Nominated for best chart of the year

It’s not the fanciest graph in the world, but it’s shocking. This graph is from Clark Williams-Derry’s ongoing series Dude, Where Are My Cars?  Our state road building machine is kind of like an optimistic weatherman during a drought in Ethiopia.  Just wait – any day now the rain will come.  They’ve been building and building […]

Break the Gas Tax

There’s a very frustrating piece of our state constitution*:  any tax you put on gasoline MUST go to building and maintaining roads.  This is frustrating because increased fuel taxes would be a great way to discourage driving and help prepare us for peak oil.  Plus, as real prices go up we can lower fuel taxes […]

Highways of the Future

Happy Saturday night: Interesting to see how much of this actually happened and how much is still ridiculous sci-fi. The giant automated road builder is particularly amazing. Also interesting how Disney took the lead on explaining the future to us. Who fills that role today? Or is the future just too depressing to actually contemplate?

Tukwilla Station TOD

(update: this is a complete re-write, as I originally thought this project was for the SeaTac airport station)

It looks like the the city of SeaTac is building TOD at Tukwilla Station (press release [pdf]). This will be less than ideal for Link users, having to walk through Link’s parking lot to get there. Remind me again why we wasted valuable pedestrian space at a station with parking?

Link fares downtown unfair

Today I took my first ride on Link. I’m currently a stay-at-home dad, and I took my baby son for a day trip. Since this was around noon, I asked my wife to meet us at Pioneer Station near her work. We were going to ride to King Station, get $1.75 sandwiches, and she’d ride back to work while we rode onward.

Her cost to ride Link one stop and back? $3.50. To get a $1.75 sandwich. It turns out that unlike bus transfers that are good for 90 minutes, Link requires a payment in each direction. There’s even a special section on the ticket vending machine for 2-way downtown only rides – $3.50.

How on earth is this a fair fare? Yes, she can wait for a bus – and actually decided to only ride Link one way to experience it and take the bus back. But since we’re running trains anyway, can’t we just charge some small fee that people would be willing to pay? Say, $0.25 a way. It’s not like it costs ST anything to have these extra riders, and this represents lost income for ST since people will just wait and ride the bus for free.

Sound Transit rail maps

I think I posted this a while back, but I’ve updated my Google maps of Link and Sounder alignments based on the proposed 15-year plan from Sound Transit.

LINK vs. Skytrain vs. Rapidride vs. 98/99 B-Line

My last post got me thinking about the 98/99-B Line again. Most of you are familiar with my previous Metro ridership posts, however I don’t think that I ever explained the reason I started looking at those numbers.

While attending the CITE conference in Victoria I talked to a engineer who worked for Vancouver. We got to talking about TransLink’s Gateway projects and specifically the Broadway Line and he said that basically TransLink can’t add any more buses because they are already running at 2.4 minute headways.

This in-turn got me thinking about routes here, none of which run that often. Anyways coming full circle today I become curious about how Seattle’s transit stacks up against Vancouver’s in terms of riders per mile (which I think is the best measure). Here are the results. Because I had to pull projected riderships and non Metro information this is less accurate, although you get a good idea of where things fall.

Vancouver vs. Seattle

The biggest thing is that the B-Line has huge ridership, almost more than Central LINK per mile. It achieves this with a medium BRT treatment which shows that BRT can handle lots of people. With that said I think it also shows that the B-Line corridors should already have Skytrain.

Also these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt because the GVA has much higher densities than almost anywhere in the Seattle area outside Downtown/Cap Hill/UW. Then again that is an integral part of transit ridership isn’t it.

Skytrain is huge success and it shows. Also you can see that the initial Link segments has comparable ridership to the B-Lines but with any expansion plan now on the table it will grow rapidly and be comparable to Skytrain when it opens. Also notice how the old ST2 or a solo Eastside expansion don’t have amazing ridership compared to the other options. Goes to show how important the North and U LINK are for ridership.

Oh and poor Rapidride. It makes me want to laugh. Although then again Metro is spending ~2.5 million a mile for it which is a fraction of LINK. I had to make an educated guess (120% 54 and 358 ridership) because I couldn’t find any ridership projections. My guesses may be way off but we will have to wait until it opens.

Chickens and Eggs

Brian notes that the Seattle Streetcar ridership is up, especially during peak travel times. Still, there are no doubt plenty of off-peak runs that are empty or nearly empty. But if you read Krugman today, that’s not necessarily a bad thing:

Public transit, in particular, faces a chicken-and-egg problem: it’s hard to justify transit systems unless there’s sufficient population density, yet it’s hard to persuade people to live in denser neighborhoods unless they come with the advantage of transit access.

Atrios comments:

Obviously it makes sense to focus spare mass transit dollars on population centers, but it also makes sense to change the way we think about mass transit and not have those dollars be so sparse. Development corridors could incorporate mass transit from the beginning, at the very least with right of ways preserved and zoning around planned station locations in anticipation of what is to come.

The Seattle Streetcar, for all its faults, is the rare public transit investment that anticipates future growth by trying to do exactly that. Of course, spurring infill redevelopment is not the same as opening up new land for development out in the hinterlands. But it achieves a similar goal.

[Central Link is similar, but mostly along MLK. When you take into account the full, envisioned Link to Northgate and the Eastside, it’s more about serving existing communities than trying to spur redevelopment.]

PS: I like Krugman’s column title, “Stranded in Suburbia.” People tend to associate auto-dependent lifestyles as somehow more “free” than transit-oriented ones. But that’s obviously only true as long as you can afford to keep filling the tank. Otherwise you’re… stranded.

Questioning ST Design Decisions

I didn’t live in Seattle when Sound Transit planned the route of the light rail, so stop me if this has already been debated to death. Also, I know it’s far too late to change anything. I’m just curious.

Can someone tell me why, exactly, Link takes it’s expensive and circuitus path? Considering it will take as long (or longer) as it currently does via bus to get from downtown to the airport, this would not seem like a great idea.

One would think a straight line would be the easiest, cheapest, and fastest route. This would take us through some industrial areas, which would seem to have inexpensive land. It would also drive by Boeing Field, which could be useful if it ever runs as a commercial airport. Plus it seems like there would have been little/no boring reqired.

Yes, the route drives through a few communities, but this seems like a reason to not put light rail there – you end up stopping at stoplights. Building communities around transit seems like a much better idea.

I imagine a strong difference between city-based transit, that tries to conform to neighborhoods, and regional transit, that should be built for speed. This is clearly regional transit, but seems to be designed as city transit.

Light 'em Up

This weekend, Sound Transit turns on the juice for light rail testing.

If I listen closely, I can hear the buzzing of the old Lionel Model KW: