Seattle will have boosted Seattle Transportation Benefit District sales tax on November ballot

Seattle transit advocates breathed a sigh of relief Monday as the City Council approved a final plan for renewing a chunk of the city’s sales tax dedicated to funding for public transportation.

The Seattle Transportation Benefit District proposal will remain a six-year package and will be boosted to 0.15% as it now heads to the ballot for a decision by Seattle voters in November. Continue reading

Proposal for November sales-tax renewal vote includes plan for smaller Seattle transit district spend, with focus on ‘working people and communities of color’

(Image: SounderBruce via Wikimedia Commons)

Seattle’s budget crunching from the COVID-19 economic crisis will include asking voters to spend less on bus service in the city.

Mayor Jenny Durkan this week released her proposal for a new six-year Seattle Transportation Benefit District package to replace the project and spending plan approved by voters in 2014.

The 2020 version of the package will be a downgrade in total service but will focus the city’s transit spending, Durkan says, on serving communities of color. Continue reading

Sound Transit dropping color plan so you can take the 1 Line to Capitol Hill Station

(Image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is transitioning to an alphanumeric system for naming its light rail lines and bus routes. The public transit agency announced the decision last week to adopt the new system of numbers and letters that will change the line currently connecting north and south through the city via Capitol Hill to the 1 Line.

In November, CHS reported on the agency’s ill-fated “Red Line” designation of the route serving Capitol Hill Station as Sound Transit was preparing for the launch of the Blue Line serving a new connection to the Eastside.

“As the term Red Line became more visible we heard concerns from members of our community, that this term carries unfortunate associations with the punitive practice by lenders of ‘redlining,'” Sound Transit said at the time. Continue reading

Light rail service reduction and transfers to continue as Sound Transit needs one more ‘Connect 2020’ closure

New tracks for Connect 2020 (Image: Sound Transit)

The past weekend was supposed to be the final in a series of closures in the push to complete Sound Transit’s Connect 2020 project to hook the coming East Link light rail expansion to the city’s existing underground transit tunnel running from downtown to Pioneer Square.

Looks like contractors will need some extra time after an issue was identified in some of the newly installed track: Continue reading

COVID-19 Capitol Hill transit updates: last weekend of Connect2020 work, Metro puts fare enforcement on hold

A Metro bus is cleaned and sanitized (Image: King County Metro)

Through all the cancellations and postponements, there is one element of daily life in Central Seattle that just won’t quit — public transit. Here are a few notes about the wheels that are keeping us moving. Thank a transit worker.

  • Where to find your free CHS shuttle

    No downtown light rail this weekend: March 14th and 15th brings the final closure of the Connect 2020 project to hook the coming East Link light rail expansion to the city’s existing underground transit tunnel running from downtown to Pioneer Square. Sound Transit shuttle buses will replace trains between Capitol Hill and SODO. Trains will continue to run every 13 to 15 minutes through the end of the work slated for mid-March. To find a less crowded space, Sound Transit recommends you head down to the fourth car. More info here.

  • Metro cancels fare enforcement: Metro has temporarily ceased fare enforcement inspections during the COVID-19 response: Continue reading

No downtown light rail this weekend as Sound Transit’s winter construction project reaches halfway point

Where to find your free CHS shuttle

Sound Transit contractors have reached the halfway point of this winter’s construction project to connect the coming East Link light rail expansion to the city’s existing underground transit tunnel running from downtown to Pioneer Square. What comes next this weekend is the second of three planned service disruptions with downtown stations completely closed from Friday 9 PM until Monday morning. “During that time, there will be no Link light rail service between Capitol Hill and SODO,” Sound Transit writes. “Shuttle buses will make surface stops at the closed stations. Fares will not be required for train or shuttle bus passengers.”

Then comes five more weeks of construction and a reversal of sorts for the single tracking solution Sound Transit has been using to keep trains running during the work:

When service resumes, Link passengers traveling through downtown will still need to make a transfer via the new center platform at Pioneer Square. However, the operating platform will have switched to the southbound platform at stations north of Pioneer Square and to the northbound platform at stations south of Pioneer Square. Extensive signage marking the change will be deployed, and Sound Transit ambassadors and security staff will be present to assist passengers in getting where they need to go.

Sound Transit says bikes will remain prohibited at Pioneer Square station throughout the construction. Riders with bikes must exit at University Street or International District/Chinatown stations.

The final planned weekend light rail closure is scheduled for March 14th and 15th.

Why another Madison Bus Rapid Transit delay? Seattle Times details federal report

(Image: King County Metro)

In January, the Seattle Department of Transportation announced it was pushing back the planned start of service on the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project to 2023 based on a federal consultant’s findings that the city would need “an additional $6.2 million in funds to cover unexpected events or circumstances that could arise during construction” and a longer construction timeline.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Seattle Times now has details on exactly what SDOT will need to do to win federal approval of much-needed $60 million in funding for the line:

PMA Consultants concluded that SDOT “does not yet have the management capacity and capability to implement an FTA-funded major capital program.”

“The assessment said SDOT had agreed to take ‘positive steps to correct the deficiencies,'” the Times reports. Continue reading

With E Madison construction still set to begin later this year, RapidRide G planned start pushed back to 2023

Seattle transportation officials told CHS last week a federal inquiry won’t delay Bus Rapid Transit on E Madison. But a federal consultant’s recommendations will.

Friday, it was announced that the RapidRide G’s planned start is now being pushed back to 2023:

We made significant advances in 2019 in the process to secure a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Small Starts grant. As a regular part of the Small Starts grant process, FTA hired an independent consultant to review project scope, schedule, and risk. The consultant recommended an additional $6.2 million in funds to cover unexpected events or circumstances that could arise during construction. They also recommended including additional time in the construction schedule as a buffer for unexpected events.

With city and county officials now planning for the extra cash and added year for the project, the $120 million, 2.3 mile, 10-station route is now a $127.5 million, 2.3 mile, 10-station route. Continue reading

What does federal inquiry mean for Madison RapidRide project?

As part of a criminal inquiry into local transportation projects that use federal dollars, several Seattle projects are coming under further scrutiny including the planned Madison Bus Rapid Transit line set to break ground this summer.

Seattle Department of Transportation officials were ordered via subpoena to produce records related to the projects earlier this month, according to Crosscut. The transportation projects include the RapidRide bus route on Madison and the Center City Connector streetcar.

In late November, Mary Kay Langan-Feirson, an assistant inspector general at the U.S. Department of Transportation, announced the audit into SDOT’s federal grants.

“Recently, the Office of Inspector General received several complaints concerning federally funded projects for the City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that are subject to DOT’s oversight,” she wrote in the Nov. 25 announcement. “Given the significant amount of departmental funds allocated to State and local governments for transportation-related projects and that we have not conducted an audit of the flow of DOT funds to SDOT or WSDOT, we are initiating this review.”

The criminal inquiry has come as a surprise.

SDOT receives federal funding in two ways, according to Langan-Feirson. SDOT can either receive direct financial assistance awards from a federal operating administrator or an operating administrator can grant funds to the state transportation department, which then sends the money to the city. Continue reading

2020 off to good start: Capitol Hill Station has platform stairs (Now, get ready for 10 weeks of downtown light rail disruptions)

2020 is already better than 2019. There are stairs to the platform in Capitol Hill Station. But like most things in these challenging times, you also need to get ready for a 10-week start to the New Year with Seattle’s light rail system slightly hobbled as it is prepared for big expansion ahead.

First, the good news. After months of waiting and a fair amount of systems and infrastructure updates to make it safe, Sound Transit announced the opening of the new stair access at Capitol Hill Station this week. Last March, CHS reported on the plan to repurpose emergency stairs to add an option for reaching the platform beyond the frequently busted escalators and elevator access. Continue reading