A look at the Redmond Link stations

Aerial image of the Downtown Redmond station (image: Sound Transit)

Now that Redmond Link has officially broken ground, significant construction will be beginning in the Spring along the 3.4 mile extension from Redmond Technology Station to Downtown Redmond. Two new stations will be added in Downtown Redmond and just across the freeway at Southeast Redmond. The station designs are making their way through design review. The scope of the review is limited and most structural elements of the line are excluded. But it is an opportunity for the rest of us to see what the stations will look like.

The Downtown Redmond station sits astride 166th St (image: Sound Transit)

The downtown Redmond station is an elevated structure in the Redmond Central Connector corridor (once part of a spur line from the Eastside Rail Corridor) and spans 166th Ave NE. There will be bus stops on either side of the station along Cleveland St and NE 76th St. The station will have entrances on either side of 166th and will parallel the Redmond Connector trail which is being relocated very slightly to the north.

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The ST3 Sounder plan is still not very clear

SOUNDER
Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

Ever since voters first had a look in 2016, the exact plan for South Sounder expansion in ST3 has been vague. Key elements are subject to negotiation with BNSF, who owns the track between Seattle and Tacoma. However, staff briefed the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee last Thursday on the recommendations they’ve been able to form since the last report in September, in the form of a draft Strategic Development and Implementation Plan.

Rider feedback is what one would expect: they would like trains to be reliable, less crowded, have the stations be nicer, and have more trips. Notably, there was more excitement about trips adjacent to current trips (in the peak, the shoulder of the peak, and evenings) than opening up entirely new times of day or weekends.

Staff is recommending progress on every axis of Sounder expansion (stations at Tillicum and Dupont in 2036 are already baked in the cake). They would make gradual station improvements over the next 20 years, especially at King Street Station where volumes are highest.

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News roundup: designed to get your attention

Pioneer Square Station
wings777/flickr

This is an open thread.

Protecting bus lanes

Photo collage by CMAP

Automated bus lane enforcement may have died in the state legislature, but that’s no reason the city can’t get creative when it comes to enforcing bus lanes.  

While true grade separation is the holy grail of reliable transit, an at-grade bus lanes can be protected much like a bike lane.  

Chicago’s regional planning agency collected the above collage of protected bus lanes around the world.  In each, the bus lanes is elevated or protected from general traffic, making it difficult for cars to enter.  

Meanwhile New York City’s DOT tweeted out an image of one recently:

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Sound Transit previews NE 130th options

Preliminary design for the NE 130th Link station (image: Sound Transit)

At Thursday’s System Expansion Committee meeting, staff shared options for opening the NE 130th Link station ahead of the currently scheduled 2031 date. An early opening will be less expensive in capital dollars and avoid rider disruptions later. But the earlier expenditure has some modest impacts for Sound Transit’s indebtedness at an arguably sensitive time for other projects.

Three options are now on the table. The default is to proceed with the ST3 plan to build an infill station in 2031 after Lynnwood Link has opened in 2024. Seattle would prefer to build the station concurrently with the Lynnwood line and have the station open by 2025. Staff offered a third partial build option which would build just enough of the station to avoid the worst construction impacts, but defer other construction until later so the station opens years after Lynnwood Link.

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No realtime data for Connect 2020

With Link headways now around 15 minutes all day, real time data would allow Link’s quality of service to at least match that of a frequent bus route. Unfortunately, that’s not to be.

ST’s David Jackson, answering when we could expect an accurate GTFS feed:

Because of the lead time required for the GTFS data to go live and our very recent headway tweak, GTFS won’t be accurate for Connect 2020 trains.

It doesn’t appear we’ll even have accurate schedules, much less a clue as to a train’s actual position.

As we noted on Twitter, one thing you can do is use the Transit app‘s “Go” function to track your own location on the train. If enough Link riders do this, the app will be able to get something approximating real-time data. Learn more about how Go works here.

Metro to expand low income fare subsidy

King County Metro 44
King County Metro 44 (image: Flickr, Kris Leisten).

Metro is considering a program of income-based fares that would fully subsidize fares for riders with very low incomes. A public launch is targeted for July 2020.

The program would expand on the current ORCA Lift which offers 50% discounts across local agencies to those with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. Currently, that cutoff is $24,980 for a single person or $51,500 for a family of four. The expanded program is expected to include unlimited fare-free travel for those with incomes below 80% of the federal poverty level. This cutoff would be $9,992 for a single person or $20,600 for a family of four. (updated for an error in the original calculation).

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News roundup: not nearly enough

Sound Transit Bus # 535 Lynnwood to Bellevue, WA
PatricksMercy/Flickr

This is an open thread.

NE 130th Station discussion tomorrow

Looking north from NE 130th Street at the future station (SounderBruce)

Voters approved an ST3 plan that included a NE 130th Street “infill” station opening in 2031. Of course, the segment it is “infilling” has barely started construction and won’t open until 2024. In principle, completing all the work in one go would simplify the project and give riders 7 more years of high-quality service. On the other hand, this would mean spending money earlier when the general trend is to move it back.

Tomorrow afternoon, the System Expansion Committee will hear a presentation about the possibilities for opening 130th in 2024. This report is the result of a mandate to study the idea in 2018. The Snohomish delegation, in particular, will need convincing that yet another Seattle station is worth the additional cost and schedule risk for a project that has already seen overruns on both.

We’ll see tomorrow what the options are for a project estimated at $67m in 2016. Whatever the sentiments of the Snohomish delegation, they should seek to build at least enough to prevent a construction service interruption. Severely curtailing service in 2030 will hurt Snohomish County riders far more than a small risk of delay in 2024 and a bad headline or two. And if the additional risk of full construction is small, doing so would be best for everyone.

Use the Link timetables during Connect 2020

If you’ve gotten used to just waltzing up to the train station and waiting for the next train, the 12-minute headways during Connect 2020 may be something of a shock. Fortunately Sound Transit has published a Connect 2020 timetable, so you can plan ahead.

You can view the PDF or just go to your favorite mapping app (Google Maps, One Bus Away, Transit, etc.) to see the timetable in action.

Also, surface transit is an option for those wishing to avoid the transfer dance and head directly to SODO station

Cyclists to bear brunt of light rail operational changes, starting this morning

video by Robert Svercl

Connect 2020‘s first full closure of the downtown transit tunnel is behind us. Now, we settle in for 10 weeks of tighter, more crushloaded trains during peak periods, longer waiting time especially during peak, a mid-line forced transfer across a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square Station, and a ban on bikes on the train between University Street Station and International District / Chinatown Station.

For the duration of Connect 2020, all trains will be four cars, and will come roughly every 12 minutes (and hopefully less “roughly” as the days progress). This means there will be an increase in off-peak capacity, and a significant decrease in peak-hour capacity. Passengers in the downtown tunnel may also have to use a different platform than they are used to, and it may switch from time to time. Signage and staff will be on hand to point the way, along with automated announcements. Please spread out along the entire length of the platform to fill the four train cars evenly, and stay out of the priority seating area, so wheelchairs users, riders in scooters, and others who need it can board quickly.

King County Metro is helping out by adding more buses on routes 7, 36, 48, 49, and 70, as alternatives to taking Link.

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Link FREE this weekend for tunnel closure

The ten-week period of construction work to install East Link track and switches in International-District/Chinatown Station, a project Sound Transit has dubbed “Connect 2020“, has arrived.

Operational nuisances begin today and tomorrow with a full closure of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Just like happened a couple weekends last fall, shuttles will run every 7 minutes between SODO Station and Capitol Hill Station, and serve temporary bus stops at each station in between. Link will run every 10 minutes on tunnel closure days.

Both the shuttles and Link will be free all weekend. ST staff will be available at both Capitol Hill Station and SODO Station to answer questions.

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News roundup: not afraid

SounderBruce [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

This is an open thread.

Looking forward to 2020 and beyond

A new light rail car for a new decade (AtomicTaco/Flickr)

With a decade full of dramatic changes to Seattle and the region as a whole behind us, it’s time to look ahead to what the 2020s has in store. Between completing the bulk of light rail expansion under ST2, starting work on ST3 projects, and figuring out the new region that springs forth from the new transit landscape, it will be an exciting time to be here.

Here’s a rundown of things to look forward to at the start of the decade:

Connect 2020

Pioneer Square Station, the focal point of Connect 2020

Beginning this weekend, there will be 10 weeks of major disruptions for Link riders passing through Downtown Seattle as part of Connect 2020. While riders will get to enjoy four-car trains, they will be running every 12 minutes because of the single-tracked section in downtown, leading to an overall capacity decrease and forced transfers at Pioneer Square Station. This small bit of pain and annoyance is necessary to connect East Link into the system.

We’ll have a full survival guide later this week, but do note that Link from Capitol Hill to SODO will be fully shut down this weekend and replaced with shuttle buses. People with bicycles will not be able to ride Link trains during the weekday disruptions between University Street and International District/Chinatown stations.

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Intercity Transit rolls out fare freedom, and schools King County on performance metrics

Happy New Year!

Today, Thurston County Intercity Transit is embarking on a five-year pilot program to run without fares. That means both their fixed-route buses and paratransit (which, by federal law, cannot charge more than twice the fixed-route fare) will be free.

This experiment is not a dive off the ideological deep end, but, rather, the result of using proper performance metrics. From IT’s fare page:

Fares account for less than 2 percent of our net revenue. After considering the capital and operational costs of a new system, the difference is negligible. The opportunity to offer faster service, increase ridership, improved access and equity is a far better investment. 

It seems that Intercity Transit was following my advice to use the proper performance metric — net fare revenue — or that that performance metric is so obvious that many wise minds think alike. (I’m not necessarily counting myself as one of the wise guys.)

King County Metro continues to base fare policy on the much less useful datapoint of gross fare revenue.

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Most read & commented STB posts of 2019

Buses exited the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for the last time in March 2019 (image: Oran Viriyincy)

On the eve of the new year, it’s time to review the old. In 2019, we dove deeper into ST3 planning. Transit advocates mused on ST4. As the year drew to a close, we also contended with a possible reduction in funding for already approved projects and current bus service in Seattle.

In descending order, our most read posts of the year are:

It’s time to start work on ST4 by Seattle Subway (June 25). Seattle Subway would like you to support a 2024 ballot measure for more rail in Seattle. “Traffic is over – if you want it”.

Build the Aurora Line by Seattle Subway (August 27). Where would those new rail lines go? Seattle Subway and Ryan DiRaimo make the case for an ST4 Aurora Ave line.

ORCA Pod Welcomes Monorail by Brent White (March 11). Despite our past urging, the Seattle monorail had too long remained outside the Orca family. No more. The change took effect in October.

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ShareNow ceasing operations, Limebike pauses

Car2Go in Pioneer Square
Shane in the City/Flickr

Geekwire reports that the carshare company will shut down across North America in February. Cars will start disappearing well before then.

This step is not surprising. Lime recently shut down their similar Limepod service. ShareNow itself is a merger from weakness of two previous competitors. Recent tinkering with the fee structure was a likely signal of operational problems. Only Zipcar, with a membership fee and slightly longer rental periods, remains.

Meanwhile, Limebike is using the December expiry of its permit to punt on the unprofitable winter season, coming back in the Spring when Seattle starts allowing electric scooters. If other cities’ experience is an indication, the scooters will dominate and the bikes will wind down. Only Jump remains as a bikeshare option this winter.

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