Sunday Open Thread: First U-Link Car Arrives

H/T: Atomic Taco

Comments

  1. Carl says

    After the monorail debacle, Las Vegas decided to focus on more conventional transit technology. There was a debate between building light rail and going with bus rapid transit. Las Vegas decided to go with BRT because it was cheaper, and they used the usual arguments that it would be just like light rail but with rubber tires – with dedicated lanes, special light-rail-like vehicles, and off-board fare payment. They unveiled a special identity for the vehicles and service: ACE. It was unveiled in March 2010. Here are a couple of articles describing the promise:

    http://www.fox5vegas.com/news/22918500/detail.html
    http://www.lvrj.com/news/52062452.html

    Just six months later, in Sept 2010, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports that the ACE brand is gone, and that the special vehicles are used on other routes, and mostly conventional buses aer used on what is now just an express bus route.

    http://www.lvrj.com/news/bus-riders-adjust-to-express-route-switcheroo-102246899.html

    That’s one of the issues of BRT in USA. BRT is used as an excuse to reduce the investment level, and then the service and features arenn’t delivered or maintained. Certainly it’s not going to attract choice riders or channel transit accessible development.

    • Brent says

      The frequency has already been stripped as a way to create a sixth line, but instead we’re really getting 2/3 of 6 lines. The county council’s sleight of hand flopped.

      The hybridized offboard payment scheme will be a useful experiment, and probably demonstrate why the payment system has to go one way or the other. (I’m trying to see the glass half full here.)

      Neighborhood associations persist in trying to undercut the will of the voters vis-a-vis bus lanes. (Can we get those parked cars out of the bus lanes, already?) I don’t see why we should have to wait for RapidRide before creating more bus lanes where they make sense (e.g. Aurora).

      The bright spot is the bus design, reducing boarding and deboarding time for wheelchairs, bikes, and everyone else.

      I’d leave it to the BRT fans to push for full implementation of BRT, but, as has been pointed out, there are no real BRT fans — only transit opponents trying to damp down the investment in transit.

      • barman says

        I’m a ‘fan’ of BRT; if and when I ever see a good example of it in the region I’ll be happy. I think it has a place in our transportation network. By definition, some ST Express routes could be considered BRT, also the 70E buses.

        The problem I have with BRT is this idea of ‘luxury bus service’. Many features of BRT should be on every bus line: frequent service, off-board payment, easy to read maps… BRT in North America is not far off spec from a regular European/Asian city bus line.

      • Carl says

        Europe does seem far ahead of the U.S. with automated stop announcments, appropriate stop spacing, transit priority lanes, good frequencies, and fare products and payment, without calling it BRT. I don’t object to improving the quality of bus service. I do wish they’d do it properly at 520 & Montlake with the redesign.

        But don’t use BRT as the justification to reduce investment or do it on the cheap.

      • alexjonlin says

        Yes, I agree, Barman! “BRT” is not an example of a good rapid transit system, in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. It is what every bus route should be. We should make every local bus route have less frequent stops (still keeping at least 4 a mile in the city), all-door boarding, quality stops, user-friendly branding, and, especially, high frequency.

      • Anc says

        I’m a fan. BRT CAN work, we just aren’t doing it right. What Rapid-Ride is doing is as Alex states is just what needs to be done to our bus service as a whole.

      • d.p. says

        Barman:

        ST Express buses are nothing like BRT. They’re express buses in the classic sense: connecting two disparate high-volume points of embarkation (i.e. downtown Seattle and the Overlake Transit Center), but little else.

        There are no (useful) intermediate points, and they offer nothing to urban mobility or connectivity. In this way they bear almost no resemblance to any form of rapid transit (as BRT claims to).

        And they’re worst for rides that go beyond the two highest-volume points on the line, thanks to their focus on transit centers. Try taking the 545 from Redmond to Seattle on one of the afternoon trips: you spend 7 or 8 minutes of your travel time just looping through Overlake. Hardly rapid (through) transit!

        You’re being equally over-generous to call the 70E series BRT. Sure, it’s amazing to zip between the U-District and the tunnel so quickly (express lane direction or traffic at Denny and Stewart permitting), but the curlicues required between Stewart and the tunnel or I-5 and the Ave, not to mention that Slog up or down the Ave, negate this advantage for anyone coming from north of 65th.

        Curitiba wouldn’t put up with any of that.

        Speaking of which…

        Brent wrote: “The bright spot is the bus design, reducing boarding and deboarding time for wheelchairs, bikes, and everyone else.”

        Are you referring to Vegas, or here? I hate to break it to you, but RapidRide changes nothing at all regarding wheelchair boarding, bike loading, and interior vehicle layout. Nothing.

        Vegas passively accepted the BRT lie. We actually voted it in — and paid for it with yet another regressive sales tax. We really shouldn’t be taking the feature- and frequecy-stripping lying down!

      • Brent says

        d.p. is right about the failure to roll out a more modern bus design:

        http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/bus/RapidRide/Vehicles.html

        I incorrectly assumed Metro had at least gotten that right. I apologize for assuming rather than researching.

        Community Transit has cliniqued Metro on every element of BRT, and Metro has failed to take notes.

        When I say I want BRT elements on all the buses, I am not referring to RapidRide, as that is just not anywhere close to BRT.

        Given the expense of offboard payment systems, I’ll be happy if the county council simply gets rid of paper transfers.

        And I’ll issue this challenge to the county council: Go ride SWIFT before you check out the unveiling of the RapidRide Line A.

      • Brent says

        Still, there is one bright side to the arrival of Line A: a decrease in headway to 15 minutes (most of the day) from 30 minutes.

        This is one of the few lines where the county allowed a suburban route to connect to Link outside of downtown. Perhaps we’ll see a small permanent ridership jump, FWIW.

      • says

        It is just lame when the standard bus seating layout in other cities (like San Francisco and Vancouver) have more standing room and better circulation than Metro’s RapidRide buses. The only concession Metro made was removing 2 seats to widen the area by the middle door.

        Since I’m in San Francisco I have to make a comparison. Automated stop announcements are on nearly every bus. Most major bus stops, the ones that have shelters, have next bus displays. No stupid “front door only after 7 pm” policy (Muni’s bus drivers and passengers get assaulted much less than Metro’s, imagine that). The biggest problem is the bus/train stops like every two blocks!

        d.p.,

        I disagree with your characterization that there are no useful intermediate points on ST Express routes, on routes that do make stops between two points anyway. I use the ST Express 535 mostly within King County between Totem Lake and UW Bothell and Bellevue, all of them major bus transfer points.

      • d.p. says

        My word, Brent, that link is amazing!! Does Metro even try anymore?

        >Three doors and low floors for easy, faster boarding

        Unless you’re in a wheelchair. Or at any of the “non-stations” that comprise 2/3 of the routes!

        >Front-mounted 3-position bike racks

        Just like the ones that waste everybody’s time today!

        >Accessible ramps at the front door

        Just like the ones we already have!

        >Security cameras

        But like the ones that totally prevent unseemly behavior on existing routes!

        >Flush windows

        Just like the ones we already have!

        >Air-conditioning

        Driver’s discretion: off when you need it; on when you don’t!

        >Top opening windows

        Just like the ones we already have!

        >Free Wi-Fi

        It won’t be fast, so you might as well settle in!

        >New interior design makes it easier for passengers to move to seats and exits

        That’s just a plain old lie! Note that the link only shows photos of the rear of the bus, which is exactly the same, but which can look spacious when shot with a fish-eye lens. Photos of the front or middle of the vehicle would reveal a seating arrangement eerily familiar to any casual rider! Even the legs-in-the-way seat(s) in the articulated section are still there!

        >Interior LED lighting

        Who cares!?

        >Security cameras

        Inside and out! Fear beats service!

        >Automated “Next Stop” display and audio announcements

        An actual, useful transit feature! Woo-hoo! We’re batting 1 in 1000!

      • d.p. says

        Oran,

        I don’t know the 535, but I see that its map cites many Transit Center and P&R connections.

        Does it skirt the edge of those facilities? Or does it spend 3-7 minutes making loops through each of them? If it’s the former, you’ve gotten lucky, since Sound Transit is painfully over-reliant on the latter.

        It would be the equivalent of a rapid transit line dwelling 7 minutes with its doors open at every station — hardly the BRT standard asserted by Barman.

        Also, I’m imagining that you have to ask the driver to switch the ORCA reader from 2-zone to 1-zone every day. An inefficient practice that better resembles the ticket-taking on a Greyhound bus than it does a rapid transit paradigm!

      • says

        d.p.,

        The 535 shoots straight through Totem Lake Freeway Station, Brickyard, side trips to UW Bothell, then at Canyon Park, to Lynnwood. No pointless loops here. As for ORCA, I preset my card to default to 1-zone.

        But I wouldn’t call it bus rapid transit. It has 30 minute headways M-F and hourly on weekends. Another ST route that doesn’t loop around at every stop is the 574, which basically follows the old 194. The 554 doesn’t stop at Eastgate, it stops at the freeway station. 522 makes no loops except at UW Bothell and it doesn’t take 7 minutes.

      • d.p. says

        Oran, I forgot about the ORCA zone presets, since I so rarely cross zone demarcations (or use any routes except Link that do). Actually, I find it a bit odd that you can set your card to charge you based on the price of the service you purport to use, rather than the service you actually do use.

        This seems another way our regional system diverges from rapid transit. I imagine real BRT in a fare-zone system would have a more Link-like payment system: tag on, tag off, and get charged for the service you actually used.

      • says

        d.p.,

        That is a flaw in the system as designed but it’s ST/Metro’s loss if someone abuses it. As far as I’m aware, Golden Gate Transit is the only bus system in the U.S. with zone-based fares to use a tap-on, tap-off system with a smart card. GGT, by the way, has 6 fare zones and a 20% discount for people using stored-value cards. I’m hoping to try that out on Wednesday to see how well it works. Interestingly, Sound Transit’s new deputy CEO comes from the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. Maybe we should write her to consider implementing a similar system for ST Express so we can eliminate the “asking driver to change zone preset and hold the bus for a minute as the driver fiddles with buttons” routine.

      • d.p. says

        “Golden Gate Transit is the only bus system in the U.S. with zone-based fares to use a tap-on, tap-off system with a smart card.”

        What that suggests to me is that, for all the lip service given to BRT in the States over the last few years, there has been little full-featured implementation of it anywhere.

        Any idea how L.A. deals with transfers between the Orange Line BRT and the Red Line subway? L.A. Metro has no free bus-to-bus or bus-to-rail transfers whatsoever within the system (it sells a very reasonably priced all-day pass instead), but you can take a linked rail-to-rail trip on a single fare (and the Orange Line is considered part of the rail network)..

        As for Golden Gate’s model… Do they do “tap on, tap off” for all vehicles, or only a handful of longer-distance routes? If this occurs only at the front, and becomes part of the boarding/deboarding process, then we’re talking a doubling of dwell time on any busy routes. I was thinking of it more as an off-board procedure like Link’s (which is why I posited it as a BRT feature that might not be available on less-than-BRT service), although I suppose I can imagine any multi-door-boarding vehicle having readers by every door.

      • Mike Orr says

        Maybe this shows that some transit centers are different from others, just like some ST Express routes are different from others. Most of the transit centers I encounter are “good” ones: next to a walkable downtown. But if you’re mainly thinking of Overlake and TIB and Mt Baker, those I’d call the “bad” ones.

        Mt Baker: idiotic location, should be across the street under the Link station.

        TIB: I couldn’t believe they built a transit center in the middle of nowhere. SeaTac would have been better because it coincides with a major destination. Maybe TIB can be redeemed if TOD and more shops are put around it, but the acre of parking would be uninviting to walk through.

        Overlake: This one wouldn’t exist except it’s adjacent to Microsoft. If you’re going to build a transit center, at least build a village around it.

    • Mike Orr says

      DP: “ST Express buses are nothing like BRT. They’re express buses in the classic sense: connecting two disparate high-volume points of embarkation (i.e. downtown Seattle and the Overlake Transit Center), but little else. There are no (useful) intermediate points, and they offer nothing to urban mobility or connectivity. In this way they bear almost no resemblance to any form of rapid transit (as BRT claims to).”

      BRT can be expresses, if they run frequently all day. The 550 feels like BRT with its 15-minute frequency. Just like the 71/72/73. You’re making an arbitrary distinction based on stop spacing, but what matters to people is whether the bus is frequent and is somewhat more rapid than a local bus. The length of the nonstop segments is just a factor of how far your total trip is. The longer your trip, the more an express is important for at least part of it.

      “you spend 7 or 8 minutes of your travel time just looping through Overlake”
      … “he curlicues required between Stewart and the tunnel or I-5 and the Ave, not to mention that Slog up or down the Ave, negate this advantage for anyone coming from north of 65th.”

      There are two problems here. One, there’s no bus-only lane between the freeway and the stop. Two, buses have to go out of their lane to the stop, while trains just stop on the tracks. You could make a bus route with stops directly in the bus lanes, but again people are too cheap to build that around here.

      • David Seater says

        In the case of the 545 they could just *not go* to the Overlake Transit Center stop on the way to Seattle. There’s a freeway stop right on the on-ramp from 40th, just like at 51st street, which the bus stops at anyway.

        To be fair, though, there’s an enormous number of people boarding at the OTC stop, usually more than are on the bus already.

      • d.p. says

        David… That’s exactly the point. Nothing approaching rapid transit (BRT or rail) would have such a convoluted method of accessing such an important stop.

      • d.p. says

        “BRT can be expresses, if they run frequently all day.”

        I’m not actually making an argument about stop spacing this time, Mike. It’s about the intent of the service (continuity and connectivity vs point-to-point destination-hopping).

        BRT might contain an express segment. The 71/72/73 might qualify (south of Roosevelt) if there weren’t so many compromises to their speed, frequency/reliability, and route legibility. (Respective examples: the Ave bottleneck, combining routes from disparate origins to “aim” for even headways, arbitrary changes based on I-5 express direction.)

        But an express bus running frequently does not necessarily become BRT. And that’s not a value judgment! An express to Overlake or Tacoma at high frequency is definitely more useful than at low-frequency, so if the demand is there, it is providing a valuable service. But it still fails to connect anything along the way.

        Mike, take a look at the San Fernando Valley’s Orange Line: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orange_Line_Transitway_Map_of_the_Los_Angeles_County_Metro_System.png Or the route map for Bogotá’s Transmilenio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mapa_TM_Fase_2.png

        Like rail rapid transit, they serve to connect a multitude of points along linear corridors, and as such; they connect the whole corridor rather than select “major” destinations. And they achieve their speed and reliability through infrastructure that supports the linear movement.

        Your express buses achieve speed by bypassing all intermediate points, which they must do because they take the last mile into downtown or into transit-center “bays” — they even use intercity busline terminology! — so slowly.

        I might be persuaded to call the 550 BRT-esque, because the South Bellevue and Mercer Island P&Rs are designed to minimize detours, and because it offers connectivity along between the termini and many points along Bellevue Way. But the examples have virtually nothing in common real rapid transit.

      • Mike Orr says

        You’re making a curious paradox that “rapid transit” means limited-stop service, and expresses are not rapid transit even though they’re more rapid. In that case I’d say the term rapid transit is flawed. What you’re describing I’d call limited-stop service.

        ST Express has such a wide variety of routes that they’re not all the same thing. I can see your point that the 594 and 545 aren’t rapid transit because they function more like intercity buses. Their purpose is for the longer distances that limited-stop service can’t compete in. But the 550 and 522 have several stops along the line, which is what I think you mean by “connectivity and continuity”.

        As for whether they serve every neighborhood or just some neighborhoods along the way, that’s really in the eye of the beholder. Both kinds of services are needed.
        Papa Bear takes large steps. Mama Bear takes medium steps. Baby Bear takes small steps.

      • d.p. says

        “You’re making a curious paradox that ‘rapid transit’ means limited-stop service…”

        More accurately, I’ve just been using “rapid transit” as a colloquial shorthand when I mean “mass transit.” Mass transit isn’t just about frequency, speed, or distance. It’s about the multiplicity of function that comes from serving a corridor rather than a handful of points, to which I’ve been alluding with such phrases as “linear continuity” and “urban continuity.” (We do agree that the 550 meets this criteria; I’m not sure if my writing made that clear enough.)

        We also agree that commuter-oriented expresses have their place, although we might quibble over how large a share of the total service picture they should represent.

        But make no mistake: these are not “mass” transit. They have only a single purpose, to move one specific category of people between one starting point and one destination, other needs and uses be damned.

        This may be at the root of my irritation with the “transit center” obsession. It’s one thing to acknowledge that, in the sprawling Eastside or even at Northgate, serving park-and-ride commuters is a necessary evil. But when your circle-twice-and-pull-into-a-bay arrangement so markedly interrupts the linear flow of the routes that serve the transit center, it sends the message that the single purpose of those customers take precedence over the myriad needs of all other riders. This feels as true on the 41 as it does on the 545.

        No mass transit line in the world has completely even demand across all of its stops or stations. Speed and routing compromises and (and should) always be made to serve the locations of highest demand (e.g. serving downtown Bellevue, even in a tunnel, will be a bit slower than skirting its periphery, but is the wise and obvious choice). But if your diversions are so drastic that through riders don’t feel like they’re on a through-trip at all, you will lose them, and your “mass transit” will dwindle to the skeletal system that, frankly, is what Seattle has.

      • d.p. says

        “You’re making a curious paradox that ‘rapid transit’ means limited-stop service…”

        More accurately, I’ve just been using “rapid transit” as a colloquial shorthand when I mean “mass transit.” Mass transit isn’t just about frequency, speed, or distance. It’s about the multiplicity of function that comes from serving a corridor rather than a handful of points, to which I’ve been alluding with such phrases as “linear continuity” and “urban connectivity.” (We do agree that the 550 meets this criteria; I’m not sure if my writing made that clear enough.)

        We also agree that commuter-oriented expresses have their place, although we might quibble over how large a share of the total service picture they should represent.

        But make no mistake: those are not “mass” transit. They have only a single purpose, to move one specific category of people between one starting point and one destination, other needs and uses be damned.

        This may be at the root of my irritation with the “transit center” obsession. It’s one thing to acknowledge that, in the sprawling Eastside or even at Northgate, serving car commuters is a necessary evil. But when your circle-twice-and-pull-into-a-bay arrangement so markedly interrupts the linear flow of the routes that serve the transit center, it sends the message that the single purpose of these customers take precedence over the myriad needs of all other riders. This feels as true on the 41 as it does on the 545.

        No mass transit line in the world can have completely even demand across all of its stops or stations. Speed and routing compromises will (and should) always be made to serve the locations of highest demand (e.g. serving downtown Bellevue, even in a tunnel, will be a bit slower than skirting its periphery, but is the wise and obvious choice). But if your diversions are so drastic that through riders don’t feel like they’re on a through-trip at all, you will lose them. Likewise, if “connectivity” service always seems to play second fiddle to “commuter” service, no one will use the system except to commute, and your “mass transit” will dwindle to the skeletal system that, frankly, is what Seattle presently has.

      • d.p. says

        [Mike, please read the 2nd of the last two replies. Many typos are fixed, and the ending elucidates my reason for caring much more clearly.]

      • Nathanael says

        “d.p. says:
        September 20, 2010 at 8:37 pm

        David… That’s exactly the point. Nothing approaching rapid transit (BRT or rail) would have such a convoluted method of accessing such an important stop.”

        Well, some of the subway lines designed in the NINETEENTH CENTURY, over 100 years ago, actually have routings which are nearly that horrendously jury-rigged; designed to go around railyards which were removed a few years after construction, detouring to local bigwigs’ houses, making strange jogs at 10 miles per hour, etc. Since approximately 1914, nobody’s made that mistake with a rail system.

      • aw says

        I’m not sure why people are complaining so much about the ST545 diversion to Overlake TC. That doesn’t even happen for half the day, only after noon. And it does also have some intermediate stops, at Yarrow Pt Freeway Station, Evergreen Point Freeway Station and Montlake Flyer stop. One or two additional freeway stops between 148th NE and 108th NE might be nice, but otherwise it’s fast and frequent. With all day service, it’s not just a commuter route. It will only get better with the SR 520 rebuild and sensible HOV lanes (even if it gets a bit messy around Montlake).

        What would it need to deserve the appellation BRT?
        Fast boarding – ORCA addresses that to a large extent.

      • d.p. says

        AW,

        You’re missing my point. There is nothing that could be done to turn an “express bus” like the 545 into a true mass-transit line. It only serves three real points of interest; it lacks the infrastructure to serve those efficiently, so it makes up the time by going ultra-express the rest of the way (those freeway stops are incidental and lightly used). You would have to completely revise the corridor to make it useful mass transit — that’s the whole reason for East Link!

        “I’m not sure why people are complaining so much about the ST545 diversion to Overlake TC. That doesn’t even happen for half the day, only after noon.”

        That’s in illogical defense. If you need it in the afternoon, you’re forced to make that huge stopover. You don’t have an alternate route. (If you say, “just change when you use it,” you contradict your description of it as a functional all-day route with BRT overtones.)

        Basically, I’m objecting to what I see as a strange impulse on this blog to feel pride in our fractured transit system by construing elements of into categories associated with quality mass-transit (like BRT if done right). I’m not just being cantankerous. Language has power, and when you start to call less-functional things by names that imply functionality — hello, “RapidRide” — you instill complacency in the credulous and mute the chorus that we need to call for true improvement.

      • d.p. says

        Nathanael,

        I can think of early-subway bottlenecks that have more to do with technological limitations of the time (the need to build close to the surface) than what you describe. Detours to bigwigs’ houses? I’m intrigued; got examples?

        Rail being linear by nature, though, even the worst of those bottlenecks and routing kinks never cost more than a minute. Transit centers require a minimum of two minutes to get in and out, and when exit ramps and long light cycles and one-way access points get involved, that can quickly become seven. They cease to be access points to your destination (the way subway stations are); they become the destination.

        But we haven’t learned any lessons from this (the way you say rail planners learned from early mistakes). We don’t even seem to be aware of the archetypal early streetcar transfer stations that were designed to minimize route disruption (well-placed access points, zero right-angle turns if possible). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fields_Corner

        Instead, these keep appearing all over the region and city:
        http://seattletransitblog.com/2009/09/21/mount-baker-transit-centers-first-day/

      • Mike Orr says

        I don’t use the term “mass transit” because it can mean either a line that carries a large number of people, or public transit as a whole (including a small van in Auburn).

        Which particular transit centers bother you, and what would you replace them with?

        Transit centers as a whole are a great thing. It’s easier to transfer if all the buses come to the same place and are time-coordinated. Transit centers are marketed, so everybody has a mental map of where they all are. Even visitors can ride to a transit center without worrying about getting lost. Transit centers humanize automobile suburbs, because residents will drive guests to the local transit center, and in so doing they’ll see transit in action and think a bit more about using transit themselves.

        A transit center is really no different than International District station or Westlake station, or even a good light rail stop. It’s just a difference of scale.

        When you complain about having to make multiple turns through local traffic to get to a transit center, it doesn’t mean the TC itself is bad. It just means a bad road design, bad neighborhood design, or that the TC is in the wrong location.

        There are also different kinds of transit centers. Bellevue TC works well. Burien TC is necessary to bring some center to the city. Renton TC is where all the buses would go anyway. Overlake I don’t know — I avoid the area.

        (And what is Overlake anyway? To me it means 24th & 148th, as people said in the 80s. Now people are calling 40th and 51st Overlake? And Overlake Hospital is way the other direction on 116th & 10th. Is Overlake supposed to be a hidden city the size of Bellevue?)

        Another factor. Transit is competing with cars. The main reason people give for not riding transit is it takes longer than driving. That’s why express routes and combined limited+express routes are important. Having more stops gains riders but it also loses riders. It gains riders at the new stations, but other riders find its effective distance degraded (i.e., the destinations you can reach in 30 or 60 minutes). We can’t assume limited-stop riders are more numerous than express riders, or that limited-stop riders are happy just because it’s the fastest they have. (RapidRide is a perfect example: almost everybody thinks it has too many stops and is less effective than Swift.) But we can compromise by stretching out the limited stops (e.g., Link has wide spacing in some places) and providing a separate route for the places that are skipped over. And also remembering that the center of a regional line has more pressure for express service than the ends. E.g., adding stops in Rainier Valley or Tukwila would inconvenience everybody passing through, but those same stops in Redmond or on 6th Avenue in Tacoma affect only those immediate areas because nobody is going through them on their way to somewhere else.

      • Mike Orr says

        [Reposting because it appeared far away in the wrong thread.]

        Maybe this shows that some transit centers are different from others, just like some ST Express routes are different from others. Most of the transit centers I encounter are “good” ones: next to a walkable downtown. But if you’re mainly thinking of Overlake and TIB and Mt Baker, those I’d call the “bad” ones.

        Mt Baker: idiotic location, should be across the street under the Link station.

        TIB: I couldn’t believe they built a transit center in the middle of nowhere. SeaTac would have been better because it coincides with a major destination. Maybe TIB can be redeemed if TOD and more shops are put around it, but the acre of parking would be uninviting to walk through.

        Overlake: This one wouldn’t exist except it’s adjacent to Microsoft. If you’re going to build a transit center, at least build a village around it.

  2. Mike Skehan says

    I stumbled onto a couple of good reports this morning.
    1. TOD.
    Lot’s of good info on how and why TOD works, along with some links for the DIY urban planners out there (most of us!) The Seatle Times has a good piece on TOD this morning too. Baby boomers will buy it up as fast as they can build it if it’s cheap enough.
    .
    2. Recession and Ridership.
    While most transit agencies are responding pretty much the same way to lower revenues, overall rail and bus ridership saw it’s 2nd best year during the height of the current recession since WWII, when gas was severely rationed and most people rode the bus.

    • Lightning says

      Quote:

      1. TOD.
      Lot’s of good info on how and why TOD works, along with some links for the DIY urban planners out there (most of us!) The Seatle Times has a good piece on TOD this morning too. Baby boomers will buy it up as fast as they can build it if it’s cheap enough.

      If it’s “cheap” enough, it’s probably too cheaply built and that will lead to major frustration down the line.

  3. Carl says

    More evidence of peak oil coming:

    http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Respected-Oil-Analyst-Forecasts-Peak-Oil-by-2017.html

    Maxwell predicts it will result in a financial crisis as the world goes through a prolonged period of “price induced rationing”. Of course a financial crisis does have the impact of dampening demand. But with rising car ownership in India, China, and other developing economies, can there be any question that gas prices are headed upward as supply isn’t increasing?

    The U.S. is not positioned well in the event of substantially higher oil prices – our sprawling land use and non-transit-friendly development, and our auto dependence will make the response to substantially higher oil prices painful. I continue to think that higher taxes or import duties on oil will both raise needed revenue, and provide price signals to the marketplace to shift development – and maybe make the reality of higher oil costs less painful over time.

    • says

      The US has recently tapped large reserves of natural gas that will continue to feed our fossil fuel habit for at least another 50-100 years, depending on how accurate the reserve estimates are. Natural gas trucks and buses are a mature technology that are much cleaner than any of the advanced diesel engines to date. The natural gas coming online now is cheap enough to cause many electric utilities to migrate away from coal.

      That’s not to say there aren’t issues with tapping natural gas reserves: There are serious questions about the environmental impacts of extracting shale gas. That said, when have we ever let something like the environment get in the way of cheap energy?

      For an overview, check out The Pickens Plan. There are also gobs of articles out there in the Wall Street Journal and the Economist that discuss the issues in detail.

      • says

        Andreas: True enough although the focus has been building larger, more efficient, coal power plants with newer emissions controls and idling smaller plants where it is not cost effective to install the emissions equipment. Of course they still belch out CO2 is massive quantities.

        In the Wall Street Journal article I referenced, they noted that 10% of new power plant capacity is expected to be coal fired in 2010 vs a whopping 83% for gas. Gas plants are relatively cheap to build, are clean, emit half the CO2 of coal, and are much easier to dispatch on-demand making them a better match for intermittent renewable resources. The real issue is lowering consumption via conservation, but that’s for another blog.

      • Charles says

        I guess the climate change “purests” would say that while utilizing the Natural Gas reserves in this country would help solve an economic problem, and it would improve carbon emissions, they would probably say that unless we suddenly move to fuel cell motors in all new cars, it would not be sufficient to meet the ppm targets they are looking for.

      • Nathanael says

        Natural gas trucks and buses may be a mature technology, but it’s hardly efficient compared to electrified transportation.

        I expect a massive shift to electrified transport very quickly; those places which are already electrified will reap huge advantages.

        Once electrified, there’s little reason to build natural gas burners rather than solar or wind other than habit and obstinacy. It’s not actually cheaper. (OK, load balancing provides one reason.)

    • Charles says

      Yes, this is in line with the research of Jeff Rubin who says the “BRICK” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Korea” as well as OPEC producing nations are dramatically increasing their consumption of oil as the west has stabilized and is reducing theirs but not at a rate that will meet the increased demand from the other 2 factors. The increased demand coupled with the reduced output of existing oil fields will cause price shocks. The prospect of triple digit price for oil will change the economics of global trade as well as the viability of the suburb.

  4. says

    This morning, Oran pointed out that the short name for Metro’s route 7 on OneBusAway is “university district \ cbd”. This actually has nothing to do with OBA, rather, it’s Metro’s data that is at fault. There are many routes that are confusing (route 66, “Ferry Terminal – Ngt P&R”), poorly described (route 72, “Lake City”), flat out wrong (route 7), or completely useless (route 65, “373”).

    If you want these and countless others fixed, keep hammering Metro with emails describing the problem. Specially, the problem is with route_desc in routes.txt. Use the email address here:
    http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/MetroTransit/Developers/QandA.aspx

  5. Erik G. says

    They actually found a Jones-Act qualified ship to transport the LINK car across the Pacific? I’m impressed!

    That she is registered in an anti-Union (both meanings) Confederate state is no surprise.

      • Erik G. says

        Many times the Xenophobe America-first-ers slip in contract wording that requires that the shells cross the ocean to the USA in a US-flagged ship. Why this isn’t a WTO violation (along with the whole Buy America requirements) I do not understand.

      • David Seater says

        I think they do the final assembly in Everett, so it counts as (mostly) American made. Somehow.

      • Nathanael says

        It is a WTO violation, but only Canada has actually been willing to sue the US over WTO violations. The WTO is a nasty piece of work in that it’s been *very* subject to selective enforcement; so the US bullies other countries (usually on behalf of multinational corporations) but other countries can’t demand the same playing field from the US, because the US threatens them in other ways if they try. Though apparently Canada wasn’t cowed.

    • Anc says

      Mobile, anti-Union and proud! BAE just bought up at Atlantic Marine there, and is doubling it’s size, Austal USA built it’s North American plant there and is in the process of expanding, and of course you got EADS North America building it’s new tankers there.

  6. Carl says

    It’s about time. Bing Maps adds transit directions

    http://www.bing.com/community/blogs/maps/archive/2010/09/16/bing-maps-gets-transit-directions.aspx

    Today Bing Maps added transit routing to its directions options. So, for those of you who like to take the bus, subway, or local rail you now can turn to Bing Maps. This is a very important feature for us as public transit grows in popularity and coverage. There are more than 10.7 billion public transit passengers per year in the US alone.

    In this initial release (i.e. more to come) of Bing Maps transit directions, Bing Maps will cover 11 cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, and Vancouver.

    • Charles says

      I’ll check it out. Hopefully it will be a better experience than Google’s (lame) transit info for Seattle.

      • barman says

        Google’s transit info for Seattle is pretty good. It’s only as good as the information that Metro provides, and it definitely beats the pants off Metro’s own trip planner.

      • Charles says

        @Barman, I respectfully disagree. While Google is incredible for travel around Chicago where I live or in SFO area where they live, my experience with it in Seattle has been very disappointing. First and foremost, it makes the assumption that you will walk 1/2 mile or more to board transit and there is no ability to adjust for that. Also, it does not understand the flow of buses and trains downtown. So, when I visited Seattle in December, and I wanted to go to the STB meetup in Pioneer Square, Google’s directions were pretty crazy. So, staying on Capitol Hill and getting to Pioneer should have been as straight forward as catching a 10, or a 43 or 2 other lines down the hill. But Google suggested I walk all the way to convention place to catch something. Further, Google didn’t understand that you could take just about any south bound bus on Third Ave or some other street with a southbound direction to get close to Pioneer Square instead wanting to route me on a specific bus with a long wait time. Or any bus or train in the tunnel even.

        I found results from the Metro or Sound Transit trip planners much better and when I started to understand the bus routes for the neighborhood I was staying in, I started using One Bus Away to decide when and where to catch a bus.

      • d.p. says

        Charles: There are many times of day when you really are better off walking from Capitol Hill to Convention Place (and catching something through the tunnel) than waiting for an ill-timed 10/11/49/whatever. This is advisable at rush hours or after 8:00 PM, weather permitting.

        Not that Google Maps knew any of this. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    • Erik G. says

      Just tried to get directions from the Microsoft Campus in Redmond to 1835 73rd Ave NE, Medina, WA 98039.

      Got this reply:

      “There’s no transit information for this location. Please choose another method of transportation.”

      So, I know someone who can’t use this in his commute.

      • Aleks says

        The closest stop to his house is Evergreen Point, over a mile away. Bing simply gives up; Google tells you to make the 24 minute walk.

        Google’s transit planner is pretty resourceful, actually. I once got it to tell me to take three buses and then a cab.

    • Michael H says

      I like the feature where it tells you what the previous and next stops surrounding your desired stop are.

  7. Anc says

    I know we all hate cars here, but my buddy back home just put this up a few minutes ago and it damned near brought a tear to my eye:

    You’ve been with me for nearly ten years, and here we are, just me and you on a Sunday afternoon. The amounts of imperfections we have both accumulated are insurmountable. You’ve been wrecked, although it’s never once been my fault, but you’ve been punished, brutalized, beaten, robbed, and treated like dirt for most of your life. You and I have ridden just inches away from death on more than one occasion. You have kept me together in one piece, and I, in turn have watched over you. Man and machine.

    I remember when I first saw you – Dad was intent on sending me to college with a ride that wouldn’t scare people away. You were on sale – in a Ford dealership parking lot. You were sold for nearly seven grand, ways below the average price at the time. The newer Mustangs had just came out, and your body style was considered obsolete, and I’m not sure about this presumption but judging from the difference in clear coat from left to right, you were wrecked by the previous owner. And that’s just fine. The custom shocks made up for it.

    Here you are, two hundred thousand miles later. Here I am, ten years later. Sixty pounds later. Four-thousand beers later. Six-thousand bench-presses later, and God knows what else. I had the day off. For once, I have an entire day to myself. Nobody but me, this cat, and whatever the hell I feel like. I looked at you and you looked like hell. I decided to take you apart, and make a list of all the things wrong with you. You don’t even have an air conditioner! But you have something that most other cars lack – a soul.

    You aren’t even a person, so why do you deserve praise? You are the metal heap that takes me to and fro work, yet there you are – You’re a marvel, a blessing. You have a stereo, the same one I installed when I moved to this damned city. And you’re still rocking. One year, I took all of my disposable income, back before the economy turned to dust, and I got you new wheels – Cobra R’s – performance exhaust – pulleys – plugs – anything easy to install, and we were the shit after that. We stood out from the other little red Mustang’s in town, and we had fun.

    That’s why I hang on to you, that’s why I refuse to sell you. The first time Lucy and I listened to 311 together. The first time I had power windows. Driving you down to Pensacola beach, with hardly a care in the world, red paint shining in the sun. Driving to and fro Brewton to purchase the new Misfits album, the new Rancid album, the new Me First album, and a bunch of useless shit that a once-spoiled white boy would one day just give away.

    I am going to fix you up one last time. And this is the last time. I’m going to clean you like the day you were new, and we are going to the town where we met each other, and we are going to play the stereo very loud. And we are going to play music that we listened to back then. I’m putting the stack of CD’s in the back seat. And then I’m going to grow up and move on, but I’ll never forget you, little red car. That is all.

    • phil says

      Still hanging on to my almost 20 year old car. Of course, living in the city I put almost no miles on it. I walk or take transit instead.

      My car had the highest USA made content for the year it was built, even though it’s a Mazda; built at the Flint Rock MI plant. Still a great car, made by union employees.

  8. Erik G. says

    Tri-Met Driver caught with Kindle on Dashboard

    http://discarted.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/driving-while-reading-bus-driver-caught-with-kindle-on-dashboard/

    And according to various reports, Qouchbane (who likely would’ve avoided administrative leave if this video didn’t exist) told the man who was recording him that he was not allowed to take his picture. Well, of course Qouchbane said that! It’s like law enforcement telling everybody on the face of the earth that we can not record them, but they can record us and do whatever the hell else they would like to do to us.

    • Mickymse says

      I reported a Metro driver awhile back for talking to his significant other on the phone while driving. I’m not generally bothered by such things, when done briefly and safely… but this was during Snowpocalypse and I kinda thought he should be concentrating on getting us safely through the snow.

  9. joshuadf says

    Any idea when the October 2, 2010 Service Change info will be on Metro’s website? A driver on the 17 said there were going to be “major changes” to buses in SLU due to the Mercer work but there’s no alerts on the website or at stops.

    Unrelated: there’s a survey about the Trip Planner:
    http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/357797/TripPlanner

    • Casey says

      No major changes this shakeup in SLU……70 will go to diesel. 17 local will be revised to operate on Blanchard ST between 3rd Ave and Westlake northbound and Bell St southbound, but that has nothing to do with Mercer corridor.

      • d.p. says

        I’m not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing.

        On one hand, the signal timing on Westlake is horrible: the 2000 feet between Denny and downtown can be as much as 20% of the total trip time from Ballard.

        On the other, that’s 6 blocks of travel on Bell/Blanchard, and I’m not sure the lights for that will be timed any better. And it adds about 1/3 of a mile to the trip distance by going the long way around the right triangle (for which Westlake had been the hypotenuse).

        Lastly, I can say goodbye to walking from Capitol Hill down Pine to 7th and catching the 17 outside FareStart when the lousy 10/11/49 scheduling would have caused me to miss it on 3rd.

        (Also, I’m presuming this means the southbound 17 will now stay straight on 9th, no longer serving the streetcar stops on Westlake. Fair enough. But would it kill them to fix the 9th/Broad/Mercer signalling so that the bus can ever make it through both in a single cycle. All this would require is letting the straight lane remain green concurrent with the walk signal, rather then going red at the same time as the left-turn lanes.)

      • joshuadf says

        Actually both of those are due to Mercer. They have to remove the trolley wire on Fairview near Mercer due to utility work, and the 17 southbound currently turns left at Republican which will also be dug up. I guess that southbound trip is what she was talking about as being “major” since it means people will have to walk farther to catch the 17 into downtown.

      • Casey says

        Yes, 17 will continue south on 9th Ave N.
        About the travel time on Bell St, with the singal timing, it might not be much faster, but remember it will be less congested than Stewart/Westlake intersection especially around Christmas time and with the closure of Westlake between Olive and Stewart, that means all traffic will be forced off of Westlake to W/B Stewart, a very small block, and the turning traffic on green from Westlake will always hit a red light on Stewart @ 5th Ave. I think that might be a problem area. So I think it will be a good change.

      • d.p. says

        They’re digging up Republican? That stretch of Republican was essentially abandoned (no one ever used it, except the 17) until Amazon opened. Now it’s suddenly a major, congested thoroughfare. Wonder what it has to do with the Mercer project.

      • joshuadf says

        Some SDOT people gave a presentation about it at UW SLU. I think it was a 100 year old sewer line (no joke). At that time Westlake Ave was a trestle over the lake!

  10. Anonymous says

    I overheard an operator on a route 70 coach mentioning that they would likely be getting the new Orion VII hybrids when the route gets deelectrified for construction. Any word on when these coaches hit the streets?

    • Casey says

      Probably Gilligs starting in October. Orions aren’t going to be here until February……I think 14 to South Base. Then is June some more to South, and Atlantic and East will get some. The AB Orions will probably be used by CB, just parked and maintained in the AB yard……but it’s possible you might see them on the 70, but probably not until late spring/summer.

  11. Carl says

    There is an interesting article on Human Transit. It discusses a book which considers mobility in the time of expensive oil – and that renewable electricity will play an increasing role, but that batteries are too heavy to be the source. Ergo, grid-connected vehicles like trolley buses and electric trains.

    http://www.humantransit.org/2010/09/the-next-transport-revolution-trolley-wire-on-every-street.html

    Meanwhile, in Seattle, King County Metro embarks on a process to justify dismantling our electric trolley infrastructure. Does anyone have an update on that?

    • Mike Orr says

      I’m not sure if Metro as a whole is trying to get rid of trolleys. One auditor suggested it, but that’s just his opinion and it’s based on an incomplete look at the costs. Apparently among Metro maintenance staff there are pro-trolley and anti-trolley factions, but that again doesn’t mean “Metro wants to kill trolleys”. As for any further reports or decisions at the county council level, none that I’ve heard of.

      • says

        The grumbling I’ve heard is that the main proponents of trolleys have mostly (all?) retired. Many of the folks remaining aren’t as enamored with trolleys and are just as inclined to get rid of them. The Bredas have been difficult and expensive to maintain which doesn’t help strengthen the case for continued trolley service.

        That said, Vancouver has an extensive trolley network with buses that are well liked by their drivers. I’m hopeful somebody in Metro will see the light and realize that *expanding* Trolley service will help spread trolley wire maintenance over a greater number of routes.

  12. Andrew11 says

    Let’s get this UW-Line running already! Faster-Faster-Faster! It’s just pathetic how long it takes for ANYTHING to be built here! Doesn’t this city realize that they are WAYYYY behind the rest of the world. Portland and Vancouver are kicking Seattle’s a*s!

    Reminder: From now until the opening of the UW-Link in Fall-2016 (6 years), Beijing will have built TWELVE underground subway lines, averaging ONE long underground subway line completed every 6-months! Seattle meawhile screws around with a 3-mile light-rail line that takes them over 8 years!

    I’m sorry this comment has to sound so immature, but you got to face the fact that Seattle is wasting it’s time on more roads and highways (that will forever remain congested) and expanding BRT that will never work (since they require UNCLOGGED highways, and every Seattle road is a parking lot!).

    • alexjonlin says

      In China, they have a ton of money for infrastructure and building anything is hella cheap, so it’s unfair to compare rates of construction of anything in China to anywhere in the US, really. The Canada Line took slightly less time to build than U Link will, but it didn’t require a whole lot of tunnel boring or very deep stations. In Portland, they built the Green Line quickly and cheaply, and got what they paid for.

    • Mike Orr says

      China is building a lot of highways too. And they don’t have Tim Eyman. And they aren’t having to cut their government budget 5% every year to match revenues. And they don’t hesitate over environmental impacts or displacing people. Link could probably be built in five years if ST had an unlimited budget.

  13. joshuadf says

    Hey, finally a date from SDOT: “Westlake Avenue from Olive Way to Stewart Street
    to be Permanently Closed September 23″

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