City Council Position 8
City Council Position 8
The Sound Transit Board approved a $10 million settlement agreement with Mercer Island after residents lost special access to Interstate 90 due to the expansion of light rail. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, a Sound Transit board member, cast the only dissenting vote during the board’s June 22 meeting.
“As a fiduciary of this organization I’m not going to be able to support this today,” Strickland said. “We have to look at things such as equity and fairness.”
“Some of this agreement does include the mitigations we would make, but it’s not a $2 million settlement, it’s not a $4 million settlement, it’s not a $6 million settlement, it’s a $10 million settlement,” she added. “In the world of Sound Transit maybe that’s budget dust, but we are setting a precedent. It’s not about the amount, it’s about setting a precedent, despite the fact that we, Sound Transit, keep winning in court.”
In February the Mercer Island City Council voted to sue Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) after the town lost special access to I-90’s high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to make room for light rail. Mercer Island drivers would now have to abide by the HOV-2 standards. Mercer Island argued that a 1976 agreement provided them with lasting rights to HOV lanes, while WSDOT said that single-occupant vehicle (SOV) access to HOV lanes was intended to be temporary, and allowing continued SOV use of HOV lanes would violate federal law and jeopardize funding agreements.
Bellevue Councilmember and Sound Transit board member Claudia Balducci defended the settlement, calling it fair, reasonable, and the board’s responsibility after conditions changed and Mercer Island was no longer able to retain the same access to I-90. [Read more…]
Eastside bus riders, feeling the slow-down from traffic congestion, have already begun taking advantage of the quick ride the Link Light Rail offers, transferring to the train at the University Washington Station to head downtown.
“It’s just six minutes from UW to Westlake on the train,” said Ted Day, a transit planner for King County Metro, during an open house presentation on June 19 near the UW Station. “That’s incredible. There’s no other way you can do that, except in the air, and I don’t know many people who own helicopters.”
“People are already adapting, getting on the Link at the UW Station to come downtown,” he added.
King County Metro and Sound Transit, preparing for increased congestion on Seattle’s streets on top of the closure of the Downtown Transit Tunnel to buses, are planning a major restructuring of Eastside bus routes for 2018.
This is the first restructuring of Eastside buses to facilitate better connections to light rail, the transit agencies plan to funnel downtown-bound Eastside bus riders to the UW Station. The restructuring would then free up buses that would have been entangled in downtown traffic, allowing the agencies to expand services to new areas and increase the frequency of buses throughout the day.
Three options were presented:
The June 19 meeting was sparsely attended with most participants wandering in after seeing signs posted for the event. For many attendees of the open house, either alternative option would improve their commute due to the expanded services to SLU and north of the University. The main difference between the two plans is with option b buses would be more frequent while option c allows for better connections for new service areas.
Participants were asked to rank the options, the most popular was option b, focusing on increasing frequency of buses. Riders acknowledged that transferring to link when heading downtown will eventually be faster than traveling by bus.
Jonathan Dubman, a transit rider who has advocated for better bus-rail connections at the UW Station, wants to see the transfer experience improved.
This is an open thread.
Together, Metro routes 3 and 4 form a critical bus corridor connecting the Central District, First Hill hospitals (including Harborview), downtown, Belltown, and Seattle Center. The segment between downtown and Cherry Hill is one of the highest-ridership parts of the Metro system, with standing-room-only buses running every 5 to 7 minutes during the day. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the less reliable segments, almost entirely because of traffic delays on the short part of James St that the routes use. That part of James includes a major interchange with I-5, and suffers from gridlock during most afternoon peak hours.
For years, Metro has studied moving routes 3 and 4 from James to much less congested Yesler Way, only between 3rd and 9th Avenues, to address the problem. (Our own Bruce Nourish suggested the move in 2011, and Metro staff were already on it then.) The move wasn’t practical, though, until SDOT completed its Yesler Bridge Rehabilitation Project, after which the bridge will accommodate trolleybus overhead. Now that SDOT’s project is nearing completion, Metro is formally proposing the move, and has provided a survey to complete.
Metro’s own analysis indicates that the move would save up to four minutes per trip during afternoon peak hours. Notably, this is average saving per trip, which masks some much longer delays (to which I, a semi-regular route 3 rider, can testify). Bruce’s chart below, based on historical Metro data, shows how much more consistent Yesler was in 2011—before recent increases in I-5 traffic. The very worst trip on Yesler was more than six minutes quicker on average than the worst trip on James, and several other trips on Yesler had a similar advantage. Today, the differences would even be greater, given higher volume on James.
Moving routes 3 and 4 to Yesler would be a huge benefit to Harborview, First Hill, and Central District afternoon commuters. It would also substantially improve transit service to Yesler Terrace, which is expected to add around 5,000 residents (including over 1,000 net new low-income residents) and several employers within the next few years, but has only a half-hourly bus to downtown. The move does have one downside, though. The stretch of James Street that would lose service includes several of the steepest arterial blocks in the city, and access to some destinations along James could get more complicated. Although only two stops would lose service, at 5th and 8th Avenues, each serves some major destinations. The stop at 5th serves core King County and Seattle government buildings, including Seattle City Hall, King County Administration, and King County Jail. The stop at 8th serves the Jefferson Terrace public housing complex, with about 350 residents, and Northwest Harvest’s Cherry Street Food Bank. We have already heard objections to the move on the basis that the walks from 3rd or 9th Avenues to these destinations are too steep for some users to manage.
These objections are overblown, and do not justify subjecting the great majority of riders to long and unpredictable afternoon delays. Most of the James Street destinations remain accessible. Between them, the King County Courthouse and King County Administration buildings allow a flat, fully accessible passage from 3rd to 5th Avenues, which in turn allows access to the other government buildings along 5th. There is also transit access to 5th and James along very frequent Sound Transit routes 512 and 545, with fully accessible connections in both the Westlake and International District areas. Jefferson Terrace has an elevated, accessible entrance along Jefferson Street that provides easy access to 9th Avenue bus stops, which will continue to be served. The only major destination of concern is the Northwest Harvest food bank. It would be worthwhile for Metro to work with Northwest Harvest to determine how many food bank customers are unable to walk from 9th Avenue bus stops, and find a solution for those users (for example, a routing change for Solid Ground’s free circulator on days when the food bank is open).
If you use routes 3 and 4, we encourage you to take Metro’s survey and help Metro implement this time- and hassle-saving change.
All ST service was higher or flat (ST Express decreased by 13 riders/day) in April of 2017 than a year earlier. With University Link opening in March of 16 this is the first full month with U-Link numbers. However Angle Lake didn’t open until September of 16 so it is not fully apples to apples.
Average daily ridership for Link in April was:
Other weekday modal ridership stats:
My charts after the break.
Lynnwood Link, which we last saw in 30% design last November, has now reached 60% design. An open house for 145th and 185th Stations was held on May 24. Mountlake Terrace Station will have an open house June 28th, and Lynnwood Station sometime in the fall. Travel times from Lynnwood are featured on the project page: 20 minutes to UW, 28 minutes to downtown, 60 minutes to Sea-Tac airport, and 60 minutes to Overlake Transit Center. The rest of this article will focus on 145th and 185th Stations.
ST has a new kind of online open house site at lynnwoodlink.participate.online. Each page has renderings above and a comment form below so you can refer to the information as you type. There’s a row of circles below the image; be sure to click all the circles to page through all the renderings. The comment period will be open through the Lynnwood open house. Unfortunately the site doesn’t have all the information that was on the slides and posters in the Shoreline open house. That should be motivation to attend future open houses.
145th Station still has the bus turnaround loop at 148th. My biggest concern is there’s only one lane into the station for both buses and cars. Both will turn left into the station and then on for a half-block before they separate, buses to the turnaround, cars to the garage, and other cars to a separate turnaround to drop people off. I’m concerned about cars getting in the way of buses there, and wondering if they need separate lanes. However, more lanes means more asphalt and ugliness.
By Josh Benaloh
Last week I read with great interest Dan Ryan’s excellent post on the proposed refinements to the Redmond Link Extension that is expected to begin service in 2024. As a resident of Redmond and former chair of Sound Transit’s Citizen Oversight Panel, I have followed this process intently for more than a decade. The process has been open, and every step along the way has been reasonable and justifiable; but it may be a good time to take a step back and consider whether we’ve landed in the best place.
The 2011 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) considered several possible light rail alignments through downtown Redmond including the E2 preferred alignment (shown above) and the E4 alignment (shown below).
These two alignments take very different paths through Redmond. The E2 travels from Overlake along SR-520 to Southeast Redmond and then hooks back along the BNSF railway corridor to a terminus in downtown Redmond. The E4 departs SR-520 much earlier—west of the Sammamish River – goes directly to downtown Redmond and then follows the BNSF corridor in the opposite direction to a terminus in Southeast Redmond.
In 2006, while the EIS process was underway, Redmond endorsed the E2 alignment as the only way to reach the Redmond Transit Center (RTC). By the time the EIS was complete in 2011, Redmond and Sound Transit had abandoned the goal of reaching the RTC because it would have added at least $100-200 million to the cost. However, a “preferred” version of the E2 route was selected – largely because it came closer to the RTC than any of the alternatives.
Last month, Redmond and Sound Transit presented a set of proposed refinements which improve E2 further by moving the Downtown Redmond Station location and elevating a portion of the alignment. While these refinements are very reasonable, it is interesting to note that the newly proposed station locations precisely coincide with those considered in the E4 alignment.
So, given that the refined E2 now reaches exactly the same station locations as the original E4, it is appropriate to compare the two options.
When Sound Transit put together their plan last year, more South Sounder service was an important component of building a winning coalition. However, the number of train trips purchased for a certain amount of money is subject to negotiations with BNSF. Last spring, ST exec Ric Ilgenfritz was optimistic that there would be more specifics to share with the public before the election.
That was not to be. “We pursued a path to have specifics in ST3 vetted with BNSF, but it wasn’t feasible to complete because BNSF has been clear that additional service will require capital projects,” said ST spokesman Geoff Patrick. “There hasn’t been intensive work” on this issue since they abandoned hope of an early agreement.
So what are the next steps for South Sounder? First, this September will see a ninth peak round trip and third reverse-peak round trip, the last of the ST2 trips. The published plan says no more than that new trips will roll out between 2024 and 2036. (!) In this period, the first priority in the South Sound will be Link because “in public involvement, Link was the greatest focal point” and the Board allocated early resources accordingly, with Link reaching the Tacoma Dome in 2030.
However, ST will hire consultants, probably in the next year, to formulate a strategy for engaging BNSF. It’s hard to say what the timetable is for reaching an agreement without that strategy in place. The extension to Dupont is firmly planned to open in 2036. Patrick says the third piece of the plan — extending platforms to accommodate longer trains — may move around as needed to accommodate whatever timetable is feasible to add trips.
The negotiation process is not simply a bid on how much money to hand over to BNSF. Instead, ST is offering to make capital improvements, in particular segments of adjacent track, to allow additional runs without undue impacts to BNSF freight operations.
For several months, a group of King County cities and other stakeholders have been meeting as part of a Regional Transportation System Initiative (RTSI). Their goal is to identify a funding solution for County roads and regional arterials in King County. A Technical Committee is working to define the scope of the regional roads network and its unmet needs. An Elected Officials Committee had their first meeting last Tuesday, considering a strategy for a regional package with funding options that could be authorized by the Legislature in 2018.
The RTSI is convened by Sound Cities Association (SCA) and King County. SCA represents the cities of King County other than Seattle. Seattle staff are also participating. Other staff support is provided by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC).
While billed as a transportation system initiative, what is taking form is a roads program. As described by SCA, “while significant investments were recently approved for the larger system of freeways, major highways, and high-capacity transit, there remains a significant funding shortfall to address mobility and maintenance on the system of principal arterials, state routes, and collector arterials that connect communities in King County”.
The Technical Committee identified a draft regional network of some 1,366 center-line miles of King County roads. These comprise principal arterials (32%), minor arterials (54%), other freight routes (2%), frequent transit routes (6%), and county-designated arterials (6%). Those categories overlap so there are, for instance, other frequent transit routes within the principal and minor arterials.
It will be up to the Elected Officials Committee to define funding options, and to take those to the Legislature in the 2018 session. Their preferences have not been publicly discussed, but a County-wide Transportation Benefit District (TBD) is preferred by rural members of the King County Council and some mayors. TBDs have limited taxing authority, and could levy up to 0.2% sales tax and $100 MVET with voter approval. The intent to work with the Legislature suggests higher taxes or other funding sources. [Read more…]
A recent presentation on One Center City / Convention Center expansion construction plans teased the possibility of an off-board payment zone on 3rd Ave all the way from Jackson St to Denny
Ave, with all-door boarding. King County spokesperson Scott Gutierrez quickly threw cold water on the tease by pointing out that the plan amounted to adding RapidRide-style off-board ORCA readers at each bus stop on 3rd Ave, as an additional payment option, all-door boarding, cash payers still paying while boarding at the front, and random fare enforcement on all the buses that traverse 3rd Ave.
The county is considering other measures to reduce the impact of front-door fare payment by (1) buying out the ORCA card fees for cards distributed at county facilities and possibly other facilities in King County; and (2) eliminating the zone and peak surcharges on Metro buses.
Policy changes like eliminating paper transfers, having a cash surcharge, and making the cash fare an even $3 appear unlikely to be proposed, much less stomached by the county council. Even if they were, they still wouldn’t eliminate the impact of front-door change fumbling on 3rd Ave. Nor does it appear likely that Metro or the council will expect everyone to get an ORCA card and keep it filled with ORCA product in order to be able to board on 3rd Ave.
There is another way to remove front-door fare slow-downs on 3rd Ave, and it is something that’s been used before, to great effect: a Ride Free Zone (RFZ).
The problems with the original RFZ included excessive dwell time waiting for passengers to push to the front and pay as they exited, and the mass confusion of when people were supposed to pay while boarding or wait until alighting. Thankfully, Metro’s plan to deploy fare enforcement on all the 3rd Ave buses, but not necessarily on 3rd Ave, helps solve that problem.
A new RFZ would deliver the additional benefit of moving fare enforcement off of 3rd Ave, where it would be difficult to do on crushloaded peak-hour buses.
Those paying with ORCA will be able to tap a reader on 3rd Ave before boarding, board at any door, and then exit at any door when they reach their destination, with or without an RFZ.
Last week Seattle released a much-anticipated draft of the environmental impact statement for the Mandatory Housing Affordability program, which allows developers additional height in exchange for building a certain amount of affordable housing.
Three scenarios were analysed: one taking no action, and two slightly different plans for distributing the increased development capacity around 27 neighborhoods in the city. All options would leave most single families areas unchanged. No action is expected to result in “substantially less affordable housing” and “less market-rate housing supply,” according to the report. Alternative #2 implements zoning changes using existing growth patterns. Alternative #3 directs more growth to areas with a low displacement risk and easy access to transit, jobs and public amenities.
In other words, with alternative 3, neighborhoods such as Wallingford, Fremont and Ballard would see larger upzones and an expansion of the urban village boundary, allowing denser development, to areas within a 10-minute walk of frequent public transit. In the second plan, areas deemed to have a high risk of displacement and low opportunity, such as Rainier Beach or Othello, would receive less-dramatic upzones and smaller extensions of the urban village boundary.
Implementing either proposal would create roughly the same number of affordable homes — estimated at 5,500 — and generate 95,000 total units of housing over the next 20 years. The plan of no action would generate only about 200 affordable units and 77,000 new homes, remaining consistent with the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan.
With all scenarios expected to impact the region’s transportation network, the report identified “reducing the share of SOV travel is key to Seattle’s transportation strategy.”
The One Center City plan for handling near-term disruption in Seattle downtown transit and traffic grinds forward. Anticipating the end of bus operations in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, staff are narrowing down the options. At last week’s advisory group meeting, we learned several project elements that are moving forward, and some that are not. It’s not clear whether the pared down program of operational improvements will be enough to prevent a substantial deterioration in service performance.
Meanwhile, the exit of buses from the tunnel, previously anticipated for September 2018, is likely to be delayed. On Monday, the King County Council Committee of the Whole approved an amendment delaying Metro’s vacation of Convention Place until at least March 2019. If the Convention Center doesn’t have its permits by June 2018, or if WSCC is not ready to take over the site by September 2018, then joint operations could continue until at least September 2019. The delay might allow another look at One Center City options that need more time for implementation.
What has been dropped?
The earlier proposal to terminate ST 550 at International District Station was dropped because of adverse impacts to riders compounded by East Link construction elsewhere on the route. The closure of the D2 roadway in late 2018 mean route revisions remain necessary, but the 550 will be operating through downtown on surface streets once the tunnel closes. It is not expected to operate on 3rd Avenue.
This is an open thread.
Several open houses are scheduled for the public to learn about new service on the SR 520 corridor. The first is on Wednesday evening in Kirkland, with others to follow through the rest of the month.
A particularly interesting opportunity is the open house at UW Husky Stadium on June 19. As well as the regular open house exhibits, staff members will guide tours of the bus-rail transfer experience.
Another way to participate is through the online survey which is open until June 30.
As we reported last week, Metro and Sound Transit are seeking public input on several service options on the SR 520 corridor following the closure of the downtown bus tunnel and other service-impacting changes. The revisions being considered will end most direct service to downtown Seattle across SR 520, but increase frequency and service connections on the Eastside.
Open house details after the jump.
East Link to Downtown Redmond is scheduled to open in 2024, and the Sound Transit Board will update its preferred alternative on June 22. “Concept refinements” are now being considered. These are minor updates to the alignment including changes to station locations and the vertical profile of the guideway. Redmond last week approved a letter to the Board setting out what they hope to see.
In Downtown Redmond, a public process early this year considered four options: elevated vs at-grade, east (between 164th and 166th) vs west (between 161st and Leary). The Downtown Transit Integration (TRAIN) Study (large pdf), and public response, prefer the “East Elevated” option. That places the station opposite the Redmond Town Center parking garage. It allows easier bus-rail transfers because buses could approach both sides of the station, eliminating most street crossings for transferring riders. The shorter guideway for the East option reduces by several blocks the impacts to the Redmond Central Connector trail, and elevating the guideway eliminates vehicle and pedestrian conflicts if gates were opening every four minutes at peak.
Redmond’s second ST3 station is in Southeast Redmond in the Marymoor area. Here, the city prefers an at-grade alignment. Both affordability and trail connection considerations figured in that choice. [Read more…]
Due to construction on the University of Washington campus, several King County Metro and Community Transit bus routes, as well as ST Express 540, will be diverted off Grant Lane and Stevens Way on weekdays for the next two weeks, as well as for the weekend of June 24 and 25.
Eastbound, routes 75, 78, and 372 will serve:
Metro route 277 and ST Express 540 will skip their campus loop, and just serve their regular stops on Campus Parkway, 15th Ave NE, and NE Pacific St, plus a temporary drop-off-only stop on inbound runs at the flagpole on Memorial Way.
All six Community Transit UW routes (810, 821, 855, 860, 871, and 880) will loop around campus clockwise, using three of its normal stops, serving:
Bruce Engelhardt contributed to this post.
Small lots with straightforward and flexible zoning allows a diversity of housing types, mixed with retail and offices, that are affordable to more people. The video creator made a correction on statistics but his point remains valid.