Archive for July, 2005

Found this hilarious

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Washington Middle School

Previously posted on July 31st at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!133.entry

I’ve been watching over the past few weeks as they’ve been resurfacing the roof of our neighboring Washington Middle School. Jodi and I first noticed it was in need of this work when we moved in back in May, so I’m glad to see it didn’t escape the district’s notice! It’s made for some nasty asphalt-smelling days, but it’ll be worth it to have it repaired.
Washms1  Washms2
Washms3  Washms4

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Is there ever a bad summer weekend in Seattle?

Previously posted on July 31st at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!132.entry

I am beginning to wonder if there ever is, since we’ve had such a great string of weekends lately. Weather was beyond wonderful (upper 70s, low 80s, light breeze). We had good stuff to do, and we did it!
Yesterday, we had our annual company picnic out in North Bend, WA. We were at a farm at the foot of Mount Si and had a great time hanging out with old friends. Lots of good food, lots of good shade. Hard to beat!
Then we got back to the city just in time to clean up a bit and head over to a dessert/house-warminig party for some new friends who live in our building. We stayed up at least an hour too late meeting new people, drinkning wine, and eating even more! Made for a hard early-morning this morning since Jodi had to go in to work today for 6:30am and I drove her.
Not sure what we’re going to do this afternoon (maybe the Ballard Seafood Festival? Maybe the EMP?), but I’m sure it’ll be great fun!

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Picking on Seattle Transit

Previously posted on July 29th at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!131.entry

Now, if anyone was reading this blog (rest assured, nobody is), they might ask me “hey Evan, don’t you have anything good to say about seattle transit? From reading your blog I get the sense it really sucks”.
This reader-of-my-blog would be wrong. If such a person existed. 🙂
So, I figure it’s time to write some nice stuff about Seattle mass transit after my last few postings about it. What’s great about Seattle mass transit? Lots, actually. Here’s a quick bulleted list of great stuff:
  •  MetroKC has a very comprehensive transit planning site to help you plan out routes, stops, times, transfers… the works. It’s a bit less handy than a pocket map, but it does a lot more!
  • UW ITS provides awesome data. This is way too much for a single bullet, and it’ll spill over into a couple. What sort of data? Well, they have trackers on all the buses, and feed the current location, speed, who knows exactly what else back into a database. A database that is used to provide all sorts of great apps. Apps like…
  • This website is a godsend in the morning or just before leaving work. You can pop up your route and your bus stop and it’ll tell you when the next couple buses will be coming past. Not just their scheduled arrival times, but estimated REAL arrival times for when they’re running late. Of course, if we had mass RAPID transit you wouldn’t generally have to check if the bus was running la… uh, ok, let’s table that one. 🙂
  • on your WAP Cellphone! What’s cooler than checking when the bus will be there from your desk at work? Checking it from your cellphone at the bus stop, of course! This link might not work from your desktop PC (mine wants to save to disk when I click it), but it works great from my Audiovox SMT5600 smartphone. Great phone, btw. There’re a ton of other options too — get the updates by SMS, get the updates on a palm device. Whatever. Find the one you want at

So, now you can see when the bus is coming, but what else might you care about? How about where are the buses now? How about providing a bunch of time-points for the buses instead of just for a single stop? How about plotting it on a map for you, all pretty? You guessed it… someone did!

  • This might just be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a shame it’s not tracking subway heavy-rail, but that’s hardly the busmonster site’s fault (and there I go again, hehe).

So, what if you’re a huge loser and don’t ride the bus? Well, fear not. You can still check out how absolutely unbearable your driving commute will be with the Seattle Area Traffic Conditions website and cameras. Now lots of places have cameras, so that’s just boring. But the whole “congestion map” thing was new to me when I moved here.

It shows the various highways, interstates, bridges as little blocks of green and yellow, or more often whenever I am driving, red or black. This is to indicate how fast traffic is moving, according to a variety of sensors. It’s super cool, in that you can make driving decisions (uh, should I take 405 to avoid the 520 bridge?) on the fly based on real traffic info.

It’s also super cool in that when you go to transit planning meetings/open-houses, etc they have ABSOLUTELY CONCRETE numbers showing how horribly congested our roads are here, broken out my hours of day, segment of highway, etc. It should be an easy sell to fix something with so much objective data behind it. So that makes it all the more painful to hear about things like the I-912 anti-gas-tax vote that’s coming up this fall. I’m sure I’ll post more of my thoughts on this one later on. But for now, let’s just call this a succesful “yay seattle mass transit” post and move on!

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Seattle Art Museum

Previously posted on July 27th at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!130.entry

Jodi and I went to a special event at the Seattle Art Museum last night. Had a very good time, saw some interesting art and presentations. It was Jodi’s first trip to SAM, although I’ve been at least once before.
Seattle is so cool.

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Oh, for rapid transit in Seattle…

Previously posted on July 27th at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!128.entry

So what’s the difference between “mass transit” and “mass rapid transit”? Well, there’s probably a lot of websites out there that’ll give good definitions and better explanations than this… but I can boil it all down pretty easily.
When you add the word “rapid” in there, it’s not just to indicate “speed”. Sure, everyone wants to get from point A to point B faster on public/mass transit, but just making it faster is not all there is to it. So my translation of the word “rapid” in “rapid transit” is really into two other word: frequent and consistent.
Frequent – If you have to wait 30 minutes for the next bus, it’s not rapid transit even if the bus then spins the tires as it pulls away from the curb at 90 miles per hour.
Consistent – If you sit (stopped or slow) in traffic on the highway for 30 minutes — or conversely, if your once-every-30-minutes bus is 20 mins late because it was stuck in traffic — it can’t possibly be rapid transit.
So, here in Seattle transit is totally broken. It’s totally broken because even at the peak times, buses near my (fairly well populated area) condo only run every 20 mins or so. There are a couple of different routes, so I suppose if I wanted to go downtown or if I wanted to head south to Rainier Beach I might not have to wait that long. And occasionally I’ll get lucky and the bus will come within a few mins. But statistically, it only comes around every 20 mins during peak time. And as infrequently as once per 45mins-1 hour during the early morning hours when Jodi needs to catch it. So I end up driving her to work some morning instead of her taking the bus. Because as inconvienient as this is, it’s still better than waiting for the bus and being late!
It’s also broken because even when the bus shows up in a timely manner, it gets totally stuck in traffic just like any other vehicle. This hasn’t been as much of a problem for me on the surface streets (so, for instance, the 48 bus tends to do just fine on 23rd avenue). Where this is REALLY a problem that I’ve experienced is on the SR-520 bridge. There are carpool lanes intermittently coming back west on SR520, but they start and stop and cars have to merge into the highway across these lanes, causing havoc. And worse yet, when there’s a wreck somewhere on SR520 (like there was last night), it can take > 1 hour to go the 8 or so miles I have to travel on this route.
Definitely not rapid transit!
So, what would fix it? What would be my ideal transit system?
I’d love to see a hub-based system that is both frequent and consistent. I certainly wouldn’t mind having to route far out of my way (completely the wrong direction, west towards downtown, say) if it would be frequent and consistent.
I’d love to see radial train/monorail/light-rail/magic-carpet lines that converge on the downtown. Jump the train at my corner (or even up to a couple of blocks away) and take it to, say, the King St station. It wouldn’t matter that it’s going the wrong way because I’d only have to wait 5-10 minutes for it. And it would only stop once or twice in the 2 miles to get downtown (staggered stations for each radial line, perhaps). No need to stop for traffic lights. No stopping on each corner like a bus.
So, in about 7-12 minutes I’d be in the heart of downtown where I’d have myriad transit options. Bus to specific areas off the main drag, rapid transit (again 5-10 minute headway) to various other “hub” points around the downtown. And, the most important part, rapid transit (5-10 min headway) out to regional hubs. We already have these regional hubs. They’re called transit centers. They’re strategically located throughout the region based on transit demand.
Ideally, I’d now be about 7-12 minutes into my trip, sitting at the King Street Station. I’d wait at most another 5-10 minutes for my train to Overlake transit center. Heck, let’s even be generous and say there’s no direct way… realistically, it’d probably route through the Bellevue transit center on the way so perhaps I’d be waiting for that train. 12-22 minutes into my trip I’d be underway for bellevue, probably about a 10-15 minute trip if we don’t have to stop-and-go for traffic. In Bellevue, I’d just stay on the same train potentially and work my way over to the Overlake stop. or maybe I’d have to transfer. I wouldn’t care! At the end of the day, I’d have a trip from my condo out to Overlake that didn’t make me wait, and didn’t get stuck in traffic.
And the most important part — I WOULD FEEL LIKE IT WAS EASIER THAN DRIVING MY CAR! Yes, you got it. That’s the biggest reason people don’t take public transit. Because it’s a huge pain, and it’s so much easier to just drive their own car. If you make it EASIER to take transit than to drive a car, more people will take transit regularly.
Oh well, that’s enough ranting for today on transit. Seattle is a heck of a city and I love it here so far, which is why I am so frustrated by the transit problems. If you read this and you know how to fix these problems, please let me know. I’d like to be more in-the-know on what’s going on to fix these issues.

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Welch Plaza Condos ad

Previously posted on July 25th at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!126.entry

We like the condo we bought in Central Area so much (transit issues aside ), that we agreed to help them with some PR. Over the weekend I noticed that they’re using one of my “quotes” in their new ad. Cool. Unpaid celebrity endorser Evan says you should check them out if you’re looking for a great place to live:

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Okay, this time by census tract

Previously posted on July 24th at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!123.entry

So, I noticed after I made my last post that it’s probably better to switch the view to be by census tract rather than by postal code. It breaks out the density variabilities a bit better, but it certainly doesn’t demonstrate a good reason for the current concentration of transit (we’re still about the same density or higher than the more heavily transit-served areas).
If anything, it probably shows that the high density just east of I-5 is probably underserved… but I can’t speak to that at all.
Here’s the updated query link and image:

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Monorail questions (okay, transit questions)

Previously posted on July 24th at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!118.entry

In my last post, I said I’d post about my monorail conversation and questions. So here goes:
Let me digress for a second with my disclaimers — I’m torn on the monorail. As a “member of the Seattle community” now, I absolutely want to see the transit problems get solved. I think monorails are a cool and (relatively) inexpensive transit solution. I have been following the monorail news pretty closely online and in some email mailing lists since I moved to Seattle. In reading up on all this, I even think I understand a little bit of the history around the Sound Transit light rail project, and the OnTrack group in terms of how they perceive the monorail project (and reciprocally, how the monorail project perceives them).
And now that I’ve been living in the Central Area for a few months and trying to ride public transit quite regularly, I have some perspectives on the state of transit in this area as well.
So, let’s combine these two… and that leads me back to my point about the monorail project table at the Central Area Community Festival.
I started to talk with the person handing the booth, expressing my curiousity about why they would be spending their time in the Central Area. My not-so-subtle point (which I actually had to spell out explicity to get across) is that, with the limited exception of Metro bus, all of the current transit projects go to great lengths to route around the central area rather than through it!
I asked this poor fellow essentially “why should I support the monorail?”. I recognize it’s not all about me or my neighborhood, and in that regard I probably do support the monorail. I’d hate to have to drive in from West Seattle!
But, here’s where I was surprised. The fellow had absolutely nothing. He conjectured that we have lousy transit in Central Area because it doesn’t have enough population density. I figured this might be true, and I certainly didn’t have any facts to refute it.
Today, I figured I’d poke around a little bit on the Internet and see if this is a valid reason. I found some population density info from the site (here’s the link to the direct query). This is from the 2000 census, and maybe I’m reading it wrong, but it shows the part of the Central district that is being bypassed by all the new transit solutions as just about the same population density as the heavily-served downtown area! Here’s the image and legend from the above link:
So in the picture above, split the dark green color in half, left and right. The section on the left (let’s say west of 12th Avenue) gets a ton of new transit work done in the various plans. The right half? Uh, pretty much nothing. “Just take the 48 bus, nevermind the route is so long that it’s almost always inconsistent and late”, I can just imagine them saying…
Let’s break it down: According to this Sound Transit Fact Sheet, Link Light rail will run this path:
Just look at that path! It completely bypasses the core of Central Area, adding just a small stop back at the proposed First Hill station as part of the North Link extension. Of course, even that might not happen if the First Hill station is cut, as it sounds like it might be.
Okay, to be fair to the monorail-table guy, this isn’t really about monorail at all. The green line was always going from West Seattle to Ballard, and nowhere near Central Area.
And also, maybe he didn’t have “absolutely nothing”. He said that it makes more sense to route through the downtown. For the monorail green-line, that’s obviously true. And the part of the Central Area that gets bypassed by the others is roughly paralell to the downtown segments of all of the transit I’ve been calling out. Fair enough. But it still sucks, and I hope eventually some mass (and more importantly, RAPID) transit makes its way into the Central Area! You can see how bad it really is in the last picture, below — everything goes right around us!
But I’m still curious why they’d send someone to represent the monorail project to the Central Area Community Festival who had no answers for why I (as a Central Area resident), should support the monorail project’s continued existence?! I’ll throw out an easy suggestion: lie and say that we’ll eventually get the rest of the 2nd-phase citywide monorail (and in particular, the “gold corridor”) implemented. Then, it’d be easier to stomach the cost of a monorail I’d likely never have the need to use. The gold line would make me very happy, as it solves the bulk of the transit problems I have today — getting downtown easily, getting straight-north to the U district easily, even getting to the east-side easily would be helped by the gold line! I like the gold line route possibilities:

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Just another July weekend

Previously posted on July 24th at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!115.entry

So yesterday Jodi and I went to two festivals after she got through at the hospital. We started out the afternoon by taking the through downtown and over to the Bite of Seattle Festival at Seattle Center.
We walked around the center, eating and people watching. There were some good varieties of music, and lots of food choices. Jodi and I each had Gyros and Johnsonville Brats! Wow, who ever thought Johnsonville Brats would go nationwide… maybe even worldwide! Growing up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (probably 15 mins away from Johnsonville), we always thought of these brats as local and took them for granted.
Anyways, Jodi also had some chocolate-dipped strawberries… er, ShiskaBerries. Interesting!
Then, on our way home we stopped off at the Central Area Community Festival at Garfield playground. Met some of the folks representing organizations in the central area, so that was exciting. One that surprised me a bit was that there was a table at the festival for the Seattle Monoral Project. I stopped to talk with them for a few minutes, trying to figure it out: why would the average person in the central area care a lick about the monorail? I’ll post about this monorail conversation in a different post because I expect it’ll be long.

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