Open Thread 9

NE 130th construction update: “Current construction at NE 130th St Infill Station is focused on the concrete platform and canopy structural steel. This work will be completed prior to electrification of the Lynnwood Link Extension overhead traction power, which allows operational testing prior to Lynnwood Link’s projected opening in July 2024…. The station finishes contract was issued for bid this spring and includes construction of station finishes and plaza and roadway improvements. This final station construction work is anticipated to begin in October 2023. The final station contract is pending Q2/Q3 board action from the Sound Transit Board…. Construction of station finishes, streetscape, and roadway improvements is anticipated to take approximately two years to complete, with the NE 130th Infill Station opening in Q2 2026.” This is from a Sound Transit email announcement. More about the design.

The Urbanist worries that new Denny station alternatives could delay Ballard Link.

Everett Link is about to start environmental review. ST’s System Expansion Committee will meet June 8 to consider alternatives to study.

Aurora Avenue has rechannelization workshops through June 15. (Urbanist)

Phoenix halts housing construction due to water limits. ($) New subdivisions will require a 100-year water supply from a non-groundwater, non-well source. This is an Arizona state mandate on parts of Maricopa County. “The decision means cities and developers must look for alternative sources of water to support future development — for example, by trying to buy access to river water from farmers or Native American tribes, many of whom are facing their own shortages. That rush to buy water is likely to rattle the real estate market in Arizona, making homes more expensive and threatening the relatively low housing costs that had made the region a magnet for people from across the country.”

A journey on the Elizabeth Line ($) in London. A photo tour of four station areas along the line. The Elizabeth Line, aka Crossrail, opened a year ago.

What if the US never built the Intestate highway system? (Geography by Geoff podcast) This 1.5 hour podcast is mostly about the creation of the Interstate program. The last third gets into what if that hadn’t happened. Co-host Hunter Shobe is a geography professor at Portland State University, and the author of “Upper Left Cities: a cultural atlas of San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle”. (I haven’t read the book.)

This is an open thread. If you know of any projects looking for feedback now, leave them in the comments.

Understanding King County Metro’s Suspensions of Peak-Only Routes

Red lines are King County Metro routes marked for temporary suspension in September 2023. (map by author using King County data.)

Two weeks ago, Metro announced the decision to temporarily suspend twenty peak-only routes as part of its service cuts. The focus on peak-hour reductions aligns with Metro’s current operational challenges, like fielding the high number of operators required for lots of peak-time service. But some riders are disappointed that their peak routes will be shut down. Is Metro right to suspend peak-only routes versus other areas that could be cut? Here, we will explore Metro’s choice by getting into route-level productivity data on the suspended routes.

To define what we are talking about, peak-only routes run only during the morning and evening rush hour, contrasting with other routes that run throughout the day. Almost all of these routes run one-way only, and many serve limited stops. The rationale for peak routes is to connect areas that are specially associated with trips at peak hours, like downtown business areas and suburban residential neighborhoods. By designing a route to serve this specific travel pattern, transit agencies can serve a large volume of trips quite efficiently.

That was the way things were before the pandemic, for the most part. In 2019, peak-only routes held the top six spots in passenger miles per platform mile. This measure, which tells us the average loading of these buses was very high, means those routes were popular and effective at transporting people long distances. As you can imagine, the commuting pattern of people needing to go to city centers in the morning and return to their homes in the evening created this immense demand that the peak routes served.

Then, of course, the pandemic changed everything. Metro axed most of the peak routes during the early days of the pandemic, inferring that stay-at-home policies would eliminate most peak commuting. Many of those routes never returned, and the ones that survived have not been the same.

Continue reading “Understanding King County Metro’s Suspensions of Peak-Only Routes”

The Streetcar is Back

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s solution to revitalizing downtown includes reviving the City Center Connector streetcar ($). “Where the pitch for the line was once purely transit-based, its new title as a ‘Culture Connector’ bestows a loftier purpose of injecting life into a part of town lacking it in recent years.”

The article says “transit advocates still want it to move forward” but that’s inaccurate. Transit advocates are divided, including on this blog. Some editors want the City Center Connector to move forward, while others like myself want the city to focus on other transit priorities instead.

The article calls it a “third line” but I’m not sure the operational plan is changing. The original plan had two lines overlapping on First Avenue: Lake Union Park to Chinatown/International District, and Westlake to First Hill.

Jarrett Walker, international transit consultant, says in the article, “Cities must look seriously at what they’re hoping to accomplish with a streetcar and whether that’s more valuable than a bus.”

I’ll leave it at that for now.

Open Thread 8

The West Seattle Link extension (WSLE) is proceeding to a final EiS expected in 2024. The Ballard Link extension [BLE] with DSTT2 is heading to a new Draft EIS, timeline TBD. (Per Sound Transit email update.)

Federal Way Link is now expected in 2026. The bridge over weak soil will add $72 million ($) to the cost.

The Seatte Times surveyed 45 Seattle city council candidates ($) on their views and background.

The Route 40 upgrade has reached 60% design, and has a survey on new alternatives for Westlake Avenue North. One of the proposals is to pilot a freight-and-bus (FAB) lane. It would run for one year, and then SDOT would decide whether to install it permanently and consider FAB lanes in other areas. The survey ends June 19.

The monorail is on a roll with with high Kraken ridership. ($) David Kroman of the Seattle Times calls it a “golden age” for the monorail.

Seattle public school students want more bike racks at school. ($) “I have a friend who goes to Franklin and is forced to rent a bike locker at the nearby Mount Baker light-rail station.”

More below the fold.

Continue reading “Open Thread 8”

Open Thread: Priorities

Matt Driscoll writes about the political dangers of struggling transit projects.

The mission of Trailhead Direct has changed slightly ($).

I-5 traffic will be re-routed onto and off of Montlake Boulevard this weekend, likely slowing down the 48, 255, 271 and 542.

Sound Transit report mentions cost overruns for West Seattle, along with other issues.

Alon Levy writes that local representation on public transit planning boards is bad.

Sound Transit staff has recommended prioritizing Lynnwood light rail service over an East Link “starter line” in recent board committee meetings.

Stride bus projects slip further behind, while locals don’t like street widening. Converting a general purpose lane to a bus-lane would save money, speed up the project, and eliminate the need to widen the street. I guess that is too obvious a solution.

This is an open thread.

Open Thread 7

Sound Transit is reenvisioning Sounder South, and will update its strategic plan this year. Sign up for email announcements; there’s not much else to do at this point yet. ST had been planning to lengthen trains and platforms, but is now looking at running more trains at more times instead. It will depend on negotiations with BNSF over the cost of new time-slots.

ST staff recommend prioritizing opening Lynnwood Link over an East Link Starter Line. (Everett Herald) The article also discusses strategies to handle the 41 Lynnwood Link railcars that can’t access the Bellevue Operations and Maintenance base until the fill East Link opens. Twelve cars can be stored at Northgate station, and eight at Angle Lake station. That still leaves 21 cars with no place to sleep. To avoid deploying those, staff suggest ST “can run shorter trains (two or three cars instead of four) with eight-minute frequency, run four-car trains with lower peak frequency, or shorten trips from running the entire span of Angle Lake to Lynnwood and boost frequency in areas with highest demand, such as between Northgate and downtown Seattle.” Also, “to mitigate crowding, Sound Transit is working with other agencies such as Community Transit. Sound Transit could use a bus shuttle service, restore two Sounder North commuter train trips and restructure its Express bus routes.”

West Seattle Link has rising costs too. (The Urbanist via Twitter) Rising land costs could impact the project.

RMTransit evaluates cut-and-cover construction, and says we should do more of it, but not everywhere.

Hamburg has “crazy good transit“. (RMTransit video)

This is an open thread.

Metro Cuts in September

On September 2nd Metro will suspend or reduce some bus routes to make the remaining service more reliable. The problem is a shortage of bus drivers and mechanics, and supply-chain challenges. Currently 5% of scheduled bus runs are being cancelled due to lack of drivers or buses. The change aims to shrink the schedule to match what can actually be delivered in the current environment, to minimize cancellations. Here’s a list of affected routes:

  • 15, 16, 18, 29, 55, 64, 114, 121, 167, 190, 214, 216, 217, 232, 237, 268, 301, 304, 320, 342: Suspended (no service).
  • 79, 225, 230, 231: Hourly across the board.
  • 7: 10-minute frequency in AM peak, 7.5 minute in PM peak.
  • 10: 15-minute peak, 30-minute evening and weekend.
  • 20: Half-hourly most times (including peak), hourly night.
  • 28: Hourly off-peak.
  • 36: 10-minute most times (including AM peak), 7-8 minutes PM peak.
  • 73: Half-hourly across the board.
  • 255: Half-hourly evenings.
  • 345: Hourly night.

[Correction: Route 28 and 345.]

Metro’s blog has a list of alternatives for the suspended routes, and other information about the change.

More below the fold.

Continue reading “Metro Cuts in September”

Open Thread 6: Timm Q&A

Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm answered questions in a forum hosted by The Urbanist. Among the questions were the Link downtown reduction, the East Link Starter Line, Lynnwood Link, Federal Way Link, the CID station alternatives, all-day Sounder, and ST Express in the ST2/3 era.

Alon Levy is not impressed with the overuse of transit consultants, and uses the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) as an example. Alon is further unimpressed with transit agencies throughout North American and Europe doing the wrong projects, or doing the right projects the wrong way. (Pedestrian Observations)

Transit fares and finances in the post-covid world. (Vox)

WSDOT and four Eastside microcities disagree on who should mow the lawn ($) on the Highway 520 lids at Evergreen Point Road, 84th, and 92nd.

There’s still a lot going on; I’ll save some videos for the next open thread.

This is an open thread.

Link service returns to normal today

Last night, Sound Transit reported that Link service will finally be restored to regular service starting tomorrow today, May 8th:

CEO Julie Timm had actually broke the news on Saturday, revealing that there was a push to restore service as early as that evening, but with the caveat of further disruptions down the road. Fortunately, Sound Transit found a way to add scaffolding above the ceiling, which will allow completion of repairs while still getting back to regular service on Tuesday today.

Open Thread 5

Metro’s weekend newsletter has several things this weekend:

3rd Avenue will be closed for construction between Pine and Union Streets from 8am Saturday to 5pm Sunday. RapidRide C, D, E, and other north-south bus routes I spot checked will stop at 2nd & Pike southbound or 4th & Pike northbound. Route 49 westbound will stop at Pine & 9th and at 3rd & Union; eastbound at 3rd & Seneca and at Pine & 6th. Routes 10 and 11 aren’t listed but may do something similar.

The Montlake Bridge will be closed for the Opening Day of Boating Seasion on Saturday from 9 am to 4:30pm. Routes 48, 255, 271, and 542 will be rerouted.

The Link reduction is still on. The Seattle Times has an analysis ($) of how sidewalk work broke the underground Westlake Station ceiling. Sound Transit has a blog post on it.

Route 162 will be suspended May 8-12 due to the driver and bus shortage. This is the peak express from Kent East Hill to Kent Station, Kent-Des Moines P&R, and downtown Seattle.

Trailhead Direct starts May 13th, running weekends and holidays until September 4th. The only route is Mount Si, stopping at Broadway & Denny, 4th & Spring, the Eastgate freeway station, North Bend P&R, Mt Teneriffe trailhead, Mt Si trailhead, and Little Si trailhead. A Metro Matters blog post has more information. ST Express route 554 goes to several Issaquah trails, south and east of the Issaquah City Hall stop.

This is an open thread.

The Surprising Efficiency of RapidRide A

(Part of a series on high-performing transit routes in the Puget Sound region)

Every year, King County Metro provides statistics on their bus services in their System Evaluation, available online. One measure that is presented for all regular bus routes is Rides per Platform Hour. It answers a core question: “how many people does this route serve for each hour a bus spends driving it?” Using this measure, King County Metro can assess the time efficiency of routes and make choices on future service.

Which route performs the best at Rides per Platform Hour? You might be surprised. One might guess that the most time-efficient route would ply the densest parts of Seattle, where there is the highest concentration of riders. But this would be incorrect. In fact, the best performing route on this measure is RapidRide A, which connects Federal Way to Tukwila along Pacific Highway South (SR99). Not only does it have the most Riders per Platform Hour at both peak and off-peak weekday times – that means Monday through Friday, 5 am to 10 pm – it also performs well on nights and weekends. Altogether, RapidRide A serves 7,116 rides per weekday, which is 4th among all Metro bus routes.

Continue reading “The Surprising Efficiency of RapidRide A”

Link Reduction Day 3

Trains are running every 15-20 minutes. All trains terminate at Pioneer Square Station and require transferring to the other platform continue further north or south. ST has a useful chart of bus alternatives for various station pairs, and urges people to use them if feasible to avoid the downtown tunnel. ST’s alert page has the latest official status. Here’s our previous coverage of the reduction.

To recap, a sidewalk project on Pine Street broke the ceiling of underground Westlake Station above the northbound platform. The platform is closed for two weeks maybe. All trains in both directions are using the southbound platforms at Westlake and University Street, and the northbound platforms at Chinatown/International District and Stadium.

I went down this afternoon to confirm the situation.

Continue reading “Link Reduction Day 3”

Open Thread 4

This is an open thread for miscellaneous comments related to transit or land use. The News Roundup will resume when things calm down. A Link update will be coming later today, and a non-Link article in couple days. The RapidRide G article is still open for comments, two articles before this.

Link Reduction Downtown

Update 4/28/2023 11pm: Trains are running every 15-20 minutes. All trains terminate at Pioneer Square Station and require transferring to continue further north or south. ST urges people to use other alternatives if feasible. (The link has a very nice chart of bus alternatives.) Westlake, University Street, and International District/Chinatown are using only one platform for both directions, so make sure the train is going the direction you want.

Link is reduced to 30-minute service [see above] downtown between Capitol Hill and Stadium Stations due to a leak in Westlake Station’s ceiling over the northbound platform. Mike Lindblom in the Seattle Times writes that the disruption will last two weeks ($), and that “the concrete lid was punctured while a crew was working on the city’s Pine Street renovation project”. (We covered the Pike/Pine rechannelization project in the second item here.)

All southbound passengers will transfer at Capitol Hill, and all northbound passengers at Stadium. Downtown trains will travel both directions on the southbound (Angle Lake) track. North of Capitol Hill and south of Stadium, trains will run every 10 minutes according to ST’s website.

Continue reading “Link Reduction Downtown”

RapidRide G Restructure

The RapidRide G (Madison) restructure is finally here. Construction is 50% complete, and the line is expected to launch in Fall 2024. Metro has a survey until May 8 about changes to other routes around it. Metro proposes to reroute the 10, 11, and 12, and to delete the currently-suspended 47.

The G will run along Madison Street between 1st Avenue downtown and Martin Luther King Way in Madison Valley. The stations will be at 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th, Terry, Boyleston, 12th, 17th, 22nd, 24th, and MLK. West of 8th Avenue will be a one-way couplet on Madison and Spring Streets. The middle section between 9th and 13th will have center transit-only lanes with left-side doors (like the First Hill streetcar on Jackson Street). East of 13th it will run in mixed-traffic lanes.

Metro wants to exchange the 10 and 11 between Bellevue Avenue and 15th. The 10 would return to Pine Street like it was before 2016. The 11 would move to Olive-John to replace it. The 12 would move from Madison Street to Pine Street to reduce duplication with the G. The 47 would be deleted. (It has been suspended since 2020.) Routes not listed will remain as is. The 49 would continue to be a Pine-Broadway route, and the 8 a Denny-John-Madison-MLK route.

The 10 and 12 would overlap on Pine Street between 3rd and 15th and alternate evenly, giving full-time 15-minute or better service to the top of Capitol Hill. On Olive-John, the 8 and 11 would overlap between Summit Avenue and MLK. Transfers between the 12 and G would be at 17th & Madison. Transfers between the 8, 11, and G would be at MLK & Madison.

Continue reading “RapidRide G Restructure”

The age of the park-and-ride is over

Eastgate P&R of yesteryear / Photo by ECTran71 / Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the advent of commuter express routes, park-and-rides (P&Rs) have been a mainstay in the built environment of the American suburb. You can see why it was an easy proposition to make: after postwar suburbanization but with jobs still in city centers, policymakers needed a way to keep transit viable among white-collar workers. The answer, of course, was what one old professor of mine called “fake density”: the park-and-ride.

Over the last fifty years, P&Rs have taken on different forms. Substantial but overlooked capacity often comes from leasing agreements with churches or other institutions that have low utilization during the work week. But the public is probably most accustomed with the large P&Rs, with multistory garages and thousands of parking spaces, that typically accompany a transit center or rail station.

Continue reading “The age of the park-and-ride is over”

Open Thread 2

I’ve started numbering open threads if there’s no compelling title.

A Link contractor blames the T-line delay ($) on government red tape. (This is the MLK extension to Tacoma Link, not related to the 1 Line extension to Tacoma Dome.) The article has a few quotes applicable to general ST/contractor/Link issues, too many to list here.

Did you know Toronto has a mostly-useless subway line? RMTransit says a short extension to Line 4 (Sheppard) would make it much more useful and increase ridership. Are there any comparable cases in Pugetopolis or the US?

This is an open thread. (P.S. I’m working on a single-topic article which will be ready in a couple days.)

Open Thread

More people are falling behind in car debt. (NPR) People whose car is repossessed need transit to do errands.

Bye bye Southport ($). The office complex near Renton Landing will be auctioned due to no leases. The hotel, convention center, and apartments in the business center don’t appear to be affected. It’s another blow for a Seattle-Renton ferry.

City Observatory finds 16 flaws in the Interstate Bridge Replacement, the I-5 bridge between Washington and Oregon.

Are urban growth boundaries effective? (City Beautiful)

This is an open thread.

East Link delayed to spring 2025 at earliest

The Sound Transit System Expansion Committee met yesterday and heard the latest briefing on project updates. Of note is East Link’s frustratingly sluggish progress, largely due to poorly built plinths, which now have to be entirely scrapped in the segment between International District and Mercer Island.

Mike Lindblom has more details in the Times:

Kiewit-Hoffman decided in late September, after mortar failures and a forensic investigation, that the best plan is to start over, according to Sound Transit. More than half the plinths were demolished and some rebuilds begun last fall, Deputy CEO Kimberly Farley notified board members in November.

Sound Transit’s latest timetable is to carry light-rail passengers across the lake by spring 2025. Demolition of the original plinths is nearly complete, and the track rebuilds will expand to six work zones this month, staff reported Thursday in an update to the board.

We reported last year that the construction mishaps had already added a full year to the opening. This recent development confirms that that was an overly optimistic estimate. The remaining saving grace for Eastsiders at this juncture is the momentum for a starter line, which may potentially open in 2024.

Construction overruns are typical in these types of projects but this need for a large-scale pre-opening demolition of trackway infrastructure is an abject failure. Increased transparency is a start, but Sound Transit must strengthen the accountability mechanisms it has with its contractors. Riders have already waited long enough as it is and should not tolerate much more of a remaining margin of error.