Revenue from Ads Should at Least Equal Advertising Expenditures

Sorry to go back to the issue of ads on the bus, since we’ve just about beat that one to death, but when asking Sound Transit how much they spend on advertising I go this response:

The American Public Transit Association recommends transit agencies devote between one and four percent of their operating costs to marketing. Sound Transit is well within that guideline.

Overall ridership on Sound Transit services rose 8 percent between 1st quarter 2006 and 1st quarter 2007. An annual public opinion poll conducted by Sound Transit in fall of 2006 also showed approval rating for the agency had risen significantly from 45 percent in 2003 to 65 percent in 2006. Brand recognition is up to 85 percent. We believe much of this is attributable to effective advertising.

Well if they’re going to spend 1~4% of their budget on ads, I think they should try to recoup 1~4% of their budget from advertising.


Waterfront Streetcar coming back?

So I was in the grocery store yesterday and I somehow always get stuck in the magazine section reading various magazines of interest. One I tend to pick up a lot is Seattle Metropolitan, it has some good stuff on Seattle, although, this month there was an article on the beloved Waterfront Streetcar. The article talked about the history of streetcars in Seattle, which I might add was quite rich, I never knew Seattle was such a streetcar oriented city. Like anything though, if you saturate it with enough politics things can be taken away in an instant. Which several times over again has happened to Seattle. Some might say it was another tourist oriented development by Seattle, although I know many businesses along Pioneer Square would surely love to have the streetcar back in a heartbeat. One part I found particularly interesting in this article, there are a couple shops in Pioneer Square that are closing (11 to be exact) and it was implied that they are closing because the loss of the streetcar means a loss in revenue (30-40% to be exact). Whereas on the flip side, the new South Lake Union Streetcar is causing a stir as well. Christine Lea who is the Vice President of the Cascade Neighborhood Association notes that businesses are starting to flee the SLU area due to the development of the Streetcar. Hmm… I do know since I have worked in SLU for a couple years now, I have seen a lot more going in than going out. I think the streetcar is going to do a lot more than people think! I am betting businesses will thrive much like they did in the Pearl District in Portland. Finally, Seattle got some promising news the City Council approved Greg Smith’s proposal for three extra floors on his Occidental Park Project and the trolley barn was a go again! This is great news! Let’s make it happen Seattle, with some extensions it can be a great opportunity!


Seattle’s "Green Cred" without Proper Rapid Transit

Today the PI has an opinion piece about Seattle’s green cred is a mirage without better public transportation:

Seattleites tout a good green game, but fall a little short.

Aside from Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and pizza by the slice, what I miss most about New York City is the efficient and reliable subway system, capable of transporting millions of people to work every day. At night, it would take me less than 15 minutes to travel north from 14th Street to my apartment in the low 80s with a subway transfer in between. In fact, subways were such a pervasive part of my life that in nine-plus years I never drove, not even once.

My pharmacist husband, meanwhile, has relied on subways his entire life. Raised in Queens, he attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, graduated from Long Island University in Brooklyn and owned a pharmacy in Greenwich Village. A devotee of the N Train, at 43 years old, he just got his driver’s license in anticipation of our big move west.

Well, 20% of Seattlites do bus to work, but the point remains that we need better public transportation to coax more people out of their cars.


More Money Through Advertising

Nick’s post here yesterday (nice first post, btw!) got me thinking about advertising dollars. Only 2% of Metro’s buses are wrapped, yet that generates $1 mn per year. It stands to figure if 100% were wrapped, $50 million could be raised. That would be about 12% of Metro’s $400 million or so budget. I know we’re not the only ones who are for more ads in transit here, that this for example.

We need to generate more money through advertising. Ride the London Underground and you see a ton of advertising. Metro and Sound Transit buses have very little advertising, or space for it. Much of the advertising is of the non-profit type, and targets the very demographic Thatcher believes rides buses: the down and out, drug addicted, unemployed. Surely someone would like to try to sell me something through paid advertising. Even those that can barely afford such things stand in line to buy iPods and iPhones.

Here’s some ideas about ads that could be in train stations. Outside of bus shelters, bus wrappings and trains stations, what are other advertising possibilities?


More on the 520 Mediators

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

They’re going to have a pretty narrow mandate:

Recent legislation requires mediators to focus solely on the most contested and complicated stretch of 520 — the section between the bridge’s western high-rise and Interstate 5. The more narrow focus should help avoid reopening a Pandora’s box of politically, financially or technically unfeasible ideas that have been discarded, Conlin said.

A four-lane “green alternative” and the Eastside Transportation Association-backed eight-lane alternative from Montlake to Redmond, for example, are off the table.

The legislation also mandates a six-lane bridge with four general-purpose and two HOV lanes, said Tom Fitzsimmons, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s chief of staff. “There may be a smaller footprint than six lanes going through Montlake, for example, but the corridor needs to accommodate four plus two,” he said.

This should keep the process relatively manageable.


Bus Wraps: All Wrapped Up?

It appears the wrapped buses are going to be going through some changes in the future according to a news release from King County. Full bus wraps have been responsible for generating much needed revenue for Metro. This has come at a price to the riders of these buses. People who ride can’t see street signs or buildings, and if dark outside it is impossible to see anything causing people much frustration. The wraps are currently on 25 buses which is less than 2% of Metro’s fleet. If Metro completely phased out the wraps that would result in a loss of $743,000 in 2008. So Metro came up with a new partial wrap that will allow wrapping to only a portion of the window plus the rest of the bus.
From Ron Simms:
Metro would be the first transit agency in the country to offer this type of partial-wrap to advertisers. Metro believes the new partial wrap advertising option can generate interest from national and local clients to advertise on Metro’s fleet and become a model for other transit agencies to follow“.
They will allow these partial wraps on 50 buses and may generate $450,000-$900,000 in revenue.
This is good for Metro and it seems it will be good for the passengers as well. Although I am not a fan of the green/purple and gold color schemes, it is eye catching to see the wrapped buses from the outside. I truly dislike being in them, especially on a sunny day. One difference that was pointed out to me was that in places like San Francisco and Vancouver B.C. (which I visited recently) they have advertisements at bus shelters. There are many bus stops in downtown Seattle where many passengers get on/off buses. It seems that they could gain additional revenue by adding panels to these stops. Metro could even charge premium rates for higher volume stops.

Non-Transit : Times vs. PI

Anyone notice the PI has more focus on the city, while the Times seems to cover the suburbs, especially the Eastside more?

The Times seems to even use the Eastside lingo, for example calling South King Co. “the South End” (in the image on the left), while the PI uses the “South End” like people use it in the city, the way I used it growing up.

Compare the coverage of the growth report this week. The PI:

Seattle’s growth over the past year was the fastest of any year in at least the past four decades, according to new state estimates.

The city grew by 1.3 percent between April 1, 2006, and April 1, 2007, putting the new total at 586,200, according to data the state Office of Financial Management released Wednesday. The growth rate was up from 1 percent the previous year; the rate was the highest of any year in state records since 1968. The closest year was 1992, when the rate was 1.26 percent.

Notice it says “the city” (distinctly Seattle jargon) and starts off talking about Seattle.

The Times on the other hand has an article focused on the Eastside, and an AP wire article that doesn’t mention Seattle until the fifth paragraph. From the Eastside article:

Issaquah takes this year’s title for biggest population jump on the Eastside from 2006 to 2007.

The number of people living in the city spiked by 26 percent in the past year, according to population figures released Wednesday by the state Office of Financial Management. That’s an increase of 5,140 residents, mostly due to a voter-approved annexation of the Greenwood Point/South Cove neighborhood.

Completely different.


I-90’s HOV Lane

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

What can I say, I suppose it’s “HOV Lane Friday” here at Orphan Road.

Driving back from Bellevue this morning, I noticed work had begun on adding HOV lanes on and around Mercer Island:

I-90 has a two-lane reversible center roadway between Seattle and Bellevue for buses, carpools and vanpools only. Traffic travels westbound in the mornings and eastbound in the evenings on the center roadway. However, buses, carpools and vanpools that are traveling in the opposite direction of the center roadway are forced to use general-purpose lanes. This makes buses and other high occupancy vehicles traveling between Seattle and Bellevue run increasingly late during rush hours, and reduces the benefits of sharing the ride.

The reversible center lane, used on I-90 and I-5 north of Seattle, naturally only works when the bulk of traffic is going one way in the morning and the other way in the afternoon. That may have been the case years ago, when the I-90 lane was first envisioned (and it’s still mostly the case on I-5), but it’s not the case any more on the Eastside. In fact, there may even be more people traveling East in the morning. Q.E.D., the buses suck.

Fortunately, when light rail is built across I-90, they’ll do away with the reversible center lane entirely, use it for the trains instead, and put standard HOV lanes in either direction. I suspect the work on Mercer Island is a precursor to that effort.


520’s HOV Lane

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Cascadia Report offers a fix for getting traffic moving on SR520 now:

So here’s an idea: Immediately move 520’s westbound HOV lane to the left side from Redmond to Seattle. Instead of being stopped by merging traffic in the right-hand lane, buses and three-person carpools could speed through the corridor. Forcing cars with one passenger to merge from two lanes into one before crossing the bridge would be a dramatic incentive to take transit or carpool.

The change could be made almost overnight and would boost capacity. Demand for buses would soar and suddenly people would be willing to carpool, even if it meant sharing rides with (gasp!) strangers. If drivers really wanted more lanes they would be incented to support funding a new bridge.

It’s certainly an idea I’ve had myself from time to time, as I sat in traffic on the bus from Redmond to Seattle (I used to work out there). I can certainly sympathize with CR’s daunting tale of a nightmarish afternoon commute on the bus. So long as the Westbound traffic on 520 doesn’t back up past the 405 interchange, you’re usually okay. But if it does… ho boy, things can get gnarly pretty quick.

Unfortunately, CR’s idea to shift the HOV lane from the right-hand side to the left (thereby preventing buses from getting stuck in the 405 snarl) won’t work, from what I understand. It turns out that the HOV lane on 520 is an afterthought. It was a shoulder lane that WSDOT converted to an HOV lane after the fact. As such, it’s not safe enough for general-purpose traffic. (This is also why it has a 3-person HOV requirement.)

Here’s a 2002 report on the subject from WSDOT:

These shoulder HOV lanes can safely accommodate three-person HOV traffic flow, but not general traffic flow.

When the 6-lane bridge is eventually put in place, then it definitely makes sense to re-engineer 520 to allow general traffic in the right two lanes and HOV traffic in the far left lane. But that would require some major construction.

However, in the interest of being solutions-oriented, let me offer one of my own. The idea is simple: we could instantly reduce the traffic from Redmond to Seattle in the afternoon if we gave people an incentive to do a 2-person carpool. As it stands now, 2-person carpools get stuck in the general traffic along with solo drivers, so you might as well drive solo.

Since we don’t have the lanes to work with, we need other incentives. One option would be to pay people who do a 2-person car pool. How do you pay them? I’m not sure. Maybe they stop for some kind of coupon when they get to Montlake, or maybe we photograph all the cars and then send a check to everyone (by matching license plates) whom we can verify has a passenger.

The other option is good, old-fashioned public shame. Maybe make up bumper stickers or road signs that say “I’m doing my part to make this commute better… have you found a 2-person carpool?” I’m skeptical about such a solution, but since the majority of commuters coming back from the East side work for a few large employers, the community is tightly knit enough that social pressure just might work.

At the very least, we could make it easier for slugging to occur. I’ve been waiting at the bus stop on NE 148th in Bellevue several times and had a driver pull up and offer to take two people across the bridge to Montlake. Whether that reduces traffic or just makes for emptier buses crossing the bridge, I’m not sure.


You Had Me at “Monorail”

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Folke Nyberg wants to repair the viaduct. The consensus opinion is that you can’t repair it. And even if you could, Nyberg’s suggestions strike me as… odd. For example, I’m not sure how you “accommodat[e] emergency parking on each side of existing roadways” without tearing the thing down to widen it.

But hey, in the end, he throws a bone to monorail enthusiasts:

7. Considering an extension of the monorail line from the Seattle Center to the sports stadiums alongside the viaduct, with a possible extension to West Seattle and Ballard;

So hey, how bad can he be?


Seattle Grew at 1.3% Last Year

Which also means the city got 1.3% more dense last year, the most of any year since 1968. The county grew at 1.4%, less than last year’s 1.5%, so Seattle’s share of the county’s population continues to fall, though this time ever so slightly.

The new statistics show that efforts to concentrate growth in existing cities such as Seattle are paying off, Nickels said.

“One of the secrets I think to our success to be able to battle climate change will be for cities to become really compelling places to live, because we can’t afford to have people driving 40, 50, 60 miles alone from work anymore.”

King County Demographer Chandler Felt said Seattle growth, and the lack of growth in unincorporated King County are successes of growth management.

“I think it’s pretty remarkable that Seattle is managing to grow at a comparable rate to its county and region,” he said.

Seattle now sits at 586,200, but housing is still scarce (from the PI article):

Abie Flaxman, 29, moved to Seattle from Pittsburgh last July to take a job as a mathematician at Microsoft, and found things were different here.

“Housing is the major issue in everyone’s life in Seattle,” he said. “Pittsburgh’s got houses for everybody. It’s got twice as many houses as it needs right now.”

Even with all the construction (some nine 25+ story condo towers are going to be completed by 2010, just within downtown), housing is still the major factor from density in the city. Nickels has said he wants 925,000 people in the city by 2040, which everyone thinks is completely unrealistic (including myself).

My simple excel extrapolation says that if Seattle continued to grow by 1.3% each year for the next 33, we’d hit 900,000 in 2040. To get to 925,000 we’d have to get about 1.39%, almost a percentage point higher. I have a feeling when Nickels says that 925,000 number, he is including the North Highline annexation, which would mean Seattle would only need to grow about 1.22~1.24%, depending on how many people live in North Highline (most people say 30,000~34,000). Still even 1.22% over 33 years will be tough for the city without massive development on the order we’ve been seeing continuing for years.

Seattle’s growth from 2000 to 2006 averaged 1.1%, which would be about 841,000 by 2040 without North Highline, and 890,000 with it. I bet that’s a more realistic number, but I’ll be 59 in 2040, so I wonder if I’ll care as much then. Even to get there, whole parts of the city will continue to need development. Well at least we’re growing smart, not sprawling out as much as the nation’s newest 5th biggest city, Phoenix, with 1.4 million at a density about that of Kitsap county.

Here’s a times article about the state at large.


City to help pay for SLU Streetcar

On Monday, the council approved money for the car, which has seen cost overruns. PI editorial board did not like that, feeling they were taking money away from buses.

Personally I feel like the streetcar is nothing-ventured-nothing gained project. The streetcar in Portland has attracted a lot of development, and it is preferable to buses because it is so much more comfortable and somehow seems more reliable (whether it is or not). South Lake Union already seems to be attracting tenants. Since much of the money for the streetcar (even with cost over runs) came from private property owners, I think it’s a good deal that for the city, and a nice chance to see if these kinds of streetcars will work here. Unfortunately the line is too short to be really useful (it would have to go at least to UW to be), but it could be the start of something great, or a mildy inexpensive boondoggle.


Elway Poll

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Via STB, we have our first real poll of support for the Roads and Transit package: 57% support, but only 38% had heard of it before the call. That’s surprisingly consistent with the 61% that Elway polled in April.

There will be a major campaign coming to inform people about the package in the coming months. But unless Kemper Freeman dedicates his personal fortune to defeating it, the opposition looks pretty feeble so far. The model here has to be the recent I-933 campaign, where the establishment came through with millions in donations that dwarfed the proponents. Create an aura of inevitability, that’s the next step.