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.

Green Transit

I was pondering recently, even with all the fussing the naysayers have about transit, what was accomplished when TriMet finished the Green Line connecting another couple of neighborhoods to the light rail system plus multiple park and rides.

The first thing was the system picked up another 17-18k riders per day. The riders on this line were almost entirely new at first. At least 10-15k of them. The busiest bus line in the city, the #72 plying up and down 82nd Avenue, saw almost zero change to the ridership. Being only about 1-6 blocks at various points from the light rail one might have thought some of the riders would have switched modes. The simple explanation is that the #72 serves a specific constituency and the light rail serves another constituency.

There is however one huge difference. After a period of 18-20 years Trimet will have spent – including infrastructure – less on the light rail service than on the bus service on 82nd Avenue while getting a growing ridership on the green line that will even surpass those estimates.

What does that mean?

It means Trimet will have more money to spend, operationally and for infrastructure, on other parts of the system.

Fast forward to my current city I’m living in. The light rail that Sound Transit is building is almost 10x the cost of what Portland is building. Primarily because Seattle’s Sound Transit is getting the light rail built in raised and subterranean infrastructure. This type of infrastructure is inordinately expensive. A cost, that at this point is unneeded.

Recently Federal Way requested that Sound Transit make sure the promise of light rail doesn’t disappear from the future. Right now, from a money perspective, Sound Transit has basically told the city it won’t be getting light rail. I see two massive problems here.

1. There isn’t money for the current plan to get light rail into Federal Way. That’s the plain and simple reality of the matter.
2. Sound Transit and most of the area Governments are inflexible on building light rail more cost consciously.

Now these are the two problems at the surface. Looking a little deeper, just below the surface, one will immediately notice the real problems. Both of which I’ve raised here at Transit Sleuth a number of times over the years.

The first problem is that the Government assumes the economy will do X and has almost no plans to mitigate when Y happens. Our currency is hosed, so an individual citizen of Seattle can safely assume that all plans moving forward that aren’t already under contraction and paid for are on the chopping block. Yes, EVERYTHING. Increasing funds and taxes won’t particularly help either until some politician in the White House gets the balls to do something about our currency and valuation against the global markets. Right now we’re sunk. That’s the summary position of problem #1.

Problem number two is a different beast. With the money that is allocated so far Sound Transit could do a lot of infrastructure investment. They could, in all honesty, get to Federal Way. The problem lies in Federal and State Regulation that causes Sound Transit to be rather inflexible in how or what they can do with that infrastructure money. This inflexibility we as citizens we do want and don’t want.

Either way, I digress, I hope that Seattle and Sound Transit can find a better way to get real infrastructure with high quality transit built. Right now the ambitions look good, but more reality needs brought to focus. This massive high cost light rail infrastructure probably is not the best way to go about getting higher capacity and higher quality transit to the Seattle area.

Attending the ALT.NET Conference in Redmond

Today was a wild ride about and out to Redmond to attend the ALT.NET Conference. I won’t bore my dear transit readers with what that is, but suffice it to say it’s a top tier nerd conference.

In the morning I boarded the #44, which at that hour provides a gorgeous view of the waterway once it starts moving up onto the Fremont Hills. I got off however and headed down into the neighborhoods to a friends house. There we met up and he drove myself and another programmer from out of town out to Redmond for the conference. The conference takes place over Thursday, Friday, and gets into full gear for Saturday and Sunday. Each of these days will be a different trip to get to the building the conference is in.

On the return trip today I boarded the #545 from Redmond town center after a few drinks with my programmer cohorts. I arrived downtown after the quick express ride of about 25 minutes and boarded the north bound #17 to Ballard.

The #17 is a beautiful ride at this time of the evening. The sun is just setting and everyone is almost silent. With the sun distant on the other side of Queen Anne Hill the trip along Westlake and South Lake Union is almost a blue tint. The water is still and the traffic is slower paced. The bus ride is much more calm than the morning ride. Everybody is pacing at a rate that is opposite of the wired feel of the AM commute.

I arrived back in Ballard and called it a day. It’s been a long day and I look forward to figuring out a few more of these routes, what exactly they can deliver me to, and seeing more of the absolutely stunning Seattle neighborhoods and northern views.

Until then, cheers and g’night.

Transit Sleuth Weekly Picture (005)

A little late in the day, but delivered none the less. The Weekly Picture. Enjoy. ūüôā

Light Rail Off to the High Rail Segment Over SODO

Light Rail Off to the High Rail Segment Over SODO

 

 

Lunch Grub and a Wondering Trip

I decided to take a trip north from downtown today via the #358. ¬†I then determined I could get some lunch around the Aurora Transit Center. ¬†After that I’d board one of the SWIFT BRT Buses to check out how legit the BRT Service is to Everett. ¬†Once there I wasn’t sure what I’d do exactly, but figured I’d jump on the Sound Transit #510 Express back to downtown. ¬†Well, most of that plan went down without a hitch, however a bit got added on to it.

Android Arrival Times

Android Arrival Times

I checked the ETA of the #358 arrival with the¬†Android OneBusAway App written by Paul Watts via my HTC Evo (This is an amazing phone btw, if you’re in the market for a phone). ¬†At about ten minutes before the estimated arrival I walked out and crossed the streets of Denny and Aurora. ¬†It can usually take about 6-8 minutes because of the all the lights and cross walk nonsense at this intersection. ¬†I boarded the #358 at 11:03am headed north at Denny and Aurora (Hwy 99). ¬†The bus took no time to clear the lights there and merge onto Aurora (99). The #358 Route travels north from the International District (i.e. Chinatown) all the way up Aurora Avenue (Hwy 99) to the Aurora Village Shopping Center, where the Aurora Transit Center is.

Aurora Village Transit Center

Aurora Village Transit Center

The ride is an ok one, even though the scenery for the majority of the trip is just sprawlling highway retail and light industrial with residential shoved in here and there. Away from the highway no more than a block though everything is residential, light and medium. Mostly it is single occupancy housing. However in almost every direction it is unfortunately trashy looking. The highway itself is just beat up and the storefronts along the highway look almost 3rd worldish. I can’t really say I was surprised since most of America actually looks this way and more is beginning to. The middle class only has more of this to look forward to. With sprawl at the intensity it is built out in the United States the more drain it will have on the middle class, pushing them either farther down into poverty or locking them into the mediocrity of it all.

The one hold out along the entire route is the Aurora Bridge across the waterway. ¬†The view is striking in every direction. ¬†When coming back into the city this way you can see the skyscrapers downtown peaking out of the hills. ¬†The rest of the trip really isn’t advised, unless you’re just up for exploring as I was today.

I made it to Aurora Village and had a¬†cheese steak¬†at Jersey Mike’s. ¬†After that I walked the couple hundred feet back to the Aurora Village Transit Center and boarded one of the SWIFT BRT Buses toward Everett. ¬†I noted a few specific things about the BRT Service.

The route map covers 17 miles, so it isn’t a short route.

SWIFT Route Map

SWIFT Route Map

When boarding, but before departure the first thing I noticed was the massive space consumed for the bike racks. ¬†There are three racks inside the bus. ¬†Only bikes can go on these, one can’t stand in the space or sit as they’re positioned in an awkward way.

The Awkward Bike Racks

The Awkward Bike Racks

The second thing I noticed was a minimal amount of seating. ¬†Compared to most of the 60′ buses there is almost 2x as much seating as on these BRT buses. ¬†I do understand though, these buses aren’t really oriented toward sitting, but instead they’re designed to quickly board and hustle you to your next stop. ¬†But this is the US, we’ve strewn everything all over the place, sprawling from one shoreline to the other. ¬†NOTHING is really close together in this country except in a few select cities and in a few select areas of those cities. ¬†We have built this nation from a position of logistical idiocy – which makes the fact that there are no seats for a 17 mile trip, that takes about 30 minutes, rather odd. ¬†Add to that an obesity rate for more than half the population, and you’re bound to have some poor fat person standing up, struggling not to fall over after a short period of time. ¬†But then again, I guess that’s why transit riders are often 2-3x more likely to be in good shape than automobile users. ¬†Anyway, I thought it odd that they have so few seats.

A better solution, than this type of bicycle rack would be to use hanging racks like on the light rail in Portland. ¬†Hanging bikes is a much better option than occupying space that otherwise people could use when there isn’t a bike.

The other thing I noticed was the odd configuration of the handicap area – which again consumes what would normally be about 6-8 seats or more – but I digress, I’m fully supportive of handicap access.

The entry and exit onto the vehicle was extremely smooth.  As one would expect, by paying before you board it makes getting on and off much quicker.  To make this even easier there are three large doors on the bus.

The Three Doors on the SWIFT Buses

The Three Doors on the SWIFT Buses

Overall the ride was very smooth.  Much better than the poor old beat up buses King County Metro uses for the #358 route.  Of course, these are really new buses.  Considering the not so great condition of a lot of the route these buses will most likely be just as clunky in 10-15 years.

SWIFT

SWIFT

On a somewhat less important note, I also observed that the SWIFT branding was really nice.  Especially compared to the dark and humdrum color schemes of King County Metro.  Their colors are rather depressing, but the SWIFT branding was lively and clean.  On that same theme Community Transit appears to be doing a great job keeping these vehicles clean, as the bus was spotless when I rode.

Last but not least, this route being about as long as the #358 route, took about 2/3 as long.  I think it was about 30 minutes for the 17 mile trip, which by any measurement is really quick along a 45 mph mixed corridor roadway.

After the ride I arrived at Everett and walked around the station and took some photos. ¬†I’ve included those below (more blog entry after the pictures too):

Sound Transit #510 from Seattle

Sound Transit #510 from Seattle

Everett Transit #13

Everett Transit #13

#510 Coming to the Transit Center for the South Bound Trip to Seattle

#510 Coming to the Transit Center for the South Bound Trip to Seattle

I-5 Crossing the Waterway into Seattle

I-5 Crossing the Waterway into Seattle

After the arrival on the SWIFT in Everett I didn’t stay around long, possibly a total of 9 minutes before a #510 south bound arrived. ¬†I boarded immediately and off to Seattle I went. ¬†The trip wasn’t too exciting, a little traffic close to the I-5 Biridge, but all else was calm and tranquil. ¬†The overall trip on the #510 is smoother than the #358 or SWIFT, the express bus moving along at 50-60 mph on Interstate makes for a much smoother ride than the old Aurora 99 Highway.

I arrived back downtown and did some work at Zeitgeist Coffee.  When done with the work I up and footed it around the area a bit and caught a lot of photographs.  Here are a few of the better ones.

 

Dragon

Dragon

Sounder

Sounder

Light Rail Sign

Light Rail Sign

Amtrak Cascades Departing for Portland

Amtrak Cascades Departing for Portland

Buses EVERYWHERE!!!

Buses EVERYWHERE!!!

Sound Transit #590 Heading to Tacoma

Sound Transit #590 Heading to Tacoma

King Street Station, Once the tallest in Seattle Looking up to Columbia Tower, Now the Tallest

King Street Station, Once the tallest in Seattle Looking up to Columbia Tower, Now the Tallest