Funny, The 2 Lanes Are Still There in the Plans, But Somebody Says They Aren’t… *Mynorthwest* Nonsense.

I’m re-publishing my comment here, that I recently posted on this hyperbolic piece about “Seattle sacrifices two lanes for…” which I’m unsure if they’ll post. It “seems polite” to me but doesn’t tow the line of thinking that the KIRO Radio comments usually tow.

“First off, totally inaccurate way to actually frame the situation. Two lanes aren’t disappearing. It’s not like they’re going to put housing or plant trees in two lanes and lot allow movement there.

Instead they’re using those lanes for things like streetcars, buses, and related vehicles that can actually move a LOT of Seattleites vs. a very few Seattleites. The project, the 170 mil isn’t exactly for the “streetcar” either if one looks at the actual cost breakouts. Most of it is actually for redesigning the street so it is more effectively used to move actual people, vs. have people move a few cars.

First, getting the details on modal options load capacity:

The streetcar would operate in this corridor most comparably like BRT or light rail. Easily reaching a load throughput capacity of 2000+ per hour. Being it will be mostly grade separated it could easily be used to achieve a capacity far in excess of 2000+ per hour and more around 3000-4000 and still be at half of peak capacity.

Meanwhile the throughput of the current lanes, even if configured with zero lights, zero parking, and zero stops couldn’t exceed 1200 per lane. At their current configuration it is unlikely they exceed even 600-800 per hour per lane. To note, there will still be a full lane that will be dedicated to single occupant motor vehicles like cars, which will still allow for closer to the theoretical range of 1200 per hour. With the two lane configuration as is, it’s unlikely it even reaches 1200 per hour with both lanes in use and limited to single occupant motor vehicles.

The new configuration will easily allow for about 800-1200 vehicles per hour (and possibly the respective ~1200 or so persons that will come along with those cars), with one lane, and also allow for 2000-4000 per hour with the streetcar and 2nd lane usage, street safety improvements, and related changes.

In the end, Seattle wins. Seattle gets higher throughput for the most people (much of Pike Place Market shoppers – to use as an example – are from ships; ferries, cruise ships, transit, and walking from areas within the city anyway, and few and fewer arrive by car while the number of total shoppers increases). Seattle will get more shoppers at Pike Place. Seattleites can enjoy a connection from the South Lake Union technology hub to the southern technology hub of companies in Pioneer Square. International District will now be connected to the central business district with a seamless ride, and the housing (30k+ persons) will be connected in Pioneer Square & Waterfront to Capital Hill & First Hill (Another 30k+).

With the numbers currently, that means about ~1500 people *might be* inconvenienced slightly – many of whom may not even be Seattleites, while over 60k Seattleites have a more convenient method of traveling throughout the downtown core of the city.

Also, to add. Even if this were BRT or some bus variant, to increase actual throughput (because buses and streetcars used to ply this street before) the street would need to be reconfigured to how it operated before, plus changes related to appropriate diversion and safety, would still require a huge lump some of cash near the streetcar cost. But it would come without the added benefit of pulling people to it, and thus to explore additional areas of the city, like a streetcar will. Over time the operational costs are also minimalistically different than buses using and providing the same throughput, without providing the same advantages.

I now digress, learn about it or ignore it and keep playing the oblivious hand… it’ll get built. Take advantage of it or keep complaining. The complainers won’t get any advantage out of the situation. In other news, I’ll see ya’ll out and about if you’re actually in the city. Cheers!”

Don’t Let the City Council Defund the Seattle Central City Connector!

I recently read x-council member’s public letter to the Seattle City Council about defunding the Central City Connector. My response is as follows. I hope you too will write and tell the council to NOT defund this connector. With this project completed the streetcar finally becomes a fully viable connector between disparate and often hard to travel to points within the city of Seattle. More information besides my letter below can be found here.

My letter:

Dear Seattle City Council,
I’m writing after hearing about and reading the alarming news about the possibility of the central city connector (streetcar extension to connect the two disparate lines) being defunded. As someone who just invested in becoming a full time and permanent Seattleite I do NOT want this defunded. This can and will be a frequent transportation connection that I used between Pioneer Square, South Lake Union, and Central City. Something that I and many other I work with in the startup community would use daily to connect with businesses in each of these areas.
I currently live in Ballard, and will be here for many years. I bike into the city everyday (I don’t pose more cost to our overburdened road network, it’s 17th street bike boulevard and then 15th street trail through the rail yards and into the city). With this being built it provides an easy, car-free way to deal with traveling between Amazon, Pike Place Market, Russell Investments Building, Pioneer Square, and even in some cases up to Capitol Hill. These are all places I do extensive business, and yes, there is *some* bus service, but this provides effective service through the area that is more convenient, more business friendly, and will work for our constituents where as current bus service does NOT work. Matter of fact, out of town visitors generally won’t use the bus service for a number of reasons.
So I ask you to please consider funding the central city connector fully and building this high quality piece of infrastructure that the city – and residents, new and old, will be able to make use of throughout the city.
Please write and tell the council they shouldn’t cancel the funding for this project. Email them at!
More on US Streetcars in the future, but for now this one needs to be built!

Upcoming Sounder Sleuth Roundtrip to Lakewood

I’m planning a new transit trip, as I want to see what it’s like to take the Sounder from Seattle to Lakewood, and then back again. In the coming days, maybe as early as next week I’m going to ride this schedule and see how it works out.

  1. King County Metro Bus 15X departing from Ballard @ 7:00am from NW 70th & 15th to Seattle King Street Station.  ($2.50)
  2. Sound Transit Sounder Train #1505 departing from Seattle King Street Station @ 7:55am to Lakewood Station. ($6.00)
  3. Sound Transit Sounder Train #1518 departing from Lakewood @ 10:16am to Seattle King Street Station. ($6.00)
  4. Get to work, enjoy Seattle.

Ballard Light Rail!

…in 2035 LOL if that’ll even be useful for me or we even stave off mass destruction but HEY… let’s talk about this.

Light rail is coming to Ballard in 2035, so says Sound Transit. I read about it here, which you should too if you have any vested interest in Seattle, Ballard, or for that matter West Seattle! The build out, at least this initial idea, looks great. Here’s a simple little map of the plan (from the post I linked). Overall I’m super stoked for it to be done!

Sound-Transit-West-Seattle-Ballard-.pngWhich brings up another point, get registered and GO VOTE THIS UPCOMING ELECTION SEATTLE! You candidates are Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan. I’m going for Cary Moon, as she seems to have the most legit interest in this and the city. She’s also the only one of the two that wants to put forth a bond to push the scheduled start date for construction up by a gazillion decades. This would be huge, and would help and benefit us currently alive and breathing souls in a huge way.

The major points I see right off, which would add thousands and thousands of new LINK riders per day, would be South Lake Union to Westlake and Midtown. That connection alone would likely add more than most of the other connections, which will be great for overall ridership number. Throw that in with the added mobility to Alaska Junction, Ballard, and the respective commuter contingent that would happily opt for LINK over the Red Line Faux BRT routes! Anyway, I’m looking forward to it.

The other aside, as I ponder being 60 years old or some other older age when these routes are finished, is the increased bike-ability of the metro area. Right now, if I want to go anywhere outside of my current commute (Ballard to downtown Seattle) then things get treacherous really quick. Getting U-District and locations off of the Burke Gilman Trail are pretty easy, and very nice trips, but elsewhere; SODO, Alaska Junction, West Seattle anywhere, White Center, and elsewhere are a serious pain. They’re often fraught with dangerous intersections and areas where motorists are very unlikely to be paying attention or behaving and operating safely. This connections resolve and huge number of those points.

But I digress, not a lot to really say about it all until design and related efforts begin. I will be getting involved in those efforts, and hope to see more of my fellow Seattleites there. In the meantime, happy transiting.

14 Mount Baker

Back to Ballard. Win!

In 2011 I lived in Ballard. I rode my bike into the city sometimes and other times I rode the bus. At the time the bus I took was the 18. Sometime over the years King County Metro took the 18 and the 75, killed those local routes and rolled them into route 40. There is still the 18x, which is a morning and evening rush hour express bus, and follows the path of what was the 18 route in 2011. Life working in circles, I am now located in Ballard again! Yay!

Honestly, I’m stoked. After the torture of Redmond I’m euphoric at having legit amenities, breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, drinking, and related joints, plus a plethora of serious coffee joints all within a short walk or bike ride away. Instead of just QFC and a Whole Foods, I’ve now got bike, transit, and walking access to… ok, I was about to start writing this list inline, but let me actually bullet list this sucker, because wow.

Redmond Options Within 6 kilometers:

  • QFC #1
  • QFC #2
  • Whole Foods

Ballard Options Within 6 kilometers:

  • QFC #1
  • QFC #2
  • Safeway
  • PCC
  • Whole Foods
  • An actual local butcher (Better Meat)
  • Ficherman’s Docks
  • Market 1
  • Market 2
  • Ballard Market

Needless to say, I like the options and unique characteristics of many of these places. It’s why I love cities and am bored to brainless apathy when trying to deal with the lack of legitimately unique suburban options. They simply just don’t exist. But I digress.

The Smoky Hellfire Furnace of Cascadia! AGGGGHHH!!!!

Being back in Ballard I’m now biking to work every day. However on 3 days out of the two weeks of living in Ballard so far, I’ve taken the bus to and from. Today was one of those three days, because of this smoky low quality nasty air. It’s rough outside, and combined with the high temperatures, it’s a recipe for ailments if you go tearing through the air soup of smoke. Today, to resolve the issue as best as one can, I rolled into downtown Seattle on route 40.

Now, I’ve ridden route 40 a number of times before. I’ve also ridden it a number of times over the years on trips up to the area. I have in the past tended to swing out the Ballard even when not living in the area. So let’s talk transit sleuthing on the 40.

Route Description

On the south end, the route starts just across the street from King Street Station. That makes it an extremely convenient bus route to connect with Amtrak or Sounder at King Street Station. The bus then heads north through the city on 3rd Street, which is basically Seattle’s bus mall style street, which then cuts over to Westlake and goes through the South Lake Union area where Amazon and such is located. From there, it follows Westlake along the western edge of Lake Union. Then it’s across the Fremont Bridge into Fremont, past “the center of the universe” and then along Leary Way into Ballard. In Ballard it cuts from Leary onto Market Street heading westward, then a right onto 24th to head north.

Now this is where the old 18 route basically was done but the 40 continues onward. The 40 then head north and eventually turns on a street heading northeast, then east, and then onward to Northgate. Basically part of what used to be route 75. I’ve not ridden the 40 past 24th & 65th at this point, and today’s commute takes me along the same route.

Progress, Move Ya Damned SOV Motorists

One of the grand changes for this route over the 18 route is the dedicated lanes and light priority in the South Lake Union area. This are has become highly notorious since before it got popular with what was referred to as the Mercer Mess. After Seattle spent a gazillion bucks to fix it, they’ve made it exponentially worse and it’s still the Mercer Mess. The other difference however, is there are about 50k employees of Amazon and other companies in the area every day and about another 20k residents that live in the neighborhood now. This makes for what could be a completely inoperable route path for the bus during rush hour. However Westlake through to Mercer has bus/transit priority lanes and at Mercer has a dedicated light that let’s the buses leap from traffic to get across Mercer. These two tweaks to this corridor literally increase the throughput for buses by a massive degree. It slows motorists somewhat, but they were stuck there being the problems that they are already. Adding a minute or two to their commutes to enable thousands upon thousands to actually get through on transit is a huge payout in time and money for Seattleites. In the end, an absolutely huge win!

That’s it for today’s observations. The 40 route, at this point is a usable and pretty heavily ridden route. I’ll have to do some sleuth work and see what the ridership numbers actually are on the various segments. I’d be curious what the overall activity is over the course of the day. Until next time, happy riding.

Why I’m a “Transit Sleuth”

Recently I was asked, “Have you ever analyzed why you are so interested in trains, buses, transit, and the like? Why did it become such a big hobby of yours?” With that, I began an introspection of exactly that. Why did I become interested in transit? Why do I find it curiously interesting? Why do I find trains, buses, planes, and all the like interesting? There are a bit of odd origins, but here’s how I sort of fell into this as not just a hobby, but as a part time professional too.

Reason #1: Learning

The first thing, which provided a healthy top soil for my interest to sprout and grow from, is my natural tendency to learn. My tendency isn’t just rooted in taking classes and having people teach me things, but goes far beyond that into teaching myself, learning how to learn, how to learn more efficiently, and at the very root of all this is the insatiable desire to answer the question “why?”

The Origins of a Passion, or Answering “Why?”

When I was young, somewhere in the 4-5 year old range I was already adept at understanding how cars flowed into and out of roadways, and the simple basics that anyone would grasp merely by riding in and being around cars. I never really asked how cars got here, who invented them, they just simply were here and the family used them to do all sorts of things. We used them to go on bike rides, we used them to get to fast-food, we used them to park at the Sonic to eat, we used them for groceries and picking up stuff at Walmart, and a whole host of stuff. We even used our Chevy Astro Van to pick up a few hundred pounds of sand from the gravel pit once so we could use it for luminary candle lights. All sorts of things, arguably everything we did, involved being in a car.

However there were a few things that stand out that didn’t involve a car. We would fly to Wilmington, North Carolina or Portland, Oregon to visit relatives. Sometimes we’d take the train, the ole’ Amtrak Train, to Portland or to the east coast. One time we got in the Toyota Corolla station wagon and headed north toward Ohio to go visit relatives there. We’d setup the back of the station wagon with games so that my mom and I could keep me entertained. I was moderately entertained, but even as a child felt cramped in the back of the car.

On the way to Ohio, somewhere after a few hundred miles on the road, some questions I’d not asked before just appeared in my mind. As the curious young boy I was, I started asking my dad with the hope to attain some answers. My parents, thankfully for me, were super helpful, answered lots of questions, but even more importantly made me ask even more questions to get answers too. If they didn’t know, they wouldn’t just feed me some made up nonsense either, they’d say they didn’t know and we’d have to research it. The first question came out, I’d pondered the question for a number of minutes to be sure I asked it accurately, and it still sits in my mind today.

“Hey dad, so there are vehihicles, twains, pwanes, and they all go places. What’s the difference? Some seem faster like pwanes, but twains are slower but bigger and faster than vehihicles but I don’t know. But why do some people take a vehihicle instead of a pwane or a pwane instead of a vehihicle or twain?”

To note, this was before I’d learned how to pronounce these words, and it didn’t matter to me, I was gonna put the question together in spite of any speech issues my 4 year old self would have. The answer was concise, based entirely on why we as a family took one mode over another, “well, we take the train because it’s fun and you get to see lots of things, while the plane is faster, and we take the car for other trips.”

This wasn’t enough for me so I pushed, “but why the car over the train if the train is fun?” My dad, driving at that moment, was a bit focused on the road as one should be but a 4-5 year old kid has no real concept of paying attention to the road. I was fully of “why, why, but why” questions and I wanted answers! He answered a few more points, and started to dig into certain things like, “well the train is more than the plane, but it’s because we get a family room and get to eat and sleep. For a trip to Portland it’s to far to drive, so we always fly or take the train.” Slowly but surely I came to a realization about the complexity of picking a car, train, or plane to travel with.

It all depends on a vast number of criteria and not particularly on one single thing. For now, that seemed to work, I built a system in my mind that helped me understand why. The thinking about and questions of modal choice were put to rest for my young self. This thinking however, would grow exponentially in the future, but for now I had enough mapping to think things through.

Fast Forward to 1984 and OMG STEAM ENGINE!

I’d hit the ripe old age of 7 years old. I knew basic math, reading, and already had a reading comprehension well beyond my age. I’d also already realized the uniqueness of certain planes, trains, tanks, and a whole bunch of other machines. I was already, just these couple of years later, getting ravenously curious about how things really work.

The family loaded into our car and off to New Orleans for the World’s Fair. At the time I didn’t realize what I was about to see, or that this was the last World’s Fair that the world would see. Upon arrival we went and looked at a bunch of various things, but the one thing that truly caught my eye was a huge and powerful machine. There she sat, the UP 8444 Steam Engine. This engine was glorious. I remember thinking, that this seems strange since I’d been on a steam engine pulled train before, why was this huge machine leaving me so impressed? I was in awe.

This was the beginning of my love for serious machines. This was the beginning of one of the core reasons I am interested in transportation, transit and freight, from a perspective of the machines that do the work for us. From that moment forward I learned to respect the machines for the risk they pose, but also for the achievements that they enable for those that posses them.

Reasons #2: The Inspiration of Machines

During these years, between 3 years old on to about 9 or 10, my father and I took steam excursions when the chances presented themselves. Sometimes my brother would go with us too, or we’d adventure off for a train, bus, and plane trip. Sometimes we’d take the cheapest flight with the most transfers just to see what planes we could fly on, and check out different airports.

I learned extensively about a whole lot of different things, specifically machines, and started getting interested more and more in the war machines of the Cold War. During this time I became curious why we had this intense stand off with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. At this time my interest in history rose to prominence in my mind. Obviously, the behaviors of modern humanity seemed insane, that we’d be on the precipice of nuclear holocaust at any moment over… just an idealistic notion of fake- Communism versus fake- Capitalism? That seemed odd. I started search, researching, and learning about the history of the United States.

After a few more years I stumbled into an odd observation, as I cut my first check to the IRS. I’m paying a lot of an extreme minimal in return. Out of the $15 bucks an hour I was making as a PC Tech, I’m losing over $6 dollars to forced purchasing of health insurance (this is pre-ACA, it was required by the company because of legislation for some reason), and the rest went to other budget items. I looked into the US Government’s budget and realized quickly that it’s a vast and wasteful plethora of monetary expenditures.

Again, I dove into the history of all this. All of a sudden I was studying tax code of the 40s, as WWII was the inception of our stand off with the Soviet Union. I started studying the intense growth of American military strength during and after WWII. This collided with determining the first dates of health care offered to workers at US Companies, when the Government piggy backed on that to encourage, and sometimes force those companies to provide health care, and in the process of learning all of this I realized that modal splits had only been so car focused since about the 50s, after WWII.

By researching almost unrelated things I realized that all of this is intensely related. Since my early 20s I’ve been studying this history, the progress (or devolution) of the United States with intensity. With the historical context of auto use, transit’s almost complete destruction in the 50s and 60s, the collapse of private passenger rail in the US, the rise of airlines, the multiple collapses and recovery of airlines, airport port funding, and all the related notions of what pays for what I found myself encapsulated in learning more and more about all of this.

Reason #3: History Came to Serve My Transit Interests

As I moved around and started to find a place to live in the United States I determined that most of the country worked to hard to achieve to little, paid to many taxes and gained to little from them, and worked subserviently to earn a meager living just to buy a TV, get a car, live in some boring suburban home, and turn into a lethargic moderately entertained bloke toiling around for no particular reason isolated form much of society. I didn’t want to live anywhere near any of these characteristics traits of most American suburbs. I wanted something different.

I had come to love the calm streets, albeit just a few remained, of Wilmington, North Carolina. I remember walking down the streets, some of which still had stone surfaces, into the old warehouses that had been renovated into candy and comic book stores. It was entertaining, unique, brought out an artistic feature of people involved. Those experiencing it shared a sort of community as they did so. It was fantastic.

Another experience was walking the streets of great cities; New York and Chicago to name two of the many I explored over the years. They were amazing, and like that first steam engine I found truly impressive in the ability to simply board a subway train, or walk to a location that then had dozens of things one might want. Pizza, groceries, and a gaming store on the corner, not much else I needed at the time.

Another experience involved walking down the pedestrian only Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or enjoying the streetcar rides of the Garden District. I wanted this, I wanted to walk to the store and pick up the things I needed and walk home. I wanted to walk to the nearest park and read a book or just watch the birds sing. I wanted to ride the streetcar down the street and hear music playing. I wanted to know, live, and be a part of the soul of the city. The question was which city?

I explored almost every major US City over the size of about 450k people by the time I was about 26. I’d determined I wanted to live in Portland, Oregon. It easily had the greatest amenities, walkable and transit friendly, and such a great feel and soul for a city. Relaxed yet fast paced enough that it was a technology hub.

Reason #4: Livability

I moved to Portland quickly tired of pretty much any other city in the US except for a few of the greats. Most were just a small core, surrounded by boring suburbs, that died everyday at 5pm. Most US Cities had no night life, and the night life they had involved almost solely a bunch of suburbanites getting drunk – some dying on a daily basis trying to get home – and that effectively summarized the situation.

I kept studying transit and transit related things more. I grew into a lifestyle that I have come to call a “Bike Lifestyle”. Bicycling, I’ve come to realize, is a fundamental part of progress for transit and for the future of transportation in the United States. Across the country it has become the inexpensive pairing to improved transit options, and in turn improved transportation overall. Slowly, the United States as a whole is coming to the realization that the car can’t serve all purposes, and serves very poorly in cities. Along with a whole host of conclusions that the US has to catch up to, that many other countries have long realized now, I keep studying the US transportation situation and worldwide, how we as people get around.

With that, I’ve summarized the core reasons I got into and have studied heavily, the whole systemic nature of transit and freight transportation. Until next time, happy rides!

How Much Would You Pay Portland – Seattle?