Sound Transit: Light rail to Ballard and West Seattle will cost billions more

(Image: Sound Transit)

Your hopes of taking light rail from Capitol Hill to visit friends in Ballard and West Seattle are going to be even more expensive.

Sound Transit officials have unveiled new cost estimates for the “Sound Transit 3” package of projects including light rail connecting to West Seattle and Ballard that have risen nearly 50% from previous forecasts — a potential $5 billion to $6 billion surge.

Publicola reports:

The estimated cost of extending Seattle’s light rail system to Ballard and West Seattle, as well as several other components of the Sound Transit 3 plan adopted by voters in 2015, has risen dramatically since last year, Sound Transit staffers told the agency’s executive committee Wednesday. The main factors driving the increase, according to the agency, are higher than anticipated property acquisition costs, higher costs for labor and materials, and unanticipated “soft costs,” including additional funding for contingencies.

The the new numbers likely mean new timeframes for the projects. Continue reading

Sound Transit board to vote on fare enforcement policy reform

(Image: Sound Transit)

The Sound Transit board of directors will vote Thursday afternoon on what the body is calling the start of “major reforms” for how the agency handles fare enforcement.

If approved in Thursday’s vote, the proposed motion (PDF) would direct the creation of “a new fare enforcement/engagement program” and suspend all “civil infractions for fare evasion” until the board can vote “on an updated fare enforcement policy.” Continue reading

New ‘seated’ option Wheels join Seattle’s scooter share fleet

A “a more accessible” scooter with a ride the company behind it says is smoother and more “suited to Seattle’s hills and weather” has joined the city’s fleet of private company-share transportation options.

Wheels has released its seated rental scooters onto the streets of Seattle Monday:

Wheels are designed far differently from traditional stand-up scooters. A seated riding position and low center of gravity provide a safer and more stable ride — one that’s more accessible for a much broader demographic, as evidenced by the fact that half of Wheels‘ riders are women and one-third are over the age of 35. Large 14-inch tires create a smooth ride across bumps, cracks, and uneven surfaces. And, unlike other offerings, Wheels comes with its own integrated helmet system! Initially, 20% of Wheels scooters in Seattle will have integrated helmets, but this will soon be scaled up to cover the whole fleet.

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Signs of normalcy: You’ll have to pay to ride the bus again (but fare enforcement remains suspended)

Bus rides on Capitol Hill will be a little more like old times starting October 1st. Metro is again collecting fares — though enforcement will continue to be suspended through at least the end of the year. “Essential trips only” also continues to be the message — though that part of the region’s COVID-19 restrictions is also shifting.

“As King County gradually reopens, use of transit will expand beyond essential trips and the need for Metro service, and the funding to support it, will increase,” the Metro announcement on the resumption of fares reads.

The agency suspended fare collection as part of streamlining its operations at the onset of the pandemic in March.

Sound Transit reinstated fares on light rail in June.

All transit operators and riders are required to wear masks.

Fare enforcement on transit, meanwhile, will be part of King County Executive Dow Constantine’s 2021 budget efforts. Constantine announced he will work with Metro and the King County Sheriff’s Office to develop alternatives to fare enforcement which has had a disproportionate impact on riders of color. The goal is for a new, more equitable system to be in place by 2022.

With Lowell to Meany route mostly in place on Capitol Hill, city to hold ‘drop-in’ on Safe Routes to School program

The City of Seattle will hold an online “drop-in” session Tuesday to provide updates on the Safe Routes to School program, an effort to increase “safe walking and biking to school” along select routes across the city.

A $2.2 million project to complete a Safe Routes corridor between Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary and Meany Middle School mostly wrapped up this summer even as the district’s campuses remain closed to COVID-19 restrictions. Continue reading

City Council to vote on new $135M price tag for Madison Bus Rapid Transit project

The Seattle City Council Monday afternoon will vote on approving the new, higher budget for the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project.

In August, CHS reported on the upward revisions in local spending on the project needed to meet recommendations as the city vies for a $60 million federal grant.

The new total price tag on the project pencils out to $134 million, up from an originally approved $121 million. Continue reading

Scooter-share finally rolls onto Seattle streets

The first provider of pay by the minute electric scooters has launched in Seattle with the green and white scooters already part of the Capitol Hill and Central District landscape.

Lime rolled out the first in its fleet Wednesday as part of Seattle’s newly launched scooter-share pilot program. Continue reading

Metro adding partitions and, on some routes, free mask dispensers as bus service ramps back up

After months of “ESSENTIAL TRIPS ONLY” service, King County Metro is getting ready for its shift back to more normal operation. With the planned return of fares next month. buses will also be equipped with new partitions to allow front-door boarding and protect drivers and riders plus new dispensers with free masks on the busiest routes.

Metro is now installing safety partitions to allow front-door boarding in preparation for restoring fares, targeted for Oct. 1, although a firm date has yet to be announced. The plexiglass safety partitions will swing into position when a driver opens the front door, minimizing interaction between boarding passengers and the driver. The partition also can be opened manually by the driver to allow them to leave their seat to assist passengers, including those who use mobility devices.

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RapidRide G bus project on Madison: City says good news on federal funding and new plan for 2024 start of service

The City of Seattle says changes to its plans to build the 2.3-mile, 10-station Madison Bus Rapid Transit route have passed a key assessment and the project is now in line for tens of millions in federal funding.

The Federal Transit Authority is now moving the planned RapidRide G project forward in its Small Starts Grant program after a previous federal assessment found the Seattle plan lacked adequate contingencies for budget and schedule.

The revised RapidRide G plan could cost as much as $133 million to complete and won’t begin service until 2024 thanks to a now longer 36-month-long construction plan, Seattle Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday.

“I am thrilled that the critical Madison Bus Rapid Transit project is moving past this critical milestone. While Seattle builds the best transit and transportation infrastructure in the country, support from our federal partners has become even more critical,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in an announcement on the $60 million federal grant process. “As we deal with the effects of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to invest in a transportation system that gets our frontline workers, historically underserved communities and communities of color where they need to go quickly and reliably.” Continue reading

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