Kitsap Transit is about to launch their passenger-only “fast ferry” service between Bremerton and Pier 50 in Seattle on Monday, after a decade-long saga of lawsuits, studies, funding crises, and ballot measures. The Rich Passage 1, built in 2010 in Bellingham, will make six daily round-trips between the two cities on weekdays (during peak periods), and ten daily round-trips on Saturdays (mostly in the afternoons). Kitsap Transit will continue to not offer Sunday service, including onboard the new ferry.
Currently, the state-operated car-and-passenger ferry takes 60 minutes to make the trip across Puget Sound, running roughly every 60 to 90 minutes. The new fast ferry will take just 28 minutes, with 7 minutes for loading and unloading at each terminal before turning around. The stark difference in travel time come in part due to a lightweight composite body, as well as being able to run at upwards of 37 knots (43 mph) and cruise at 29 knots (33.4 mph); the newest state ferry, the MV Chimacum, only has a top speed of 17 knots (20 mph), about the same as the average surface-level light rail system.
[UPDATE: Mike McGinn says we misunderstood his position on neighborhood involvement. We’ve corrected the paragraph by eliminating the reference.]
The STB Editorial Board, as always, evaluates its candidates solely on their ability to deliver its agenda of improved transit service and density. To explain our endorsement of former Rep. Jessyn Farrell, it is probably easiest to use the process of elimination.
Sen. Bob Hasegawa has poor instincts on transportation. In spite of being a former Metro driver, he puts a relatively high priority on cars. Although he eventually clarified that he supports ST3, he is better known for criticizing the agency’s governance, taxes, and impacts on the community in strident terms. Moreover, he views Seattle’s displacement crisis as created by taxes, including both regressive sales taxes and relatively progressive ones like MVET and property tax. This attitude is unlikely to lead to new and renewed funding for transit and housing given the available tools.
Nikkita Oliver shares Sen. Hasegawa’s skepticism of existing transit taxes as a net good. While we applaud her passion for public housing, she is unconcerned that her policies might discourage the private development that is also necessary for a sustainable and inclusive future. Finally, while she is a magnetic and effective organizer, her lack of public-sector political experience increases the risk she will fail to effectively form and implement policy in the departments.
Jenny Durkan has positioned herself as the continuity candidate from Mayor Ed Murray. We believe Mayor Murray has been historically effective in passing significant transit and land use policy changes, and a continuation of his policy machine is attractive. However, Ms. Durkan does not have a long record on transportation and land use, and does not appear to be the vehicle for a fundamental rethink of the centrality of cars in our city’s planning.
- Cascades derails in Steilacoom; no serious injuries, no obvious cause.
- Metro killing Route 99, wants your feedback.
- $50m federal grant ($) arrives for City Center Connector.
- Remarkably, Seattle’s population growth ($) exceeded the rest of King County in absolute terms. We’re doing something right!
- I-90 Link construction begins with the pontoons.
- SDOT rolls out regulatory framework for private bikeshare.
- Seattle government proposes minor streamlining of the design review process.
- Instant feedback for Clallam Transit’s “Strait Shot” (background here)
- Pullman wants to build up, not out.
- Checking in on the car tab revision.
- How Andrew Cuomo broke the NYC Subway.
- Wilderness adventures accessible by transit.
- The US is way behind building High Speed Rail.
This is an open thread.
by Jonathan Hopkins
As readers of the blog are likely aware, transit usage in the Seattle area is booming. The greater Seattle metropolitan area had the highest transit ridership growth in the country last year, and is one of just six major U.S. urban areas where transit ridership increased in 2016. Some of this growth can be attributed to voter-approved service and infrastructure expansions. Others, to be sure, will point to our breakneck population and jobs growth. But these two facts alone probably don’t fully explain how, since 2010, downtown Seattle has added 45,000 new jobs but only 2,255 new solo car commuters. Overall, seventy percent of our job growth (over 31,000 trips) was absorbed by transit.
When Zach Shaner wrote that transit is saving downtown, he was right, and our business community knows it. Therefore, to thank riders and celebrate June as Ride Transit month, nine Challenge Seattle member companies donated over $22,000 in prizes to our first-ever Puget Sound Prize Patrol. Challenge Seattle’s CEO, former governor Christine Gregoire, noted that “Challenge Seattle companies are proud to support this effort to highlight how critical high transit ridership is to easing congestion and improving our region’s quality of life.”
These gratis prizes compliments of Alaska Airlines, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (in partnership with Bike Works), Boeing, Chateau Ste Michelle, Costco, Nordstrom, Puget Sound Energy, Starbucks, and Zillow Group allowed us to do something groundbreaking aboard transit. Instead of riders having their heads down, focused on their phones, they instead had their “best transit ride ever.” They weren’t riding in isolation, using transit as a utility. They were part of community, and shared together a sense of ownership over their daily choices to protect our environment and its economy. We hope it’s a meaningful message that lasts.
Most Employers Get It
The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), as Lizz reported, was properly focused on the main issue in a housing shortage: the number of units produced. The punch line is that the zoning changes and affordable housing requirements, taken together, will create about 19,000 new housing units over the next 20 years. Astonishingly, it would create almost 6,000 units formally defined as affordable, up from 200 under the status quo.
The results punch back against both anti-growth and pro-growth critiques of HALA. The argument against upzones us that we already have “enough” zoned capacity to reach our growth targets. This result predicts that an upzone will allow substantially more households to live in a city very worried about displacement and inclusion.
The pro-growth critique is that the affordability requirements deter the construction of new housing. The HALA grand bargain might do that compared to some abstract ideal, but it is clearly an improvement on the status quo, even setting aside that reduced price units let us skip the process where old housing becomes “naturally” affordable.
Another key finding compares an upzone in all the transit-accessible places with one that shifts more of the new capacity to “low displacement risk” (rich) areas. By definition, this doesn’t substantially affect the overall units built. However, for a strategy intended to combat displacement, it’s disconcerting that “throughout the city as a whole, there is little difference between Alternative 2 and Alternative 3 in the amount of total expected physical displacement of low-income households” (p. 1.14). The question is whether this displacement happens in richer neighborhoods (Alternative 2) or poorer ones (Alternative 3). It inevitably trades off deepened economic and racial segregation against preserving the unique cultures of communities of color.
There’s an added risk in counting on growth in richer neighborhoods: because the system is unfair, those neighborhoods have more procedural tools to resist upzones. If the outcome of a well-intentioned effort to shield vulnerable communities from change is to aggravate the housing shortage, that would be a tragedy for everyone.
Finally, a word about methodology: the first move against any study that jolts a partisan is to find something to dislike about the study techniques. Perhaps we’ll see a convincing critique of this one. Until then, I much prefer a systematic study of the impact to anyone’s hunch.
All session, legislators threatened to repeal voter-approved transit taxes, throw Sound Transit into organizational chaos, or at best ignore transit as they focused on education. Miraculously, as the session is ending all threats have retreated. Instead, transit agencies statewide gained a small amount of revenue as a side effect of wider tax reform.
There were three bills relevant to transit in late action.
HB 2163 passed the legislature and is on the way to the governor’s desk. This bill finds funding for education by, in part, extending sales taxes to more online purchases and repealing the exemption for bottled water. This increases the revenue base for all Washington governments and agencies that collect sales tax. This spreadsheet shows the annual impact of the bill for everyone in the state.
|Jurisdiction||FY 2018||FY 2019||FY 2020||FY 2021||FY 2022||FY 2023|
|Estimated Remote Sales Revenue||Estimated Remote Sales Revenue||Estimated Remote Sales Revenue||Estimated Remote Sales Revenue||Estimated Remote Sales Revenue||Estimated Remote Sales Revenue|
|EVERETT TRANSIT SYSTEM||153,000||469,000||584,000||633,000||687,000||746,000|
|KITSAP COUNTY PTBA||269,000||826,000||1,028,000||1,115,000||1,210,000||1,313,000|
|KING COUNTY METRO TRANSIT||4,390,000||13,484,000||16,790,000||18,210,000||19,762,000||21,444,000|
In the first full year of collections, Fiscal Year 2019, Sound Transit nets another $30m in sales tax revenue and Metro yields $13m. This money is not transformative*, but $13m per year is 100,000 annual service hours — about what it took for Metro to upgrade five conventional bus lines to RapidRide A through E.
Sound Transit’s 2017 budget projects over a billion dollars in sales tax revenue, out of $1.6 billion in total revenue (p. 14).
Michael Elaison introduces the concept of Baugruppen, a model for cooperative housing and living from Germany.
Most Mountlake Terrace residents had only one suggestion after reviewing the latest plans for Mountlake Terrace Station, which will be located on 236th Street Southwest just east of Interstate 5: build more parking.
Residents reported that, during the week, all 880 parking spaces are taken by 8 am at the transit station currently on the site. This forces commuters to park on nearby neighborhood streets or simply drive to work.
On the comment board one resident had written, “Plan for parking with a private developer. Quit passing the buck, Sound Transit.”
Rod Kempkes, the Lynnwood Link Executive Project Director, said that though Sound Transit can’t legally add parking to the package after voters approved the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure, the agency is looking for other ways additional parking can be provided. [Read more…]
At last Thursday’s Growing Seattle candidate forum, moderator Erica C. Barnett asked the six participating mayoral candidates to perform a simple but revealing exercise: rank transit riders, pedestrians, cyclists, and car drivers in order of priority. The candidates’ answers varied widely. The answers of Jenny Durkan and Sen. Bob Hasegawa are notable, though, because they illustrate a common and fundamental blind spot about successful transit. Let’s have a look:
Both candidates put transit on top. But neither seems to think walking deserves much attention. That is inherently contradictory.
Especially in the city, where very few riders drive to transit, almost every transit trip requires a walk on public streets. Very few riders are lucky enough to have a bus stop outside their door on both ends of their trip. So every transit rider is also a pedestrian. And if the walk to or from a transit trip is impossible or unsafe, that transit trip doesn’t work well as a whole. Riders with poor pedestrian access are less likely to ride transit instead of driving, more likely to be unsatisfied with transit when they do ride, and more likely to suffer injury at the hands of car drivers.
For all those reasons, walking safety and comfort are an integral part of building a successful transit system. It makes no more sense to say “transit deserves more priority than walking” than it does to say “make the pizza better, but don’t worry about cheese quality.” Transit doesn’t really have priority over car drivers unless pedestrians do too. Ms. Durkan and Sen. Hasegawa would render many transit trips less workable, and undermine their own stated preferences for transit, by putting pedestrians at the back of the line.
After two years of government observance shenanigans, Independence Day is back to being a one-day holiday and has brought along some great gifts to those enjoying the nighttime fireworks show. Sound Transit will be running Link light rail trains every 30 minutes between midnight and 2 a.m. and Metro will deploy extra buses on 20 routes until midnight, as suggested by the King County Council earlier this year. The last northbound train leaves Angle Lake Station at 1 a.m. The last southbound train leaves University of Washington Station at 2 a.m. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel closes at 2:20 a.m.
Before we even get to the 4th of July schedules, however, there is a major service disruption for the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel this weekend. From Saturday, July 1 to the end of Sunday, July 2, buses will not operate in the tunnel due to construction at Convention Place Station; instead, tunnel routes will use their respective surface stops. Link light rail trains, however, will operate with normal weekend service at Westlake, University Street, Pioneer Square and International District/Chinatown stations. 4th Avenue will also be closed between South Washington and South Jefferson streets due to Yesler Bridge construction.
The full list of which schedules each transit service will operate with on July 4th is below the fold. [Read more…]
This is the last week to take the survey on proposed revision to SR 520 bus service. The survey closes Friday midnight.
With the planned closure of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, the transit agencies have offered two alternatives that would extricate SR 520 buses from anticipated congestion on Seattle surface streets. Both would require most bus riders from Kirkland and Redmond to transfer to Link Light Rail at UW Station. Option B is frequency-focused, with more service truncated to UW at all hours, but more frequent service on major routes from Kirkland and Redmond. Option C is connections-focused, with somewhat less frequent buses, but more connections between more markets.
- Road pricing doesn’t get much love, but it eases gridlock ($). Notably, transpo chair Sen. Curtis King claims tolling should not try to “change the dynamics of what people want to do” despite that fact that all transportation infrastructure does precisely that.
- Battery bus maker Proterra shifts into higher gear ($), has competition. This interview with one of Proterra’s leaders on the Overhead Wire is also good.
- West Seattle gets an early peek at light rail plans.
- Seattle Times covers One Center City and the Convention Center Expansion pretty smartly ($).
- Downtown advocates opine for a new high school in or adjacent to Seattle Center ($), pushing back on a Brier Dudley suggestion to put it in the middle of nowhere ($).
- If an I-5 lid is used for housing instead of empty space, count me in.
- 235 homes coming to Ft. Lawton.
- Sale of Convention Place is final.
- A review of the coming flood of bikeshare options.
- Mountlake Terrace delays light rail permits, gets briefing on station plan.
- Vision Zero has an app.
- Downtown Spokane survived the freeway-building era and is on the rise. It has cool historic buildings, you should visit.
- Reaction’s to C-Tran’s Vine BRT.
- Who’s to blame for poor transit etiquette?
This is an open thread.
Community Transit has released a draft version of their 2017–2022 Transit Development Plan (TDP), which will guide the expansion of bus service across Snohomish County in the lead-up to Lynnwood Link’s opening in 2023. The 0.3 percent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2015 has now been funding expanded service for a full year, and will enable CT to spend an additional $30 million annually for new service and capital improvements. In total, Community Transit will use $1 billion in sales tax revenue and grants from state and federal sources to fund service improvements and capital projects.
The Regional Fare Coordination Board (ORCA Joint Board) has been working toward a new version of the ORCA product to be rolled out in 2021, currently dubbed “Next Generation ORCA”. As part of the new product, London-style daily caps on fares were high on the list of elements to be considered for development, with software development to commence in 2018.
The Regional Transit Committee, a panel of elected officials from around the county that has some authority to block council decisions on policies covering King County Metro, recently gave its green light to a report from a 2016 Fare Forum convened by the ORCA Joint Board. While referring the report to the RTC was not mandatory, it is a common practice to keep that panel in the loop.
Three major recommendations came out of the 2016 Fare Forum:
• Eliminate zone-based fares in order to reduce Next Generation ORCA system development time and costs, reduce customer confusion, reduce operator interactions, and improve boarding times.
• Eliminate trip-based peak fares but allow for time-based peak fares in the ORCA system design, in order to reduce Next Generation ORCA system development time and costs, increase regional fare coordination, and make fares simpler for customers to understand.
• Not to pursue fare capping because it could increase Next Generation ORCA system design complexity and costs and is expected to negatively impact agency revenue.
This recommendation not only means the ORCA pod does not plan to institute day caps, but also that it will not even develop the software to make it an option. The intent is not to preclude such a feature, but developing it would cost additional money down the road.
Calling it “good news,” Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit, told the board during the June 22 meeting that the agency had secured a second low-interest TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) loan through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The $88 million loan, with an interest rate of 2.73 percent, will be used to construct a new maintenance base in Bellevue.
Last year, Sound Transit signed a $1.99 billion master credit agreement with USDOT that included four low-interest loans. Rogoff estimated the master credit agreement will save taxpayers between $200-300 million in borrowing costs.
This is the second TIFIA loan the agency has secured and the first under the new presidential administration. In January 2015, ST was awarded its first below-market loan from the federal program. Two more low-interest loans are expected in 2018 — one for the Lynnwood Link extension and the other for the Federal Way Link Extension.
Sound Transit applied for TIFIA loans “to insulate the agency from unexpected downturns in the economy and provide taxpayers savings from agency borrowing costs,” according to a press release.
With the amount of federal funding still uncertain for the Lynnwood and Federal Way link extensions, the agency warns it would not be “prudent” to assume a specific amount of additional financial capacity from the loans.
Rogoff also updated the board on the status of federal funding or grants, telling members not to expect clear answers for several months or even years.
He said the current presidential administration has reiterated its opposition to funding any new projects. “Board members should be aware this is likely to be a long and difficult slog in terms of getting a firm fix on what our federal assistance will continue to be, if any.”
In a unanimous vote, Sound Transit board members moved forward a proposal to elevate the downtown Redmond Station, directing staff to complete an environmental review and preliminary engineering on the changes. The proposed design changes by the City of Redmond shift the Redmond Town Center station, previously proposed as an at-grade station near Leary Way, to an elevated station closer to 166th Ave. NE.
During the June 22 meeting, the board concluding the project was too far along in the process declined to also consider changes to track alignment.
“Without major backtracking we are probably at a point where it’s too late to consider other alignments,” said Claudia Balducci, King County Council member and Sound Transit Board member. “It’s always worth questioning where we have been, but when there is this much public work and planning, it’s not just the cost to lay the tracks and build the stations. It’s also the cost that’s gone into the land use planning, and the development and park work that been done,” she said.
During public comment, the former chair of Sound Transit’s Citizen Oversight Panel and Redmond resident, Josh Benaloh, had urged Sound Transit to reconsider a previous track alignment studied in 2011 now that an evaluated downtown station was being considered.
The older alignment, referred to as E4, leaves State Road 520 west of the Sammamish River stopping at the downtown Redmond station first, before continuing south east. In an STB guest post Benaloh argued, “the E4 alignment has far more potential to be extended in future years to the foot of Sahalee Way where it could provide service to the significantly underserved city of Sammamish.”
Instead, in the approved alignment the light rail tracks follow SR-520 traveling east to the Southeast Redmond station then turning steeply west to head to the final station in downtown Redmond.
City Council Position 8
The Sound Transit Board approved a $10 million settlement agreement with Mercer Island after residents lost special access to Interstate 90 due to the expansion of light rail. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, a Sound Transit board member, cast the only dissenting vote during the board’s June 22 meeting.
“As a fiduciary of this organization I’m not going to be able to support this today,” Strickland said. “We have to look at things such as equity and fairness.”
“Some of this agreement does include the mitigations we would make, but it’s not a $2 million settlement, it’s not a $4 million settlement, it’s not a $6 million settlement, it’s a $10 million settlement,” she added. “In the world of Sound Transit maybe that’s budget dust, but we are setting a precedent. It’s not about the amount, it’s about setting a precedent, despite the fact that we, Sound Transit, keep winning in court.”
In February the Mercer Island City Council voted to sue Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) after the town lost special access to I-90’s high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to make room for light rail. Mercer Island drivers would now have to abide by the HOV-2 standards. Mercer Island argued that a 1976 agreement provided them with lasting rights to HOV lanes, while WSDOT said that single-occupant vehicle (SOV) access to HOV lanes was intended to be temporary, and allowing continued SOV use of HOV lanes would violate federal law and jeopardize funding agreements.
Bellevue Councilmember and Sound Transit board member Claudia Balducci defended the settlement, calling it fair, reasonable, and the board’s responsibility after conditions changed and Mercer Island was no longer able to retain the same access to I-90. [Read more…]