Page Two articles are from our reader community.

Bicycle PRT

PRT – “personal rapid transit” – is one of those perennial concepts that never quite makes it.

An example of PRT is London’s Heathrow Airport ULTra, one of the few operational systems in the world. (http://www.ultraglobalprt.com/wheres-it-used/heathrow-t5/ ).

There is apparently a Seattle PRT advocacy group, judging by the website at http://www.gettherefast.org/ , although I haven’t seen anyone “representing” much on STB. The glorious vision of a typical PRT advocate is a citywide grid of grade-separated guideways, with autonomous “pods” carrying 1-4 passengers. Each trip is direct from origin to destination with no intermediate stops, automatically routed through the grid. As far as I know, nothing even close to this has ever been built.

I’ve been thinking of a variant of the PRT idea that has some worthwhile characteristics. Granted, it’s highly speculative…

In this concept, the PRT pods are designed with the goal of carrying a single bicycle, with its mounted rider. This, makes for a small, light pod, which is the most important cost factor in engineering the whole system. The closest approach I have seen to this small a PRT pod is the two-passenger proposal from ecoPRT in North Carolina http://ecoprt.com/ shown above. A major role of bicycle PRT in Seattle would be to get people up hills. Bicycle commuting (and other trips) would be attractive to many more people if they didn’t have to struggle up hills.

In the distant future, one can imagine the citywide-grid PRT vision, supporting relatively long-distance travel, above the traffic, protected from the weather. Since such a system is connecting “ride-sheds” rather than walksheds, it could place the entire city within 5 minutes of transit using a pretty coarse grid. Note that this vision dovetails perfectly with ubiquitous, cheap bikeshare (extrapolating from this year’s pilot program in Seattle).

I have no idea whether the grand vision of a PRT grid could ever pencil out. However it seems to me that a limited set of hill-hopping routes (primarily East-West) would very likely meet enough demand to justify themselves. They do not need the “network effect”: even one line would provide a valuable service. Even so, this sounds like a major investment in unproven technology. What we need first is a pilot project, a technology demonstrator. Such a pilot would most likely be a temporary installation, a learning experience.

View post on imgur.com

How could this work? I have my eye on Union Street from Alaskan Way up to 1st Ave with a middle stop at  Western/Post Alley. It’s a really short run, currently impassable by bike, in a busy neighborhood. It supports three stops, so that the PRT feature (bypassing unused stops) can be demonstrated. How could it be funded? I don’t claim to have any business sense, but one idea is that the initial demonstrator be a proprietary system installed by one of the bikeshare companies. Ride the PRT only on a Limebike, for example. Let the wild-eyed venture capitalists behind the new bikeshare companies take the risk. If it turns out to be technically sound, a public-access system can be built on the same principles, and deployed around the city in appropriate places.

Alternative Alignments for Route 49 (south of CHS)

Currently, Route 49 runs via Pine between Broadway and Downtown. I feel like this would be a bit redundant to the future Route 2 on Pine, but then I also think Route 2 would not have enough capacity to carry all the riders between Seattle Central College and Downtown. Moving Route 49 to Madison would be nice, but that would duplicate RapidRide G. Metro has a plan to merge Routes 49 and 36 and run the combined route through First Hill. However, this has received much criticism because many 36 riders ride to International District, and this combined route would break that one-seat ride.

Map of proposals: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1iUaRiE3nsE7ueqguCEOO9USIQY8&usp=sharing

Merge with First Hill Streetcar

The First Hill Streetcar would take over Route 49 north of Pine St. One problem with this is that the First Hill Streetcar is ridiculously slow, and having it take over the 49 route would not be so desirable. A solution is dedicated transit lanes, but 10th Ave is a bit narrow for that.

Replace First Hill Streetcar

Route 49 would replace the First Hill Streetcar entirely, running via Broadway, Boren, and Jackson. One problem with this is that so much money was spent on the First Hill Streetcar, and now the track exists, so it does not make too much sense to get rid of it.

Hospital Campus

Route 49 would run via Broadway, Seneca, 9th Ave, 8th Ave, and Yesler to Pioneer Square. Route 60 would move to 14th/15th. This would relieve some congestion on Route 3 between Harborview and Pioneer Square. This would also make use of some existing trolley wire on Seneca and 9th.

14th/15th/Yesler

Route 49 would run via John, 15th, Pine, 14th, and Yesler to Pioneer Square. This would extend the Yesler service to 14th if Route 27 is reduced to peak hours (refer to my Central District restructure for more information). However, this would require placing new trolley wire along 14th and 15th. It would also mean that 49 riders lose their one-seat ride to SCC, but then they gain a one-seat ride to Group Health.

14th/15th/Jackson

This is similar to the 14th/15th/Yesler proposal, except the bus will run via Jackson instead of Yesler, and terminate at International District Station. This would connect people along the 14th/15th corridor to the International District.

Summit

Route 49 would run like Route 43 between CHS and Westlake. This would allow Route 10 to move back to Pine between Bellevue and 15th to supplement Route 2, but then riders along 15th Ave would lose their one-seat ride to CHS, and 49 riders would lose their one-seat ride to SCC without gaining any new one-seat rides.

Chicago Transit Blog

Hello STB readers. In my last post I mentioned that I would start a Chicago Transit Blog. I created the site a while back, but only now have I started posting on it. My first post was about the controversial Route 11 in Chicago. It is a widely discussed topic nowadays, so I thought it would be a good way to start out. Please spread the word about this blog. Thank you.

https://chicagotransitblog.wordpress.com

Replace the CCC with Better Bus Service

Seattle is planning to expand the streetcar system in a project called the City Center Connector, or CCC. Like all of our streetcar projects, there are bold promises of very high ridership. Not only are the ridership claims likely to fall short (as they have before) but we would get a much higher level of service, and higher ridership, if we put the money into improving the bus system. We should follow the lead of other cities, like Providence, Rhode Island, and switch to making bus improvements.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Streetcars

Every transit mode has its advantages and disadvantages. Streetcars are no different. Unfortunately, our streetcars have all the disadvantages, but none of the advantages of other streetcars.

Advantages

Jarrett Walker did an excellent job of summarizing the two advantages of streetcars:

1) They can leverage existing railways.

2) Streetcars often have a lot of capacity.

Unfortunately, neither applies in Seattle. The streetcars won’t run on existing tracks (we will instead lay new rail). Thus it will cost significantly more to enable streetcar running instead of buses.

Nor are the streetcars significantly bigger than our buses. Our articulated buses are very large, and our streetcars are very small. Even if we needed the extra capacity of a train along this route (which is doubtful) these streetcars can’t offer it. Our streetcars offer no advantages over our buses.

Disadvantages

1) Expense. This streetcar line is expensive to build and operate. The small, 1.2 mile expansion will cost $177 million, or more than the entire budget for the Move Seattle RapidRide+ projects (which are listed as “Corridor Mobility Improvements” in the proposal). Operating this streetcar costs $242 an hour, while operating a bus costs $163 an hour.

2) Inflexible routing. It is pretty common and pretty cheap to change a bus route (several changes were made just last month).  But making even a minor change to a streetcar line is extremely expensive. For the Roosevelt HCT project, they have budgeted $7 million just to move a streetcar stop a couple blocks.

Since it is expensive to change a streetcars routing, it doesn’t happen. We will continue to endure the mistakes that have lead to slow running, inconsistent headways and low overall ridership.

3) Limited routing. A bus route may run on a busway or bus lanes for its entire route, but it doesn’t have to. It is common for a bus to serve a neighborhood with regular service, then run congestion free where it matters most (downtown). You can’t do that with a streetcar. We see this with the current plans. The streetcars will travel a very short distance, and stop well before a bus would stop. In contrast, the 40 and 70 will be turned into RapidRide bus routes, and they will not only connect South Lake Union with downtown, but connect to other very popular areas.

4) They are a hazard to bicycles. Even with our very short streetcar lines, we have seen several accidents, at least one of which was fatal. We are not alone. All streetcars are a hazard, and different cities mitigate the hazard in different ways. This isn’t just a matter of education, either. Toronto has had streetcars for generations, yet they still has plenty of accidents. Researchers found that 32% of injured cyclists had crashes that directly involved tracks. According to UBC researcher Kay Teschke, a three-fold increased risk of injury was observed when cycling on routes with streetcar or train tracks.

Work can be done to make the streetcars safer but that is often expensive and difficult. You need to both isolate the bike paths and provide for 90 degree crossings. These are common in Amsterdam, but rare in North America.

5) Since they are a hazard to bicycles, a streetcar routing is often less than optimal. It is unlikely that we will be able to produce a relatively safe system, such as the one in Amsterdam. We have trouble converting a general purpose or parking lane into a transit lane so it is unrealistic to think we will also set aside a lane as a buffer for bikes as well (as in this photo). But the routing will have to deal with the fact that surface rail is a hazard to bike riders. In this article, the author points out the hazards that the proposed streetcar routing would create. This sort of criticism is valid, and will likely result in a different routing. Thus the ideal route is replaced by something worse, and only because this is a streetcar, not a bus.

6) Streetcars can’t avoid obstacles. This means that an accident, a parked car or just a bit of debris in the roadway can bring a streetcar to a complete stop. Construction is also a problem. It is common in this booming city to have one lane blocked off, and a flagger move traffic to the other lane. But a streetcar can’t do that. So either the streetcar is shut down for a while, or special work has to be done to accommodate it.

Much has been made of the fact that for part of this route, the streetcars will have their own lane. This is great, and should greatly improve average speeds along part of the route. But for much of the way, there will still be congestion, and a streetcar (unlike a bus) has a tough time avoiding it. But even for the parts of this route that include a transit lane, there are disadvantages for a streetcar. The pathway may be clear most of the time, but if someone sticks out even an inch into the transit lane, the streetcar has to wait. A bus would simply slide over to the general purpose lane, and be on its way. But a streetcar, and all its passengers,  will be stuck.

Alternative

The good news is that there is an alternative, and Providence has already provided it. We simply take the street improvements we would have given to the streetcar, and give it to buses. That would be a better value, whether the bus routes that take advantage of it are BRT or just regular buses. For far less money, we can provide a much better transit system.

Please contact your city council representative and let them know that you want to see the streetcar money be put into bus lanes, and other bus improvements.

Providing SODO Cross-Platform Transferring

An Introductory Scenario

It’s 2037! You’re coming in from getting on Link at SeaTac (or Tacoma or along MLK) and are headed to Capitol Hill, UW, North Seattle, Shoreline or Snohomish County. You have luggage. How will Link get you there? Unlike today, you will have to change Link trains. ST proposes having the Green line be the line for SeaTac (as well as SE Seattle, South King County and Tacoma), while the Red line will connect West Seattle with UW and Snohomish County.

Then the next obvious decision you have is this: Where will you change trains? Will you have to go up and down escalators (or worse yet, elevators)?

You’ll have some choices to make. As current plans show, you will be able to transfer at three or four stations – Westlake, International District-Chinatown, Stadium and SODO. Which station is best?

The Initial SODO Station Transfer Design

Early ST documents shown here (https://www.scribd.com/document/352039517/ST3-WS-Representational-Alignment) suggest that the SODO Red line (West Seattle Link) station will be separate from the original Link station. Sound Transit proposes a center platform for the Red line, but the only place that a rider can go from the new platform is to return in the opposite direction on the Red line.

Designing the station this way will mean that anyone transferring between the two lines much change elevation to get to the other line’s platform. No level, cross-platform transfers will be available.

SODO Station as the Best Transfer Station Location

With multiple Link lines, how ST designs the tens of thousands of daily transfers is fundamental to its user friendliness. As noted in the above scenario, there will be three or four stations to transfer between train lines. Of these four stations, two (Westlake and International District-Chinatown) will be completely underground or below the street, so that designing for transfers is extremely costly and difficult because it involves tunneling. At the possible Stadium Station transfer point, the two lines will be close to overpasses and the elevated East Link tracks, so that designing tracks for cross-platform transfers here is also potentially complicated and costly; in fact, current concepts appear to have one of the lines skipping this station altogether! That leaves SODO as clearly the easiest and least expensive station in which to design for this transfer between these two lines.

Prioritizing Transfers at SODO Station

The current plans propose that any transfer between the two lines would always require exiting a platform and going up or down to a new platform level. Having lived in places with cross-platform transfers, I can tell you from personal experience that simply walking across a center platform in a few seconds from one train to the other (no elevation change) is by far the best way to transfer – especially with luggage or a stroller or a bicycle or a wheelchair! It’s also much easier and attractive than even having two train lines on the same track, because you have to get off one train and wait for the other one to pull in.

In fact, many systems take it one step further, scheduling timed train-train transfers (especially at off-peak hours) so that the time penalty for changing trains is fairly minimal. MacArthur Station works in this way for BART, for example.

Two Alternative Configuration Options

To do this, Sound Transit would need to reconfigure how the planned platforms are built. There are a few different options to accomplish this.

  • The new center, elevated platform could be designed to serve one direction (such as southbound) of both train lines. The current surface platforms could then serve both lines headed in the other direction. (Perhaps the current surface line could be redesigned to have a center platform by shifting one of the tracks in a later phase — noting that having multiple tracks available would make construction phasing easier). That would mean that only people transferring between West Seattle and the southern portions of the Green Line would have to change a level, and everyone else could have a train at the same level.
  • The entire station could be elevated above the street with two center platforms serving four tracks – inside tracks for one branch (like the Green line) and outside tracks for the other (like the Red Line). With that arrangement, transfers between the two lines would also be quite easy. Of course, transferring between West Seattle to the southern portions of the Green line would require two level changes in this configuration.

A comment on East Link trains: Obviously this station doesn’t allow for transfers to East Link; those riders would have to change trains in Downtown Seattle. However, having a lower frequency of trains to West Seattle at SODO Station (compared to the combination of Red and Blue line trains further north) would actually make it more operationally feasible to have a timed-transfer at this station. It also would allow for the station design at International District-Chinatown to prioritize connecting east and south direction train transfers in that design. For example, the new southbound Green line platform at International District/Chinatown could be built just east of the current northbound Red/Blue line platform at this station so that riders heading to SeaTac from Bellevue would have a same-level transfer.

A final point is that ST will need to turn around trains to and from West Seattle in SODO for several years until the Downtown tunnel opens. During that interim period, a cross-platform transfer could significantly reduce the transfer hassle for riders. Imagine if every West Seattle shuttle train rider had a longer-distance Link train to board waiting at the same platform for them (and vice versa)!

Why We Must Act Now

Sound Transit is now initiating studies on how operations will work after the opening of the West Seattle segment (2030 in ST3 materials), and in the new configuration (2035 in ST3 materials). ST hasn’t yet presented about on how many people will transfer between the two lines. I think it’s worthy to transit advocates to get Sound Transit to rethink the initial station track plan at SODO, and instead prioritize a Red/Green line cross-platform design objective into the design. If the current SODO station plans get built and this is ignored, we will be dooming thousands of riders each day for decades to changing levels to continue their light rail trips. Let’s get Sound Transit to design an easy transfer now to prevent this hassle or an expensive fix later!

Transit Day: SMART

I recently made a side trip from San Francisco to Marin and Sonoma counties to catch a ride on a new Nippon Sharyo DMU SMART train connecting the San Rafael Transit Center with Santa Rosa. The SMART trains run on a shared freight and passenger corridor so the passenger vehicles have to meet the most stringent FRA crashworthiness standards. If this operation is a success, it could lead to more short line commuter passenger trains or even some longer routes operated by Amtrak. Locally, the Nippon Sharyo rail cars might make a Seattle to Pasco via Stampede Pass operation more feasible. The SMART trainsets consist of 2 coupled DMUs in a push-pull arrangement. Each car has 79 seats and one car has a restroom while the other car offers a staffed snack bar. The cars were quite comfortable, acceleration was smooth and there didn’t seem to be any problems with the mechanical features of the cars. There are plenty of tables available in each car for working commuters, although at one point the onboard WiFi had to be reset.

Santa Rosa to San Rafael is just the first phase of the SMART project. Construction has recently begun on a 2.2 mile southern extension to the Larkspur Ferry Dock which will allow direct train-to-boat connections to the Ferry Terminal Building on the San Francisco waterfront. Having that connection should boost ridership tremendously. Until the Larkspur extension is completed any trip to SF will require a bus transfer at the San Rafael Transit Center. For anyone interested in making a day trip to see SMART from SF, Golden Gate Transit connects the Transbay Terminal to San Rafael via Van Ness, Lombard and the Golden Gate Bridge (Route 101 is fastest, Routes 30 and 70 are more local and slower). If you are already familiar with GGT’s old, dilapidated and uncomfortable buses and would prefer another option there currently is a local bus connection between the Larkspur Ferry dock and the San Rafael TC (route 228) that is well-timed for a northbound trip to San Rafael but not so good for a southbound trip.

There is one detail about SMART that is important to note for anyone planning to connect to the train from the Sonoma County Airport. The current SMART timetable and map lists “Sonoma County Airport” as the northern terminal for the train but that SMART station is over 1 mile from the Sonoma County Airport terminal. You will need to use a taxi or rideshare to make the connection if you have heavy or bulky luggage because parts of the walking path lack sidewalks and there are no wayfinding signs from the airport to the station. If you arrive with light luggage and feel like stretching your legs after the flight, just exit the terminal, turn right at the main road and walk until you see the SMART O & M facility. It’s about a 20-25 minute walk through a transitioning farmlands to office parks landscape. On my trip I saw a wild turkey strutting across a freshly paved parking lot.

A Bus Connection to Point Lobos!

If you’re visiting the south side of the Bay Area, I also discovered a transit connection between Monterey and Pt. Lobos State Reserve. The Point Lobos State Marine Reserve is one of my favorite places to relax and enjoy nature when I’m in the Bay Area and there is a weekend-only bus from Monterey to Pt. Lobos. Monterey-Salinas Transit Route 22 would allow about 5 hours of relaxation in the park. During the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day the Route 22 schedule expands to offer 3 daily connections to Pt. Lobos. Unfortunately there isn’t an easy connection between Monterey and San Francisco that would allow for day trips via public transit. There is a bus from San Jose/Diridon Station but that bus leaves too late to connect to the Pt. Lobos bus.

A Little Bit About Myself (Last Regular Post)

Hello STB readers. I realized that I have been posting on Page 2 for a couple months now, but I have never formally introduced myself to the STB community, so in this post I will talk a bit about myself. As some of you may have noticed, I usually post something every Thursday. This will be my last regular post on STB, and I will explain why in this post.

I first moved to Seattle in 2002 when I was really little (I’m 16 now). For many years my family did not have a car, so we depended on public transportation a lot. Because of that, I pretty much memorized the entire bus system in Seattle, at least within the city limits. I also payed a lot of attention to the type of bus I was on. I really liked the Breda trolleys because they gave a kind of “retro” feel that none of the other buses could give (except the MAN trolleys, but those were gone by 2007). I also liked the 30ft Gillig buses because those were extremely rare within the city limits. If there was anything I hated about the bus system then, it was the through-route system and the Ride Free Area, the latter of which is gone now. Though it may have been nice to not have to pay to take a bus within Downtown, it was awful to sometimes have to pay as I left the bus, especially because there were many people paying at the same time while a whole bunch of people were getting on the bus. I still hate the through-route system, though I understand Metro uses it to save service hours and layover space.

During my 10 years in Seattle I had always lived in Wallingford. At first I lived in an apartment between Stone Way and Aurora (which I can’t even remember), but later on I moved to a house east of Stone Way. The buses I took the most were the 16, 26, 30/31, 44, 48, 49, 70, 71/72/73, 15, and 8. When Link opened I took it to places in Southeast Seattle such as Kubota Gardens.

I have always been a big fan of nature. My favorite parks in Seattle were Carkeek Park and Kubota Gardens. I do not like crowded places, so I never really spent much time in Downtown unless I needed to. My favorite neighborhoods in Seattle are Wallingford, Fremont, and Capitol Hill because they have a lot of trees. My favorite part of the entire city is the path in Fremont along the canal. I used to ride my bike there a lot. I spent a lot of time in Wallingford, Fremont, Ballard, Capitol Hill, and U District.

As a southeast asian, I really like all kinds of asian food. This meant I had to go to the International District to buy ingredients. Though it may have been easy to get from Wallingford to the ID, it was more difficult to get back home due to the infrequent buses going to Wallingford. In fact, I found it more convenient to take the 71/72/73 expresses and transfer to the 30/31 in U District rather than to take the 7/14/36 and wait for the 16 or 26 on 3rd Ave. Now it should be easier with the frequent 62.

I moved to Chicago in 2012 (right before RapidRide C and D opened), and I soon memorized the bus system there too. I kind of forgot about the Seattle system. I live in Hyde Park, so I usually take the Metra train to Downtown Chicago. I find it convenient, but the train runs way too infrequently (hourly). I would say that Chicago has the most grid-like bus system I have ever seen, and I have found it very convenient. At some point I started writing a document full of suggestions on how to improve the Chicago public transportation system. I never really shared it with anyone other than a couple friends, but I still edit it nowadays. If you guys want me to post my Chicago suggestions on Page 2, tell me so in the comments.

In 2016 I visited Seattle. I was shocked by how much the bus system had changed. I looked online and noticed that there were 3 major restructures during the 4 years I was gone: September 2012, September 2014, and March 2016. I stayed near the U District during that visit, and I noticed that the only route in North Seattle that did not change in terms of routing was the 44 (now I realize there are a couple routes really far north that haven’t changed, but I never really pay attention to those). As much as I miss some of the old routes, I think the transit system in Seattle has improved a lot since the time I was there. I also like the development in South Lake Union; it used to be a whole bunch of random warehouses, but now there are nice buildings in that area.

I then started writing an improvement suggestions document for Seattle. I started sharing my ideas on Page 2 in March 2017. Since then, I have also modified my document according to what people comment on my posts. I have not found anything similar to STB for Chicago, but if such a thing exists, please tell me.

I will probably take a break from posting on Page 2 now since I have basically written every single idea I had on my Seattle document, and now I want to start posting a bit about Chicago. I might come back every now and then with a post. If there is no such thing as a Chicago Transit Blog, please give me advice on how I can start one.

Do the Streets of Delhi have Lessons for Seattle?

Thirty years ago Carol and I flew to Delhi, landing by the first light of a November morning.  As we waited for the bus into the city, we shivered from the unexpected cold — young New Yorkers with backpacks… The bus eventually came and drove us through Delhi’s outskirts by the blue light.  The air was misty and smokey from the dung fires people were just beginning to light, and it was hard interpret the bleak surroundings that flitted by: a wall… some machinery… a few people standing around in the gloaming.

But as we got to the center of the great city, the sun came up, and the wide thoroughfares came alive as rivers of humanity… and, oh my, so many ways to get around: buses festooned with marigolds and icons, ox and donkey carts, dusty trucks, and even elephants plodded along; cars and taxies honked and claimed whatever space would fit them; and a myriad of rickshaws, scooters, bicycles, and pedestrians weaved in and out around the sacred cows and beggars.  There were no lanes, yet everyone seemed to have a place in the cooperative anarchy of the Delhi streets.  And when more traffic was heading east than west, then east bound traffic simply bulged out, taking up 70 percent of the right of way — so if you looked up the road you would see the median line snaking ahead.  These roads were cacophonous, dazzling with color, dizzy with movement, both crazy and surprisingly functional… Traffic was slow, but it moved and pulsed and swayed.  And when the late afternoon the heat finally came and the traffic felt less urgent, these streets, bathed in golden light, were beautiful…

I don’t want to over-romanticize this. The motor rickshaws spewed wretched smoke. The open sewers stank horribly, there were injuries and fatalities, bicycle rickshaw drivers had unbelievably strenuous lives, and Delhi commuters cursed the traffic. 

But there is not, and never has been, a perfect system for traffic — from ancient Rome to modern New York, people have cursed it. Traffic is everywhere disliked and no where the same.  Traffic is a cultural artifact, and while our own traffic is bad, that of other cities is even worse.  Delhi’s traffic is about as unlike our own as possible, and many here the US would find it horrifying. Yet, I am convinced that it has somethings to teach us. 

One clear lesson: the Delhi streets were democratic.  They allowed any mode of transport, and if all you could afford was a rusty old bike, you had a place on the street. What a contrast to Seattle, where in many parts of town the street design and traffic culture creates a virtual monopoly for cars, and even sidewalks are missing and biking is treacherous.  For most Seattleites owning a car is a necessity, and not a cheap one. According to the City of Seattle’s New Mobility Playbook, “on average, owning a car in King County adds about $12,500 a year to the household budget.”

A second lesson of the Delhi streets concerns speed — the traffic I saw moved at much slower speeds than traffic in the US.  Yes, the sheer density slowed things down.  But there was also so much to see that people slowed down just to appreciate the spectacle, so even when the traffic did not clog the streets people moved slowly.  The sacred cows were particularly effective; as revered creatures, everyone slowed for them. 

Here in the US we have a speeding problem.  A recent National Transportation Safety Board report found that speed-related death is comparable to that attributed to alcohol-impaired driving, and kills about 10,000 people per year.  See report here.  The deadliness of speed starts to increase exponentially above 30 miles per hour. To slow down vehicles, US engineers use “trafffic calming” techniques such as speed bumps, road diets, and driver feedback signs. These techniques are only partly successful, people tend to speed up between bumps, for instance, and the Rainier road diet, while somewhat successful, has not managed to stop cars from speeding. 

A more subtle and intriguing approach, called “psychological traffic calming”, is emerging, especially in Europe, and it may even be more effective than the traditional calming methods — by installing intriguing art work, or cafe seating by the edge of the road, drivers will slow down out of curiosity or respect. The streets of New Delhi had this system years ago, sacred cows and festooned buses have long functioned as mental speed bumps that stimulate the mind without jolting your suspension. 

A third lesson from the streets of Delhi concerns the safety benefit of steering though chaos… I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me.  In a street environment of no lanes, few signs, and  a lot very diverse traffic, there are many of what traffic engineers call “conflicts,” that is moments when two people (drivers, bikers, pedestrians) want to get in the same space at the same time. “In conventional traffic engineering thought, the more conflict, the less safe the system. But again, Delhi challenges preconceptions.  In a study of various locations around Delhi,… researchers found that the site that had a low conflict rate tended to have high fatality rate, and vice versa.  In other words the seeming chaos functioned as a kind of safety device.” (from: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, by Tom Vanderbilt… I read this book as I was writing this essay, and was amazed to find that he writes about Delhi traffic too!)  In a way this safety benefit is understandable, all that chaos makes us alert for the unexpected and aware that we are steering a deadly weapon. It does not make driving pleasant, especially to a driver new to this environment, but it makes it safer.

Here in the US our street system is designed to minimize the number of conflicts; our lanes tell us exactly where to be, the signs tell us how fast we can go, what to look out for, and when to stop. If drivers follow the system they can disengage some, talk on the phone, sing and dance with the radio, or just space out and discover, several minutes later, that they have no memory of the last several miles of driving. Driving in the US is designed to be as conflict free as possible which may be why “distracted driving” is epidemic, and why our streets are so deadly.  No matter how much engineers try to design conflicts out of the road system, they cannot eliminate them — the kid will dart out from behind the bus, the bicyclist will serve to avoid a pothole—and the driver, at a deadly speed and lulled into a false confidence, suddenly cannot brake fast enough. The problem of traffic safety is not only a problem of engineering roads for safety, it is also a problem of people… of people who drive too fast because they feel safe.

So, what to do with all these lessons from the streets of Delhi?  I’m not actually suggesting we install a bunch of sacred cows, do away with the lanes, and call it good… though it would make for an amusing morning commute…

But, as Seattle grows, and gets denser, as more people take to the roads, as we improve transit and pedestrian and bicycle routes; it makes sense to think about how to accommodate this new democracy in our streets that have been so monopolized by cars. And an essential part of that is to a need to slow the cars. So, what would be good mental speed bumps for Seattle drivers? Should SDOT hire more public artists? And how can we help Seattle drivers adapt to more chaotic systems? Several people have called for banning cars from Pike Place Market, yet I think we need more places like Pike Place market where car drivers learn, up close and personal, how to live with pedestrians. 

Some things are certainties — both the infrastructure of Seattle roads and the culture of Seattle traffic are evolving, and in fact seem headed rapid change.  Now is the chance to shape it.

Improving RapidRide

The RapidRide system is a nice addition to the bus system in Seattle, but right now I feel that there isn’t enough difference between RapidRide and regular buses other than WiFi, some dedicated bus lanes, and wider-spaced stops. In fact, some regular routes are more frequent than RapidRide routes. The Madison BRT (RapidRide G) is supposed to have more BRT-like features, so I think the whole RapidRide system should be like that. Here is a map of my proposed RapidRide system (uncheck the Link box) https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nBYvhYMteQDSepINtLnV9nfzVlA&usp=sharing

Service

Dedicated stops/stations (stations can be shared between RapidRide lines, but not with regular buses)
Off-board payment at all stations
Dedicated bus lanes on most sections, only a few sections in mixed traffic
Coordination with street lights

Frequencies (minutes)

Peak: 5-7.5
Weekday Midday: 10
Weekend Midday: 12
Early Morning/Late Evening (4-6 AM and 10PM-12AM): 15-20
Night (12AM to 4AM): 45-60

Expansions

G Line will be extended to Madison Park to replace Route 11.

D Line will be extended to Lake City via Holman Rd and Northgate Way. Route 40 will terminate at Carkeek Park.

E Line will have a new station at 38th/Aurora to serve Fremont, even though it is somewhat of a walking distance.

Route 65 will become a RapidRide K Line, going between Brooklyn Station and Lake City.

The Sound Transit 522 BRT will be extended west to Broadview to provide crosstown service on 145th St.

There should be some kind of rapid transit going between Seattle Center, SLU, Capitol Hill, and Madison Valley, similar to the east-west portion of Route 8. However, the city is still rearranging the streets in SLU, so they should get that done before putting such a RapidRide line into service.

Canceled

In this post, canceled means that the route will not become a RapidRide route. I only mention the routes that appear in the 2025 plan.

Rainier: The Rainier plan basically turns the 7 into a RapidRide. I think the 7 runs close enough to SeaTac Link, so it shouldn’t be a RapidRide. In Rainier Valley there should be Link feeders instead.

40: Ballard already has the D Line, so there shouldn’t be a parallel route. I would just extend the D Line to Northgate and truncate Route 40 at Carkeek Park. If there is a Ballard to Fremont rapid transit (BRT, Streetcar, Link), it should go to Wallingford and U District instead of SLU and Downtown. The 44 RR serves this in a way, but it runs too far from the center of Fremont. That is why I think a Ballard-UW Link line would be good. If there should be a Fremont to Downtown RR, it should also go through Queen Anne (possibly an extension of Route 13 to Fremont).

372: If there should be a RapidRide line in Northeast Seattle, I think 35th Ave NE would be a better corridor for it. That is why I suggested turning Route 65 into a RapidRide line. Also, Sound Transit already plans a 522 BRT, so the 372 should just be a local shadow.

Reduced

Roosevelt: The portion of Roosevelt RR between Northgate and U District is redundant to Northgate Link, so there should just be a local shadow rather than a RapidRide line. However, I think a RapidRide along Eastlake could make sense. It should be called Eastlake RapidRide, not Roosevelt RapidRide.

C Line: When West Seattle Link opens, the C Line will have much less purpose. In fact, people might even switch to the H (Delridge) Line when it opens. I think when West Seattle Link opens, the C Line should run to Alki Point north of Alaska Junction.

D Line: Ballard residents will probably switch to Ballard Link when it opens. I would assume that Ballard Link will be extended further north to Crown Hill after the first phase is opened. I think that when the first phase of Ballard Link opens, D Line should be truncated south of Market, and a local bus will run along 15th Ave W between Market and Downtown.

Greater Seattle LRT Map

Seattle Subway released a new vision map a few weeks ago outlining proposed LRT alignments throughout the greater Seattle area. There were a handful of decisions I thought didn’t make sense – alongside additional lines and options I mulled over. This *train* of thought led to designing an alternative Greater Seattle LRT Network.

Some disclaimers:

  • This was just as much an alignment/routing project as it was a learning experience in building an effective transit diagram. It’s my first time attempting something like this and I made it from scratch, so design feedback is welcome and appreciated.
  • This map is expansive, I have no responsibilities to convince or affect policy – therefore some decisions might not acknowledge political/economic/geographic realities. If it were to be built, the timeline would probably be around the next 70 years.
  • I have no legitimacy as a transit planner and I definitely don’t pretend to know more than Seattle Sub/Sound Transit. All research is 100% armchair.

Most of this map should look familiar, here are some notable changes:

A smarter 8 Metro (ORANGE LINE): A connection to the Cap Hill makes this line much more effective and resolves one of the most inexplicable decisions on Seattle Subways map. Additional stations on Union and Fairview will increase access to bus corridors and growing dense neighborhoods. The connection in Tacoma has also been extended, traveling further south from the Tacoma Mall to Lakewood.

Bellevue Loop (BLUE LINE): Seattle Subway claims a floating tunnel from Magnuson Park to Kirkland would be a similar price as outfitting 520 for LRT. This is non-intuitive, but if built continuing from Kirkland across to Redmond (vs down to Bellevue) would help justify this northern alignment. A 520 alternative might look something like this

Issaquah Line (PINK LINE): Instead of turning towards UW, the Pink line travels north to Bothell. Intersecting the Blue line it builds an Eastside grid – connecting Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond. (Look how far out of your way you would need to travel to move from Redmond to UW on Seattle Subways map). The Pink line would continue from Bothell to Lake Forest and turn NW, following 104 to Edmonds and intersecting the Purple and Red lines.  

A 99 Metro (PURPLE LINE): A line down Aurora seems a no-brainer, it’s straight and flat, has huge density growth potential, and currently is serviced by the busiest bus line in King County. Reaching Fremont, UQA, Belltown, both downtown tunnels, and First Hill this line completes and connects almost all Seattle’s downtown destinations with one line. Especially the two most notable misses from any Seattle Subway plans, Belltown and First Hill. The Urbanist has written a great piece on the idea’s merits (and challenges) here. As a bonus, it also maintains the subversive agenda of each and every Dick’s Drive-In being served by rail. 

Kentplete Lake Loop (LIGHT BLUE LINE): This line fulfills the aesthetic and superficial purpose of a complete LRT loop around Lake Washington. It also provides a connection to Kent’s Sounder stop and higher density eastern side. The present demand certainly doesn’t merit its construction, but with Renton and Kent’s growth this might pencil out eventually.

Both the Seattle Streetcar and Tacoma ‘Streetcar’ have been expanded. In Seattle, the Center City connector continues up first to LQA, while in Tacoma an expansion in the vein of this map has been included. Both expansions are obviously optimistic due to the present systems underperforming.

There were two additional lines I considered but not included. The first would be a Delridge spur in West Seattle. The second would be another downtown tunnel, running from the Mt. Baker Station up Rainier to Judkins, then to Little Saigon, Yesler/Harborview, and the First Hill station. It would cross I5 to a Denny Triangle station (maybe a Convention Center station?), connect to SLU, and then proceed up Eastlake to UW. Here is a potential alignment. 

Alternative alignments for Route 32

A while back I posted a Route 32 restructure having it go through central Queen Anne instead of Interbay because I felt the Interbay portion duplicated the D Line too much. However, people wanted it to go until at least 15th/Dravus so that it keeps the 15-minute frequency with Route 31 between U District and 15th. I came up with a couple other alternatives below. Here is a map of the alternatives: https://drive.google.com/open?id=10P2xFaf-hcsKM0WP2eSHr20uZ20&usp=sharing

Kinnear

South of Dravus, Route 32 will run like Route 1. A drawback of this is that Route 1 is a trolley route, and it would be a waste of trolley wire if a diesel route is operated full time on roads with trolley wire.

28th Ave W

West of 15th/Dravus, Route 32 will take Dravus, 22nd, Gilman, Govt. Way, and 28th Ave W to Downtown Magnolia.

34th Ave W

West of 15th/Dravus, Route 32 will take Dravus, 22nd, Gilman, Govt. Way, and 34th Ave W to Downtown Magnolia.

Dravus/Emerson

West of 15th/Dravus, Route 32 will take Dravus, 28th, Tilden, 30th, and Emerson to Discovery Park.

Expanding Link

Sound Transit plans to expand the Link system with new lines to Ballard and West Seattle and extensions to existing lines. I like many of these ideas, but I also have ideas for other lines, as well as some changes to the already planned lines. I will divide this post into different lines. Here is a map of my proposed Link system: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1nBYvhYMteQDSepINtLnV9nfzVlA&usp=sharing

West Seattle Line

The West Seattle Line will run south of Downtown with the following stations:

Stadium
SODO
Delridge
Avalon
Alaska Junction
Morgan Junction
Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal
Westwood Village
White Center
Burien TC (Maybe, but there should probably also be some infill stations)

Northwest (Ballard) Line

The Northwest Line will run north of Downtown with the following stations:

Westlake
Denny
South Lake Union
Seattle Center
Smith Cove
Interbay
Market St
NW 65th St
Crown Hill (NW 85th St/15th Ave NW)

Fremont Line

I think there should be a line running to Fremont. I would prefer this over a 40 RapidRide. In fact, I wish the Ballard line would go through Fremont, but ST3 already has the Ballard line going through Interbay.

The Fremont Line will run north of Downtown with the following stations:

Westlake
Denny
South Lake Union
Queen Anne (if it’s physically possible)
Fremont

Northeast Line

The Northeast Line is the line that currently goes to University of Washington and will be later extended to Northgate and Lynnwood.

East Line

The East Line is the line that will go to Bellevue, Overlake, and Redmond. I like the plan Sound Transit has.

SeaTac Line

I think the Tacoma extension would make sense, though if it goes north of Downtown Seattle, it would result in a line about 40 miles long. That wouldn’t be too bad though. It could be through-routed with my Fremont Line.

Route Names

A while back there was a post by Joseph Story on a possible naming scheme for the Link system. I find his ideas pretty interesting, so you guys should read his post.

https://seattletransitblog.com/2017/08/03/integrated-labeling-scheme-for-link/

In my map, I have color-coded the lines. I avoided green and blue because those are being used for the Swift BRT. However, I think there should be some other kind of naming system for Link, maybe by direction, such as Northeast-Southwest.

Link Phasing Map

Greetings Northwestern friends from Southern California. I’m a transit planner based in Los Angeles, but a longtime follower of Seattle planning issues and reader of this blog. I’m writing today to share an animated map I made showing the planned phases of Link implementation.

http://calurbanist.com/wp-content/uploads/seattle_metro.gif

Sound Transit could never make this map, obviously, because it does not show Tacoma Link. But I can.

Higher-res versions of the full buildout map are available here: http://calurbanist.com/seattle-future-light-rail/

North Seattle Restructure after Lynnwood Link

I feel like there are too many zigzagging bus routes in North Seattle, the best example being the 345. I think there should be more of a grid system in North Seattle.

Proposal (North Seattle)

Routes to be deleted: 41, 77, 345, 347, 348

Routes heavily modified: 73

Routes 40 and D Line will swap routings north of NW 85th St. This means that Route 40 will terminate at Carkeek Park, while D Line runs via Northgate Way. The D Line will be extended to Lake City, still doing the deviation to NSCC and Northgate TC.

Instead of running to Northgate, Route 75 will run via 125th, Roosevelt, and 130th to 130th/Greenwood.

Route 65 will be extended west to 145th/Greenwood via N 145th St. Between 125th St and 145th St, it will run via 35th Ave NE and Lake City Way instead of 30th Ave NE.

Route 345 will be discontinued. Route 346 will run at 15-minute frequency, and it will through-route with Route 352 at Northgate TC.

Route 73 will be extended north to Mountlake Terrace TC via 15th Ave NE, NE 196th St, 19th Ave NE, and 56th Ave W. It will be renumbered 377, and it will run at 15-minute frequency. This is similar to Route 347, except more straight. Route 347 will be discontinued.
Alternative to above proposal: if people prefer connection to Northgate over a full 15th route, then Route 347 could be straightened like my proposed 377, and the current 73 can stay as it is now.

A new route will run like Route 348 between Richmond Beach and 5th Ave NE/NE 185th St, then take NE 185th St, 10th Ave NE, NE 180th St, 15th Ave NE, NE 175th St, and 5th Ave NE to Northgate TC. On weekdays it will deviate to 1st Ave NE between 130th St and 145th St to serve Lakeside School. This route will be numbered 352, and it will run at 15-minute frequency. It will through-route with Route 346 at Northgate TC.

Between 1st Ave NE and 5th Ave NE, Route 330 will deviate to NE 145th St to serve the Link station. Route 330 will also run at 30-minute frequency all 7 days a week.

Route 372 will be extended to Woodinville like Route 522, the way the original 372 ran before the March 2016 restructure. It will run on its full route all 7 days a week.

Other Changes

Routes 31 and 32 will run both directions on NE Pacific St and terminate at Husky Stadium. They will no longer through-route with Route 75. Route 75 will through-route with Route 45 instead. To accommodate this through-routing, Route 45 will deviate from University Way to Brooklyn Ave between 47th St and 45th St in order to serve the Brooklyn Station, and on 15th Ave between 45th St and Stevens Way.

Routes 65 and 67 will run in both directions on Stevens Way. They will also run via 45th St instead of Campus Pkwy.

At all times, Route 62 will run on both directions on NE 65th St. During nights and weekends, it will loop at Radford Dr.

Route 44 will run to Children’s Hospital instead of Husky Stadium.

Maps

45: https://goo.gl/maps/BGSS52uaDKs

65: https://goo.gl/maps/kADFRYWaoRp

75: https://goo.gl/maps/SQXsbM4tHrB2

352: https://goo.gl/maps/VLjyzWx4TpE2

377: https://goo.gl/maps/CwNz5uaUFst

D Line: https://goo.gl/maps/SUFGo25kM9P2

What’s in a reroute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Route 550 Reroutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southeast Seattle Restructure

Since 2009, transit in Skyway has been pretty much the same, other than improved frequency on Route 106. Before that, the part of Skyway close to Lake Washington had some bus service, but in 2009 that was removed. In my post I discuss some ways to improve transit in Skyway.

Metro has a plan to combine Routes 49 and 36 and run them through First Hill instead of Downtown. This plan has received much criticism because many Beacon Hill residents use Route 36 to go to the International District, and the plan would cut off that connection. In this post I discuss a bit on First Hill-Southeast Seattle connections.

The September 2016 service restructure modified Route 106 to run like the old Route 42 between Rainier Beach and Downtown. Many people have criticized this new routing for duplicating Route 7 between Mt Baker TC and Downtown. I change up the routing for Route 106 a bit so it is less duplicative.

In this post, I refer to Southeast Seattle as the part of Seattle east of I-5 and south of McClellan. I split up the post into categories I mentioned above.

Routing Changes within Rainier Valley/Beacon Hill

South of Cloverdale, Routes 7 and 9 will swap routings. This means that Route 7 will run to Rainier Beach Station, and Route 9 will run to Prentice St.

South of Massachusetts, Route 8 will run via Massachusetts and 23rd to Judkins Park station instead of taking MLK to Mt Baker TC. Also, Route 8 will go straight on MLK instead of deviating to 23rd between Yesler and Jackson.

South of Massachusetts, Route 48 will run via Massachusetts and MLK to Mt Baker TC.

A new Route 52 will connect West Seattle, Georgetown, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, and Seward Park. Instead of going via Sylvan Way, Route 128 will run via 16th Ave SW and Genesee to Alaska Junction, and it will not run to North Admiral. Route 22 will be extended to Seacrest Park via California to replace Route 128 in North Admiral. Route 52 will run at 30-minute frequency.

Route 38 (not the MLK one, but the McClellan one) will be restored. It will be extended to Columbia City Station via Hunter Blvd, 38th Ave S, and S Alaska St to replace the 14 tail to Hanford St. It will be operated using vans, and will run at 30-minute frequency.

Route 36 will through-route with Route 70 in Downtown. Frequencies on Route 70 will be upgraded to match those of Route 36.

Routing Changes within Skyway

Route 101 will run to Rainier Beach instead of Downtown. It will run at 15-minute frequency all 7 days a week. It will through-route with Route 169 at Renton TC. Route 102 will remain as it is now.

Route 107 will be split into two routes: Routes 105 and 108. Route 105 will run like Route 107 between Beacon Hill and Rainier View, but then go on Langston Rd to Renton TC. Route 108 will run like Route 107 between Renton TC and Cornell Ave, then take Cornell Ave, Rainier, Seward Park, and Othello to Othello Station.

First Hill-SE Seattle Connections

Instead of running via Jackson to International District, Route 106 will run via Boren and Fairview to South Lake Union.

The First Hill Streetcar will be discontinued. Instead of going via Pine, Route 49 will run to International District via Broadway, Boren, 12th, and Jackson, laying over at 2nd/Main. The South Lake Union Streetcar will terminate at the yard at Dearborn.

North of Jackson, Route 60 will take 12th, Yesler, 14th, Pine, 15th, and John to Capitol Hill Station, then take Broadway to the current 9 terminus at Aloha.

Between Jackson and John, Route 9 will run via 12th instead of Broadway, and will terminate at the current 60 terminus at Mercer. It will also run to Prentice St instead of Rainier Beach Station.

Maps

Route 38: https://goo.gl/maps/gad35oknpr62

Route 49: https://goo.gl/maps/BeHtFMXu6e82

Route 60 (north of Beacon Hill): https://goo.gl/maps/6KKzF6qGQDG2

Route 52: http://bit.ly/2odjINS

Route 128: http://bit.ly/2pQIMtQ

Route 105: https://goo.gl/maps/7RP7abjLXFP2

Route 108: https://goo.gl/maps/E6nQwZm2bEM2

Seattle Gondola Network

Here’s my dreamy map: a handful of potential alignments for a Seattle Gondola Network.

Gondolas are regularly used as hypothetical transit solutions in Seattle – they have specific advantages suited for a city filled with the natural barriers of hills, lakes, and highways. They’re also cheaper and faster to build than subways or other grade separated transit. That said – it’s certainly not the solution to most transit needs, and some of the lines could definitely be suited better by a subway or true BRT (Ballard -> UW).

I’ve seen a handful of proposals, but never a handful of Seattle gondola lines laid out in a network. So I curated some of my favorite ideas and added some new ones.

For a gondola line to make sense it must:

  1. Cross a barrier that cannot be served efficiently by another form of transit
  2. Obviously, connect high traffic destinations
  3. Not demand the ridership/capacity of a rail line

I’m imagining all lines built with 3S technology (variable station distance, detachable grips, <30 second waits, and 20-30 passenger cabins.) All route times are estimated at a speed of 15mph with a 30-second layover per station – although there may be additional uncalculated time penalties for turns. Speaking of turns, I’m sure some routes have straighter more efficient alignments – especially if you don’t restrict lines to street ROW. This will make things faster and cheaper. Considering every turn requires tower infrastructure comparable to a station, strategic placement of turns and stations will reduce cost and overhead.

Here are the lines, there are some obvious redundancies, but I think SLU, UQA, Boren, Pine, and Jefferson all make sense as transit alternatives and together build a network. The rest range from interesting to kinda dumb.

SLU: This is the alignment that Seattle should be funding and planning right now. The simplest iteration goes Seattle Center->SLU->Broadway. it connects three high ridership/dense destinations and provides additional coverage for the 8. Turning a 45-minute gridlock bus ride into a consistent 7-minute sky cruise. This connection could happen on a number of East-West streets through SLU (I mapped it on two) and could be extended from LQA all the way to Madison. This would also complement our Streetcar network by turning it into a loop, connecting the SLU and First Hill lines (especially if an extension down 1st to LQA is built). 

Upper Queen Anne: This line is a little sloppier, but probably provides the second most useful alignment. Starting at the Zoo it works it’s way to Fremont/SPU then UQA and ends at Seattle Center. Upper Queen Anne has little opportunity for grade separated transit outside of a gondola line. 

Boren: This line builds the network’s backbone. Connecting all the other downtown proposals together it provides a ride from the (future) Judkins Park station to First Hill to SLU. Although Boren is a street that could potentially be covered by BRT/Streetcar – traffic and grade create reliability challenges that a gondola can easily conquer. It also provides an opportunity to build a connection station in the new Convention Center and meet the Pine line.

Jefferson: Starting at the Ferry terminal this line travels to the Pioneer Square station, up to Harborview, then over towards SU and finally Swedish. It covers one of the steepest downtown streets and two hospitals. A James/Cherry alignment might also make sense- sacrificing a Yesler connection for a better SU station. I could also see adding an additional station on 5th.

Pine: This line connects some big hitters – waterfront, Westlake, Convention Center, Cap Hill, and makes way more sense than this proposal. A Pine line definitely caters towards tourism but also has opportunities to serve a pretty pragmatic transit function.

Yesler: This line was covered here. It’d be competitive with the Streetcar – with the exception of no ID connection.

Magnolia Connector: Only If Magnolia goes through substantial rezoning and the village becomes a true dense urban village, will this line have cost-effective ridership. But connecting the Magnolia Village to the future Ballard/WestSeattle light rail (and current D line) –  and to UQA then Aurora hugely improves reliable transit connections to otherwise isolated housing pockets.

Mercer SLU alt: This is pretty much the same SLU line but with less demand, the only advantage being a straiter alignment. And a gondola from the shore of Lake Union up to Roy/Broadway would have great views.

Ballard to UW: Really should just be a subway line. 

UW connector: Don’t see this ever happening – not sure if the ridership would ever justify the investment plus UW would never ruin their Red Square to Rainier views. Also – if a Ballard/UW subway is ever built and 520 is chosen as a lake crossing – it’s easy to see this same Ave/Uvillage/Stadium/520 triangle covered with rail.

If you click a line the mileage and travel time estimate will pop up, it’s fun to compare with driving and transit options (especially at rush hour).

Please critique and/or suggest new lines.

Van Routes

There are certain corridors in Seattle that deserve service, but the roads are not suitable for buses. There are also other routes in Seattle with very low ridership, but the demand is high enough to keep a route there. I have come up with a few corridors where van routes would be nice. If needed, some of these routes can become DART routes.

32nd Ave NW

32nd Ave NW is suitable for buses, but midday and weekend ridership was rather low. For a long time, this corridor was served by the all-day Route 17, which was replaced by Route 61 in 2012. Due to low ridership, Route 61 was discontinued in 2014. Right now there is only the peak-only Route 17 serving this corridor. I would restore Route 61 as a van route, but terminate it at 15th/Market instead of doing the weird loop in South Ballard. Route 61 will run at 30-minute frequency during the day, all 7 days a week.

NW 65th St

Currently, the only East-West corridors in Ballard are Market and NW 85th St. I think there should be something in between. A NW 65th St bus would be good for connecting Ballard residents to Ballard High School, the Phinney Ridge shopping district, and Green Lake. An extension to Golden Gardens via Seaview would be nice too. I would put a van route on NW 65th St between 36th Ave NW and Aurora, and I would number it as Route 68. Route 68 will run at 30-minute frequency during off-peak, and 15-minute frequency during peak in both directions to serve students of Ballard High School.

NE 55th St and Laurelhurst

NE 55th St is suitable for buses, but the streets in Laurelhurst are very narrow. Before 2014, NE 55th St had bus service all 7 days a week, and before 2016, Laurelhurst had weekday bus service. Now NE 55th St only has the peak only Route 74, and Laurelhurst has nothing in its south part. I think both of these corridors deserve all-day service. I would put a van on this route, and I would number it 79. To free up service hours and to reduce duplication, I would delete Route 78. Route 79 will run at 30-minute frequency during off-peak, and 15-minute frequency during peak.

S McClellan St

Who remembers Route 38? Not the one on MLK, but the one on McClellan. Many people used it to travel between Beacon Hill and Mt Baker before Link opened, but then people moved to Link. I think Route 38 would be good for Beacon Hill residents living on the hill on McClellan. I would restore Route 38 as a van route, but I would also extend it to Columbia City Station via McClellan, Mt Rainier Dr, Hunter Blvd, 38th Ave S, and S Alaska St to replace the Route 14 tail to Hanford St. Route 38 will run at 30-minute frequency during the day, and at 60-minute frequency at night to serve people who would usually take Link between Beacon Hill and Mt Baker. If needed, night trips can also go to International District.

SW California Ave (Route 22)

Route 22 has had rather low ridership for a long time. I think it would be a good van route. I think Route 22 could also be extended to Seacrest Park to replace Route 128 in North Admiral so that there would be a bus going on the whole length of California. Route 22 will run at 30-minute frequency during off-peak, and 15-minute frequency during peak in both directions to serve students at Chief Sealth High School and West Seattle High School. All peak trips should be operated using regular buses, maybe even articulated buses if needed.

Mercer St and Aloha St

Mercer St and Aloha St have never had true bus service. I think there should be a van route serving Mercer and Aloha. This route would have two disadvantages: traffic on Mercer and not serving Capitol Hill Station. But I think such a route could possibly relieve some congestion on Route 8. I would number the Mercer/Aloha route as Route 42 (sounds rather familiar, but it’s been gone for some time now, so it’s fine)

Maps

Map of van route system: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1EnAFcULlO8Sou0cz0t9o2d8UhEE&usp=sharing

Integrated Labeling Scheme for Link

I was discussing the looming labeling problem for Link with my friend, Scott. I was explaining to him how Metro’s RapidRide uses letters and how Community Transit uses colors. I mentioned that this could create confusion, as the RapidRide signature red color creates confusion with a proposed red line labeling for ST’s Link, and how having Community Transit’s color-coded lines will lead to confusion for the eventual ST green and blue Link line labeling. Scott noted that he was recently in London and that don’t use colors at all; they label each rail line with a name.

I reviewed what other systems do. In the US, the most popular among new systems is the use of colors. For example, there are Blue Lines in places like Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Washington DC, like what Sound Transit has proposed.

A few systems rely on numbers or letters. Denver uses letters. Paris uses both (numbers for city lines and letters for the regional rail system). New York uses both (a legacy of the days when the subways were owned and operated by multiple companies). Along with London, Tokyo and Vancouver have labels for each of their lines.

As reflected in these numerous examples, there is no standard way to define lines. Even in cases where one primary scheme exists (such as colors), there can be primary and secondary references (numbers or letters) often applied to each line.

Choosing Label Names

If we did choose label names, I wondered would be the best labels. There are many ways to choose label names. My scheme begins with two additional principles that could be applied to line labels that could enhance the messaging:

1. Choose a label that implies an obvious primary color. In this way, the name can be interchangeable with other signage that riders would see, and respect the current ST approach of using colors.

2. Choose a label that would lead to alphabetized lines. While not as important as a color linkage, this would provide riders with one more way to interpret the order of the lines.

In other words, rather than have to choose, Sound Transit could adopt an integrated labeling strategy that would allow for users to identify lines in several ways! I have even created an initial suggestion for labels based on this idea. The ordinal letters, colors combined with symbols could make it particularly clearer for non-English speaking travelers, kids and others who can’t yet read English well.

My Initial Labeling Scheme

Red Line. Line letter: A. Label name: Apple Line. Specific color: Medium/dark red (as a red delicious apple). Symbol: an apple. An apple is often associated with red.

Tacoma Link. Line letter: B. Label name: Bear Paw Line. Specific color: Medium brown (as a grizzly bear). Symbol: a bear’s paw. Curiously, Tacoma Link has not been slated for a line color; it may be useful to do this for a number of reasons. Bears are often associated with brown.

Blue Line. Line letter: C. Label name: Cascadia Line. Specific color: Sky Blue (as a sky color above the silhouette from the Cascades). Symbol: snow-covered mountains (Mt. Si or Mt. Rainier?) against sky. The term Cascadia has often been used in local slang.

Green Line. Line letter: D. Label name: Duwamish Line. Color: Bright Green (perhaps similar to the color of Sounders, Seahawks and evoking a green river). Synbol: native American symbol or silhouette as appropriate. Since our region was home to the Duwamish tribe including Chief Sealth; honoring their legacy is wholly appropriate.

Fifth Line. Line letter: E. Label name: Eagle Line. Color: Darker gray (as in bald eagle feathers). Symbol: an eagle’s head or body. With major colors already assigned; the next label can be flexible on color choice. Honoring the many eagles in our region seems a good label for “E”.

I’ve devised even more initial line labels using these same principles.

 F — Forest Line, with dark green. Symbol: tall evergreen trees in a forest

 G — Grapevine Line, with darker purple. Symbol: grape bunch attached on a vine

 H — Husky Line, with gold (UW color). Symbol: a husky head

 I — Independence Line, with navy blue (US flag color). Symbol: a star

 J — Jazz Line, with black (piano keys or sheet music staff). Symbol: a grand piano, a keyboard or notes

There are merely initial labels, colors and symbols. I would suggest that ST create a professional artistic process using seasoned marketing professionals and trademark attorneys to develop great proper labels. Still, I do think there is quite a lot of merit in developing a labeling scheme like this one for a multi-line system in our multi-operator transit region.