Congestion Pricing on Lake Washington

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The US. Department of Transportation has selected a Lake Washington corridor project as semi-finalists for a federal Urban Partnerships grant.

The grant is to help cities mitigate construction through four “T”s: tolling, transit, telecommuting, and technology. But the emphasis of the plan is congestion pricing. Here’s a bit more from the WA State Transportation Commission’s March meeting minutes (PDF):

Favorable consideration is given if the request is for the ability to toll existing interstate facilities. The partnership is a two-way street with the federal government providing funding assistance and the metropolitan area entering into the partnership must commit to pursuing an aggressive congestion management strategy that includes four elements; tolling, technology, transit and telecommuting. The program asks that that within two to three years the metropolitan area demonstrate a congestion pricing or tolling element on an existing facility that results in measurable congestion reduction. A collective proposal is being put together that will meet the qualifying guidelines

The grant would be available within the next two years. Sounds to me like they’re considering congestion pricing on both 520 and I-90, possibly even before the 520 bridge is replaced.

Update: my instincts were right. The Times says $2 tolls could be implemented on the existing bridge within three years.


Grisly Details on the Cross Base

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The News-Tribune has plenty of info on the maneuvering inside the Pierce County Council on the Cross Base Highway and RTID.

Long story short: the Council is split: four of them (plus exec Ladenburg) have put together a plan that increases CBH funding by $160M, while the remaining three, led by Shawn Bunney, have an alternative proposal that puts more money into Highway 167 and omits the CBH. Though Bunney seems to be outnumbered, he also happens to be the chairman of the RTID’s executive board, which gives him added influence.

It’s unclear where Ladenburg is getting the $160M number. The CBH was slated to get $477M in the RTID, but would have needed an additional $100M from other sources to be completed.

As for Bunney, he’ll need to peel off two more votes to override the veto. Perhaps by putting more money into SR 167 he thinks he can pick up, say, Roger Bush (R-Graham) and Calvin Goings (D-Puyallup). But that’s just wild speculation.

The Exec Board meets at 9am tomorrow. We’ll know more after that.


The Truth About The Truth About Traffic

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

If the RTID/ST2 package fails, it will be because there’s a broad opposition that can rally support to kill it. Thus far, no such opposition has emerged. However, the Seattle P-I has been running ads online for Truth About Traffic, which seems to be a clearinghouse of sorts for various pro-road, anti-transit organizations.

All your favorite road-builders are there. They’re mostly fringe groups, including a group of San Jose-based car fetishists called the “American Dream Coalition.” Further suggesting that the site is some sort of front, it is registered to a right-wing political consultant based in Spokane.

If this represents the sum total of the opposition, it makes me even more confident that the package will pass.


Bus Links!

Someone mailed me these links: My bus shows when the next buses coming to your station will arrive, and how late/on time they are. This is the SMS (text message) version of the above.

Google Transit (the updated version communicates with Google Earth)

Public Routes a nice tool that lets you find bus routes to and from your location.

Do you have any more bus links? Post them in the comments and we’ll create a comprehensive collection.

Long Walk to University of Washington Station from 520

Carless in Seattle has pointed out that the issue of travelling between the 520/Montlake Blvd and University of Washington Station has not been resolved in the current agreement announced yesterday. It’s a pretty long distance, probably about 1500~2000 feet.

I see this as one of those unfortunate situations that won’t be solved. Maybe frequent shuttle service can be the answer?


Carless Road Trips!

This week’s Seattle Weekly has a great article about carless road trips. It has a bunch of nuggets like this (well the monorail would have been nice):

Contrary to what those monorail morons wanted you to believe, getting out to West Seattle couldn’t be easier, on the back of the mighty Metro 54. Hop on it downtown, and it’ll whisk you over the freeway and down the length of Fauntleroy Way. At about the 30-minute mark, you’ll hop off at Lincoln Park, one of Seattle’s best—and not all that heavily used by those outside the neighborhood. Its 135 acres includes five miles of trails, including a stunner that goes all along the point under a canopy of trees; it’s one of the best Puget Sound walks you’re going to find. At the tip of the point is the park’s most famous amenity: an Olympic-size, heated, outdoor, salt-water pool that’s open summer-only. The 54 runs twice an hour on weekends.

When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to bus out to Discovery Park. I think it was the 31 we took with a bit of a walk in at the end. The other option was the 33, I think, from Downtown. When I was in college, we used to go to Vancouver on Amtrak, Greyhound and Quickshuttle. We always had a blast. Have any of you guys done a successful carless road trip?


Anti-Transit Folks Make Up Numbers?

Where’s the data that backs up these claims?

[A] line to Northgate now is expected to cost at least $6 billion and to not be completed until 2016. [Ed. My sources say $1.126 billion to $1.239 billion.

A recent Seattle Times essay by former Washington Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge and former state Transportation Commissioner George Kargianis pointed out the multiple problems posed by Sound Transit’s drive to build light rail to the Eastside, across the Interstate 90 bridge, at a cost of another $6 billion. [my sources say $1.465 billion to $2.157 billion, and that’s the whole line part from Seattle to Bellevue’s Downtown]

Look, I am all for a good debate, but I’d prefer and honest one. This anti-transit guy Van Dyk seem to just make there numbers up out of thin air. Compare it with this nuanced anti-transit pro-highways article from the Reason Foundation. The difference is stark. I guess “reason” doesn’t sell as many news papers as made up numbers and sensationalism does. Well, I guess this is a newspaper that put American Idol on it’s cover five times in two weeks.

We have the second worst-traffic in the nation as a factor of time, and 1.5 million more people are expected to move here over the next 30 years or so. We need to think about how those people will live and work, and we need to be prudent about how we move people around. Unfortunately, we have one of the lowest tax burdens in the country and because of this we haven’t been able to afford the necessary improvements to replace our post-war infrastructure that is now mostly 50 years old or more. Instead of scare tactics designed to frighten people, let’s be reasonable with our arguments for and against transit.


Yet Another Anti-RTID editorial

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

One, two, and now three makes a trend.

This one comes from Ted Van Dyk, a former P-I columnist. Here Van Dyk rehashes anti-rail arguments he’s been making for years. The thrust of his column is one we’ve heard before: rail just won’t work here.

Moreover, light rail is a technology appropriate to flat areas where commuters move from high-density residential areas to workplaces concentrated along the rail line. Commuting patterns here are far more diffuse. The southern leg of the approved line did not have stations at the airport, The Boeing Co. or Southcenter.

One can always come up with reasons why Seattle is uniquely unsuited for this or that solution. As Dan Savage is fond of saying, “just like rapid transit can’t work here and taking out an elevated freeway can’t work here and bike commuting can’t work here and urban density can’t work here. Seattle is exceptional in each and every respect.”

But Seattle’s geography is as much asset as liability. “Flat areas” also lend themselves to sprawl, whereas Seattle’s hilly, water-logged geography makes it naturally more dense and transit-friendly. Rail systems have been built in far less hostpitible environments.

Van Dyk concludes with a facile comparison to the Big Dig, giving us pause by insulting our intelligence relative to our friends on the opposite side of I-90:

Light rail’s projected costs dwarf the Big Dig’s. It is not too late to change the regional package in favor of valid transportation investments. There is one important difference between the Big Dig in Boston and Sound Transit light rail here. In street-smart Boston, folks recognize more quickly when they’ve been had.

Sorry Mr. Van Dyk — buses ain’t gonna cut it. Rail’s going to be messy and expensive, but we don’t have a choice. In 50 years, when we’re looking at a post-carbon economy, our kids will thank us for the investment. It’s time to stop taling and start building.


Relative Burdens

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The Washington Policy Center’s Michael Ennis is cited by the P-I as a critic of the upcoming RTID package.

Isn’t it strange that the P-I would have someone write an op-ed dissing transit, and then, just days later, cite him as the only source in an article complaining about the cost of the package? I’m all but certain the P-I will end up endorsing the RTID, so I don’t want to accuse them of an anti-RTID agenda, but what’s up with the all-Ennis-all-the-time thing?

Anyway, Ennis complains about the “burden” on families of a $286 tax. To put that in perspective, the Iraq War (which Ennis’ comrades at the Heritage Foundation strongly advocated for) is costing families somewhere between $4,100 and $20,000 per household.

P.S.: Carless in Seattle has more on Ennis’ op-ed and the real cost of freeway expansion.


Measuring Support

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

With all these editorials coming out opposing the RTID/ST2 package, you’d think that the fall ballot measure was doomed. But I’m still optiimistic.

Here’s why: the folks who put it together have done their polls, like this one that shows strong support for transit. They made the risky move of dropping the Cross Base Highway to gain support of environmentalists.

Most significantly, the Sound Transit Board was presented with three options for ST2: low, medium, and high investment (a .3, .4, and .5% sales tax respectively). Not only did they choose the most expensive option, they doubled down and pushed rail almost all the way from Everett to Tacoma. it’s a very aggressive, expensive package. Not exactly the kind you’d put together if you were concerned about political support.

In other words, politicians are generally risk-averse. They wouldn’t be going the full monty here unless they were confident that the support was there. Could it fail? It’s certainly possible. Stranger things have happened in Washington politics. But it would take down so many careers with it that it’s hard to imagine the political elites not bending over backwards to salvage it.


Metro’s 40/40/20 rule

A month ago I mailed King County Exec Ron Sims about Metro’s 40/40/20 rule that was put in place in Metro’s last six-year-plan. The rule basically indicates that 40% of new Metro service should be created on the Eastside, 40% in South King County and only 20% in the city. When I read about it, it seemed unfair to me since the city is 35% of the county’s population. I asked Sims whether such a rule would be put in place in King County’s next six-year-plan for Metro and here’s the response I recieved:

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for your email of May 21, 2007, to King County Executive Ron Sims, regarding the 40/40/20 percent policy addressing the distribution of new Metro service hours between the Eastside, South King County and Seattle/Shoreline subareas. Executive Sims asked me to respond to you on his behalf. This is a policy that has caused a great deal of controversy and confusion, but it has been supported by a majority of King County Councilmembers.

As background, it’s useful to know the existing distribution of service hours between subareas. Currently, approximately 64 percent of Metro’s service hours are allocated to serve the “west” subarea that includes Seattle, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, which comprises about 35 percent of the county’s population. The other two subareas share the remaining 36 percent. Seattle has a greater share of service per capita primarily for historical reasons. When Metro was formed it absorbed the established Seattle Transit, which had an extensive route system and frequent service. Prior to Metro’s formation there was meager transit service in the suburbs.

Since the entire county contributes to Metro transit, there is a desire in the East and South subareas to gradually improve the level of transit service to get closer to the higher baseline for service that Seattle enjoys. It is easy to understand their point of view. The 40/40/20 policy, which addresses only new service added to the system, is intended to achieve a more even balance of service hours per capita between subareas over time.

It’s also easy to understand concerns in Seattle and Shoreline, where ridership and expectations for service improvements continue to grow, especially as gasoline prices have increased. This is one reason the Transit Now program established a “service partnerships” program. Metro can now provide matching funds to leverage investments by local jurisdictions and/or public/private partnerships in service or speed and reliability improvements that benefit transit. This program was created in part to allow Metro to respond to emerging transit demands and desires for a higher level of service than the baseline we provide county-wide. Some of the funds Seattle authorized through the Bridging the Gap initiative may be spent to add service in Seattle under the partnership program.

At this point, Metro does not plan to recommend reconsideration of the 40/40/20 policy; however, the County Council is due to revisit transit policies over the coming year, and if you want to pursue the issue further, you may want to contact your representative on the King County Council or the Council’s Regional Transit Committee.


Kevin Desmond

General Manager

Metro Transit Division

cc: The Honorable Ron Sims, King County Executive

De’Sean Quinn, Director, Council Relations, King County Executive Office

Harold S. Taniguchi, Director, Department of Transportation (DOT)

Victor Obeso, Manager, Service Development, Metro Transit Division, DOT

David Hull, Supervisor, Service Planning, Service Development, Metro Transit Division, DO


University of Washington Station One Step Closer

Today, Sound Transit and the University of Washington have announced an agreement with regards to Light Rail. Some details are:

Elements of the proposed agreement include:

  • Establishes an interim terminus for Link light rail at the University of Washington Station located near Husky Stadium and the UW Medical Center.
  • Supports Sound Transit’s construction plans for tunneling operations running south from UW to Capitol Hill.
  • Identifies at least two public entrances to the underground University of Washington Station with at least one entrance located north of Northeast Pacific Place and the Burke Gilman Trail.
  • Sets construction timelines for work on the campus not to exceed 66 months.
  • Sets specific monitoring measures for magnetic field and vibration thresholds to protect UW research facilities during light rail operations.
  • Provides $20 million to the UW for property to be used for current and future Link light rail construction and operations easements.
  • Provides $10 million to the UW for the permanent loss of up to 100 parking spaces at

  • Husky Stadium and the temporary use of approximately 600 parking stalls for construction staging.
  • Provides $5.2 million to UW for its design review and approval, potential relocation plans, construction coordination and participation in the review and approval of light rail operating plans.

People always ask why light rail takes so long. There are a lot of reasons, some financial, others technological, but another big reason is that Sound Transit works had to make sure most people in the community are happy with the project. Good or bad, it’s all a part of building a huge system in a region where no one can agree on anything.


Husky Stadium a Done Deal

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Months of negotiating between Sound Transit and the UW culminated today in a final deal on the Husky Stadium light rail stop. UW was concerned about losing up to $68 million during construction, equivalent to a 30 percent drop in attendance.

Though Sound Transit says it “does not compensate businesses for revenue losses from construction,” the UW will be getting about $35 million in exchange for UW property, planning assistance, and use of the parking lot as a staging area.

Of course, potential revenue losses depend on how good the Huskies are. All the construction mitigation in the world won’t help the team if, well, they suck, admits UW athletics director Todd Turner:

“I don’t know. It depends on how good our football team is,” he said. “If we have a Rose Bowl-caliber team, it might be on the low end. If we’re just average, 30 percent loss in attendance might be low-balling it.”

Indeed. Not much Sound Transit can do about that.

What they have done, it seems is come up with a bunch of steps to make the impact as small as possible, given the loss of some 600 parking spots and a 6-acre construction site in the middle of the the parking lot.

2016 is the date most often bandied about for the UW extension, and this press release seems to indicate that that’s still about right. Construction on the extension could begin in “late 2008,” and is “not to exceed 66 months.”


Light Rail in the Holy City

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

You think it’s hard getting Bellevue and Redmond to agree? Try building a light-rail line in Jerusalem:

Running about 15 kilometers, or nine miles, from Mount Herzl in southern and predominantly Jewish Jerusalem to Pisgat Ze’ev, via Shuafat, in the north, it touches on one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the ownership of the city that both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital.

Forty years ago this week, Israel conquered the eastern, Arab-populated half of Jerusalem from Jordan and declared that the city would be united for eternity.

The government expanded the city limits to take in outlying Palestinian villages, like Shuafat, and annexed them. The Palestinians were offered Israeli citizenship, but most refused, calling the occupation of the land illegal, and chose permanent residency instead.

The Israelis, of course, are still hoping that Tim Eyman will show up and lead them to the land of $30 car tabs.


When Suburbs Fight

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Bellevue and Redmond are dukeing it out over the proposed East Link light rail. If Bellevue gets the tunnel it wants through downtown, then there’s no money left to run the train all the way to downtown Redmond. Above are the current proposed route options (PDF) through downtown Bellevue. Black = tunnel, red = at grade, blue = elevated.

As you can see, the closer you get to Bellevue Way — arguably the main drag — the more attractive the tunnel becomes. Positioning it closer to 405 would seem to make more sense, though, since you’d be able to hook up with people transferring from, say, a Kirkland or Renton bus line. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more cost/benefits as time goes on, but for now it seems perfectly reasonable to me for an at-grade or elevated option through Bellevue, especially if you move it away from the downtown “core.” Of course, as we all know, moving it from the core could hurt ridership, since people will be less excited to walk from 405 to Bellevue Way. But it’s not a far walk, and unlike downtown Seattle, it’s a relatively flat one.

It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses.


Cars Vs. People

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Ok, so I’m a little late in noticing it, but this is a really big deal:

Last week, the state’s project manager for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, David Dye, told a surprised city council that the state department of transportation was “looking forward to… working with the city and the county to really fully develop the surface/transit option” for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. What the state learned from last year’s election, Dye said, is that “if we continue to define the problem in the way we’ve defined it”—as the need to move cars, not people—”the solutions likely won’t change. We need to take a fresh look at the whole arterial network and how all those pieces fit together with substantially enhanced transit and freight mobility.”

What changed? Besides the election, in which voters rejected both waterfront highway options, the law itself was literally rewritten. Last session, the state legislature quietly adopted a bill that could have huge implications for road projects across the state. The legislation redefines roadway “capacity” to mean a road’s ability to move people and goods—not cars.

A while back I lamented the fact that the state DOT was so car-centric. This is a huge big shift in the opposite direction. Props where due.

(Via CIS)


No Net Loss of Lanes on I-90 due to Light Rail

Three weeks ago, I wrote about an anti-transit editorial that had the capacity loss on I-90 as one of its main arguments against ST2, because the link light rail will go through what is now the HOV section. The argument was that the loss of lanes from putting trains through the HOV section of the bridge would decrease overall car capacity.

However if you look at this graphic, ST2 will add one HOV lane in each direction on I-90 while removing the two HOV lanes in the center; thus there are no net lanes loss. And when you consider that almost half of the traffic across I-90 travels away from the city, you can see that the two HOV lanes travelling in just one direction is not as efficient as the two lanes in opposite directions. Basically 5 lanes in one direction versus 3 lanes in the other is only preferable if 65% or more of the traffic is going in one direction. However if almost as much traffic is going in each direction, it makes little sense to have more lanes in one direction. So with ST2, traffic and vehicle capacity on I-90 may be more than without it, and certainly people-moving capacity will increase. Isn’t that supposed to be the definition we care about now anyway?


Don’t Be a Victim of Traffic

Over at I Am Seattle Traffic (where I co-blog) there’s a great piece about what exactly traffic is:

Something occured to me the other day and that may or may not be obvious to everyone else: Each day’s traffic is new.

Think about it. Traffic isn’t something that just exists and we join and leave it each day. It actually stops existing every night, and then the next morning it begins fresh again. We create repetitive traffic with our routines and jobs, so it gives the illusion of a constant problem.

We choose every day to create traffic. It is a decision we make to get into our cars (usually alone) and search for a somewhat-less-congested route to work. We are actively contributing to traffic simply by being on the road. Even if you are riding the bus to work, you are still creating traffic, albeit less than if you were driving.

It’s important to think about congestion: it’s the fault of all the people on the road, including you! They are the people who have created the traffic.