Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, What Was First?

Portland was first, again, as usual it seems. What was it first for? Well, the list isn’t short, but what I’m talking about today is the MAX connection from downtown to the airport. I just read a summary of news tidbits on The Source titled Transportation Headlines for Wednesday, November 27th. The segment that caught my attention was the Denver East Corridor Rail line to the airport that pointed to the Streetsblog Article complaining about LA’s airport connector that is under construction.

Portland’s MAX Red Line

MAX Red Line, Click for Trimet's Page on the Red Line.

MAX Red Line, Click for Trimet’s Page on the Red Line.

In Portland the MAX Red Line opened in 2001 on the very unfortunate date of September 10th. The next day being September 11th 2001 really put the airport out of commission. For weeks after the opening date the line barely carried a soul to the airport, for obvious reasons. The entire place was closed after the world trade center twin towers came down in New York City. The world mourned the event and the Red Line suffered because of it, just as we all did.

However, as the city, the country and people got back to the business of day to day activities and the airport re-opened the line bustled with riders. Between 1990 and 2008 the airport had gone from six million passengers through the airport (flying) to over 13 million. 2020 projects are that it will easily surpass that, likely in the 20+ million range. The four stops of the Red Line however do not serve just the airport, and the length of the route serves many other stops with a huge number of riders. For those stops it doubles the service along the Banfield Corridor with the Blue Line all the way out to Beaverton. There is even talk of enabling it to double service even further out toward the edge of Beaverton or even going a little ways into Hillsboro. Time will tell for those changes though.

Why do I bring that up? Because the Red Line serves far more than just the airport, and even a bulk of the ridership isn’t even airport bound. The ridership for the two stops before the airport stop have boomed as retail has exploded around them. An Ikea opened, and along with a number of other retail options. These options benefit from a number of things including Oregon’s lack of a sales tax, creating a situation of thousands of Washington residents driving across the I-205 bridge to shop there. Many of these people drive across that same bridge in the morning commute and board the Red Line at the Parkrose/Sumner Transit Center stop. Some even sneak in and park at the Cascades stop (even though that’s retail parking for the businesses there, we know motorists rarely care nor know they’re not supposed to do that). Overall, all those stops in between the airport and where the line resumes service with the Blue Line (and now the Green Line too matter of fact) on the Banfield Corridor are hugely important.

Time for Some Data!

In 2010 I found some data Michael Anderson had gotten from Trimet for ons and offs. This is the counter data that all MAX trains have that count boardings and detrainings from the MAX Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) at each stop. Remember this is 2010, ridership is up over 10% since 2010. So even correcting for the +-1% for data reading mistakes or anything like that, this data is a conservative look into what ridership is today in 2013.

Airport Station
Stop ID: 10579 On 1694 Off 1635

Mt Hood Avenue MAX Station
Stop ID: 10576 On 50 Off 253
Stop ID: 10577 On 252 Off 54

Cascades MAX Station has about 450 on and 450 off. Keep in mind, this was in 2010 when most of the retail wasn’t even open yet.
Stop ID: 10575 On 402 Off 46
Stop ID: 10574 On 43 Off 411

Parkrose/Sumner TC MAX Station, MAX Rides on and off only. There’s over a thousand on and a thousand leaving the station everyday, just on the Red Line.
Stop ID: 10572 On 113 Off 926
Stop ID: 10573 On 962 Off 134

The line is technically 5.5 miles long. This accounts for the Red Line segment that is entirely new, between Gateway TC and the PDX Airport. It was finished and opened for public ridership on September 10th, 2001. Here’s a map of the line, running from the airport to Beaverton today. When it originally opened it terminated downtown on the turnaround from the original Blue line that ran from Gresham to Portland. Now the turnaround isn’t used as an active turnaround, but as an area for train extras. The terminus is now on the middle track at Beaverton Transit Center.

The Trimet Rail System. Click for a larger image.

The Trimet Rail System. Click for a larger image.

Here’s some other stats of significance. The Red Line was the first train to plane service on the west coast. It was built through a public-private partnership, nothing seen like this for many decades (think pre-1950 when most transportation was nationalized). The funding split was Trimet general fund at 36%, Bechtel/Cascade Station Development Company, LLC at 23%, Port of Portland (for the airport) at 23% and the City of Portland at 18%. No federal dollars or new local taxes were used. This is of significant note, as with Federal dollars it would have likely taken 5-10 years longer to build, if it was even able to be completed then. Federal involvement always makes things dramatically more difficult to get shovels in the ground.

Why Mention This?

Well it seems, since the line was opened Seattle has open their Link Light Rail service from downtown Seattle to the airport. It serves about 22k people per day last I checked, which I’m betting it is up to about 28-32k per day now. It’s been a while since I checked. Los Angeles and Denver are about to join the ranks of cities in the United States west of the Mississippi to offer train to plane service. There has been some debate whether LA’s connector will be worth the investment and if Denver’s isn’t’ a better example.

My Bets for Denver

What I’m betting, contrary to the article fussing for a direct connection to downtown Los Angeles, is that most of the ridership for the Denver line will not actually originate at the airport. Almost all of the ridership I bet ends up being commuters in and out of the city from the 5 intermediary stops along the line. In addition, if empirical data is any proof, then most of the airport ridership will actually be local workers at the airport and not travelers going to flights. However, I counter that to some degree. So here’s my bullet point bets for the Denver line. This bet I’m making based on assumptions of what service will be and what ridership will be from 2016 when it opens until about 2020. After that, all bets are off.  😉

  1. Most of the riders will be commuters riding from the 5 intermediary stops into and out of Denver. More precisely riders originating from and to the 5 intermediary stops of: 38th and Blake, 40th and Colorado, Central Park, Peoria and Airport (rd/dr) and 40th will exceed 51% of all riders.
  2. A large percentage of the riders for the airport (into the actual final stop of the airport, not the Airport St & 40th stop) will be airport workers. I’ll estimate that at least ~12%. I wouldn’t bet against someone betting on 30-40% of the riders being workers at the airport. Ideally of course, only about 2-5% of the riders would be airport workers, as one would hope the rider count on the train will be very high.
  3. It will for the first 10 years be a significantly higher cost per ride then the light rail or bus service in the area. Over the 20-30 year period it will drop below thanks to inflationary cost changes and over a 30+ year it will drop below or be maintained at about the cost per ride of light rail and bus service. Pending of course we still even get around this way in 10-30 years from now. We might just use transporters and aircraft may be irrelevant.  😉

References:

Cuz’ The Northwest is Rocking the Cycling and Seattle is Starting to Lead the Pack!

Recently Seattle stepped up its game even more. Not only is a streetcar line soon to open between King Street Station, First Hill and Capital Hill but also a cycle track is going in on Broadway. I knew all about the streetcar line going in but holy moly I’d no idea they were getting a cycle track too. A trip will be scheduled and I’ll be aiming to bring some of the cycle track and streetcar action to you via Transit Sleuth TV once they’re both open! Here’s a sneak peek via Streetsblog.

The streetcar system is connecting three major points in Seattle, this is going to be a pretty big deal. Here’s a summary of the four places. For more official information about the streetcar service, check out Seattle Streetcar.

King Street Station @ Pioneer Square area to Chinatown then thru First Hill & Capital Hill

King Street Station is the Amtrak Station that has recently been returned to it’s proper magnificent glory of yesteryear. In some ways it is also the northern terminus for Sounder commuter rail service from Tacoma and the southern terminus for Sounder service to Everett. It’s a gorgeous station, worth a trip by itself. There are a number of other things in the Pioneer Square area of downtown Seattle that are worth checking out. This area along with King Street Station is basically the southern terminus of the line. The line then traverses part of the International District (or still commonly referred to as Chinatown in Seattle) and then turns in the First Hill area. It continues through the First Hill area and into Capital Hill, which is one of the dense urban areas of the city where music, art and livability thrive. It also is partly rooted to the future Link Light Rail Station for Capital Hill. This connection point is poised to be one of the busiest areas of the city in the coming years, easily transforming the very vibrancy and life of Seattle.

The Broadway Cycletrack

If there is a sure fire way to avoid streetcar tracks on a bike, it’s to have a cycle track right next to them! Seattle has planned for this and the Broadway Street segment is going to have just that. Here’s a cross cut view of the cycle track next to the streetcar and road traffic on Broadway.

Seattle Transportation Department also has more information about cycletracks going in around Seattle along with some information about ones elsewhere.

Coverage of Transit Sleuth TV Episode 1 & The Precursor, That Launched Transit Sleuth TV

Al M @alyourpalster at his blog “Introducing Transit Sleuth TV“, Dogcaught “Transit Sleuth TV” care of @steveeshom and Portland Transport’s “Open Thread for the Week of 9/15/13“, thanks @ChrisSmithUS. Also I want to give a big shout out and thanks to Paul Peterson of @EmpteFilms for helping me conjure up the idea to start Transit Sleuth TV. Thanks and cheers Paul, we’ll have to have a beer again soon and plot out a new episode!

In other coverage here’s a few of the tweets. Thanks to everybody for getting the word out on the first episode!

Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail opened a number of years ago. Paul and a crew of friends, transit advocates all, joined forces for a tour of the light rail opening. This was, as you can see if you watch the video, the precursor of Transit Sleuth TV. Thanks to Paul for filming and lighting the fire of the idea to start a project around this. Finally, I’ve got myself in gear and put the first episode together here: “Transit Meet & How to Carry Wine and Gelato“. In the near future Paul and I will probably team up to bring you some more Transit Sleuth TV. Stay tuned, for now here’s the original, from the opening of the Link Light Rail in Seattle.

Seattle Loses 17% of Transit Service

Ok, so it hasn’t happened yet. But as one would expect, more cuts are on the table. The Feds haven’t fixed the transit situation with funding options & the local cities & states just keep sucking money out into other solutions. It’s kind of par for the course. Seattle is threatened with a 17% loss in service. Most bus lines would lose one out of every bus. The only lines that would likely remain untouched would be a few of the Rapid Ride lines and high capacity runs during rush hour. But everything else is up for cutting.

What can you do about it as a citizen of Washington and Seattle? Go and message your elected leaders.

The US is seriously losing it’s ground right now, it’s happening fast. This is seriously getting interesting in some scary kinds of ways. Weigh in with your opinion, it may be the difference between standing in the cold, sitting in MORE traffic in Seattle or worse.

The Countdown to Rapid Ride’s Newest Lines C & D is OVER!

D Line is now open and running to Ballard, giving real connection frequency and time to that town center.

and

C Line is now open and running to Fauntleroy and West Seattle. Both I’m thinking will rock – possibly surpassing the other lines already in service in large part.

Both of these lines connect some of the most active and vibrant parts of not just Seattle, but the entire Seattle Metropolitan area! I’ll be up to give em’ a good test ride soon!

That’s not it from Seattle King County Metro either, they have a couple more left. The E and F Lines are still in construction and final planning. To keep up with these lines and the others check out the Rapid Ride Blog.

Amazon (Yeah, Amazon.com) is Buying 4th Streetcar & Increasing Service in Seattle

The private sector has stepped in, if there is any more proof needed that streetcars rock, you need look no further than this. Amazon is buying a 4th streetcar to up the service near the South Lake Union area in Seattle. This is the area where their primary headquarters is located.

I’m sure I’ll have more on this later, just had to bring it up now for future reference!

To those streetcar haters, yes indeed, they’re buying a streetcar. They’re not increasing the bus service around campus because people ride and want to ride the streetcar and not the bus (even though some do indeed ride the bus too). Amazon is working to build a vibrant center around their headquarters – not just some hollow soul less building like other big software companies do in the Seattle area. They’ve brought more life and helped more with economic recovery in a huge way. I could go on for hours about how awesome this is, and how more moves like this should be encouraged. But for now, happy riding!

A Few Commutes :: Seattle to Bellevue :: Day #1

I’d had planned to get the 7:06am #37 into town for my transfer to the #550, but as I walked out to get the bus it rolled by at 7:02am. At almost 5 minutes early, that just seemed freakishly early for a bus. But it is one of those oddball things that happens regularly in Seattle. In this city they don’t just say expect the bus to be on time to five minutes late, but instead say it might be 5 minutes early or 10 minutes late. It’s all a crapshoot in this city.

Miss The Bus, You Walk

After missing the #37 I walked up, about a half mile, to the more frequent stops. The #37 was within 200ft of where I am staying this week, however the #37 only has about 8 frequencies in the morning and about that many in the evening. Yes, it is an odd set, which I can’t even begin to understand how that works out logically.

On my way to the other stop, there was one glorious advantage to walking here besides the frequent bus service. There is a diner open for breakfast and a coffee shop serving as early as 5:30am. Fortunately for my soul it had been open for hours, as it was about 7:16am now. I ordered a soy cappuccino and a croissant, my main default order.

A Little Review of the Java Stop

This place was wonderfully quaint with a warm and cozy feel to it. On the cold days during winter I can imagine this little coffee shop is ideal to sit and enjoy and hot drink. Being it the onset of fall, I was actually wearing my hoodie, to offset the chilly weather. But it made for perfect coffee drinking temperatures. The coffee was a decent cappuccino, and the croissant tasted a bit like a “boxed and shipped two weeks ago croissant”. So even though the appearance and feel of the coffee shop was stellar, the coffee and croissant were lacking. However, by most American standards, this was a decent espresso. Keep in mind, I’m a coffee snob from Portland, my baseline is a little wonky.

Overall, I give the coffee shop a 3 out of 5 stars. For another baseline, I rate 95% of Starbucks as a 1 or 2 star out of 5. You know I’m just longing for coffee when I drinking their burnt swill. Stumptown Coffee would generally be a 4 or higher.

The Bus Ride

After that stop I crossed the street, which is a bit treacherous this time of day with the traffic zooming up and down the street here. There’s no crosswalk for a quarter mile, so it makes it pointless to cross legally. But I made it in spite of the treacherous design. I stood at the stop for about 2 minutes and a #54 changing to a #5 arrived. Meanwhile as I stepped aboard the bus a #21 Express flew by in the inner lane. I know a number of good souls that ride the #21 Express.

When I boarded there was standing room only, albeit only two of us were standing. I considered this good fortune, as TriMet buses in the AM hours are often crush capacity. To put that in laymen’s terms, because no one is actually getting crushed, but people are indeed elbow to elbow and often brush against each other. It takes a cooperative people to use transit in those conditions. Which fortunately the people who are open minded enough and thoughtful enough to take transit to work are often exactly those people. Good souls, brave souls, and thoughtful souls.

We arrived downtown after sitting in traffic for about 5-8 minutes. A trip that would normally take about 15-20 minutes took about 20-25 this morning. But no matter I was in line and doing well based on my schedule. We arrived in the downtown tunnel and I literally walked up to the #550 as a beautiful young lady stowed her bike on the front racks.

Be Cordial, Don’t Hit on the Pretty Girls

I’m not one of those wierdo types that tries to hit on every sexy lady on transit. I actually detest those fools. I will admit though that I do prefer a seat next to a pretty lady in good physical shape versus the alternatives. In this case, the pretty young lady stowing the bike on the front of the bus actually came and sat right next to me. I couldn’t complain at all.

I then removed my laptop to knock out this blog entry and a little work. The #550 is an ok ride, it is relatively smooth, but it is a bus. So I’m going to rant for just a few lines.

Bus Rant

Compared to streetcars, light rail, passenger trains, ferries and other modes, the bus just sucks by comparison. It is at the whim of the road, which is often left unmaintained and violently bumpy, costs pushed off onto . Buses don’t handle this well at all and vibrate, bounce and swing in cumbersome ways that make working on a laptop difficult. This has been slightly mitigated by such beautiful advances like the Mac Book Air and other laptops that make it easy, but overall it still sucks.

I’ll also admit though a huge part of this rough ride is dependent on the driver. If the driver is a foot slammer, then it makes conditions 10x worse, often making it impossible to do anything except hold on. When I actually get a seat on transit, I’d rather not have a jack ass driving the bus.

Bellevue

I finally arrived in my workplace for the day. Bellevue is a shiny city, barely a decade old. It is indeed a city, albeit being little more than a vertical strip mall from the perspective of culture. It lacks almost every amenity that a truly developed city has, but the citizens of this city are trying to alleviate this. So far, it’s going to be a few more decades. Bellevue, reminds me of Portland’s Pearl District, albeit an even newer feel.

For the trip home, I’m sure a slew of crazy things await. Until then, good day to you dear readers.