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Archive for 'Transit'

Greenways, Transit and updates galore!

 

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Would you like to know more about progress made by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) on Bridging the Gap (BTG) – funded Greenways and transit corridor improvements?  Or get updated on what your BTG levy dollars promised and how close we are to reaching those goals? Like to meet new folks and find out how you can get engaged?   If so, you are in luck!

The BTG Levy Oversight Committee has a meeting scheduled for April, 29, 2014, 6 – 8 p.m., Seattle City Hall Room 370.    The committee is a dedicated group of 15 community members who meet quarterly to review and track the progress of the BTG transportation initiative that was passed by Seattle voters in 2006.  They are charged with ensuring SDOT is delivering on the promises made to voters.

Committee members come from all across the city and from all walks of life.  They take their oversight and accountability role seriously and they work closely with SDOT to ensure that BTG is not only meeting its goals, but that it is being integrated into the overall goals of the department and the City.

The committee members include:

  • Ann Martin, Co-chair
  • Kristen Lohse, Co-chair
  • Ref Lindmark
  • Betty Seith-Croll
  • Allegra Calder
  • John Coney
  • Jeremy
    Valenta
  • Barbara Wright
  • Chisula Chambers
  • Jessica Szelag, Bicycle Advisory Board member
  • Lydia Heard, Pedestrian Advisory Board member
  • David Mendoza, Freight Advisory Board member
  • Ben Noble, City Budget Director
  • Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Transportation Committee Chair

All committee meetings are open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend and share their views on BTG during public comment. If you are interested in how your tax dollars are allocated, why not mark your calendar and join us April 29th.

For more information, please visit BTG Levy Oversight Committee website.

 

 

 

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Tap your card and hop on board!

What is this? This is the post that will eventually support an ORCA card reader - one of nine being installed at SLU Streetcar stations.

What is this? This is the post that will eventually support an ORCA card reader – one of nine being installed at SLU Streetcar stations.

Wondering about the crews you’ve seen installing equipment at the South Lake Union (SLU) streetcar stations?  The Seattle Department of Transportation and King County Metro Transit are working together to install and commission equipment for ORCA fare collection at the SLU station platforms. The ORCA card is all you need to pay your fare on buses and trains in the Puget Sound region. After you load E-purse electronic purse) value or a monthly pass on it, your ORCA card works like cash or a pass, automatically tracking the value of different fares and transfers so you don’t have to.

ORCA cards will be easy to use for the streetcar.  Before you board the streetcar, tap your card at the yellow ORCA fare transaction processors found near the streetcar shelters. These are the same yellow devices found at Link Light Rail stations and Metro Rapid Ride stations.  If you are asked to show proof of payment while riding the streetcar and you used your ORCA card, you will be asked to swipe it against a mobile fare transaction reader on board the streetcar to verify your payment.

The crews are setting up a total of nine ORCA readers at the SLU stations.  Once installed, Metro will begin testing the equipment, with the goal of having it ready for service by the end of May. However, there could be some “bugs” to work out, so the schedule will be updated as we get closer to launching the system.

For all the details on the ORCA card please visit the King County Metro website.

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SDOT and Transit Agencies Work Together…
Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

IMG_0755Who does what in Seattle when it comes to transportation? It is not always easy to sort out. In general, King County Metro Transit provides bus service, and the Seattle Department of Transportation takes care of the streets. The two agencies work in tandem—like peanut butter and jelly—to provide a quality, seamless transportation system.

Or, if you add Sound Transit (regional express buses, light rail and commuter rail) to the metaphor, Metro and Sound Transit could be the peanut butter and jelly that are applied to the city’s streets—the bread. It is a simplified way to think of the partnership between the three agencies. Well, you could add airports and marine travel, but I won’t take it that far—the picnic basket is already full enough for now.

Transit master plan corridors

In addition to providing the present street system, the city developed the Transit Master Plan to serve as a blueprint for an integrated transportation system that will serve the city through 2030.  The plan identifies the type of transportation that would best serve the city—trolleys, buses, rapid transit, streetcars and light rail—and also identifies the corridors where these different kinds of travel would best be located.

With the city’s plans in hand, and in coordination with plans of the transit agencies, work gets underway to turn concepts into engineered designs, and then into physical reality. Or, you could say, this is how we get to lunch.

South Lake Union Streetcar

Sound Transit builds and operates light rail through the city and to surrounding areas.  Seattle has been working closely with Sound Transit to ensure integration with the city’s transportation system and to oversee construction work in city streets.

SDOT has built the South Lake Union Streetcar, and will finish work on the First Hill Streetcar, funded by Sound Transit, this year. Metro transit is operating the South Lake Union line and will also operate the First Hill Streetcar.  Seattle also owns and maintains the downtown Seattle Monorail.

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Another system in the midst of implementation is Metro Transit’s RapidRide, and Metro is not working alone on this. SDOT has been making improvements to three city corridors for RapidRide routes—West Seattle, Ballard and Aurora Avenue—including bus shelters, seating, lighting, bicycle racks, transit priority signals, and “next bus arrival times” kiosks.

To keep regular buses and trolleys moving, SDOT has been making transit improvements around the city, such as designating Third Avenue through downtown as a transit priority street. Also, SDOT makes spot improvements, such as “bus bulbs” to enable buses to load and unload passengers without leaving the traffic lane, and traffic signal systems that give transit the priority over other traffic.

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And then we get to the real bread—the pavement surface. SDOT upgrades pavement when needed to support heavy buses. And, since the city encourages people to take the bus if possible when it snows, SDOT gives priority to Metro’s snow routes when planning which routes will be cleared of snow and ice.

There’s also another kind of bread—funding. SDOT provides $1.5 million a year from the Bridging the Gap levy in partnership with King County’s Transit Now program to pay for more frequent bus services in key corridors.

Transit ridership has been climbing. Seattle appetites are big for more of this kind of peanut butter and jelly on bread.

 

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What are Your Commute Benefits?

 

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This month we’re focusing on commute options for getting to and from work. Earlier in the month we talked about how Washington State’s Commute Trip Reduction law was yielding great results, with Seattleites taking transit in record numbers. This week we thought we’d tell you a little more about the types of benefits employers offer to help make your commute easier and cheaper. With so many different ways to get to work, there are a lot of options. So, what are some of the things that employers are doing? Read on.

ORCA Cards
Many employers pay part or the full cost of an ORCA card, making it more convenient to take transit. A monthly pass has a value of over $1000 a year, a pretty big benefit for you.

Bike Rooms
Employers are building or retrofitting existing space to store bikes, fix a flat, and change for work. Many bike rooms come equipped with tools and repair stands to make your commute as easy as possible.

Bike Fleets
Did you know your company may have its own bike fleet.  Employers are investing in bikes and helmets for off-site meetings or quick trips across town.

Carsharing  Memberships                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Your company may pay for your membership to Zipcar or car2go. Check and see if they have a promotional code, sign up, and try out the cars for the day or for a quick trip across town.

Cheap Parking. But only if you carpool or vanpool!
Many garages offer great parking discounts to employees who car or vanpool together. Sharing your trip can save you more than 50% on gas and parking costs. Check out RidshareOnline.com to see if there’s someone near you looking for a commute partner.

Commute Counselling!
Employers are bringing in experts from places like Commute Seattle to help you find the quickest route to work, learn to commute by bike, or try out any of the great new apps to make your commute easier – OneBusAway, CycleTacks, Ridescout, TaxiMagic, etc. Contact Mark Melnyk at SDOT’s Commute Options program if you’d like more information on these types of services.

Ask your employer what commute benefits they offer – things may have changed since you first started.  And the next time you’re thinking about a new job, consider how commute benefits can add up. Seattle Magazine’s February 2014 article on the fastest growing employers  in the region also offers a good summary of which companies offer commute benefits.

 

 

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Wheels on the bus go round and round!

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Today, March 18th, is Bus Driver Appreciation Day!  Please take a minute and say thank you to your driver for getting you to your destination safely!   Bus drivers manage to keep a schedule, check fares, give directions, remember stop requests and more, all while safely maneuvering an extra-large vehicle through unpredictable traffic, bad weather and some really tight spaces! The fact is, bus drivers don’t have an easy job, they just make it look that way.

While we’re on the subject, today’s Bridging the Gap (BTG) status update addresses the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) effort to make Seattle easier to navigate and expand your commute options.  Thanks to the 2006 BTG transportation levy, SDOT has been working hard to improve transit across the city through the BTG Transit Program which is made up of three components – corridor improvements, spot improvements and transit service hours.

The first component was to complete transit corridor projects along three key corridors – West Seattle, Ballard and Aurora Avenue.  (In 2012-2011? the West Seattle corridor x line began  and 2013 saw the opening of the Rapid Ride E line along Aurora Avenue which will serve commuters in north Seattle and provide bus riders with a critical link into the city.  Other corridor improvement project completed include: Market/45th Rainier/Jackson; Belltown Third Avenue; Delridge; Dexter Avenue; N/NW 85th Street; 15th Avenue NE; and Pacific Avenue NE.

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While the large corridor projects are most visible to the public, the second smaller component, key spot improvements, has been essential to keeping buses on time and on schedule.  Spot improvements have included parking and signal revisions, queue jumps, bus bulbs and stop upgrades (such as—-).  Projects have been completed at: N 85th Street and  Greenwood; Third  Avenue and Pine; Wall and Battery Street bus lanes; Columbia Street bus lanes; Fourth  Avenue S bus lanes; and the First Avenue bus lane.

The third component of the transit program is the 50,000 new hours of transit service that are in place.  The city is using $1.5 million levy funds annually to purchase additional bus hours for Seattle residents through the county’s Transit Now program.  Purchasing more bus service for these routes moves the city closer to its goal of having a network of reliable transit service running every 15 minutes or less, all day and late into the evening, seven days a week on corridors connecting neighborhoods with active business centers. Frequent, reliable transit service offers people options to driving and helps fight global warming. Many of the service additions are focused on electric trolley bus routes, which emit virtually zero greenhouse gases and other pollution.

The final and added piece to the BTG transit program was the development of a Transit Master Plan (TMP) that was completed in 2012 and will serve as a long-term guide to help direct future investments in transit across the city identifying key corridors for transit improvement and upgrades.  For information on the TMP please visit the webpage.

For more information on the BTG transit programs please visit our webpage. For additional information on BTG please visit our webpage.

 

 

 

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Getting to a Great Commute

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This month we’re highlighting some of the great work that’s improving commuting around the region. Many people don’t know that back in 1991 Washington State passed legislation to help manage the effects of increased traffic associated with our daily commutes. The bill, titled the Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) Act, a part of the Washington State Clean Air Act, required that large employers encourage their employees to drive alone less in order to reduce carbon emissions and keep the busiest commute routes flowing. As a part of the CTR Act, SDOT staff works with these employers to help them deliver programs and services for their employees. Through this partnership, SDOT connects employers with transportation resources and technical services that enhance their program’s effectiveness.

For more than 20 years now, many employers throughout the region have recognized the value of CTR and invested in offering free or reduced transit passes, vanpool subsidies, classes on starting to commute by bike and much more. Leaders like the Gates Foundation, Children’s Hospital, and the Amgen Corporation have embraced the program as an employee benefit that helps recruit and retain great employees.

And we’re seeing great results! Last year Seattle made news by being one of the few cities in the country with more than 50% of commuters travelling to work by modes other than driving alone – think transit, carpooling, biking, working from home, any and all of these. We were again spotlighted as a city where there is an increasing number of households who do not own a car – 16% according to the most recent census data! And finally, just this week, the region was featured as having one of the fastest growing transit ridership bases on both King County Metro and Sound Transit services.

This is all great news for the environment, our commutes and our wallets. On average Americans spend 19% of our income on transportation, so CTR benefits can really add up. Check with your employer to learn what they offer to save you money, time and the environment!

 

 

 

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Lower Speed Limit Coming to Beacon Avenue S

To improve safety for all roadway users, The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is lowering the speed limit on Beacon Avenue S between S Columbian Way and S Barton Street from 35 miles per hour (mph) to 30 mph.

Four school walking zones blanket nearly the entire corridor: Van Asselt Elementary, Wing Luke Elementary, Maple Elementary, and Dearborn Park Elementary.  This corridor experiences high transit use, with Route 36 SRTS 27th (9)RESIZErunning every 8-10 minutes and Route 106 running every 15 to 30 minutes. Three school speed zones are located along this corridor and the walking routes to several other schools cross Beacon Avenue S. SDOT’s Safe Routes to School program will fund the cost to remove and replace the existing speed limit signs.

Beacon Avenue S is one of three main north-south corridors in southeast Seattle, including Martin Luther King Jr Way S and Rainier Avenue S.  It is five miles in length with two miles already signed for 30 mph.  Lowering the speed limit from 35 to 30 mph on this section of the corridor will make the speed limit consistent for the entire corridor. Speed studies confirm that a majority of drivers are already traveling at or below 30 so the new speed limit is not expected to change travel times significantly.

Most of  the adjacent neighborhood is single-family residences with small pockets of retail and commercial uses, including several facilities such as churches, parks and playgrounds, and the Veteran’s Medical Center.

Lowering the speed limit Beacon Avenue S will improve safety for not only pedestrians, but bicyclists and motorists as well. The work is scheduled to be completed by April 30, 2014.

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Don’t get your wires crossed!

 

A web of wires over Broadway and E Pine Street.

A web of wires over Broadway and E Pine Street.

 

Construction of the First Hill Streetcar (FHS) is moving ever closer to completion and will begin service later this year.Like virtually every other streetcar system in the world, ours will be electrically powered.  However, it will be the first in the US (and only the second system in the world) to incorporate an advanced hybrid battery system that means considerably less overhead wiring and the associated benefit of significant cost savings!

Trolley buses operate with two overhead wires, one positive and one negative, while our streetcar will use its own tracks for its grounding. Heading from Pioneer Square to Broadway, the FHS will operate on its outbound route on electrical power provided by a single overhead wire which receives electricity provided by four traction power substations strategically located along the 2.5 mile route.  On the return trip, the FHS hybrid batteries will provide the power generated through its regenerative braking along the inbound route, much of it downhill.

Even with the system only requiring the single overhead wire on the outgoing route, integrating it into the existing overhead trolley bus wiring system is a very complicated and time consuming endeavor.  Both Broadway and Jackson serve a number of existing trolley bus routes, many of which make turns on and off of those arterials that require an intricate mesh of wiring (as evidenced in the photo at Pine Street).  The power systems for the trolleys and streetcar are entirely separate from one another, yet both have wiring strung at about the same height.

A different kind of high wire act!

A different kind of high wire act.

 

Because streetcar wiring must be installed when the trolley wires are de-energized, the work can only be done on weekends when Metro has enough available diesel buses to substitute for the trolleys.  The result has been that a number of intersections on both Broadway and Jackson have been closed on weekends this winter. The work on Broadway is nearly finished. The work on Jackson is about half complete, so will require additional weekend closures before the work is finished by April.

Stay tuned for more updates on the First Hill Streetcar.

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“E” Means “Enhanced Transit Experience for Aurora!”

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And that’s exactly what transit riders will be getting along Aurora Avenue N between Shoreline, north Seattle and Downtown when they use the new RapidRide E Line.

This Saturday Seattle will celebrate the arrival of King County Metro Transit’s RapidRide E Line. The E Line replaces Aurora Avenue Route 358, Metro’s second highest ridership route, serving 12,000 rides each weekday.  This marks the first RapidRide service to appear in several North Seattle and Downtown area neighborhoods.

The E Line is part of an ongoing partnership between SDOT and Metro to improve mobility in Seattle.  RapidRide service features transit lanes, transit signal priority, frequent all-day service, well-lit shelters, real-time “next bus” signs, off-board ORCA card payment, and buses with three doors and free Wi-Fi.  SDOT also installed pedestrian improvements, including new sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks, and a new pedestrian signal (at Aurora and North 95th).

RapidRide E Line services are scheduled to operate frequently:  Every 12 minutes or better throughout the day, every 12-15 minutes on weekends, and every 15-20 minutes at night.  Route 358 already runs frequently, but RapidRide includes an overall 25% increase in service frequency.  These additions will allow the E Line to operate as a 24-hour service.

More than 18 miles of designated northbound and southbound BAT lanes in Seattle and Shoreline have already improved travel time by getting buses through congested areas. The initial E Line schedule will shave another one to nine minutes off each trip, depending on time of day and how far a rider is traveling. Off-board ORCA card readers, expanded use of bus rear doors, and traffic signal priority will all work together to speed boarding and get buses through faster and more reliably.

RapidRide E Line is the third RapidRide service to arrive in Seattle.  The C and D lines to West Seattle and Ballard started service in September 2012 and have seen ridership increase by 10-25% over the routes that were replaced.

 

 

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The Ultimate Street Party – Seahawk’s Victory Parade

As Seahawks fans poured into the streets of Seattle on Sunday night, we managed to, for the most part, play it safe. Maybe you’ve seen this YouTube video showing how fans in Ballard celebrated without jaywalking. Aww yeah, that’s what we like to see.

A steady stream of satiric and self-effacing Tweets resulted – check out the #HowSeattleRiots thread. Here are some of our faves:

  • Took my turn at the 4 way stop instead of waving someone else through.
  • When causing a slow-moving vehicle to bounce up and down, please make sure all vehicle occupants are wearing seat belts
  • Talked to strangers on my @kcmetrobus ride instead of burying my nose in my @AmazonKindle

And the rioting celebration continues…

Today’s parade is expected to draw a huge crowd downtown and we’re stoked to be welcoming our Superbowl champs home!

Parade details:

  • Starts at 11 A.M. just south of Seattle Center, near 4th Avenue and Denny Way
  • Continues down 4th Avenue to S. Washington Street, then proceeds on 2nd Avenue S. to CenturyLink Field
  • Ends with a rally at CenturyLink at 1:30 P.M.

Getting around:

  • Given the influx of people in the downtown area, your best bets are going to be walking, biking, using public transit, or carpooling
  • Expect significant wait times and service delays on buses and trains
  • All bus routes that travel along or near 4th Avenue will be impacted. More information on Metro re-routes can be found at http://metro.kingcounty.gov/alerts/.
  • And bundle up – it’s going to be chilly (temperatures expected in the mid-20s)

Have fun, be safe, and way to go Seahawks!

 

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