From Sound Transit, Is Anyone Reading Transit Sleuth Attending This?

The invite reads…

Look behind the red wall

Capitol Hill community event & Link light rail construction site tours

WHEN: Saturday, June 11, 2011, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Cal Anderson Park, 10th Avenue between John Street & Denny Way

Come by and learn about Sound Transit and its light rail construction projects.
Link light rail construction site tours will also be given. View the tunneling boring machine as it prepares to launch towards downtown Seattle. Please be sure to wear sturdy shoes. People wearing open-toed shoes will not be allowed onto the site.
Capitol Hill community event featuring the music group Toy Boats (playing from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
Bring the family to enjoy balloon animals and face-painting.
WHAT IS UNIVERSITY LINK?
University Link is the 3.15-mile extension of Link light rail from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington. U-Link includes twin-bore tunnels and two stations, one at Capitol Hill (Broadway & East John St.) and the other on the University of Washington campus at Husky Stadium.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information about the U-Link light rail project, please contact Jennifer Lemus at (206) 398-5314 or jennifer.lemus@soundtransit.org. You can also visit our website at http://www.soundtransit.org/u-link.

I was thinking about going, but was also wondering who else might be heading up that way? Would love to meet, have a cup of coffee, discuss some transit topics, etc.

Portland Leads Again

Again, Portland takes the lead with coordination with Google Maps. They’re now offering real time arrival information via the maps service itself!

Impressive, I hope to see this in other cities soon!

UPDATE #1: They’re also slowly starting to restore service.  Of course, the locals bitch on as always (see 1st comment), even though this is an improvement in service.

UPDATE #2: Ok, so a couple of my long time readers got all riled up as if me stating Portland is making some progress is a jab at Seattle. I understand there is an unspoken tit for tat going on between these cities, but I wanted to add that Portland is doing the above, but Seattle also is getting things done:  For instance, SDOT has started a massive repavement effort on Dexter.  Check out these links for this awesome transit + bike improvement effort (which of course auto drivers will benefit form also, and hopefully kill less people in other cars, bikes, or pedestrians).  Cheers!

Seattle is making progress, it just isn’t always in regards to transit buses or light rail.  This blog happens to primarily be about those things.  However maybe I’ll start including more about bikes and pedestrian movement.
Thanks for reading, and you guys stop thinking I’m trying to put Portland on any bigger of a pedestal than it is already on.  o_O

Rail

It has been a while, a long while, since I rode Light Rail into a downtown core or out of the core for work. More than 4 years at least.

In Tacoma I rode the Link Streetcar from one end to the other to get to work. With an early Monday Amtrak Cascades ride to Tacoma from Portland and a Thursday late Cascades ride back home. Both parts of this trip were awesome, with the ability to work, drink, and actually enjoy the train trip. The streetcar trip was so short, sweet, and quick that it was perfect to enjoy a cup of coffee and just watch the sun peeking up through the sky.

Before that I had the pleasure of taking Trimet’s MAX Light Rail out to Beaverton, and before that just past Beaverton to parts near Intel’s Campus and almost all the way to Hillsboro. Those trips were pretty long but both allowed a smooth and easy trip to work.

I’ve also spent a few weekends here and there running into and out of the city on PATH from New Jersey to New York, the Subway, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak Acela and the locals, plus other systems.

All the rail systems are amazingly smooth in comparison to American Buses on American Streets.

There has been one exception with the Swift & Faux BRT Services in Seattle. These buses are actually smooth riding and ride on pseudo dedicated roadways. These buses still aren’t as smooth as light rail or passenger rail like Amtrak, but they are a drastic improvement over the “trucks with people” in them nonsense that we seem to have so many of in the US.

If I were to draw a conclusion from just my experience in the US and Canada, we need to let the traditional bus models die and bring this new style of transit service into play full force. Some of the traditional bus modes might work in small towns or for far flung service, but it should be put to rest in the city. 60ft, smooth suspension, smooth riding buses on semi-dedicated routes should be used.

But I digress, just sitting here dreaming of a smoother more vehicle friendly and civil ride into work. May we citizens get BRT, LRT, Commuter Rail, and other higher quality, civil modes of commuting!

Introducing The Morning Commuters

I boarded the bus again on a not so normal bright and sunny morning in Seattle. Day #X of my Ballard commute into Seattle. The #17 Express and #17 came spot on time. The #17 Express, as usual, packed em’ in and filled every single seat at this stop. I waited the extra few minutes for the #18 Express. Upon boarding I saw a lot of the familiar faces. It is, in some ways, reassuring to board the bus in the morning and see a lot of familiar faces.

Biz Magazine Gal – One young lady is always reading a magazine of sorts. Looks sort of like a business magazine, but she always folds it back at the spine. This makes it impossible to really see what it is.

Rich Red – Another young woman is always reading a thriller or some type of exciting top 40 looking book. She raises it up so barely a soul could see her face.

Grumpy Frunk – A fella in the back is always sitting, partly stooped over from lack of sleep, and makes a failing attempt everyday at catching sleep on the bus.

Chicky Shades – Another gal boards the bus, and always strikes me as having hit the bong or maybe drank a few to many rounds the night before. Fortunately she’s plenty professional, as everyone aboard this express bus at this hour is.

Suit Guy #1 – This guy usually read a newspaper. That’s this thing made of paper, which is made from a dead tree. It looks like he has transit experience because he politely folds it up via the “quadruple fold” method and reads it that way.

Suit Guy #2 – Almost the same guy, except looks a little more like the “business suit killed the rock star” guy. He’s always got his face pulled into his phone, reading whatever it is that he reads.

Serious Fighter Guy – This guy probably doesn’t fight at all, but one never knows. He looks like he was built for fighting championships. Strapped like a guy out of 300.

Burlesque Lady – Often a girl, looking shockingly hot and wearing a coat over her burlesque outfit is off to ?? I’ve no idea in Seattle. Wasn’t sure the city had anything like this that a young lady would be going to at 7:52am in the morning.

Spunky Hair Dude – This guy is some type of office worker. Has great taste in shoes, but the worst taste in the history of men in shirts. Usually some nonsensical assault on the eyes like pink (salmon? whatever, it’s pink) stripes. One has stripes with dots!? I’m appalled that a designer of any sort would have the notion that this is a good combination to put on a single piece of clothing. Blagh!? 😦

Condom Man – Yup, we have one of those guys get aboard. Loads his bike and boards in about 3 seconds. Real military like, but always wearing the funny look bicycle spandex cloths (or whatever the material is, I’ve no idea). He looks like a man wrapped in a condom. Thus I’ve dubbed him the Condom Man.

Those are all the notable people, that I see, almost everyday riding the #18 Express into Seattle.

In the near future I’ve been pondering taking a more round about trip, just to enjoy different scenery and see who the “regulars” would be on that route. Until then, cheers!

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!