Public Transit | KNKX

Public Transit

Today marks the launch of something both old and new in Detroit: a streetcar down Woodward Avenue. The streetcar opened to the public on Friday morning, after 10 years of planning and political wrangling.

The six streetcars make a 6.6 mile loop — 3.3 miles each way — connecting downtown Detroit with the New Center neighborhood, which was home to General Motors until it decamped downtown two decades ago.

A King County Metro RapidRide B Line bus approaches.
Simone Alicea / KNKX

King County Metro is trying out a few programs this year to improve parking access for its transit system.

Building a parking lot near transit can be more cost effective than building frequent bus or train lines outside a dense city center. But the transit agency's park-and-ride lots often fill up before many commuters can get to them. 

"Access to the system is a big piece of the puzzle," said Metro's manager of strategy and performance, Christina O'Claire.  "If you can't have access to the system ... you can't use it."

Around 4,700 public transportation workers in Philadelphia went on strike at midnight, shutting down many of the city's transit options.

The members of the Transport Workers Union Local 234 and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, were unable to agree on a new contract.

The strike is causing widespread disruption, and raising concerns that if the situation is not resolved it may interfere with Election Day next week.

Jeffrey Beall (bit.ly/2ea4S4B) / Lee LeFever (bit.ly/2ewBTti) / Flickr

In a few weeks, voters in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties will make a decision about Regional Proposition 1, also known as Sound Transit 3. But in 2004, voters in eight Colorado counties approved their own rail expansion called FasTracks.

Census data show that both the Seattle and Denver regions were among the top five fastest growing metro areas last year. Both areas have also largely focused on rail as a solution to congestion.

A southbound Sounder train waits at King Street Station in Seattle.
Simone Alicea / knkx

If voters in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties approve the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, they would approve an expansion of not only the light rail system but also the Sounder commuter rail.

Sounder trains share the track with freight and Amtrak trains, which is partly why they can't run in both directions all day. The two Sounder lines together see an average of more than 16,000 riders a day.

A King County Metro RapidRide B Line bus approaches.
Simone Alicea / KNKX

When voters think of the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, the first thing that comes to mind is usually light rail.  But the people in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties who are voting on the plan will have to consider other modes of transit, too.

ST3 would add something called bus rapid transit to Sound Transit's transportation options. 

What is bus rapid transit?

A Sound Transit train passes over a Sound Transit bus in Seattle.
AP Images

If you live in Pierce, King or Snohomish Counties, you will see an initiative on November's ballot called Sound Transit Regional Proposition 1. The measure will determine whether the region adopts a $54 billion transit plan called Sound Transit 3, or ST3 for short.

When voters open their ballots, they might see a few paragraphs about the plan. But ST3 can't be explained with just one page. 

Passengers get off a Sound Transit light rail train.
Paula Wissel / KNKX

November's election is fast approaching, and voters can expect a long ballot. As part of our election coverage, knkx will be looking into many candidates and issues around the state and the region.

But starting this week, knkx will focus on Sound Transit Regional Proposition 1, better known as Sound Transit 3. Voters in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties will decide whether to adopt the 25-year, $54 billion transit expansion plan. 

When you ride on buses or trains in many parts of the United States, what you say could be recorded. Get on a New Jersey Transit light rail train in Hoboken or Jersey City, for example, and you might notice an inconspicuous sign that says "video and audio systems in use."

A lot of riders are not happy about it.

"Yeah I don't like that," says Michael Dolan of Bayonne, N.J. "I don't want conversations being picked up because it's too Orwellian for me. It reeks of Big Brother."

Streetcars are rumbling back to life in cities across the country from Portland to Salt Lake City and Atlanta, with New York becoming the latest city to hop on the bandwagon. But as these new streetcars run into unexpected roadblocks, critics say this mode of transportation might not be the answer to great public transit.

New York City has an ambitious, multibillion-dollar plan to connect Brooklyn and Queens with a streetcar. It would bring convenience to residents from Red Hook, an isolated area cut off from the rest of Brooklyn by water and a major highway.