent in my home legislative district is on the theological far right, not a transit advocate by any stretch of the imagination and perhaps anti-anything-government in a quest to be the next Val Stevens, enough said.  Better to stop folks like that from getting too much seniority if we want public services of any kind.

Island County Commissioner, Rick Hannold (R): In this race crucial for the future of Whidbey Island are two candidates.  One of whom is backtracking from previous anti-Navy rhetoric which could endanger Whidbey’s economy and lacks a position on Island Transit hiding behind a desire to wait for the audit & to demand more funding – easy cop outs that don’t embody leadershipHer insistence structural change is unnecessary to the Whidbey News-Times also discredits her as a credible leader in Island Transit’s moment of maximum crisis.  Alternatively her Navy veteran opponent Rick Hannold wrote out a thoughtful, businesslike position on rescuing Island Transit in long form and I hope his enthusiasm for a transit fare will dampen after Island Transit does a study into charging fares.  Unless, that is, Island Transit is truly nearing the brink…

Kitsap County Auditor, Dolores Gilmore (D): Her Republican opponent sat on the Island Transit Board as Island Transit imploded.  Need I say anything more except “Payback time“?

Personally I hope you’re pleasantly surprised I didn’t back only Republicans… also this is as far as my endorsement list goes.  Feel free to ask for more details in the comments.

North by Northwest 24: The Everett Mayor’s Office on Transit & Paine Field

The North End of Paine Field, Circa May 2013...

Avgeekjoe Photo: The North End of Paine Field, Circa May 2013…

Recently decided to interview the Mayor of Everett’s Office on Paine Field transit issues to see where Mayor Ray Stephanson and his administration stood after my previous STB Page 2 writings on Paine Field too (1st post here, 2nd post here, and 3rd post here).   Special thanks goes out to his spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke who was very professionally helpful and as per her LinkedIn has a wealth of transportation-related experience in WSDOT communications.  Transit advocates need people like Mrs. Pembroke right whether they are as we kick-off the campaign for ST3 and possibly a state transportation package to get some help to our counties’ transit agencies.

Intro and public vote of confidence given, an abridgement of my questions are in bold, the responses are in italics with some clarification afterward.

#1. Recently The Everett Herald did a news story mentioning you are a booster of light rail long-term for Paine Field.  Do you see light rail service as a long-term strategy to keep Boeing jobs here in Washington State?

Mayor Stephanson and the City of Everett have been long-time supporters of and advocates for the aerospace industry. We believe light rail is a critical long-term strategy to support Boeing and our entire aerospace and advanced manufacturing hub in southwest Everett. The City has met with Sound Transit’s planning staff and consistently urged them to route the future light-rail alignment through Paine Field, the state’s largest manufacturing center. We’ve also urged them to extend the alignment to north Everett to serve the college district and regional medical center.

#2. In your advocacy for a Sound Transit light rail route to service Paine Field, would you be willing to advocate for an interim Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service to link up with Community Transit’s Swift?  Perhaps as part of Sound Transit 3/ST3?

While we believe the ultimate solution is light rail, the City has also been supportive of plans for Bus Rapid Transit to this area in the interim. There are currently plans underway for a Bus Rapid Transit line from Canyon Park to a new Seaway Transit Center, via SR 527 and Airport Road. When such service is available, Everett Transit plans to realign routes and redistribute some of the service to create an improved network of transportation systems.

This is generally understood to be Swift II, a Community Transit project building on the success of the original Community Transit Swift Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).  Current State Senate Candidate Marko Liias has been championing this as well…

 #3. … For the three routes serving Boeing Everett Transit averaged around 12.5% of all of Everett Transit’s boardings and while Everett Transit boardings went down overall 12%, boardings on the three Everett Transit routes to Boeing only went down 4%.  Would you please support requesting Everett Transit to make a plan to increase boardings such as marketing currently existing service, soliciting public input to improve currently existing service, and serving more tenants of Paine Field such as the Future of Flight and Flying Heritage Collection to help justify light rail service serving Paine Field?

You asked about Everett Transit service and plans to increase boardings. The routes that experience growth even when overall ridership decreases are those that target the commuter market (in our case Route 70 that provides peak-hour connections from the Mukilteo Ferry to Boeing). Route 3 between Everett Station and Boeing has a strong commuter market as well, but it also serves W Casino Rd, where there is a high population density and high demand for transit service.

As part of the Commute Trip Reduction program that Everett Transit administers for employers in Everett, the agency’s efforts in marketing transit have been very high. We work with Boeing’s Commute Trip Reduction group to educate employees on transportation options and provide incentives for ridesharing. Though marketing efforts in terms of media campaigns or targeted advertising are limited due to budget constraints, this year we have worked very hard to improve overall customer experience (detailing buses, upgrading bus stop signs) and educating riders on our services available (such as real-time information for all stops). These improvements, allowing for a more pleasant ride and easier access to schedules, are also meant to attract first-time riders and visitors.

#4. …As the Mayor’s Office of Everett is a proud “Paine Field, the Field of Choice” booster will you please consider speaking out in support of direct transit service (i.e. a bus stop) in the immediate future with long-term improvements to the Future of Flight with over 250,000 annual visitors and Paul G. Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection?

The level of service that we are able to provide to the area you reference is limited by budget constraints. We made a 15 percent cut in service in 2012, and we have maintained our level of service since then. Any additions to service would be balanced with the existing demand to increase frequency to routes that are close to capacity, and would also take into consideration the physical environmental constraints to the areas that we would serve (for example, accessibility of routes to both the Future of Flight and Flying Heritage Collection mentioned would require structural improvements, without which we would not be able to provide safe and efficient bus service).

I’ve added emphasis because on follow-up as Mrs. Pembroke politely got us an explanation before deadline:

The structural improvements are the physical structures that allow our buses to serve the facility: a turn-around area or a safe bus route around the building that would allow a bus to drive through, designated bus load/unload zones, bus zone amenities such as shelters/benches, and if those zones are not immediately adjacent to the building, a safe walking path to the building.

Typically, in the case of new developments, the builder will be guided to provide those structures and amenities to facilitate transit access through the land-use application process. It is generally a collaborative effort between the builder and the transit agency that is the primary provider of service in the area affected, with direction from city or county planners.

Both of these sites are in Community Transit’s service area, so Community Transit would be the agency to coordinate those improvements with the owners of these particular sites.

For Everett Transit, the evaluation of the infrastructure of the site along with the area that it covers in terms of jurisdiction, are the first steps in the consideration to provide service. The next steps are evaluating the demand for service and the resources available to fulfill that demand.

So as to be fair to Everett City Government, I will leave my views on where to go from here for another post… and invite your non-spam comments please.

Upcoming Avgeekjoe Page Two Posts:

Tomorrow evening at 2100 Hours/9 PM, I will post my personal endorsement list.  Expect quite a few Democrats from the token Republican of STB.  It doesn’t help my fellow Republicans to ignore me…

So as not to over saturate Page Two, the Island Transit minutiae update will be scheduled for Monday evening.  We also will get some clips from Island County Commissioners and “The Man of the Moment” Scott Studley into the post.

Are the Metro cuts needed, again: A quick look at a “moderate recession”

Earlier this week I posted a quick analysis of Metro’s proposed financial plan, and concluded that the proposed 2015-16 cuts are not necessary. Some very apropos comments focused on the impact of another recession, which of course is inevitable, at some time and with some severity. Metro’s budget proposal mentions but does not detail an analysis based on “a moderate recession…after 2018.”

In the absence of Metro’s details,  I’ve added a simple model of a recession: starting in 2018, sale-tax revenue is 7.5% below forecast. In 2019-20, growth resumes as before, but from the “new” baseline – so those sales-tax revenues are ALSO reduced by 7.5% from forecast.

Why 7.5%? The Great Recession of 2008-9 reduced sales-tax receipts by 15%, before growth resumed. Half of that impact seems like a reasonable “moderate” recession.

Summary results: (details further below)

  • Cash flow remains positive in 2017-2020. (It’s negative in 2015-16 due to a very large capital program)
  • The Revenue Stabilization Reserve is exhausted right at end of 2020
  • However, Metro’s overall balance (Ending Fund Balance) is on the rise from 2017 through 2020.

My conclusions:

  • If the 2015-16 cuts are canceled,  a “mild recession” in 2018 would take Metro to the edge of needing cuts by 2020. If such cuts were needed, they would be foreseeable and NOT dramatic.
  • Long term, the current service level IS sustainable, even with a mild recession in 2018.
  • The proposed cuts amount to 7% reduction in service hours, and this is too high a price to pay to forestall the modest, foreseeable, and temporary cuts that might be needed in the event of a mild recession.

Yes, this is speculative, and Metro (and others) may have more authoritative and solid analysis. It would be really good to have that, with the numbers.


Similar to the previous post, here are Cash Flow and Reserve amounts, now with a case added without service cuts, but with the “moderate recession” in 2018.

As it turns out, Mr. Dembowski’s suggestion to reduce RFRF to 20% of anticipated capital spending helps a little, but not dramatically. If the amount of reduction were applied to the RSR:

Showcasing BRT on the Eastside.

Sound Transit has an under-appreciated opportunity to build a world-class BRT on the Eastside.

Train service faces well-known geometric challenges in East King. Cities are not linearly aligned, so high quality rail service means many rail lines. But the Eastside urban centers are mostly much smaller than potential stations in Seattle, requiring large investments in either feeder bus service or park-and-rides. Either way, conspicuously high costs per rider are inevitable.

The one obvious linear corridor for rail service on the Eastside, Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond, is already mostly funded, and the line will obviously be completed to downtown Redmond in ST3. So what should be the next priority for East King?

If the goal is to build something for the cities that were left aside in ST2, that suggests Kirkland and Issaquah. So naturally, thoughts turn to a Kirkland-Issaquah rail line. But Kirkland and Issaquah are not a significant trip pair. Not even enough to warrant a Metro bus today. So it makes sense, if at all, only as a portion of a network connecting all the major Eastside cities and Seattle.

Continue reading “Showcasing BRT on the Eastside.”

To The San Juan Islands by Transit, Part 1: A First Attempt, Portland Going North

Skagit Station in Mount Vernon, by Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”)

The ongoing trials of Island Transit discussed here on Seattle Transit Blog (particularly in the Page 2 section) remind me of some of my adventures in dealing with transit in northwest Washington.

Certainly, there are problems at Island Transit. However, there are also things that they are doing right, and one of those things they are (or, at least were) doing right are timed transfers in locations where it is possible for them to do so.

These timed transfers don’t just impact residents of Island County, but a few other areas as well, and that includes residents of Anacortes and the San Juan Islands – as we shall see with my several efforts at visiting the San Juan Islands by transit in 2013.

Why try this trip on transit?

Portland to Anacortes is an awful lot of driving miles and wasted time, plus gasoline money. Plus, the wait in the ferry queues and expense of paying for a car trip make no sense to me if transit is available. Then, there are the traffic jams in Portland and Seattle and all possible intermediate locations.

As I wrote on September 17th, my first experience with Island Transit (Port Townsend to Seattle via Whidbey Island) wasn’t especially great. The timed transfer from IT#1 to the ferry at Mukilteo worked really well, but the rather absurd scheduling at the Keystone / Coupville / Fort Casey State Park end of the ferry from Port Townsend didn’t leave me with too much hope for some of the other transfer areas.

I was talking this over with someone who is a big San Juan Islands fan, and my hesitations with trying the timed transfers between Mount Vernon and Anacortes. “Oh, that’s a guaranteed connection between Skagit Transit and Island Transit. They have an agreement because it is so important for all three counties*.”

* By all three counties he meant Island, Skagit and San Juan as the Island Transit connector was important for Anacortes as well as being part of the San Juan Islands link to the outside world.

Getting to the Islands

Getting from Seattle to the San Juan Islands by transit isn’t too difficult, as there are multiple options. The cheapest is a chain of I-5 express buses to Mount Vernon and local connections to Anacortes using the timed transfers provided by Island Transit and Skagit Transit. If you do this with the first possible trip of the day and everything goes well this takes a bit over 3 hours between downtown Seattle and the Anacortes ferry terminal. Later trips are closer to 3 hours 20 minutes. If you time your arrival well you might spend a bit more time on transit compared to driving but you might spend less time at the ferry terminal as you don’t have to wait in the vehicle queue.

From Portland the options are a bit more limited.

My first thought was to leave Portland on train 516. After all, it is a through train from Portland to Mount Vernon. I might wind up spending the night in Anacortes or somewhere before the ferry departure, but that was OK because it would be cheaper than spending a night in the San Juans anyway and I could then head over first thing in the morning. Besides, I could use Amtrak Guest Rewards points to reduce the effective cost of the ticket by making it only one train ticket.

No such luck. On the 2013 timetable Train 516 got to Mount Vernon at 8:30 pm, and (if I remember right) the last local bus going anywhere left the station at 8:15 pm. This would still work, if there were actually places to overnight near the station, but sadly the hotels are all a bit over a mile to the north of Mount Vernon Station. The only thing close to the Mount Vernon Station providing overnight accommodation is the county jail.

Besides, none of the hotels were offering rates cheaper than what I was able to find in Friday Harbor anyway, most likely due to Interstate 5 traffic.

The Island Airporter van service leaves SeaTac at noon. It would have added about $40 to the cost of getting to Friday Harbor, but even had I wanted to use that there was no way to do so. On the 2013 timetables it was an hour to get from Tukwila Amtrak to SeaTac using various transit routes, and the 594 express bus from Tacoma to SeaTac left before Amtrak got there.

So, my next option would be Train 500 with the cross ticketed Thruway bus connection at Seattle, getting to Mount Vernon a bit before 2 in the afternoon.

Everything worked pretty much as advertised on the timetables. On the old timetable, only 20 minutes were allowed between train 500 and its connecting northbound bus, but it worked. It was interesting to be on a bus that size attempting to extract itself from the King Street Station dead-end street, but the driver did eventually do it successfully. Arrival was slightly later than scheduled at Mount Vernon. It was a cross platform transfer to Island Transit route 411W to Oak Harbor, and a very well organized timed transfer at March’s Point between Island Transit 411W (at the time providing Mount Vernon to Oak Harbor service) and Skagit Transit 410 to get to Anacortes, arriving at the ferry terminal a bit before 3 in the afternoon.

How are you supposed to extract THIS from a narrow dead-end street? It just takes a while and a few near-collisions with stray taxis, by Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”).

While I am not certain this is a true “guaranteed transfer,” keep in mind this trip was made just days after the 2013 I-5 bridge collapse over the Skagit River. Thus, there was heavy traffic in unusual places all along the 411W route out of Mount Vernon, but the driver called ahead to Skagit Transit 410 and made sure that they knew there were a number of passengers for Anacortes. The 411W to 410 transfer took all of about 30 seconds between 411W arriving and both buses leaving March’s Point, though the 410 took a little longer to depart due to passengers having to pay a fare on Skagit Transit. It’s probably about as close to a guaranteed transfer as can be made by a public transit agency. Even with the 2013 bridge collapse and all the extra traffic in unusual places, Island Transit and Skagit Transit were still able to organize things for a timed transfer, every hour, for at least a fair portion of the day.

The result? 2.5 hours between Seattle and the Anacortes Ferry wasn’t bad at all, considering that some people spend nearly that time just sitting in the ferry queue with their cars.

The fact that the next ferry to Friday Harbor would leave two hours later? That obviously wasn’t the best.

It would have worked out reasonably well had I been going to Orcas Island though.

At least I didn’t have a car waiting in that mess, by Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”).

Sadly, unlike the Clinton ferry terminal, transit users are somewhat second class citizens at Anacortes. The bus stop is not terribly far from the ferry terminal itself, but the walkway consists of painted lines on the pavement rather than a raised sidewalk deterrent for errant drivers. There is also a busy driveway to a parking lot that must be crossed. There is at least a bus shelter. It is very unlike the situation at Clinton, where Island Transit #1 essentially drops its passengers in the walk-on ferry passenger staging area.

The painted pedestrian route from Skagit Transit 410 to the ferry terminal in Anacortes is a short slog through a ferry parking lot. I’m standing inside the bus shelter and a route 410 bus is making a loop to get to it. The painted pathway to the ferry terminal is in the process of being crossed by the front end of the bus. Part of the ferry pier is visible at the very far left. by Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”)

One thing I wasn’t expecting was the complete void of much of anything at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. There is one small snack bar in the ferry terminal that is badly overpriced, and some of the restaurants near the terminal are not only closed but overgrown. I had checked the Google map to see if there was anything around there beforehand, but it turns out it was outdated. A small coffee stand has been converted to a fortune teller’s office, and most likely survives on the boredom of those waiting in the ferry queue. On a subsequent trip, I got a Skagit Transit transfer on the 410 (transfers are not automatically issued, but must be requested) and simply had a meal in Anacortes and continued to the ferry terminal on the next 410 an hour later since the next ferry wasn’t going to leave for a while anyway.

“Voted Best Chef 5 Years” wasn’t good enough to keep this place as a dinner option at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, by Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”).

The Amtrak Thruway bus cost a bit less than $13 (with AAA discount), Island Transit charged no fare to get to March’s Point, and Skagit Transit charged $1 to get from March’s Point to Anacortes.

Doing This Trip Today:

Today, things have changed a bit:

  • Amtrak has a longer scheduled time from Portland to Seattle over 2012 and 2013 – but the track work is supposed to make things better soon.
  • The Amtrak thruway bus leaves Seattle at 12:40pm rather than 12:20 pm due to the longer time for train 500 to get from Portland to Seattle under current circumstances.
  • This would really be obnoxious if this meant the loss of the timed transfer at Mount Vernon between the Amtrak Thruway bus and a bus to March’s Point. However, the fact is cutbacks at Island Transit have made this connection a lost cause anyway. As it was important to multiple counties the 411W from March’s Point to Mount Vernon was funded by a state grant, which is now gone. Instead this route has been cut back to an Oak Harbor to March’s Point route. The 411W segment that ran from Mount Vernon to March’s Point has been replaced by Skagit Transit 40X, which has a break in service from 10:30 am to 3:15 pm. Hourly timed transfers still work all day at March’s Point if you are going from Oak Harbor to Anacortes or vice-versa, but mid-day the only options for a link to Mount Vernon is a more roundabout set of routes that only occasionally work well – which don’t coincide with the arrival of the Amtrak Thurway bus from Seattle. So, with the lack of that connection you can no longer do this entire trip in 2.5 hours by transit – but since that trip didn’t really work with the ferry schedule (at least in the summer of 2013) this probably isn’t a big loss.
  • Google maps has been updated and now accurately reflects the situation of the restaurant closures near the Anacortes ferry terminal.

Today the northbound  Thruway bus from Seattle is scheduled to get to Mount Vernon at 2:05 pm. However, you have a bit of a wait there due to the Mount Vernon to March’s Point bus no longer operating all day. The next departure going west is at 3:15 pm. If it were me I would probably just find somewhere to have a late lunch in Mount Vernon before heading to Anacortes and the ferry, where you then have a half hour wait if headed for Friday Harbor (or, an hour after that for the next series of departures if headed to Orcas).

Even so, it isn’t a particularly terrible set of connections if your alternative is sitting in your car in the ferry queue for several hours, and includes driving through Seattle and dealing with traffic at the Columbia River bridges. An hour or two in Mount Vernon probably isn’t the end of the world, though I have yet to have the opportunity to try it in 2014.  Pretty much everything I used in 2013 had timed or very tight transfers at Mount Vernon so I never explored the town. They have a short trail along the Skagit River and there are a few other features that might create a worthwhile use of an hour or two there.

Skagit Transit and Island Transit apparently still cooperate for a timed transfer at March’s Point, even if the mid-day service to Mount Vernon is gone and the only connection is to Oak Harbor. When the 40x is operating it still takes a bit under an hour to get from Mount Vernon to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, but only about 5 minutes of that is waiting to transfer between the bus routes due to the well planned timed transfer point and schedules.

Transit on the Islands

San Juan Transit operates a tourist-season only service connecting Friday Harbor with significant tourist destinations around San Juan Island. At $5 per trip, $10 per round trip, and $15 per day ticket it’s a higher price than a transit system with significant public investment, but it is less expensive than renting a car on the islands. At $23 ferry vehicle fee for going to Friday Harbor (the listed $36 price includes the driver) plus gas driving to Anacortes from Portland, using the bus service there can still be cost-effective over bringing your own vehicle.

Returning to Portland

The return trip to Portland for this trip will be covered in part 2.

Timed Transfer Impact

It impressed me quite a lot that Skagit Transit and Island Transit had obviously planned far in advance the placement of March’s Point as a transit center. Passengers going from Oak Harbor to Anacortes and Mount Vernon to Anacortes (and the San Juan Islands included with Anacortes) were able to transfer between four different directions with a very well timed connection, with the flexibility of doing so every hour, and Skagit Transit only had to operate one bus on route 410 to operate it as an hourly service and connect to the primary east-west service.

For a fairly rural area, the ridership on these routes seemed reasonably decent, with the 411W being quite full in the middle of the day. I attribute a fair portion of that ridership to the timed transfers and thus higher overall speed than a system with vastly less well thought out transfers.

Despite all their other problems, Island Transit and Skagit Transit were able to plan a well connected service in some key areas. The location of the March’s Point transit center seems to be very intentional, so that Skagit Transit could provide hourly service on their 410 with only a single bus, while still providing timed connections to Island Transit’s primary east-west bus route 411W, which provided a timed link vital to both Oak Harbor and Anacortes. Services operating in other areas could certainly learn a bit from what they have done with these timed transfers due to the positive impact on overall transit time.

Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is a native of Portland and is employed there as an engineer / technical writer / technician at a small company that manufactures electrical equipment for railroad passenger cars.

American Nations

I just finished reading “American Nations” by Colin Woordard, about the history and dynamics of regional conflicts in the US. It goes a long way toward explaining the debates on infrastructure needs vs low-tax ideology, and many other fiscal and social issues. (It was indirectly linked in one of the recent comments; I can’t find the link now but the topic is related to ST3 and the statewide case for it.) The reason I’m writing this is Woodard makes a strong case that this polarization goes back 400 years so it’s not likely to be resolved in the next 100. My first reaction was, this is depressing. My second reaction was, what are we going to do about it?

Woodard says that the US is divided not into north and south, but into ten different regional “nations” influenced by their earliest settlers. (The eleventh exists only in Canada, and it’s not Quebec but Nunavut.) Others have written similarly — notably Joel Garreau and James Webb — but only Woodard has fully traced the historical context: why they differ and how they originated. “The South” is four nations: Deep South, Tidewater (Virginia), Greater Appalachia, and New France (New Orleans). “The blue states” are four nations: Yankeedom, New Netherland (New York), the Midlands, and The Left Coast (western Washington south to Monterey, California, and north to Juneau, Alaska). The other two nations are nonaligned: The Far West (the Inland Empire and Rockies), and El Norte (southwest). Each of these nations has a unique set of values, which sometimes overlap other nations but sometimes oppose them. This causes alliances to change depending on what the current critical issues are. All presidential and congressional elections in the past hundred years have come down to these factors. Four of the nations are based on settlers from different parts of England: the Puritans (Yankeedom), country aristocrats (Tidewater), Barbados aristocrats (Deep South), and the Scots-Irish (Greater Appalachia).

The starkest difference is the opposing views of Yankeedom and the Deep South. Both are expansionary ideologies: one to enlighten the country with education, equality, and public works; the other to maintain their aristocratic hierarchy and transferring wealth to the rich. Tidewater slavery started with indentured servants both black and white; it was the Deep South that imported an “industrial” slave system from Barbados and was racist at its core; and it was New Netherland which spearheaded the slave trade. New Netherland was the most diverse and tolerant and urban — which Woodward says is why New York City is so big and diverse — but paradoxically it sometime supported slavery and the south when it was good for business, all the way up to the late 20th century. Greater Appalachia fought for the Union but is currently allied with the south. The Left Coast where we live is primarily Yankee-influenced but with additional environmentalism and individualism. The Far West was not really established until WWII: three nations tried to settle it but failed due to its arid climate. Its main influences are large industries (railroads, mining) and federal largesse (military bases, infrastructure, public lands). It’s currently allied with the south because it supports low taxes, low regulation, and continued federal subsidies (paradox alert). El Norte is still undecided; it hasn’t committed to any of the alliances yet.

Washington State is split between the Left Coast mindset and the Far West mindset. This reflects the legislature’s votes on Metro funding, as the “Statewide” article above shows. Eastern Washington wants low taxes and high subsidies, while pretending it’s the one subsidizing the west. Seattle wants a complete transit network and is willing to pay the necessary taxes for it. Pugetopolis is mostly on board with this (as long as it doesn’t involve $40+ car tabs). The rest of western Washington is sympathetic to some of the Far West positions.

So what do we do? Woodard makes a depressing case that these mindsets are not going to change this century. At the state level I don’t think we can do much: the anti-transit legislators have a narrow majority and safe districts, and the Pugetopolis leaders have already sent united messages to Olympia asking for transit-tax authority. So it mainly depends on changing one or two legislators, convinving a few others, or getting Mayor Murray to show us his “state coalition building” skills. At the federal level it makes me wonder if we should let the south secede after all. Woodard’s last chapters make a case that either splitting or autonomous regions may be inevitable, because it’s impossible to have low taxes/regulation/infrastructure and high taxes/regulation/infrastructure in the same place simultaneously. So the only solution may be autonomous regions with different laws and no cross-subsidies. That doesn’t necessarily mean ten regions: it may be two or three or four. And if the Far West becomes one of them, then western and eastern Washington may part ways.


North by Northwest 22: Transparent SAO Exit Meeting With Island Transit

Polaroid 669 of "Island Transit Not In Service"

Politicians often claim secrecy is necessary for good governance or national security.  Often they have confused their own interests with what is in the public interest. Heather Brooke

First, truly sorry no Paine Field update until next week.  My interview subject has me in a holding pattern due to a family emergency – but when you find out who she is, you will be impressed as the campaign for ST3 has now truly begun.  Frankly I’m happy for the success Sound Transit has had – and the recent explosive growth in Link ridership is a beacon to the rest of Washington State.

Second, I’ve had to tragically decide due to today’s Whidbey Newsgroup report about the situation w/ Island Transit and Island County watchdog requests the State Auditor’s Office Exit Conference be open for public review a petition to make this so is necessary.  The full text is below the jump, but basically the petition does “request all Island Transit Board Members meet with the Washington State Auditor’s Office (SAO) for the SAO exit conference” and reminds Island Transit of its responsibility to the 38 other counties of this great state.

What’s a SAO exit conference?  As the State Auditor’s Office explains to auditees, “This meeting happens roughly two weeks following our final day of fieldwork.  During this meeting, we share our preliminary conclusions, listen to your responses, and answer questions. We will also discuss when we expect to issue our reports and when we expect to return for our next audit.”  Arguably with all the leaks like “findings for “financial health” and “misappropriation of federal funds” … likelyplus snapshot guesstimates of what is truly occurring in regards to Island Transit, having the SAO Exit Conference open for public inspection for the Island Transit Board can respond and ask questions would help the healing process.

It is only right Island County residents lead the battle for their transit system.  But we in the 38 other counties can demand accountability for… money that could have stopped some of the threats to King County Metro instead of have Martha Rose fritter it on her opulent headquarters complete with the “Rose Room” and also abuse of company cars.  Money that could have had an early bird rapid connection from the Sedro-Woolley Park & Ride to the Chuckanut Park & Ride to connect to earlier southbound Skagit Transit 90X routes than the last one at 7:15 AM as Skagit Transit 300 currently does.  Money that could give Paine Field better transit service.  Money that… well, fill in the blank.

The State Auditor’s Office can only find matters of noncompliance, not force compliance.  That’s our job as taxpaying citizens.

The State Auditor’s Office cannot function unless there’s public interest and pressure on politicians to force accountability.  That’s our Air Tasking Order as taxpaying citizens.

Ultimately, the State Auditor’s Office must be able to present its findings unfiltered in an exit conference that cannot be leaked, spun or ignored.  Freedoms of the press and petition for redress of grievances is useless without transparency advocacy.  Already efforts are underway to deny even Island Transit Boardmembers access to the State Auditor’s Office work processes.

Please consider going to the petition to make the State Auditor’s Office Exit Conference open to the public with all five Island Transit board members in attendance: because I’m back only to help Island County residents right their own ship.

Continue reading “North by Northwest 22: Transparent SAO Exit Meeting With Island Transit”

Shinkansen at 50

Photo by flickr User Kevin Jaako

In honour of the Shinkansen’s 50th anniversary, the Guardian has a very interesting article about the Shinkansen – the world’s first bullet train – and it’s transformative effects on Japan. The article helps shed some light on how major infrastructure projects can change the face of their environments, for better or for worse. While reading this article, keep in mind that Japan has extremely high road tolls, which help explain part of mass transit’s popularity there.

From the article:

Meanwhile, the bullet train has sucked the country’s workforce into Tokyo, rendering an increasingly huge part of the country little more than a bedroom community for the capital. One reason for this is a quirk of Japan’s famously paternalistic corporations: namely, employers pay their workers’ commuting costs. Tax authorities don’t consider it income if it’s less than ¥100,000 a month – so Shinkansen commutes of up to two hours don’t sound so bad. New housing subdivisions filled with Tokyo salarymen subsequently sprang up along the Nagano Shinkansen route and established Shinkansen lines, bringing more people from further away into the capital.

Shinkansen strikes again(N700 Series)
Photo by flickr user Shinichi Higashi

The Shinkansen’s focus on Tokyo, and the subsequent emphasis on profitability over service, has also accelerated flight from the countryside. It’s often easier to get from a regional capital to Tokyo than to the nearest neighbouring city. Except for sections of the Tohoku Shinkansen, which serves northeastern Japan, local train lines don’t always accommodate Shinkansen rolling stock, so there are often no direct transfer points between local lines and Shinkansen lines. The Tokaido Shinkansen alone now operates 323 trains a day, taking 140 million fares a year, dwarfing local lines. This has had a crucial effect on the physical shape of the city. As a result of this funnelling, Tokyo is becoming even denser and more vertical – not just upward, but downward. With more Shinkansen passengers coming into the capital, JR East has to dig ever deeper under Tokyo Station to create more platforms.

Comparing this to our nation’s major post-war infrastructure project, the Interstate Highway system, and you see interesting parallels and contrasts. Both allowed the expansion of developed areas to accommodate the post-war baby boom. The Shinkansen and suburban commuter lines* have served to super size Tokyo into a super-dense, walkable metropolis. Stations on the lines become commuter hubs, each with their own walkable urban villages. The focus on Tokyo has also driven up that city’s important, at the expense of some of the smaller cities. On the other hand, the Interstate System and the US highway system before it have allowed people to move out to far-flung areas as well, but in low-density, auto-oriented sprawl. They’ve also driven down the importance of the US’s traditional major cities (New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, etc.) while driving up the importance of some of the newer upstarts (Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego).

Looking forward, it’ll be interesting to see what the long-term effects are of all of the infrastructure spending in China. There they are building more bullet trains than Japan, more highways than the US, and more subways than all of Europe put together. Where will all of those billion plus people live at the end of all of that?

Anyway, the whole article is interesting, and there’s a bit about the Shinkansen’s future – maglev – at the end. Oh, and happy 50th birthday, Shinkansen!

*Several years ago I wrote a post about how suburban rail lines created dense sprawl in the Tokyo Metro area (the great Kanto Plain).

A Gondola Amenity Station for SLU

It looks like Bogota may copy Medellin’s concept of putting community amenities at gondola stations.  These include libraries, community centers, police stations, medical clinics, theaters and other community amenities that the neighborhoods needed anyway.  Although this adds* to the apparent cost of a gondola line, it spreads out the reach of these community resources, and gives some cost savings in combining two projects into one.

I think a similar strategy would be a great idea for the Queen Anne – SLU – Capitol Hill line.  The Capitol Hill station would connect to a light rail station and the Queen Anne station would land in one of Seattle’s largest amenities.  But South Lake Union is a new and quickly growing neighborhood without any amenities at all.  It could use a school, a library, or a community center.

And I should add that this strategy could also be useful for other forms of transit.  It would have been nice to add something on top of the Beacon Hill station, for example.

* This is an understatement.  “Only 6-7 % of the total cost of the Metrocable went to the transit system and infrastructure itself.”

North by Northwest 21: Transit Developments Up Here…

View post on

(Figured I’d Photoshop a little RQ-21 Blackjack drone photo of mine since Island Politics is reading us and TVW’s doing a special on drones tonight at 7:30 PM.   Named the drone Sandy after a dear friend.)


Avgeek photography fun aside, figured I’d post some hyperlinks from recent days with comments below:

  • Island Politics: Good Advice for Island Transit’s Recovery from Seatlle
    (Much appreciate.  Sometimes comment threads actually work out for the best, and happy to help.)
  • Stanwood Camano News Editorial: Time to get taxpayers back on board
    (An editorial ignorant of quite a few realities.  Not the least of which was Martha Rose’s loss of confidence from so many of Island County’s leaders.  Also calling for a restoration of 412C – the Camano to Everett Connector out of Island Transit internal funds, and re-hire all 24 Island Transit employees and “reinstate the bus routes that were discontinued on Whidbey Island as soon as fiscally responsible” doesn’t sound like setting priorities within revenue to save Island Transit.  Please remember Island Transit is using its full sales tax authority and is in a structural deficit with a route restructure underway.  Also “were discontinued” is in the passive voice.)
  • Whidbey News-Times Editorial: Now that Rose is gone, it’s time to focus on change | In Our Opinion
    (Agree: “The first step should be to remove the sign that says “Rose Room” on the conference room door at the IT’s new facility south of Coupeville. … While it may only be a symbolic gesture, getting rid of that symbol of arrogance would be a welcome sign that change is afoot. The next step should be to educate the public about the importance of maintaining public transportation on Whidbey Island.” )
  • Community Transit Sprouts New Services this week
    (Community Transit’s adding 7,500 hours of new bus service, while efficiency changes redistribute 6,000 additional service hours.  Details at the link)


Re comments: The Seattle Transit Blog tech team is working on getting me un-spammed so yours truly can comment.  I do have a backup plan if by 2000 Hours (10 PM) they can’t get it fixed to get back to you.  Your comments have helped shape dialogue, inspired blog posts up in Oak Harbur (typo intentional) and help keep the debate honest.    Please share our links and work here at STB with whomever you’d like with a cite.

North by Northwest 20: Regarding “Snapshots” of Island Transit’s Finances

Island Transit 411C Camano

“It is scrutiny by the general public that keeps the powerful honest. “

Heather Brooke

After reading a late Friday report Island Transit may be nearing bankruptcy from I reached out to Island Transit Emergency Executive Director Bob Clay.  In a quick telephone interview today, Mr. Clay explained that the report was based on a financial snapshot of a transit agency coming out of fiscal troubles with little to no reserves.  Several days after the snapshot was taken, much sales tax revenue was deposited into Island Transit from the Island County Treasurer keeping the agency from going into the red.

That said, after reviewing the treasurer’s Treasurers Reconciliation/Cash Balance sheet one could conclude that Island Transit remains in a structural deficit.  To use the Financial Times definition of structural deficit, “A budget deficit that results from a fundamental imbalance in government receipts and expenditures, as opposed to one based on one-off or short-term factors. A government budget deficit occurs when a government spends more than it receives in tax revenue, while a structural deficit is when a budget deficit persists for some time.”  There’s a reason why Island Transit spent its reserves to nil.

It is my understanding that Island Transit was working on a route restructure as of the past few months to help address the structural deficit helped expose.  Also a contact in the State Auditor’s Office believes the audit on Island Transit will be done this week for release probably next week.  So Island Transit may not be bankrupt… yet.

Ultimately thanks to the fiscal crisis and Island Transit’s structural deficit Bob Clay has a thankless job, as does Scott Dudley who brought the heat to remove a failed CEO of Island Transit when other elected politicians weren’t up to the job.  It’s one thing to hide behind a website and sling arrows – it’s another to be a man in the arena.

So please keep Island Transit in your thoughts and prayers right now.  Thanks guys.

Finally, on a personal note, I am happy we had the debate we had about electing transit board members.  Problem is, I have personal experience with a Tea Partier elected on a transit board in Kelly Emerson – and as such “Mr. Avgeekjoe from Skagit County” that Republican, er, guy on the STB comment threads since 2011 endorses Kelly Emerson’s Democrat opponent Dolores Gilmore solely due to Kelly Emerson’s being on the Island Transit Board last year without taking effective action to save Island Transit.  Frankly if you are on a nonprofit board and don’t speak up that your nonprofit – namely Island Transit – is burning through reserves while building an opulent headquarters; you don’t deserve further elected office.

My main concern in advocating for elected transit boards (or at least appointed members who cannot hold elected office) is doing our utmost to ensure actual, genuine transit users sit on these boards so we – and not some cushy bureaucrat or career politician who may or likely does not have an ORCA card in their wallet – lead the debate on transit.  We need transit advocates on these boards – not politicians shuttling around a multitude of issues and hope they somehow get transit right.  Just remember when we transit users keep quiet or are kept out of the room by career politicians – most of whom don’t use mass transit – what happens… we get things done to our transit service.  Our goal should be to improve service quality and efficiency democratically.  Period.

Oh and… expect a Paine Field transit update this week.  Cheers.

A Quick Trip to SF

Streetcar Instrument Panel

Lessons from SF’s transit system from a trip this weekend:

1. Love the streetcars on the Embarcadero. Old, beautiful, and every one is packed. Unless there’s some bottleneck in capacity they need more. They were somewhat infrequent, which is strange when trolleys are leaving passengers on the curb.

2. Ditto cable cars. But I’m sure if they could add cars to the line they would.

3. Found myself being a change fumbler on the streetcar. Didn’t have enough change ($2.25), so I put in a $5. The bus driver said I way overpaid and should have asked her first (not clear what she could have done – sign says “exact change”). Gave me two transfers – as if that helps me. Lesson: at least for tourists, cash payment can be good. I paid more than double (happy to do so), and didn’t actually cost any time (stood aside while I figured this out).

4. After I paid my $5, a woman behind me handed me a handfull of change and asked me to pay it and get her a transfer. Dropped it in the slot and it was $0.47. Driver asked who did that and passenger just looked down until another passenger pointed her out. Then she asked for a transfer and the driver said “not for $0.47!” Lesson: yeah, stuff like that happens everywhere.

5. Bike share! Because my family was on the streetcar I had just missed, I thought I’d rent a bike (rack is at the station) and try to catch up. It was $9, but would have been worth it for the experience. After having to press countless buttons including my phone number, zipcode, etc (all on an unresponsive touchscreen) the next streetcar was approaching and I cancelled out (which still took 3 unresponsive button presses).  Lessons: Price not competitive, user interface needs a lot of work and lost me as a customer.

SODO Station Transit Center

I have been advocating for quite some time to establish a large transit center at SODO Station and I’m glad to see that others readers are now debating the issue. I’d like to summarize my reasoning and present the outline I’ve created for the SODO Station Transit Center and invite others to build on my ideas.

Why build a transfer station at SODO?
Metro will be facing a transit capacity problem on the streets of downtown Seattle when the bus tunnel is finally closed to buses. During peak hours the streets are already congested with bus traffic and adding the buses that currently use the tunnel to the surface traffic will only make congestion worse. When the buses are removed from the tunnel, those riders who currently have a one-seat ride into downtown Seattle will experience a longer, more agonizing trip to work which will make transit less appealing. By creating the SODO Station Transit Center, many of the buses that would be making a one way trip through downtown Seattle on surface streets would instead turnback at SODO Station and riders would transfer to Link trains at SODO.

Aren’t forced transfers one of the things that people hate about riding the bus?
Yes! But building a transfer station at SODO is the best possible location for building a transfer station without forcing transfers. SODO is the Link station that offers the best connectivity to the greatest number of locations. Because of its close location to downtown, SODO could be connected more easily to locations like West Seattle, First Hill, Beacon Hill, Belltown and South Lake Union than other stations further south on the Link route. The most compelling advantage of SODO Station is that it can effectively offer connections to many more prime destinations. I’m purposely making a distinction between forcing transfers and offering transfers. A location such as SODO can be more effectively connected to many more locations than a location like Rainier Beach Station. The problem with Rainier Beach Station is that it is the definition of a forced transfer. There’s very little commercial activity near RBS, the walk shed is terrible and there is very little opportunity to improve density or commercial activity in the vicinity. Also, the geographic layout of the neighborhood makes it very difficult to make easy bus-to-train transfers at RBS without having to walk long distances or cross several busy streets.

But SODO Station would still require that riders might have to wait up to 10 minutes to catch a train, isn’t that too long?
Yes it is. My solution to that problem would be to terminate both the RapidRide D Line and the RapidRide E Line at SODO Station. The E is currently running on 12 minute (or better) headways and the D Line runs on 15 minute (or better) headways. That would add a minimum of 9 RR buses per hour between SODO and downtown. Combined with at least 6 trains per hour, if schedules were timed optimally, the maximum wait times between SODO and downtown could be as low as 4 minutes. Once the buses are kicked out of the tunnel and if all those buses are added to the surface streets, it’s inevitable that the one-seat ride trip time through downtown Seattle will increase. At that time, a 4 minute (or less) wait at SODO won’t be a negative factor.

Another benefit of terminating the D and E at SODO would be that the C Line would need a new destination beyond downtown Seattle. How about Uptown for the C Line terminal? If the C Line is terminated in Uptown, the D Line could then skip the Uptown deviation and run faster to Ballard via Denny and Elliot Way. Hopefully, without the Uptown deviation, trip times between Ballard and downtown on the D Line would be about 5 minutes faster which would compensate for the added running time to SODO. If the D Line’s faster service attracts more riders, then headways could be moved to 12 minutes, which would add even more connectivity between downtown and SODO.

Another suggestion for creating better connectivity at SODO would be to build a major bike share facility at the station with dedicated bike lanes to downtown and the other nearby neighborhoods.

The SODO Station Transit Center isn’t a perfect solution to a complex problem, but it does offer the best solution I can see to provide timely and cost-effective connections between downtown Seattle and the more distant areas of the service area.

What are your thought?

Notes from the 10th InnoTrans Show

Croation Railways EMU on display at Innotrans in 2010, “HZ 6112 001-0 1” by MPW57 – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Since 1996, the bi-annual railroad technology convention and trade show known as InnoTrans has come to Berlin. Friday, September 26th, was the final day of the actual trade show, while Saturday and Sunday are open to the public to allow them to take a look at some of the remaining exhibits, particularly the rolling stock displays, that stay on hand over the weekend. [Note from 1 Oct 2014: Reports say as many as 15,000 members of the public came on the weekend to view some 145 pieces of rolling stock on display.]

I did not go to InnoTrans, but thanks to the Internet it is possible to take a look at some of what was on show this year without being there. Railway Gazette covered the show fairly well using both their own articles as well as accumulating Twitter posts from various attendees. Some items below only appeared as Twitter messages, while others had solid English language industry articles written about them by trade show magazines also attending. Here are a few things that caught my eye, some of which perhaps one day will be seen on railway equipment (or maybe other transportation equipment) operating here:

  • Talgo was showing off a model of a proposed Talgo based suburban train. It’s another step at making trains lighter. Maybe one day the Cascades corridor will have Talgo longer distance as well as Talgo local trains that look like this.
  • [Added to article 1 Oct. 2014] Railway Gazette continues to go through its notes from the show, and on 30 September noted in an article that a company promoting dimmable windows in light rail cars was on  hand at the show. This concept has been around for a few years for buildings, with the basic concept being similar to the LCD welding helmets that have been around for many years now. The welding helmets are clear most of the time, but when the arc is struck by the welder the liquid crystal is immediately activated and protects the eyes of the welder from the blinding light of the welding arc. The concept for building windows is to put the liquid crystal display in the window glass, and make the window transparency adjustable for various lighting conditions. The transit window concept (at the show it was displayed in a Bombardier Flexity 2) is actually a film applied to the glazing. Heavily tinted windows in transit vehicles are OK in the daytime, but once it is dark this tinting makes it very difficult to see where you are. Being able to tune the window tinting to suit the interior and exterior lighting conditions would be wonderful in many situations. I’m not sure how easy it would be to get such a system approved for use on any rail equipment in the USA, as NFPA 130 has some fairly difficult smoke and fire resistance requirements for films placed over “fixed guideway transit systems” in the USA. However, it would probably be possible for such a system to get approved for use in buses in the USA as the material requirements aren’t as limiting.
  • The new ThamesLink trains (three cars of which were on display at the Siemens booth) will be able to show riders what cars have space available in them.
  • Back in 2010, Bombardier was awarded the contract for the Riyadh Monorail. This year, they had a short monorail train on display before it heads to Saudi Arabia.
  • Plastic based foams are used to absorb collision energy, and composite materials have been used as light structural materials. However, they can not be recycled very easily, can be expensive to work with, and have other disadvantages when used on railroad cars. One solution presented at the show is to make railroad car structures out of aluminum based foam. It seems to me this could eventually lead to lighter passenger trains being accepted in the USA.
  • Alstom is working on fuel cell trains for use in Germany.
  • Seeing Machines and EMD (the locomotive builders now owned by Caterpillar) have partnered to develop an anti-driver fatigue system.
  • It’s an international show, so some seat patterns used in equipment on display are perhaps a little too eccentric for North American consumption.
  • One of seven derailment response vehicles ordered by the Iraqi Republic Railways was at the show. Talk about a difficult operating environment!
  • Not too many convention centers welcome locomotives through their front doors.

With some 2,700 exhibitors from 55 countries represented this year, even wandering the InnoTrans web site virtual marketplace can take a lot of time. Certainly, there is far more to this show than what I have here.

Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is employed at a small manufacturer of electrical systems for railroad passenger cars.


North by Northwest 19: Island Transit Still in a Storm

The world isn’t a fairy tale, and it could be more brutal than we want to acknowledge. Equally, it could be better than we’ve been led to believe, but either way, we have to start seeing it exactly as it is, with all of its problems, because it’s only by seeing it with all of its problems that we’ll be able to fix them and live in a world in which we can all be happily ever after. — Heather Brooke

Photo of Island Transit Bus Without A Driver

Beginning with another Heather “Newsbrooke” Brooke quotation because folks, we could sure use one.  Many, including I, thought last Friday’s supposed end of the Martha Rose era was not the beginning of the end but a finite end of the beginning to play off of a famous Winston Churchill quotation.  The Wednesday afternoon Island Transit Board Meeting, being held under the cloud of the Island Transit Acting Finance Director’s insubordination and outrageous allegations, did not resolve the issue to the point where a long sortie full of detail is now necessary.

At least Common Sense and Island Politics took video of the latest Island Transit meeting and provided commentary.  The mainstream media hasn’t launched a response yet.  I have helpfully clipped the video to the most important part of the meeting – namely addressing the solvency of Island Transit and the epic failure of Island Transit’s Acting Finance Director to report to the Island Transit Board on the status of Island Transit’s deferred payments to the Washington Transit Insurance Pool.

Before posting the video, I would like to note as a lapsed Washington Coalition for Open Government member that for the record Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson was right in citing RCW 42.30.080 on special meetings that states, “Final disposition shall not be taken on any other matter at such meetings by the governing body.”  However Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley was also right in stating the meeting’s agenda said only “Management Transition” and “Executive Session if necessary” arguably giving him clearance to address the Island Transit Acting Finance Director issue.  Clearly clarity from the state legislature or from a set of Attorney General’s Office Model Rules on the Open Public Meetings Act or a more finite Island Transit Board Meeting agenda would be constructive.

That said, here’s the clipped video – originally from Common Sense:

If I may be snarky, perhaps there’s a reason why the picture for this news story is of a driverless Island Transit Bus.  While writing this story, Island Politics got part of the scoop on an e-mail the Acting Financial Director sent to many if not all Island Transit employees defining McCarthyism.  But Seattle Transit Blog obtained an e-mail sent this morning from Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley to the Island Transit Acting Executive Director Bob Clay confirming an Island Transit response to a Seattle Transit Blog public records request there still is no Executive Director Martha Rose resignation letter – fueling suspicions Martha Rose didn’t resign and certainly creating more chaos at a bad time.

As if this crisis needs to be put into more stark relief, recently Seattle Transit Blog received a comment stating in part with my emphasis:

The employee manual section 2.03 prohibits any employee from speaking out for fear of being terminated. This is a bizarre code of ethics section which is ambiguous enough to be used against anyone attempting to reveal just how badly Island Transit is mismanaged. Any employee questioning anything is quickly silenced and counseled not to ask disruptive questions. Senior drivers who are not in jeopardy of losing their stature also defend the regime without question, to show loyalty in order to save their paycheck. Fear and intimidation are the workplace standard.
Martha has help in the blame game with former finance manager now reinstated finance manager Sandra Kuykendall who also made statements against Barbra Savary. Martha stated in the newspaper she brought in Kuykendall after Barbra Savary was fired. This is a complete lie. Barbara and Sandra worked side by side for two weeks during the transition period of Barbara’s voluntary resignation of the position. If the Board of Directors wants to investigate and audit, simply look at the days on payroll for both of the financial managers and question the overlapping time period.

According to the Island Transit Personnel Policies Manual, section 2.03 contains in part, again with my emphasis:

Actions of an uncivil, immoral, or indecent nature and use of profanity or vulgar language while on duty (on-the-job) or on ISLAND TRANSIT property are prohibited. Employees must remember that, as public servants, they are expected to present a favorable public image and to cooperate with the public and their fellow employees. Employees are reminded that disruption of the workplace with loud, obnoxious, unruly behavior will not be tolerated.
. . .
Reporting to management suspicious, unethical, or illegal conduct by coworkers, customers, or suppliers

I’m sure the Kuykendall sortie served as a strong validator of allegations of a hostile work climate in Island Transit – and those of other former & current Island Transit employees posted to multiple websites.  I’m also sure the fact the Island Transit Board does not know if its payments into the state insurance pool – with no less than two lawsuits having been field – is equally unsettling.  No wonder Oak Harbor Mayor Dudley has grave doubts about the solvency of Island Transit and made the public allegation the Island Transit Board with a “lack of accountability and lack of responsibility” is “responsible for the financial situation we find ourselves in today”.

Personally, it would take serious changes arguably on Island Transit’s behalf to convince me to ever again sortie to the Washington State transit advocacy community and ask the 38 other counties of our state to rescue any services of Island Transit It’s time we in the transit advocacy community started openly discussing options what to do with Island Transit and keeping Island Transit’s reputation separate from other transit agencies’ reputations.  In military aviation, they’d call it “Response Options”.  Response Options we’re going to need as the State Legislature restarts in about three months in January…

One of the things the transit advocacy community is going to need to do is explain Island Transit is the outlier, not the ‘new normal’ of transit governance.  That politics on Island County are bordering on dysfunctional – Exhibit A being the Beyond Stupid land use policies around NAS Whidbey Island’s Ault Field and Outlying Field Coupeville that sparked the progressive anti-Navy insurgency in Central Whidbey.  That Island Transit has suffered from Leaderism for some time.  That we in the transit advocacy community are open to new vaccines to keep another bout of “Island Transit cancer” from spreading to our local agencies.

So here are four ideas for transit advocates to consider:

  • Perhaps we would be willing to grudgingly accept having all of Washington State’s transit boards elected by their district elected statewide instead of appointed in return for Sound Transit 3/ST3?
  • Perhaps we should let Island Transit go down the tubes if the Island Transit Board and/or Island Transit Administration reacts inappropriately to the upcoming release of the Washington State Auditor’s Office Audit and continues to react inappropriately to the issues of the Island Transit Acting Finance Director’s insubordinate misconduct?
  • Perhaps we could demand transit administrators forgo the company cars and use the transit system they administrate to commute to/from work at least 75% of the time each month?
  • Perhaps we should sign a petition demanding a study be done within 365 days of the logistics of collecting a fare on Island Transit – not saying I’m pro a fare, but I’m pro an updated conversation.

Just attempting to spark a conversation among the wider transit advocacy community… one we need to start having.

Finally, just an editorial note of reassurance that at some point I need to insert: I am doing some research on Paine Field’s transit situation.  Non-financial research that is so Everett Transit & Community Transit you may exhale.  Please do.

Once the Island Transit crisis simmers down, I will pick up where I left off on my Sound Transit Sounder North research as well.  However, we do have a crisis that is being closely monitored in Olympia and it seems happily ever after is bordering on impossible here.

At some point, I also want to poke around Washington State Ferries…

Test Downtown Ticket Machines?

Is There Any Question about What Date THIS is Valid and When it Expires? by Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”)

As part of yesterday’s discussion of the Proposed King County Metro Budget, Mark Dublin notes:

Possibly transit’s worst hemorrhage, in money and passenger goodwill, stems from anything that slows service by a single minute. Especially if it’s five minutes stuck aboard a packed and un-airconditioned bus northbound at Westlake the height of PM rush while the driver argued with a nut over a fare.

In a few past discussions of the problems faced by “quarter fumblers” in downtown Seattle, there have been a few suggestions that peak trip bus stops be equipped with ticket dispensing machines, so that those paying cash (or card since TVMs accept plastic) would be able to purchase a ticket beforehand.

Would ticket vending machines be worthwhile? Luckily, Metro might have the opportunity to run a test without actually buying the machines themselves.

TriMet’s contractors here in Portland are making great progress on the Orange Line, but most of the stations are still being outfitted with shelters, electrical conduit, and elevators. The current TriMet administration likes to open these lines early if at all possible, so there tend to be parts on hand before they are needed, just in case progress of some sort can be made on non-critical path projects should there be a lack of materials on critical path items.  Two cases: the rails were on hand and waiting for installation long before they were needed.  Public art at the Tacoma Street station was installed about two years ago, before anything else was on the site.

Therefore there is a good chance that the ticket machines for the line are still in a warehouse waiting for the proper time for installation. Operator training and other operational testing isn’t scheduled to being until June of 2015, and the line is supposed to open in September of 2015. With any luck, they might be able to push the opening a little early like they did with a couple of the other lines. However, the fact remains, these are some of the last pieces to put in, while many of the stations have much heavy work yet to finish.

The machines would require a bit of tweaking to get them to print a King County Metro ticket (TriMet no longer has fare zones, and there is no peak period surcharge here, so a few different screens would need to be reprogrammed). There is obviously the issue of how to get power and communications to a temporary location.

Due to the possibility of confusion among those that don’t use transit regularly (which of course will tend to be “cash fumblers”), if the experiment is attempted then the best place to try it would be at extremely busy bus stops only served by King County Metro. That reduces issues when a Community Transit or SoundTransit bus appears at the stop and someone attempts to claim their KCM printed ticket is valid.

Sure, there will still be cash fumblers entering the buses, but how many? If the ticket machines prove to be an unreliable way of reducing cash transactions on the buses, then no big deal. The TVMs were never intended for Seattle anyway. Turn the concrete pads they sat on into additional bus stop benches and soon everyone will forget they ever were there.

On the other hand, if the experiment works and cash transactions are reduced significantly, then maybe it will be worthwhile to purchase a permanent set of TVMs for popular bus stops.

Glenn Laubaugh (“Glenn in Portland”) is a native of Portland, Oregon and works as an engineer / technical writer / technician at a small company that builds electrical equipment for railroad passenger cars.


NORTH BY NORTHWEST 18: Island Transit Acting Financial Manager INSUBORDINATE

An Island Transit Small Bus in Oak Harbor...


“Insubordination can be divided into two categories: unwillingness to carry out a directive from a manager or supervisor and disrespectful behavior toward a manager or supervisor. -… Disrespectful behavior toward a manager or supervisor can include cursing at a supervisor, verbally or physically intimidating a manager or supervisor, or speaking loudly or argumentatively to or about a supervisor.”

Society for Human Resource Management, Disciplinary Issues: What constitutes insubordination?
(Emphasis mine)

Good morning, it seems as if Island Transit is still in trouble after the resignation/retirement/firing of Island Transit’s executive director. In today’s Whidbey News-Times is an insubordinate letter to the editor by one Sandra Kuykendall, Acting Financial Manager of Island Transit. I’m going ahead and republishing her letter in full so you can see what I mean by insubordinate with my emphasis:


Friday I witnessed a vigilante mob lynch an outstanding public servant.

Scott Dudley and his dopes spewed bitter half-truths and intimidated our elected board officials to fire Martha Rose.

Bob Clay, Helen Price Johnson, Jim Campbell and the rest of you board members, do you really think making Martha a scapegoat and bowing to McCarthyism is going to make the silent majority vote for you next go-around? The answer is … oh no.

You and the state auditors saw the same false information that Martha did, and none of you raised a red flag either.

This error was so hidden that nobody, including the state auditors, to whom we pay tens of thousands of dollars every year to catch this type of an error, recognized it.

Most of us who worked with Martha over the years are all angry and shocked that this type of a lynching was approved by the board, especially before even getting the audit report.

Martha built this organization into a national award–winning agency and worked for years getting the grants to build this much-needed facility. The angry “employees” that write letters to the editor are 90 percent disgruntled ex-employees who were fired for not doing their jobs.

Martha has given her heart to this community and fell prey to an incompetent finance manager.

Once she recognized the problem, she took strong action to pull our agency out of a financial nose dive. And she developed a financial plan that could do it. We couldn’t be in a more precarious point in our recovery to lose her guidance now. We, and I speak for most of the employees of Island Transit, are heartbroken, disillusioned and disgusted at you self-serving politicians. What is the world coming to where McCarthyism is allowed to be practiced?

Sandra Kuykendall
Acting Financial Manager, Island Transit

Folks, let me be clear here: To publicly call an Island Transit Board Member a bully and then to accuse individual citizens using their First Amendment Rights of being McCarthyite dopes – and for you young ones, that’s a serious charge from the Cold War and the Red Scare of the early 1950s leading to many good folks losing their jobs & reputations. Anybody who listens to Mr. Lauderdale’s speech can see he’s no McCarthyite but a US Navy veteran using the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. Below are his remarks from Friday:

 Let me also add when a public official uses her position to blast members of public plus her elected board and sign a letter with that title, watch your liberty! You heard me – watch your liberty! When government officials publicly abuse members of the public for speaking out not just in print but by walking out – well then who’s next? Would it be okay for a Sound Transit Sounder manager to blast Seattle Transit Blog for criticizing Sounder North? Would it be okay with you Seattle Transit Blog readers for transit board officials to work to limit us at public comment?

After all, if a former US Navy Commander cannot tell his elected officials what he thinks about Island Transit without fear of Island Transit officials working to destroy his reputation and accuse him of lynching… then we as Americans have something fundamental to fear.  There are many great Americans who love America and want to serve but distrust their government because of tiny people with big titles like Sandra Kuykendall.

Let me put it this way: We at Seattle Transit Blog have read reports of intimidated employees in the comment threads (an example) and even hyperlinked a letter sent to the State Auditor’s Office via State Senator Barbara Bailey alleging the real McCarthyism is led by Martha Rose and her pet attack dogs.  With Sandra’s disgusting outburst speaking as an Island Transit employee to silence fellow American citizens, it lends credence to these allegations.  So what do we do here at home while our troops are risking their lives to stop ISIS ‘Over There’ and our First Responders are ready to protect the home front?  In the words of one VAQ-139 Cougar currently preparing to do battle over the Middle East:

We are all Americans enjoying our great freedoms and rights thanks to the military and the firefighters/EMTs/police officers who serve and protect us…NOT ONLY today, NOT ONLY on the Anniversary of 9/11 but EVERY SINGLE DAY of our lives. CHOOSE to keep those flags flying, CHOOSE to be a proud American Patriot, CHOOSE to keep that spirit alive, and in doing this we will HONOR all of those we lost on 9/11 and all of the troops who have made the ultimate sacrifice NOT ONLY TODAY but ALWAYS!

Today there is an Island Transit Emergency Meeting at 4 PM/1600 Hours at their HQI would highly advise Island County Residents to fire this monster in your midst and clean up your honour before 38 other counties have to.  Why?  Proud American Patriots should ensure this aggression will not stand.

One last thing: Already now former Executive Director Martha Rose admitted on public record there would likely be an audit finding last Thursday due to inept record keeping.  Why wait for the State Auditor’s Office report Sandra?  Some lynching…

Bellevue Hotel Project, Squandered Potential?

Saw that there are plans to build a Hilton Gardens in downtown Bellevue as a six story “mid-rise” smack in the middle of a sea of high rises. These seems weird and squanders prime high rise real-estate.

They should do what is common in other cities and build the hotel to occupy a portion of a larger building.

Meanwhile, in a far and distant land… the poor, the workers & transport for London

I would encourage ST readers to visit the web page of The Guardian of September 21, where there appears a report under the title “Looming London Transport crisis ‘risks sparking riots’ says TfL chief”:

Sir Peter Hendy, the Transport Commissioner of London has stated that without significant improvements in transport access at affordable fares that political and social unrest may occur.  The story is more complicated than that, but I bring it to our collective attention in the context of our own service curtailments and fare increases in relation to where the working poor of Seattle may be able to reside.

I should note that the rest of England (even more, the rest of the (still) United Kingdom regards the reports of London’s transport problems with some hostility.  The columns of several British papers keep returning to the impacts of high fares, and over-crowded transport services.


North by Northwest 17: Island Transit CEO Out

“If any of us were faced with a huge bag of free money and very little accountability, it would be human nature that you would make the most of it.


Today, 19 September 2014 brought about the end of the Martha Rose Era at Island Transit.  Folks testified at the Island Transit meeting and took video – which will be uploaded as an update to this post – stating their deep concerns with the reports coming from anonymous Island Transit employees as well as Island Transit’s fare free policies.  There was also one Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley laying down a pasting to a point “he lost faith and competence” in the Executive Director.  In short, Island Transit Executive Director Martha Rose was forced to hand in her resignation today and Island Transit Board Chairman Bob Clay has taken over emergency CEO responsibilities until at least September 24th at 4 PM/16oo Hours in a clear victory for transit users.

The Whidbey News-Times reported tonight :

The embattled executive director of Island Transit quit Friday after a tense meeting with the board of directors and an hour-long executive session.

It was unclear whether the board asked Martha Rose to turn in her keys during the closed-door session, or even whether she retired or resigned. The board members voted unanimously — with Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson participating via speakerphone — to accept Rose’s letter of resignation.

Afterward, Rose said she was retiring, not resigning.

Rose previously said she had no plans to leave, but changed her tune after the Oak Harbor City Council appointed Mayor Scott Dudley to the transit board on a temporary basis. He is filling in for Councilman Jim Campbell, who’s on an extended vacation.

Before the Whidbey News-Times reported, got the scoop of the victory of accountability and I think the entire transit community sincerely hopes they are right that “a new era for Island Transit” has dawned.

Finally, Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson issued a statement I will copy-paste in full as Commish Price-Johnson illuminates issues the mainstream media has missed:


At this morning’s Island Transit meeting the Board took unanimous action to accept the immediate resignation of Executive Director Martha Rose. Though I was in Ellensburg for another meeting, I was able to participate in the vote by telephone. As per the bylaws, the Chair of the Board Bob Clay will serve as director while an interim executive is selected. A special meeting for this transition is scheduled for Wednesday September 24th at 4pm in the Transit Board room.

The Island Transit financial reports are showing positive gains. The auditor’s review is continuing. Martha Rose served Island County for 26 years and deserves credit for her role in building up the Island Transit system. But she acknowledged today that her presence had become a distraction to the important work of recovery. With the action today the Board will now focus on moving forward in rebuilding this vital system for the good of our community.

Operations staff is working on a draft plan for right-sizing of the transit runs which will be sustainable. Public input is encouraged. I will keep sending updates as this unfolds.

So will we at Seattle Transit Blog…  over to your comments.  Please keep them on-topic to Island Transit and try NOT to spike the football too much.  If for no other reason than there are some people who through NO fault of their own have lost a job serving the public through Island Transit…