The autumn nip in the air means one thing—rain is coming. After a hot, dry summer, the shifting forecasts will provoke some grumbles, perhaps nowhere more audible than in Everett, where mudslides canceled 122 trips on Sound Transit’s Sounder north line last winter. For critics of the regional transportation authority (which operates rail and bus service in three central Puget Sound counties), in general, and Sounder, in particular, the seasonal pileups of mud, rocks and debris on the tracks seem like an apt metaphor.One day, Sounder may be part of an integrated transit system that moves hundreds of thousands of commuters at a reasonable cost and a faster pace than on congested roads. But, so far, the 34-mile Sounder north line, which links Seattle to Everett, is costing much more and being used far less than anybody expected. It was originally proposed as a six-train commuter service, on the existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway tracks, with six stops. But as costs shot up to $368 million from a projected $132 million, the agency cut back to four trains and four stations. About 1,100 riders use the line every weekday, far below the original forecast of 2,400–3,200 riders, for an average cost of $330,000 per rider.And here’s the kicker: Even after paying all that money up front, it still costs Sound Transit six times more to carry a rider from Everett to Seattle by train than by express bus, and the train doesn’t even stop anywhere in North Seattle, the area most likely to find ridership. Critics say that the line violates state law that allows commuter rail when its “costs per mile, including costs of trackage, equipment, maintenance, operations, and administration, are equal to or less than a bus following a parallel route.” By contrast, the Sounder south route, from Seattle to Tacoma, cost $55,000 per average weekday rider. That’s relatively cheap. Minneapolis–St. Paul paid about $135,000 per rider for its new commuter line. To be sure, unforeseen circumstances, including the recent recession, have contributed to reduced ridership and lower revenues, but poor negotiations are also part of the problem. Sound Transit originally estimated it would have to pay $65 million to use BNSF’s right-of-way for the Seattle-Everett route. The agency ended up paying $258 million for those rights. The agency also may have chosen an unnecessarily expensive technology for its rail system. The Sounder north line uses locomotives and coaches instead of a cheaper alternative called diesel multiple units (DMUs), which are essentially rail coaches with truck engines underneath the floor. Used by at least eight transit systems in the United States and Canada, DMUs are more economical because they consume less fuel and require fewer crew members. Tri-Rail, Miami’s commuter rail provider, which runs both DMU and conventional trains, has found that DMUs travel almost a mile on a gallon of fuel, while locomotives pulling a similar number of seats go less than half a mile per gallon.In June 2010, as Sound Transit was weighing new equipment purchases, an Ohio DMU manufacturer, US Railcar, offered its product for the north line, whose four locomotives and 12 coaches could then have been moved to the Sounder south line. The agency rejected the approach, choosing instead to acquire three more locomotives for the south line at roughly $5 million each. Sound Transit says the DMUs would be harder to maintain.The Citizen Oversight Panel (COP), an independent, 15-member panel of citizen volunteers appointed by Sound Transit, cautioned in a 2012 report with regard to the north line that the agency “may have to come to terms with a reality that one of its services is not living up to a reasonable definition of viability.”But asked if Sound Transit might shut down the costly line, CEO Joni Earl responded, “At this stage, absolutely not.” Earl says the Sounder north line is “a long-term investment” and notes that the citizens of Snohomish County still seem to want the line. Sound Transit says it is boosting marketing efforts and working with transit partners and local jurisdictions to increase ridership and lower the cost per rider.
I have sort of a thing for mushrooms (the non-hallucinogenic kind, thank you). One of the small-town festivals I frequented while living in the Midwest was Morel Mushroom Days in Muscoda, Wisconsin. I would save my pennies, take home a pint (they were only $12 a pound back then!), and slice up and fry those tasty, tender, foldy little treats in butter.
Northwest sushi pioneer Shiro Kashiba livens up the ferry ride to Bainbridge Island by talking about his memoir, Shiro, as part of Kitsap Regional Library's new on-board Ferry Tales program. Upon landing, take the 10-minute walk to Intentional Table in Winslow for a sushi tasting directed by Shiro himself. Ferry departs Seattle at 3 p.m. on September 28. Sushi tasting at 4 p.m. krlferrytales.wordpress.com.
“When you’re brothers, it’s like you have a secret language,” says Chris Friel, 44, who plays drums in the band HalloQueen with his brother Rick, 47, who plays bass. “We know when to tell each other to shut up.” And when to pump it up—something else that runs in the blood. Sons of legendary local charity auctioneers Dick and Sharon Friel, the brothers have been playing in bands together since the 1970s, when, as teenagers, they started the band Shadow with future Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready.
Must Park ItPARK(ing) DayFriday (9/20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) — Parking spaces throughout the city will morph into lounge-worthy mini-parks chock full of activities, music and more for the city’s annual PARK(ing) Day. We especially recommend the artful approach in front of Seattle Art Museum.
On the title page of her script for Bo-Nita, Capitol Hill-based playwright Elizabeth Heffron describes the work simply as “A Play Performed by One Woman.” Turn the page, however, and the complexity is immediately revealed: Set largely in contemporary St. Louis, the cast of characters includes Bo-Nita (a 13-year-old white girl), Mona (Bo-Nita’s mother), Grandma Tiny (in her late 50s), Gerard (30-something, part Cajun), Leon (40-something, African-American), Colonel T (Mona’s uncle) and Jacque (50-something, Cajun)—all embodied by one woman.
For Ruri Yampolsky, 1 measly percent means the difference between bland urban terrain and a cityscape that sparks creativity. As director of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture’s public art program, Yampolsky oversees the city’s precedent-setting “One Percent for Art” ordinance that mandates 1/100th of all city capital improvement project funds goes toward the installation of public artwork.
Poet and pie maker Kate Lebo’s new book, A Commonplace Book of Pie, comes out in October. She’ll read from it at Richard Hugo House (10/17), and Elliott Bay Bookstore (12/6). pieschool.tumblr.com COFFEE SHOP: High 5 Pie on Capitol Hill, a Monday afternoon in JulyKATE’S ORDER: Iced latte, with cherry-almond pieNancy Guppy: How would you describe your creative self? Kate Lebo: I’m a poet who bakes and teaches.
For Matthew Porter, 39, images hold incredible power. As a young boy struggling to learn to read, Porter was encouraged by an insightful tutor to draw the scenes as he listened to the stories read aloud, and he was captured by their magic. “I loved the escapism, to imagine different worlds and adventures,” says the North Seattle-based illustrator and author of eight books.
Must ViewInscape Arts Open HouseSaturday (9/14, noon to 6:00 p.m.) — The former INS building turned artist hive opens its doors this weekend, inviting visitors to see (and buy!) paintings, drawings, photography, jewelry, textiles, metalwork and beyond from more than 50 Seattle artists.
Witness the Hitchcockian spectacle of 20,000 Vaux’s swifts dive-bombing down a narrow chimney as they make a temporary roost in Monroe before heading to points south. While the show can last as long as a few weeks, Swift Night Out brings bird lovers together with food and drink to witness this crazy natural phenomenon and send our feathered friends off in style. 5 p.m.–dark. Free. Monroe, Wagner Center, 639 W Main St.; monroeswifts.org
Seattle is widely considered an inventive city. We rank 13th in the world when it comes to “patent intensity,” the ratio of patent applications compared to the city’s population. And, the University of Washington recently reported it now ranks among the top five American educational institutions that incubate new businesses by parlaying research into commercial applications. That’s a jump from 15th two years ago, which puts UW right up there with MIT and UCLA.
After several hours worth of teasing on Facebook, Macklemore finally released the video for his song "White Walls." You may remember the frenzy he caused while filming part of the video atop Dick's Drive-In on Capitol Hill. Looks like a few snippets of that footage survived the cutting room floor.
Not since 2001, when the Mariners turned western Washington into Brigadoon, has Seattle been this jazzed. Expectations for the 2013 Seahawks are so giddily off the charts that Russell Wilson will be elected mayor of Seattle as soon as he authorizes the write-in campaign. Last year, Wilson proved that he’s the real deal among NFL quarterbacks. Now men and women want to have him over for a cookout. Kids want him to be their dad. Dogs want to fetch his cleats.