Sunday, December 16, 2018

February 2015 Service Change for Metro, Community Transit, and Sound Transit

Coming soon.
The new timetable pamphlets.

On, and around Valentine’s Day, King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Community Transit will be implementing their late winter and early spring service changes. In early April, there will be some additional changes to Metro routes 4, 8, & 48 in order to accommodate construction. Details follow below; click the linked images to jump to the specific transit provider:

King County Metrosound-transit-logocommunitytransit

King County Metro

New Timetables

Keep a lookout for the new green timetables on buses and at timetable information kiosks. This service change is relatively minor, the last before the Proposition 1 funded changes start going into effect this June and September.

New Customer Service Center Hours

Beginning February 14, Metro’s Customer Information office will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday for trip planning and Lost & Found calls, and from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for ORCA calls and customer comments. The office will be closed on weekends and major holidays.

The Customer Stop on the mezzanine level of Westlake Station will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the first and last four business days of each month. The Customer Service office and Lost & Found at the King Street Center in Pioneer Square (201 S Jackson St) will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

New Route (Effective February 16th)

Route 628
route_628_mapIn an effort to expand alternative transit service on the Eastside and to help mitigate Route 208 service reductions and the deletion of routes 209 and 215 last fall, Metro has contracted with Hopelink to operate a new shuttle service in the Snoqualmie Valley.On weekdays, Community Shuttle Route 628 will operate about every 30 minutes between 5-8 am and 5-9 pm. It will operate on a fixed route to and from North Bend and the Issaquah Highlands P&R via Snoqualmie and Snoqualmie Ridge, and also provide service on request at designated stops within a flexible service area in the Issaquah Highlands. To schedule service in this area, call 855-233-6043.Route 628 will operate via SR-202, Snoqualmie Parkway, SE Ridge St, Douglas Ave SE, I-90 and Highlands Drive NE. It will also operate a reverse peak-period express service (eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening) to and from the Factory Outlet Mall in North Bend and the Issaquah Highlands P&R via I-90. Regular Metro fares will apply.Metro routes 208 and 224, and the Snoqualmie Valley Transportation (SVT) shuttle also provides service in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Revised Routes (Effective February 14th)

Route 7
The southbound Route 7 schedule will be revised to provide improved service to and from S Prentice St.
Route 50
In early February, Route 50 will serve a new bus stop inside the Veterans Administration Medical Center. If the new driveway and entrance is not finished by the start of the service change on February 14, Route 50 will continue serve the bus stops on Columbian Way S, just east and west of the entrance to the medical center.
Route 55
Southbound Route 55 to the Admiral District will serve the bus stop westbound on Wall St just east of 5th Ave. It will no longer stop at the bus stop westbound on Bell St just west of 7th Ave.
Route 111
Southbound Route 111 to Lake Kathleen will serve the bus stop westbound on Lenora St just east of 4th Ave. This route will no longer stop at the bus stops westbound on Bell St just west of 7th Ave, and on 2nd Ave just south of Bell St.
Route 114
Southbound Route 114 to the Renton Highlands will serve the bus stop westbound on Lenora St just east of 4th Ave. This route will no longer stop at the bus stops westbound on Bell St just west of 7th Ave, and on 2nd Ave just south of Bell St.
Route 143
Southbound Route 143 to Black Diamond will serve the bus stop westbound on Lenora St just east of 4th Ave. This route will no longer stop at the bus stops westbound on Bell St just west of 7th Ave, and on 2nd Ave just south of Bell St.
Route 193
The southbound Route 193 trip to Federal Way leaving E Jefferson St & 18th Ave at 7:05 pm will be revised to leave 35 minutes later at 7:40 pm.
Route 204
The span of service for southbound Route 204 trips to south Mercer Island will be extended by about an hour in the evening. The last southbound trip leaves the North Mercer Island P&R at 7:03 pm.
Route 212
The westbound trip to downtown Seattle leaving the Eastgate P&R at 7:21 am will be revised to leave six minutes later at 7:27 am.
Route 255
Eastbound Route 255 trips during the afternoon peak period will be revised to help eliminate a 29 minute gap in service between 7:15 and 7:44 pm. Also, a westbound trip to downtown Seattle leaving the Kirkland Transit Center at 5:44 pm will be deleted.
Route 303
The northbound Route 303 trip to the Shoreline P&R leaving E Jefferson St & 18th Ave at 7:18 pm will be revised to leave 22 minutes later at 7:40 pm.
Route 312
The southbound Route 312 trips to downtown Seattle leaving the Kenmore P&R at 7:16 and 7:23 am will be revised to leave at 7:18 and 7:22 am instead.
DART 913
At Kent Boeing, DART Route 913 will be revised to operate via 59th Ave S, S 208th St and the Kent Boeing Access Road in both directions. It will no longer operate on S 212th St between 59th Ave S and 66th Ave S, 66th Ave S, S 208th St, 67th Ave S and the roadway on the east and south sides of buildings 18-61, 18-67 and 18-62.

Revised Routes (Effective early April)

Route 4
Beginning in early April, southbound Route 4 will only operate as far as 21st Ave & E James St for about eight months due to a long-term construction project on 23rd Ave S.Alternative nearby service to downtown Seattle is available via Route 2 on E Union St, Route 3 on E Jefferson St, Route 7 on Rainier Ave S, Route 8 on Martin Luther King Jr Way, Route 14 on S Jackson St, Route 27 on Yesler Way and Route 48 on 23rd Ave.In conjunction with the start of the Route 4 routing revision, Route 8 will be revised to operate, in both directions, on Martin Luther King Jr Way S between S Jackson St and E Yesler Way. It will not operate via S Jackson St, 23rd Ave S and E Yesler Way northbound or via E Yesler Way, 23rd Ave S and S Jackson St southbound.Also, northbound Route 48 service on 23rd Ave S will be rerouted between S Jackson St and E Cherry St via Martin Luther King Jr Way. Route 48 will serve the bus stops eastbound on S Jackson St just east of 23rd Ave S, northbound on Martin Luther King Jr Way at E Alder and E Cherry streets, and westbound on E Cherry St at 25th Ave. Southbound service will be maintained but traffic delays should be expected.
Route 8
In conjunction with the start of the Route 4 routing revision, Route 8 will be revised to operate, in both directions, on Martin Luther King Jr Way S between S Jackson St and E Yesler Way. It will not operate via S Jackson St, 23rd Ave S and E Yesler Way northbound or via E Yesler Way, 23rd Ave S and S Jackson St southbound.
Route 48
In conjunction with the start of the Route 4 routing revision, northbound Route 48 service on 23rd Ave S will be rerouted between S Jackson St and E Cherry St via Martin Luther King Jr Way. Route 48 will serve the bus stops eastbound on S Jackson St just east of 23rd Ave S, northbound on Martin Luther King Jr Way at E Alder and E Cherry streets, and westbound on E Cherry St at 25th Ave. Southbound service will be maintained but traffic delays should be expected.

Sound Transit

For more detailed information look in the new Ride the Wave guide on all Sound Transit vehicles. A PDF of the new Guide is also available at

Bus Service (Effective February 14th/15th)

Route 510
New morning trip
Route 574
Minor schedule changes.
Route 590
Fourteen trips deleted and minor schedule changes to other trips.
Route 592
Two trips deleted to match ridership demand and minor schedule changes.
Route 594
Six trips added and minor schedule changes to other trips
Route 596
Minor schedule changes.

Rail Service

There are no changes to Link, Tacoma Link, or Sounder service.

Community Transit

New bus schedules are available at and you can now use the Trip Planner to plan your trips after the service change. New Bus Plus schedule books will be on buses starting Friday, February 6.

Revised Routes (Effective February 16th)

Route 412
Route 412 will have adjustments to the first three morning trips heading to Seattle. This includes permanent scheduling of a trip that was added last fall to meet demand. Please note that this route is not operating on Presidents Day.
Route 425
Route 425 will have its first trip leave several minutes earlier. Please check times at your stop. Please note that this route is not operating on Presidents Day.
Sound Transit Route 510
Sound Transit Route 510 will have the permanent addition of a morning trip to Seattle that was added last fall to meet demand.
The Smokey Point Transit Center will open
All bus routes traveling through the Smokey Point Area will use the transit center as a hub for transfers. Routes 201, 202, 220 227, 230 and 240 all will serve this new transit center. See the map online or in Bus Plus schedule books for bay location details. There is no pa





He got on along with the great mob at 4th and Pike. Somebody in front of him was taking an extra moment to pay cash, and he’d tapped his ORCA card and snuck quietly past, but my “how’s it going” reached his ears. The man had been planning to walk further back, but after seeing the way I greeted everyone he sat down up front with a smile, grinning as one does upon coming across something at once energizing and unexpectedly familiar, like a relative you’d forgotten how much you liked.

He responded by asking how my day’s been.
“It’s been fan-tastic,” I said. He cackled with shared delight, perfect rows of teeth highlighted against his dark skin and rugged attire.

I continued. “What kind of work do you do? If I may ask.”
“Sign spinner,” he said sheepishly.
“Really? Science….”
“Sign spinner.”
“Oh, sweet! Like ‘slow and ‘stop?'” He nodded with a rueful smile, which blew into a huge grin upon my saying, “That’s awesome!” I was thrilled at the opportunity to learn more about the job I see so often.
“Not really!” he laughed.
“Aww. Are you sure, ‘not really?'”
“This is Seattle in the wintertime!”
We burst into fits of giggling. “This is true. Minor detail! But! I would hope, ’cause that sounds like a safety sensitive job, I would hope you’re gettin’ paid. I hope they’re givin you a little somethin’ extra, standing out there. ‘Cause it’s a standing job too, and that, that, that takes a certain kinda energy!”

We talked about his job, then about mine, how nighttime is the best time for driving, how the light cycles are shorter, the people are fun, how great I think the 7 is, and so on. Through the course of all this we found ourselves using terms like ‘fortuitous’ and ‘elated,’ and it wasn’t just myself lobbing off the four-syllable words. Here was a man who shared my passion for learning, no matter his career or life circumstances.
“Now, I’m not sayin’ you have to,” I quipped, “but if you’re ever on my bus you can always lean out and wave that “slow” sign around, get some of these cars back in line!”

Then, after a pause, a new thought occurred to me. I’d been trying to imagine the job from his perspective.

“Hey, lemme ask you something. Do a lot of people wave thanks, or hi or something, as they drive past you?”
“Aaaauuuhhmm,” he said. We laughed again. “Sometimes they do. I always do. I mean, it only takes a second, to smile.”
“It only takes a, exactly. I mean, what else are you gonna do?”
“The bus drivers always, they looove me! They get so excited when they drive past….”
“Oh, yeah! I always wave, ’cause i’m thinkin,’ both of us are workin,’ here we are,”
“Yeah. it only takes a second.”
“It’s so easy. Plus, you’re gonna see each other ten more times!”
“Exactly! Oh man, I know every single bus driver, police officer, ambulance driver,”
“These are good people to know!”
“Taxi driver, Jack-in-the-Box, every single Post Office employee, every pizza delivery guy,”
“There you go! Oh, you’re set!”
“One day I’ll just be like, ‘do you have an extra one uh those?!'”
“And they’ll be like, just don’t gimme that stop sign next time!”

Another pause. One of those conversations where a silence can enter and easily be broken again later on. I said, “I tell you, ’cause when I look out at these car drivers sometimes, they just seem so depressed! They just look morose!”
We were laughing.
“Ooh, great word. That’s gotta be the word of the day, morose.”
“Thanks man!”
“Love that word,” he said.
“Me too! I so rarely get an opportunity to use it in a sentence!” The giggling fits began anew….
“I love vocabulary!”
“Me too! It expands our horizons. New ways of thinking!”
“Exactly. It’s like, why not?”
“I know, man. There’s more than five four-letter words with which to express ourselves!”

Event Today: Shape the future of art and activation of Bell Street Park

Bell Street Park
Bell Street Park

We’re nearing a year since the opening of the 4-block Bell Street Park between 1st and 5th Avenue in the Belltown neighborhood of downtown Seattle. New businesses have opened, traffic patterns have been changed to facilitate pedestrian flow, and consequently more and more people flock to the area.

Later today, the community organization Friends of Bell Street Park will organize an event to solicit feedback from the public on what kind of art should call the park home and what types of events and practices to use for activation. As it is so early in the development of the park, any idea is fair game and has a chance of implementation. The stated goals for art and activation are:

  • Remember the past (incorporate the rich history of Belltown), look to the future (focus on sustainability), and be in the present (create a destination).
  • Keep Bell Street active all year round!
  • Allow the Park to act as a front porch for all socioeconomic levels of neighbors in Belltown.
  • Create a framework for individuals to champion future community events.
  • Facilitate quick and easy permitting and implementation through collaboration with City staff.
  • Encourage a diversity of event types and art interventions.
  • Build on the Park as a vibrant, green and safe place that Belltown can be proud to call its own.

Event Details:

  • When: Friday, February 13, 6pm-8pm
  • Where: Belltown Community Center, 415 Bell Street, Seattle

If you can’t attend, you can also provide feedback online at

ICYMI: Mayor Murray calls for Vision Zero, a plan for zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030

Introducing Vision Zero for Seattle, courtesy of SDOT.
Introducing Vision Zero for Seattle, courtesy of SDOT.

On the backdrop of Lake City Way yesterday afternoon, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray met with dozens of supporters and advocates to unveil his citywide plan to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. The Mayor was joined by Scott Kubly, Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, and Kathleen O’Toole, Chief of Police for the Seattle Police Department, who will help spearhead the Vision Zero program by joining forces to reduce speeds, design safer streets, restrict right turns on red, and conduct active police enforcement. The Mayor’s plan will build upon many of the elements and policies previously identified and implemented through former Mayor Mike McGinn’s Be Super Safe initiative.

Here’s a portion of the full press release from the Mayor’s Office.

“Our Vision Zero campaign will educate people who drive, bike and walk on how we can all work together to make our streets safer,” said Murray. “We are rolling out a range of new safety improvements that will help get our kids get to school, reduce fatalities on city arterials and make our neighborhood streets safer. Our transportation system must work safely for everyone and this plan will save lives.”

While Seattle is consistently recognized as one of the safest cities in the country, more than 10,000 traffic collisions occur each year. In 2014, 3,449 injury collisions were reported to the Seattle Police Department. Fifteen people died in traffic crashes, including five who were walking or riding a bike.

At the core of Vision Zero is the belief that death and injury on city streets is preventable. The Vision Zero approach emphasizes smarter street designs – forgiving streets that account for human error. When paired with targeted education and enforcement, the effort will save lives.

“Implementing the Vision Zero initiative is vital to creating a safer transportation system,” said Tom Rasmussen, Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “The way we design our streets, enforce the rules, and educate the public does make a difference. But, most importantly, each of us whether we walk, bike or drive must do our part to make our streets safer for all.”

To make Seattle streets safer all, Seattle’s Vision Zero effort will include the following actions in 2015:

  • Reduce the speed limit in the downtown core to 25 mph by the end of 2015.
  • Improve safety at 10 high-crash intersections downtown by eliminating turns on red lights, installing leading pedestrian intervals to give walkers a head start, eliminating dual turn lanes and other engineering improvements.
  • Install 20 mph zones on residential streets in up to ten areas near parks and schools with documented collision histories.
  • Enhance safety on arterials — like Rainier Avenue S, 35th Avenue SW, Fauntleroy Way SW and 5th Avenue NE where 90 percent of serious and fatal collisions occur — by installing speed reductions, radar speed signs and enhanced street designs.
  • Add twelve new school zone safety cameras in six school zones to improve safety for kids as they make their way to and from school.
  • Add seven miles of protected bike lanes, more than 40 crossing improvements and 14 blocks of new sidewalk to make travel safer across all modes.
  • Conduct targeted enforcement throughout the city for school, pedestrian and bike safety, along with enhanced DUI enforcement. SDOT and SPD will work together to educate people in advance of these patrols, so everyone will expect enforcement and better understand the rules of the road.

“We’re excited to join other leading U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco in adopting Vision Zero,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “By lowering speeds and retooling our busiest streets, we will protect our most vulnerable travelers, and we will save lives.”

“The Seattle Police Department’s number one priority is public safety,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “Our officers are often the first responders to traffic incidents and we know that more can be done to increase traffic safety,”

The Seattle Police Department has embraced a data-driven approach to law enforcement through SeaStat, which quickly addresses crime hotspots based on analysis of crime data and community reports of incidents. In partnership with the SDOT, SPD will use a similar approach to address traffic collisions.


Combining Driving and Transit to Save Time

Original image courtesy Google Maps.

The introduction of bike-share, car-share and ride-share systems has made urban transportation increasingly multi-modal enabling users to complete different parts of their journey with the mode that best suits the circumstances. If they start their trip with a personal vehicle, however, they usually do not think of it as multi-modal as there is a high perceived cost of switching modes. There must be a high benefit of leaving the vehicle somewhere for switching to a different mode to become worthwhile.

The infrastructure that provides exactly this benefit is the system of park-and-rides connected to express transit routes on dedicated right-of-way (reliable HOV/T lanes or rail). Parking and transferring to a bus might take 5-10 minutes, but often save up to 30 minutes of total travel time especially when considering parking at the destination.

Let’s consider an example: Kirkland to Benaroya Hall (Downtown Seattle)

Imagine traveling southbound on 108th Ave NE near NE 39th St, en-route to SR-520, in typical evening rush hour. The driving time is 16 minutes without traffic, but in rush hour congestion a reasonable expectation is around 36 minutes. Event parking may be tight and may require checking one or two garages taking very optimistically an additional 10 minutes. So availability at the destination would be 46 minutes later.

As an alternative, one could park at South Kirkland Park and Ride and transfer to King County Metro Transit Route 255 from there. This route uses the HOV 3+ lanes on SR-520 to bypass the usually very heavy stop-and-go traffic before the bridge and then the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) to bypass city congestion. Travel time is 25 minutes and it would take 7 minutes to make the transfer (2 minutes to park, 5 minutes on average to get on a bus – buses depart every 10 minutes). So at 32 minutes past the decision one arrives just below Benaroya Hall. That’s 30% faster–a subtraction of 14 minutes of travel time, but also no stress around navigating congestion or downtown parking.

Moreover, one has the freedom to leave any time they want, without worrying about heavy traffic right after the event. This is a typical case in which when accessing an area of high density, transit provides greater freedom than a personal automobile due to its inherent high capacity.

So how can more people benefit from the investments the region has made into high-reliability, high-capacity transit?

Advertise it

Most people driving by South Kirkland Park and Ride are not directly aware of the benefit a simple right turn can deliver unless they are everyday commute users of the facility. One approach that has been applied in other states is to use digital information signs to provide real time information of the benefit.

Roadside travel time sign with real-time transit information. Streetscape image courtesy of Google Maps.

A sign advertising transit should provide all the specific information needed to make a decision: the complete time for each travel option and the way to switch modes. Average parking time should accounted for in the driving time (Waze collects such data) and average transfer time should be accounted for in the transit time (can include real-time wait until the next bus).

Prototyping it

Note the use of temporary movable roadside signs. This enables the Washington State Department of Transportation, King County Metro Transit, and Sound Transit to test this on a temporary basis and measure the park-and-ride utilization before and after sign placement. Only if utilization goes up would further capital expenditures be approved.

Where can this be done?

Providing such signage makes sense where significant time savings can be gained from transit. This requires the availability of two things: reliable HOV lanes and plentiful parking at a park-and-ride facility.

So here are the reliable HOV lanes, with access to park-and-rides noted in bold:

  • I-5 Express Lanes (Greenlake, Northgate, and North Seattle)
  • SR-520 (Evergreen Point, South Kirkland, and Overlake)
  • I-90 mid-2017 (Mercer Island, South Bellevue, Eastgate, Issaquah TC, and Issaquah Highlands)


While demand for transit has been steadily increasing in the Puget Sound for many years, the congestion around events accessible by reliable transit demonstrates that there is still significant untapped ridership potential. While “build it and they will come” works to a certain extent for transit, effective location-based advertising is an avenue worth exploring. If successful, the benefits would include reduced congestion and higher return on existing investment, paving the way for more.

South Lake Union Woonerf Moves to Full Council

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.23.47 AM
An overview of the woonerf and first floor layoutsOn Tuesday, the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee once again considered the South Lake Union woonerf project. The project would be a partnership between the City and Vulcan to construct a block-long multi-modal green space with pedestrian-friendly features. Vulcan would front the $2.1 million cost and construction in exchange for the City waiving $527,000 in street use fees.

Woonerfs are designed to be living streets, giving space for pedestrians and bicyclists along slower moving cars. They feature traffic-calming measures such as curbless, non-linear streets, extra-wide sidewalks, wood decking with tables and chairs, interspersed pockets of parking, expanded permeable landscaping, pedestrian lighting, and ample seating. They are meant to create “side rooms” in the streetscape, which foster pockets of activity for pedestrians.

The project is part of the voluntary Street Concept Plan—a design vision for the southwest corner of South Lake Union to be a residential zone with premium pedestrian amenities. As part of this plan, the area was rezoned to be almost exclusively residential. However, Vulcan was able to submit it’s plan before the new zoning took effect, vesting their rights to build two six-story corporate offices in the middle of the of the area.

The woonerf proposal sparked a heated debate between Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Mike O’Brien, which continued into Tuesdays meeting. At one point, Rasmussen accused O’Brien of being spiteful, while O’Brien shot back the development felt like a “corporate take-over of a public right of way.” Both offer a differing urban vision, revealing the way traditional progressive ideologies can breakdown on the hyper-local level. Below is an overview of each councilmembers’ position and the result of the vote, along with my own suggestions for improvement.

Tom Rasmussen’s Argument

The woonerf would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, in line with the Street Concept Plan and benefiting the residents surrounding the new Vulcan development. Current plans call for an additional 2055 residential units in the two blocks immediately surrounding the project, ensuring that the residential vision of the neighborhood has not been compromised.

Vulcan’s vision for the woonerf is voluntary, and goes above and beyond the visionary standards for the neighborhood. By fronting the $2.1 million cost, the agreement would save the City $1.5 million if the City were to construct it itself.

The block of 8th Ave between Harrison St and Thomas St as it is currently utilized

If the agreement were to fall through, a standard street section would be built in its place with a linear road and standard landscaping, missing an opportunity to make the street a destination. The City would also forego drainage improvements that are especially important for the wet neighborhood.

Most of all, the neighborhood wants it. Both the South Lake Union Community Council and the head of a Cascade neighborhood group expressed their deep support for the project. “The community,” he notes, “has said that the woonerf is their preferred design. It meets their vision and their goals for that residential neighborhood.”

The choice on the table is woonerf or no woonerf. It would be a lost opportunity to abandon the project.

Mike O’Brien’s Argument

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.32.55 PM
The shared street concept

The woonerf is beautiful, true. But as public officials, they have to justify public-private partnerships and the loss of $527,000 in street use fees with strong public benefits. Those don’t seem to exist here.

First, in order to be a public benefit, the project must be accessible to the public. The depictions of this project look like an exclusionary corporate office park. Indeed, many of the key features such as a raised, curbless street, pedestrian furniture, and additional landscaping may act as a visual border to pedestrians, giving the impression of an office courtyard rather than a public space. “It’s a beautiful design,” O’Brien said, “And if I worked at Amazon in this building, I think it would be a great place to use. I question if anyone else is going to use it.”

Second, the project must be a benefit. But it’s not clear how much of an additional public benefit the woonerf would be. The standard street plan still includes wide sidewalks that undulate between six and fifteen feet, large landscaping, and reduced pockets of parking. “Even without these improvements,” he said, “It would still be one of the prettiest streets in the City.”

Third, with nothing to activate the street besides small corner retail, the space will feel dead on evenings and weekends. The original residential vision would not have had this problem, as residential buildings bring activity throughout the day.

Finally, and this appears to be the core of the issue for O’Brien, the development betrays the original vision for the neighborhood. It was supposed to be a purely residential haven to balance out the single-occupant corporate campus, with lively streets lined by porches, stoops, and greenways. The new six-story corporate development popping up in the middle perverts the vision and utility of the pedestrian space—public and pedestrian becomes private and corporate. And that’s not worthy of public subsidy.


In reviewing their arguments, it seems they have both missed critical pieces of the puzzle.

To remedy O’Brien’s concern about the park feeling exclusive to the public, the City should work to expand the woonerf beyond Thomas and Harrison. Expanding it south one block would create a bridge to Denny Park, functioning as a green lifeline into the neighborhood. Though none of the current developments have plans for their own woonerf, the City could fund the project on its own.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.26.04 PM
Developed planned for the corridor

The City could also encourage Vulcan to expand the size of its retail and seek tenants that will engage pedestrians on nights and weekend. Councilmember Godden spoke of her hopes for another brunch spot, envision kids playing on the wide sidewalks as parents waited for a table. Engaging spaces like cafes, piano bars, late-night restaurants, and gyms would activate the space in and around the development, further enriching the neighborhood.

Unexplored by the Council was the option of adding residential development atop the corporate buildings. Perhaps the old zoning laws that apply don’t allow for it. Or Vulcan may have no interest in changing their designs so late in the process. But Vulcan does seem interested in garnering goodwill from the public and Council, and it would bring opportunity for additional profit.

The key to any successful neighborhood is an active streetscape with human-scale development, and that means infrastructure like the woonerf. The new office buildings will be built regardless—one version with a standard-fare street, the other with a bright, engaging, innovative attraction for the 2000 new residents nearby.

Ultimately the vote came down two-to-one for the woonerf, with Godden and Rasmussen joining to support the project. The measure now moves on to the full City Council for consideration, where O’Brien will likely try to garner support from the other six members, most likely finding a friendly ear with Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant.

Over 90% of Seattle’s New Buildings Are Mixed-Use or Multi-Family

Crane Ballet, courtesy of metrognome0.

The City of Seattle released new construction data on January 15th and it shows a remarkable amount of new building. There were 8,311 housing units added in Seattle in 2014. Of those 7,538 were multi-family or mixed-use buildings. This means that over 90% of new housing units are mixed-use or multi-family. Single-family permitting accounted for the third most units, 679 but only about 8% of the total. The data also made it clear that Detached Accessory Dwelling Units and other Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs and ADUs) are not popular, accounting for about 1% of all new units. This change is remarkable in a city that is 65% single family zoning.

During 2014 the city also permitted 760 demolitions. This means that the total additional housing added in 2014 is really only 7,551 units.


Putting the Numbers in Context

Most importantly though, we need to measure whether or not the city is successfully adding enough new housing. Over the last ten years the city averaged about 4,287 new units constructed per year. Initial planning in 2004 projected a need to accommodate 47,000 new households between 2004 and 2024. If 2010 average household size persists (which is unlikely since renters tend to have smaller household sizes and most new housing is rental housing), this translates to 4,841 new residents per year.

It turns out though that the most recent population growth numbers show the city of Seattle grew by 17,770 people in just one year. It is also obvious that the number of built units will exceed what the city projected. In ten years, the city produced 91% of twenty year projections.

Sustainable Housing Production

Seattle is exceeding expectations for both population growth and housing construction. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t keeping up with the former. The city appears to have a shortfall in additional housing units. To accommodate 17,770 people the city needed to build between 8,626 and 9,710 new housing units but only managed 7,551, missing demand by 10-22%.

The city is also undergoing a comprehensive plan update and will amend the projection for additional construction. Unfortunately, the most recent recommended update only adds 23,000 units to the projection, even though growth nearly doubled original expectations. A conservative estimate* would require 33,133 new units, 44% more than the proposed amendments.  A high estimate** might require as many as 113,385 units.

There are a number of problems with Seattle’s housing market, including low vacancy rates at the bottom of the market, homelessness, displacement, boom and bust market cycles and housing quality. Solving those problems will require various solutions but it will definitely involve building enough housing for new residents. The city already has a shortfall in housing production and will need to produce more units in the future to make up for this shortfall. The city must be more realistic about growth.

*a conservative growth rate of 1% with a conservative household size of 2.06 

**2.8% (the 2013-204 rate) and a smaller household size of 1.83 would require

Seattle Transportation Committee Approves Metro Service Agreement

Transportation Committee in session, courtesy of Seattle.
Transportation Committee in session, courtesy of Seattle.

Seattle is poised to add more than 200,000 service hours to city bus routes in two rounds of service change, June and September, thanks to the recent passing of Proposition 1. But before that can happen, the City of Seattle–wearing the hat of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District–and King County must hammer out the final details. Yesterday, Seattle City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden, and Mike O’Brien met to discuss the terms of the plan further, and ultimately voting to send the matter before the full Council. During their biweekly Transportation Committee, the councilmembers were briefed on the details of the new service agreement with King County Metro Transit and the creation of a transit advisory board.

Highlights of the Service Agreement

SDOT staff outlined three areas in which service hours would be allocated: routes with peak overcrowding, routes suffering from severe unreliability, and expansion of the off-peak transit network. Metro Transit’s guidelines call for 12,000 more service hours on overcrowded peak routes, but Seattle would go well beyond this by providing up to 51,000 service hours. Unreliable routes would get a further 21,000 service hours. And the off-peak network would see an increase of 141,000 service hours for the mid-day and evening times. Frequencies would increase during those times with service being extended later into the night and on weekends.

A big issue in the service agreement is the prohibition on supplanting service. The term probably seems foreign, but illustrate the concept, consider a single, overcrowded peak route. Under Metro’s Service Guidelines, such a route would be a priority candidate for service investment. But if the City were to kick in funding, Metro’s obligation for further investment could go away. Why is this? Well, the peak-oriented route could see an average reduction in crowding meaning that the route is no longer a high priority for additional investment by Metro. In other words, the City may have solved a problem routes, but would be stuck paying for it when while Metro is free to spend their countywide funding elsewhere. This is exactly why the City has negotiated terms that would preclude Metro from  supplanting service.

So, as Metro’s countywide funding goes up and the agency can afford to increase service, Seattle could back out funding under the agreement and focus it on “lower priority” routes. SDOT staff noted that they will develop metrics and ways to directly identify where every service hour dollar goes within the Seattle network. By doing so, the agency can ensure that supplanting does not occur, and that service hours can be reallocated when the time comes.

Fleet replacement and expansion was another noteworthy issue. With Seattle purchasing so many service hours, Metro will need to procure additional buses to backfill peak-hour routes. The City will responsible for paying a portion of the cost for procuring the new buses. Metro will have to disclose the full cost of each newly procured bus and amortize it over the life of the bus. The City would then pay the additional costs on the amortized basis as opposed to the full cost of the bus upfront. Should the contract not be renewed, there would be outstanding liabilities on the procured buses. Metro will take on the liabilities for the diesel buses, but the City could be on the hook for the 14 electric trolleybuses.

And, while the City will be putting in a lot of money for service increases, there will be some kickbacks in the form of farebox revenue. Under the service agreement, the City of Seattle would recover 29% of operating costs on standard bus routes while trolleybus routes would recover as much as 41%. These farebox recovery ratios are pegged to the current countywide routes and the busier trolleybus routes that only operate in Seattle. An estimate provided by City staff puts to total farebox recovery for Seattle at around $11.2 million.

New Transit Advisory Board

Separate from the discussion of the service agreement, the councilmembers were briefed on a resolution to create a transit advisory board. Proposition 1 called for this body to oversee the service investments deriving from the measure, but the new Seattle Transit Advisory Board (STAB) would have a wider scope. The STAB would be on par with other transportation advisory boards like the Pedestrian Advisory Board and Bicycle Advisory Board by looking at all transit-related issues. The STAB will likely be a sounding for topics like fare media, bus routings, advertising on bus stops, and more. But the central focus will still be on ensuring that the service agreement investments are fair, equitable, and in the spirit of the Transit Master Plan and Metro’s Service Guidelines.