King County propose Vashon/Lake Washington foot ferry

I can see additional Vashon, Bainbridge, Edmonds, Mukilteo passenger only ferry routes but Lake Washington? Seriously?!There is no ‘fast’ route from the Kenmore, Kirkland, Renton, or Bellevue waterfront to Downtown Seattle. You would have to transfer to a bus at either Madrona, Madison, or Leshi. Metro Transit 2 (Madrona), 11 (Madison Park), 27 (Leshi) are the only routes that serve those areas and equally take about 30 minutes to Downtown Seattle.

We shall see….


Major Nickels pushes for Light-Rail Vote in ’08

Mayor Nickels makes a strong point in this article. General Elections during an non-Presidential election turns out much fewer voters. Coming back in 2008 would not only bring more voters but also the younger generation of voters.

Nickels recalled that Sound Transit lost its first attempt to pass a regional package in 1995, revised its plan, then won in the 1996 presidential year.

At this stage of the game, I would say it would be best to bring a much smaller, rails only vote in 2008. Light-Rail to Northgate Mall to the North, Light-Rail South to Federal Way Commons Mall to the South and a Streetcar or Light-Rail in the Bellevue – Redmond corridor, along with funding for a permanent Tukwila Station and Parking Garage. I still believe a new station at Lakeland Hills is needed. A huge amount of people from Lakeland, South Auburn, and Lake Tapps that use Sounder can benefit greatly from this additional station.

When Sound Transit was formed, Lakeland at the time was very, very small and in it’s beginning stages. Between Lakeland and Lake Tapps, a lot of the traffic is divided between Auburn and Sumner stations.


Water Taxi ridership up 32 percent for 2007

The Elliott Bay Water Taxi blew the old record out the door this year. A total of 161,331 riders used the West Seattle-to-downtown service this summer, as compared with 122,650 riders in 2006. The additional ridership revenues generated allowed King County to operate the water taxi during October weekday commute hours.

The Water Taxi also ran one month less in 2007. Not too shabby.


King County RapidRide BRT Information

Thanks to SeattlePI forum member ‘TCMetro’ for finding this great pdf file regarding RapidRide service in King County. This goes over what routes may or may not become RapidRide BRT routes and changes to current routes that will become RapidRide.

Some Highlights –

The following changes to existing routes are assumed to support the
implementation of RapidRide service (see also Table 1: Transit Now RapidRide
Improvements, page 4):

Aurora Avenue North: Route 358 would be converted to RapidRide

Ballard: Service options would involve combinations of resources
converting some or all of routes 15, 15X, 18, and 18X.

Bellevue-Redmond: Service options would involve combinations of
resources converting some or all of routes 230 and 253.

Highway 99 South: Route 174 would be converted to RapidRide service
between Tukwila/International Boulevard Link station and Federal Way,
and a new local route between Tukwila/International Boulevard Link
Station and downtown Seattle would serve the northern segment of the
current route 174.

West Seattle: Service options would involve combinations of resources
converting some or all of routes 54 and 54X to RapidRide service, and
possible changes to service levels or route structure to routes 55, 56 and


Sound Transit Q3 2007 Ridership

Some highlights from the report on the rail side…Take a look at Tacoma Link vs Everett Sounder……….

Cost per boarding Q3 2006 – $13.98
Cost per boarding Q3 2007 – $11.18

On-time performance Q3 2006 95.60%
On-time performance Q3 2007 98.06%

Q3 2006 Regular Service Everett – Commuter 45,050
Q3 2007 Regular Service Everett – Commuter 52,351

Q3 2006 Regular Service Tacoma – Commuter 355,334
Q3 2007 Regular Service Tacoma – Commuter 480,952

And Tacoma Link….

Q3 2006 Regular Service Tacoma – Streetcar – 220,149
Q3 2007 Regular Service Tacoma – Streetcar – 234,257

Q3 2006 Average Weekday Boardings – 2,914
Q3 2007 Average Weekday Boardings – 3,030

Q3 2006 Cost per boarding – $3.22
Q3 2007 Cost per board – $3.44 (Additional trips for Tacoma Dome concerts were added)

I foresee Everett Sounder getting a major boost in ridership in 2008 when Mukilteo Station opens. I really believe ridership will increase heavily when Everett, Mukilteo, and Edmonds stations get parking garages. This seems to be the consistent complaint for North Sounder riders. I do find it amusing that Tacoma Link’s ridership is half of South Sounder…Impressive even.


MacDonald on Plan B

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Joe Connelly outsources his column today to former transportation secretary Doug MacDonald, who writes:

“We can assemble a better, cheaper, more adaptable, more useful foundation for public transportation than a few light rail corridors. Tomorrow’s systems will exploit fast, frequent buses operating on an affordable network of free-flow lanes crisscrossing the region. And also vans, private custom transit now coming to Microsoft, even modern-age jitneys. And probably yet-to-be-seen Web-matched ride sharing.” [my emphasis]

I do like the emphasis on IT. Putting better traffic-sensing tech in cars will help, too.

But what is “an affordable network of free-flow lanes,” exactly? I mean, it sounds good and all, but like all these whiz-bang turns-of-phrase, the devil’s in the details. We’ll need more expensive, dedicated rights-of-way for all these hep new buses, jitneys and rickshaws, otherwise they’ll just get stuck in traffic.


Nickels Wants Transit Only Vote

According to the Times. Good Stuff. One thing Prop. 1 lacked was a clear leader, and if Nickels can spear-head this effort while he is Chair of the Board, that would be really great.

Interesting, the only part of the region that supported Prop. 1 was the 43rd district in Seattle.

In other news for Transit-only votes, Ron Sims is ramping up his foot-ferry package that will raise property taxes slightly to provide more passenger ferry service. I love that idea, the water taxi is the most fun transit trip in Seattle.


Exit Poll

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

With Prop. 1 defeated, the debate is underway to define what it all means.

First up is the Sierra Club, with an exit poll that they claim shows that the roads portion was the real drag on the ballot. Erica Barnett cites pollster Tom Riehle’s statement that “what was unique about this election was the decisive role of a small group of voters.” Riehle and the Sierra Club’s main data point is the 20% of “no” voters — 11% of all voters — who cited global warming as a reason for voting “no.” That’s theoretically enough to tip the election.

It’s an interesting argument, but there’s a few major caveats to keep in mind. First, in a close election, one could plausibly claim that any small group was the “decisive” one. Second, they oversampled Seattle and King County voters. Based on provisional ballot data here and here, I’m guessing an oversample of King County (esp. Seattle) by 8 points and an undersample of Snohomish by about the same. That could explain much of the global warming answer.

Still, I wouldn’t call it bogus, necessarily. Groups tend to hire pollsters who will reaffirm their agenda. After all, that’s why there are Democratic pollsters and Republican pollsters.

It’s biased, sure, but there’s still some interesting data.

First, people really didn’t seem to want that Sea-Tac-to-Tacoma light rail! One could reasonably conclude that that project alone nearly sunk the whole package (if my math’s right, 5% of all voters cited it as their No. 1 reason). Duly noted!

Second, among the “yes” voters, there were many more “transit only” supporters than “road only” ones. 35 vs. 11. That can’t be explained away by the Seattle oversample. People. Want. Transit. And not just buses. They want rail, especially North and East, and they’re willing to pay for it. That’s a good thing.

I hope we see more exit polls in the near future, from different pollsters. A sample of 5,000 voters is pretty revealing, despite the flaws.

Update: Scotto in the comments offers a plausible explanation for the alleged oversample.


Central Link Progress Update

Just one more update before calling it a night. Construction crews have begun the task of “stringing” the wire along Martin Luther King Way and from Tukwila International BLVD Station down to Interstate 5. Having clean, quiet light-rail in our region is getting closer, day by day. Keep an eye out for gray or Green poles along the light-rail line. Green poles are along MLK Way. Gray is going up for the rest of the corridor. These poles are what support the Overhead Contact System (OCS) or the more common term, Catanery.


South Lake Union Streetcar

This afternoon, the South Lake Union Streetcar was being unloaded from a trailer on Terry Ave and Republican Way. I was caught off guard by this for two reasons. 1) It was on a trailer and it was already previously delivered. 2) It was coming off the trailer on battery power.

I think the highlight of this slow process is when one of the Inekon Tram folks said jokingly “Where are the brakes?” I didn’t stop by the maintenance facility but this appears to be the first Streetcar with decals and it’s Sponsorships on the side of the tram. Several King County Metro bus drivers were along for the ride as well. They were on a mission and went up for Coffee to allow the ramp to be cleared near the Maintenance Facility and did some car testing between Westlake and South Lake Union before putting the Streetcar away.

The South Lake Union Streetcar is slated to start operations on December 14th, 2007 between Westlake Center and Fred Hutchison Research Center in South Lake Union. Let’s hope this starts a revolution and get the Streetcar out to the University of Washington and Children’s Hospital in Laurelhurst


Sierra Club’s Exit Poll is Bogus, Roads are being built anyway

At Slog, Erica “Party Crasher” Barnett, who showed up to the Yes party just as things got ugly (not meant as a comment on her looks), points to some Sierra Club rubbish that “proves” that Pro-Rail lefties somehow swung the vote.

But the Sierra Club’s sample is way off.

  • They counted 1,250 Seattlites of their 5,004 voters. That counts Seattle as 25% of the region instead of 20% as it is. And, in turnouts, Seattle performed worse than other areas.
  • Their “rest of King County” did not show where they came up with those 1,998 voters. Were they all in Federal Way or Bothel? It’s a big county.
  • They only counted 646 Snohomish County voters, half as many as Seattle voters, when far more Snohomish County folks voted than Seattle folks.

I’m not sure whether ST2 could have passed on its own. It would have been a smaller tax increase, which would have made voters more receptive, and some pro-environment voters could have voted for it. I am sure a lot of pro-roads folks would have voted no, though. This exit poll, however, was performed poorly, and is not statistically accurate. It does not give us that answer conclusively.

What we do know, though, is that they are going to build many of those roads projects anyway, just as we said they would. Pierce County may write their own roads package, which would suck because Pierce County Executive John “boots” Ladenburg gave the best speech of the night Tuesday at the Yes Party. And we know the 520 rebuild is critical, and will be done anyway. That Lindblom piece does bring up the possibility of a rail only package, but notes the legistlature in Olympia might stop it.

On the other hand, our Governor spoke thusly:

Gregoire said the defeat of the initiative was a “significant” blow for Sound Transit and the transit agency now has to decide whether to proceed with plans to extend light rail first to Tacoma or Everett.

When it came to Sound Transit, Gregoire said some of the voters sounded like they were from Missouri, where the state motto is “show me.”

Good job Sierra Club of swinging the 11% away from rail and onto roads!

There’s someone running around the internet slandering my math, I already wrote this in the comments, but I want to put it at the top here in case anyone is looking.

You can’t compare the numbers from the Washington State site and the counties’ sites, they are not the same thing.

In an apples-to-apples comparison on Washington State’s election site, there were 103914 Yes + 129151 No votes in King totalling 233065, and 38780 + 51939 totalling 90719 in Snohomish.

Then go to King County’s site, they say that in total 286607 people voted in King County. That’s 53,000 MORE people than the state says. In that context, the 90,000+ Seattle voters makes sense, Seattle being about a third of the county’s population. The County has about 25% more voters listed than the state does. So if you compare the King County number for Seattle against the State number for the whole region like they were the same, then the number looks 25% higher for Seattle. Seattle is really 20% of the voters, and 25% (the factor by which the County’s number is higher)of 20% (Seattle’s portion of the region’s vote) is 5% which shows why it looks like Seattle was 25% of the vote when you compare across the sites. Sorry if it’s a bit technical.

Moral: you can’t compare the two numbers like that slanderer is. They are completely different. The same goes for the Snohomish County number.

I’m not arguing that ST2 can’t win on it’s own. I’m sure it can’t and it will some day. I’m just not sure I buy that study.


Going it Alone

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Surprise! Pierce County may decide to build those roads anyway:

The defeat of Proposition 1 would allow Pierce County to break away from King and Snohomish counties and present its own road package to voters, although that’s not an option county officials are embracing just yet.

“I think it is something one would think about,” said Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney, chairman of the three-county Regional Transportation Investment District. “But I’m not sure our transportation problems lend themselves to a single-county solution.

Bunney, a likely candidate for county executive in 2008, said his main concern is making sure Pierce County tax dollars are spent in Pierce County. He also wants work to proceed on the extension of Highway 167 from the Port of Tacoma to Puyallup.


New Routes and Subarea Equity

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

There’s some interesting discussion on STB on what a revised Sound Transit initiative might look like. Scaling back to Northgate and Bellevue sounds reasonable, but it would really hurt ridership.

The real issue, it seems, is how you design a package inside the Sound Transit RTA district that spends so much on King County in particular. Subarea equity dictates that you raise the same amount of money from all sub-areas and re-invest it in those areas (RTID has a similar policy for roads — funds raised in each county are re-invested in that county).

Obviously King County gets more because it contributes more, but even that doesn’t account for the disparity of building light rail to Northgate and Bellevue while investing in nothing that crosses the Pierce or Snohomish County lines.

This gets to why subarea equity is a double edged sword. While it allows the different subareas to feel like they’re all getting their money’s worth, it hamstrings the planning process. Planners can’t just make investments where they’re best for the region, they have to make sure the projects get doled out equally among the subareas, regardless of whether that’s the best use of the funds.

This came into sharp relief in the Prop. 1 debate. We all thought we were voting on a $17B (or $47B) package, but in truth, each subarea was really voting on its own, smaller package that got reinvested in its area. The “yes” folks didn’t really do a good job of getting that particular message out. And I don’t blame them — it’s legitimately confusing!

Either we’re one region or we’re not. This solomonic solution seems to be giving us the worst of both worlds. Prop. 1, following this strategy, tried to walk the line between being a holistic, regional plan and being a targeted, local plan, and it succeeded at neither.


Prop 1 Post-Mortem

I’m not going to pretend that Prop. 1’s failure was merely a tactical one. Clearly, in the current environment a significant number of people are unwilling to vote for anything that includes new taxes, roads, and/or rail. However, in hindsight I think there are two narratives where the YES campaign, for all its resources, was unable to frame the debate:

(1) Sound Transit’s record: In many voters’ minds, ST is still the agency that got off to a disastrous start at the end of the last decade. There is extensive evidence that ST is no longer that agency, but the perception remains. A key question: is there a way to reverse it before light rail starts running in 2009? Will that even be enough?

(2) The cost: $18 billion vs. $47 billion vs. $150 billion. They all sound like a lot of money, but few of us really know what any of these mean in terms of actual economic impact and opportunity costs. I’m a big fan of the “average household” figure, which was $125/year for the ST2 side. If our newspapers were a bit better on providing the public useful services, they might have published a table indexing household income to likely annual expenditure. I suspect that these concrete costs would have been both more relevant and would have prevented R & T from sounding like the cost of a moon shot.

Any other communications problems?


Comment Etiquette

A minor request:

If you don’t have a blogger account, I would certainly appreciate if you chose “Other” when commenting instead of “Anonymous”. By using a name (whatever it is), it makes a lot easier to track threads.



Prop. 1 Aftermath: What’s Next for ST?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Mike Lindblom writes today in the Times that Sound Transit does not need to get permission from the legislature to get back on the ballot next year. This was the reason that many hypothesized the rapid re-emergence of a transit-only ballot initiative as early as next Spring.

Permission is one thing, protocol is another. I was going over this with a friend last night, and he reminded me that Sound Transit doesn’t need any more enemies in Olympia right now. The knee-jerk reaction is going to be to blame the agency for the failure of Prop. 1.

Plus, there’s more talk about creating the regional transit “super agency” that the Stanton-Rice report recommended earlier this year. Sound Transit has fought the creation of such an agency in the past, fearing that it would dilute ST’s influence and create a huge new bureaucracy. If Sound Transit wants to keep lobbying against such an agency, it needs to stay in the legislature’s (and the Governor’s) good graces.

All of this is by way of saying that Sound Transit won’t rush back to the ballot unless the legislature gives them the green light, or at least a wink and a nod.


Stepping Back from the Ledge

Well, that stunk.

I sincerely hope that left-wing Roads & Transit opponents are correct, and that transit will come back soon and pass. I’m skeptical, but we’ll see.

Regardless, we will at least have light rail from Downtown to the Airport in 2009, and that can only help to build support for transit, although it means delivery of less rail, later, for more money.

In the meantime, as Seattle transit supporters, what should be our priorities over the next few years? Here’s my layman’s stab at a list:

1) Scrutinize (and probably oppose) “governance reform.” This is usually code for scrapping Sound Transit and replacing it with some other agency to oversee transit. Although in principle there are almost certainly governance structures superior to the current one, in reality it’s virtually certain that any replacement will spend its first years mired in mismanagement and incompetence (see: Sound Transit, 1996-2001; Seattle Monorail Project). That’s not what we need as the University LINK project comes close to getting seriously started.

2) Protect University LINK. The light rail line from downtown to Husky Stadium is supposedly all set to open in 2016. However, not one spade of Earth has yet been turned, nasty financial and engineering surprises are no doubt ahead, and God knows what legal and other challenges are lurking in the wake of the Prop. 1 failure.

This segment has the highest ridership projection of all, and the clearest time advantage for rail. An 8-minute travel time easily outclasses any conceivable alternative, including a streetcar. We must remain vigilant about this project. Like the airport, the University provides all-day traffic demand that justifies non-peak operation.

3) Get to Northgate. We must find the $1.2 billion (2006 dollars) to get to Northgate. This is the obvious terminus for southbound commuters to get on the line, and will increase the exposure of light rail that is critical to future expansion. Ideally, this would be part of a reduced regional package, but even if Seattle alone must fund it, it’s “only” $4,300 per household spread over many years — a lot, but not backbreaking.

4) Get to Bellevue. The two bridges are the most obvious chokepoint in the region. Getting to downtown Bellevue at least allows connection to the “RapidRide” BRT service that will continue to Overlake. Not optimal, but something we can accomplish. The high-end cost estimate is $2.2 billion, something that will probably require at least King County to fund. Paging Senator Murray…

5) “A Thousand Little Things.” There are lots of little things we can do that cost little compared to these mega-projects: streetcar extensions, bus lanes, arterial fixes, etc. These generally occur at the municipal level. A lot of these are being discussed on earlier threads. Expanding Sounder park-and-rides is another inexpensive capacity increase.

UPDATE: A point I should have made more clear is that there is zero chance a package involving these points would pass the three county district: there is literally nothing in it for Pierce and Snohomish Counties. To move forward, we probably need to restrict the taxing authority to the city of Seattle or King County.

In the case of King County, perhaps that involves a few hundred million for Sounder park-and-rides to win over the Southern part of the County. Whatever it takes.


Prop. 1 Aftermath: What’s next for 520?

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Erica Barnett sums up, somewhat inadvertently, the problems with crafting another transportation package:

It was too big and too divisive, and hopefully the people who craft a replacement will have learned their lesson by the next time. (I would prefer, of course, that that lesson be: No more roads expansion; money for neighborhood streets, safety and maintenance; and more money for rail NOW, rather than in 20 years–but that’s just me.) In any case, I think one lesson is definitely that an $18 billion, 50-year package is simply too big to pass–especially when, as with this package, it doesn’t fully fund all the projects it includes, meaning that voters will have to pay tolls or additional taxes to finish major projects like SR-520.

In other words, this package was too big, but it wasn’t big enough! Reminds me of that classic Woody Allen line, “the food was terrible, but the portions were so small!”

Any package that “fully funds” SR-520 would, by definition, have to include even more money for roads, something that Barnett and others seem dead-set against. So where does that leave us?

It should be said, though, that “fully funding” a new 520 bridge was never, and should never have been the point of a regional transportation initiative. 520 is a state road, and it’s ultimately the state’s responsibility. The point of the RTID was simply to have the 3-county region kick in a some extra money to fill in the gap between what the state was willing to pay, what tolling could provide, and what the new bridge will actually cost.

Now the state will have to kick in the rest. But with the current gas tax money on the decline, and I-960 looming overhead, it’s unclear how they’re going to do that.