Transit agencies roll out spring service changes

King County Metro rolled out its spring service change last Saturday, with new green-striped schedule pamphlets.

Several routes’ schedules were adjusted to better serve school bell times, including routes 48, 50, 106, 107, 128, and 269. Routes 106 and 107 will have a slightly different schedule on Wednesdays than the rest of the week.

Routes 302 and 303 were adjusted to better serve shift times for some First Hill employers.

Continue reading “Transit agencies roll out spring service changes” | 85 comments

Are ST3’s Deep Stations a Problem?

Like most observers, we were shocked when we saw how deep Sound Transit’s station plans were for the new downtown tunnel. Beyond engineering complexity, deep stations can present a problem for riders: getting to and from the surface isn’t always easy and fast.  This concern is particularly amplified by the location and intention of these stations, downtown stations are expected to be high-ridership and a lot of trips will be short. 

Before the pandemic, a large portion of trips in the current Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) both started and terminated in the tunnel.  We would expect demand for these kinds of trips to be even higher when the new ST3 tunnel opens, which adds high value tunnel destinations at Denny, South Lake Union, and Seattle Center. That demand might look elsewhere if the rider experience is bad, adding 5 minutes to both sides of a short ride just to get to the platform doesn’t really make sense for riders. The scale of the investment detaches from the utility of the infrastructure.  In short – this tunnel is very expensive and better be very good too.

So, is it possible to have deep stations but maintain a good rider experience?  The center of this issue for riders is about speed and reliability to get to and from the train platform.  The depth of the station isn’t an issue if you and 200 of your fellow riders can get from the platform to the surface in a couple of minutes.  That means that escalators are pretty much out as a primary means of getting people in/out of a station that is over 100 feet deep. Sound Transit’s DEIS presented the following depth options for each station: Midtown:  140-190, Westlake: 125-140, Denny 100-125, SLU 85-120, Seattle Center 85-120.  That means it’s very likely that every station in the new DSTT would fail riders if the primary conveyance is escalators.  


  Midtown station, ℅ Sound Transit.  Riders are skeptical.  

Continue reading “Are ST3’s Deep Stations a Problem?” | 326 comments

ST3’s Ballard Station Has to Serve Ballard

As we review the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) results as presented by Sound Transit, the decision to cut out all the central Ballard station options stands out as a huge mistake. There is only one Ballard station in ST3 and we have only one chance to get this right. We need a Ballard station where it will serve people who live in and visit Ballard:  20th and Market, directly in the center of the urban village.  

A place is not defined by its largest intersection. The EIS includes two station location options, 15th and Market and 14th and Market. Though a station at 15th and Market is marginally better than a station at 14th and Market, neither serve the entertainment district on Ballard Avenue well or maximize usability for most people who already live in Ballard. The forthcoming Ballard station doesn’t need to rely on new transit oriented development; there is already an urban neighborhood there in need of transit service already  – this must be development-oriented transit.

The good news is that Sound Transit studied the 20th tunnel option during Pre-DEIS work and discovered the obvious:  A 20th Avenue station performed significantly better for riders than the other options presented. The bad news is the station was cut from consideration before the EIS process for cost reasons. But an interesting thing has happened since then: the EIS analysis brought cost parity between elevated and tunnel options in Ballard. An elevated 15th station with a drawbridge now costs the same as a 14th tunnel now.  Would that cost parity extend to a 20th station?  It might. We need Sound Transit to go back to the drawing board and find out, because the difference for thousands of daily riders is significant.

20th is much better than 15th for riders (and 15th is better than 14th.)  
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News roundup: service change

Pierce Transit 2021 Gillig Low Floor Electric 526

This is an open thread.

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News roundup: safety

SEATTLE--303 at Westlake

This is an open thread.

92 comments

Action Alert:  SSB 5528 In House Transportation Committee

Senate Bill 5528 is moving!  It passed the Washington State Senate with Bi-Partisan Support and is now scheduled for public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Thursday, at 1:30pm.  

We need your help to make this bill become law. 

To show your support for more and better transit:

  1. Go to the House Committee Sign In
  2. Select position:  “Pro”
  3. Enter your information
  4. Verify that you are not a robot
  5. Click “Submit Registration”
  6. That’s it!

A huge thank you to all of the sponsors of this bill in the Senate:  Senators Pedersen, Liias, and Hawkins; and in the House:  Representatives Hackney, Berry, Fitzgibbon, Ryu, Valdez, Wicks, Chopp, Pollet, Bergquist, Macri, Lekanoff.

If you support more transit service at local levels, you can help make it a reality, it takes under 30 seconds: sign in pro for the House Hearing of 5528.
State Senate Roll Call results: thank you to the Senators that voted in favor of SSB 5528
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WSBLE Deep Dive: Interbay and Ballard

It’s busy season for transit news around the Sound. Amidst the numerous announcements of late (zoning reform, East Link, state funding, oh my) the most concrete development has been the release of Sound Transit’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the West Seattle/Ballard Extension (WSBLE). 

With the comment period now open and several virtual public meetings scheduled, we can focus on the proposed alignment. This material is intended to arm prospective attendees of these meetings with, at the very least, a general understanding of the options on the table.

This post will be the first of several in a “Deep Dive” series. Today’s will be “Interbay/Ballard focused”, to match the subject of the first public meeting being held on March 15th.

Sound Transit granted each alternative a memorable label; the preferred alternative for this section is “IBB-1a”. We can refer to this as Alternative 1a. 

https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51873874628_7303e87391_c.jpg

Continue reading “WSBLE Deep Dive: Interbay and Ballard” | 138 comments

East Link Connections process moves into phase 3

Latest proposal has worse coverage, but better frequency

As expected, phase 3 of the East Link Connections restructure proposal is out. It was developed using feedback from phase 2, when the first proposed network was released. In the first network, a clear trend was a dramatic increase in coverage throughout the eastside, with bus service on many corridors that never had any service before. However, a common sentiment in the comments is that Metro is focusing on expanding coverage instead of increasing frequency on core routes. Commenters also wanted to see better weekend and evening frequency.

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Improving Metro 40 and D

by ROSS BLEAKNEY

The Seattle Department of Transportation has begun work on making Metro’s route 40 faster and more reliable. With these changes, Metro can substantially improve the transit network in the north end if it alters two very popular routes.

Improvements for the 40

The 40 is often delayed around the Fremont Bridge. It isn’t the bridge opening itself that causes the big delay, but the traffic that backs up behind it. The 40 also experiences congestion close to downtown as well as around Market Street in Ballard. Fortunately, plans by the city address all of these delays and more. Buses will be able to travel in their own lane, avoiding the worst bottlenecks. Not only will this make the 40 substantially faster, but it will make it a lot more reliable. With this increase in speed and reliability, Metro could reroute the 40 and Rapid Ride D in the north end, like so:

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Love Fantasy Football? Try Fantasy Transit

Public transit in 2000 as envisioned by late 19th Century artist Jean-Marc Cote
from The Public Domain Review (publicdomainreview.org)

Dear Monsieur Jean-Marc Cote. His vision of 2000 didn’t materialize. But was that his lack of imagination or ours? How well can we envision public transit in 100 years? With good news for the future of Washington State public transit in the expected passage of the proposed $16 billion transportation package, it seems a good time to indulge in a bit of fantasy.

So let us indulge in fantasy but not fantasy fantasy. More like Fantasy Football. Constructed within reality. Studying what is at hand and making the most of it. That means no flying buses or “Beam me up, Scotty.” Instead, the fantasy is you as the master puppeteer. The Transit Czar. You calling the shots. You conjuring up your vision firmly within reality.

And our reality? There is the good news of an infusion of cash for local public transit projects. The other local transit news, however, is the loss of fare revenues and the pending Washington State Supreme Court ruling on the legality of fare enforcement on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and rail services.

Continue reading “Love Fantasy Football? Try Fantasy Transit” | 24 comments

WA Dems propose a $16B transpo package

I-405 near Canyon Park. Photo by SounderBruce

Marko Liias:

OLYMPIA – On Tuesday, Senate and House Transportation Committee Chairs Sen. Marko Liias, D – Everett, and Rep. Jake Fey, D – Tacoma, unveiled Senate Bills 5974 and 5975 and House Bills 2118 and 2119 — Move Ahead Washington — a 16-year transportation proposal for Washington state.

The $16 billion package provides historic funding for preserving our infrastructure, combating climate change by reducing emissions, expanding safe, affordable transit options, and addressing harm caused in communities of color from our existing transportation system.

There are technically two distinct bills here being yoked together. One would direct about $5B collected via the Climate Commitment Act towards transit and multimodal projects. This represents an unprecedented investment in transit from a state government that has traditionally left such things up to local jurisdictions. It includes operating funds, free youth passes and a down payment on some unspecified high-speed rail projects.

The second would take $11B from various sources (notably NOT a new gas tax) and direct it towards (mostly) highway projects, including a significant amount of highway widening.

Full lists of projects and revenue sources here. More coverage from the Times.

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Join the Lynnwood Link Mobility Board

Light rail tracks running toward Northgate Transit Center (Lizz Giordano)

Metro usually gathers a citizen sounding board when it’s planning a major service change. It’s a way to gather impressions after detailed technical discussion instead of drive-by comments.

They’re currently collecting applicants for the service change associated with Lynnwood Link. If you’re willing to approach it with an open mind, think about the community as a whole instead of your own needs, and commit the necessary time, it can be a rewarding experience and do some good for the region. Please consider it!

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News roundup: enforcement

Buses jammed on 3rd Ave

This is an open thread.

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Metro needs a more flexible snow network

King County Metro 1996 Gillig Phantom 3447
King County Metro running special snow route 90

In the week between Christmas and New Year, King County Metro activated its emergency snow network (ESN) for only the second time. However, it felt different this time around. In 2019, the situation was widely understood to be an emergency (even prompting Governor Inslee to declare a state of emergency, limiting the hours vehicles could be driven).

This time, there was definitely snow, but it didn’t feel like… an emergency. While there was enough snow to make driving inadvisable, there seemingly wasn’t enough to justify drastic action. Even more confusingly, Metro kept the ESN in effect even when conditions were improving. By the last day of the ESN on January 1, 2022, the snow had cleared enough that many areas of King County had roads clear of snow and ice, and neighboring Pierce Transit was operating with 75% of its routes on regular (non-snow) routes. Even in its blog post about its continuation of the ESN into the new year, Metro points to “ongoing freezing temperatures and difficult road conditions in parts of King County” (emphasis mine). In any other time, difficult road conditions in just parts of the county would result in service in those parts of the county operating on snow routes, not keeping the entire county in the emergency snow network. So, what was different this time, and what can be done about it?

Continue reading “Metro needs a more flexible snow network” | 25 comments