Weekend Open Thread: Improving Aurora – Seattle Transit Blog

2022-09-09 21:16:50 By : Ms. Theresa Liu

This is an open thread.

It’s really hard to change a road that has so many different functions and different trip lengths on it. Sometimes I think it’s better not to burden a single street with every possible function — and instead look at a corridor more holistically and more broadly (a few blocks on either side). It doesn’t make sense to try to squeeze in everything with less than 100 feet!

What should be “in”? What happens to the needs that are pushed “out”?

It’s time to make out transit more welcoming for the houseless. What can we do to make our trains and buses attractive to our houseless neighbors

1- Free transit without the need of on ORCA card. If you are houseless, you should be able to board any train our bus without ORCA for free.

2- Designated safe consumption seats for safe drug use. Used needle receptacles on all buses and trains.

3- Designated night buses and trains for the houseless to sleep in at night, especially when the weather outside is harsh.

4- Supportive caring and loving drivers that will help feed and provide needed medical care to the houseless.

Why? What about transit’s primary purpose of transportation? All these can be done at non-moving sites.

We have 1 and effectively 3 already. The homeless qualify for free ORCA Lift cards, and the Night Owl busses were mainly full of quiet, sleeping homeless people not using any drugs as far back as the late 1990s.

You forgot bathrooms on transit. Or at least a designated area to go the bathroom, even if just a hole in the floor. There are few bathrooms in Link stations which is why some go the bathroom in elevators or on escalators and few public bathrooms along Metro routes.

This is a real issue if there are no restrictions on transit and station access. Someone going to the bathroom on a bus makes it unusable for others and probably costs thousands to clean. That driver still has to be paid while the bus or train is out of device to be cleaned.

I have to imagine needles or drug paraphernalia found on transit also requires pulling that bus or train out of service so it can be cleaned and sanitized. Not unlike going the bathroom in a public pool. My suspicion however is Metro and ST don’t really do the sanitizing that is necessary, and wait until the end of shift.

I would like to see a video about exactly what cleaning protocols are followed if someone goes the bathroom on a bus or needles are found on a bus that obviously carry very serious health risks.

“There are few bathrooms in Link stations which is why some go the bathroom in elevators”

There are few public bathrooms throughout the city or suburbs. People would use on-land bathrooms if they existed. Because they don’t, people use station infrastructure AND non-transit alleys and garbage cans and sidewalsk. Seattle has installed a few porta-potties to at least mitigate it somewhat, but there are far too few and people don’t know where they are. And I’ve seen a few deep in single-family neighborhoods. I don’t know whom they expect to use those, because anybody walking there would be a resident or visitor.

I’m glad to see there is excellent internet connectivity under the Aurora bridge.

Is this “snark” or do you really believe such drivel? If “B” then don’t expect anything except derision and scorn here. If “A”, you have a future in subtle comedy, but not in transit planning.

Are you serious or trolling? If you’re trolling, shame on you. If you’re serious, here’s my take:

1. Free transit may or may not be a good thing depending on local context. However, I doubt it will be good for Seattle as it will encourage harmful (not all homeless/houseless people are harmful, BTW) people to ride more and prey on others.

1A. AIUI, the difference between “homeless” and “houseless” is that homeless people sleep in the street or in shelters, whereas houseless people own cars and sleep in them. The term “houseless” came about because car sleepers often considered their cars a “home” but not a “house”.

2. While I actually would support something like the safe injection sites in Vancouver, a transit vehicle is not a safe place for such a thing, either for the user or for other people.

3. Why do there need to be designated night buses and/or trains to sleep in? There is usually unused capacity on already running buses and trains, and homeless people can and do sleep on them. The only thing that should be done in this regard is to rescind the rule that technically disallows this (even though it’s not enforced as is). Transit isn’t a shelter, so should not have to run extra buses *just* for sleeping; that is just silly.

4. Bus/train drivers should focus on driving, not providing food or medical care. I agree that in an ideal world they should love and care about the public, including the homeless, but no judge, no court, no police, no social worker can make love appear where it’s not.

Bonus: Liberal doesn’t have to mean loony or stupid.

ACABDefundSPD, SawantSupporter, Mark, and a few other names, are all the same person, and is obviously concern trolling. One of “Mark’s” comments …

“Mark APRIL 26, 2022 AT 11:42 AM People should be allowed to do drugs safely on transit. Transit should offer harm reduction options for drug addicted riders. By giving out free needles on buses and trains, including special trash receptacles to dispose of used needles. We should encourage transit as a safe place to use your drugs.”

I won’t be arguing with a troll. And I am 99% sure that was a troll comment.

With that being said: Nobody that has a choice is going to want to sleep on a city bus.

They do it because they don’t have other options.

Why not advocate for providing housing, including low barrier housing.

I love the idea of safe consumption on buses. We need to stop criminalizing drug use. Drugs of all kinds must be allowed in transit. Criminalizing drug use is part of the white patriarchal system we must destroy!

I’m all for safe consumption sites, but the point of the sites is that they’re basically clinics, staffed with trained medical personnel and with actual medical equipment both for testing drugs and also dealing with overdoses. Our transit routes should certainly serve them but they should not be them, any more than they should have pantries and kitchens for people with food insecurity.

Why are you responding to these trolls.

It is an interesting video and I watched all 15 minutes. I thought the history of Aurora was very good. But there really isn’t a plan at the end, but a hope for a plan, probably because it is a monumental undertaking.

A couple of fundamental points I saw are:

1. Aurora began as the main north/south state highway before I-5. So the monumental task is to convert an historical highway that is now a highway/stroad to a “main st.” when retail is already suffering in Seattle.

2, This video focuses on 83rd to 160th. Bookended on the north/south are two designated growth areas people have to get to. This is around 7 miles of stroad. That is a long Main Street. I would like to see a plan more focused on a few blocks of Aurora first.

3. Design changes to I-5 really are necessary to improve capacity without expanding I-5 before limiting car and truck capacity on Aurora. Planners love to complain about car capacity on Aurora but obviously those folks need to go places. If the plan is to limit speeds and capacity over 80 blocks of Aurora to force folks onto transit on a road considered dangerous by many the citizens will object.

4. The E line basically mimics Link. Seattle’s two main transit corridors parallel each other. I think it was Bernie who once wondered wouldn’t it make more sense to better connect Link to Aurora after spending billions than duplicating Link on Aurora.

5. What do progressive planners want on this stretch of Aurora for use? They don’t like the current businesses, but what alternate businesses do they want and think would survive on Aurora? Currently there is a large cemetery, car lots, self-storage, fast food, different industrial /mechanical businesses, motels etc. Is the goal to replace the working class businesses with coffee shops and boutiques? I never hear anyone explain what different uses they hope for on Aurora, and why those businesses would want to be on Aurora.

Safer sidewalks make sense except for the cost when transportation dollars are limited although 17% of all pedestrian deaths in Seattle occurred on Aurora. Affordable housing and climate change of course are mentioned, but where do all the working class existing businesses go? Who wants to live on Aurora? If you are talking about large affordable housing complexes those will not support the kind of retail some dream of.

I don’t think anyone would argue Aurora is aesthetically pleasing. But creating some kind of 80 block Broadway on this part of Seattle seems impossible and expensive. All those industrial businesses have to go someplace because they wouldn’t still be in business if their services were not needed. And folks in Bitter Lake need access south that is not I-5.

There is a strain in urban planning that believes if you eliminate cars on any road U Village like retail and housing density sprouts. I agree pedestrian only retail zones can work, but they have to be walkable (not 83 blocks), in pretty dense areas, and there has to be parking on the perimeter as well as transit to get the foot traffic needed. That isn’t Aurora.

So for Aurora I think the difficult starting point (including limiting billboards and garish signage) is identifying where the lost north/south car/truck capacity will be made up, where the existing uses (businesses) will locate (maybe Broadway), and choosing a short area to begin with to see if it works.

The reality is simply changing the use/regulatory zoning or restricting cars or speeds or spending millions on sidewalks or Link won’t make Aurora COMPETITIVE retail wise with other parts of the city with the types of businesses progressives imagine. Aurora has always been a way to get north/south whether on transit or in a truck.

You could eliminate all the cars on Aurora and it would look pretty much the same after 10 years except with most of the businesses shut which would only make Aurora less attractive. If the council is offering $2500 subsidies to businesses to move into all the vacant storefronts downtown that is ineffective what hope is there to turn Aurora into an art walk?

I think if I were looking at someplace in Seattle for urban renewal I would look for someplace closer in that didn’t begin life as a state highway. Sodo or 12th and Jackson or areas in the RV. If Aurora was the one Main Street in Seattle I could see devoting the necessary funding to make it a true Main Street (including finding the lost north/south car/transit capacity but Seattle is so dispersed and retail is so dispersed there are many better places to begin than 83 blocks along Aurora that are already blighted when the folks who actually use Aurora to get to places or have “low brow” non-progressive businesses along Aurora will object.

Aurora is Aurora for a reason, and it does the dirty work the pretty neighborhoods in Seattle don’t want. It will never be competitive with the existing popular retail areas in Seattle, so all reducing car and truck capacity will do is put existing businesses out of business.

“Bernie who once wondered wouldn’t it make more sense to better connect Link to Aurora after spending billions than duplicating Link on Aurora.”

The E doesn’t duplicate Link any more than the 5 and 28 duplicate the E. It’s a parallel line for the north-central part of the city. It’s there because Aurora doesn’t have Link, and because Link doesn’t stop every 0.25-0.5 mile. RapidRide is enhanced local service, so it’s not even express (or limited-stop like Swift). It’s what all core local routes should be, and many in Germany have been since the 1990s. North Seattle should have at least four north-south RapidRide lines in addition to Central Link. It has two now, and the D doesn’t go north of 100th.

“This video focuses on 83rd to 160th”

I would have focused on 73rd to 145th. South of 73rd is an expressway with no growth expected. Harrison to the Ship Canal is already multifamily “towers in the park”, and little can be done to improve it without downgrading the expressway, and even downgrading it wouldn’t improve the neighborhood much. 50th to 59th is adjacent to Woodland Park and Greenlake, so growth is excluded. 59th to 73rd is adjacent to Greenlake on the east side, and growth on the west side is not expected. 145th to 200th Shoreline is doing a better job with.

downgrading the expressway, and even downgrading it wouldn’t improve the neighborhood much. 50th to 59th is adjacent to Woodland Park and Greenlake, so growth is excluded. 59th to 73rd is adjacent to Greenlake on the east side, and growth on the west side is not expected. 145th to 200th Shoreline is doing a better job with.

“What do progressive planners want on this stretch of Aurora for use?”

A lot more housing. Aurora has the most room for seven-story buildings without getting into a single-family nimby squabble. Pacific Highway in South King County is the same. (That’s why Link should have been on both of them instead of I-5.) Businesses would be mixed in, whether as ground-floor retail or in buildings on every block (as A Joy prefers). Large surface parking lots would be replaced. You can fit an entire big-box store or car dealership within a multistory building. You can stack big-box stores like Northgate North. So it’s possible to redesign Aurora without eliminating large businesses. Small businesses would be aggregated into buildings. There could be price concessions for existing small businesses or low-budget immigrant startups, through various special arrangements.

“Who wants to live on Aurora?”

It’s not ideal because the road is so wide, but it’s the place where the most housing can go without displacing single-family houses or offending their views. Of course I would displace/offend them, but this is a compromise.

“All those industrial businesses have to go someplace”

Even industrial businesses can be part of multistory buildings, or aggregated into one building. New York has that, within walking distance of subway stations. Aurora doesn’t have the largest industries with many trucks or pollution that would be more problematic.

“Sodo or 12th and Jackson or areas in the RV. ”

You’d have to expand into dozens of single-family blocks for that to get enough housing. You’ve always been opposed to that.

I’d just like to day that I actually don’t often see large trucks on Aurora/Highway 99. Apparently most truck drivers have already figured out to use I-5 as the main thru route. Aurora has not been north Seattle’s main thru route for many decades, as it is just ~1 mile off of I-5 for most of the stretch and has traffic lights (80th – 85th and points south is different, as it’s mostly expressway, and it’s further from I-5). Aurora north of 80th-85th really does not *need* to be as wide as it is to be able to accommodate the vehicle traffic that legitimately needs to use the corridor for business purposes.

I agree that trying to pedestrianize the entire length of Aurora is tough. Maybe start with the portion just north of Green Lake, up to perhaps 85th Street.

Yeah it’s two very different segments. Between Winona and Mercer, Aurora is really a grade-separated freeway and should be treated as such – a great ROW for buses to travel fast (in bus lanes), but something pedestrians & cycles should avoid; the city should invest in safe over/underpasses. North of Winona, there is a strong argument for traffic calming – it’s still an important freight corridor & arterial, but traffic should flow at urban speeds and people should be safe cross at-grade at frequency cross streets / crosswalks .

I didn’t watch the video, the first thing that strikes from from the picture is a complete and utter lack of shade and trees. Simply converting the center turn lane to a median in a few spots where there’s nowhere to turn, and planting some large shade trees could make a huge difference, and with essentially no downside.

The problem, of course, is that trees take many election cycles to reach maturity, so the mayor that plants them will never be able to claim credit.

Trees in medians where cars don’t turn left is a good idea. I agree beginning with just the aesthetics would help including the billboards and upgrading facades and cleaning up lots.

Mike mentions housing. Is housing not allowed along Aurora. There are motels so I would think multi-family housing would be allowed but probably not profitable if private development.

As I noted before, choosing a few block area closest to Seattle that is not a SFH zone or park is a good place to start. Focusing on Aurora from 83rd to 160th is too overwhelming, so as the video notes we end up with lots of studies and plans but no action.

Designate a short section of Aurora a special zone. Plant trees and install sidewalks. Give tax breaks. Begin with some publicly funded affordable housing and keep car capacity where it is to start and see how things go before starting on the other 75 blocks. If private housing and retail follow then the experiment is a success and the special zoning can move north a few blocks north at a time.

Plant the trees where it would benefit humans by providing shade. Next to the sidewalks, not in medians. Preferably in a strip that provides some buffer from traffic and its inherent air and noise pollution and random auto violence.

Of course, trees between the sidewalk and the street would be even better for people walking. But, making room for that would presumably require either widening the right of way, or removing either a traffic lane or the bus/parking lane.

The center of the roadway, on the other hand, has a lot of concrete that isn’t actually doing anything, so converting some of it to planters with trees would presumably be cheaper, from a standpoint of both money and political capital. The center of the roadway also avoids power lines. And, even a tree in the center of the roadway would eventually shade parts of the sidewalk, once it gets big enough, although waiting for it to grow big enough would admittedly take awhile.

If it’s not doing anything, we should redesign the road to put it to work, not plant a few trees. That is incredibly valuable space on a work-horse road. Using it for, essentially, beautification is silly. Trees are much more valuable as shade and a buffer between vulnerable modes and this urban highway.

I would prefer that the road be trimmed to 1 SOV lane, a HOV/Transit lane in each direction and a turn lane in the middle, with a nice tree buffer, and a wide, protected sidewalk. Probably not politically feasible, but that would allow for a much more pleasant urban experience, particularly if we continue to insist on putting all our residential density on roads like Aurora. The least we can do is make it so people can walk a block without feeling like they are going to be run down.

I’ve watched drunk drivers weave on and off what passes for a sidewalk on much of the stretch from 85th to 145th. There is no barrier at all to cars just waxing peds. And it happens all with alarming frequency. I’ve done a lot of walking and biking on this road in my more fool-hardy years. I’m surprised I’m alive.

I mean. Really? This is where you want to put dense residential multi-family? Wow.


I smelled burning rubber (=fentanyl) two days in a row. The first was at Bellevue TC Saturday. The second was at 3rd & Pine Sunday. 2-3 people were lighting up, and I had to wait 15 minutes for the 131. (The 132 was 20 minutes away. The 124 was 15 minutes but a longer walk. Link would have been a 20-minute walk plus a potential 10-minute wait. So I got as far from the smoke plume as I could and waited.) There were police a half-block away monitoring the block. Why didn’t they arrest them? I don’t understand the current policing strategy. Yes, they’d probably get released in a few hours and go back, but we can’t just do nothing. I’ve been for drug legalization, but that was before the new wave of drugs with poisonous fumes affecting bystanders. (As if long-term cancer wasn’t enough.)

All this comes down to lack of affordable housing and lack of mental-health treatment. With those, their problems would be less, they’d be less desperate, and they wouldn’t affect other people as much. The stolen-goods market might still exist, but it wouldn’t be as large as it became under covid.

To be fair, when I got on the bus there was a cop standing where the smokers had been, and nobody lighting up at the moment. So they may have done something. But I thought they should have been arrested as soon as they lit the lighter.

Seattle has effectively legalized drug use, including in public. So you have to learn to live with it. A big concern is that use will migrate to the Eastside.

Please don’t romanticize drug use on this blog.

Sorry. The other day I clearly suggested that brew pubs were cool. My bad.

“it’s the main reason why the federal government is having difficulty filling tech jobs they need filled.”

Ayayay. The reason is the government expanded greatly in the 70s and a third of the workforce retired in the 10s. Private-sector boomers retired at the same time, so now there’s a national labor shortage. Covid slammed the door shut on immigration, which was filling the gap., Many tech and other jobs are outsourced to contractors. Government salaries are often lower than private-sector, and benefits are less, especially compared with private tech firms. Some people have political disagreements with the government and don’t want to work under it. Many — probably most — Americans don’t take drugs. These other factors seem much larger than drug test failures.

Er, the 124 was 25 minutes away. Because it’s half-hourly on Sundays, and it had apparently left 5 minutes ago.

Sigh, the mental health fallacy again. Seattle’s homeless are less than twice as mentally ill as the state average, most of that increase attributed to PTSD from being homeless. Mental health treatment is going to have a negligible effect on our homelessness crisis. It really comes down to a lack of 0-30% AMI housing.

Exactly. It is in the title: Homelessness is a Housing Problem

A Joy, I expect more fr you. The term homeless is demeaning. The proper term is houseless. Seattle is their homes. They just lack physical structure. Though, many are blessed to have a tent to reside in from the weather.

We need better moderation on this blog.

Sorry, I know lack of affordable housing is the main cause of homeless by far. But untreated mental illness exists and needs to be treated too. Some of the visibly homeless have mental health problems.

But it’s worth remembering that most homeless are not visible, don’t stand on sidewalks in high-traffic areas, and some are families with children.

“We need better moderation on this blog.”

The editors and moderators are busy with their families and/or got burned out. Others stepped in to keep the articles coming so the blog wouldn’t die. So there aren’t enough volunteers to moderate everything. The discussion forum is still valuable and I learn things from it, even if some comments are not the best. The average comment quality is still much higher than the comment sections in Seattle Times, The Stranger, or (as I heard but never read) The Urbanist before it eliminated comments.

I now have the power to edit the comments, but at this point, see no reason to. It is quite likely a lot of the comments are trolling, but I used to feel that way about a lot of the comments. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t — it is very hard to tell.

Seattle has a national drug addiction problem for a reason

Yeah, you just made it up: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/blog/substance-abuse-by-city

I am keeping this link because it is tangentially related to transit,and Mike’s original (transit related) comment. Some ignorant people believe that Seattle’s problems are worse than they are, which can hurt transit ridership.

Great hyperlink, RossB! I note how much worse Colorado Springs is compared to Seattle. The lowest drug use cities include many of the ones that conservatives wrongly decry as drug infested.

The big takeaway from Mike’s story was not that people in Bellevue were using opioids. That has been going on for years, obviously. What is noteworthy is that that they were doing it in public. This suggests that housing insecurity has spread to the East Side urban areas. Not too surprising, since there have been big homeless camps on the East Side for years (exit 20 off I-90 comes to mind). But for users to congregate at one of the more squeaky clean parts of Bellevue (the TC) suggests an increasing problem. All anecdotal info of course, but not too surprising, given the rapid increase in rents there. Some of the homeless — just like some of the housed — are bound to be opioid addicts.

Frank, Martin; Any chance of tossing this entire comment thread into the [off topic] bin? There is nothing useful to or relevant to transit being discussed here.

It is an open thread. Mike’s original comment is relevant to transit.

Many of the attitudes reflected in some of these comments are widely held stereotypes. People fear “the big city” because of crime, *drugs*, etc. As a result, they are less likely to take transit. Countering misinformation in this way is helpful.

That being said, there are some comments that are clearly personal attacks (“Dumbest statement I have read on this blog”) or irrelevant (e. g. “don’t ever have a beer if you ever plan on being a lawyer or doctor or commercial driver or pilot or basically any job where the public relies upon you or you hold a position of responsibility”) so I’ll do some trimming.

Trimming is done. There were some good points made, but most of the conversation had nothing to do with transit, so I’m throwing the good out with the bad.

It’s an open thread, but historically even open threads have had their limits.

Thank you, Ross. Reading through a lot of these hyperbolic comments for me (as a former NYC kid growing up there in the 60s and 70s) was like going through a time warp.

Before we get to coverage, frequency, number of drivers, convenience, budgets, project estimates, WFH, TOD, mode, redoing Aurora from 83rd to 160th, time of trip, safety is the main issue that determines whether the discretionary rider will ride transit. If not, then we have to rethink our entire paradigm for transit. County-wide coverage and frequency simply will not have the ridership for many areas without the discretionary rider, so we need to allocate transit to those areas where the riders are non-discretionary, which today is referred to as “equity” and I support.

Is it likely existing stereotypes, even if not entirely true, can be changed re: riding transit and the risk of urban cities like Seattle? Probably not, certainly not on this blog because it reaches so few discretionary riders, plus countervailing voices with a much larger circulation among the discretionary rider, because transit already begins with a deficit when it comes to convenience and time of trip. Transit has to offer something to get riders who have other options.

I think the upcoming transportation plan for Seattle and Metro restructures will begin to reflect this reality (and the 40 already does), although it might not really hit home until East Link opens and ridership is the same as the 550 today. The eastside transit restructure began to reflect this new reality, and the low level of cross-lake ridership even after East Link opens across the bridge. For some reason eastsiders are not going west, and if you read eastside Nextdoors (like I read this blog) a huge reason is safety. Plus retail is better on the eastside, but that is a result, not a cause. Retail is better on the eastside because eastsiders and Seattleites think it is safer to shop and dine there so there is greater retail density.

In the end it will come down to operations revenue, which is ridership X fare paid.

People on this blog can claim some are “clutching at their pearls” when it comes to danger when riding transit or standing on a downtown street corner, just as I can say the same about those who are afraid to ride transit due to Covid, but that is just their tolerance for risk and that will not change, especially when they don’t need to commute to work and transit begins with first/last mile access and a car does not.

In the end safety — or perceptions of safety because in reality there is little difference — will determine ridership by the discretionary rider which will determine coverage, frequency, and budgets. It might be different if there were no options to transit, but there are many options. It is almost impossible to convince someone something is safe when they think it is not, so no point in even trying. Just allocate transit to those who will ride it.

“I think the upcoming transportation plan for Seattle and Metro restructures will begin to reflect this reality (and the 40 already does)”

What does the 40 reflect? It’s getting some street improvements after its RapidRide upgrade proved unaffordable in the current budget. What else?

Speaking of restructures, Metro’s biggest annual restructure is normally in September or October. I haven’t seen the change list coming but it may be in the next week or so.

The West Seattle Bridge scheduled to reopen September 28. A significant chunk of the Seattle Transit Benefit District service hours have been going to West Seattle to mitigate the bridge closure. So there could be some reallocation away from West Seattle to other routes. Although the date of the bridge opening may not have given enough time to do so, and we don’t know whether the opening is successful until it happens.

Sorry Mike I meant to type 41 not 40.

This article was 6 months into the pandemic. Since then Metro has obtained more data about who rode transit during the pandemic, and has a better idea about post pandemic ridership.

https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/transportation-equity-program My guess is this program will be critical to future allocation of transit.

“SDOT’s Transportation Equity Program provides department-wide policy and strategic advisement on equitable, safe, environmentally sustainable, accessible, and affordable transportation systems that support Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, low-income populations, people living with disabilities, and other communities historically and currently underinvested in by government. The program’s principles center on building community trust through engagement and accountability, eliminating racial disparities, and mitigating the effects of displacement from transportation inequities.

“Current activities of the Transportation Equity Program includes engaging with members of the Transportation Equity Workgroup (TEW) in co-developing a Transportation Equity Framework (TEF) for the department. Part One of the TEF (Values and Strategies) and the interactive implementation plan dashboard are now available.”

The 41 is gone (replaced by the 75 and Link). What does that reflect?

Here is a quote from the link to Martin’s article that should explain what it means.

“Beginning last year, Metro developed a “mobility framework” that expressed the values that would guide service allocation. Alongside technocratic measures like ridership potential, the new framework considers notions of economic and racial equity to correct longtime disparities in investment. An “equity cabinet” of representatives of various disadvantaged groups would shepherd the production of derived documents like the service guidelines.”

Those derived documents don’t exist yet, but the framework clearly points to substantially more investment in places like South King County. And here the framework collides with the ongoing North Link bus restructures. Specifically, the 47,000 hours that used to operate Route 41 between Northgate and Downtown, now entirely obviated by North Link.

“Some of those 47,000 hours are disappearing into a less ambitious Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) that cuts taxes, and diverts resources to fare subsidies and West Seattle Bridge mitigation. But much of the rest is likely to end up in South King County. In response, Proviso 6 of the current King County budget legislation, introduced by Councilmember Rod Dembowski, withholds $5.4m (47,000 hours) from the Metro budget until the Executive produces a service plan that deploys those hours “in the project area” and meets several goals:

“In Tuesday’s Budget Committee public comment, transit activists came out against Proviso 6. Anna Zivarts, member of the Equity Cabinet and representative of Rooted in Rights, said that “we should be prioritizing providing service to the transit-reliant… this often means prioritizing service to areas historically underserved by transit.”

This is a quote from a reply post to Martin’s article by Ross:

“It makes sense to keep the savings that come from restructures in those places, at least initially. If those routes turn out to be dogs (if a truncated, more frequent 28 performs much worse than average) then go ahead and shift service back to some other part of town.”

I personally agree that Metro should be prioritizing service to the transit reliant and those underserved by transit, which in part is based on those who rode transit during the pandemic because obviously they were transit reliant, and I think that will guide Metro and SDOT in the future.

“The eastside transit restructure began to reflect this new reality, and the low level of cross-lake ridership even after East Link opens across the bridge.”

You keep saying this but you never point to anything that wouldn’t have happened anyway. The 554 restructure (Issaquah – South Bellevue – Bellevue) is a straightforward case of picking up the 550’s Bellevue Way stops and replacing the 556’s Issaquah-Bellevue service. Frequency is increased to 15 minutes all day because… that’s a goal. The peak expresses to Seattle were always going to be deleted; the question was just how fully Metro would implement it. You can’t simultaneously say cross-lake traffic will be low and Metro must keep up the Seattle expresses because cross-lake traffic is so high.

As for equity influences in the Eastside restructure, making the 111 all-day, increasing Issaquah/Snoqualmie/North Bend service, increasing Redmond-Eastgate service, and fiddling with the 240 seem to address that, as the equity-emphasis areas are in Renton, 148th/156th, Issaquah, and Snoqualmie.

““I think the upcoming transportation plan for Seattle and Metro restructures will begin to reflect this reality (and the 41 already does)”’

What are examples of routes you think will be reduced? The 41 fiasco was an unfinished debate on whether service hours should remain within the subarea or transferred to equity-emphasis areas. In the end there was no resolution, and the hours were swallowed by the covid recession. Transit fans pointed out that Lake City is an equity-emphasis area. The stereotype of North Seattle as “middle-class and white” is not fully accurate. Lake City, Bitter Lake, and Broadview are all equity-emphasis areas. And Metro somewhat acknowledged that when it backfilled the 20 between Lake City and Northgate.

I don’t see major changes outside the Link/RapidRide/Swift restructures. Nor do I see Metro reducing 15-minute routes to half-hourly or less to shift hours to south King County and south Seattle. So I don’t see the 75 or 62 or 31 or 10 in danger. You seem to be saying we should all be fearful of a big nebulous calamity. It’s useless to be fearful of threats that are vague and may or may not happen at some unknown point in the future. When we get a concrete proposal, then we can see how much to worry about it.

Several Seattle routes are having their frequency propped up by the Seattle Transit Benefit District. That’s outside Metro’s budget, so Metro can’t reduce it unilaterally.

I don’t really get why people are released pending trial right after arrest for all these small crimes. Why not have the trial right away? The police officer, who is the only witness in most cases, is right there at the booking. They’re usually not going to be collecting any further evidence. Why can’t we have judges on duty 24/7, and try them and sentence them immediately?

As I understand it, there is not currently a shortage of lawyers. Hire more judges, hire more prosecutors, and hire more defenders. Our economy is booming. If anyone can do it, we can.

I’m not looking to fill up the jail with junkies, of course, but get them an ankle monitor, some community service, some drug treatment – whatever works best – right away.

Went to the Husky game on Saturday. It was awesome of course.

It was a 7:30 game and I took the wife. Normally I hang out afterwards at a tailgate and let the crowds thin a bit before boarding Link for the ride home. But the wife wanted to leave right away, so we boarded Link at about the peak time.

Ya, crowds were light, but holy cow did Link perform. A steady stream of people funneling into the station and Link had no problem handling it. No problem at all. Staff on site did a good job. Impressive.

First, on the way into the station we could see all the buses and special event buses just sitting there stuck in traffic. A complete mess, like it always is. I gave up on the event buses years ago for his very reason. It’s just a horrible experience on a bus after a game, and it isn’t very fast. So until Link opened I was doing a combination of walking and driving.

Second, after we got off Link the wife wanted to transfer to a bus for the last mile to our house. Metro’s real time info at the station said the bus was arriving “now”, then that it was late, and then they just dropped it from the list. We finally ended up taking a different bus that only got us within half a mile of our house. And even then the real-time arrival info was wrong.

So lessons learned. Link is great even immediately after a game, and don’t trust Metro bus arrival time info! Or maybe the lesson is don’t take the wife and instead just walk the last mile from the Link station.

SDOT needs to set up temporary bus lanes before and after football games to keep bus routes moving near the stadium. Not just for people riding the bus to the game, but also for anyone who might board the bus later, at another stop, who isn’t going to the game.

Cars are going to experience gridlock no matter what, but you can at least keep the buses moving. Plus, bus lanes are also usable by emergency vehicles, which ought to be important in its own right, with a major hospital right next to the football stadium.

Earlier this year when there was one or maybe two games that afternoon, I was at Roosevelt Station and northbound trains came every 90 seconds. The “Next Train” announcement occurred while the current train was still unloading or just departing. The first two trains were packed, then the third and fourth were less. Then the fourth train just parked on the track and took a siesta. Then an audio announcement said it would go southbound so I got on it. It went south to UW on the wrong track, the display saying “Sound Transit” instead of the destination. By Capitol Hill it had switched to the right track and the display said “Angle Lake”. I got off there, and again saw 90-second trains going northbound.

The next-arrival bus displays have long been not totally reliable. Sometimes a bus is late, or sometimes it doesn’t show up. But Link’s next-arrival displays were so inaccurate they turned them off.

It is far preferable to provide NO real-time arrival info as opposed to providing woefully inaccurate and false information. Because if you provide false and inaccurate info, then someone might get themselves in trouble by actually, you know, trusting what you say.

ST has this right, if their info is inaccurate then they won’t publish it until it is. Metro? I don’t know what Metro thinks it is doing, but it is a mess.

As my mom used to say, “If you can’t tell the truth, then don’t say anything at all.”

The trick to understanding real time arrival info is to first recognize that the underlying data (location of the bus) is generally accurate, but the predict algorithm is quite dumb, and typically makes the same mistakes over and over again on the same route, day after day. I typically ignore the predictions and just estimate drive times in a car from where the bus now to where I will be getting on, along the route that the bus will take. Not perfect, but works well enough.

Unfortunately, if you’re going by information signs, rather than the OneBusAway app, this raw data is hidden, and you have nothing to go on except for the outcome of the prediction engine. And that can definitely be inaccurate.

Huh? The data that Metro has is accurate, but their prediction algorithm is so inaccurate that people should just do a mental calculation instead? And they should base their mental calculation on how fast a “car” travels? Then why does Metro even publish such inaccurate predictions?

If a mental prediction is better than Metro’s fancy computer algorithm, then something is seriously wrong at Metro.

And I’d say that something even more serious is wrong with Metro’s algorithm. We waited 10 minutes for our first choice in buses. During that time Metro’s prediction went from arriving now, to arriving late, to arriving really late, to then just disappearing. Very strange.

And during those 10 minutes what happened to the prediction for our second choice in buses? Metro started out by saying the bus would arrive in 20 minutes. 10 minutes later Metro was saying the bus would arrive in, get this, 20 minutes. Then suddenly we could see the bus coming. 20 minutes became zero in the blink of an eye.

Given the above, I would say that Metro’s prediction problem is a little more serious than just “it’s a hard problem”. Something is fundamentally wrong with how they are handling the data.

Maybe they should hire a local high school kid on a summer internship to fix it for them. At this point I more trust in our local high school kids then I do in Metro. We have some smart kids in this city.

Another caveat to next-bus arrivals I should say: it’s only accurate once the bus actually leaves its terminal, which means if you’re getting or at or very near the start of the line, it’s kind of worthless.

Unfortunately, this is not easily fixable. A computer algorithm can know if a bus is sitting in layover, but it can’t know whether the bus is actually going to start moving at the appointed time, or whether it will end up sitting there for several additional minutes due to reasons like a bus driver being late.

Ah, no, that is not the issue.

The buses we were waiting for were not anywhere near either their origin or their terminus, and they were far enough away from Husky Stadium to be free of game day traffic congestion too. After all, that is exactly why we took Link – to be free of all the traffic congestion that buses get stuck in after any sort of major event.

It’s clearly an issue with Metro’s software. It would be much better for Metro to just shut the system down until they get their problems solved.

First, on the way into the station we could see all the buses and special event buses just sitting there stuck in traffic.

Where? North, south or west? Northbound is bound to be a problem — there isn’t much they will do. Many of the riders take Link now anyway. South (and then east) should get better when they finish the 520 work. West (towards Ballard) was supposed to get better, but still needs some work.

Keep in mind, many of the buses aren’t stuck in traffic, but waiting to fill up.

RE: Waiting to fill out – should some of the game-day shuttles shift towards Northgate, or best to keep them all near the stadium?

should some of the game-day shuttles shift towards Northgate, or best to keep them all near the stadium?

I don’t think there is a storage problem, so my guess is keeping most of them at the stadium is best. I think the Ballard buses make sense. Same with the SR 520 buses. Not sure about other buses — whether they even have many any more.

The uses were in various stages of confusion. Some full and sitting, some loading, some just sitting empty.

I would have loved to have sat and watched and tried to figure out what the problem was with the buses, but Link was filling up so efficiently that there simply wasn’t much time to stand around and gawk at the spectacle.

But you bring up a good point. In the future it will probably be much more efficient for Metro to avoid the stadium area and intercept their event ridership at a Link station far from stadium area and its congestion. It would just be much more efficient, particularly after East Link opens and doubles both the frequency and the capacity of Link at Husky Stadium Station.

And oddly enough, there was a former coworker of mine at the tailgate who had just given up his season tickets after 34 continuous years. He sited many reasons for this, most not transit related, but he did make two transit observations:

First, traveling from Kirkland to the stadium and back on a Metro event bus just wasn’t as convenient as it sounds. And,…

Second, he was pissed that Metro would charge $16 RT for such a ride. He thought it was out of line.

He also said that he had thought about waiting until East Link opened and doing the hide-and-ride thing on Mercer Island, but had instead just decided to hang it up.

I think it’s important to mention that an articulated bus carries about 100 riders while a light rail train can carry 700-800 riders. In theory, up to 8-10 light rail trains could be pushed through in the 30 minutes following a game’s end even when there may be only 3 scheduled in that 30 minute period. That’s extremely effective as long as escalators are working.

I actually think a good supplemental strategy is simply to spread out Stafium arrival and departure times. With light rail, fans aren’t pressured to hurry onto a game bus. It becomes possible to do other things like have a bite.

You are correct, People who think they can match Link capacity with special event buses just haven’t bothered to do the math.

As you state, each 4-car Link train is equal to about 8 articulated buses. It is actually better than that, but let’s keep the math simple.

So at 10 minute headways that’s is 3 Link Trains of 4 cars each for a total of 24 bus equivalents, per direction, every 30 mins. When East Link opens this jumps to 48 bus equivalents per direction every 30 mins.

Stated another way, that is a bus equivalent arriving, loading, and departing every 37 seconds.

No amount of red paint or signal priority will ever make that possible with actual buses. And certainly not when operating on the street grid, in mixed traffic, and with pedestrians. Ever.

And that is at 10-minute headways. Link can actually operate all the way down to 6-minute headways just fine. Do that math!

Ya, Metro needs to give up on trying to compete with Link. They need to switch to providing improved intercepts at Link stations away from event location, and maybe providing some service on a few of the more obscure routes. But the heavy lifting is really best done by Link.

Also important is the load / unload capacity. Link doors are wide, and all of them on one side open at each station. In the years before the D, I’ve been on a 15 headed to downtown Seattle in the evening from Ballard and not been able to get off at Dravus because there were too many people for anyone to be able to move. Link is better suited to this level of crowding in terms of getting to and out of the doors.

The uses were in various stages of confusion. Some full and sitting, some loading, some just sitting empty.

I can understand the confusion. I’ve seen riders get confused, too, but it is fairly simple. You have a long line of parked buses, all headed the same way. The one in front boards first. When it is full, it goes. Then the next bus goes. It looks like a lot of buses are just needlessly sitting there, but they aren’t. Each one will fill up and go, eventually.

In the future it will probably be much more efficient for Metro to avoid the stadium area and intercept their event ridership at a Link station far from stadium area and its congestion.

Maybe, but that future is decades away, and may never happen. People have pushed for a Ballard to UW light rail line, ST has studied it (and found it was the best value) but the board decided to build other things (like West Seattle Link). Without that, Link is of limited value for those trips.

Ultimately it gets down to the fact that congestion is everywhere. At noon, with no game, it takes a very long time to go east-west in this city. Whether you are taking the 40, 44 or 62, it takes a while. The only corridor that is reasonably fast doesn’t even have a bus on it (125th/130th). It will, eventually, when ST finally gets around to adding a Link stop there. Even then, I don’t see it as a big solution to this problem. It doesn’t make sense to take the train to 130th, then take a bus to Ballard.

There are really only two solutions. First is to build a UW-Ballard subway. That isn’t happening. Second is to add right-of-way for the buses. This is happening, just not as fast as people would like. Still, compared to Link progress, it seems speedy.

While buses like the 44 operate in an odd manner (with a dozen buses sitting there, filling up and leaving one by one) they are still following the same route (with minor deviations). There is no substitute for that. People still take the bus to get around, even on game day.

In contrast, there are only few special express shuttle buses*. They all serve the SR 520 corridor. Again, it wouldn’t make sense to start these shuttle buses downtown or at Northgate — they would just get stuck in freeway traffic trying to get into the HOV-3 lanes. We simply have to wait until WSDOT finishes the 520 work — or at least this next stage — which really isn’t that far away. The ideal solution would be to have a station under 520 in Montlake, with room for the buses to turn around (a transit center of sorts) but that was never considered. Hell, they never added a station on Campus Parkway or 55th which would be way more valuable. Asking for a Montlake station is a bit much for an agency that can’t even prioritize a First Hill station. Things aren’t that bad. Fairly soon the 520-bus-to-UW connection will improve dramatically. That will be very good — hard to say spending more would have been worth it.

* https://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/travel-options/special-event-services/husky-football.aspx#to-the-game

Ya, Metro needs to give up on trying to compete with Link. They need to switch to providing improved intercepts at Link stations away from event location

This is all just hand waving. No one has come up with an idea that actually makes sense, except for ideas that are already implemented. The express buses north and south are gone. You want to go the game from Lynnwood or Federal Way, you will have to transfer to Link. You are arguing for something that has already been accomplished.

The only express buses that exist serve the SR 520 corridor. I suppose you could go downtown, and have the express bus take I-90 and loop around, but my guess is that would take longer. It would definitely take longer once the 520 HOV ramps get to Montlake. It would not be popular. As a result, the 255 would be overflowing, and you’ve done little to alleviate the pressure.

Most of this is complaining about crowded buses that don’t go where Link goes. That is nothing new! The 44 is one of the slowest buses in our system. It is also one of our busiest. Now tack on a few thousand people headed that way after a game. We all would like it if Link ran from the UW to Ballard, but it doesn’t. It is very easy to say “Link should do the heavy lifting”, but that only makes sense if it is actually going that way.

“much more efficient for [ ST, CT, and PT] to avoid the stadium area and intercept their event ridership at a Link station far from stadium area and its congestion.” As Ross says, not for Metro. Metro “event shuttles” are really just regular routes that run by the stadium and get a boost of frequency during events. Those routes should remain (more or less) as they are. The ‘intercept someplace else” is more relevant for the other agencies and if they want to help riders traveling from well outside Seattle to get to/from a major event?

The Seahawks and Metro combined for an extensive bus-shuttle service in the late ’90s, when Paul Allen first bought the team.

Metro buses would line up at about 10 park-and-rides starting two hours before kickoff, and fans would get a free ride to the Kingdome by showing their game ticket. Once one bus was filled, it was released, and fans would load the next bus. After the game, fans would head for their P&R’s bus line for the free ride home. The buses IIRC also got priority in post-game departures from the Kingdome parking lots thanks to traffic-directing police.

That system worked wonderfully. Lots of fans got to save on parking and traffic, and as Allen paid for the service himself, Metro’s income wasn’t affected. The Seahawks Metro shuttles died out sometime in the new stadium era, because of Bush charter bus rules and the arrival of Link, but it was efficient as heck for fans. Maybe stadium operations can arrange for buses to get egress priority over other traffic, like in those days?

Seems like Link is a better option to bypass the traffic immediately around the stadia (or monorail for the Seattle Arena), and shuttle buses can be elsewhere? The arrival of Sounder trains paired with Seahawk & Sounder games probably also displaced some of the shuttle buses … with U Link now able to handle game-day crowds (especially post-East Link), I wonder if UW & ST should support Sounder trains associated with UW football games?

I think shuttle buses become moot as ST2 opens up and there are thousands of P&Rs spaces with easy access on evening & weekends. Mega-garages (S Bellevue, Lynnwood, Angel Lake, Star Lake, etc.) are a poor investment, but once they are a sunk cost they should be very effective at supporting ridership for major events that occur outside the weekday commute window. Same for the South Sounder garages – not a good investment, but useful when running Sounder trains for events.

Seems like Link is a better option to bypass the traffic immediately around the stadia (or monorail for the Seattle Arena), and shuttle buses can be elsewhere?

That makes sense for express buses headed the same direction (e. g. Lynnwood or Federal Way). There aren’t too many of those, and they may have moved anyway. For other places, the geography just doesn’t work very well.

For example, consider a Husky game. Sending Ballard riders to Roosevelt or Northgate doesn’t make much sense. Neither does it make sense to send Kirkland or Redmond riders to downtown first. You could send Bellevue riders to downtown, but what would you do with the 271. Lots of people would crowd that bus, and you are much worse off. Same with the 44 (the Ballard shuttle is essentially just another 44).

Meanwhile, you would have crowding on Link. With the current system, Link is crowded after games, and the shuttles help alleviate that.

No, the best thing to do is grant right-of-way for the buses, and look into limiting the flow of cars exiting parking lots. It would be like meters on on-ramps, only the traffic guards would be counting cars. You would need SDOT to do a study to figure out the best rate.

And also, the HOV exit ramp to Montlake (once it finishes construction) really needs to be strictly bus only during football games. Carpool rules are tough to enforce, and I think it would be violated left and right, as lots of people assume that HOV rules are for rush hour only. Red paint bus only, there’s some chance people might respect it.

No it didn’t. At least not after games at Husky Stadium.

In fact, those buses departing Husky Stadium were the exact reason I gave up on mass transit to events prior to Link. They were hopelessly crowded, slow, and exceedingly uncomfortable.

After that I started doing a drive/long walk alternative. Thankfully I was able to work out a parking option at a friends business that made it all possible. Otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.

As per the Bush era rules on mass transit at events, that was an attempt by the Repugnicans to prevent subsidized public transit from competing with private charter operators. Because, you know, private industry always does it better (LOL)! If I remember correctly, Patty Murray got a carve out for King County, but I don’t know the current status.

And maybe the Bush era rules have something to do with why Metro charges $16/RT to ride the shuttles. (Note: apparently Metro only charges on the inbound trip. So if you come early on a regular bus at regular fare, and then leave on the special shuttle, you can avoid paying Metro the $16!).

And also note: my bad experience with the Paul Allen shuttles at Husky Stadium was during the period when the Seahawks played there due to Century Link construction.

And also, the HOV exit ramp to Montlake (once it finishes construction) really needs to be strictly bus only during football games. Carpool rules are tough to enforce, and I think it would be violated left and right, as lots of people assume that HOV rules are for rush hour only. Red paint bus only, there’s some chance people might respect it.

So much depends on what they do on Montlake Boulevard, between the bridge and the ramps. Right now there is a bus lane northbound. This gives buses a way to get to the bridge when it is up, avoiding the big backup.

It isn’t clear how things will work the other way. It looks like there will be one HOV on-ramp. My guess is the turn lane will be HOV for a long distance (maybe to the bridge). That would be easy to enforce. This is the only map I’ve found, and it doesn’t have much for Montlake Boulevard. It wouldn’t surprise me if it evolves over time. https://wsdot.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2021-04/SR520-Graphic-MontlakeLidRendering.pdf

And maybe the Bush era rules have something to do with why Metro charges $16/RT to ride the shuttles.

Yeah, $16 is nuts. I don’t see how they fill up those buses. Just take the 255. It is probably some legal thing (public transit isn’t allowed to compete with charter service unless they charge the same, or some such BS). Having it free after the game is probably a sneaky way to get around it. While it is nice to have more transit options for getting to the game, it isn’t essential. Without those shuttles, a few fans are worse off, but there are people with bad transit options all over the county. The problem occurs after the game. Generally speaking, people arrive at various times, but leave at the same time. Regular buses (like the 255) fill up after the game, not before. These express buses help alleviate the crowding. Those that pay the $16 are just a bonus for Metro.

@AJ: Link is working great for sporting events, I’ve seen it handle concurrent Sounders and Huskies traffic. I know park-and-rides are not popular on this board, but the new Northgate P&R seems to be very popular with sports fans who don’t want to mess with traffic and parking, and I can see the Redmond and South Bellevue ones getting busy when East Link comes.

@Lazarus: I didn’t have any trouble with the Seahawks shuttle during their Husky Stadium Rental, but that’s just me.

@Ross: I used the 255 for Sounders games. To avoid the crowded first bus after night games, I hung around after the game either nursing a beer at a nearby pub, or enjoying one of the post-game food truck specials (e.g. hot dog plus soda can for $5), and then taking the next, less-cramped 255 a half-hour later.

Also, if you think a $16 Metro game shuttle is bad, try $100 parking for Seahawk playoff games.

I used the 255 for Sounders games. To avoid the crowded first bus after night games, I hung around after the game either nursing a beer at a nearby pub, or enjoying one of the post-game food truck specials (e.g. hot dog plus soda can for $5), and then taking the next, less-cramped 255 a half-hour later.

Nice thinking. Not your first rodeo.

I’d intended to go elsewhere but I got confused over U-District vs UW Station and ended up at Roosevelt. So I changed plans and walked to Greenlake and around the north and west sides. There were more people on the west side than I’d ever seen: sitting on chairs, picnicking, or jumping off the diving board. One group had several guitars and a kind of drum, a musical picnic.

I saw a gas station and went toward it thinking it was the E station at 65th, but it was at Beth’s Cafe further north. I was looking for the new Aurora crosswalk but wasn’t sure where it was. A paved path on the right led to it, and it looks like a real stoplight, not just warning lights. If I hadn’t found it I would have used the underpass just south of 65th. The crosswalk was around 68th, so I walked down to 65th and took the E downtown.

I’d intended to go to the Shilshole Burke-Gilman extension (which I’d only seen once), or secondly the Interurban Trail (inspired by the article). I set out to take the 40 from downtown, but when I got outside my feet went the other way to Capitol Hill Station, to go to U-District and transfer to the 44 to Ballard. But when I got to U-District my brain treated it like UW (“go one more stop”), so I ended up at Roosevelt. I didn’t want to turn around (for Ballard), or take the 45 to 85th and the E to 155th (for the Interurban Trail), or continue to Northgate (I couldn’t remember if they bus west from Northgate was half-hourly on Sundays). Of course I should have continued to Northgate and taken the 40; that would have taken me to Ballard where I’d originally wanted to go. But I’d forgotten about that. I just had fears of waiting half an hour and didn’t think of where it went west of Aurora.

The 40 would have taken a while (to get to Ballard). Too late now, but one option is to just walk west from Northgate all the way to Sunset Hill Park. I usually go this way, through Licton Springs Park, then across Aurora on 92nd, and through Greenwood until 83rd or 77th: https://goo.gl/maps/gFLsBawM2BpFfJE39. Either street is fine for crossing the rest of the arterials, but I think 83rd is a bit better.

From Sunset Hill Park it isn’t far to the main part of Ballard. Another option is to take the 45 back to Roosevelt. I like the 45, as it gets you a nice view of the great work they’ve done for bikes around Green Lake.

I was going to the south end at 32nd & Market, so that’s a long way further. The 44 would have taken me to the Locks; the 40 to 24th & Market. I was planning to walk partway north but maybe not all the way to the stairway at 85th. Otherwise I would have taken the 45 to the stairway.

Yeah, I think the 45 to 85th & 32nd would have been your best bet. It would be a long walk (a mile and a half) but pleasant. Around Green Lake is twice that. A detour to Sunset Hill Park wouldn’t add much. 32nd is an arterial, but not a very busy one. There are alternatives too (30th goes all the way through). Then you could take the 44 back (for a nice loop). That might have been more walking than you wanted.

Things get very messy north of 85th. I found that out the hard way just yesterday. A lot of streets don’t go through. Even accessing the North Beach Park is difficult. I tried to use the park as east-west passageway, but the path I found was too nasty and steep (with a broken wrist). Everything is very north-south oriented in that area.

I found the video informational. I know some of the history of that area but getting a different view of it is useful and gives me a fresh perspective.

I wish he described the area south of 50th St. That is where the cement barrier is. My parent’s grew up and met each other in the church that became the Fremont Abbey. In the 1990’s as the congregation had shrunk, they hired a Lutheran consultant to determine why our church was getting smaller. Most people assumed it was because Seattle was becoming more secular, especially in Fremont. That part was one of many contributing factors. But the really older members brought up the fact that our congretion was divided by the barrier put on Aurora. People who used to walk from the east could no longer get to that church. I do not remember when that happened, so I have to take their word on it. The reason I bring it up is that that badly used road (stroad) affected people many decades before these discussions or this video.

For years many people have debated the eastern border of Fremont. My grandparent’s said was Stone Way. I thought it was Aurora. I was told I was wrong and it was Stone as recently as the late 80’s. Before that barrier was there Aurora was not the neighborhood divide it is now.

Also the reason 145th and areas north have the newer sidewalks is because Shoreline decided to spend the money to make it better. Definately not good by transit standards. But better lighting. Modern drainage, sidewalks, and mostly burried utilities to reduce wires on the street. Not exactly the same, comparison, but Seattle repaved Greenwood at around the same time, and cut costs on many of those things. I hope they choose not to do that with the Seattle section of Aurora. hope it is even better than the Shoreline section. We deserve it.

As far as the business and zoning part of the neighborhood changes, I don’t know how to solve, change or improve that.

I was told that neighborhood cost cutting street inprovements happened around the early 2000’s to divert money to the new improved 2nd generation Mercer Mess. I don’t have facts to back this up.

Plus did you notice near the beginning of the video he was describing the history of Aurora and put in a picture of Dick’s on Broadway. Thought it was funny. No where near Aurora.

Yes! The cement barrier running down the middle of Aurora has divided Fremont for generations! The Aurora Reimagined Coalition is advocating for safe crossings at key locations as a way to start reconnecting the neighborhood. To help do this, we’re collecting people’s stories and lived experiences of Aurora and how they would like to see it improved. Your parents’ story about why the Lutheran congregation dwindled would be a great addition. Please send us an email at aurorareimaginedcoalition@gmail.com if you’d like to share more about it. Thanks!

I will forward the link. Thank you.

Back in the early 1980’s I lived in Upper Fremont and worked at UW. I usually walked to work to save bus fare, so I often crossed at 43rd by swinging over the barrier if the traffic would allow it.

Yes, dumb, but quicker than the overpass.

Does anyone know how ST’s milestones are arranged for Link construction?

One of the reasons we change government contractors quite a lot is because we might wind up doing 3 years of work before we get paid by the contractor. Essentially we wind up being part of the financing and we have to charge accordingly.

I’m thinking maybe ST has their payment milestones to contractors set so broadly that it’s resulting in vastly increased bid prices?

My understanding when I was at ST is the big contracts were paying out regularly. While there certainly were major milestones that included big cash outlays once achieved, I think for most of the major work the contractors were being paid regularly so at to not put too much working capital burden (especially since ST has access to much cheaper capital than a private contractor). For a simple example, if a bid is $10MM for 6 months of work, a contract may get paid $1M/month and then $4M once the work is accepted .

While we’re talking about Aurora… https://youtu.be/iIeWLDwnOXM

Ryan Packer tweet thread on Q&A prior to Transit Committee’s vote to recommend the Council confirm Greg Spotts as SDOT Director:


In the thread, Packer references a great video highlighting challenges in the city for non-SOV transportation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHYeNWc0WIc

“Spotts touts his experience managing capital projects of all projects. Manages engineers and says that ‘I see myself as someone who shapes those professionals’ work’, like an orchestra conductor.

“Spotts is noting his past experience managing a portfolio of projects that were in trouble, which led to his being appointed the LA Mayor’s lead on a $10 billion portfolio of light rail and bridge retrofit projects.

“Spotts says he doesn’t see himself involved in each individual project, but wants to manage them collectively according to best practices.”

Ryan Packer also tweeting a slide from the SDOT’s presentation on comments on the Seattle Transportation Plan outreach website:



“2,106 Survey participants 2,243 Interactive map participants 6,238 Interactive map comments

Comments emphasized: – Safety and comfort for all ages and abilities – Investment in sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit – Maintenance – Emissions reduction – Connectivity, reliability, and ease of use – De-prioritizing the automobile – Traffic calming – Equitable infrastructure”

Noticeable lack of comments on areas in Southwest Seattle (West Seattle, South Park, Georgetown, SODO, etc.), Magnolia, Laurelhurst, and north of 100th street.

I’ve always thought Aurora would be a better Link route than 15th. Run it down the middle, eliminate the parking and height requirements within a mile of Aurora, and it would work pretty well.

The 358 used to be my main bus. It was strangely very reliable – took me exactly 20 minutes to get from 80th and Aurora to 5th and James every single time. I took the E not too long ago (from Pine all the way to Aurora Village) and I was disappointed to find that it wasn’t any faster.

The key is ‘within a mile.’ Right now Aurora’s density is long and skinny, which makes it an excellent bus corridor, with ~1/4 mile stop spacing. 15th (really, Ballard & LQA) are much wider (i.e. east-west) blocks of density and therefore better support rail with 1/2 mile stop spacing.

Also, I see Aurora between 50 & 86th very hard to built broad density, given both politics, topography, and the water, so rail investment is mostly wasted along that segment.

And then north of 85th, probably a better investment to improve east-west travel (walk/roll/bus) to access Northgate, 135th, and 147th stations.

Agreed. There is also the fact that south of Green Lake the bus travels on an expressway. A train — even elevated — wouldn’t be much faster. Running a train across the bridge would be extremely expensive, but not get you that much.

Exactly – south of Greenlake, bus to rail conversion is purely a capacity play, the train is faster than a bus through downtown itself … which is super unlikely if it’s neither interlined with the DSST1 nor a new cut & cover tunnel running shallow down 2nd or 4th or whatever.

The main value added with Ballard Link is Ballard to Uptown. This will be much faster, while providing Ballard and Uptown riders faster trips to downtown.

Aurora doesn’t have that. A train wouldn’t be much faster than a bus, assuming it had the same stops. If you skipped stops, you would lose ridership. Without additional ridership, you might as well keep running the buses. There just aren’t the big, hard-to-get-to destinations on the way like Northgate Link.

To be clear, Ballard Link is not ideal. Trips will be faster, but not that much faster, especially if the Ballard station isn’t west of 15th. There are decent combinations that sound good, but so far the station plans look very bad. It isn’t like Northgate Link, where you really can’t screw it up. The UW station is terrible, but it still gets plenty of riders, and U-District is good (as is Roosevelt and Capitol Hill). It works really well, despite its very big flaws. I don’t see that with Ballard Link. They better get it right, or it will look like a big waste of money when completed.

Also – Ballard is a better route truncation point than Aurora. Ending a route in Fremont is like ending a route in SoDo – you are close enough to downtown the transfer penalty isn’t worth it. Ballard is much more like forcing a transfer at Roosevelt or Husky Stadium stations, where the gain in reliability is worth the transfer penalty.

The E might not be strictly faster than the 358, but it sure is more frequent and that speeds up the total rider experience. IIRC the 358 was 30 minute headways off-peak, while the E is 10 minutes even on weekends. That’s a huge improvement, especially for trips that aren’t minutely planned.

Yes. One of the big improvements over the last few years has been with frequency. Half hour buses seem weird to me — fifteen minute buses seem standard. A ten minute bus (like the E or the 7) is even better.

It was a fun video. I have been around Aurora my whole life.

There is a large contrast between Aurora north and south of the Seattle city limits. Shoreline did a great job adding sidewalks, curbs, BAT lanes, access management (e.g., controlled left turn lanes and consolidated driveways), better signals, and crosswalks. They used a variety of grant funds and local revenue. In Seattle north of North 115th Street, sidewalks and access management are missing except for the segment at Lowe’s. The lack of access management makes the road dangerous to pedestrians, many of whom are transit riders. Several governments help improve the flow of Route 358 and the E Line (e.g., Shoreline, Seattle, WSDOT, and Metro). The deep bore portal has probably slowed it a bit.

I hope Seattle asks the state to focus the $50 million of certain funds on the missing sidewalks and not on the segment that already has sidewalks. Note that Senator Carlyle is not running for re-election.

The video highlights the private sector transgressions: parking and loading blocking the walkway and sidewalks.

The video used the term bike-oriented development about Linden Avenue North. of course, there is no causal connection; the development had causes separate from the Interurban PBL.

Cramer: yes, some of the speed improvements were implemented for Route 358 (e.g., Shoreline project, North 62nd Street signal, Battery Street northbound pathway); but some were added for the E Line (e.g., Battery-Wall streets bus lanes, all-door boarding and alighting, the signalization of the Phinney Way North on ramp at North 46th Street, southbound pathway on Aurora at Green Lake, more parking restrictions in Seattle). The deep bore was opened in 2020; there are more signals and a bus weave at the north portal.

I think it’s past time for STB to hold an in person meetup and discuss transit stuff face to face. We have not had one since before COVID.

Excellent idea. Was the last one at Perihelion Brewery up on Beacon?

Prediction. The early opening of an Eastside-only East Link won’t happen. The idea may continue to gain more momentum, but I think it will be derailed by an equity complaint. Even if the complaint isn’t valid, once the complaint is made, that will be the end of the idea.

I doubt it will happen because there’s no precedent and the extra work it would require to establish a temporary operational plan for an isolated line. Balducci is just one boardmember. She brought it up the public who can’t enact it, not the board who can. We have no idea where the staff is on this or whether they think it’s feasible. Implementation would require the board putting it on the agenda, a staff report, a public hearing, a determination that it wouldn’t raise costs or delay other projects significantly, a board decision, and months of logistics. You’re already into mid 2023 by then.

I don’t think the idea makes any sense. But, let’s say it started gaining momentum, and an early Eastside-only Link might actually happen. Don’t you think, if someone or some group came out of left field and made the absurd claim that an Eastside-only Link, however temporary, was exclusionary and racist, that the idea would quickly die?

Doesn’t BART have a strong precedent?

I can see lots of problems with an early opening of an intra-Eastside segment but I don’t see equity concerns as one of them.

That’s because I don’t see ST taking equity seriously in general. I only have to point to the many ways in which WSBLE work gives lots of equity lipstick to its approach (the elusive “equity toolkit” sounds great but seriously doesn’t change a thing) while severing Chinatown-ID from the low income Asian and other populations in SE Seattle from the easiest platform to reach, taking small affordable houses in Youngstown so trendy Alaska Junction residents can have a station, skipping the other lower income areas of West Seattle and North Seattle in the backroom-developed ST3 alignment, and systemic avoidance of doing more for accessibility beyond ADA design requirements (like forcing multiple level changes just to transfer from one rail line to another rather than have cross-platform transfers).

To ST, equity appears to be a checkbox about impacts rather than an actual concern that affects conceptual design decisions.

There are two possible interim openings: Mercer Island to Overlake; Judkins to Northgate. The east one has the issue of not having a connection with the South Forest Street base for heavy maintenance. What issue does the west one have? What would the equity complaint be? East Link is funded by East King County revenue; the Balducci line serves whatever equity areas are served by East Link. The Judkins line improves service in a part of Seattle with equity areas.

I don’t see the equity argument either. The main issues are logistics, just when such a truncated opening could happen, and public relations if ridership between Mercer Island/S. Bellevue and RTC is very low.

I imagine ST and Metro will continue current buses so cost could be an issue, but that removes political issues like a bus bridge. If the line did run from MI the bus intercept would make little sense at that time because who would take a bus to MI to then take Link east?

I do think there are equity arguments for areas in south Seattle when it comes to the design of Link through those areas, and maybe the fact East Link doubles frequency for north Seattle but not south Seattle, but those really have little to do with East Link on the eastside which is a separate subarea.

In reply to another post, I doubt Balducci published her editorial without running it by other board members or ST staff. It would be foolish to publish an editorial like that as chair of the Board to only have ST staff come out publicly and state it can’t be done from an engineering standpoint which would make Balducci look pretty clueless.

After all, the Board has known about the plinth issues since 2019. I am sure the Board has discussed opening parts of East Link with staff in the last three years. As long as the other subareas are not paying for it why should the other board members care, and any opening at this point would be welcome politically.

What a truncated opening could raise, at least on the eastside, is why is the eastside subarea paying to run trains to Northgate or Lynnwood. No eastsider will take Link to those destinations. The eastside subarea paying for trains from Judkins Park to Northgate without those trains crossing the bridge really brings this issue home. This never made sense to me unless those subareas want to pay a pro rata share of the capital and operations costs of that run. If East Link ran to say Westlake, I could see that for a one seat ride, maybe even UW. Why isn’t Central Link paying to run its trains to Redmond then?

I don’t think the truncated opening will occur UNLESS the Board is really concerned capacity across the bridge span might be less than four car trains every 8 minutes, if at all. I know Lazarus thinks everything is worked out with I-90 and this time the Board is being honest even if they haven’t been honest since 2019. If East Link will really open across the bridge span sometime in 2025 at full capacity a truncated opening makes little sense.

If East Link is going to open across the bridge span later than 2025 then a truncated opening might make sense, especially from Judkins Park to Northgate or Lynnwood on “East Link” trains, which seems like a huge Christmas gift to me that I really don’t understand, but could explain why Balducci is proposing to open a truncated East Link on the eastside: to begin running East Link trains from Judkins Park to Northgate that not a single eastsider will ride. If just the Judkins Park to Northgate part of East Link opened Eastsiders might wonder WTF.

Eddie, Daniel, your problem is you are thinking logically. But, feigned outrage over an imaginary equity issue, like an early-East Link opening not including Judkins Park, doesn’t have to be logical. Maybe someone won’t portray the intra-Eastside line that way … as being exclusionary. I’m saying, if they do, be prepared for ST to immediately capitulate.

@Daniel T “…why is the eastside subarea paying to run trains to Northgate or Lynnwood. ”

It won’t. I know this has been explained to you previously so I’ll keep this short. The drivers for subarea allocation of Link O&M costs have been identified in the long term financial plan and are included in the agency’s annual subarea reports:


Link Light Rail Service Operating Uses-

(Description-Driver) Central Link Operations- Boardings, Track Miles Tacoma Link Operations- Location

East Link trains running to Northgate and Lynnwood are a shared resource encompassing three subareas’ financing.


“For purposes of subarea reporting, sources and uses directly associated with a particular location are directly credited or charged to the corresponding subarea. Sources and uses benefiting more than one subarea are classified according to pre-established drivers and allocation rules that reflect the Agency’s assumptions regarding multiple subarea and project benefit, expressed as percentages, except proceeds from debt issuance which are allocated based on actual dollars as determined in the Financial Plan. See Appendix B for the drivers that are used to allocate sources and uses to subareas”.


This is from the 20221 Central Link subarea report. Tisgwm can you tell me where I can find the drivers for East Link from Judkins Park to to Lynnwood in Appendix B. I can find drivers for other extensions but not East Link to Lynnwood. I know the eastside subarea pays 100% of east/west ST express buses and would like to know the drivers and exact breakdown between the subareas for East Link from Judkins Park to Lynnwood (especially if there is no East Link across the bridge when Judkins Park to Northgate/Lynnwood opens), or at least the drivers themselves, such as track miles, location, ridership, fleet requirements and the assumptions ST has made about the benefit to each subarea in order to form the allocation.

This is a link to the 2022 Financial Plan. https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/2022-Financial-Plan-and-Adopted-Budget-Final.pdf

Again beginning on page 73 I can see different drivers for projects but nothing for East Link from Judkins Park to Northgate and then Lynnwood. I am sorry you have posted about this before and I must have missed it but if you could just link to the ST document that specifies how the three subareas will split the capital and M&O costs from Judkins Park north I would appreciate it, and the assumptions ST has made for the segment of Link.

Here is a link to the ST page on East Link listing the different documents associated with that and I can’t find the specific drivers or ST assumptions for the section from Judkins Park to Lynnwood. https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/east-link-extension/documents

Sam is just trolling. Equity is a hot-button issue so he brings it up to start a flamewar. He’s T1, Troll Number 1.

I always thought North King is paying Line 2’s operating costs from Judkins Park to Shoreline North, and Snohomish north of that.

North King is paying Intl Dist-Judkins Park captal costs, so I assume it would pay operating costs too. East King was originally going to pay for that segment because it wasn’t a North King Priority, But East King begged North King to take it on to free up money for the Bellevue city hall tunnel, and then later it became clear that Judkins Park will be more valuable to North King than anticipated anyway, due to housing growth and bus connections there.

The double frequency north of Intl Dist is because ridership and density are higher there. All three of Seattle’s urban growth centers (downtown, U-District, and Northgate) are in that section. In any case, it’s fourteen years too late to complain about frequency equity because we voted for Line 2 in 2008.

“I doubt Balducci published her editorial without running it by other board members or ST staff.”

Mentioning it to them and making sure it’s feasible is different from getting their agreement on it. If they all support it, why haven’t they said so yet? The board is acting like this issue doesn’t exist.

“I am sure the Board has discussed opening parts of East Link with staff in the last three years.”

It would be nice if they’d discussed it with the public. Here’s an issue transit fans have been debating, and suddenly we realize Balducci is for it and has published an article, and the rest of the board and staff may have been considering it but we don’t know.

Mike, my memory is that the eastside subarea felt N. King Co. should pay for Link to Judkins Park because the eastside was paying 100% of East Link across the bridge, Judkins Park (and indeed from the tunnel to Judkins Park) is in N. King Co., 100% of the east-west ST buses are paid for the eastside which will now cost over $1 billion by the time East Link opens, N. King Co. was running out of money building a disproportionate amount of light rail north and south, and because if it were up to the eastside there would be no stop at Judkins Park. Bellevue paid for 1/2 of its tunnel and the eastside subarea the rest and the subarea will still have $600 million/year in ST revenue through 2044 with East Link almost finished (hopefully), so money is not an issue.

I just don’t think Balducci would publish an editorial if East Link cannot be opened in segments (as we were told by ST many times due to the electrical system). If ST had to come out and say, no, East Link can’t be opened in segments due to engineering after her editorial is published many of us would think she is unqualified to be on the Board let alone chair (which many think anyway).

I also assume Balducci ran her editorial/idea past the rest of the Board first (and no doubt some asked can it be done), but you are correct it would be nice if the Board had consulted on this idea first and had a coordinated response with Balducci’s editorial since the Board has known since 2019 about the bridge problems. It seems pointless to have one board member float such an idea without having gathered the votes for it.

To me the idea is so impractical if East Link will open anyway across the bridge in 2025 that although East Link probably can open in segments it won’t, and Balducci is looking for political points. Maybe opening East Link in parts from one termini to the middle (Judkins Park to Bellevue or Redmond to say S. Bellevue), but to open a segment in the middle without a connection to Seattle or downtown Redmond seems pointless to me.

“I know the eastside subarea pays 100% of east/west ST express buses”

ST Express and Sounder are different from Link. They serve the suburbs and connect them to downtown, with no or only negligible other stops in Seattle. (The 522 is an anomaly.) Link serves a lot of other Seattle neighborhoods along the way, and is for all station pairs along the line. So the suburban subareas pay for ST Express and Sounder, North King pays for Link to the last stations in its subarea (Shoreline North, Judkins Park, Rainier Beach), and the other subareas pay for Link beyond that. Some “systemwide” resources like the downtown tunnel, are paid for by all subareas.

When the ST Express cost structure was set up in the 1990s, all the suburban areas were the overwhelming beneficiary and user of ST Express, and reverse trips were a rounding error. Since then, Bellevue and Redmond have grown into much larger job/activity centers, and reverse ridership has grown to parity, but those are the only corridors where that has happened. Most ST Express corridors are still overwhelmingly suburban riders.

The 522 is an anomaly because it would clearly attract downtown-Lake City trips, and those are half the riders now, and it added a stop at 85th to mitigate the deleted 72. Still, it’s nominally for the suburbs, and Stride 3 will eliminate the Seattle segment and run on 145th.

That could be Mike but why doesn’t ST use its “driver” system to determine cost allocation. If for example ridership on the 550 and 554 east/west is even then reallocate subarea cost. Why begin with a 100% cost assumption for suburban subareas and then never revisit ridership and cost allocation, or “drivers”?

I am pretty sure that operations are charged in the same way as construction. That is, when a Line 2 train is operating north of 185th its real-time costs (electricity and labor) are charged to Snohomish, when between 185th and Judkins Park to North King, and east of JP to East King. The capital costs for the whole fleet and “SOGR maintenance” is to be allocated based on the hours of service each sub-area receives. Right now, of course, everything gets charged to North King.

So East King isn’t paying to run trains to Lynnwood. Nor will Pierce be paying for running trains to Ballard if and when the planned second tunnel and Ballard extension is completed.

I notice that you did not complain about the potential for the inverse of what you were assuming: that Snohomish would be “paying for trains to Redmond and Tacoma”. That’s no more absurd than your assumption.

So far as the ST document, there is nothing “about East Link between Judkins Park and Lynnwood”, because East Link doesn’t run between Judkins Park and Lynnwood. “East Link” is mostly east of Judkins Park though it does have a connector to IDS within the North King Sub-Area.

Line 2 will travel between Lynnwood and Judkins Park on North Link, then U-Link, then Central Link and then on East Link, including the connector.

I’m glad you re-raised this issue Tom because I never got an answer from Tisgwm, even a link to his previous post in which he says he explained all of this to me before. As the links I posted note, nowhere are the Drivers for the segment of East Link from Judkins Park to Northgate/Lynnwood set forth, and ST uses many different types of drivers, such as ridership, track miles, etc., and just as critical are the “assumptions” ST makes in cost allocation.

I have scoured the ST 2 financial plan and ST 2/East Link documents and subarea reports but I cannot find anything on the “Drivers” ST is using to allocate the capital and operational costs for East Link west and north of Judkins Park, let alone the assumptions ST is using for cost allocation which are certainly out of date today. If these exist they must already exist because East Link was scheduled to open in 2020/21, and the Drivers and assumptions for cost allocation are formulated well before a line opens so subareas can budget.

One would think there would be published Drivers and the assumptions ST made long ago for cost allocation, but as Mike has pointed out when it comes to ST Express Buses ST simply assumes all the benefit inures to the suburban area/subarea and charges them 100% for the cost, which for the eastside subarea will cost over $1 billion for east/west/east buses by the time East Link opens.

There may be Drivers for this segment, and assumptions for cost allocation, but I can’t find them, and the world is a different place today when it comes to transit ridership, so I would like to compare any Drivers and assumptions –if they even exist — with current conditions, which include obviously the delay in opening East Link across the bridge span and probably on the eastside, and huge reduction in cross lake ridership by eastsiders.

Apparently ST never revisits its assumptions for allocating 100% of costs to the originating suburban area for Express Buses, even when ridership shows some like the 550 and 554 (and 522) may benefit N. King Co. more than East King Co. today. I would think that if East Link opened from Judkins Park to Northgate and then Lynnwood while the bridge was still closed there would be very little benefit to East King Co., and the Drivers and assumptions would be adjusted.

So if anyone on this blog can post a link to where ST has published the Drivers for cost allocation for the segment of East Link from Judkins Park to Northgate and then Lynnwood (which will have very, very few eastside riders, even to downtown Seattle post pandemic) and the assumptions ST has made for cost allocation I would greatly appreciate it. I assumed Tisgwm had this info from the exasperated tone of his post but his conclusion had no link. Otherwise I guess I will have to write to ST.

You can find the subarea accounting for individual projects under Appendix J for the 2022 Finance Plan, which you have already linked to. East Link is on page 119. You can see the subarea breakdown on the first Cashflow table; $22M assigned to North King and the remainder to East King. My guess is the full cost of Judkins station and the ROW cost from ID to Judkins were allocated to North King, and everything else to East King. These costs allocation for stations and guideway would be generally independent of ridership and/or “usefulness” forecasts.

You may be interested in the subarea accounting for the OMF East (page 112). While the OMF-E sits in East King, it is used by all subarea and the costs are allocated accordingly. I would imagine the drivers are from an ST2 fleet plan and/or ST2 ridership forecast; you would probably need to go back to a pre-ST3 document to verify. Similar story for the LRV Fleet expansion (page 113)

AJ, I don’t think that there’s any question about the allocation of construction costs for Link to the various Sub-Areas. Daniel is asking about M&O costs in the future. All of the lines except Issaquah-Kirkland (should it be built) will cross Sub-Area boundaries, so it’s a genuine question.

As I tried to point out with my “hypothetical” of Snohomish paying for everyone else (which was not technically correct; I should have said “West Seattle” not “Tacoma”), ST will have some two-part formula for charging those costs. Operations I believe will be strictly geographic; a train is in one Sub-Area or another at any point in its trip so just add up the miles and hours spent in each. Maintenance, though, will likely be charged based on the percentage of total budgeted service that occurs within each Sub-Area overall. The result will only be slightly different, if different at all, but the rationale would be that all cars serve all Sub-Areas at some time in their service life.

Mike, this is the dichotomy my brother-in-law was talking about in Pioneer Square between day and night and weekend and weekday. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/fire-crews-say-72-year-old-man-in-hospital-after-being-shot-in-pioneer-square/ar-AA11z8I8?ocid=hponeservicefeed&cvid=d362966c76f141e283cd0f0b6e772c28

What makes this scarier is this was just a random shooting of someone just walking past the shooter. It could be any of us. Whether this is real danger or perception of danger is pretty much irrelevant to any ordinary person thinking about visiting Pioneer Square at night, or waiting for a bus in Pioneer Square. Any risk of getting shot or stabbed is too much risk.

There were some midday, midweek shootings in Pioneer Square a few months ago I could clearly hear from my office which quelled my desire to go out. And a few homeless on homeless stabbings when the tents were allowed along third, but those have been removed.

Yesterday I went out for a walk around Pioneer Square since our firm is moving next week to see all the old haunts. It was quite nostalgic after 32 years, and it made me think I was a young man when we first opened our office in The Smith Tower. I wasn’t even married yet, let alone had kids. I was still living in a rental house on Ravenna.

The biggest issue during the day is so few businesses are open and so many storefronts are permanently closed so why come to Pioneer Square, or even walk around. I wondered where all those business owners went? The issue at night is again there are few businesses and the risk is simply too high for many of us.

As I walked around yesterday I couldn’t help but think that after next week I might never visit Pioneer Square again (we gave up our season Mariner tickets a few years back). After all, why would I come back to Pioneer Square, and my wife certainly would not consent to come here at night. I have probably spent half my life here (and my father began work in Pioneer Square in 1959 I can remember visiting his office when very young), and for a lot of that time Pioneer Square was funky but relatively safe with a lot of funky restaurants, bars and shops and people on the street. That part I will miss, but that part is long gone.

The good news is I will be able to walk to work through a 15 minute town center in my new building. Who thought I would end up the urbanist on this blog.

Speaking of Pioneer Square, check out this outstanding article: https://crosscut.com/podcast/crosscut-reports/1/2/podcast-how-pioneer-square-was-almost-wiped-map/. Victor Steinbrueck was truly a visionary — Seattle owes a lot to that man. In contrast, Don Duncan was clearly wrong, although you can definitely here his echos in essays by Daniel.

[How much you wanna bet DT responds without actually reading the contents of the article.]

I read the short piece on Steinbrueck. His involvement in preserving the architecture in Pioneer Square is well known (along with other areas of Seattle), especially if you have worked in Pioneer Square and ridden the elevator with tour guides for the last 32 years. The Crosscut article did not reveal anything new.

You can see what he was concerned about in the architecture (if you want to call it that) in the sterile commercial core from James to Westlake, and then Belltown to SLU today. It is why I was opposed to the out-of-scale and inconsistent architecture for Embassy Suites and the building next to it by the stadium, the Weyerhaeuser building that remains empty today (although at least each of these buildings has some street level retail), and most of all the Vulcan developments along 4th which were built under variances and have no retail (but lots of underground parking) which the city allowed hoping they would create retail density and vibrancy.

I also strongly oppose the current zoning for the CID that my guess is will go higher to make steel framed buildings economical and will result in the same sterile development as in Belltown. All sacrificed on the alter of density, and the expectations of huge population growth and jobs growth which the pandemic ended, although we still have the empty tall buildings and zoning.

And of course I support the CID residents and businesses in opposing 10 years of construction for a station for DSTT2, and the city using the CID as a dumping ground for the homeless.

Steinbrueck preserved the buildings but that does not guarantee vibrancy. A perfect example of that is Portland which did a much better job of preserving its historic buildings in its downtown core but has almost no vibrancy downtown.

If you actually talk to the business owners in Pioneer Square they will tell you their biggest handicap is lack of parking and overpriced parking, which is only exacerbated by perceptions and reality of danger when walking about Pioneer Square from outdoor parking lot to businesses. It is why The Smith Tower — although having the best views in Seattle and being historic — has never been able to compete with the steel buildings north for prime tenants: lack of onsite underground parking. Turns out executives rather than taking the bus to a building with no parking move their offices to buildings with parking.

I would also note the current property owners of Pioneer Square are not hobos or winos or the working class Steinbrueck hoped to help. The flop houses are gone. The condos are quite expensive in Pioneer Square except for a few affordable housing complexes that of course have zero retail around them and are shunted to Yesler.

Pioneer Square’s two big problems today, despite the fact most of the historic architecture is preserved if empty (it is very expensive to retrofit for earthquakes or just to remodel), are: 1. the absence of the work commuter which means businesses cannot survive during the day, even something iconic like The Central Bakery; and 2. crime and perceptions of danger. For some it is a big deal when they read about a 72 year old man being randomly shot just for walking past someone else, especially when the lack of onsite parking forces folks to either park in surface lots or walk from transit (or shop someplace else).

The reality is with the demise of Westlake Center and Belltown’s retail vibrancy suffering Pioneer Square is the one historic areas left downtown that should have vibrant retail and restaurants and something less sterile day and night, especially with the two stadiums. It has had that kind of retail vibrancy during periods during the 32 years I have worked here but not today, and I don’t know if it can ever come back if the work commuter does not. But still crime and perceptions of danger when walking about will rule Pioneer Square out for most eastsiders (along with the lack of easy and obvious parking) who have better options, so retail businesses just cannot survive.

Here is just one example: last night an old friend was in Seattle because he had to go to the border to renew his travel pass. Three of us wanted to meet for dinner. Our friend remembered Carmines in Pioneer Square, but the other friend who lives on MI insisted on Carmines on Old Main St. in Bellevue, so our out-of-town friend drove to Bellevue for dinner, in probably the prettiest and best restaurant in the summer IMO. The point is there are always options to where one shops or dines. The food was the same.

Sam Israel also had a lot to do with historic Pioneer Square buildings being preserved. True, he didn’t improve many of the buildings he owned, but he also didn’t tear them down to build something bigger and more profitable.

Sam Israel never improved any of his properties including surface parking lots (he owned The Smith Tower and put nothing into it). He was a slumlord and his his plan was to spend as little as possible to make the properties and buildings rentable and wait for the value of the underlying land to rise. This approach had its drawbacks for the city, like the fact the most important parcel from 1st to 2nd and Pike to Pine is still a peep show when the opportunity to develop the property and really clean that area up and create a safe retail street mall from the Pike Place Market to the Convention Center is now probably gone.

The demise of Westlake Center? This I gotta hear.

“But still crime and perceptions of danger when walking about will rule Pioneer Square out for most eastsiders (along with the lack of easy and obvious parking) who have better options, so retail businesses just cannot survive.”

“This used to be the best part of town, now it stinks”

“There are an equal number of boarded up buildings”

Who said it? Hard to tell. The only clue is “eastsiders”. The other quotes come from Guzzo, in 1960. It is amazing how similar is the writing, given the enormous time difference. Guzzo’s dream was to add parking. Same with David. Both think Pioneer Square will never get better.

The funny part is, the time that David looks back as being great is actually the time *after* Guzzo’s wish wasn’t granted. Pioneer Square was preserved. Parking wasn’t added. The area got better — or at least it got good enough for David to look back at it with nostalgia. Guzzo was wrong then — even David believes it. David is wrong now. Pioneer Square has good times and bad. But as long as we preserve as much of the history as possible — and not add parking — it will do quite well.

The difference in your quotes Ross is I have never advocated for tearing down and replacing the historic architecture in Pioneer Square. In fact as my prior post notes for the last 32 years I have opposed new development I felt was out-of-scale or inconsistent with the existing architecture. I don’t ever remember seeing you at any of the public meetings. But Paul Allen had lots of money and there was a change on the historical Board that favored the economic boost from new development, all of which has onsite parking, but I opposed because of the scale and architecture.

But preserving the buildings is only part of restoring a part of downtown, because we are not trying to create a museum, which is why I used Portland as an example. The reason folks in the past — and recently — have been able to push new development to replace old architecture is BECAUSE Pioneer Square was economically distressed, like today. That has always been their argument: new construction will revitalize the area.

I tend to listen to the business owners, and what they need to survive. You need to experience being a business owner to understand. Reading an article on Crosscut does not make you an expert.

Safety and parking are the two main complaints business owners give, and are a big reason our firm is leaving. You have a pathological hatred of cars but their customers don’t and that is who counts.

I hope Pioneer Square recovers and returns to its past vibrancy before the homeless, crime and pandemic. Never has an area benefitted so little from a light rail station so transit is not the answer. People and customers are. If 90% of trips are by car then so are 90% of customers.

We’ll be visiting Seattle with small children via the Cascades in a few weeks, and will be staying up by Seattle Center. It’s been a few years since we’ve done this, so I have to ask how bad things have gotten on the busses through downtown. In the past, we’ve had some uncomfortable rides between King St. and Seattle Center, but nothing dangerous. Should we look at taking Link + Monorail, or are the busses reasonably safe these days? I think we’ve done the 5/28 or RR E-line in the past.

We’ve been taking transit all through COVID, and haven’t had serious safety issues beyond mask compliance, and obviously even that is in the past. There’s some boisterous characters on the E, but if you’ve taken it in the past it’s really no different. My parents were in town a few months ago and took transit everywhere (even down to Tacoma), and had no problems even with my mom on crutches for part of the visit. I think things are even better now that there’s even more people riding transit and visiting downtown.

I’d take the 24 or 33. They both follow the same route through that area and all you have to do is get to the north side of Jackson and 4th.

The stop I find most uncomfortable is the E stop in the city park 4 blocks north of the station. You shouldn’t need to be anywhere near that one.

Despite the comments here, I’ve had fewer uncomfortable encounters with homeless in Seattle in the last 2 years than during 2009-2011. By far my scariest encounters have been in Everett (and in 2018, Bellingham).

But, you can’t really guarantee anything. The guy wandering around Bellingham punching buildings and street signs could just as easily be in Seattle this week, as could the woman in Everett threatening to kill anyone getting off the 512.

I take my kids on the bus downtown occasionally. The worst I’ve seen is a couple times people smoking (tobacco one time, fentanyl the other time) on the bus. In those cases, I got off at the next stop and got another bus. I’ve never seen anything actually dangerous, but certain routes are often filled with annoying people.

For going between King Street and Seattle Center specifically, I would take Link/Monorail anyway, as they are more reliable and faster. I guess there’s a transfer penalty, but I’ve had so much trouble getting a bus to Seattle Center in the past that I don’t do it anymore unless the monorail isn’t running.

Breaking news? I just read on glassdoor.com that Sound Transit is looking for a new CFO. Interesting.

Metro just announced the fall service changes: https://kingcountymetro.blog/2022/09/07/king-county-metro-revising-schedules-sept-17-for-fall-service-change/

There’s a whole slew of reductions, though I wonder if these are just formalizing the perma-temporary cancellations that Metro has already done. Based on the blog post, they seem pretty upbeat about the future of transit here so hopefully the recovery can continue with new operators working their way through the pipeline.

Thanks for the link. The driver report that was posted here recently seemed to say the total number of drivers is decreasing slightly every month, in spite of Metro’s hiring and training push. So the “trips deleted due to workforce shortages” are not ones Metro wants to do or can’t afford; it’s just part of the national labor shortage.

Most routes listed for reductions are losing 1-4 weekday trips. I assume it’s half that number each direction. The ones losing more are: 120: 5, 218: 9, 271: 8, 301: 5, 311: 11, 320: 5, C: 19, D: 7, E: 8, 204: 10, 906: 5, 522: 5.

The C and 271 schedules still look frequent, so it doesn’t seem to be devastating. The 311 still has 5 trips each direction, and the 204 is hourly. The C has been augmented during the West Seattle Bridge closure, so some of the deletions may be from those.

Overall, what matters is baseline frequency is kept up, and buses don’t get overcrowded. There has probably been slack with the lack of office commuters, and it’s coming out first from those extra runs. The main route I’ve suffered cancellations on is the 45 and maybe 62. The number of trips is within the range of existing cancellations, but whether it’s those trips or additional ones I don’t know.

Looking at the 271, I don’t see a gap longer than 15-20 minutes before 7:30pm, so the 15-minute service seems intact (with 5 minutes leeway). One pet peeve I have with the 550 (30 minutes on Sundays) is a 45-minute gap between 6:55pm and 7:39pm westbound. I’ve seen that on a couple other routes when transitioning from daytime to evening service, but I don’t see that on the routes I spot-checked now.

So, how is my favorite 11 doing? “4 weekday reductions.” It looks normal: still 15 minutes peak, 20 minutes midday, 30 minutes evening, no larger gaps.

Good point. It is largely peak-oriented reductions. These still hurt. Many commuters were used to frequency so good you could not only ignore the “schedule”, but not bother running after a bus. Or even jogging. Another bus will be there soon enough (yep, I can see it). Those days are gone (for now).

But at least frequency the rest of the day seems largely intact. Riders aren’t going from 15 to 30 minute headways — at least not from what I can tell. It would be interesting to see what the biggest additional gap is. What riders now have to wait much longer than before? Data nerds should be able figure this out (yeah, I’m calling you out — who’s got game?). I would do it but I’ve got a broken wrist, and grand kids I’m looking after ’cause of the strike, and a dozen other excuses besides sheer laziness :)

If we can’t find enough drivers it is time to invest in automated trains and gondola/APM systems.

And, much to RossB’s chagrin, while service is being reduced across the board, the only bus route to *gain* service is…(drum roll)…the 303!

That’s right. While the entire region is losing trips due to a driver shortage, rush hour commuters from Northgate to 5th/James gain a trip, in complete redundancy to Link every 6 minutes.

How has ridership been on the First Hill and SLU.

How has ridership been on the First Hill and SLU expresses?

Would it have been so hard for Metro to specify which trips are being cut? Or for the ST routes, like the 522, to actually post the new schedule?

“How has ridership been on the First Hill and SLU expresses?”

I don’t know, but it is implausible to me that these routes would be outperforming the entire region to the point where they deserve an extra trip while everyone else’s service is being cut.

It is not just the performance of the route — it is the alternatives. The 41 would still perform well, as would the 71, 72, 73, 74 expresses to downtown. But they are a waste of money, as is the 303. I’m sure an advanced metric would reflect this (time saved per dollar spent on the 303 has to be poor). The 303 doesn’t save that much time — not like, say, running the 28 more often.

Even if your goal is better service to First Hill there are better alternatives. As it is, the 60 and the streetcar run every 12 minutes, so just syncing them up would do a lot. But even a circulator would provide way more value for way more people for way less money than the 303.


This link shows Metro’s 2019 baseline weekday ridership levels county wide (400,000 trips per day) and the steep decline in 2020 due to Covid to round 100,000 trips per day. The reopening of the West Seattle Bridge should also add daily trips.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tFUsbWmfk3A6MdQjuxWg3JUYs7vqbSt62JRQY1V3fKI/pubhtml?gid=1914679577&single=true This link provides Metro daily boardings 2012 to 2022. The last data period is April 2022 with 200,032 boardings.

So boardings today are around double the low point in 2020 of 100,000 and half of 2019’s baseline boardings of 400,000/day, or the highwater mark of 413,310 boardings in February 2020.

The big question is whether 200,000 daily boardings is the new baseline, or whether there are more bus riders who want or are willing to take the bus but don’t have the frequency or coverage, either due to budgets or driver availability. IMO the effects of Covid on employment and peak commuting are now permanent so the potential missing riders are non-peak riders who for some reason are not taking the bus today (around 200,000 fewer daily boardings compared to 2019 and early 2020), and Metro’s recent restructure suggests Metro feels the same, at least today.

I don’t know if the real issue is driver availability, or whether even with more drivers in the future (which is unlikely based on age demographics and the average age of current drivers) the missing riders will return, or whether Metro has the funding for more service with a 20% farebox recovery. Metro can’t run buses or run them more frequently if the riders are not there. I also have to think that with a reduction of service as steep as this restructure equity has to be a key factor in determining coverage and frequency, especially for those 100,000 riders who each day took Metro during the height of the pandemic before vaccines.

“ The big question is whether 200,000 daily boardings is the new baseline, or whether there are more bus riders who want or are willing to take the bus but don’t have the frequency or coverage, either due to budgets or driver availability. ”

There is another major factor: The opening of Link extensions. While some routes are truncated, others are fully eliminated. In some cases, Metro will be used but at a shorter distance. In others, former Metro riders now only take Link since the Northgate extension opened. Finally, some that drove will now use Link as others choose to start driving for other reasons.

Of course, by 2025 the base will move again.

Perhaps the best measure would be total “linked trips” by transit, counted by the first boarding of a trip. That data is hard to cobble together with so many boarding rules and counting methods with several operators.

Al, total Link ridership today with Northgate Link is around 77,000 boardings, and Link existed in 2019 and 2020 when Metro daily boardings were in the 400,000 range. The Northgate Link extension opened after 2020 but still is only around 17,000 riders/day, or that was the prediction. In fact I believe Link ridership is down from 2018 levels even with Northgate Link. 2025 could see more Link ridership with additional lines opening and that could further depress bus ridership, but overall transit ridership will likely stay the same as today, or even decline. The biggest issue for Link IMO is the tiny sliver of the three county region it serves often along freeways, and the need for first/last mile access. Buses will still cover a much larger area than Link, and if bus coverage is further reduced because there is Link I think that could be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The reopening of the West Seattle Bridge should also add daily trips.

Not necessarily. Absent the pandemic, I think we would have seen an increase in ridership from West Seattle when the bridge was closed. Not only was transit often faster than driving, but they added service. Now the massive automobile subsidy is back, and people will go back to driving.

It will be very difficult to measure the transit changes in this period because the pandemic had such a huge impact. The most important section of Link was finally completed (U-District to downtown) but it happened at the worst time. We are still recovering. Then there was the service cutbacks (https://seattletransitblog.com/2020/09/01/two-axes-to-swing-for-metro-in-september/) along with the driver shortage. It isn’t clear when Metro will get back to “normal”, and when it does, much will have changed (in some cases for the better). My guess it will be a couple years or so; everything else should be back to normal by then (although I said that before the Delta variant, Omicron …).

Stephen Fesler at The Urbanist thinks elected officials should raise alarm bells about these widespread cuts at Metro, ST, PT, and CT.

“Despite our intrepid reporting, local elected officials at Sound Transit and King County have eschewed any public discussion about declining service levels and the operator crisis at hand. In fact, beyond passing mention by agency staff of ongoing operator shortages, there hasn’t been a single discussion of how to address this problem at Sound Transit board meetings this summer and King County officials have repeatedly cancelled transit-related committee meetings over the past couple of months and are apparently cancelling another one this month. It beggars belief that a growing regional crisis of this magnitude could go on without critical attention by elected officials, but here we are.”

The link was in SDOT’s news roundup. That could be interpreted as SDOT saying, “Hey, somebody else thinks the agencies and governments should engage the public on this, hint, hint.”

“The big question is whether 200,000 daily boardings is the new baseline, or whether there are more bus riders who want or are willing to take the bus but don’t have the frequency or coverage, either due to budgets or driver availability.” Having used Zero Fare for Clean Air that RTD in Denver did during August,, it’s less COVID or WFH and definitely coverage and frequency. People definitely want to use the bus, but the frequency can just be plain bad on a lot of routes. In my opinion if a bus is less than 15 minutes for most of the day then it’s not worth waiting for unless you can plan it. We even have half hourly or hourly routes through Denver when they should be 15 minutes for them. Along with frequency just dying off at arbitrary times, like the Colorado Blvd bus (the 40) going to 30 minutes frequency at 7 PM instead of 9 or 10 PM.

“The schedule changes will, to an extent, formalize what may already be happening on some routes, and the hope is that riders can count on the remaining trips to show up on time.”

So that answers that. Some of the reductions are just formalizing existing cancellations.

“Metro has about 2,500 full- and part-time operators. Spokesperson Jeff Switzer said the current need is estimated to be 62 more full-time operators.”

“Among 117 agencies surveyed by the American Public Transportation Association, 71% reported reducing or delaying service in response to lack of staff. ”

“Newman said Metro strove to correlate the trip reductions with pandemic-era shifts in ridership. Routes that have seen big drops in peak travel volumes, such as those coming into Seattle from the suburbs during work hours, will lose more trips than those moving through the city.”

‘To fill its staff roster, Metro must compete with every other transit agency in the region. Its training classes are filling, said Newman, and they’re looking to add more cohorts next year. Whether recruitment is robust enough to fill additional classes is still an open question. Newman couldn’t hazard a guess when service might return to normal. “We have to acknowledge that there is so much uncertainty in the labor market now,” he said. “I’d be hesitant to put any timeline on this one.”’

I have heard that the drivers are not the only ones they are having trouble hiring. It is all classifications of Metro. The people that fuel the busses, the people that sanitize the busses to the newer, stricter Covid guidlines, the people who fix the busses, and possibly more. And I am understanding there are more retirements to come.

Forgive my ignorance, but is there a summary somewhere of the process/timeline of hiring, training, and certifying(?) a new bus driver for Metro? I’m curious what the actual delay time might be if they have busy training classes right now – any how many of those in training may actually turn into drivers.

A news article this summer a month or two ago said Metro is short both drivers and maintenance workers, and they go through a several-week training program. In previous expansions the county council gave approval by June, and it took three months for Metro to hire and train additional drivers. The classes have a limited number of slots, and there are a limited number of resources to run them simultaneously. It sounds like they’re through local colleges, but I don’t know anything about Metro’s internals. After the 2014 recession layoff and the recovery in 2015 and passing Seattle’s Transit Benefit District in 2016, it took two years to hire enough drivers to recover all the previous service and reach the target expansion level.

This situation is different because its not a one-time layoff, it’s month after month of more drivers leaving than starting for the past two years, with no end in sight. So Metro needs to make the job more attractive, and add more training programs while the current ones are still running. Raising drivers’ salaries substantially would require more money,

I have to assume making driver pay more attractive is a core point of the current union contract renewal negotiations.

“Metro has about 2,500 full- and part-time operators. Spokesperson Jeff Switzer said the current need is estimated to be 62 more full-time operators.”

A deficit of 62 full time drivers out of 2500 does not account for a 50% drop in ridership. Adding 62 drivers will not create induced demand to return those 200,000 lost riders. Those riders are likely not coming back.

I think what Metro is really saying is 62 additional drivers are needed based on the assumption the new baseline is 200,000 daily riders. Some of those may have been forced onto Link by truncation, but that only shows how weak ST ridership is post-pandemic. Northgate Link added three stops in three of the most populous and rider rich urban areas — which included forcing folks from buses onto light rail — and Link ridership is still below pre-pandemic levels I believe. Lynnwood, Federal Way and East Link will have depressed ridership too, and when those open Link farebox recovery rates will really sink. So Link ridership post pandemic is not doing much better than Metro, which is hardly surprising since so most of it was peak commuter oriented, and when the outer lines open in 2025 will look even worse. Link has little to gloat about over Metro, and has a 40% farebox recovery assumption to meet its operations budgets, which just went up $3 billion. I’ll take Metro’s numbers any day.

“Newman said Metro strove to correlate the trip reductions with pandemic-era shifts in ridership. Routes that have seen big drops in peak travel volumes, such as those coming into Seattle from the suburbs during work hours, will lose more trips than those moving through the city.”

This is basically the definition of transit “equity”. The 100,000 riders who rode buses during the pandemic and before there were vaccines are riding buses today, except now they account for 50% rather than 25% of ridership. Metro isn’t really cutting service in suburban and commuter areas; it is maintaining service is those areas where ridership stayed strong during the pandemic, and are still riding the bus today, as I have predicted would have to be done based on budgets rather than drivers. The grid and induced demand paradigm has run into reality: money and WFH.

Of course coverage and frequency will favor the riders who rode buses during the pandemic and still ride it today because they have to, whether you base coverage and frequency on ridership during the pandemic or today, because they are still riding today. “[Correlat[ing] the trip reductions with pandemic-era shifts in ridership” doesn’t just mean the loss of service for the peak commuter but the fact there has been no shift or drop in the 100,000 riders who rode Metro during the pandemic and continue to ride it today because they are “transit reliant riders”, as the SDOT and Metro equity groups put it.

It kind of squares Ross’s argument over the 41 that transit ridership IS equity, rather than geography, no matter where it is. It just so happens that the 100,000 riders who rode the bus during the pandemic and ride it today tend to live in poorer areas usually considered areas of “equity” and color, so they get more service because they need it.

Wow, that’s a lot of cutting. But, I prefer them cutting a little from a lot of routes, rather than suspending entire routes.

Agreed. Brutal, but could be worse.

I looked at a few routes. The cuts are seemingly all peak runs. Doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

There are two things related to this that I’ve noticed. One is that there are a lot of inexperienced drivers lately, unfamiliar with the routes, turning at high speeds, and slamming on the gas/brakes a lot. Two is that over time, I’m seeing more and more riders. Every month seems to have more people on the bus than the last. Peak ridership is not really coming back, though.


Pierce Transit work-horse route 1 goes to hourly after 6pm.

At these levels you would almost be better off with no transit at all, and pay for those who are so desperate they are willing to sit on the side of a highway for an hour to take uber.

Judging future need by current use at this nearly non-existent level of surface is basically saying “no one crosses this river, so why build a bridge.”

That’s brutal. It is very important to understand how important the 1 is. Prior to the pandemic, it carried 5,300 people — more than twice the second most popular bus. It carried a whopping 18% of the total ridership of the agency. To put things in perspective, the E carries 4% of Metro’s riders. If Link was part of Metro, it would carry a smaller portion of the ridership than the 1 does for Pierce Transit. The 1 is Pierce Transit. For that bus to see cutbacks of that nature is disastrous.

Uber is not as cost-effective as you seem to think, and they are still losing money on every ride, so it won’t be around for much longer.

Here in King County, my local route runs slightly more often than once an hour, all day long. It’s inconvenient, but I orient my schedule around it. For me, buying a car would be cheaper than taking Uber every day.

My advice is to buy Uber stock. I did a while ago. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/stockdetails/analysis/fi-bptw77

2021 YoY revenue growth is 56.7%. EPS YoY is up an astounding 93.21%. Gross margins for 2021 were up 35.6%. Declining fuel prices and stumbles by its rivals are consolidating its lead in this space. Growth in drivers and members worldwide is huge. An investor also has to factor in the proprietary info Uber has on hundreds of millions of customers worldwide and its proprietary software that could be critical when cars become driverless and likely managed like fleets of cabs, which is why it is considered a software company and not a transportation company.

If transit service continues to be cut in suburban areas which looks likely and folks don’t want to drive Uber is the obvious choice among a demographic who can afford it. Plus more and more parking restrictions on parking in urban areas plays right into Uber’s hands. Urban crime always helps Uber. The desire of citizens to get out after the pandemic, and to not get a DUI, are also helping Uber. I took Uber to dinner in Bellevue on Wednesday for exactly this reason even though parking is validated at the restaurant. Sharing the ride with a friend made it pretty cheap, around $6 each before tip.

If Metro is down 200,000 daily riders, and Link ridership did not increase despite opening Northgate Link and bus truncation, then all those suburban commuter/riders are using some form of transportation. Some are WFH, some are driving their own car, some are taking Uber. Transportation is like water flowing to the lowest level: if hundreds of thousands of daily riders are missing from buses and Link but population and area wealth have not materially changed then where did those transit riders go, and how are they getting around (which is why Uber’s proprietary info is so valuable).

Rideshare absolutely got crushed during the pandemic. Uber is squeezing drivers to mitigate their hemorrhaging of money, and drivers are quitting in droves.

It remains to be seen if they will see a rebound, but they are in danger of losing critical mass they need to maintain decent wait times. If they continue to strangle their drivers, their drivers will go elsewhere. Preferably get a CDL and drive a bus.

I’m not advocating using Uber. I’m advocating increasing frequency on PTs main transit line.

NPR on public transit throughout the country. Peak commutes are down, midday and weekend ridership is strong. Buses have recovered better than peak-oriented trains. Many agencies were propped up by covid funding, and will be in a difficult position when it runs out.

Ya, but Metro is at 50% of pre-COVID ridership whereas Link is at 100%. So what gives?

And, yes, I know Link opened up 3 (three!) new stations, so it is a bit of a mixed comparison, but still. What is ST doing right that Metro could learn from?

But I think the real comparison should be peak vs non-peak, not bus vs train. But that comparison will change as more employers reduce the amount of WFH. Certain groups at Boeing are already on notice that they will be returning to the office 4 or 5 days a week. And while Boeing isn’t a big transit user, other employers are sure to follow.

And please note, if you think 3 new stations on Link made the difference between 50% and 100% ridership recovery, then just wait until 2024! East Link, Lynnwood Link, Redmond Link, FW Link? Holy cow, it’s going to be a different world!

Agreed, and certainly other agencies with big bus operations like LA Metro have seen an even stronger recovery than we have here in the Puget Sound. I imagine if one looked at specific KCM routes, it would be clear that the recovery is very uneven; up here in north Seattle, the 40, 44, and E are all quite busy already while the 31/32 and 62 are a bit less so, and the 20 and 79 are real dogs (though to be fair didn’t exist pre-pandemic so harder to compare).

The other wild card in addition to employees returning to the office is youth – even before the blanket free youth fares, SPS was giving out free ORCA cards to deal with its own bus driver shortage, and this would occasionally bring the 44 to crushload. Hopefully transit agencies have a way of tracking youth ridership just for the ridership stats purposes.

In any case, your point about Link is well made, and KCM really has to focus on how to make buses complement Link rather than compete with it.

What is ST doing right that Metro could learn from?

Overall ST ridership is down almost as much as Metro ridership. Sounder number are way down. ST express numbers are way down. Link numbers aren’t down as much, but given the completion of arguably the most important section that Link will ever build, that isn’t surprising. (Most agencies would start with U-District to downtown, ST finally completed it.)

But back to your question — what can agencies learn from this?

I think the real comparison should be peak vs non-peak, not bus vs train.

Yes, that is definitely part of it. This explains why (peak-oriented) Sounder has done so poorly. But longer distance transit has always been peak-oriented, because it has never performed well outside it. Thus you have several takeaways, that apply to all agencies:

1) Focus on the urban core. 2) Emphasize anywhere-to-anywhere trips within that core (i. e. not everyone is headed downtown). 3) Provide good all-day service. 4) Build out a grid — people are willing to transfer if it involves frequent, fast transit.

These are all standard, best-practice ideas for most cities. The pandemic has simply amplified things.

You can see a lot of this at work now. The 41 was one of the busiest, most productive routes in our system. Many of the previous riders have a worse commute to downtown (Link is usually slower, and the transfer takes a while). Yet now those riders have a much faster trip to the UW and Capitol Hill. People are routinely taking two and three seat rides simply because it is fairly fast and there isn’t much waiting. At first glance the Northgate Station looks like it will be a complete failure: https://goo.gl/maps/UeT5mxme4ic5Fjar8. There is a sea of parking with a freeway and a pedestrian bridge leading to a green belt. Sure, there are places worth going to, but most are a long walk away. This is the type of place that CityNerd would mock, after pointing out its low ridership. To be clear, it definitely has its weaknesses. But it also serves as a major bus transfer point. It is largely dependent on transfers from buses, as are all the stations north of Roosevelt. Those buses are definitely delivering, otherwise Link ridership would be much lower.

But this is still within the urban core. At worst it sits just outside it, with very quick access to urban stops like Roosevelt and Capitol Hill. Stations like Ash Way or Federal Way won’t have that. So much of their ridership only occurred during peak, and it remains to be seen whether they will get that back. They will gain something in terms of midday transit mobility to more places — it is just that those places are either minor destinations, or too far away. Again, this is nothing new, it is just that our long-distance-oriented metro may perform worse than the already low expectations.

As for whether the agencies are learning anything — I doubt it. It is too late to go back and the stations we should have added. If you think ridership is impressive now, imagine if they built a standard metro, with twice as many stops between Northgate and downtown. Yowzer. Central Link might start looking like a SkyTrain line (with similar ridership).

That is all water under the bridge, but ST3 is not. No one at ST seems to realize that extensions to Everett, Tacoma, Issaquah and even West Seattle won’t be worth it. They offer none of the advantages of the Northgate extension, despite the very high cost. Likewise, even urban projects are questionable. Without a huge surge of commuters from distant suburban locations (that was never going to happen anyway) the new tunnel doesn’t make sense. Forcing riders into much worse transfers — or existing riders into much deeper stations — will actually reduce Link ridership. Better to focus on the midday, urban-core rider, who would be much better off with a shared tunnel. (And yes, I would consider downtown Bellevue to South Lake Union an urban core trip.)

I am a little more hopeful about Metro, but only because bus routes are more flexible. Poor routing decisions can be reversed. Overall, the Metro bus network is much better than it was ten years ago. It has a long way to go, and many of the choices frustrate me, but overall, there is progress. The next big restructure is probably related to Madison BRT. If Metro takes the opportunity to build a grid in the most grid-worthy part of the state, I will be pleased. If not — if they continue to focus on one-seat rides to downtown — I can at least hope they will fix it later.

Signs went up on the TriMet route I use most (10) saying they’re 1) instituting a new route diversion on the 18th and 2) several more trips will be added. It’s a small ridership coverage-like route. So, they must be seeing some more demand.

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