Transit & Skiing

I just got back from a ski trip to the Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah is known for its world-renowned skiing, and the powder was great. But, while there, I never stayed in any of the Mountain Villages, or fancy hotels, rather than Park City or Deer Valley, I stayed in Kimball Junction and Cottonwood Heights. Both towns, suburbs of Park City and Salt Lake City, respectively, center largely around budget accommodations, suburban office parks, etc. But, the real unique thing about this trip was one of the things that really impressed me about the resorts in this area. All 6 resorts (Park City, Deer Valley, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird) had quality bus connections, running all winter, 7 days a week, at up to (or above) 15 minute frequencies. Park City, a town with only 8,300 people, has 14 bus lines, including multiple with 15 min or more frequency. Cottonwood Heights, a part of Salt Lake County has 3 “ski bus” lines, all running at 15 min headways during peak periods, part of the Utah Transit Authority’s ski bus system, with 9 lines serving 5 ski areas, and connecting SLC and the town of Park City.

Park City

Park City, one of the most well known ski towns in the US, home to the Utah Olympic Park, and main venue of the Salt Lake City Olympics, has a fare-free transit system, with many routes across the area, serving the many base areas of the nearby ski resorts of Deer Valley & Park City, sectors of the main town, and suburban areas. The town of Park City has been at the fore-front of ski towns fighting Climate Change, pledging to remove their carbon footprint by 2032, through programs including Electric Buses, solar and wind farms creating a renewable energy grid for the town and surrounding ski areas, and land preservation, fighting the continuous development of a ski town running out of snow. This year has been especially bad on the surrounding ski resorts, grass & rocks continue to poke through the snow, many trails and areas remain closed due to lack of snow. Ironically, Vail Resorts, the owner of Park City Mountain Resort, the largest and most prominent ski area in the region, continues to fund Anti-Climate Change Politicians and PACs advocating against Climate Regulation.


Little & Big Cottonwood Canyons are home to some of the most legendary skiing in the world, though the two most prominent ski areas, Alta & Snowbird are home to much smaller ski towns, which can hardly be called towns at all. Cottonwood is actually located in the general Salt Lake City area, and therefore relies on the Salt Lake City Regional Transit Authority, or the Utah Transit Authority, UTA for short. UTA runs ‘ski buses’ which run on higher fares, and have special ski racks inside them. The buses generally run from one transit center near the city center, then visit multiple small park and rides, which usually only are served by ski buses, before heading to the ski areas (usually serving two ski areas, and then heading back along the same route. The buses run all day in both directions, at peak (towards the mountain right before opening, and towards town around closing) have 15 min headways. Hotels in the area have small shuttles that run to the park & rides, helping visitors use ski buses instead of driving.

Now, you’re probably thinking, why is this guy writing an article about Utah Ski Buses in a Seattle Transit Blog? Well, I think Utah has set a wonderful example. The Seattle Area is home to 3 ski areas within 2 hours, receiving massive visitation, some among the top 15 in the country. Summit at Snoqualmie, at the county line of King & Kittitas Counties, Crystal Mountain, in Pierce County, & Stevens Pass, which has all of its base facilities in King County, but a few lifts reach over into Chelan County. Sadly, largely due to the fact our county borders rely heavily on Mountain Passes, public transit access to these ski areas would be difficult, and that is one big reason it is yet to exist today. But, I’m hopeful. King County Metro already runs buses to North Bend (the closest town to Snoqualmie) & Enumclaw (the closest town to Crystal Mtn) & Community Transit runs buses to Gold Bar, but not to Skykomish, the closest town to Stevens Pass, largely due to the fact that Highway 2 dips into King County there. All of the ski areas are outside Sound Transit’s district, so new bus routes would have to rely on local transit networks.

King County Metro Route 960

This route will run from Eastgate P&R or Issaquah Transit Center (Eastgate would yield better connections to existing services and less connections, while Issaquah would offer a shorter ride time and still ensure a 2 seat ride from Downtown Seattle vis the 554 until East Link opens) or from South Bellevue Station (once it opens) via Eastgate Freeway Station & Issaquah Transit Center (once East Link opens this option will be the only option with a 2 seat ride from Seattle). You could start this bus from Seattle, which would be ideal for passengers bring skis and other equipment, but would result in a longer ride, and a more difficult starting point. It will stop at (optional stops italicized): Preston Park & Ride, North Bend Park & Ride, get off at I-90 exit 54, Summit East/Nordic Center, (daytime only) Silver Fir (daytime only), Summit Central, Summit West & Alpental. It could easily stop at the current Snoqualmie shuttle stops, and as an incentive for Snoqualmie to support the project, could serve as a replacement for the shuttle, having a quick layover at Alpental and turning back to the Seattle area via all 4 base areas. The route will run from December 5th to April 1st (possibly earlier with closing dates tentative). It would likely start Weekends only, and another special route (possibly 963) could be made for weekday travel, as Summit East is closed all weekdays (except Holidays), Summit West is closed Monday-Tuesday, & Night only Wednesday-Friday & Alpental is closed Monday.

King County Metro Route 961

This route will run from Enumclaw to Crystal Mountain. It may stop in Greenwater, or other places along the way. While the route would be in Pierce County much of the way, it could just be viewed as an Enumclaw Community Shuttle service, serving King County. It could be extended Northwest to a largely Transit Center to connect with Seattle/Eastside transit riders such as Auburn, Kent, or, optimally, Angle Lake/Tukwila Intl Blvd Link Station. Less realistic due to the distance of Crystal Mountain and lack of proximity to civilization or King County.

Community Transit/King County Metro Route 962

Hopefully a cooperation from the two, would travel through both counties from Lynnwood or Everett Station to Monroe to Stevens Pass. Can supplement existing Community Transit 270/271. Again, less realistic due to distance factor and transfers. Bringing skis on a commuter route up to Lynnwood or Everett could be difficult. Would travel through Snohomish & King Counties.

So, that’s my article. In conclusion, ski buses can help supplement one of the few currently almost car-only activities. Our ski areas already face overcrowding issues, and parking issues, with Stevens Pass even rejecting further skiers due to Parking Lots becoming full before the place even opens. This solution could have drastic positive effects for both the ski areas and skiers. Even if my plan is downsized to just serving park and rides for skiers to provide extra parking for the ski areas, it would help take cars off the road and help overcrowding issues.

Trouble on Paradise Lake

This field off SR 522 is the planned site of a 360-unit apartment development.

Some years ago, I lived in a residential community east of Woodinville. It’s a typical late 1970s subdivision with houses on acre-lots surrounded by tall trees; the kind of place where deer graze in the yard by day and bears sometimes visit by night. After the Growth Management Act was adopted in 1990, the neighborhood was miles outside the King County Urban Growth Boundary. Zoning was amended to RA-5, effectively freezing pre-GMA development in place with five-acre minimum lots.

The neighborhood backs onto Paradise Lake Road, a winding rural road into Snohomish County. It was startling, therefore, to learn last week of a large apartment development on 17 acres of farmland alongside that road. The project comprises fifteen three-story apartment buildings with 360 apartments. Other than a church and middle school across the road, it’s a low density rural area with older homes on large lots.

A drawing of the proposed apartment complex shared by the developer at a meeting on Wednesday evening.

The rural area, it turns out, is bisected by the Maltby Urban Growth Area (UGA). It’s a long sliver of “urban” area along SR 522, mostly light industrial uses on the north side of the highway as it snakes up the hill from Woodinville toward Monroe. Five miles beyond Woodinville, the UGA was extended in 2005 for a church construction on Paradise Lake Rd. A neighboring landowner asked to be included in the urban area. For obscure reasons, the Snohomish County council agreed and rezoned the farm as Planned Community Business (PCB).

The zoning also allows multifamily. Hence the peculiar sight of fifteen three-story apartment buildings in a pocket of UGA surrounded on three sides by R-5 zoning, the 5-acre minimum lots that are designed to prevent development into the rural areas.

It is denser than many new developments in exurban Snohomish County, and will provide more homes than a comparably sized single family subdivision. More affordable too; though many residents will face long commutes, rents are about half the level of core urban markets. But it’s a textbook example of density in the wrong place. The only businesses are a pair of gas stations at the highway intersection, so every errand will involve driving. Roads lack lighting and sidewalks. The 720 parking spots required reflect a realistic estimate of the mode share and traffic impacts. The only bus in the area is the twice daily CT 424 which passes, without stopping, on SR 522.

The Maltby UGA extends for several miles along SR 522. ‘Urban Industrial’ uses are in purple, and ‘Urban Commercial’ in red. Pale green indicates rural areas outside the Growth Boundary. (Source: Snohomish County Future Land Use map)

What’s happened on Paradise Lake Road is an extreme instance of the development pressures along the edge of the UGA in Snohomish County. Around North Creek and other unincorporated communities around Bothell and Mill Creek, single family home development is booming. Land use is so inefficient that developers estimate they will soon run out of land within the UGA. Proposals are being floated to extend the UGA between Bothell and Mill Creek two miles east as far as SR 9 Woodinville-Snohomish Road.

What’s happened on Paradise Lake Road is an extreme instance of the development pressures along the edge of the UGA in Snohomish County. Around North Creek and other unincorporated communities around Bothell and Mill Creek, single family home development is booming. Land use is so inefficient that developers estimate they will soon run out of land within the UGA. Proposals are being floated to extend the UGA between Bothell and Mill Creek two miles east as far as SR 9 Woodinville-Snohomish Road.

Development on the rural edge generates severe traffic congestion, but is too sparse to support a significant transit share. Snohomish County’s Comprehensive Plan classifies Paradise Lake Rd and two dozen other rural arterials at “urban traffic levels”. LOS standards should act as a brake, preventing growth from running ahead of transportation capacity. In Snohomish County, low LOS standards permit low-intensity development to sprawl for miles into recently rural areas.

At two well-attended meetings this week, neighbors expressed frustration. Having been caught unawares of the 2005 rezone, their hopes may now depend on traffic issues. Paradise Lake Rd is the last signal-controlled intersection on SR 522 between I-405 and Monroe. A $100 million flyover is planned, but funded only for design (and only after 2025). Though local traffic congestion is severe, it does not yet appear to put the area in arrears under the LOS standard. The developer anticipates breaking ground in late 2017.

North by Northwest 63: Barring Rep. Dave Hayes Amendment Passing, the Tri-County Connector Will Die 31 July

Black & White of an Island Transit 411W at Oak Harbor
My photo of an Island Transit Route 411W Tri-County Connector

On 22 May 2015, the Island Transit Board made the gut-wrenching decision that due to Island Transit’s fiscal troubles, the lack of state support and the refusal of Skagit Transit to serve to Deception Pass to unless Representative Dave Hayes’ amendment passes stand down the Tri-County Connector on 31 July.  That means no Island Transit service not just to March’s Point, but also no Island Transit service to Skagit Station in Mount Vernon.  Island Transit will however serve North Whidbey in a limited way up to Deception Pass and provide services for Camano Island residents to link to Stanwood & Community Transit services flowing from Stanwood to points south.  Overall, although Island Transit Boardmembers were audibly if not visibly distraught at making this decision – and there’s video below, without the Hayes Amendment to provide some state funding connected to charging a fare, the money is just not in Island Transit coffers to provide linkage services between Whidbey Island & Camano Island.

To spare our Seattle Transit Blog e-mails as I too am on e-mail subscription, I’ve put in a Read More jump below.  Also figure some of you may not be interested…

Continue reading “North by Northwest 63: Barring Rep. Dave Hayes Amendment Passing, the Tri-County Connector Will Die 31 July”

North by Northwest 47: Tomorrow’s A Big Game Day for Community Transit…

Photographing a Departing Community Transit SWIFT Bus
My photo of a Community Transit Swift I bus


HB 1393 – the local option – for Community Transit has a first hearing tomorrow in the House Transportation Committee for HB 1393 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4 at the John L. O’Brien Building, House Hearing Rm B.  It’ll also be on TVW.

So if you use transit in Snohomish County or care for your Snohomish neighbors, please go here and request passage of HB 1393.   If HB 1393 passes, voters in Community Transit’s service district will get to vote up or down on a 0.3 percent sales tax hike.

So where would the money going to go?  Fair question:

  • Swift II
  • More commuter bus runs from Snohomish County to Seattle
  • Extended Community Transit run service periods
  • Increased bus service hours for all of Community Transit’s runs
  • More service for Paine Field – provided the bus stops get built…

For Community Transit, after this June’s rebound into Sunday hours and a few route adjustments – “current forecasts indicate that any new service hours added in the next few years are likely to be taken up by schedule maintenance—adding time to current trips because their actual travel time is getting longer.”  So we transit advocates can forget about Swift II, service to Paine Field – possibly in lieu of a light rail diversion, or just about anything else on a Community Transit wish list.  HB 1393 – is must pass as much as, if not more than ST3.

Oh and one last thing… 1800 Hours tonight, House Republican Chairman Dan Kristainsen who represents a nice swath of Snohomish County (and my Skagit) will hold his tele town hall w/ his 39th LD seatmate Rep. Scott.  Make sure to call into (360) 350-6256 at 6 PM tonight the 3rd and ask to please support HB 1393.  Or you could please also go here please and request passage of HB 1393 via e-mail please.

Community Transit Looks Forward to Brighter 2015

The last few years have not been kind to Community Transit or riders in Snohomish County. The Great Recession forced the largest cuts in the agency’s 39-year history, every winter has cancelled Sounder North runs, and the Oso mudslide interrupted bus service to Darrington for several months. Despite these setbacks, Community Transit will be able to welcome 2015 with open arms, with several major events planned.

Sunday and Holiday service restored

Proposed Sunday service (Photo by Community Transit)
Proposed Sunday service (Photo by Community Transit)

This month, the Community Transit Board approved the addition of 27,000 hours of new service, of which 18,000 are to be used on Sundays and holidays. The June 2015 service change, five years to the month after the cuts to Sunday service, will bring hourly Sunday service on major routes and 20-minute headways on Swift.

To fund the new service, Community Transit will be raising their adult and DART fares by 25 cents effective July 1. The increased fare will bring the cost of a round-trip on commuter routes from Marysville, Stanwood and Snohomish to a staggering $11 for adults.

Continue reading “Community Transit Looks Forward to Brighter 2015”

Transportation Benefit Districts are Back From The Dead!

Marko Liias’ HB 2855 is back in the special session! It’s been modified, though, so it would offer King, Pierce or Snohomish the opportunity for up to a $50 vehicle license fee with a public vote. Martin’s noted in the past that $40 would be enough to patch up Metro’s budget hole, and it’s certainly a good start for Pierce or Community Transit.

This bill will likely be on the floor today, and this is probably your last chance to take action during the session. If you want Sunday service back in Snohomish County, there are two things you can do (as usual) – call your own legislator, especially your representative, and call Speaker Chopp’s office to ask for a vote. (Bryan’s pointed out the District Finder)

Remember, every time your legislator hears that you care about this, even if they’ve already heard once or twice before, they’re reminded that people care about transit. We’re going to remind them of that all year!

A Modest Fare Proposal

Sound Transit Fare Zones

The last fare thread had a lot of complaining about differential fares between agencies.  And although ORCA is intended to smooth over that complexity, in ideal world similar service would cost the same on each agency.

Judging from the comments, people seem to think this is really important.  An interesting way to judge the actual priority people are willing to give an issue is to trade it off against other priorities.  As it so happens, people hate fare increases, and given widespread budget crises there’s no way agencies are cutting fares.  So here’s a thought experiment that gives everyone the fare parity they value so highly, while also raising some cash for transit:

  1. Everyone adopts the Sound Transit fare zone map, with a new fare zone created for Snohomish County outside the ST district.  Other outlying areas can be absorbed into the adjacent fare zones.
  2. The unified fare system adopts the highest fares at each level.  For adults at peak times, that’s $2.25 1-zone, $3.50 2-zone, and $4.50 3-zone.  Off-peak, it’s $2.00/$2.50/$3.00.
  3. If you like, raise Link fares 80 cents and .5 cents a mile to match Sounder.  Use the same structure for the SLUT and Tacoma Link.
  4. Form a regional fare board to approve all future fare changes.

Longtime readers know that I don’t wring my hands much over fare increases to plug the budget gap, because a large part of the burden is actually borne by employers and the federal government.  What reservations I do have would be swept away by a more systematic way to get reduced fare passes in the hands of people who need them.  On the other hand, I’m not convinced the reduced complexity would really be worth the ridership declines you’d create.

More on the License Fee Amendment

[UPDATE 8:45pm: The legislation page says the Senate has officially “refused to concur” with the House amendments, which moves the bill to a conference committee back to the House, where it can “insist” or not.]

If you’re interested in why the Pierce and Community Transit relief passed, Metro relief didn’t, and the license fee’s overall prospects in the Senate, please read Erica Barnett and Larry Lange.

Briefly, Metro didn’t have enough votes.  Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen is likely to kill what did pass, allegedly to enlarge the coalition for a broader transportation measure next year.  Pierce Transit’s reserves don’t run out until 2012, but a measure signed into law tomorrow is unlikely to spare Community Transit residents at least a few months of drastically reduced service.  Whatever agenda Ms. Haugen has, she’s clearly willing to sacrifice the mobility of Snohomish County residents to achieve it.

Joyce Eleanor on CT Cuts, Fare Increases

Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor made this video to explain directly to riders what the service cuts and fare increases are going to be. She focuses specifically on the reasoning behind “suspending” all Sunday and holiday service rather than spreading it over all days.  Unsurprisingly, Sunday is the weakest ridership day, and by eliminating almost all overhead on Sunday the system loses significantly fewer aggregate service hours than the alternatives.

The annual shortfall is about $11m.  $500,000 will be made up by the 25 cent DART and local service fare increase.   CT spokesman Tom Pearce says a rise to the commuter fare (already $3.50-$4.50 for adults) was not seriously considered because

Our commuter fares [are] among the highest in the region. Many riders choose to use Sound Transit service instead of ours because it is cheaper*. We decided that raising commuter fares again could price us out of the market and reduce ridership further.

The remainder of the shortfall is equivalent to 100,000 service hours out of CT’s total of 610,000 (including vanpools and paratransit).  This would amount to a cut in bus service of well over 17%.  However, the equivalent of 20,000 hours will be saved by shutting down all support operations on Sunday.  Therfore, 80,000 hours of actual bus service is going away, of which 28,000 hours are Sunday and Holiday “suspensions.”  Those suspensions will be restored as soon as the revenue situation allows, although Pearce declined to speculate on when that might occur. The other 52,000 hours are deep weekday and Saturday cuts that are unlikely to be restored for the forseeable future.

Community Transit essentially has no additional revenue options, although they continue to scrounge for grants.  They levy the maximum 0.9% sales tax, and the property tax authority that King County recently exploited derives from a statute that specifically applies only to King County.

It’s worth pointing out that CT’s actual cuts are proportional to the 20% armageddon that threatened King County last year before Kurt Triplett cobbled together a plan to minimize them.

Part 1 of this video, which sets up the general revenue situation and will be familiar to readers of this blog, is below the jump.

H/T: “Community Transit Operator”

Continue reading “Joyce Eleanor on CT Cuts, Fare Increases”

Community Transit Proposing Fare Increases & Service Cuts

To plug a $11 million budget gap, Community Transit is proposing a 25-cent fare increase along with service cuts and suspensions.  The biggest blow to riders is a proposal that would effectively suspend Sunday and holiday service. For the past two years, the agency has been limiting budget cuts in non-service related areas with the exception of a 75-cent fare increase back during the summer of 2008 when fuel prices peaked.  If approved by the CT Board, the changes will go in effect in June.

Nearly all of Community Transit’s 64 local and commuter bus routes would be affected in an effort to eliminate service that is duplicated by other providers, streamline routes and make existing service more efficient. The agency is also proposing to suspend all service on Sundays and major holidays, including DART paratransit service and Swift bus rapid transit. By closing its base on these lower ridership days, the agency achieves 47 percent of the proposal’s savings with only 35 percent of total service hours cut and an impact to fewer customers.

The proposed fare increase would raise local bus and DART fares by 25 cents for all fare categories: youth, adult and reduced fare (senior/disabled/Medicare). Even with the proposed fare increase, Community Transit’s local bus fares would be comparable with other local transit fares in the region. The proposed fare increase would raise about $250,000 in the second half of 2010 and $500,000 in 2011.

Community Transit has a page up for exact route-to-route cuts and suspensions as well as more information on the fare changes.  The agency is also holding five public meetings over the course of January to keep its riders informed about the changes.

Jan. 12, 5:30-7 p.m.
Snohomish County South County PUD office, 21018 Highway 99, Edmonds

Jan. 14, 6:30-8 p.m.
Marysville Library, 6120 Grove St., Marysville

Jan. 19, 10 a.m.-noon
Everett Station Weyerhaeuser Room, 3201 Smith Ave., Everett, on the fourth floor
This meeting will focus on impacts to DART paratransit customers.

Jan. 20, 5:30-7 p.m.
Monroe School District Administration Building, 200 E. Fremont St., Monroe

Jan. 26, 6:30-8 p.m.
Mountlake Terrace Library, 23300 58th Ave. W., Mountlake Terrace

McGinn Nominates New Head for SDOT

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has nominated a replacement to head the city’s Department of Transportation. Peter Hahn, currently deputy public works administrator for the city of Renton, faces confirmation by the city council.

This blog previously editorialized that the new Mayor should keep Grace Crunican, who has done an excellent job moving the city’s transportation department toward a sustainable, urbanist agency. She was a hot potato during the Mayoral election for her department’s troubles in responding to the 2008 snowstorms and announced her decision to resign last week. She will stay on board for three weeks after Hahn begins work at SDOT on January 19th to help transition the agency to its new leadership. Hahn is expected to actually head the agency beginning February 5th.

The scale of Snohomish County’s public works department — which Hahn used to administer — isn’t much less than SDOT, The Stranger reports. While SDOT has 750 employees and a $310 million budget, Hahn’s current group has about 650 employees and a budget of $200 million. Still, we don’t know much about Hahn’s views on public transit, complete streets, and other policy positions that are important to us. We for now safely assume that he will take his policy direction from the Mayor, who is no slouch on sustainable transportation.

A good sign is Hahn’s taste in women. The P-I reports that Hahn’s wife, Mary McCumber, is a board member of Futurewise — a progressive group focused on TOD and sustainable growth — supported the Surface/Transit Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement option when she was a stakeholder on that project and was executive director of PSRC for 12 years.

Meeting Roundup: Meet Your New ST Board Chair (he now has a goatee)

Several notable things happened at the December 10th Sound Transit Board of Directors meeting, Greg Nickels’s 378th(!) and last.  You can watch the video or check out the motions online.

  • Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon is the new Sound Transit Board Chair through the end of 2011.  Reardon has been County Executive since 2004 and may be best known to STB readers as someone who bargained hard with Nickels to get light rail to Snohomish County included in ST2.  Andrew Austin has much, much more on this.  Lakewood’s Claudia Thomas and Issaquah’s Fred Butler are the Vice Chairs.
  • The staff briefly discussed the three new, post-DEIS, downtown Bellevue options: C9T, a tunnel under 110th Ave.; C9A, a surface route on 110th; and C11A, an at-grade alignment on 108th Ave.  The cost and ridership estimates are supposed to be done by the end of January, with Board discussion in February and a decision on this segment on March 11th.  The Board allocated $15,000 for the staff to include Kevin Wallace’s 114th Avenue elevated alignment in this work.
  • The Bellevue City Council, while not changing their preferred alignment, asked the Board to study the Wallace proposal, and also asked for an one-month extension of their expiring six-month deadline to come up with a funding plan for a downtown tunnel.
  • The Seatac ceremony, according to ST CEO Joni Earl, starts around 8:45 am on December 19th.  The first train from downtown to go all the way to Seatac with passengers will arrive right around 10am.
  • Issaquah Councilmember Fred Butler sponsored an amendment to the budget directing the ST Staff to study the introduction of fares to Tacoma Link and report to the Board by June 30, 2010.  ORCA n0w provides an infrastructure that would reduce the cost of collecting fares; up to now, staff has estimated that fare collection would cost more than the revenue collected.
  • The board adopted a scope control policy which states that the primary project objectives are “cost control, ridership and operational efficiency.”  In other words, Sound Transit isn’t going to gold-plate stations just because a City asks for it, especially if it isn’t in the EIS.
  • According to Joni Earl, government agencies have right of first refusal to buy the rest of the BNSF Eastside corridor should they be put up for sale.
  • The last hour or so of the video is a tribute to Mayor Nickels, winner of the American Public Transportation Association’s Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member for 2009.  We’ll comment more on this later, but it’s a useful reminder of everything he has done for the region, going back to 1988.

First Swift Ridership Numbers

Photo by Wings777
Photo by Wings777

When talking about Link ridership, I’ve said time and time again that monthly ridership totals are basically meaningless.  We won’t have meaningful information till the end of 2010 at the earliest, and preliminary conclusions about the line’s “success” or “failure” can’t be made for at least a decade, when development has had a chance to occur.

But people love the horse race, so for entertainment purposes only, 1,526 people rode Swift on Monday.  That’s compared to a daily SR99 corridor bus ridership of about 4,500.  Ridership probably wasn’t helped by the fact that there are no paper transfers between Swift and regular CT service — it’s ORCA, or pay twice.  Regardless, CT spokesman Martin Munguia says “street teams are reporting more people riding Swift than at the same time yesterday.”

As always, the real test will be what kind of construction occurs in the coming years.  The land use in this corridor is a total disaster — think strip malls behind massive parking lots, all the way up*.  Will Snohomish County residents and developers accept a different principle on which to organize their communities?  Is a BRT line enough to spur that?  We’ll get to find out.

*with apologies to Central Everett, which isn’t like that.

BRT Primer

This morning I looked into my crystal ball and I foresaw an epic, week-long discussion about all things BRT. I could be wrong, but if I’m right I think it would benefit all of us to take a bit of time to refresh our knowledge. In this vein I created a list of articles I have been reading relating to BRT over the last few weeks as well as some scholarly reports and practitioner guides. Please share info you have as well but only if it relates to BRT, and is not a comparison of whether BRT or rail is better. Comments along those lines are off-topic. We can have that discussion later this week but please not in this post. Thanks.

So here is my list.

Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) is probably the most authoritative source on transit related research. Its mission is to aid practitioners in making informed and fact based decisions. TCRP has 3 relevant reports on this subject, all of which are worth a quick skim over. At the very least take a look at the tables.

More after the jump

Continue reading “BRT Primer”

Snohomish County Service Change

[UPDATE: Commenters are referring to the same Everett transit site that I linked to below, as if I didn’t know about it.  However, it is NOT a list of changes, unless someone wants to go through each schedule route by route and compile the differences.]

On Sunday we’ll be tweeting from the Swift Opening, which we’ve already discussed.  However, Nov. 29th will also be the day of the next service change for Community Transit and Everett Transit.  Big changes:

  • Route 114 eliminated, with the trips moved to the 116.
  • Route 100 eliminated, cuts to the 101 (to be replaced by Swift)
  • Elimination of the downtown Everett loop.
  • CT 177 becomes ET 70X.
  • ET adds other routes, renumbers everything.  I wish they’d published a summary of changes somewhere.

Curb the Congestion Club

I’m sure that everyone that reads here takes transit (right?), but if you have a friend or family member that commutes by car in Snohomish County you might be able to enroll them in the Curb the Congestion Club, a Community Transit program that chips in $54 in a bus pass or vanpool voucher in December.

By referring a driver, you yourself can receive a $25 reward.  The eligibility is kind of complicated so click over to the website to check it out.

Metro’s Low-Income Programs

While interviewing Metro GM Kevin Desmond for last week’s Metro budget crisis series, I had an opportunity to ask him for details about the low-income fare assistance program that I’d always heard hints about.

For many years, Metro has sold ticketbooks to over 100 human services agencies for 20% of their face value.  Metro depends on these agencies to get them in the hands of the needy.

The other 80% is budgeted as “lost revenue” for Metro, though of course there’s no telling how many of those would have turned into fare-paying rides.  In 2008 this “subsidy” amounted to $1.3m, or $1.6m in total ticket value.  According to Desmond, this funded 79,000 ticket books containing 1.2m tickets of mixed denominations.

A full list of those receiving human services agencies is below the jump, copied directly from a Metro-provided spreadsheet.
Continue reading “Metro’s Low-Income Programs”

What Worries Me

I-90 Crossing (Sound Transit)

[UPDATE: See excerpt of Board selection rules at the bottom.]

In our Greg Nickels endorsement, we alluded to the possibility of some sort of Sound Transit crisis in the future, the idea being that we would have wanted Nickels in a position of power should that happen.  Now, with Nickels out and either McGinn or Mallahan receiving an automatic virtually assured seat on the Sound Transit board when they take office, it’s important to recognize why establishment support for ST is necessary.

Although it’s the opinion of this blog that Sound Transit is a very well-run public agency, there are three basic things that could cause serious problems for the buildout:

  1. The Economy. Sound Transit got a AAA credit rating by being conservative about allocating its revenue streams.  That said, a weak recovery in sales tax revenue would put further pressure on the agency’s budget, and Japan-style stagnation could make it very hard to achieve all the Sound Transit 2 objectives.
  2. Tunneling. Sound Transit’s sole tunneling experience — through Beacon Hill — was not a happy one.  They were on schedule, barely, despite a huge amount of padding in the plan.  It may have been a problem with that particular contractor, but it bears watching as they begin a much larger tunneling project to Roosevelt, and possibly under Bellevue.
  3. Political Risk. We’ve covered this a lot before, but there are still powerful interests not at all pleased with having to give up the express lanes on I-90, or that seek to extract transit funding for use on state road projects.  Moreover, there are still plenty of people who self-identify as transit advocates who think that reorganizing transit agencies is a good idea.  This kind of maneuver, which has support in the legislature, would wreak havoc on ongoing projects.

There’s no reason to be overly alarmed about any of these potential problems, because they haven’t yet materialized.  And, of course, all large infrastructure projects have risk.  Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to assume that we can doze off until 2016 without making sure that the right leadership and the right politicians are in place.

Because there’s some confusion on this in the comments, the relevant Sound Transit Board selection policies are below the jump. Continue reading “What Worries Me”