News Roundup: Soviet Style

Photo by AvgeekJoe

This is an open thread.


  1. says

    I took a look at the RapidRide B schedule and compared it to the route 253 schedule. It looks like it will save riders a good amount of time. A mid-morning RapidRide trip from the Redmond Transit Center to the Bellevue Transit Center will take approximately 36 minutes, whereas the route 253 takes 45 minutes. Another good piece of news, unlike the route 253, RapidRide will not be entering the Overlake P&R, using instead the new bus stops just outside the P&R on 152nd Ave NE.

  2. says

    From the First Hill Streetcar article on CHS Blog … “….streetcar running from the International District to Capitol Hill via First Hill will look like ….”

    Actually, the streetcar runs from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill. The southern terminal for the FHSC is Occidental Ave/Jackson street, which is in Pioneer Square, not the I.D.

  3. Tim Whittome says

    We need to get underway on the First Hill Streetcar – it has been subjected to way too many delays already. I emailed SDOT about it and they credited the delay to problems over the rail arriving for the project. Couldn’t this have been anticipated? We need to bear in mind, that the public approved all of this back in 2008 and so far, of ST2 projects, only bus hours have been visibly added (and in some cases removed since) in the months and years since. This is not a good confidence boosting situation.

    • Adam Bejan Parast says

      Actually the First Hill Streetcar was originally scheduled to open by 2016 in ST2 because of cash flow constraints, but the city and ST were able to accelerate that schedule to it’s current schedule.

    • zefwagner says

      Yeah, the whole neighborhood was pleasantly surprised when they said it would open in 2013 instead of 2016. Hopefully this delay won’t go on for too long, though.

  4. Brian Bundridge says

    I haven’t heard too much on the CBSA and the second train and if it will continue at the end of this month. Right now, Amtrak Reservations doesn’t show it available beyond September 1.

  5. seattletunnelcat says

    The whole taxi issue is one that sticks in my craw.

    Stuff like:

    + Illegal to hail a cab ( seriously! )
    + Monopoly on the airport
    + Capped number in city

    • Tim Whittome says

      Taxis are a complete rip-off and if I ever use them – about twice in 12 years – I find the mounting clocks completely nerve wracking and I hate the experience with ever fiber of my wallet’s being. The fares are a rip-off, the tips are a rip-off and the whole package is negative in my experience.

      • Lack Thereof says

        Well, when you compare the cost of an occasional cab trip to the monthly ownership costs of a car (insurance in the city can easily run $150/mo), it doesn’t look so bad. Just like Zipcar, if you only need to use a cab a handful of times in a month, it’s a good deal.

        I wouldn’t want to use one every day, or for a trip above, say $20. But if I’ve missed my bus, my wife has the car, and I’m going to be late to work, it’s totally worth the money. Much cheaper than insuring a second vehicle.

        Of course, my eventual solution was to get a moped as a 2nd vehicle, thus avoiding the insurance requirement.

      • Andreas says

        or for a trip above, say $20.

        Of the dozens of cab rides I’ve taken in Seattle, I think maybe one was less than $20: Belltown to Capitol Hill, maybe $7 after tip. But if you’re going over a bridge or around a lake (and I mean Union or Green, not Washington), that fare clicks up mighty fast.

      • Aleks says

        Taxi rides within a neighborhood are often much less. From Capitol Hill to First Hill is under $10. (And for an early-morning medical appointment, it can be well worth it.)

    • zefwagner says

      This is one case where a free market is better. I remember when I lived in Costa Rica they gave one company a monopoly and the service and fares were so bad that “pirate taxis” started springing up everywhere. About a block away from every normal taxi spot would be a regular-looking car and if you walked over to it the person inside would say “taxi” in a loud whisper. A bit shady, but they charged way less. Do any American cities have pirate taxis?

      • Seattlelite says

        It IS the free market. They’re regulated because there were massive amounts of abuse in the past (tourists being taken to Seattle by way of Tacoma, people getting mugged by drivers, etc). Sure, the regs might need tweaking, but “free market taxis” are a disaster. just like private transit companies were.

      • Andreas says

        I believe the preferred nomenclature in NYC is [epithet], though I’m not sure how many fully illegal taxis there are in the city. I think [epithet] are usually livery cabs that are supposed to only pick up fares who have called, but often pick up passengers when hailed. Unlike yellow taxis, they don’t have meters, and your fare is more of a negotiation.

      • Z says

        Private Transit companys were not a disaster, In the end they simply could no longer make any money. Most of this was caused by inexpensive oil and the migration to the auto friendly suburbia. Now, the labor and insurance costs would probally keep anyone from being profitiable. I dont think a self-sufficent private transit service would have to provide ADA accessible paratransit, nor would they be involved in programs such as ORCA as well. As for taxi cabs; a balence needs to be found where there is allowed growth in the program ot keep the fares down, and still allowing the vehicles and operators to be inspected for safety and other requirements to keep them honest and the riders safe.

      • Aleks says

        They’re regulated because there were massive amounts of abuse in the past (tourists being taken to Seattle by way of Tacoma, people getting mugged by drivers, etc). Sure, the regs might need tweaking, but “free market taxis” are a disaster. just like private transit companies were.

        There’s a big difference between “regulated” and “supply-controlled”.

        In effect, it’s the same question as with privatizing liquor stores. No one’s saying that everyone and their mom should be able to sell liquor, only that the state doesn’t need to artificially reduce supply.

        More taxis would lead to more competition, which would lead to lower prices. Stricter regulations to ensure quality are perfectly compatible with that.

    • Kyle S. says

      Do you have a citation for hailing a cab being illegal? I don’t believe that to be the case.

      • seattletunnelcat says

        “A for-hire driver may solicit passengers only from the driver’s seat or standing immediately adjacent to the taxicab (within twelve (12) feet), and only when the vehicle is safely and legally parked (Class A).”

        ergo the cab can ONLY pick you up in a passenger load zone or taxi zone, not just on the street while hopping a la New York, Chicago,etc

        SMC 6.310.470 For-hire driver soliciting and cruising

      • Zed says

        This doesn’t seem to prohibit hailing a cab. How is a cab driver soliciting when they are being hailed? I see people hailing taxis and being picked up on the street all the time, so it’s obviously not enforced.

      • Sherwin Lee says

        That’s odd. I sent a message to the City about 10 years ago asking them for clarification on this matter and they said hailing off the street is perfectly legal.

      • M says

        That law applies to the cab driver, not to his passengers. You can hail a cab anywhere you like.

  6. Tim Whittome says

    I would like to urge readers to approve Referendum 1 on next week’s Seattle ballot. In the interests of disclosure, I have worked the phones for Let’s Move Forward….

    We need to move forward, end ten years of debate and allow our elected officials to actually lead as opposed to simply following from behind – even more so when the public is divided. These are times that require strong leadership from all levels of government and a committment to civil projects, to civil engineering and to working towards an integrated transportation focus for Seattle that allows buses, cars, trains and streetcars to be able to breathe and flourish to the full bent of their capabilities.

    I believe that the surface street option is a non-starter for many reasons. It incorporates some 27 traffic clogging stoplights and it keeps polluting vehicles even closer to the waterfront than the existing viaduct does because everything will be at street level. The mayor is trying to choke cars out of the city center which would be fine if the city center were the only destination of cars using the existing viaduct. I have often ssaid that there is no rhyme or reason why anybody other than those delivering merchandise and goods needs to drive their vehicle into downtown. And yes, we do need a pedestrian friendly downtown that diminishes the risk of accidents from cars, but for those traveling through Seattle to points beyond the downtown core, the surface street option would add nothing to the experience, but would detract from it instead.

    Please vote ‘yes’ on referendum 1 if you haven’t already. I urge this as a strong mass transit adovocate who sees both the flaws and the potential in all modes of moving around our region and as someone who rarely if ever drives into downtown Seattle. I don’t even recall the last time I did and I am always explaining to others how they can avoid doing so if they have been doing. But the tunnel isn’t about the downtowners, but about assisting those whose destinations are north or south of the city being able to get there as efficiently as possible. The surface street option does not do this.

    Once approved – as I hope it will be – then we can move on to other targets, such as getting the First Hill Streetcar moving forward.

    We need to move beyond slowness and gridlock in decision-making. Approving Referendum 1 gets one piece of this complex transportation jigsaw moving forward. Voting ‘no’ takes this vital piece of the table and renders the vision for moving Seattle forward incomplete.

    • Mark Dublin says

      Show me something that’ll carry freight on workable grades without any cars in the way and we’ll talk. Add a transit system good enough that no one will miss the Viaduct, and you could get my vote.

      If you need a reminder what a highway project that was obsolete the day it opened looks like fifty years later, go out and take the Sound Transit 511 from Lynnwood Transit Center to Downtown Seattle around 5 tomorrow afternoon.

      Show me a project that’ll still be moving freight and people in fifty more years, and we’ll talk.

      Mark Dublin

      • Tim Whittome says

        I don’t undestand what you’re talking about – scrapping the I-5? You guys live in a doomsday world of no reality I’m afraid.

      • Beavis McGee says

        Why is it that you guys fully support tunnelling for passenger-only light rail, but oppose it for anything unless it will “carry freight without cars in the way”?

      • Z says

        If you want to see something that will be moving freight in fifty years from now, look at the BNSF Seattle Subdivision, or Lakeview Subdivision. I’m sure I-5 will still be there as well.

      • Jeremy says

        Hopefully the open air sewer will at least be walled and roofed over in 50 years?

        As to other doomsday projections, those are for the subsequent generations to enjoy. Live fast, leave an interesting geologic layer behind.

    • jeff says

      Vote yes and then we can move forward on building the first hill streetcar. That is an argument I haven’t heard before. It makes as much sense as any other argument I have heard for the tunnel.

      • Tim Whittome says

        That linkage is irrelevant and wasn’t intended to be in close conjunction with the tunnel vote. We have wasted a lot of energy on this Blog arguing about the tunnel, displacing it from other topics of equal or greater concern such as the First Hill Streetcar.

        What we need to realize here is that when I work the phones, whilst a lot of folks have a fixed view which way to turn on this debate, an awful lot of people still need to read up on the subject and have yet to make up their minds. What this suggests is that outside of this blog, folks are not burning up like you are here about the tunnel.

    • Lack Thereof says

      Actually, the state’s own studies show that the tunnel will create downtown gridlock much worse than surface/transit/I-5. The tunnel plan will create downtown gridlock equivalent to just shutting down the viaduct and doing nothing, because so few of the current SR-99 trips will actually use the tunnel.

      On the other hand, if we spend a couple billion on improvements to I-5 and the downtown street grid, we will reduce congestion downtown. This is also reflected in the state’s study, in the EIS. Surface/transit/I-5 improves downtown conjestion, the deep bored tunnel makes it worse.

      Of course, as part of the environmental review process, the state will be legally required to make improvements to the downtown grid and I-5 to make up for the harm done by the tunnel. In the end, they’re going to be legally forced to build what basically amounts to ST5, on top of the costs of building the tunnel.

      • Bernie says

        Pure poppycock. Funding the surface + transit was expensive and no scheme ever proposed that would work. It got a fair vetting.

      • Ryan on Summit says

        Pro or anti tunnel, can we finally agree that the state can’t predict traffic patterns?

      • Nathanael says

        Unfortunately, Lack Thereof describes the EIS documents and studies accurately. Pretty ugly reading.

  7. Michael H. says

    The tendency of private businesses to try to “claim” public parking spots is really irritating and I’m glad SDOT is doing something about it.

  8. Gordon Werner says

    methinks if they built the FHS car barn closer to the actual line … then they could use the $$ and rail to get closer to Aloha St. mean the car barn is quite a ways off of the actual line itself

    if you do not know what I am talking about check out the videos labeled “Maintenance Facility/8th Avenue S Animated Tour (Two-Lane Option) and Maintenance Facility/8th Avenue S Animated Tour (One-Lane Option)” here:

  9. Tim Whittome says

    Is it me, or does the new Link station they are building in Tacoma look really uninspiring. It looks like just a platform with nothing on it. I hope they do more with it before this platform opens! If it is just that, I hope an EIS wasn’t needed for such an insignificant structure!!! I must be dreaming, though and I am sure they will put more into it than just a platform however well made etc.

  10. Bernie says

    I have no problem with increasing the number of taxi licence. However to be fair to those who purchased under existing regulation it needs to be done over time and with proceeds from market rate sales being rebated to existing owners.

  11. says

    Re: Taxis: I had a rather unnerving experience in Seattle last Friday where a Sitia Cab (I have the # and my e-mail here is legit) took over 50 minutes to locate my position on a major street corner just north of the Mount Baker Station. When given an address involving the word “Washington” – yes “Washington” – the driver could not spell the word that is the name of our state correctly into our GPS. I hope by now the driver has been fired, my experience with two others was much more pleasant & professional.

    Therefore: I would hope that all taxi drivers in Seattle be required to have a GPS and show competency in using it. All it takes is *one* or two bad taxi drivers and a customer will change firms, I’ve done it in the past.

    Thanks again for running my image!

    • Bernie says

      FWIW, London cabbies have to take an intensive test of local knowledge before they are allowed to drive a cab. I know I’m not usually big on government regulation but this seems to really work. I mean, we ask the government to assure that surgeons are qualified, why not cabbies?

      • Martin H. Duke says

        Well, ordinary people are extremely ill-qualified to judge the capabilities of a surgeon, and the consequences are severe. Ordinary people are very well-qualified to tell if a cabbie is taking a sensible route or not, and the consequences of them not doing so are not serious.

        It’s true that a less-regulated cab market hurts tourists. But these regulations also drive up prices, so you’re talking about a transfer of wealth from residents to tourists and visiting businessmen.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        So you favor higher costs levied area residents that choose to use cabs to benefit tourist industries?

        What safety regulations are required beyond those relevant to operating any motor vehicle? What does putting a hard limit on the supply of cabs have to do with safety?

      • Martin H. Duke says

        And Bernie,

        Although I don’t agree that it’s important for all cabbies to pass a London-style exam, if the issuance of taxi licenses was unlimited with the stipulation that all license-holders had to pass the exam, and continue to pass the exam at regular intervals, the policy would be much less objectionable.

    • barman says

      Why didn’t you call another cab? If it takes them longer than 10 minutes, I’ll call another company. Their loss.

    • Lack Thereof says

      I’ve never had issues with Orange. I’ve tried Yellow, STITA, and Farwest, but I always come back to Orange. All their vehicles have GPS, their response times are fast, and the drivers know the city.

  12. Eric says

    My experience with taxis here has generally been quite good, but it took a bit of practice to figure out how to do it right. My advice:

    1) When traveling car-free, carry a cell phone with you at all times and always have the phone numbers of multiple cab companies for both King and Snohomish County (each company is licensed for one county or the other, but not both) saved in your phone’s contact list. Even if you never need to use it, it’s well worth the peace of mind of having it there. Just like carrying the phone number of AAA when you drive places.

    2) Except in special situations, such as leaving an airport or cruise ship, always call the cab company, rather than simply assume a cab will be there. The cab companies all require an address, so a smartphone with a data plan is highly recommended, as you can use Google Maps to figure out your address wherever you are.

    3) I’ve found typical wait times to be around 5-10 minutes, but they do a good job of coming promptly. I’ve never experienced an unreasonable wait time. They also have a feature where the driver can call you when he actually arrives, so if you’re leaving home or a friend’s house, you can wait inside, rather than out, alone on the street.

    4) Always be rational about comparing the prices of taxis vs. rental cars. Lots of people will spend $50-$100 on a rental car to avoid spending $20-$30 on a taxi because taxis are supposed to be a “rip-off”. Taxis have the wonderful feature that they are the only way to truly purchase driving on an a-la-carte basis – you pay only for the miles you actually need a private car for and don’t pay for the time you spend sitting at your destination, nor for the travel miles you can accomplish by cheaper means. If you’re looking for a quick formula to estimate the price (including tip), take the distance in miles from Google driving directions, add 1, then multiply by 3. The result tends to be a little conservative.

    5) When comparing taxis with walking, biking, or public transit, always maintain a rational attitude about the balance between the monetary cost of a taxi ride and the time you save. As you do this, keep in mind that if you don’t have a car to pay for, you’ll have a lot more cash lying around – even if you blow $30-50 a month on taxi fares, you’re still coming out way ahead of owning a car to accomplish those trips. The other trick is considering the value of your time is to look at the opportunity cost (what you would be doing with the time saved). For example, for early morning trips where the opportunity cost is sleep, I generally place a value on my time at about $1 per minute – in other words if a $30 cab fare saves 30 minutes over bike/bus, I’ll likely do it. But for trips later in the day where the opportunity cost of the time is just sitting around home, the value I place on the time is much less and I hardly ever use taxis for those trips. When all is said and done, taxis cost me around $30-40 per month on average, which is way less than the $200+ per month cost of owning, insuring, and maintaining a car.

  13. Jason Barbour says

    The now sort-of-famous bus between Tumwater and Vancouver (called the “dollar bus” by some) is being discontinued after tomorrow (Saturday), as the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (who ran the service) will focus their efforts on transportation between northern Vancouver and Chehalis:

    Portland to Seattle on public transit might still be possible, but will involve checking schedules for Twin Transit and Rural&Tribal Transportation, the latter of which appears to operate on an ‘appointment’ basis. Nonetheless, riding Greyhound or Amtrak between the two cities, despite the cost difference, has always been a clear winner in terms of trip time as well as ease of travel.

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