Tuesday, 24 September, 2019

What We’re Reading: Death and Rebirth

Prop 1 Election Night Results
Election night results of Proposition 1, courtesy of Oran Viriyincy.

Postmortem: The buses will beginning getting the axe in September, Metro has an organized service reduction plan to achieve the necessary cuts over a one-year period. People are mad, but it ain’t the first time at this rodeo. Tons of voting data is becoming available if you want to explore the fallout, but it isn’t all bad.

Born again: Metro could still be saved, Ben and Company will lead the charge by championing a Seattle-only measure. Yesterday, the initiative was lodged with the City Clerk’s office. Take a preview at it and then make sure you sign the petition in the coming weeks. And, if you want to help, be sure to let Friends of Transit know.

Bone dry: California has finally become entirely drought ridden. Hopefully this water crisis doesn’t repeat next year because deficits build up and in the long-term this could spell utter disaster for the Golden State. At the same time, we need to get serious about topics like resiliency and rising sea levels. If California is any kind of indicator of things to come, tackling the issues of adaptation and slowing the speed of global climate change will be ever more important.

Lots of green: The eco-friendly Bullitt Center generated more energy than it consumed, 105,300 kilowatt hours more to be exact! We can definitely appreciate true living buildings, and Seattle is lucky to have the greenest of them all.

Supplying China: There are some serious ironies here: a defunct California RV manufacturer will produce electric, carbon-free buses for carbon intensive China. There’s a lot to like about that. Of course, we’re not completely innocent when it comes to emissions. 40% of Seattle’s emissions come from filthy motorized transport like cars and trucks. We may have lost that battle a long time ago, but we can win in the future.

Maybe the witch is dead: Bertha, the SR 99 tunnel boring machine (TBM), is falling further behind schedule. The restart date for the TBM will expand from September 2014 to March 2015. WSDOT say that the project can be delivered on-time, but the cost estimates are already ballooning and we are highly skeptical that the project can even meet the revised schedule.

Bike month approaches: We already know that Seattle loves bikes, but lots of good things are on the horizon (besides bike month). Two concepts for the Westlake Cycle Track are currently being evaluated by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). Tom over at the Seattle Bike Blog gives us the skinny on the concepts, and argues that Concept B is probably superior, but does have some downsides that would hopefully be addressed in a revised hybrid. In other cycling news, the Puget Sound Bike Share has announced that Group Health Cooperative will sponsor 15 bike stations with many other sponsors joining the cause.

15 Now, 15 Maybe: Mayor Murray held a press conference this week that basically was a non-event. The committee responsible with coming up with a plan to raise the minimum wage to a living wage couldn’t agree on any of the terms to make it happen. The saga of 15 Now continues…

Tear it down and they will come: Rising from the ashes of a former highway comes a whole new city. Hmm…isn’t that something we’re supposed to do here? At least we’re rebuilding the Seawall and helping out the fishies during the interim.

Get your map on: If you’re wondering if it’s easy to get to work by walking, biking, and car in a particular metro, this new mapping software can give you an idea of overall access. And while you’re at it, may you want to walk back in time with the new Google Street View.

To preserve or not to preserve, that’s the question: In good old NYC, the Museum of Modern Art is look to ditch an old building, but folks in the East Coast city want to reuse it. The question is, should it be saved? We have the same issues arise here from time to time, but the outcomes of preservation can be mixed. Speaking of the East Coast and reuse, DC is planning a clever way to spice up a danky old underpass. Who wants to hangout under the railway tracks!? This kid!

The answer lies in Colombia: Seriously, Medellín can teach us how to accommodate explosive growth and get creative. Christopher Swope give us an interesting set of interviews on this South American metropolis.

Tap that: SDOT will soon be turning on the ORCA reader stations along all stop of the South Lake Union Streetcar.

Colman Dock Multimodal Terminal

MV Walla Walla unloading at Slip 2 and MV Tacoma unloading in Slip 3, Seattle - Washington State Ferries
Colman Dock from the Columbia Center, photo by the author.

Washington State Ferries is planning upgrades to the Seattle Ferry Terminal, also know as Colman Dock. The existing terminal is outdated, as it was built in the 1960s and last expanded in the early 1990s. The original part of the dock, which is made of unsafe creosote timber trestle is getting replaced. The terminal building is getting completely rebuilt in order to provide more efficient operations for an ever-growing number of walk-on passengers. The passenger-only facility used by the King County Ferry District will receive new access from the main terminal and the Marion Street pedestrian bridge.

The Environmental Assessment was released in mid-April, and now the Washington State Ferries is asking for public input. You can provide you own during the many events organized in the upcoming weeks or submit comment online.

Puget Sound Regional Council (Board Room)
Monday, April 28
1011 Western Avenue, Suite 500, Seattle

Colman Dock – Main terminal building
Tuesday, April 29

King County Water Taxi Waiting Area (Pier 50)
Thursday, May 1

Bainbridge Terminal Building
Monday, May 5

Bremerton Terminal Building
Tuesday, May 6

Revisiting A Rapidly Changing Seattle: South Lake Union


South Lake Union April 2014

Color Theming: Red = Developable, Green = In Design/Planning, Blue = Under Construction, and Yellow = Completed

It’s been only three months since I first wrote about A Rapidly Changing Seattle. In that article, I highlighted the amazing amount of development taking place in Seattle and the city’s capacity for growth. Since then, new development applications have been accelerating at breakneck speeds, particularly in the central portion of the city. For this article, I want to focus on the areas just north of Downtown.

As you can see in the map above, dozens of projects are currently in design or under construction in this area, with new project proposals heavily focused in the areas of South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle. Since January, South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle have had a respective total of 11 and 7 new, large-scale project proposals. This continued and increasing building boom represents great things to come for the city: additional opportunity for jobs and housing, increased tax revenue, further neighborhood activation, and enhancement of the public realm and overall urban form.

However, the well is running dry in the South Lake Union Urban Center. If the pace of development keeps up, new building will have to go elsewhere in just a few short years.

South Lake Union

South Lake Union is reaching a point where new development applications will slow down. Aside from a dozen or so sites, there aren’t many large and easily developable sites remaining. So what does that mean?

  1. Future development will be more challenging. Developers will have to do a couple things to build on the smaller and less easily developable sites: consolidate smaller lots, use awkwardly shaped lots, raze smaller structures, and/or construct slimmer and more compact buildings.
  2. Development will eventually trickle to an end in a few short years. This will push development pressure to nearby Urban Centers. Obvious candidates to take up the South Lake Union mantle are the Denny Triangle and Uptown where development capacity is much greater.

More below the jump.

Factoria Frequent Service

Factoria Boulevard. How Lovely. Yet that's one of Bellevue's main transit destinations.
Factoria Boulevard from the back of a bus. It’s pretty hard to believe that it’s one of Bellevue’s main transit destinations.

Factoria is a Bellevue neighborhood located just southeast of the I-90/I-405 interchange. Home to T-Mobile, Factoria also boasts many other office buildings, small hospitals, a large strip mall, a 1700-student High School and an growing amount of condos. While it does not provide a very transit-positive experience, Factoria was found to be a major transit destination in the city of Bellevue’s Transit Master Plan, along with Downtown Bellevue, Overlake and Crossroads.

The Current Situation

Five bus routes currently run along Factoria Boulevard, the main north-south arterial.

– Route 210 runs to Downtown Seattle via Eastgate Park-and-ride in the morning and coming back from Seattle in the evening serves Eastgate, Lakemont to end at the Issaquah Transit Center. Buses run every 30 minutes during two hours in the peak direction, weekdays only.

– Route 240 runs to Downtown Bellevue via the Eastgate Park-and-ride northbound and to Renton via Newcastle and Renton Highlands southbound. Buses run half-hourly into the early evening on Weekdays and Saturdays and hourly at night and on Sundays.

– Route 241 runs to Downtown Bellevue via the South Bellevue Park-and-ride northbound and to the Eastgate Park-and-ride via the Eastgate neighborhood southbound. Like route 240, buses run every half-an-hour on weekdays and Saturdays and every hour on Sundays and at night.

– Route 245, which has its southbound terminal in Factoria, runs to Kirkland via the Eastgate Park-and-ride, Bellevue College, Crossroads and Overlake. A part of Bellevue’s frequent transit system, the route runs every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes at night and on weekends.

– Route 246 runs to Clyde Hill via Downtown Bellevue northbound and to Eastgate Park-and-ride via the Somerset hill southbound. Buses come every hour on weekdays only.

Route 114, while not running on Factoria Boulevard, runs to Downtown Seattle in the morning and to Renton Highlands via Newcastle in the evening. The buses run via I-90 and a short stretch of I-405 between Coal Creek Parkway and I-90. The route follows the 240’s from I-405 to Renton Highlands. Five trips, all spaced by 30 minutes run inbound while outbound only four trips, similarly spaced by 30 minutes, run.

The Problem

The problem is, of course, the lack of frequent service to local destinations. While Factoria is well-linked to both Crossroads and Overlake via frequent route 245, the main local destination of Downtown Bellevue is not linked frequently to Factoria.

While the departures of routes 240 and 241 from Bellevue Transit Center outbound to Factoria are timed so that buses depart every half-an-hour, the ones inbound to Bellevue Transit Center depart Factoria almost at the same time to provide no service during half-an-hour (except when 246 is running in which case headways during one of the 30-minute downtime period is reduced to 15 minutes).

Routes 114 and 240 as well as 210 and 241, while sharing routings in the the neighborhoods of Newcastle and Eastgate, respectively, do not provide even headways during the peak periods.

Lastly, route 210 from Factoria to Seattle is not frequent enough that residents use it to commute. Many will rather drive to Eastgate Park-and-ride and catch an ultra-frequent express bus from there.

Other, more technical issues also exist:

In the Afternoon rush hour, route 114 constantly gets stuck in the I-405 backlog while on the ramp from I-90 to I-405. Delays can be up to 10 minutes.

Signals on Factoria Bloulevard are not well-timed, causing the buses to stop at almost all lights when traffic is heavy. A significant amount of time is wasted that way.

The last issue consists of confused passengers that need to get to the Eastgate Park-and-ride from Factoria. Buses go to the park and ride in both directions, 240 and 245 northbound and 241 and 246 southbound. Drivers often have to give directions or tell riders which bus to take in order to get to Eastgate.

The Solution

Re-routes are needed for bus routes 114, 240 and 241 and major scheduling changes are necessary on routes 114, 210, 240 and 241 in order for this proposal to work.

Frequent Service between Factoria and Bellevue:

Route 240 would need to be re-routed to Downtown Bellevue using the same routing as the 241, via South Bellevue. To further improve travel times, route 241 would be re-routed off 108th Street, which has numerous speed bumps and poor ridership onto 112th Street. Schedules would have to be re-written northbound to provide frequent service from Factoria. 240 ridership between the Eastgate Park-and-Ride and Bellevue TC would need to move to the slightly slower but much more frequent 271.

The result would be a frequent route between Factoria and Bellevue. Headways along the shared segment would be 15 minutes from 6am to 8pm on weekdays and Saturdays (starting at 8am on Saturdays) and 30 minutes on Sundays and at night. An added benefit of the line would be a possible convenient transfer at South Bellevue, to provide connections with route 550 trip to and from Seattle. There would be a 240/241 transfer available for every 550 trip provided in the off-peak and on weekends.

Frequent Service between Factoria and Downtown Seattle:

Route 114 would be re-routed to Factoria (like the 240 does) then head to Downtown Seattle via the 210’s routing. While this would add 7 minutes to inbound trips, the new routing would be time-neutral in the evening peak because of the I-90 to I-405 ramp backup. The two routes require schedule changes to operate at even 15-minute headways.

Frequent service to Downtown Seattle would be provided on weekdays from 6am (in Factoria – buses depart the terminals earlier) until 8am and from Downtown Seattle from 4.15pm unitil 6pm.

Frequent Service in Eastgate and Newcastle:

Since both the 114 and the 240 as well as the 210 and the 241 share common corridors in Newcastle and Eastgate, respectively, it is important to time those routes so that 15-minute service can be provided during the peak hours.

Frequent service would then be provided to Factoria on weekdays from 6am to 8am and from Factoria from 4.30pm until 6.15pm. The service would mainly be used by Factoria employees as well as Newport High School students.

To recap…

  • The 240 and the 241 provide frequent service on Weekdays and Saturdays along a shared corridor between Factoria and Bellevue TC.
  • The 114 and the 210 provide frequent service between Factoria and Downtown Seattle in the peak direction during the weekday peaks.
  • The 114 and the 240 provide frequent service between Factoria and Renton Highlands in the peak direction during the weekday peaks.
  • The 210 and the 241 provide frequent service between Factoria and Eastgate in the peak direction during the weekday peaks.

Metro On The Chopping Block

King County’s Original Proposal of Required Service Cuts

Opposition to Proposition 1 proved to be too much. Unofficial results indicate that the measure appears to have failed. Current results show “Yes” on Prop 1 to be nearly 38,000 votes shy. The next step is unclear, but King County will likely submit plans to reduce service by 16%. This will likely cut over 550,000 hours of service, disproportionately affect the poor that can’t afford cars, increase congestion, and reduce economic opportunity. You can see for yourself the routes that will be changed or deleted here and here.

Perhaps the most important and dismaying result of this outcome will be to embolden those that are anti-transit. Showing that a transit tax can’t pass even in King County, the most supportive area in the state for transit, is discouraging for legislators gauging the public attitude towards transit. This gives much more leverage to rural counties. The desperate nature of funding allows anti-transit legislators to extract more from those whose livelihoods depend on public transit.

Perhaps the only silver lining in all of this is that it may prove a rallying cry for those of us that care about supporting people too poor to own cars, fighting climate change, and designing a successful city. If you don’t want to stand on the sidelines but actually get involved in order to win the next fight, you can connect directly with The Urbanist at info@theurbanist.org.

Das So Crazy


Picture 7


People often ask me what “the most craziest thing” I’ve ever experienced on the bus is. Naturally there are far too many such incidents to single out as an answer. Also, frankly speaking, such incidents are not as interesting to me as the moments of positivity and human interaction I recount here. A man pulling down his pants in an attempt to defecate in the articulated section of the bus but having his feces accidentally miss their aim and end up inside his pants is definitely unusual, but is it thought-provoking? Such stories also run the risk of exoticizing their subjects as the incomprehensible “other,” which is not at all the thought pathway I’d like to travel on. More like the opposite. I do enjoy reveling in the bizarro atmospheres that live out here every day, but I search for the common ground.

I recall a man once approaching me on the 3/4. He was tall and thin, dressed in a conglomeration of undershirts and jackets, the sort of garb that becomes colorless when you spend enough time outside. He looked at me and said, “Hey, driver. What state are we in?”
“This is Washington State,” I said, in a neutral and helpful tone.
“Oh. Thanks,” he replied, returning to his seat.

Of course it was tempting to make some sort of play on “state of mind,” or laughing, or in some other way acknowledging the complete absurdity of the question. However, there was a very, very small but still possible chance that he actually needed that information, and it’s the sort of query which is strangely hard to get an answer for. Beyond that, what could be more awesome– is there another word for it?- than the rare, golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to answer such a question with a straight face! What a luxurious thrill! He appeared to be genuinely unclear as to which of the contiguous states he was in. “I love this job,” I thought to myself as I drove ahead.

Recently I had an interaction which, in its own special way, is for me one of the all-time unfathomables for me.

I pull into Third and Virginia northbound. Standing in the crosswalk on Virginia is an arguing couple. Rows of T-shirts and other items are on display, hanging off the top of the chain-link fence and arrayed on the cement below. A trio on both sides of the roadway engage in conversation, using their sixty-foot voices. Afternoon light glances across the scene at an angle. It is a tableaux of reds, blues, and blacks, clothing cuts of every manner, filthy and refined, set against the pale gray of newly finished concrete. I’m reminded of the benevolent chaos in Carracci’s 1602 painting The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, or maybe the background of Perugino’s 1482 fresco Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter–  unrelated clumps of characters populating the same space, mingling in and out of each other.

There, in the RapidRide bus stop, directly in front of my open doors, a seated figure speaks to me.
“Remember me?” she asks.
“Of course! How’s it goin’?”
“You don’t drive the 3 and 4 no more!”
“Oh yeah, I do somethin’ different every day now! I kinda like to get around.”
“Oh,” she says. Friendly.
“Well, good to see you again. Have a good one!”

What’s so bizarre about that, you might ask. Let me tell you. The woman speaking was- was- does anything other than italicized all caps with exclamation points suffice?- yes, she was the one, and the only, LIGHT SKINNED BLACK WOMAN!

Where were the disparaging racial epithets and songs about abortion? Why no mention of miscarriages and masturbation? Were my ears deceiving me? Don’t let me down here, my friend!

I closed the doors and drove away in awe. I had seen the Niagara Falls. I had heard evidence of extraterrestrial life, and made it to the jungle retreats of northern Laos. She was simply the better side of herself, chomping down on fried chicken, catching up with an acquaintance one sunny Friday afternoon. How incomprehensibly abstruse, and how terrific. I didn’t understand any of it, but I was happy to be that acquaintance.

Newer readers: read a primer on the great LSB-Dub, everyone’s favorite passenger, here. Watch a speech of mine recounting her adventures here.

Reminder: The Urbanist Meetup for Prop 1


Metro Pary

Tonight we’ll be meeting up at the Roy Street Coffee & Tea on Capitol Hill from 6pm-9pm. Feel free to drop in at any point. We’ll be talking urbanism, city issues, and ways in which you can get involved with our organization. The evening also is special because of the Prop 1 vote. We expect election results to come in some time around 8.15pm. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for celebration! You can find us at a big table toward the back of the coffehouse. The good news about the space is that it’s big, open to all ages, and has a great selection of coffees, teas, and beer. Yes, you read that right: beer!

In the meantime, make sure to get your ballots in for Prop 1, and make it a YES (not that we were expecting anything less of you). Ballots must be postmarked by tonight, so be sure to get yours to the Post Office or a collection box ASAP. If you plan to take your ballot to a drop off box, you will need to do so by 8pm. Mobile drop off locations have variable close times between 5pm and 8pm. And, if your ballot never came or because you need a replacement one, you can print one off the internet and send it back via fax or e-mail to King County Elections. Remember that you will also need to post a copy of the packet by mail afterward.

See you tonight!

County Executive Rallies Sports Fans in Support of Proposition 1

Dow Constantine and employees supporting the Seahawks. Courtesy of King County – License

Dow Constantine is asking sports fans to support Metro Transit by voting YES on King County Proposition 1. “We need to save Metro to keep the 12th Man–and every fan–moving,” says the King County Executive, in a last-minute effort to rally sports fans in support of the embattled transit measure.

When introducing the measure earlier this year, Constantine warned that an absence of action by the Legislature on a statewide transportation package would lead to dramatic cutbacks in Metro bus service. “We are out of time for a statewide solution that includes a local option.” He stated, “We must move forward on our own.”

Proposition 1 would create  a Transportation Benefit District (TBD), providing around $130 million a year in funding for Metro Transit and county roads by imposing a $60 vehicle fee and a one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) increase in the sales tax. The measure is needed because of the decline in sales tax revenue, which Metro relies upon, that resulted from the Great Recession. Bus fares have already increased four times in the last five years, with another increase due in 2015.

The quality and quantity of transit options available to and from games significantly impacts the fan experience at sporting events. After Metro helped more than 700,000 Seahawks fans get to and from downtown for one of the most memorable moments of our lifetime, Publicola columnist Erica Barnett pointed to the Seahawks parade as an argument for preserving public transit. Investor Chris Hansen and his Sonics Arena organization have shown their commitment, emerging as one of the top 5 donors to the campaign, which has also been endorsed by the Seattle Mariners.

“A strong transportation plan is an important part of a successful fan experience for any sporting event,” advises Ralph Morton, Executive Director of the Seattle Sports Commission. ”It is essential that our world-class stadiums are accessible. To be successful, they require diverse and effective local transit, including buses and light rail, in addition to eco-friendly options such as bike and pedestrian access.”

Sporting events, especially for successful teams or critical games, create surges in traffic that require careful planning.

“Thousands of Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners fans need to get safely to and from the stadiums,” says Brooke Stegar, General Manager of Uber Seattle. “We regularly see a large increase in demand during home games in Seattle. Reliable transportation options reduce hassle and congestion. They also ensure public safety by taking drunk drivers off the road.”

Metro offers special shuttle service from certain park & ride lots for all weekend Seahawks and University of Washington home football games, in many cases providing a valuable introduction to public transit for residents who may otherwise be unlikely to try riding the bus. A suburban resident who successfully utilizes public transportation to attend a Seahawks game may consider transit options in the future when traveling to SeaTac airport or, if they enjoy their experience, may be more likely to ride the bus downtown for shopping, dinner or to attend a show.

“Anyone who’s joined the crowds for a big game knows how much easier it is to take the bus to the downtown,” advises Constantine.

Dow Constantine, more than any other elected official, has been a champion for fans of sports and other cultural events. I trust his judgment and encourage readers to support him by voting YES on Proposition 1.

Ballots must be mailed by Tuesday, April 22.

Brian Robinson is a lifelong resident of the Seattle area. He served as Co-Founder of Save Our Sonics and President of ArenaSolution.org. Brian’s complete bio is available at Coalition206.org, follow him on Twitter @Coalition206.

Urbanist Advertising Partner: Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente

Urbanist Advertising Partner: Bike Works

Bike Works