Speaking of Beacon Hill…

According to this PI article, Beacon Hill station needs to be moved 88 feet because of water, and that will increase cost and may delay the opening of the line as much as two months from the original July 2009 start date. Almost a million dollars has been put into a “contingency account” because of this.

Beacon Hill station has been more expensive than anticipated before:

Beacon Hill costs also have increased prior to Thursday.

The biggest contract for the Beacon Hill work was $294.6 million being paid to builder Obayashi Corp., up from an original price of $280 million. Obayashi and Sound Transit are negotiating over another $20 million contract.

In 2003 and 2004, the agency increased Shannon & Wilson’s Beacon Hill consulting fees by more than $3.4 million.

This is a good lesson for Sound Transit when considering the other underground stations that will be built for the Link System over the next ten years. Beacon Hill is certainly the deepest, most complex of these, but there are a lot of similarities in terms of scope relative to the University Link.

Even with the problems, it seems that Sound Transit is sincere about delivering what it has promised:

Other delays, including a shutdown after a fatal construction accident at the site in February, could hold up by two months the opening of the section between downtown Seattle and Tukwila, according to an agency progress report for March.

To prevent that, Sage said, the agency is trying to get subcontractors to complete work on part of the station ventilation system a few weeks earlier than planned and is pressing other contractors to complete electrical signaling and communications systems early as well.

Agency spokesman Geoff Patrick said Sound Transit still expects to open the line to Tukwila by July, 2009.

Awesome! They seem to be doing a fabulous job.

STB Answers Your Questions!

Sam, in the comments of my post about Double-Decker buses, asked if the double decker buses differ much vis-a-vis articulated buses in terms of fuel efficiency. I posed that question to Martin Munguia, Community Transit’s public information officer, and here’s his reply:

The double decker gets slightly better gas mileage than the articulated buses. Our articulated buses get about 4-5 miles per gallon, while the double decker, according to the manufacturer, get about 4-6 mpg, on the higher end while on the highway, which is largely where our bus will be driving.

Of course, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison since we have
history with the artics (cool bus-people talk for articulated buses – ed.) on our routes and no such history with the double decker yet. Over the course of our yearlong lease fuel efficiency is one element we’ll be watching.

Five vs. six is actually a 20% increase in fuel efficiency if they get it, but it looks to be about the same. I also asked Martin whether boarding times would be longer and here is his response:

If you’re talking about a capacity crowd boarding or deboarding at the same time, say at a commuter park & ride in the morning, the answer is yes [they would be longer]. Rather than getting on the bus and heading straight to the back to sit down, as on an arctic, people will get on the double decker at the front and decide to go up the stairs or stay downstairs, as well as whether to sit in the front or rear.

When boarding or deboarding in traffic, there will not be as many people getting on at the same time, but it still could take longer as some people will go upstairs to sit, or come from upstairs to deboard. There is a camera at the front of the top deck so the driver can see if someone is coming is standing and won’t start moving until that person is either seated or makes her way off the bus. This is the primary reason this bus will not be used for local service.

In the commuter situation, boarding in the morning and deboarding in the afternoon will not add significant time, maybe a couple minutes.

So it’s a small trade off.

I also asked Sound Transit about the safety in Beacon Hill Station, since there will be only elevators (and emergency stairs) to get people to the surface. Jennifer Lemus responded with the below.

When light rail opens, there will be a very visible security presence – this is similar to what Sound Transit did on the Tacoma light rail project. Security personnel may ride on trains, as well as patrol the Beacon Hill Station’s underground platform, aboveground plaza, and elevators. The Beacon Hill station itself has been designed to provide good sightlines and lighting, so as to avoid creating dark corners where crime could occur.

So the station was designed with security in mind. It also looks like Sound Transit is doing their due dilligence on planing with local law enforcement.

This design has been extensively reviewed with City of Seattle Police and Fire Departments. Other security elements in the station design include closed circuit television cameras, panic alarms, and intrusion alarms. Before the station opens, Sound Transit will conduct a threat and vulnerability assessment for the station, including talking with neighbors and reviewing crime statistics. Neighborhood activism (i.e., citizen Block Watch) will also make a difference in helping maintain a safe environment

She also attached a document about safety on Beacon Hill Station. However, due to techincal limitations of blogger (can’t upload pdfs), I am unable to share that with you. I will try to figure out a work-around.

On Naming Stations

I like how Sound Transit has decided to give the stations names that describe the neighborhood instead of names of streets as has been done in some places. I guess you can only confuse one California or Western station with another if you, you know, actually have more than one line (we don’t have any yet). But if we ever do get that first line we might get a second…

More Wi-Fi for Buses!

I am really late on this, but Metro has rolled out Wi-Fi to more buses in the Seattle Area. The 255, 644, 197 and selected trips on the 952 have Wi-Fi. Sound Transit has Wi-Fi on the selected 545 and the Everett-Seattle Sounder Commuter rail. The 545 is my route so I am really happy about the service.

Metro has teamed up with Sprint Cellular and Junxion, Inc., a Seattle-based mobile connection provider, to offer Wi-Fi service on 48 buses serving the four transit routes. (Wi-Fi service on the Route 952 will be limited to the last trip in the morning and afternoon.) The Junxion boxes have been outfitted with a cellular air card allowing passengers to use their laptop computers or Wi-Fi-enabled devices to access the Internet.

The Wi-Fi is basically like mobile phone wi-fi, so it switches towers as you travel. This works fine for surfing the web or checking email, because these protocols are stateless, meaning the data is transmitted and the connection is terminated. It doesn’t work as well for something that requires a persistant connection, such as remote desktop or ssh, but you’re on the bus what can you expect! And only geeks like me use those things anyway.

Good work Metro and Sound Transit, Wi-Fi is great and I wish you would roll it out to every bus.

First Hill Streetcar

Today is Streetcar day here at STB. I read this article from Friday about the Streetcar up to Aloha, then browsed over to CHS where he suggested I write about it. Unfortunately, my grandmother died over the weekend and her funeral was yesterday, but I guess better late than never.

For background, the Link Rail was originally going to include a stop in First Hill, but due to technical reasons, this had to be dropped, and a streetcar from the ID to Capitol Hill through First Hill was proposed. The route (map to the left) will take advantage of the proposed Jackson street extension (map to the right) to the existing Benson Line to cross I-5, where it would go up 12th Street, the up Boren and connect to Broadway. The First/Capitol Hill Streetcar had its plan extended to Aloha street from where it was going to end at East John Street. According to the analysis by Sound Transit, this adds an extra 500 round-trips a day to the 3000 they were already expecting for the East John terminus.

They were looking at about $117.3 – $134.9 million for the East John Street terminus, and according to the email I got back from Sound Transit, extending it to East John adds about $12 million to the final price tag, and extends construction another month. Six blocks a month seems like a bad deal to me, as Portland was able to build one block every three days when they built Max, but everything seems to be slower in Seattle.

Foot Ferries?

The PI today ran a story about the possible rebirth of passenger-only ferries in the Sound and even Lake Washington. Apparently the success of the Elliot Bay Water Taxi, the coming traffic hell, and the development of Puget Sounds westside has people thinking back to the days of the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet. Also, the state would like to get out of the business of running passenger-ferries, and King County Metro or Sound Transit would take up running the ferries.

Some words of caution from me: (1) The Water Taxi works because it runs in the summer when it is most fun to take a ferry, (2) all transit projects lose money and passenger ferries would be no exception, (3) if 520 is so dangerous during a windstorm, imagine a passenger-ferry on Lake Washington.

All in all it’s a fine plan, but I think the focus should remain on off-grade trains.

Sound Transit expanding expansion plans

It looks like sound transit will expand its plans for light rail further than expected. The expanded light rail plan will start south of the Tacoma Dome, near where the existing Tacoma link line is now, and stretch all the way out to Mill Creek in Snohomish County. The previous plan was only to Fife and Lynnwood, and they were thinking more about Everett than Ash Way. They’d also include a line out to Bellevue and Overlake, which would likely improve my commute a bit.

They are also looking into a rail corridor on the current Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway on the Eastside. BNSF wants to sell the strip, and King County wants obtain it by having the Port of Seattle buy it, and then trading them Boeing Field. The county would wants to turn the land into a bike trail now, and later possibly investigate rail there. Boeing field would probably turn into more of a passenger airport (which Southwest has wanted for sometime, Beacon Hill residents be damned) since now it is used mostly for cargo, charter flights and private jets. Apparently if that deal falls through, Sound Transit wants to look into buying that land and making it a rail corridor from Renton to Woodinville. Hopefully they’d be smart enough to have connect with the current “Central Line” either somewhere in the city, maybe Columbia City, or at least in Tukwila.

Critics, having lived through the monorail disaster, are concerned that Sound Transit is not being realistic about the cost. I agree that Sound Transit hasn’t actually finished much of anything yet, but they have had success keeping their schedules so far, and those lines look ready to go at or around the dates they have mentioned. My big issue is the timeframe they are talking about. Why would the expansion to Ash Way in Snohomish take to 2027? That is twenty years from now! BART in the Bay Area was built in way less time than that, included a trans-bay tube, those distances are way farther, and technolody is much better now than then.

Well whatever, better late than never. More later. Vote yes on that initiative!