News Round-Up: Transportation Drama

Big Pink Sightseeing Bus

Big Pink Sight Seeing Bus in Vancouver. Photo by flickr user Guilhem Vellut

This is an open thread.

Comments

    • Jeremy says

      Cars: helping prevent unsustainable population growth?

      or

      Cars: generating robust demand for heath care and related services?

  1. johnny says

    Is there a map layout of what this Ped bridge connecting the Sound and Lake Union?

      • johnny says

        So all of that will be grade separated walk way? (They should do what Hong Kong did and install miles of elevated people moving walkways) Don’t let Norman see this he will surely say it’s a waste of money and we should all telecommute.

      • Cascadian says

        I work right by this pedestrian bridge-to-be. I would use this all the time.

        Is it going to accommodate bicycles as well as pedestrians? As an occasional bike commuter I would like an option to bypass Elliott and ride along the waterfront instead. On the other hand, bikes would make the path less pleasant for pedestrians and it doesn’t look wide enough to comfortably accommodate both. I’m also curious if there’s going to be access from the west side of Elliott. The at-grade crossing that’s there currently is really dangerous.

      • Andreas says

        @Cascadian: The bridge walkway is marked as 12′ wide, and presumably the paths leading to it would be that wide too. Compare that to the Burke-Gilman, which is 8-10′ wide in most places (redevelopment calls for 12′ widths where feasible), and I don’t imagine there will be much of a problem with shared use.

        As for access to the west side of Elliott, the SDOT page on the project says that “A staircase located at the W. Thomas St. cul-de-sac will be built through the generosity of a private donor whom [sic—ugh] has recently offered to fund the critical intermediate access point.” Odd that it’s not included in the renderings, but maybe “recently” means after the drawings were done.

  2. GuyOnBeaconHill says

    The “silly arguments about highways and high speed rail” shows pretty clearly how delusional the anti-rail people are. If it’s going to cost $1 billion just to fix the mess around JBLM, then how much would it cost to build a congestion-free I-5 all the way from the Oregon border to Blaine? Quite a bit more than the cost of building a reliable and quick passenger rail system, I would think. Sure, HSR isn’t cheap, but highway construction is very expensive and doing nothing won’t save money either.

    • Dan Carey says

      Really what they are trying to do is to gain the support of those stuck in traffic on I-5 at JBLM for their anti-HSR campaign. To do so they have to make a connection between the traffic mess and HSR, which are not related. Claiming that HSR will make traffic worse is a weak argument. Train crossing times at each intersection will be about 45 seconds, hardly enough to add to traffic on I-5. Then they claim that $780 million is being spent on the Point Defiance Bypass. That is far more than all the HSR money the state has been granted by the US DOT ($590mil). The WSDOT says that $91 mil is being spent on the Bypass. It will take a lot more than that to improve traffic on I-5 in that area.

      The traffic mess at JBLM has nothing to do with HSR. It does need to be fixed though. That money needs to come from a different funding source, as HSR money is dedicated to HSR, and cannot be used for highways. They could better spend their time looking for such money elsewhere.

      • aw says

        Then they claim that $780 million is being spent on the Point Defiance Bypass. That is far more than all the HSR money the state has been granted by the US DOT ($590mil).

        You’ve got the wrong number for the total grant. Including the original ARRA grant, the FY2010 appropriation grant, and money rejected by the governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida that came our way, the total we’re getting is $797.3M. The article did not include $15M recently granted that’s going to a project in Vancouver.

      • Dan Carey says

        I stand corrected on the total amount granted, it is $797 M. Still the amount dedicated to the Point Defiance Bypass is only $91M.

    • Eric says

      The slowest parts of the Seattle->Portland trip today are not the sections where you’re actually on the Amtrak train – it’s the local transit getting from home to the station and from the station to the other end.

      For example, if a trip to Portland involves a 30 minute trip on local buses in Seattle, 30 minutes waiting at the station, plus another 30 minutes on local buses in Portland, the Amtrak trains would have to average about 130 mph to make up the necessary time to achieve parity with the car.

      Possible, in theory, but much cheaper is enhancements in local transportation of both cities, plus surgical improvements to the train route to keep them running reliably on schedule (minimizing the in-station wait time). The Point Defiance bypass will help with this and the construction of Link will help even more.

    • Eric says

      The slowest parts of the Seattle->Portland trip today are not the sections where you’re actually on the Amtrak train – it’s the local transit getting from home to the station and from the station to the other end.

      For example, if a trip to Portland involves a 30 minute trip on local buses in Seattle, 30 minutes waiting at the station, plus another 30 minutes on local buses in Portland, the Amtrak trains would have to average about 130 mph to make up the necessary time to achieve parity with the car.

      Possible, in theory, but much cheaper is enhancements in local transportation of both cities, plus surgical improvements to the train route to keep them running reliably on schedule (minimizing the in-station wait time). The Point Defiance bypass will help with this and the construction of Link will help even more.

      • d.p. says

        “…a 30 minute trip on local buses in Seattle.”

        Ha! After one particularly egregious experience that ended in missing a train to Portland, I now have to budget over an hour from Ballard to King Street.

        (You know, “just in case.” Except that “just in case” happens all the time.)

      • Grant McWilliams says

        It takes me 60 minutes to go from Lynnwood to King Street station. The nice thing about the train is I can walk in about 15 minutes before it leaves and still get on the train (I’ve proven this many times). If I fly it takes me 2 hrs to get to Seatac by transit and I have to allocate 30minutes to an hour before takeoff. Obviously driving is different but I still have to give 15 minutes to fill up (I used to not include this but after realizing I can’t drive to Portland without a full tank I have to) and then 30 minutes to get to Seattle I’m not that far off with the train. From my house the car beats the train by about 30 minutes. From downtown it’s dead even unless I push the speed limit on the freeway.

      • Grant McWilliams says

        Oh and the train is cheaper if you’re calculating cost per mile including gas and maintenance as any business would and it isn’t dead time (wifi, power outlets) and you can go to the bathroom without adding minutes to your trip, and it’s comfortable and you can eat breakfast on it thus saving pre-trip time and, and and.

      • Erik G. says

        And you don’t have to submit to the Oregon tyranny that will not let you fill your own gas tank as God intended.

      • Kaleci says

        Ahhh – the good old days when you didn’t have to fill your own tank. I say if you have to fill your own tank, you should at least get the employee discount. :)

      • Motoring Unenthusiast says

        I get your point, I really do, but isn’t that assuming a flawless I-5 experience? Here, without exaggeration, is what almost always happens to me when I drive to Portland…

        1.) I get stuck in traffic at Tacoma

        2.) Again at the military bases.

        3.) Again at Olympia (why is it that whenever I-5 has a curve, things always slow down?)

        Things go pretty well after that, unless there’s been some sort of horrific accident (which there always is, when I drive), but finally, as the topping on the Sunday, Traffic slows to a crawl over the Columbia and on into downtown Portland. Then, unless you have parking, you have to find a place to put the damn thing. Either shell out an extra $25 a night, or take your chances on the street parking.

        Maybe it’s me, but I have horrible luck on I-5. I never get the easy, breezy drive to Portland that everyone holds the train up against.

  3. Bruce says

    Bicyclists in the city should check out the north end of Dexter, recently repaved with buffered bike lanes and bus bulbs with bike bypasses. Haven’t ridden it myself yet, but I walked down there last night and it looks awesome. If you like it, be sure to tell SDOT and the Mayor’s office. Someone down there is unlawfully nailing fliers to public trees (which I took the liberty of removing) telling people to complain to the Mayor’s office about the “accidents” that are supposed going to happen from the bulbs.

    Also, downtown parking meters have just acquired the liquor sticker and 8AM-8PM decals, and I’m waiting for the long-promised collapse of downtown’s businesses as a result.

    • Bruce says

      Ben’s point was that WSDOT has a broad authority to declare a roadway surplus and dispose of it, and that doing so pursuant to the original MOU associated with the construction of that roadway lies within the scope of that authority.

      • TGV says

        Here is the quote there from Ben, Bruce:

        “Paula Hammond says, actually, that WSDOT does have that right. Also, the supreme court implied it strongly.”

        No, that was not “Ben’s point.”

        Ben posted that Paula Hammond said WSDOT had that right. Where’s the proof of that? I think Ben was telling a little white lie there. I KNOW he was shading the truth when he said the supreme court implied it strongly. That opinion does nothing of the sort.

        Also, contrary to your baseless musing, WSDOT does not have broad authority to declare a roadway surplus. There are four specific statutes relating to dispositions of surplus property, and each in fact is quite narrow.

      • Bruce says

        The secretary of transportation may transfer and convey to [..] any other state agency [...] any unused state-owned real property under the jurisdiction of the department of transportation when, in the judgment of the secretary of transportation and the attorney general, the transfer and conveyance is consistent with public interest.

        http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=47.12.080

        Building East Link looks like a pretty valid public interest to me. Other possibly applicable rule is:

        http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=47.12.120

      • TGV says

        Let’s talk about “.080″ first, Bruce. Try to convince us the center lanes of I-90 over Lake Washington now are “unused”.

        Maybe you should just step away from the keyboard – you’re coming across as not-so-bright this afternoon.

      • Zed says

        When the new HOV lanes are constructed on the outer roadways and put in to operation the center lanes will be unused and can be deemed surplus. The 1976 agreement specifies that the ultimate configuration of the bridge will be 6 general purpose lanes and 2 HOV lanes, no more. When the new HOV lanes are constructed the bridge will be so configured and the space previously occupied by the express lanes can then be leased to Sound Transit for light rail. It’s not really that complicated.

      • Bruce says

        I don’t know what intellectual leper colony you just crawled out of, but it seems obvious to me, at least, that there is no usage of the I-90 express lanes that cannot be terminated with with a few Jersey barriers and a some signs directing those drivers to the nice new HOV lanes they will have. WSDOT has the authority to add and remove lanes on roads, and those on I-90 are no different to every other road. Once unused, they will be transferred to ST under either 080 or 120, as explicitly intended under the MOU that governed the building of those lanes. The idiots fighting this process will then, with any luck, move in disgust to some Podunk state far away from here, and leave us alone.

      • TGV says

        Guys, think for a minute. Seriously.

        From Zed: “When the new HOV lanes are constructed on the outer roadways and put in to operation the center lanes will be unused and can be deemed surplus.”

        From Bruce: “there is no usage of the I-90 express lanes that cannot be terminated with with a few Jersey barriers and a some signs directing those drivers to the nice new HOV lanes they will have.”

        A central component of the R8A alternative approved by the FTA in the 2004 Record of Decision is that the center lanes will remain in reversible operation, as they are now, even after the new outside HOV lanes are up and running. You must know that! WSDOT does not have the green light from the feds to just shut down the center lanes – R8A is based on them remaining open. Moreover, WSDOT has an affirmative statutory obligation to maintain and improve its highways. In contrast, no statute says it can just block a highway off and say “now this is ‘unused state-owned real property'”.

        You two are not thinking clearly . . .

      • Bruce says

        You seem altogether incapable of intelligent discussion. Is there any region to believe that USDOT would refuse permission for a transit project that will be approved by the FTA, and whose future use of this ROW was stipulated in the MOU to which they are party?

        R8A with the express lanes used for rail will maintain the number of lanes provided to cars while adding a mass transit system that will relieve and mitigate demand on that section of road, and state taxpayers will be paid for the airspace over those unneeded lanes. In doing these thing, all parties will be discharging their obligations under applicable law. Q.E.D.

      • Bernie says

        Mmmm, so Rob McKenna has to sign off on it too. And what exactly is Sound Transit (aka Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority)? If they’re not a State Agency (like WSF or DNR) then WSDOT may have to deal with King County rather than ST directly. They’re kind of an odd duck being a multi-county agency not directly accountable to anyone.

        I’d have to go back and read the original MOA but I believe it says “no more than six general purpose lanes”. It leaves the use of any additional lanes open to HOV, BAT, even HOT lanes. Surplus is defined as “Being more than or in excess of what is needed or required.” There is no surplus of lane capacity on I-90 during the morning and evening commute. I think WSDOT is obligated to purpose all roadway in excess of the six GP lanes to relieve that demand. It might be a tough sell claiming that “an alternative to sitting in congestion” is WSDOT’s best option. The later MOU (2004?) to which WSDOT is a signer did commit the center roadway to transit use and identified light rail as the preferred means.

        Of course the Federal Highway Administration also has a say in handing over freeway lanes for light rail. Is there precedent anywhere of lanes on an Interstate being eliminated or re-purposed for anything other than HOV lanes?

      • Zed says

        “WSDOT does not have the green light from the feds to just shut down the center lanes”

        Yes they do. Their support was indicated in a letter from the USDOT to Alan Merkel of Stoel Rives LLP when they performed the I-90 center roadway valuation.

        “We understand that the use of the center lanes of the bridge for transit was contemplated when the bridge received Federal approval. Use of this portion of the bridge for light rail is consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the original Record of Decision. As such, we would support such use assuming all other applicable rules are followed. Such use is also aligned with the administration’s strategic goal to foster livable communities in which citizens have choices in transportation modes.”

        The center lanes are not sacrosanct just because cars have driven over them. R8A preserves the auto capacity of the bridge in accordance with the 1976 agreement outlining the ultimate configuration of I-90.

        “A central component of the R8A alternative approved by the FTA in the 2004 Record of Decision is that the center lanes will remain in reversible operation, as they are now, even after the new outside HOV lanes are up and running.”

        The 2004 ROD concerning the R8A project also states,

        “Does Not Restrict Meaningful Consideration of Other Nearby Reasonably Foreseeable Improvements With Independent Utility and Logical Termini The proposed improvements allow for future improvements to I-90 which may include the future placement of high capacity transit (HCT) in the center roadway.”

        And the 2004 amendment to the 1976 MOA states,

        “Alternative R-8A with High Capacity Transit deployed in the center lanes is the ultimate configuration for I-90 in this segment;
        2.Construction of R-8A should occur as soon as possible as a first step to the ultimate configuration;
        3.Upon completion of R-8A, move as quickly as possible to construct High Capacity Transit in the center lanes;
        4. Commit to the earliest possible conversion of center roadway to two-way High Capacity Transit operation based on outcome of studies and funding approvals.”

        Seems pretty clear to me.

      • TGV says

        Zed:

        1. That 12/09 letter from Nadeau to Merkel is nothing but a preliminary expression of support for the idea. It is not permission for WSDOT to exclude cars and trucks from the center roadway of I-90. That letter refers to how all applicable rules will have to be followed. Presumably those would include, and would not be limited to, WSDOT obtaining a modification to the 2004 RoD approving R8A.

        2. You note how both the RoD approving R8A and that 2004 contract that supposedly “amends” the 1976 Memorandum reference High Capacity Transit. High Capacity Transit is a term of art used in the statutes of our state to refer to express buses, as well as to commuter trains and light rail. Sound Transit could deploy express buses in that corridor and comply both with R8A RoD and that 2004 “Amendment” document. What that means is neither of those two documents compels WSDOT to terminate highway use of the center roadway and hand it over to Sound Transit for trains.

        WSDOT has no legal authority to transfer all that highway infrastructure to Sound Transit, and neither of those two documents you point at (the letter to Merkel or the R8A RoD provide that authority).

      • Zed says

        Whatever you say “sperminator.” You obviously know more than the legal council of the agencies who have entered in to these agreements, so who am I to argue?

      • Zed says

        “Presumably those would include, and would not be limited to, WSDOT obtaining a modification to the 2004 RoD approving R8A.”

        No modification needed. The ROD specifically says it does not preclude use of the center roadway for light rail. Do you really think that the USDOT will go against decades of agreements when it issues a ROD on East Link?

        “nothing but a preliminary expression of support for the idea.”

        No, it’s an after-the-fact acknowledgment of what’s been the intention since 1976.

        “High Capacity Transit is a term of art used in the statutes of our state to refer to express buses, as well as to commuter trains and light rail.”

        Except in the case of the 2004 agreement it is defined as “… a transit system operating in dedicated right-of-way such as light rail, monorail, or a substantially equivalent system”

        The 2008 passage of ST2 declares that light rail will be the HCT system built in the I-90 corridor. Even if it wasn’t, WSDOT could exclude cars from the center roadway tomorrow, which, by agreement, is dedicated primarily to transit use.

        “WSDOT has no legal authority to transfer all that highway infrastructure to Sound Transit”

        Yes they do. Whether you believe it or not doesn’t change the fact.

        None of your arguments hold water, so I don’t know why you continue. Unless you’re one of Kemper’s legal peons in disguise, or someone at the old folk’s home has let Jim Horn use the computer again.

      • TGV says

        Zed:

        I was testing your knowledge and honesty there. You flunked. When I suggested WSDOT might have to obtain new EIS approval because R8A requires the center roadway remain available for rubber-tire vehicle use, I wanted to see how you’d react. You didn’t disappoint:

        “No modification needed. The ROD specifically says it does not preclude use of the center roadway for light rail.”

        As far back as June 2009 the lawyers the state hired to look at aspects of this proposed handover were reporting about how new environmental analyses would be required, due to how R8A doesn’t even mention trains. There’s a link to their draft report in the agenda for a board meeting the following month. On page 13 it notes “[t]he 2004 EIS recognizes that [a] separate environmental analysis would be required for [trains].”

        You next suggest that 2004 contract between WSDOT and some local governments, and the “2008 passage of ST2 declar[ing] that light rail will be the HCT system built in the I-90 corridor” are relevant events. Neither has any legal significance to the issue at hand. Neither that contract nor that ballot measure’s passage could give WSDOT authority that statutes deny to that state agency (e.g., the power to hand over exceedingly expensive and useful highway infrastructure to a local government that would destroy it permanently for highway use).

        As for that 2004 contract WSDOT signed with some municipalities — express buses are “a substantially equivalent system” in terms of moving the same numbers of people through that corridor, so by its terms it does not contemplate light rail is the only permitted transit use of that part of the infrastructure.

        Anyone think they can find a statute that would allow WSDOT to declare this highway infrastructure surplus, and then hand it over to Sound Transit for it to rip it up immediately and then try building up a train trackbed and the related 1500v d.c. overhead electrical wires and pylons?

      • Zed says

        The EIS for the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV project does not constitute a legal requirement for the center lanes to be dedicated to the operation of rubber-tired vehicles in perpetuity.

        The EIS states that R8A “would be the most adaptable alternative in terms of compatibility for conversion of the I-90 center roadway to light rail use…Alternative R8A would prepare the corridor for future light rail in the I-90 center roadway by providing HOV lanes and associated HOV direct access ramps…Modifications to the HHM floating bridge would not preclude converting the center roadway to light rail transit in the future.”

        As for WSDOT having the authority to transfer ROW to other agencies, the Washington State Supreme Court in the Freeman vs. Gregoire case stated that WSDOT is “statutorily authorized to transfer highway lands” under RCW 47.12.120, RCW 47.12.063, RCW 47.12.080, and RCW 47.12.283.

      • Bernie says

        Washington State Supreme Court in the Freeman vs. Gregoire case stated that WSDOT is “statutorily authorized to transfer highway lands” under RCW 47.12.120, RCW 47.12.063, RCW 47.12.080, and RCW 47.12.283.

        Yes, that stated what everyone knows is true and has been done many many times before (although usually adjacent property like staging and construction areas… when they’re not Indian burial grounds, not actual roadway). The Supremes carefully avoided any precedent making decision. In fact they took months to make no decision at all. In short, they said “not our problem, don’t darken our door again until this issue has worked it’s way up through the lower courts.” Which, quite frankly is exactly what the plaintiffs deserved in taking this to the supreme court in the way they did. But, being sharp lawyers I’m pretty sure they knew that and did it primarily for the media exposure it would bring. I bet it played well in Kittitas County where judges have to think about being elected.

        It’s funny how the ST faithful on this blog constantly bash Paula Hammond and Rob McKenna who just happen to be the two people that have to sign off on the center roadway being surplus. I’m surprised nobody has their conspiracy hat on believing that this was a WSDOT ploy to get ST to pay for R8A and then saying “Thank you very much, now you can run your buses with our trucks on the center roadway.”

      • Anandakos says

        It seems pretty apparent to me that Kemper and his buddies will win this one in Kittitas County (jurisdiction shopping, to be sure). What matters though is what the State Supremes think. If they agree with the findings of fact in Kittitas (they usually do) then they must use points of law.

        As the highwaymen say, the middle lanes are hardly “unused”. So what will they make of Ms. Hammond’s argument that she can say they are unused and that makes it so? Probably not much.

        So, K will probably win at the statewide level, too. Which leaves Sound Transit in a pickle. Either they need to build a new floating bridge parallel to the existing one, carve a new ROW across Mercer Island and through southeast Seattle, and replicate the East Channel bridge or change mode.

        Welcome to three-section articulateds.

      • Zed says

        So if it turns out that WSDOT does not have the authority to remove lanes from service what will happen with the deep bore tunnel? SR-99 is being reduced from 6 lanes today to 4 lanes with the tunnel. This is a real reduction in capacity, in contrast to the I-90 project where the auto capacity is being maintained and the people-moving capacity is being increased.

      • Bernie says

        WSDOT absolutely has the authority to immediately remove lanes from service if they are unsafe and that’s why the viaduct is coming down. They also close 520 and Hood Canal bridges in high winds for the same reason. There’s nothing compelling WSDOT to replace an unsafe structure at all so the DBT or a new viaduct could be two lanes or eight lanes or just go away.

    • Kyle D. says

      Let’s get copies of the court filings in that case, so we can rip apart Kemper’s arguments. The collective here might be able to shed some light on his misinformation, and help out the transit lawyers!

    • Advokat says

      This lawsuit is just as premature as the first one.

      The majority opinion from last month says this, on page 22:

      “DOT has no immediate duty to transfer the center lanes of I-90 to Sound Transit and no such transfer has yet occurred. . . . While petitioners point to the Term Sheet as evidence of DOT’s commitment to lease the center lanes to Sound Transit, the Term Sheet expressly indicates that the agreement is subject to the execution and delivery of a number of future agreements and instruments.”

      The Supremes didn’t address the 18th Amendment issue because it was not ripe. Nothing has changed – the term sheet exists, but there is not a final agreement. The agencies should move for dismissal, on the grounds that there is no “case or controversy” at this point.

      • Cinesea says

        So, if by some strange Twilight Zone occurence that rail cannot be installed onto I-90, would the rail be put on a new 520 bridge, or would there be a rail-only bridge built next to I-90? Personally, I would vote for redesigning 520 to hold rail. Selfishly, I would love to have East Link delayed until after Link is built all the way to Lynnwood…

      • Bernie says

        would the rail be put on a new 520 bridge,

        That ship has sailed. The next chance to run rail across 520 will be in 60 years when it’s time to replace it again. That’s the great thing about sinking bridges; there’s always a do over not too far in the future. Maybe after then next big storm.

        would there be a rail-only bridge built next to I-90

        Not a chance. That would double the cost of East Link and ST already is hunting for change in the couch cushions to scab something together through DT Bellevue (hey, at grade wasn’t as awful as people thought in RV, it’ll be just fine in DT Bellevue). And of course there’s the extra tunnel that would be required under Mt. Baker and good luck plowing new ROW across Mercedes Island.

      • Mike Orr says

        If East Link is not built, the 550 would probably get some more runs, RapidRide B might get some more runs, and a new RapidRide might be set up in the Bel-Red corridor, and that would be that. The traditional commute to Seattle on the express lanes would continue to be OK, and the reverse commute would continue to suck. Adding a new transit bridge next to I-90, or putting Link on 520, would be way outside ST2’s mandate, and would require a lot more money.

  4. joshuadf says

    “SPD is assisting Metro by placing a traffic officer at 2nd & Columbia to help WB buses get on the ramp. Cars going from SB Second to WB Columbia are not stopping on the red light, and just continuing to stream through the intersection. That blocks the traffic…”

    I, for one, am shocked, simply shocked, that commuters are not obeying traffic laws.

    • Erik G. says

      Right Turn on Red and not making a full stop? But they are “saving energy”!!

  5. Lloyd says

    We have a Pink Gray Line bus here, too – the topless version. Just saw it downtown this afernoon.

  6. the358 says

    I totally love the backyard cottage thing. If I had 50K to spend on my house, I’d actually spend it on that before even remodeling my nasty, nasty kitchen. Upside: no having to mow a giant lawn which is now overgrown with weeds; extra income from a renter; more privacy from neighbors by having a big building back there. Downside: my mother-in-law would want to move into it.

  7. Anthony says

    Please, I wish we could kill this talk about the Monorail being a viable option. I’m so tired of looking at that piece of junk.

    I agree about Dallas, good thing we don’t live there,or better yet, ride a bike.

    Also, I just got back from making a delivery, and once again saw the amount of construction at the Viaduct. That crazy governor of ours has really gone off the deep end is all I can say……ugh.

    • Grant McWilliams says

      Every mention of monorail here always goes like this “I’m tire of people pretending monorails are a real form of transit” but they never go into why. So I’m asking, what is wrong with monorail technology that makes it bad? And don’t tell me it’s because it’s elevated because we and Vancouver BC seem to think elevated light rail is just fine. Is it capacity, speed, cost?

      • Aleks says

        Two reasons.

        One is perception. Fairly or not, monorail advocates’ enthusiasm sometimes makes them seem like they’re selling snake oil. Most of the positive traits about monorails are associated with all high-capacity grade separated transit. So when monorails fail to be far cheaper and better than conventional transit, suddenly they’re seen as inferior, even when they’re still no worse than the alternatives.

        The other is that, considering how long monorail technology has been around, it’s surprisingly unused. Compare the mileage of monorail track in the world to the mileage of standard railway track. Even SkyTrain, specialized as it is, uses standard track.

        Proprietary systems are more expensive and harder to maintain. Thus, the bias in favor of what’s more common.

      • Anandakos says

        The primary impediment to straddle-beam monorails is that switching is slow, cumbersome and dangerous. A second reason is that the ride is pretty rough.

        To create a turnout in a straddle beam one must have a section with frequent articulations each of which must be supported. As a result the turnout has to be built on a pie-shaped platform which nearly as large as a station; it’s a bit of an eyesore. It’s also slow to transition from one position to the other; these are pretty heavy pieces of concrete or steel we’re moving and it it typically hydraulic or low-geared electric motors that power the movement.

        It’s cumbersome and uncomfortable to transition because each of the articulations is itself typically straight in order to accommodate “through” movements, so the riders experience a series of small, jerky redirections. It’s bumpy to go through one of these switches; think how the monorail “judders” when it goes through the curve at Seattle Center.

        And finally, straddle beam turnouts are dangerous. When approaching a turnout lined for the other route from the “downstream” side of the interchange, a train is headed toward the unprotected end of a straddle-beam. On the ground it’s not dangerous except perhaps to the vechicle, but poised over a city street typically eighteen to twenty feet at the top of the beam, it’s a hazard.

        Of course there are “failsafe” systems that are designed to stop the train before it reaches the gap, but there were failsafes at Fukushima-dai-ichi, too. It’s not possible to engineer physical systems which are safe and function properly at all times and in all situations.

        Certainly, airliners fall from the sky with some regularity and people still board them. Cars crash all the time but people cling to them with
        sometimes stupid tenacity, because they make our lives easier.

      • Anandakos says

        “so the riders experience a series of small, jerky redirections during a diverging movement“. Lo siento.

  8. Miles Bader says

    Haha, how silly that WSJ article is…

    Monorails are an occasionally useful but essentially “meh” technology; in general they don’t offer any significant advantage over conventional rail (they have some minor advantages — but also disadvantages).

    The WSJ articles tries to give the impression that Japan has championed the monorail, but of course that simply isn’t true. Japan has a few mostly because they have a huge amount of public transport, and have dabbled a bit — but it’s very very clear that monorails haven’t gained any traction in Japan, where it accounts for like 0.000001% of tracked transport, and investment in new conventional rail lines has vastly outstripped any interest in monorails.

  9. Matthew says

    On my way home today I saw a train broken down in Pioneer Square Station, which is the second time that I have personally see this happen. The PA and signboards all had notices telling people which busses to get on to get to Stadium, bit I find it concerning that these trains that haven’t’ even been in service for 2 years are already having trouble like this. Does anyone know what is causing these breakdowns to occur, and what will happen if such a breakdown happens in the other segments of the track where shuttle busses can’t just drive around the disabled car? Is there redundant track anywhere to allow trains to bypass each other?

    • American Flyer is Best! says

      Matt:

      I totally understand your concern! When my Marx trains started breaking down a week after my parents gave them to me for Christmas, I got very pissed off! I demanded, quality AMERICAN FLYER WORM-DRIVE LOCOMOTIVES!

      And guess what, you whining SOB? I got them!

      They are still going strong! Since 1955!

    • Brian H. says

      Are you sure the train was broken down, or was it stuck because there was a broken down bus in the tunnel somewhere ahead of it? I ask because the rider alert I got from ST via email at 5:36 pm said Link service starts and stops at Stadium station due to a bus blocking the tunnel.

    • Brent says

      At 5:35 PM – Central Link light rail service currently starts and ends all trips at Stadium Station, and is not serving the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel until further notice, due to a bus blocking the tunnel.

      The tunnel is open, and tunnel bus service is operating via normal routes and stops with possible delays.

      To get to Stadium Station for connections to Link trains, board bus routes 101, 106 or 150 from southbound Bay C in any tunnel station.

      To get into downtown Seattle from Stadium Station, board any bus northbound on the SODO Busway adjacent to the station, just south of Royal Brougham Way. Routes 101, 106 and 150 serve the Transit Tunnel.

      Updates will be provided as they become available.

      ]

      ]

      At 6:15 PM – Central Link light rail has resumed service in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

      Thank you for joining us this evening. We will be here until 7:00 PM to help keep an Eye on Your Metro Commute.

      Travel safely and have a great afternooon.

    • Mike Orr says

      I’m surprised they didn’t say to get on a northbound bus on Fourth, or a southbound bus on Third or Second. If a bus is blocking the tunnel, then no buses are going through the tunnel, and you’d better take a surface bus than wait for maybe an hour for the blockage to clear.

      • David Seater says

        From the announcement, and included in Brent’s post above: “The tunnel is open, and tunnel bus service is operating via normal routes and stops with possible delays.”

      • Anandakos says

        Mike,

        Your conclusion is not always true. If the bus is broken down in a tube section between stations or just at the portal of the station, then “Yes, everything is shut down”. But if it’s broken down at a platform, buses can use the center “passing” lane to slip by it — that’s what it’s for — but trains can’t.

  10. Bernie says

    So, I read through the study prepared for WSDOT by DKS Associates (BTW, who paid for that study?). Speaking to the issue of “surplus” the argument seems to be that because of the bottleneck at I-5 trip times westbound are not significantly impacted by the exclusive use of the center roadway for transit. Eastbound the same bottleneck reduces the number of cars entering the highway such that the R8A configuration is “adequate”. The study doesn’t take into consideration fixing some of the bottlenecks such as adding direct HOV to HOV ramps from 405 to I-90 westbound, improvements to I-5 through DT Seattle, etc. It also makes the leap of faith that traffic volume on SR-520 will again exceed those on I-90 to which the tolling studies for 520 say the opposite and hasn’t happened since the I-90 bulge was removed.

    The other argument for exclusive use is people moving capacity. First, that relies on ST ridership projections (which the study notes “could be higher” (hasn’t ever happened but could; hence my question about who paid for the study). Second, it makes the assumption that demand can’t be met with buses. And finally, trains are not a highway purpose as has been legally defined so it’s a non-issue anyway as far as surplussing the lanes. A major function of interstate highways is interstate commerce which isn’t addressed by the people moving capacity of light rail. It’s an alternative (for some) to sitting in traffic. Laudable but not relevant to the lanes being surplus.

    Another thing the study fails to address is emergency use. The shoulder/breakdown lane has been significantly reduced with R8A (and the speed limit dropped because of narrower lanes). What happens when there’s an accident or special events? What about when lanes need to be closed for maintenance (which floating bridges seem to be in constant need of)? The I-5 express lanes are often pressed into service to accommodate these sorts of situations. What happens when the good ship Lacey V. Murrow needs to be replace (again)?

    It should be an interesting law suit. At least once it lands in a court that doesn’t just play hot potato with it. On the gas tax I think a good argument can be made that ST has already repaid those funds by building R8A and that in good faith WSDOT agreed to that project with the condition that the center roadway be used for HCT. It doesn’t assure exclusive use. If that was a done deal then there wouldn’t have been any need for this I-90 Center Roadway Study. Proving the surplus issue is going to be the harder issue. The one thing the study does admit is that under any of the scenarios traffic will get worse over the next 20 years. How does that jive with declaring traffic lanes as surplus?

    • Bernie says

      Too bad. Being able to read something that’s more than a partial paragraph might actually be a good thing. OTOH ;-), think how much it will save on political campaigns when only texting is used.

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