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Posts Tagged ‘transit’

Sound Transit, the Seattle area’s regional transit provider, and the primary planner and builder of rail transit in the region, is updating its Long Range Plan.

I suggest modifying the Long Range Plan Map in three places:

Sound Transit 2005 Long Range Plan Map

Sound Transit 2005 Long Range Plan Map

1. Add a West Seattle potential light rail extension, from downtown Seattle to Burien.  Sound Transit has already scheduled a study of high capacity transit in this corridor.  This link will connect a Hub Urban Village (West Seattle Junction) with downtown Seattle and the Burien regional center, from where the Long Range Plan already shows a potential rail extension.  The transportation geography of West Seattle is particularly favorable for transit ridership.  All travel north or east of the “peninsula” must cross bridges in either the Spokane Street or 1st Av South corridors.  Transit already has a high mode share of downtown commuters due to favorable bus treatment on the West Seattle Bridge and SR 99.  However, the SR 99 tunnel will result in longer travel times and more congestion in the transit path.  Providing a completely grade-separated rail route between West Seattle and downtown will provide attractive, speedy and reliable transit service that will be well utilized.  This project should be considered for the ST3 funding package.

2. Add a potential light rail extension connecting the rail extension in Ballard to the high capacity transit route from Northgate to Bothell.  This connection rationalizes the potential rail extensions into a single line from downtown Seattle to Bothell via Ballard and Lake City.  This addition will connect the Hub Urban Villages of Ballard and Lake City to the Urban Center of Northgate.  This project should be considered for funding in the ST4 or future funding packages.

3. Change the line paralleling I-5 between Seattle and Tacoma from Bus Rapid Transit to High Capacity Transit.  High capacity transit is defined in the Long Range Plan as either BRT, light rail or commuter rail, mode to be determined.  This change in designation allows for future consideration of commuter rail in this corridor.  By the mid-21st century, the Puget Sound region should consider a new mainline rail corridor directly connecting Tacoma, Sea-Tac airport and downtown Seattle.  The corridor would be used for a second Sounder commuter rail line (all-day, two-way) and for regional high-speed rail (Cascades).  The line could utilize the I-5 right-of-way from Tacoma to south of Sea-Tac airport, the right-of-way for the proposed SR 509 extension from I-5 into Sea-Tac airport, and a bored tunnel under the airport and continuing underground near SR 99 to meet the BNSF mainline near Boeing Access Road.  This project should be part of a true long-range plan, to be implemented in cooperation with a high-speed rail authority.

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I am reposting a link to my essay from the last King County Metro budget crisis, since two years have passed, the “temporary congestion reduction charge” is expiring, and Metro is once again planning 17% bus service cuts. 

This time around, however, I don’t support the mainstream rescue plan.  King County getting the option to vote for new transit taxes for $75 million per year, in exchange for several billion dollars in highway expansions, is not a fair exchange.  Metro should walk.  These highways go directly against the State Growth Management Act, Climate change mitigation goals and Vehicle Miles Travelled reduction goals.  Instead I support a King County “Plan B” of forming a Transportation Benefit District to levy a permanent vehicle license fee.

King County Transit, due to declining sales tax revenue, is faced with 17% system-wide cuts over the next 2 years, unless the County Council passes a temporary $20 car tab fee.  My rationale for why this budget-saver should be passed is posted over at the citytank: Dynamic Metropolitan Areas Depend on Transit, So Pass the Congestion Reduction Charge, Please.

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On Friday I rode all the rail transit in the Seattle metro area.  It is possible to do this in one day (weekends only) due to the reverse-commute Sound Sounder runs.  Here’s the itinerary:

You can read my running commentary on the trips in my Twitter feed for August 5, 2011.  On the basis of my rides on Friday, I developed a rating matrix of the six rail transit modes, plus Swift BRT.  Three of the vehicles were waiting for me when I arrived at the station: the SLU Streetcar, Central Link and Tacoma Link.  If I hadn’t been so lucky, they would have lower ratings for frequency.   Swift, although it is bus rapid transit not rail, is included as well.  Bus transit, whatever other benefits it provides, simply cannot compete with rail in terms of ride quality.  My return trip from Everett to Seattle via bus was by far more exhausting than the commuter rail trip to Everett.

Service

Frequency

Experience of Speed

Ride Comfort

Ticketing Convenience

Transfer Convenience

Monorail

4

8

7

2

3

SLU Streetcar

6

3

7

6

4

Tacoma Link

8

5

7

10

8

Central Link

8

6

7

7

7

South Sounder

3

9

8

8

7

North Sounder

1

7

8

8

5

CT Swift

3

7

4

7

4

Below is a quantitative comparison of the six rail modes, plus Swift BRT. The surprise to me was the high ridership and frequency of the Monorail – it is actually the best performing rail service in the region. But then, it is by far the oldest (most mature) rail service in the region. Rail is still in its infancy in the Seattle region.

Service

Frequency
(Peak/Base/ Evening)

Average
Speed (mph)

Length
(miles)

Fares

Weekday
Ridership/ Mile

Year
Opened

Monorail

10/10/10

36

1.2

$2.00

3,400

1962

SLU Streetcar

10/15/15

7

1.3

$2.50

2,200

2007

Tacoma Link

12/12/24

12

1.6

Free

1,600

2003

Central Link

7.5/10/10

25

15.6

$2.00-$2.75

1,500

2009

South Sounder

25/–/–
(9 trips)

48

47

$2.75-$4.75

120

2000

North Sounder

30/–/–
(4 trips)

36

35

$2.75-$4.50

20

2004

CT Swift

10/10/20

22

17

$1.75

200

2009

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King County Transit, due to declining sales tax revenue, is faced with 17% system-wide cuts over the next 2 years, unless the County Council passes a temporary $20 car tab fee.  My rationale for why this budget-saver should be passed is posted over at the citytank: Dynamic Metropolitan Areas Depend on Transit, So Pass the Congestion Reduction Charge, Please.

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Martin Duke at the Seattle Transit Blog posted a reminder today about Metro Transit Route 50, a historic east-west route between West Seattle and Columbia City. It was proposed to be restored when routes were rearranged for the opening of Link light rail.  It didn’t make the cut.  But there is a detail of Route 50’s routing that stood out to me today.

Instead of following Avalon Way to Spokane Street and crossing the lower bridge, Route 50 would turn down Genesee Street to Delridge Way, then travel north to Spokane.  This slight re-route down is an important concept, as Derek at the Delridge Grassroots Leadership Blog noted.  There would be a minor increase in travel time, for a vast improvement in connectivity.  The North Delridge neighborhood would be directly connected to the Junction, with its supermarkets and wide variety of shops.  Residents from further south on Delridge could transfer to the Junction at shared stops between the 120, 125 and 50.   The Delridge corridor is a virtual retail desert, and transit users in the area find it easier to travel downtown for basic services than to go up to the West Seattle Junction.  They are only one mile apart, but the steep hill and lack of transit routing results in an extreme level of disconnection.

In fact, I have previously dreamed about this same routing for the 22 between the West Seattle Junction and downtown.  I was unsure whether Metro buses could handle Genesee Street’s steep slope, but it must be possible if it made it into Metro’s proposed routing.  Regardless of what happens with Route 50, this Delridge routing should be implemented on Route 22 when routes are revised for Rapid Ride “C.”

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Spokane Street Viaduct Projects (Source: Seattle DOT)

In the wake of the Tohoku Earthquake in Japan, Seattle’s mayor and the Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat suggested closing the earthquake-damaged SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct sooner rather than later.  From Westneat’s column in the Times:

Living without one of our main north-south highways might finally bring the gridlock-apocalypse they’re always predicting.  What has hung up the viaduct project for a decade is that nobody knows. Some experts and studies say we can live without a waterfront highway. Others say as assertively that we can’t.

It is a counter-intuitive fact that several cities have removed urban freeways without signficant effects on auto traffic elsewhere, while improving the overall quality of life in the city.  I am on record in a previous post with my belief that freeways are detrimental to cities, and not precisely necessary. 

However, as we know from weekend closures of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, including the one this weekend, a level of gridlock occurs on surrounding freeways and on surface streets into downtown.  If the viaduct clousre were to extend beyond the weekend into weekdays, even worse disruption would occur.  A reasonable response for viaduct commuters  would be to switch to public transit.   For mobility to be maintained, transit must have prioritized, congestion-free routes to and from downtown.

If the Alaskan Way Viaduct were closed, as currently configured, West Seattle buses must access downtown through the lower West Seattle bridge and surface streets.  Several West Seattle buses (the 21, 22 and 56) always have, but construction projects related to the (unnecessary) widening of the Spokane Street Viaduct make those  routes so slow and inefficient, they barely qualify as transportation.  From 1st Ave. these routes turn onto S. Hanford St. across railroad tracks (frequently blocked by trains), and then across the lower West Seattle Bridge (frequently raised to allow ships passage).

It would be irresponsible to semi-permanently close the viaduct until these projects are in place:

  • Complete the new 1st Ave. on-ramp to the upper West Seattle bridge (scheduled for Fall 2011)
  • Provide a continuous transit lane, with signal priority from the 1st Ave. exit from the West Seattle Bridge to the 3rd Ave. transit spine in downtown Seattle.

If, and only if, these items are in place do I support immediately closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

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The Seattle City Council and the Planning Commission hosted a reception earlier this evening to celebrate the release of the long-awaited Seattle Transit Communities report.  The report identifies 41 locations in Seattle that have the potential to become great walkable, livable, urban neighborhoods, each served by high quality transit.  For each location, recommendations are provided for zoning, redevelopment potential, public services and pedestrian and bicycling routes.   The report builds upon the urban village planning designations and the neighborhood plans.  The recommendations could be implemented by City Council through comprehensive plan amendments or zoning ordinances (urban village overlays), or by City staff through departmental capital improvement funds.  Find out what is recommended for your neighborhood by reading the report available here.  I know I will.

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