News Roundup: Adjustments

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This is an open thread.




Comments

  1. says

    Dutch researchers are developing a superbus

    Researchers at the Delft University of Technology think so. Invented by Wubbo Ockels, the 50-foot-long, 23-seat prototype runs on rechargeable batteries and regenerative braking.

    The lightweight chassis is built from carbon fiber and the body is fiberglass.

    According to the Superbus project website, the vehicle is designed to achieve speeds of 155 MPH on a test track and has performed successfully in the snow and on “artificial slipperyness”

    http://www.thetransitwire.com/2012/03/12/dutch-researchers-are-developing-a-superbus/

    http://www.superbusproject.com/

    • Mark Dublin says

      Totally cool, John. Thanks. Just curious how it will perform with amount of transit priority and pavement quality available around Seattle.

      Come to think of it, interstate highway system is falling apart too. Maybe real niche for the new bus will be in future combined sequel of “Hunger Games”, “Mad Max”, and “Road Warrior”, where survivors ride in buses that can jump the chasms where bridges used to be before they collapsed from deferred maintenance.

      Crashes should make awesome special effects.

      Mark Dublin

    • Brent says

      Hi Michael,

      Your anti-transit opinion pieces, for which you get paid well, are not news. Facts and stories are news.

      But I’m glad to know you care enough to read this blog (or at least that your employer pays you to read this blog).

      • says

        It’s not anti-transit, as he says

        It would be one thing if voters were getting exactly what they were promised, but they are not.

        You can be very pro-transit, but criticize it’s particular implementation (rail vs. bus, tunnel vs. surface vs. elevated) and so on.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Yes, you *can* be very pro-transit and criticize its particular implementation, much as I am.

        Show me where Mike Skehan has been pro-transit.

    • mic says

      No, he got it right. Nothing like a good book burning to keep the unwashed in line – eh Ben.

  2. says

    The RapidRide B Line has too much zig-zagging. If you draw a line somewhere around 153rd Ave NE from north to south, the B Line will cross over that line FIVE TIMES during it’s trip from Bellevue to Redmond.

    Sometimes I wonder if Metro Transit Planners have gone to college and have graduated with a degree in transportation or city planning, or if they are just bus drivers who have been promoted to supervisor, then transit planner, and they are victims of the peter principle.

    • Brent says

      If the process were more in the hands of the planners, and less in the hands of the politicians, I bet the B Line would be somewhere else, like serving a downtown Seattle trunk line.

      The B Line looks like it was designed by politicians and neighborhood groups, not transit planners, if you ask me.

      Of course, part of its funding comes from the aid of a swing-district Congressman who has been otherwise hostile to transit.

      So, Sam, could you tell us about your degrees, awards, and experience as a planner? I’d like to know who I’m talking to.

      • says

        I will tell you that even though I don’t have a degree in in transit or city planning, I know that you don’t design a bus rapid transit line to cross over the same street five times in four miles.

      • Bernie says

        The B Line is fine. It connects Redmond to Overlake/Microsoft and it connects Crossroads to Overlake and DT Bellevue. The goofyness is the way it wanders hither and yon getting from 156th to 148th primarily to serve the failed TOD at Overlake Village. It should just use the new overpass at NE 36th and be done with it. I’d also route it onto 520 at NE 50th and serve Redmond “Town Center” rather than staying on 148th and touring the warehouse district. A minor tweak would be to use 116th for serving the hospitals instead of the horrid placement on NE 8th and then cross 405 on NE 10th to get back to the transit center. Then you could add a stop at the library; a much nicer place to drop off/pick up people or ride a bike to than the transit center.

    • jim says

      Sam, please don’t put down bus drivers, many of us could do better at planning for sure. Lots of bus drivers have graduated from college also.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Sam, the people who created the B Line respond to public opinion because they are hired (and fired) by people who are directly elected. It’s actually a great example of why Sound Transit is more effective.

    • BA says

      I wonder if the route has something to do with where people are concentrated, as opposed to spatial purity.

  3. says

    If SkyTrain’s non-payment tickets are unenforceable, that makes me wonder if the tickets handed out to non-payers on Link and RapidRide are also unenforceable.

      • Nathanael says

        The SkyTrain ticket situation is weird. Apparently the agency in charge of car registrations and drivers’ licenses is allowed to enforce the tickets by assessing them during renewal of registration or license.

        So the tickets for non-payment are enforceable *only against car drivers*. This is a weirdly progressive policy — free transit if you don’t have a car or a driver’s license — though I suspect it was unintentional.

    • says

      What happens when you’re a 16 year old, you jump on a LINK without paying and when the officers write you a ticket, you say you don’t have your wallet (or even if you did you don’t have a drivers license or credit card or other ID) and you say your name is Bobby Darin or some nonsense.

      So do they just take the name down and write a ticket which then has no way of tracing you?

      How often does this happen? What is the ticketing rate on Sound Transit vehicles? What is the payment/adjudication rate?

      • says

        I would like to see the Seattle Times do an investigative story on Link and RapidRide, researching of the hundreds or thousands of non-payment tickets that have been written by fare enforcement officers, what percentage have been paid? And what happens if someone doesn’t pay their ticket? My gut tells me very few people pay the tickets they’ve been written. I think the fare enforcement officers are nothing but a form of fare enforcement theater.

        I’m going to write the Seattle Times and local TV stations and ask that they look into this.

      • Andrew Smith says

        In the WTO riots (which I was not participating in, but just in the wrong place at the wrong time), I dropped my id down the storm drain when we were illegally rounded up. I put my name down as “James Jones” or something. If I ever get arrested again, I’m sure that will come up. Sadly, I was unable to get my cash in the illegal arrest settlement because, well, I’m not James. I was detained completely illegally.

      • Brent says

        First-time offenders get a warning, and their picture taken. If no ID, they get to wait while someone looks through the John-Doe pic archives, which isn’t that long. At any rate, they then get a trespass warning not to ride without ID.

        Nonpayers with ID also eventually get a trespass warning. The trespass-warned who ride again, and haven’t paid up, get booked.

      • says

        @Brent

        Wow…that’s impressive…way more than I thought.

        Especially if they can add facial recognition software to their hand scanners…

      • Charles says

        I observed something like this at the Othello station yesterday. The parking enforcement crew was out and had 3 people detained. One of them a young teen was seen calling presumably a parent to verify her identity and handing the phone to the enforcement officer.

        Btw, there were also 3 armed Sheriff’s officers as part of this detail all clad in black clothing. I find this a disturbing trend in the outfitting of police uniforms and cars to appear more intimidating. This is not a good trend.

      • Norman says

        “The parking enforcement crew was out and had 3 people detained.

        “Btw, there were also 3 armed Sheriff’s officers as part of this detail all clad in black clothing.”

        How much is this costing taxpayers, to have six enforcement officers at one station, including 3 sheriff’s officers?

      • Norman says

        It’s so easy to avoid the fare enforcement officers on Link, most fare dodgers never get caught. Just keep an eye out the window when the train approaches a station, and, if there are fare enforcement officers standing on that station, be ready to get off if they board your car. I used to see this happen all the time, when I was riding Link to count boardings.

        The funniest thing I ever saw was, as my Link car approached a stattion, there were a couple of fare enforcement officers standing on the platform. About a dozen riders in my car stood up and went to the doors, and just stood there at the doors, looking out the windows. Then, when the officers did not board the train, those dozen passengers all sat back down after the doors closed, and the train started moving. Wonder what that was all about? Just stretching their legs?

      • Charles says

        Sam, you mean like the hack journalism job the Times is currently doing on Amazon? Talk about transparent yellow journalism at its worst.

      • Charles says

        Norman, Train platforms are proof of payment zones and fare enforcement officers can and do stop people on the platform and those exiting cars. I’ve seen this happen.

        Also, they move in crews of at least 2 and often 4 or more, randomly between Sea-Tac and ID stations.

        If you do not have a positive form of ID, they will likely call a Sheriff’s officer to come deal with you. Tickets are written after the 2nd or third offense and according to the Sound Transit Security official I conversed with at our meetup a couple of months ago, they have had court ordered arrest summons issued for non-payment or for continued infractions.

        This same person said that fare enforcement officers are planned to reach about 7% of the ridership on a given day and they are finding fare evasion as a small percentage (I don’t recall exactly but I believe he said less than 2% of total ridership)

      • Zed says

        “About a dozen riders in my car stood up and went to the doors, and just stood there at the doors, looking out the windows.”

        Sure they did.

      • Norman says

        “If you do not have a positive form of ID, they will likely call a Sheriff’s officer to come deal with you.”

        Again, how much is this costing taxpayers, to involve Sheriff’s officers in petty, trivial things like this?

      • Norman says

        Yes, Zed, they surely did.

        And fare enforcement is not going to stop everyone who gets off a train and ask to see their fares. In fact, they basically never do that to anyone. Have you ever had your fare checked on a platform after you got off a train?

        If people think that there are not a lot of people evading fares on Link on a regular basis, then how do you explain why fare collections are so low?

      • Brent says

        I saw a fare inspection team wait for a particular traincar, board it, watch someone get off, and then they all got off and surrounded him. The transit cops are not the rank amateurs you make them out to be.

    • Norman says

      I doubt they get any ticket money from the poor and homeless who ride Link without paying.

    • says

      “Sam, you mean like the hack journalism job the Times is currently doing on Amazon? Talk about transparent yellow journalism at its worst.” Charles, facts and information are not the enemy. They are our friends. And if some local news organization did an investigative report, and found that only 1% of people who have been issued tickets for not paying the fare on Link and RapidRide have paid their fare, and nothing happens to people who don’t pay, wouldn’t that be a good thing to know so we can make improvements to our transit systems? Do you really think it’s better to be in the dark and be ignorant of what’s going on?

      • Charles says

        Or is it that you have a bug up (some where) that some people are getting away with something and you can’t stand it? And maybe the agency feels 1% is an acceptable level of fare evasion given the cost to countermand that.

        Like at a hearing for the Congestion Reduction Charge last summer when a clueless person stood up and claimed there was $100 Million in fare evasion on Metro when in fact the amount was a small percentage of total fare box recovery.

        Why is it necessary to have such a high level of suspicion about these agencies? Why can’t you presume that the management of these agencies operate them with the level of professionalism we entrust them with? Why is everything a witch hunt for you? Why waste the time of these agencies and the cost over something that is not materially meaningful.

  4. Matt the Engineer says

    Wow. The Seattle area has the 12th largest GDP per capita in the world? Only one behind NYC. Eight above LA.

      • Andrew Smith says

        Half is extremely unlikely: cars cost the same, tvs cost the same, ipods cost the same, t-shirts cost the same, beef costs the same, etc. It’d just be rent and services that are cheaper. And if per capita GDP is nearly the same, services can’t be THAT much cheaper.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        That’s a bit strange. I was wondering if maybe it’s a small population, large company thing but their largest company is 273rd on the Fortune 500 list. And per capita income’s under $20k. How do they end up with $55k in per capita GDP?

      • says

        There’s also a new Forbes list for best employment cities.

        Des Moines comes in at…Number 2 after Washington DC!

        Is that for real, or did someone buy some PR ?!

      • psf says

        Bet it is state capitol outlier.

        For states with bad data, GDP not attributed to a specific city or county probably gets put on the capitol.

      • Bernie says

        Des Moines is really an enigma. It’s median household income is substantially lower than the State as a whole (Des Moines: $42,718 Iowa: $48,044). If per capita income is less than $20k it’s no wonder housing is half the price of Seattle with a per capita income over $40k. Des Moines is the state capital and government is a growth industry :=

  5. Anthony says

    Definitely need to put at least a platform in at Blaine. Actually the best spot would be right at the border alongside the cars, there is enough room for a siding. Easier for the CBP to come over and inspect the whole thing. A gazillion Canadians would love the stop. Would make getting to South Surrey, Langley, and White Rock way easier.

    Second on the PTC article, still links to IKEA for some reason. A valid question by the rail community has been if PTC is even warranted in many cases. This seems like a knee-jerk reaction because of the Metrolink crash a few years back.

    • Dan Carey says

      They should put a platform/station at Blaine. It does not necessarily have to be at the border, but the stretch between Bellingham and the end of the line at Vancouver is too long a stretch without a stop. Especially when there are quite a few people and communities that want one.

  6. johnny says

    I love that the height limit got approved for NBH. When will EL Centro start construction on this new development. Does anyone have a link to concept pix?

  7. says

    SoundTransit is piloting a program at Saar’s where customers can purchase a brand new adult ORCA card at the store. Even better, if they put at least $5 on the card, the card is free. This is exactly the kind of move ST/RFCP needs to make if we’re going to have any chance of increasing ORCA use on transit.

    Now, if only they could add youth cards to the program…

    Press Release: http://www.soundtransit.org/About-Sound-Transit/News-and-events/News-releases/Saars-Marketplace-pilot-project-for-ORCA-retailer-.xml

    “Seven Saar’s MarketPlace locations in South King and Pierce counties now offer bus, train and ferry riders the opportunity to pick up new ORCA cards at the same time they buy their groceries. For a limited time, new adult ORCA cards are available without fees for customers who add at least $5 to the card’s E-purse or purchase a monthly pass.

    “The pilot project is part of an effort by the region’s major transit agencies to explore ways to expand access to ORCA. The pilot will help determine if it’s feasible to sell new ORCA cards at other retail outlets in the region.”

  8. Charles says

    I’m actually liking the idea of a train stop in Blaine for the reasons stated in the article. My first reaction was that the stop in Bellingham was sufficient but then I got to thinking about how people in southern BC could take transit to the border, walk across and then have a short distance to a train stop.

    • Bernie says

      With all the daily traffic between Blaine and Stanwood they’ll have to add another car := Seriously, if there’s that many Canuks that want to ride the train south of the boarder why don’t they pony up and put a stop in Surrey?

      • aw says

        If there were a stop in Surrey, it wouldn’t be a closed corridor from the Vancouver station. It would either require another border control post in Surrey or a stop in Blaine.

        Some of the state’s planning looked at having a terminal station in Surrey and letting folks take Skytrain to Vancouver.

      • Anthony says

        @Bernie: White Rock wanted to have their station reopened, but Harper’s budget killed any chance of that two years ago. Hard to imagine a place in Surrey where it’s feasible, only location that pops up in my head would be at Crescent Beach.

      • Bernie says

        I don’t know the route Amtrak follows north of Bellingham but all I’m saying is that since the vast portion of the population using this stop would be from north of the boarder it should be up to Canada. Washington State’s budget isn’t overflowing right now either. The idea of terminating at Skytrain sounds like a great idea. Close to the airport for one thing. I’ve heard many complaints on this blog about how slow the train has to run because of the deteriorated state of the rails in BC. Would a transfer to Skytrain actually get people into DT Vancouver faster?

      • aw says

        The location proposed by WSDOT in the Cascades long range plan was at the Scott Road Skytrain station.

      • Bernie says

        Well, that’s about as far from the airport I was thinking of as you can get ;-) Does anyone have a link that shows the Amtrak route north of the boarder? And why should WSDOT be making long range plans for Canada. I would think the Canadians are more than capable of making those plans for themselves.

      • aw says

        The Long Range Plan has a schematic map of the route north of the border on p. 101. You can find a dicussion of the cost-benefit of moving the station in Appendix E (p. 208).

      • Anthony says

        I’m not sure where the info about “deteriorated rails in BC” is coming from. Far from it. BNSF laid down ribbon rail all the way into Surrey/North Delta two years ago and change. That used to be the single most atrocious part of the ride. It is slow somewhat from the wye in New Westminster to downtown Vancouver.

      • Dan Carey says

        Of course, building a stop at Blaine could be seen as an investment to get more Canadians to spend their tourist dollars here.

      • Bernie says

        Put a stop at a casino or an outlet store mall and you might get some more Canadians. The tracks actually go right by the stores in Burlington. What are they going to do/spend money on in Blaine? If they’re going to Blaine it’s for cheap gas (OK, maybe beer) and they need their car for that. We already wasted money at Stanwood because there wasn’t a station in the middle of nowhere.

      • Dan Carey says

        Blaine is not a destination in itself, but a way to go other places. Building it allows Canadians south of Vancouver to hop the train to somewhere else like Seattle or Portland. Of course it would be better to build one in Surrey or such, but that has greater hurdles than a Blaine station.

      • Bernie says

        A Blaine station is all on our dime. Let the Canucks pay their own way; assuming there really is such demand. Why should WA pay full freight for an inferior station location? Blaine is just a dumb idea. So was Stanwood. Keep adding dumb stations and it might be a cost saver; elimination of all Federal subsidy for Amtrak.

      • Scott Stidell says

        So a station that serves a catchment area of about half a million, and would bring those people INTO Washington to spend money, would be a waste of funds? Certainly were there no border issue in the way, a station in Surrey would be better placed, but unless the closed corridor system where customs is cleared in Vancouver is changed to doing so at both Surrey and Vancouver (with the attendant costs), this is the best alternative. The drive across the border is not an issue for the BC Lower Mainland folks as they were going to cross anyway; we saw during the Olympics what a struggle it was to get CBP to fund staffing for a second train in Vancouver.

        I would assume that if Blaine wanted a station they would raise funds for it as Leavenworth did.

        Certainly this should be subject to a market demand study, and if BC residents would rather fund a station in BC and the customs officers to staff it, it would make more sense to build it there. However, Washington would certainly be getting the lion’s share of the benefits from a Blaine station. The comments made in the article from people on both sides of the border were talking about people wanting to travel from the Lower Mainland to the Seattle area; currently to do so by train they have to go into Vancouver and then back down to the US, which is a waste of about two hours. I don’t imagine too many Washingtonians would be taking the train to Surrey as a destination–the traffic would be predominantly the other way.

        Stanwood was the postcard for political pork and is indeed a pointless station.

      • Bernie says

        a station that serves a catchment area of about half a million… currently to do so by train they have to go into Vancouver and then back down to the US, which is a waste of about two hours.

        How many really want to drive to Blaine and hop a train to Seattle? Google directions list drive time from Surrey to Seattle at 2 hours 3 min. If you’ve got two or more in the car, likely if it’s a vacation trip, then it’s cheaper and way more convenient to just drive. From the article it looks like Blaine is wanting someone else to foot the bill. And if all the folks are hopping on the train to get to Seattle where does Blaine benefit? Charge for parking?

      • Bernie says

        FYI, it’s only 25 minutes from Blaine to Bellingham. An auto on I-5 is going to be faster than adding another stop in Blaine. And Bellingham has a lot more to offer than Blaine. Nobody needs to drive 2 hours in the wrong direction. There’s just not a case for a station in Blaine.

      • Scott Stidell says

        Honestly, I have no idea as I don’t live there or know anybody who does. I’m just commenting on what the interviewees in the article said regarding the perceived desire of the lower mainland residents. If there really is a desire to use the facility, it should be considered. A market study should bear that out (or not). Frankly, anything that gets the line political support on the north side of the border is a benefit. Do stations in, say, Kelso or Burlington have any point? Certainly they are also a quicker drive to Seattle/Portland/Vancouver, and serve fewer people in the surrounding area.

        On the other hand, they could just build a giant bridge across Semiahmoo Bay, put a station in Point Roberts and go from there…those people would save tons of time coming down to Seattle! ;)

        (The Bellingham station is in Fairhaven, which is not on the freeway and is another 10 minutes or so past downtown.)

      • Bernie says

        The Bellingham station is in Fairhaven, which is not on the freeway and is another 10 minutes or so past downtown.

        Nope, the generic directions were city center to city center. I can’t back out the time in Blaine to get on I-5 but if I put in the Amtrak station it’s only 26 minutes drive time. You’re already in the car and cleared customs. There’s no need for a study. Anyone that wants to take the train from Surrey to Seattle is already doing it by driving to Bellingham. The two hours of extra drive time is the best arguement they can come up with and it’s clearly bogus. Stanwood redux.

        Do stations in, say, Kelso or Burlington have any point?

        There isn’t a station in Burlington. The Mount Vernon station is a transit hub connecting Skagit County with Whatcom, Island and Snohomish county public transit as well as Greyhound. Kelso/Longview has a population of 48,000 in city limits. Both are marginal stations. The entire Birch Bay CDP has only 8,000 people; 500 per square mile.

    • Charles says

      I don’t think a Blaine station is anymore dumb than the investments being made in the Bellingham Airport (BLI) because of the jump in demand from British Columbians wanting a cheaper alternative than their own YVR. It is a massive economic infusion to our area and we should be pulling out the stops to make it happen.

      Further, There is already adequate transit availability in BC to the border and with modest improvements on the American side, we can make the possibility of car free travel a reality.

      • Bernie says

        Do you think we should build a new airport in Blaine? If they have no trouble getting to the airport in B’ham they can just as easily get to the train station, which btw is also the Greyhound station and connects to WTA. And with less than 200 people a day using it it’s hardly at capacity. Concentrate limited resources at established stations that are viable.

  9. Cheesewheels says

    Beacon Hill has always confused me. Between the PacMed building and the SHA tower, why is there not a string of high-rises? It’s the perfect place for views.

    • Bernie says

      Two tall buildings on Beacon Hill and three light rail stops artfully miss both of them.

      • Cheesewheels says

        Yeah, I realize there’s no way to get rail transit through there anytime soon, but we could run more buses down 12th, or add a BRT line somehow.

      • Brett says

        A whole shedload of 36s and a decent # of 60s run right by there – sometimes a bus goes by every 2-3 minutes. How many more buses do you want?

    • Mike Orr says

      I think it was the CAP initiative. In the 1960s a handful of 10+ story buildings were constructed all alone in their neighborhoods. The SHA building on Beacon Hill, the twin apartments in Madison Park, “Mount Safeco” (now UW Tower) in the U-district, and I think something around NE 65th. These freaked out the community who didn’t want any more of them, so they slammed severe height limits into place, ensuring that the 2-4 story ambience would not be overshot. These lasted for decades and are only being loosened now. But just upzoning does not cause new buildings to be built. It takes a combination of factors — law changes, public demand, developer interest, and lot-owner interest — to make tall buildings happen.

  10. Cinesea says

    I’m wondering, what would it take to get the construction crews to work faster on North Link? Like, say, if Murray/Cantwell were able to get an extra $100 million, would there be a way to shave off 6-12 months of the construction schedule? Would more workers mean faster construction, or just more people getting in the way? I just keep thinking that the timeline for reaching Northgate is so far away that by the time they get finished, I may be too old to really enjoy it and get maximum use of it…

    • Mike Orr says

      I have asked variations of that at the meetings, and the answer I’ve always gotten is that more money would not make University Link go faster because it’s going as fast as it can, and North Link can’t proceed until the TBMs are finished.

      Of course, with an extraordinary amount of money you could do extraordinary things, like hire another TBM, but that’s presumably more than Cantwell would be able to deliver.

      • Nathanael says

        I will be happy if the TBMs for University Link start immediately on North Link after finishing U-Link. Can this possibly happen?

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