Sunday Open Thread: Seattle District 7 MASS Forum

The Moving All Seattle Sustainably Coalition held a forum for District 7 Seattle City Council candidates a couple months ago.

Rooted in Rights provided the video and transcript.

Participating candidates included:

Ballots need to be postmarked, turned in at a ballot drop box, or you have to be line at an accessible voting site by 8 pm on Tuesday, August 6.

This is an open thread

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Correction: future Link headways

In Friday’s post, we quoted Metro’s slide indicating more Link trains after 2021. Sound Transit says Metro did not check with them when announcing new train headways. It will remain every 6 minutes peak and 10 otherwise, with no trains turning around at Stadium. In 2023, it will be every 4 minutes peak and 5 off peak through downtown, with the South King and East King branches each getting 8 and 10. We regret the error.

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SDOT makes budget request for streetcar design rework: Connector may open in 2026

Seattle Streetcar (Image: SDOT)

At a meeting of the Seattle City Council’s Transportation Committee on Tuesday, members were briefed on a forthcoming budget request to restart the Center City Connector project. If approved, $9 million will be expended in the 2019-2020 budget cycle on design of the revised project. Advancing the revised parts of the project to 30% design will allow SDOT to restart the FTA grant process in late 2020. The planned opening date is now set for 2026.

The project was placed on hold in April 2018 after Seattle Times reporting raised questions about the costs of operating the line, highlighting a dispute between SDOT and Metro about labor costs that was not surfaced to the City Council in approving the budget. An initial review quickly identified $23 million in additional capital costs. After an extended review, the most recent estimate is that the project is short $65 million for SDOT capital costs and another $23 million for utilities. A further $75 million is dependent on FTA grant funding, and therefore uncertain, but the project is understood to remain within guidelines for the expected grant.

Continue reading “SDOT makes budget request for streetcar design rework: Connector may open in 2026” | 15 comments

A new network in North Seattle

[UPDATE: Sound Transit says Metro did not check with them when announcing new train headways. It will remain every 6 minutes peak and 10 otherwise, with no trains turning around at Stadium. In 2023, it will be every 4 minutes peak and 5 off peak through downtown, with the South King and East King branches each getting 8 and 10.]

The Northgate Link restructure has started. Metro is studying routes 26, 31, 32, 41, 45, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67, 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 301, 303, 304, 308, 309, 312, 316, 330, 345, 346, 347, 348, 355, 372, and 373 for possible changes. (Not the 44, 48, 49, 70, or any routes west of Aurora.) At this point Metro wants to know what people think about the current network, and recruit people for a “Mobility Board” to review the restructure proposals starting this fall.

According to Metro’s briefing on the project, Northgate Link will open in 2021 with U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate stations. Frequency will be every 4-6 minutes peak hours, with 4-car trains. Some trains will run Northgate-Stadium, as MLK will not exceed 10 trains per hour. Travel time from Northgate to UW will be 7 minutes. That puts Northgate-Westlake at 13 minutes and Northgate-SeaTac at 47 minutes.

There is a not a lot of meat on the project website. However, a glance at the Seattle Transit Map can provide insights on the current network. Some parts work pretty well:

  • Above Northgate Way, the system conveniently already funnels people into the Transit Center.
  • The 67, 45, and fellow travelers provide good connectivity to Roosevelt, U-District Station, and places in between.
  • The 62 provides a straighforward connection to Link on 65th Street.

But it’s not all roses. Lake City Way buses like the 522 whiz right by Link stations without really connecting to them. With 145th St BRT coming and Northgate an attractive terminus as well, it’s not clear what happens to lower Lake City Way.

Moreover, much like mighty route 7 further south, the main north-south routes east of the 67 parallel Link for a long time before winding up in a difficult transfer environment. Any bus route that funnels into UW faces a dilemma between a direct-but-congested route on that doesn’t really serve the campus, and a slower one that goes through campus but skirts the fringes of UW station and takes a while to wind up in the U-District.

Continue reading “A new network in North Seattle” | 138 comments

News Roundup: ahead of everyone

Mercer Island Station (SounderBruce)

This is an open thread.

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Under pressure from Kirkland, Metro to drop proposal for RapidRide to Redmond

RapidRide in Bellevue (image: Shane in the City/flickr)

Earlier this year, Metro started planning for the Kirkland-Bellevue-Eastgate RapidRide, set to open in 2025. An early question was where to locate the northern terminus. Metro’s Long Range Plan developed in 2016 includes a representative alignment connecting downtown Kirkland to Totem Lake via Market St. Since then, the North Eastside Mobility Plan (NEMP) outreach revealed a stronger demand for east-west connections. As a result, the March 2020 service change will create a new Metro 250 route with Bellevue-Kirkland buses continuing to Redmond.

Metro’s preliminary analysis appears to have suggested Redmond would be a better end point for RapidRide, a finding consistent with the recent analysis for the North Eastside restructure. After urging from the City of Kirkland, however, they are ending work on the Redmond alternative and focusing only on options serving Totem Lake.

At a meeting of Kirkland’s Transportation Commission last Wednesday, Metro staff conceded there were “some advantages” to the Redmond connection. The materials shared include a list of technical analysis criteria without detailing how any of the alternatives performed. The Redmond endpoint, they said, would be further studied only if it provided “distinct advantages”. In the end, Metro argues that the “overall difference between options is not large enough to warrant shifting from Metro Connects terminus in Totem Lake”.

The upshot is no further staff work on the Redmond RapidRide option. When Metro engages with the community this fall, bus riders will be asked to consider only alternative paths to Totem Lake. Ironically, the intent to avoid duplication with Metro 255 means riders on Market St and Juanita risk losing direct service to Seattle if an overlapping path is chosen.

Continue reading “Under pressure from Kirkland, Metro to drop proposal for RapidRide to Redmond” | 48 comments

Seattle District 7 candidate ratings

District 7 includes downtown, Queen Anne, and Magnolia. Though there’s higher population density in downtown and Belltown, the more suburban enclaves tend to punch above their weight in off-year elections. This may explain why many candidates in this district appear skeptical of density and in favor of an expensive Magnolia Bridge replacement.

Excellent

Michael George

Michael George is a professional transportation and housing planner who has been involved in planning Link, RapidRide, and every ST TOD project. He is the only D7 candidate who supports congestion pricing, red light cameras, and the streetcar. However, like most candidates he supports replacing the Magnolia Bridge and is less than full-throated in supporting duplexes and triplexes in single-family zones.

Good

Naveed Jamali‘s transportation platform reads almost like an STB blog post (except for the opposition to red light cams). He upbraids the City on taking away funding for pedestrian and bike infrastructure improvements. While he has a great platform and an admirable record of military service, we’d like to see a longer record in local politics or policy chops on local issues.

Fair

Continue reading “Seattle District 7 candidate ratings” | 28 comments

Seattle District 6 candidate ratings

District 6 is Northwest Seattle. Besides the coming light rail station in Ballard, the Burke-Gillman Missing Link looms large over this election. Read Seattle Bike Blog for a deeper discussion of these candidates and the Missing Link.

Excellent

Dan Strauss

Dan Strauss is a cyclist who wants to create a network of bus lanes and protected bike lanes. He is more moderate on opening up more housing options, but better than most of the rest in this NIMBY-leaning field. He has worked in politics for a decade (most recently as an aide to Sally Bagshaw) and therefore understands the system. He prefers to build the Missing Link on Leary Way (see above).

Melissa Hall is another density advocate who defines livability through a walkability and equity lens. She wants to apply that equity lens to how public space is divvied up among transit modes. She cites STB’s David Lawson as an influence on transportation issues, which is a very good sign. She’s worked as both a land use attorney and a planner, which is great preparation for issues facing the council. Hall opposes congestion pricing, but she is one of the few candidates who wants to stop talking and build the missing link.

Good

Jay Fathi is a physician who wants to build Ballard Link faster, invest more in public transit, build more housing so people don’t have to commute as far, and decarbonize our transportation system. He’s in favor of congestion pricing and wants to convert single family zones to “residential zones” to allow more housing types. He’s noncommittal on the Missing Link and is light on political experience.

Ed Pottharst is a bicyclist and long-time City employee who advocates for congestion pricing and offers the idea of free transit passes and income-basing the congestion charges as mitigation. He supports the Shilshole Ave option for the Missing Link, more bike lanes including on 8th Ave NW, and restructuring bus routes to better feed light rail and connect urban villages to each other more frequently. We have concerns about his work on the Phinney Neighborhood Association during its fight to stop more apartments from being built in the neighborhood (see our update here).

Terry Rice is a manager at a small tourism company and a critic of NIMBYism and Seattle’s racist land-use history. He has the right ideas (aside from opposition to congestion pricing), but is short on specifics and experience.

Fair

Continue reading “Seattle District 6 candidate ratings” | 42 comments

News Roundup: Eastrail

Photo via King County Parks on Twitter
  • Two big proposals from the Mayor on affordable housing: MFTE reform and more permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness
  • The King County Council approves paid spots at some popular park-and-rides
  • Sound Transit starts construction on the innovative I-90 light rail tracks
  • Not good: injuries and collisions on Seattle streets are at a nine-year high
  • Self-driving cars are really hard, but self-driving minibuses are on the march. What was that about autonomy killing transit again?
  • TRU’s Katie Wilson on Seattle’s need for a transportation revolution to tackle climate and what we can do to get one
  • Introducing “Eastrail
  • Protected intersections. You love to see a cryptic Dongho Chang tweet spur an entire Times article.
  • The “interim” 1st Ave re-route for West Seattle buses continues to be terrible
  • Metro adds paid parking permits for some popular park-and-rides
  • Bill Savage reminds us that elevated trains are beautiful (and cost effective!)
  • Metro and SDOT will be at Capitol Hill-area farmers markets this weekend to talk RapidRide G
  • New bus stops for the reconstructed “Borealis Avenue” at Denny Way
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The next 10 years for Link

Tracks and catenary supports for the Blue Line on Mercer Island

In case you haven’t heard, Link celebrated its tenth birthday last week, bringing back memories of the long-past era of 2009. Since the first trains left Mount Baker Station on the morning of July 18, 2009, Link has carried over 125 million passenger trips and has become the single busiest transit corridor in the state. For all the milestones and achievements of the past ten years, Link is saving its grandest leaps forward for the upcoming decade.

When we arrive at Link’s 20th birthday in 2029, light rail ridership will have shattered several times over and reached well over 280,000 daily trips—surpassing almost every light rail system in the United States. Trains will whisk away riders from 44 stations, from Lynnwood to Federal Way and from Redmond to downtown Seattle, popping out of the Northgate tunnel every three minutes, alternating between red and blue.

Continue reading “The next 10 years for Link” | 97 comments

Metro tweaks the 41 & 271 as “Seattle Squeeze” gets real

Montlake Triangle improvements under construction (Photo by the author)

Metro is continuing to adjust routes and frequencies with the closure of the bus tunnel and, more recently, the Montlake freeway ramps.

Route 41, one of few routes with over 10,000 daily riders, was moved to surface streets and has been stuck using the punctuality-melting Stewart Street I-5 offramp ever since. In an effort to amputate the leg and save the patient, Metro has opted to send the 41 into downtown via Union Street starting July 27. This will eliminate stops at 7th & Stewart and 3rd and Pine in the southbound direction only – northbound is unchanged. Folks will have a longer walk in the AM (or a transfer) but should see a more reliable ride. The agency thinks it’s worth the tradeoff:

Metro’s planning and service quality teams surveyed riders and bus drivers and showed them the benefits and tradeoffs of the Union Street routing. A large majority (79 percent of riders surveyed and 94 percent of Route 41 bus drivers) supported having the faster travel times and better reliability with having to potentially travel farther between the new bus stops and their destination.

Route 271, the cross-lake superstar with over 5,000 daily riders, has only gotten more critical recently. Riders appear to be opting for Link-271 as an alternative to the 550, which is on long-term reroute as part of East Link construction. As of July 18 the 271 added 7 additional trips, 4 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon, to relieve the associated crowding.

Continue reading “Metro tweaks the 41 & 271 as “Seattle Squeeze” gets real” | 60 comments

Mercer Island bus-rail connection still in flux

Transit integration at Mercer Island continues to move forward, but rough water appears to be on the horizon. When we last checked in, Sound Transit and King County Metro had presented three infrastructure options, the Limited, Improved, and Optimal Configurations, which could facilitate 12, 16, or 20 buses per hour, respectively. Since that time, the Mercer Island City Council has identified additional concerns and discussed the Interchange again with City staff on July 16, 2019.

Mercer Island Station construction, June 2019. Sound Transit photo, via Facebook.

One of the significant factors is that King County Metro was not a party to the Settlement Agreement that ended litigation and other Link-related disputes between Sound Transit and the City. However Metro’s “concurrence” is required for the Transit Interchange, and the Settlement Agreement allows for changes to the Transit Interchange to achieve that concurrence. As previously reported, Metro identified issues with the Transit Interchange as described in the Settlement Agreement and proposed changes that would allow Metro to concur. Notably, new information presented to the City Council included a letter from King County Metro to Sound Transit (page 16 of the linked PDF) stating that Metro cannot concur with the Limited Configuration (e.g. the configuration explicitly described by the Settlement Agreement, with a capacity of up to 12 buses per hour) because that configuration does not allow appropriate layovers and pickup/dropoff locations.

Continue reading “Mercer Island bus-rail connection still in flux” | 27 comments

Is Link light rail seeing more service interruptions?

Credit: Sound Transit

Two years ago I wrote a piece about the frequency and duration of Link service interruptions (blockages, accidents, power outages, etc). Given the recent, high-profile service meltdown on June 12, it makes sense to revisit the issue. How often do interruptions occur? How long do they last? Have they become more frequent or longer in duration over the last two years? I parsed several hundred email alerts from Sound Transit to find out!

I measured interruptions starting in December 2015, when I started subscribing to the Sound Transit rider alert emails. From then up to June 28, 2019, I count 144 separate incidents*. That’s roughly one interruption every nine days and is the same rate I estimated in my 2017 piece. Counting the number of interruptions in 30 day intervals confirms that the base rate of these incidents has been quite stable, in a statistical sense.

Continue reading “Is Link light rail seeing more service interruptions?” | 8 comments

North Eastside buses will be restructured in March 2020

Metro 255 exits the South Kirkland Park & Ride (Image credit: Shane in the City)

On July 10, the King County Council formally approved March 2020 service changes for Metro. The service change implements the North Eastside Mobility Project with extensive changes to service in the Kirkland area. The service change had passed unanimously out of the Council’s Mobility & Environment Committee on July 2.

Kirkland’s peak commuter services are mostly unchanged, but nearly every all-day route will see changes. The service change adds five new routes, deletes eight, and changes two others. Nearly 20,000 riders a day are on existing routes affected by the changes.

The network map in this area has seen few changes in two decades. Recent ridership declines on many routes, despite significant growth, suggest a revitalization of the network was overdue. The restructure comes after several earlier efforts fell through. In 2015, Metro developed a plan to restructure service around the opening of UW and Capitol Hill rail stations, but the SR 520 portion of that plan was withdrawn early in the process. In 2017, the expected closure of the Downtown Seattle Transit tunnel (DSTT) to buses prompted another look at SR 520 service. Redmond, perhaps looking to another restructure after Redmond Link opens, balked and the scope was narrowed to include only Kirkland.

Continue reading “North Eastside buses will be restructured in March 2020” | 59 comments

Sunday Open Thread: Seattle District 6 MASS Forum

The Moving All Seattle Sustainably Coalition, the Housing Development Consortium, and Tech 4 Housing recently held a forum for candidates for Seattle City Council District 6. Rooted in Rights produced the video and has provided a transcript.

Participating candidates included, from left to right:

This is an open thread.

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Seattle District 5 candidate ratings

The STB Editorial Board had less information to work with in District 5 than in the five races where the Move All Seattle Sustainable Coalition held forums. But between Councilmember Deborah Juarez’ record, and what the other candidates had to say, we had more than enough to see the clear differences.

Excellent

Debora Juarez

City Councilmember Debora Juarez has been a dependable vote for much of what we like, while representing a not-particularly-urban district. In the face of the usual pitchforks, she has stood her ground on HALA and parking minimum reductions. She also stood firm on 130th St Station, negotiating deftly with a skeptical Sound Transit Board. Our most significant disagreement with her is her lack of enthusiasm for protected bike lanes.

Fair

Mark Mendez‘ contribution to climate action is that he wants to incentivize widespread installation of solar panels. He wants to connect more bus routes to the new light rail stations. He also wants safer streets, but says little about bike safety. Mendez’ prose on housing ignores current policy debates but talks up partnerships between for-profit and not-for-profit orgs, with emphasis on preserving existing housing stock.

John Lombard is awful on land-use. He hides his bitterness toward HALA behind process concerns. He wants to put onerous restrictions on ADUs. He is, however, a fan of protected bike lanes, and recently attended the Ride for Safe Streets.

Poor

Ann Davison-Sattler‘s first priority would be to “put neighborhoods first”. The only new housing she talks about is “FEMA-style relief shelters”. Her website says nothing about transportation.

The Seattle Transit Blog Editorial Board currently consists of Martin Duke, Frank Chiachiere, and Brent White.

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News roundup: attention-grabbing

Incoming New Flyer Industries XDE60 of King County Metro in the Rain
Avgeek Joe/Flickr
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Happy 10th birthday, Link!

Just before the ribbon-cutting

Ten years ago today, some 45,000 riders boarded Link light rail for the first time and celebrated a new era in Seattle’s transit history: the long-awaited start to a real rail transit system.

STB was there to cover every angle of the opening weekend (and the first days in revenue service), which are chronicled in loving detail with posts every few hours. There was number counting, a short postmortem, and plenty of photos and comments. There were also dozens of tweets on opening day, with thoughts ranging from porta-potty cleanliness to the fact that three-car trains were there to take passengers that day.

Continue reading “Happy 10th birthday, Link!” | 60 comments