Jeez Seattle, Come On… But Seriously, Cool Stuff Afoot!

Yesterday morning as all three buses pulled up to the Market and Ballard Stop I watched as about 25 people boarded the #17 Express, 3 on the #17, and 11 on the #18 Express. A total of 39 people at one stop is pretty impressive.

Today the morning departures came in exactly on time, one after another. The #17 Express boarded 13 people, the #17 boarded 2, and the #18 Express boarded 13. This seemed a bit more the average than yesterday.

However, we did have a dead bus that Metro Workers were working diligently to get out of the the stop. The bus had spewed some oil and the guy taking care of it had thrown down a material that pulls the oil up to prevent any additional from seeping into the cement or roadway cracks.

The last few days of commuting have been good, no serious delays and for the most part, the buses have arrived at the stops I board on time. When I say on time, regular readers know I literally mean on the dot too! I’m a stickler for that. Not that it is a big deal to me if they’re a few minutes late, but I’m always happy when things go according to plan. 😉

There is one thing I’ve noticed over the last few weeks that I knew, but recently it has really resounded loud a clear.

The City of Seattle and surrounding city areas just are not remotely as serious about transit as San Francisco, Portland, or Vancouver British Columbia. Seattle is looking at 2022-2023 before they lay down light rail that should have been built 10-20 years ago to Bellevue and Redmond. (or the city should have bulked up its original transit system instead of letting it die) As far as north western cities go, Seattle is the least progressive when it comes to transit (Ok, some could maybe argue Spokane, but it doesn’t always come to mind).

However, there is a silver lining. Seattle still manages, mostly through no political competency but mostly pure simple lay of the land, to have clean power through hydro. It has fairly clean transport by American Standards because the citizens in the area are generally thoughtful of such things. The air is clean by measure of many American Cities also. Seattle just lacks luster in getting serious transit infrastructure built compared to its immediate neighbors.

That just bums me out.

However, I’ve been a happy citizen as of late. The city overall is doing pretty well, and even amid these bouts of infighting and backwards mentalities from the east side there is some shining examples of great strides forward (I’m not sugar coating it, it’s mostly the east side that has this perverse orientation and obsession with everything being massive paved over roadways, livability be damned!)

Seattle is Kicking Bicycles into High Gear on Dexter!

One of these examples is the bike way from the Fremont area to downtown were bus stop islands, bike ways and bike lanes are being put into place, and generally the roadway as a whole is being improved dramatically. I hope to get some pictures soon of this and get an entry put together to discuss and describe what they’re doing.

Another great example of progress is citizen activity around building out improvements to the transit system with things like One Bus Away. Even though King County Metro doesn’t put much effort into these things (unlike TriMet, San Francisco, etc) there are efforts among local coders to make sure these extremely valuable tools are maintained and expanded for use. Hopefully King County Metro will get on board with more support in the near future but either way, it is great to see the individual support of Seattle Citizens taking this on themselves to make things better!

King Street Station is Looking…

Sexy. This station, which was once and will again one day be a magnificent piece of American Architecture and design. The station is getting cleaned up and rebuilt in some places to assure it continues to remain standing another 100 years! This station has a huge amount of history for the city and had been in disrepair, but now there is a great future awaiting the station. This then leads me to…

King Street Station, Union Station, International District Station to First Hill to Broadway Streetcar!!!!

Yes, Seattle is stepping it up with a streetcar in what is probably the most happening part of the city. Night life, art, architecture, startups, small business, schools, neighborhoods, restaurants, and more all are on Capitol Hill. With the addition of this primary arterial mover, a streetcar line, running from Cap Hill down to the train station and the International District/Union Station Tunnel Stop two major connection points will be brought together. I also imagine that this streetcar might have higher ridership than the existing one on Westlake. But that brings me to my last positive point…

Amazon is Kicking Ass and Bringing Life to Westlake and South Lake Union

Amazon, a major Seattle employer is in the process of building out several major buildings and moving it’s 12k + employee headquarters to South Lake Union. This has caused the ridership on the SLUT (South Lake Union Trolley) to skyrocket. Travel down that way and check out the stops around Amazon at any time during rush hour and you’ll see 20-40 people waiting to board at several stops. I could imagine if they expanded that streetcar into downtown to Pioneer Square and up into East Lake they’d have one of the busiest transit routes in the city with the completion. Already as it is the ridership is finally getting up there.

This means the streetcar will likely take its place as the cleanest mode of transport per passenger in the city, finally beating out the Monorail and Ferries. But we shall see. 🙂

Overall there are a lot of great things going on even though it often seems as if it is in spite of the transit agencies themselves. I’m hoping to see even more improved and better energy between the Seattleites and transit authorities themselves as time goes forward. As Sound Transit, The Seattle Streetcar, and King County Metro all improve the system with BRT, Light Rail, Streetcars, and increased service levels along major arterials Seattle will finally start pushing forward in a big way.

It is, after all, one of the biggest cities in the north west and it could easily take the lead in many of these neighborhood, complete streets, and transit related efforts!

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2 Comments

  1. Still think you got it wrong. Some of us want it, others don’t want to pay for it, so we vote on it. If it passes, a group will challenge it. So we revise it, and vote again. This cycle may repeat a few times before we eventually build something completely different than what we first voted on (or nothing at all).

    In this case, we’re talking about light rail. It’s the same boat for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement , the monorail, and oh the list could go on.

    Reply

  2. No, I get it. I understand intimately how it works. The fact is we vote for one thing but things change. “Democracy” isn’t how operations for something that is technically a business should be operated. They should have major goals based on the city (i.e. connecting population points, etc, increasing the standard of life, decreasing automobile usage, helping the city clean up the local environment through transit usage or cleaner alternatives, etc). We the people however, should not and technically “can’t” micro-manage a Transit Authority (or as seen in history, how horribly transit companies fail when micro-managed).

    I get that we the people get to vote on things. However that doesn’t magically make us God, we don’t control markets, we are involved and part of the markets. We don’t control nature, we only live here on Earth. But somehow because we voted on something we’re supposed to magically get it – the rest of the world and mother nature be damned! It’s a lousy attitude and bad process to get a committee in charge of this type of thing. Committee’s can set general direction, but they shouldn’t be mandating operational level and macro architecture of systems. The builders of the system should be handling that, they are the ones on the ground, they are the ones that know what is actually going to happen. Anyway, that’s what we’ve voted ourselves, this eternal headache of not getting what we vote for, so that’s what we have to deal with.

    My only suggestion here, is simply that we the people, the major, the Governer, the Feds, and other entities put forth a little flexibility to get things done when the market flex or other issues come up. A prime example is when Portland took money from the Feds, but got the Feds to give them enough freedom to NOT build the Interstate the Feds thought the city needed. Instead they built light rail and began their leap ahead of other American cities on livability. That was just one o the first visible steps in changing things for the better (and yes, Portland used to be a higher crime mess pre-1980)

    Seattle needs that flexibility and freedom to manage itself now. With money getting ever shorter and shorter in supply at the state level, while the Feds screw everybody over my just continuously dumping more and more cash in we NEED that freedom at the local level even more.

    The Light Rail, that the people have voted for can be accomplished. Just look at the costs in other cities and realize Sound Transit can get it done for a LOT less. The costs so far have been 10x Portland’s most expensive line. Portland, Denver, New Jersey, San Francisco have PROVEN that light rail can work in street operation, in above ground at surface right of way. There is no need for this excessively expensive construction. The people voted for it, at least make an HONEST effort to get it to them, that’s all I’m saying.

    …that’s my retort to your “vote” again statement. Which also makes me wonder, what exactly you mean, because people did vote for light rail and many other things with ST2.

    Reply

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