News Round Up: HSR already on the decline

Sound Transit Sounder SDRX 401

Photo by Zack Heistand

Comments

  1. Cyclist Mike says

    Well, since the Seattle region is so dead set on keeping separate transit authorities, I agree with McGinn on having Seattle do its own thing for transportation. We can’t wait for ST to connect our neighborhoods in the decades to come with rail (or other variants that are more efficient than what we have now.) The only requirement, IMO, would be that it would be compatible with ORCA and hopefully keep the fare system simple.

  2. says

    Dual duty parking spots? What am I supposed to do with my car during the day? I’m certainly not going to drive it to work.

      • Anandakos says

        Andrew,

        You won’t have to move your car, nor will the folks in the penthouses. You’re not poor.

    • Matt the Engineer says

      Here’s how I could imagine it working. Give residents (or charge residents for) parking stickers. That limits the base number of cars there at night. Then we can assume a certain number of people will drive their cars at any given point in the day. Now, don’t have assigned spots. Therefore if you start off with, say 4k residential parking spots at night and half of these cars are in use during the day, you have 3k spots available. In the end 7k cars get to park in a lot designed for 5k.

      The main problem I can see is the case where a resident comes home and there are no spots. Maybe have a gate system that counts resident and non-resident cars, and stops letting non-resident cars in when there’s only a few hundred spots left? Man that sounds complicated.

      • BA says

        The behavior surrounding parking is actually extraordinarily well understood – most models are not theoretical, but empirical.

        Sharing parking between uses is well understood, and the larger the pool being shared the easier and more predictable the usage becomes.

        I wouldn’t worry too much about this aspect.

      • Andrew Smith says

        I wouldn’t worry too much about this aspect.

        Right now there are fewer than 1200 parking spots. They are moving to 5,000, some of which will in fact house more than 1 car per day. That’s petty worrying.

      • Bruce says

        While I wish they weren’t building 4k+ extra spots, there’s no reason once you’ve built them not to allow them to be fully utilized. Garages downtown have night-only rates for a fraction of the 24 hour rates, as well as “early bird” daily daytime rates.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        I agree with Bruce. Car use in cities is a big problem, but it’s a much larger problem to build 50+ year structures with parking lots eating up space. 5k shared spots is terrible, but if the alternative was 7k non-shared spots at least that’s something.

        My real hope is that they design the parking lot to be convertable to some other use in the future, but I won’t hold my breath.

  3. Anandakos says

    See folks? No North Link. No East Link. Probably no South 200th Street. No C Line. No D Line. No E Line. No F Line.

    The Republicans used to be Whigs (the National greatness infrastructure party) and the Democrats were the States’ Rightsers. The parties have traded places completely on economics, mostly because FDR was Teddy’s much younger Yankee cousin and had an administration with plenty of progressive Republicans in it. He didn’t like the Dixiecrat Old Bulls who ran the party and the Supreme Court and set out to neuter both groups. Successfully.

    That gave an opening to the small business, isolationist Republicans who captured the party in 1944 and ran it until Goldwater took it South.

    They really believe that the “Free Market” will provide everything the country needs. Of course it could, but a a ridiculous cost levied in eye-watering tolls, tariffs, and monopoly prices.

    • Bruce says

      North Link, East Link and S 200th St do not depend on funding from New Starts. This might affect the North Corridor HCT and RapidRide.

      • Anandakos says

        This is also just the opening salvo. What has been signed by anyone in Washington for Link expansion beyond Husky Stadium? Yes, promises have been made, but promises have little currency with the opposition party.

        Basically Republicans hate cities. They don’t care that five cities (New York, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Charlotte) produce about 50% of our export earnings as “intellectual property”. The “hard-headed” party demonstrates over and over it doesn’t give a RIP about economics.

        The real problem with urban regions is that there are lots of gay people, people of color, loose cannon free-thinkers, and other varieties of moral degenerate living there. So anything that supports the health of cities is a direct insult to them and their Jeffersonian dreams of the yeoman farmer/small businessman.

        We all know that those yeoman farmers have long since been bought out by Big Agribusiness and that the opportunities in “small business” are mostly as a franchisee with lips sewn to the butts of some large corporation. But the the Gamelan shadows make great Political Theater.

      • Bruce says

        No-one in DC is talking about clawing back any New Starts money for which an FFGA is in place; in fact, New Starts will continue to fund new projects next year, although with a smaller budget than. Yes, this is horrible and stupid, but the administration has thrown their HSR program under a bus (if you will) to save New Starts.

        North Link (UW-Northgate) will be paid for almost entirely with local money, as will East Link. These projects are not being submitted to New Starts, nor do I believe there was ever any intent to. Similarly, S 200th St would not be competitive in New Starts, but ST is angling for money from other, much smaller state and federal grant programs, and only needs to come up with about $40mil to move forward.

        Link to Lynnwood is dependent on federal money and that could be bad. No other part of our local light rail build-out is under any specific threat.

      • Anandakos says

        Bruce,

        OK. If the region can actually pay for it, it can happen. I was under the strong impression that they were budgeting for about 35-40% Federal participation. You seem to believe that’s not true, and I hope you’re right.

        Because that is the only way it will happen. The rail operations at FTA will be shutting up shop next year. Bank on it.

      • Bruce says

        I have emails from ST’s East Link and North Link community outreach people stating directly that those projects are not being submitted to New Starts and they are not dependent on federal money. Barring a total disaster, we should have Link from Northgate to S 200th by 2020 and Overlake by 2023. The only folks who stand to get hosed are those in Snohomish county.

        Apropos of the current federal political climate, I would try and keep your cool. What we’re witnessing now is the apogee of teabagger power and energy. Just like the fist six months after our Kenyan socialist president took office when the left were briefly on Cloud Nine, the right is having their moment in the sun; this too shall pass.

        The gutting of the HSR program is tough to swallow, but also keep in mind that Washington will still have made out better than most other states due to the large amount of shovel-ready work we had on hand. Most of the country didn’t get a dime. That’s unfortunate for them, but in the long run may be good for us, as we’ll be one of the only states outside of California, Illinois and the northeast with a functional passenger rail corridor: a great asset.

      • Anandakos says

        Bruce,

        Again, “New Starts” is just the first salvo. I’m VERY glad that ST has the money to fund Link to Overlake and Northgate without Federal participation. But you can be sure that when Paul Ryan’s budget for next year and FY 2013 is cracked open you will find it to have nothing for ongoing urban rail projects either. There may be money for buses, especially in smaller cities and suburbs.

      • AP says

        @Anandakos: When you say 5 cities produce about 50% of our export earnings as “intellectual property” are you counting Redmond as Seattle?

      • Andrew Smith says

        @Anandakos: When you say 5 cities produce about 50% of our export earnings as “intellectual property” are you counting Redmond as Seattle?

        I’m pretty sure he’s talking about regions. Attitudes like separating Redmond and Seattle are why it’s so easy to cut New Starts funding. Redmond and Seattle are parts of the same urban agglomeration and parts of the same economy.

      • Mike says

        Bruce: Don’t drink the PR Kool-Aid at some of those meetings.
        Anandakos has every right to be very concerned.
        From the latest ST TIP(Tran.Imp.Plan), page 18 of 199, ST is expecting 3.2Bil of Federal revenue to support Sound Move and ST2 projects through 2023. Of that 1.9 Bil is FFGA’s (500 mil IS/AL, 813 mil U-Link, 600 mil ST2). The balance (1.3 Bil), is from other Fed. pots of money.
        On the local side, ST expects 11.9 Bil from local taxes. But that’s already been determined to be 3.9 Bil short, and counting as the recovery is dragging on longer than projected.
        To recap, ST will likely come up short 4-6 Bil, requiring projects to be delayed till about 2030, cancelled, scaled back or significant new local sources of revenue are approved, which is a real uphill climb as we plow ahead with mega-road projects up the Kazoo, and our local bus providers slash service by 1/3, making their own good case.

      • Bruce says

        @Mike What are you talking about? I haven’t been to any meetings.

        You post is unreadably cryptic. Please explain what projects you’re taking about that you think are going to receive federal money and from what programs.

      • Mike says

        Goto ST website, page 18 of the TIP and read it yourself. They don’t specify which projects either, but there it is.

      • Bruce says

        From 1997 to 2023, Sound Transit is projecting $3.2 billion in federal grant awards for Sound Move and ST2 projects including three Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs): $500 million for the Initial Segment/Airport Link, $813 million for the University Link, and $600 million for an ST2 project that has yet to be decided.

        The only FFGA not already a done deal is the last one, and that’s North Corridor. I remarked that a lack of federal funding could be really bad for that project.

        Regarding local tax revenue, that’s been discussed in prior STB posts like this one. North King not in dire straits, and ST has been able to mitigate most of the revenue hit.

        Please do your homework before running your keyboard.

      • Mike says

        I stand by my keyboard entries. Only 500 mil and probably 813 is committed of the 3.2 Bil in Federal funds. That leave almost 2 Bil in federal funding up for grabs, on top of the nearly 4 Bil. local shortage. I said ST is probably going to be somewhere between 4-6 Bil short.
        What part of that statement is inaccurate?

      • Bruce says

        Did you read the post I linked to? ST has absorbed the hit to local revenue with service cuts, delays and cuts to capital projects. That’s why North Link was pushed back a year, for example. It’s also why we don’t have real-time arrival info on Central Link.

        Moreover, the areas that have suffered the worst from the downturn are those that aren’t building much or any light rail in the near future — South King, Pierce and Snohomish. Those losses are irrelevant to North Link, University Link and East Link.

        You really don’t seem to understand how the financing for ST works, and so I can’t see any reason to prolong this discussion, except to note for the benefit of other readers that the core part of Link — Northgate, S 200th, Bellevue/Overlake are not at serious risk right now.

      • Mike says

        Well, curiosity got the better of me this evening, so I went through ST’s income statements for 1999 through 1010 to see the actual Federal funds contributed to ST, as part of the 2011 TIP’s estimate of 3.2 Bil through 2023. It turns out ST has received $941 Mil to date, leaving an estimate of 2.259 Bil to go over the next 13 years. Add to that the 3.9 Bil shortfall in local revenue, and the hole is now 6.159 Bil. and getting deeper.
        Reducing their reserves by 2 Bil, before ST2 projects have mostly begun is tantamount to throwing all the life jackets off a sinking boat to save some weight. “It’s the last thing you do”, not the first.
        Sure cutting service is another way to help the balance sheet, but then ridership suffers, and the public is not getting what they expected for their tax dollars.
        My original estimate of 4-6 Billion short was being generous.
        Anandakos, you have it right.

      • Anandakos says

        AP,

        Andrew is exactly right. I wasn’t posting about municipalities but as he says “regions”. “San Francisco” was a proxy for the Peninsula, San Jose, and Oakland as well. I should have said “Bay Area”, “Puget Sound”, “New York-New Jersey”, “LA-Orange County” and “Research Triangle”.

        Lo siento.

      • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says

        Anandakos, The Research Triangle is Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill (aka NC State, Duke, and UNC Chapel Hill).

      • AP says

        @Anandakos: No need to apologize–I was just curious. One predominant theme of this blog is to pit cities against suburbs, i.e., mocking Bellevue for its image of Hummers, free parking and sanitized, crime-free malls. Given the prevalence hostility toward suburbs, I wasn’t certain if your comment was meant to pivot on cities or regions.

      • Anandakos says

        Matthew,

        You are of course right. So I guess I should have said “Central Carolina”. It all acts pretty much as one economic unit: Charlotte provides the cash, and RTP the ideas. Much like San Francisco and Silicon Valley and New York City and New Jersey. It takes two to tango.

        The point is that modern healthy cities are the places where modern economies get their mojo. Yes, we make plenty from grain and bean agriculture, but it takes twenty states to do it. And there’s big bucks in chemicals down on the Gulf coast. But both of those industries are increasingly squeezed by the slow end of American oil production. They have to buy the feedstocks from oligopolists who’d really rather make the chemicals themselves and are willing to lose money for a long time to capture the market.

        Fortunately, most of the oilogopolists (ed. note: intentional) don’t have the kind of entrepreneurial society that’s necessary to KEEP a dominant position in an industry. They might get there by low prices, but they won’t maintain their hold against China and India.

      • Chris Stefan says

        ST will find a way to make North Link happen. The system simply doesn’t make any sense if it doesn’t go to Northgate. I’d think East Link is in more danger of not happening if revenue is short. The fact that ST has a couple of lawsuits to deal with and probably a couple more once the segement B & C routing is decided doesn’t help.

  4. Marko says

    That didn’t take long. A proper plan and proper financing are needed for HSR to take off. The Obama admin has fired off this one-time (halfhearted) shot that brought the notion of HSR -something most people hadn’t heard of- to the table. Like a thread that pulls the rope. Hopefully it will blossom into something substantial sometime in the future. For the medium term true HSR is off. Chances are not good that the US will ever get real HSR. Well, enjoy the imploding air travel system.

  5. alexjonlin says

    Some changes to the First Hill Streetcar. It will end in the middle of Jackson, rather than on 2nd Ave S, and its maintenance barn will be located down in SODO rather than what I had thought was the preferred alternative, integrated into affordable housing a block east of Yesler Terrace. But I guess it’s all for the best, as that will allow it to expand greatly in the future.

    • Bruce says

      Their website is crazy out of date. I think their preferred alignment map still shows a loop on Main St.

      Does anyone know who to ask about the Aloha extension funding possibilities? I figure emailing SDOT is pointless as they don’t handle that side of it.

    • says

      The new location of the maintenance barn is on existing City property, SDOT’s maintenance yard. In this real estate climate, it’s good that the project isn’t dependent on another development. The Waterfront Streetcar waited on a mixed use development which was never built for their replacement barn.

    • jon says

      Where on Broadway does the center lane come in and the west side parking lane go away? I’m not a fan of that part, keep parking on both sides and just not allow left turns.

  6. Cascadian says

    Obama’s proposed budget for 2012 restores HSR funding, which would make the 2011 cuts more of a one year pause. Of course, another budget deal like the one earlier this week could take it away again.

    • says

      This could be a blessing in disguise for the overall HSR network long-term. Another year gives transportation advocates more time to make the case for HSR and hope Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida come to their senses.

      • Anandakos says

        Ohio was hardly “HSR”; Kasich was right about that. Like the existing Cascades service it’s not even “emerging HSR”. I think 90 mph rail passenger service between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati would be a good thing for the state, but the planned system was hardly “high speed rail”. Let’s at least be honest what we call it.

        Milwaukee-Madison on the other hand would have been way overbuilt for an 80 mile stretch with no real plans for extension. As long an Chicago-Milwaukee is stuck on shared trackage with no plans for replacement (there are three parallel lines from which to choose an upgrade candidate), it would have been pretty silly. Like the central section of CalHSR it would have required changing trains in Milwaukee to a Hiawatha diesel-hauled service to go on to Chicago. Madison is hardly a business destination and Milwaukee isn’t a major air hub, so what market was it really supposed to serve? Student and lobbyist commuters from Milwaukee?

        Florida would have been fairly weak without a strong commitment from the state to extend it at least to Ft. Lauderdale. But at least Tampa/St. Petersburg is a big city and the line would have ended at the Orlando airport giving people in the Tampa Bay area access to direct flights nearly everywhere.

      • aw says

        I don’t see it as a catastrophe. There is still (for now) $2 billion of the Florida money to be re-allocated for this year. Even though the ARRA and FY10 projects were supposed to be “shovel-ready” with the exception of Illinois, there hasn’t really been a lot of construction going on yet. It will take a while to digest the money that’s already out there.

        In the meantime, states can complete their rail plans and come up with a practical list of projects for when the money starts flowing again.

      • Dan Carey says

        I think we need to be prepared for the fact that HSR will come under sustained attack by the budget cutters over the next several years. The key I’d say would be for WSDOT to spend the money as soon as it can can on the projects needed before it gets cut.

      • Chris Stefan says

        Anandakos,
        I think you’re wrong about Milwaukee-Madison. There is no reason a train change would need to be forced, simply run trains on the faster track. From what I understand this is what CalHSR plans to do. Eventually they expect to have European style electrified trainsets running end to end, but that is unlikely to happen at least until they get to either San Jose or LA.

        Besides a Milwaukee-Madison segment combined with improvements to Chicago-Milwaukee is a nice start on Chicago-Minneapolis service.

  7. LB says

    $4.50 gas by Memorial Day?

    It’s barely under that (by 1/10 of a cent) at the station in downtown Vashon (the one south of there is only a few cents behind). I suspect it will be above $4.50 by the end of the week.

    • aw says

      That’s for regular, not premium.

      Could an editor check the link for the $4.50 gas story? It points to a previously given rail story.

      • LB says

        I suspect part of the reason is that it’s trasnported over via ferry on “restricted cargo” sailings (i.e., only the ferry crew, security personnel (police, USCG, ect.), the vehicles carrying the hazardous cargo and anyone driving/traveling in said vehicles can be on the ferry) and the tolls/fees are probably high for these sailings.

      • Erik G. says

        I don’t believe there is any additional fare/toll for the HAZMAT sailings.

        (The delivery company might have to pay their driver some sort of extra pay due to the time, but only if he/she is union)

        So its yet ANOTHER ASPHALT SUBSIDY from Concrete Christine, Pavement Paula and WSDOT to YOU!!

  8. Brian Bundridge says

    Ridership on Sounder has been steadily increasing so far. My usual car went from a good half full to averaging 90 to 95% full for seated passengers. Should be really interesting when gas continues but we in the valley do pay more for petrol. Myself having a premium only fueled car have been taking Sounder to work (In Seattle once again!) so it’s been real nice to take the train.

    Normally in the first car (behind the loco) on Train 1506N and 1509S)

  9. says

    I’ll have to look into the figures, but a lot of what they called “High Speed Rail” simply is just repairing the freight tracks of private industry at taxpayer expense.

    This is what I fear all these Washington funds might end up doing…such as being wasted trying to fix the unfixable Seattle north line on the sandy cliffs.

    For me, I think we should put all our eggs in one basket on HSR, make one state the winner who takes all and try and get something at least designed from the ground up that goes more than 165 mph and maybe start purchasing right of way (or put some stakes in the ground with little pink tape at the end showing where the thing could go…)

    • Anandakos says

      Well, John, what you’ve described in the third paragraph is exactly CalHSR. On the contents of the third paragraph we agree.

      However, it’s not a reason not to spend money of higher speed conventional rail service where there is demand for it. Even if it means spending some tax money to make it work.

      By the way, the north line is not ON the “sandy cliffs”. It’s at the base of them. Sometimes they come to visit.



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