Archive for Transit

It’s a Seattle Light Rail Christmas

I’m about 2 weeks behind all the other bloggers, but it’s not for lack of interest on this. 🙂

Sound Transit started showing off the new light rail car to “the public” the other day: http://www.soundtransit.org/x3970.xml. Carla (Bus Chick) was on the invite list, evidently, as she got some great photos and write-up of the experience.

Here are the specs: Central Link vehicle specs sheet. Soooo cool. Can’t wait!

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More Bus Adventures

Yesterday I had two interesting experiences on the bus.

545 bus home from work (which I took all the way into the downtown so we could go to the movie). SR520 was backed up all the way from Lake Washington to NE 40th… even up the on-ramp traffic was at a dead stop and/or inching along.

To the rescue comes our heroic bus driver! After taking >20 minutes to make it from the overlake transit center to 148th St, he got fed-up with the terrible traffic and got off at the exit! We took a shortcut on the backroads of Bellevue and ended up shooting ahead of all the stopped traffic by the time we ended up back on the highway. Ordinarily this particular bus driver causes me some grief since I often end up standing and he doesn’t follow the strategy of “feathering the brakes”.

But not yesterday… yesterday I had a seat and I was glad to have a bus-driver who drives the thing like a taxi. Everything but up-on-the-grass to go around stupid drivers who stopped in the defective 520 HOV lane while trying to merge in, etc. Good stuff! Excepting the 20+ minute slow start, we made it into the city even faster than we’d have made it on a lot of typical high-traffic days! Sweet!

14 bus home from the movie. This one wasn’t quite so ideal, but it’s a lot more typical. After JUST MISSING the 14 bus at the end of our film, we knew we’d have a bit of a wait for any of the potential buses we could catch to get close to the house (4, 14, 27, even the 3 bus would have been a possibility).

Sure enough, we had to wait 25 minutes before the first of these arrived – a 14. That’s fine, because of course it could have been much worse than 25 minutes, I suppose. But what was frustrating about this was that at the first stop-light after getting on the 14 bus, I noticed that a 4-bus was in the lane directly next to us and the 27 bus was directly behind us. Nice. 3 buses that all run together through the downtown instead of staggering them by 10 minutes to make the system flow a little better.

It would have made sense for us (10 min wait instead of 25 minute wait) and it would have made more sense for anyone trying to transfer between the routes (folks on the 27 bus would have had a hard time transfering to the 4 that was always 20 yards ahead, for instance). Ugh.

As Jodi pointed out, this is the sort of experience that makes it very hard to justify riding the bus downtown when you could pay a few $$ for parking and not have to stand around for 25 minutes at 10pm.

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R8A and two-way HOV on I-90 – update

Amazing coincidence! Just the other day I was wondering “whatever happened to the plan to add two-way HOV lanes to the I-90 bridge?” (to supplement the current reversible lanes and eventually replace them when the reversible express lanes are switched to dedicated transit lanes).

So I started digging around on the WSDOT site, and eventually ended up at this project on the SoundTransit site. When I first looked at this page, it still said “Estimated Start: 2006”, but no additional timeline detail. But it did list Andrew Glass Hastings as a contact, so I sent him an email.

He quickly replied, answered my timeline question, and included a preview of the announcement newsletter that had just gone out. The newsletter is available online now also, and the website is updated with the timeline details.

It has some good news, and some bad news…

The good news: It’s getting started ASAP! We should (finally) see the beginnings of this in 2007!
The bad news: It’s being dragged out into three stages, and we won’t see end-to-end two-way HOV lanes until TBD.  (TBD = we have no idea when we’ll get it done).

And of course, the worst news is that without the HOV lanes running end-to-end, buses and carpools will continue to get stuck in traffic during peak commute times. Ugh. I suppose it’s unreasonable — and it would cause even worse commute problems while it was being done — but it sure would be nice to just get some of this stuff DONE!

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Four replies about Light Rail to the Eastside

A few weeks ago while various local politicos were debating light-rail to the east side, I sent some email to the lot of them through an easy form provided by TransportationChoices (form is now gone). The email went out to about 10–15 local politicians and board members, expressing both the “form letter” stuff about how important it was that we have light rail, along with my personal experiences and opinions on the topic.

Here’s the email I sent:

Please support light rail across I-90!

Form letter part:
Puget Sound has truly become a world-class region – one known for its innovation, beauty, and quality of life – and we need to have an equally world-class transit system!  Light rail is the right kind of investment for connecting the region; it’s fast and reliable, increases bus and rail ridership, encourages healthy communities, increases property value, and helps protect the environment.  I hope you will choose light rail as the preferred technology for the I-90 corridor and leave a legacy for generations to come.  Please support LIGHT RAIL NOW!

My additional part:
I get stuck in traffic every day on the way to and from work (from Seattle to Redmond). This is whether I drive alone, carpool, or ride the bus. There is no escape. Implementing light rail across I-90 to Bellevue and up to Redmond is absolutely a necessity to allow our region (with its strange reverse-commute and terrible traffic in both directions) to continue to grow successfully. Buses are ok, but they won’t get people out of their cars. Light rail is a far more effective and cost efficient way to solve this problem for the 21st century.

I was very pleased to hear back from five of the people I sent to (replies received in this order): Richard McIver (Seattle city council), Pete von Reichbauer (King County council), Julia Patterson (King County council), Dow Constantine (King County council), and Larry Phillips (Sound Transit board).

I didn’t hear back from the rest of the city/county/board that the form was sent to, although I suppose it’s par for the course if they didn’t agree with me. But it was still very good to hear back from these five, and it was even better to see the vote on light rail pass!

Updated later the same day – Whoops, evidently I can’t count. That’s FIVE responses, not four. 🙂

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Bus Chick shares my pain

I found this post to be particularly relevant to my often situation waiting for the southbound 48 bus at Montlake. Sharing the same experience I’ve written about in some of my previous posts, she touches on “bunching” of buses, the half-dozen 43 buses you’re bound to see before the first 48 makes its way through the logjam, etc. Great post!

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Eastside should be light rail, says SoundTransit

In a rapid follow-up to my post the other day, the final word is in… Sound Transit is going to go to the voters in 2007 with the Light Rail option. Great news for the future of the whole of the Puget Sound area, and great news for those of us who live in Seattle but work in Redmond (or Bellevue)!

But there’s some depressing news, and it has two parts:

  1. We have to wait until November 2007 to vote on it, and passing this vote is not certain.
  2. Even if it passes the vote next year, the PI points out that “the trains, planned to cross Lake Washington along Interstate 90, won’t start running for at least 15 years”.

Ugh. We need light rail TODAY, but I suppose it’s better to get it in 15 years than never…

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Eastside should be light rail, says Bellevue

In a highly anticipated (at least by me) decision, the Bellevue city council voted 5–2 in favor of the Light Rail option (over the Bus Rapid Transit alternative). Although just about everyone who had officially weighed in on this prior to the Bellevue decision (ie – Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah) had been in favor of light rail, Bellevue had seemed on the verge of pulling a Georgetown (ie – trying to avoid “that element” coming into their community by not participating in the region-wide mass transit solution, then later on regretting it and having to hack together something much worse than rail) and not endorsing light rail into/through their community.

According to the KC Journal article, the two no votes both wanted to stall and talk about it more rather than decide between the light rail and bus rapid transit options as Sound Transit was requesting.

We’ve still got a long, LONG way to go before I (and thousands of others) can ride the train out to work in Redmond and avoid getting stuck in traffic for an hour each day… but it’s a step in the right direction!

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Sounder “reverse commute”

Sound Transit just announced their first “reverse commute” option for the Sounder Seattle<->Tacoma route. Plus they will add two more Tacoma->Seattle->Tacoma runs each day, bringing the total in this direction to 5. These additions don’t happen until September 2007, however.

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South Lake Union Streetcar groundbreaking – July 7, 2006

From: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/stcar_slu_construction.htm

South Lake Union Streetcar Groundbreaking and Block Party

You are invited to a groundbreaking ceremony and block party on Friday, July 7, 2006, when United States Senator Patty Murray, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Washington State Representative Ed Murray will kick-off South Lake Union Streetcar construction and thank those who have helped to make the streetcar a reality.

Streetcar Ground Breaking and Block Party
Noon to 1:30 p.m., Friday, July 7, 2006
Terry Avenue North- between Harrison Street and Republican Street

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ST2 “Mapping the Future”

Sound Transit updated their “ST2” plans the other day with more details (and a couple of specific options for the November 2007 ballot package).

There’s also a survey to tell them what you think: http://www.soundtransit.org/st2/pop_survey.aspx?surveyid=12.

Now, I’m a huge fan of anything that improves transit and transit mobility in the seattle area. So I’m a huge fan of just about anything Sound Transit wants to do. With that disclaimer out of the way, I have to say I’m a little disappointed that my #1 ST2 item (Eastside light rail to Overlake) makes its first maybe appearance in the “Rail Emphasis (Medium High)” option and its first for sure appearance in the “Rail Emphasis (High)” option.

So, my translation on that is that it’s quite likely we won’t get eastside light rail to Overlake in ST2. I’ll also admit that I have a singular focus on east-side light rail and I don’t know diddly about the other projects they’re planning. So the other projects may really be that necessary. Maybe.

But last time I checked, the 550 (Seattle <-> Bellevue) was the highest ridership Sound Transit route, with nearly 350k riders in Q1 2006. And the 545 (Seattle <-> Redmond) was a not-too-distant second place with nearly 275k riders in that same period. And the 545 route has increased ridership by 49% year-over-year from 2005.

So, what does that mean to me? Well, it means there are a BUNCH of people trying to get from Seattle to Bellevue and from Seattle to Redmond. And, as a daily rider of the 545 bus, I can tell you that at least in the morning, 90% of the people on the bus get off at Overlake – not going on to Redmond.

East-side light rail won’t serve everyone. Probably 20% of the 545 bus loads up at Montlake. But, some of those folks — like me — would just as soon take east-side light rail instead of a transfer.

I hope we get it.

 

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