News Roundup: So Expensive

Sound Transit

This is an open thread.

Comments

  1. d.p. says

    Design should be focused on the needs of the users… rather than on architectural beauty or exotic materials…

    “Perhaps the most beautiful Metro Tunnel station, Westlake is distinguished by its muted black, beige, light brown, reddish brown, brownish tan, and green color scheme; its Italian marble fixtures; and its elegant overhead lighting…”

    …and notorious user-unfriendliness.

    • Charles B says

      I have to admit, the Westlake station is a little weird as far as train stations go. Lots of empty unused space and hard to find (unless you know what to look for) orca card readers.

      I can’t wait for them to get the smelly buses out of there and fill the transit tunnel with just trains so they can put real card reader terminals up.

      I also wonder from time to time why they don’t lease out some of that unused space for subway/train station style vendors… or at least vending machines…. when people start needing to wait for trains to transfer for, it would be great to have a place to get something to drink without leaving the station.

      • Charles B says

        @Mike Orr What I mean by a “terminal” is something that looks more like a ticket turnstyle or a gate where it is clear that you should be using your orca card to enter. It would work better than having these little orange reader stands set off in the corner here and there.

        Its not something we can do while the buses are still in the tunnel though, since the buses read cards/take money on the vehicle. (We wouldn’t want people paying for the wrong thing accidentally).

        To switch to full turnstyles we would need to have ticket readers too…

      • Charles B says

        @adam now who do you suppose we should contact to recommend this? It sounds like a win-win to me. Some small retailer gets awesome access to people getting on and off trains and the transit system gets a little extra cash to cover operating costs…

        With the increase of traffic there will likely be after the university link opens this seems like a no-brainer to me.

      • Mike Orr says

        Oh yes, ST definitely needs to do this. The entrance to the fare paid area should look like a turnstyle or at least an archway, with the ORCA reader right in front of you. Sometimes I forget to tap out because the readers aren’t in my line of sight and I’m thinking of something else. And I sometimes have an irrational fear that I may have forgotten to tap in. Sometimes I have to go back and tap two more times to make sure I tapped in. That shows bad usability design in the stations. Entering the fare paid area should be like stepping through a doorway, with the reader right at hand so you won’t forget it.

        In particular:
        - The SeaTac readers are at odd locations, not necessarily in your walking path.
        - The Beacon Hill readers are invisible when you exit unless you look sideways.
        - The TIB “fare paid zone” sign is so high you won’t see it if you’re looking straight ahead.
        - The DSTT stations have so many escalator/elevator platform entrances that only some of them have readers. That’s a difficult problem, but other cities have managed to avoid it.
        - At Kent Station, the readers are so out of sight I can walk out of the station without ever seeing them, so I forget to tap out until I’m already on the next bus and it’s too late.

      • Jason Mitchell says

        “I also wonder from time to time why they don’t lease out some of that unused space for subway/train station style vendors… or at least vending machines…”

        Because, you know, that would would make sense. And be far too much like successful transit tunnels all over the rest of the country and the world. Wouldn’t want to do that.

      • Scott Stidell says

        If you peruse the comment section in the 1983 EIS for the tunnel, you will see a comment by me to the effect that shops or vendors should be allowed to set up in the mezzanine areas. Apparently the mezzanines were designed with the possibility of small carts or the like in mind, then decided they didn’t want to deal with the potential “mess.”

    • John Bailo says

      The worst (and creepiest) part of it is the incredibly low ceiling. I feel like I need to run as fast as I can before it falls down and crushes me. Who knows…maybe it keeps people moving. But I think I understand know why monumental structures — like train stations and cathedrals — the have a lot of open floor spaces, also have high ceilings!

      • Mike Orr says

        I was never bothered by the ceiling. And I like the grandness of the station. As for the horizontal size of the station, that can’t really be shrunk. It has to be long enough for four-car trains; it has to extend to all the department stores; and it has to span to 3rd and 6th Avenues. Those are all factors that make the station functional. The two biggest things I’d like to see are a center platform, and an entrance at 4th & Pike. (Actually, I’d rather have the eastbound trolleybuses on Pine Street than an entrance at 4th & Pike, but if it’s not possible to make Pine Street two-way I’ll take the entrance.)

      • d.p. says

        It didn’t “have” to span three full blocks or extend to every department store. As you rightly point out, the lack of a no-hassle entrance at 4th or 5th sends as many people backtracking as it saves exterior-access distance.

        And it has such a detrimental effect on real and psychological platform-access distance that we now have people clamoring for surface redundancy.

        The gold standard remains what you see in that 1896 Budapest link. Seconds from the street. Ease of access, grade separation, and convenience for all.

      • Mike Orr says

        Spanning four blocks means you can go four blocks without stopping at traffic lights, and you can also cross Pine Street diagonally.

      • d.p. says

        That’s lovely in the rain, Mike, but that’s not what it’s for.

        It’s for accessing the damned platform and going somewhere on the subway!

        How does what you described benefit those who now insist surface rail is “inherently” better because subways are “inherently” a pain to use?

      • barman says

        The length wouldn’t bother me as much if there were more activity. I’m sure that’s what the designers had in mind. It would be better if the IGA were in there and other stores more convenient for a train station, plus coffee/food stands.

      • Mike Orr says

        The mezzanine was explicitly intended to link the department stores and make an underground mall as well as to access the platforms.

      • d.p. says

        I’m sorry: bull.

        It was explicitly intended to provide direct access from the platforms to the stores. That’s not a new concept — department stores in Boston, New York and Newark provided basement access to subway tunnels 100 years ago

        But it was not “explicitly intended” to connect store basements for non-transit passengers, and certainly not at the expense of transit passengers themselves. It’s not Montreal’s Underground City (and Montreal doesn’t inconvenience streetbound passengers either).

        The architectural execution is dumb even for the limited degree to which you describe the intent correctly. Your broadened excuse is just wrong.

      • Mike Orr says

        What “expense” to transit passengers? If the entrances are closer to the platforms, you have to walk the same distance on the surface. What exactly would you do to the station? How small would it be? Would you break up the mezzanine into parts that don’t connect to each other?

      • d.p. says

        1. Shallower.
        2. No sideways staircases that land you nowhere near exits.
        3. No multi-hundred foot barren stretches to cross.

        On the surface, you can go in any number of directions. Underground, you are basically funneled in two.

        If you’re so convinced Westlake doesn’t have an “expense” to transit passengers, why do you parrot Ben’s idiocy about subways not being valid for 2-stop trips and downtown needing curlicue streetcars? Why do we see frequent commenters here and elsewhere favorably comparing slowpoke MAX to the very concept of subways (which they believe are “inherently” inconvenient)?

        Bad design in the DSTT has already been detrimental to your and others’ understanding of how well subways can work.

      • Mike Orr says

        Expense within the station and expense to the entrances are two different things. I find Westlake station pretty convenient; it just needs a couple more entrances. I would even, gasp, extend it to the SLU streetcar stop so that you don’t have to cross two streets to get to it.

        The DSTT clearly has an expense to getting to the entrances from the surrounding non-mall businesses, and is not designed for one- or two-station trips. The biggest example of this is the library, which is three blocks and a hill from University Street station. If you have to walk from the library to University Street station, then take a train one station to Westlake, then walk two blocks to the eastbound Pike Street bus stop, you might as well just walk directly from the library to the bus stop. That’s also akin to the amount of walking you’d do if you’re coming from Pike Place Market or Bed Bath and Beyond. The DSTT should have had a Madison Street station. Or University Street station should have been moved further south, and Westlake station extended to a Pike Street entrance. That would fill the biggest gap in the DSTT’s usefulness.

      • d.p. says

        I’d be perfectly happy to see a pedestrian tunnel to the streetcar plaza. But it would be troubling if that were made the only entrance for all pedestrians.

        The walk from the northbound platform to the 6th entrance or from either platform to the 3rd entrances is not that different from that: each is hundreds of feet, just as your underpass would be.

        (Of course, wouldn’t it be even better to tunnel the streetcar right into the mezzanine, providing a direct connection and eliminating any argument for a wasteful downtown “connector”.)

        The DSTT clearly…is not designed for one- or two-station trips.

        And there’s the rub. When you employ terrible design, you limit flexibility. Then you build the rest of the system with too-wide spacing, and you further limit flexibility. Then you put each new station in a terrible location, or give it terrible intermodal connections, and now you’ve cubed the damage.

        The result is a system that can’t hold a candle to the usefulness of systems build to accommodate short- and medium-length trips on the same infrastructure.

        There’s a reason Boston’s system can carry >1 million daily all over the urbanized area, but can still be useful for saving yourself the three long blocks (1/2 mile) from Copley to Arlington. And thousands drop into the Green Line’s Boyston station to catch the Red Line one stop to the north: the frequency and nonexistent access/transfer penalty effectively brings the Red Line 1500 feet closer to them than it would otherwise be.

        Hyper-segmentation of uses (“subways are for Northgate, streetcars are for short hops, buses are for milk runs… oh, and by the way, they all have lousier frequency than advertised“) is a great way to make your bucket of options cumulatively useless. A proven Seattle specialty.

    • Possibly ignorant says

      The amount of waste on extravagant design and lousy art projects for transit stations and the like makes my blood boil.

  2. Kyle S. says

    Waiting for Ben to come in here screaming about how Nelson/Nygaard is completely immune from the biases described in the Bloomberg article…

    • John Bailo says

      After that he can tell us why Seattle exceeds the average per mile cost of “light” rail by one order of magnitude.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        But you know the answer already. Our “light” rail is effectively a subway. We didn’t run it at-grade except for a few segments. It’s cheap to add rails to streets, but it also makes for slow trains.

      • Mike Orr says

        It’s expensive because it’s higher quality than those cheap light rails that can never go more than 30mph because they’re on tthe surface with intersections. And because Link offers a higher-quality trip that’s not available in other forms of Seattle transit, it competes with driving more effectively.

      • d.p. says

        It’s also expensive for each and every reason cited in the Bloomberg link, and because of Seattle’s particular fetish for reinventing the wheel (and sometimes making it hexagonal).

      • aw says

        “It’s also expensive for each and every reason cited in the Bloomberg link”

        Well, ST hasn’t hired Calatrava to design a station for them. Although we already have a marble-lined station…

  3. David L says

    The fact that the Downtown Seattle Association would pick McGinn over either Steinbrueck or Harrell says a lot. (Of course they like Murray best, by a whisker.)

  4. BigDonLives says

    Why are projects expensive?

    A lot of ‘groups’ want their taste, and that’s after the Minority/Women’s requirements and don’t forget the 1% (waste) for Arts. Throw in the Environmental Impact Statements and the go-arounds with every possible neighborhood group ( please someone think of the Children of Lesbian Wiccas of Wedgwood !)…

    • Matt the Engineer says

      And a big cost, listed below: the Buy American Act. That’s probably cost transportation projects a massive amount of money. I once had to specify a large pellet boiler for the government, and the prices are insane compared what we can just ship over from Europe where they’ve been doing biomass for a generation. I suppose the hope is that we’re stimulating businesses here and building up transit (or biomass) products. But it’s really an immense cash transfer from government to industry and a huge amount of that money goes to the wasteful process of starting up industries that don’t make sense here.

      Economics tells us a country that’s good at making shoes is better off making as many shoes as possible and trading with another country that’s good at making coffee makers (to give random examples). Both economies are stronger for it than each trying to build their own coffee maker / shoe technologies. And we’d be much better off buying off-the-shelf streetcars from Germany (or wherever) and selling them software.

      • asdf says

        Yup, and as long as everyone can just shrug their shoulders and keep on driving, not enough people are going to care to politically be able to overturn rules like this.

    • Matt the Engineer says

      And a more direct response. I don’t think you’ve put your finger on the real costs, though you’re close. There’s a lot of waste involved in the process of democracy. Chinese rail lines go where the government says it will go, and neighbors are relocated (or not) at their whim. Europeans seem to have more trust in their government and don’t fight every move it makes. There are real benefits to a full and healthy democracy, but there are real costs too.

      • was carless says

        Not always. The Germans in Stuttgart have been fighting a new main rail station for decades now, even though it would be a huge improvement and provide better transit access for the city.

        Google “Stuttgart 21″

      • Matt the Engineer says

        Yes, I’ve heard of Stuttgart 21. I should point out I’m far from an expert on European governments . I’m going off vague generalities more than anything. I’m also not an expert on Chinese governments, but what I say above comes more or less directly from the mouths of people I met in China.

      • Mike Orr says

        We have a fuller and healthier democracy than Europe? Maybe in some aspects, but in other aspects the Canadian, British, and Scandinavian governments are more transparent, fairer, not as corrupt toward wealthy campaign contributors, and don’t try to disenfranchise people with gerrymandering and voter ID laws. That’s why their citizens trust them more, which at least at some level means their democracy is working well.

      • djw says

        I’m hesitant to conflate “more and fuller democracy” with “excessive amount of veto opportunities for busybodies and special interests to thwart majoritarian projects”. Obviously, democracy requires some of those, but not too many. To move the US political system, at the local and federal levels, toward a democratic ideal, I think we’d need to reduce the veto points, not increase them. We have more of them than just about any other democratic political system in the world today, and the case that it’s to our detriment is strong.

      • Mobilitor says

        @was carless: Stuttgart 21 is a bullshit project. At current estimates, about seven billion Euros ($9 billion) will be spent to build an eight track underground train station. It will replace a 16 track station that has one of the best on-time performances in Germany and is not even used to its full capacity. Watch that performance and capacity shrink to mediocre levels in ten years time. It’s not a transit project but an extremely expensive land reclamation project – even more expensive than those artificial islands in Dubai.

    • barman says

      The 1% for art pales in comparison to the “competitive bidding” process. Construction bids for public projects in this country always seem to be much higher than others. To me that seems like the bigger issue.

  5. AlexKven says

    Have you ever noticed that on Pierce Transit buses (but not on King County Metro buses), whenever the driver approaches a railroad crossing, he opens the doors for about a second, and immediately closes them (front doors only, obviously). Why do PT drivers do this? This is also done on Sound Transit routes run by Pierce Transit (but not ones run by Metro).

  6. adam says

    Has anyone else noticed that the electronic arrival signs along Rainier Ave S for route 7 have been turned on and now say “Real-Time Arrival Information Coming Soon…”

    …or am I just really late to the party?

  7. Gordon Werner says

    I asked the Seattle Streetcar folks about what part of the First Hill Streetcar would be off-wire.

    Answer: the ENTIRE inbound (Capitol Hill -> Pioneer Sq) segment will be run on batteries. As there is only one hill for the inbound line to climb (Union to Columbia) batteries combined with regenerative braking for the mostly downhill segment will be more than enough to power the trams all the way even in hot summer days with the AC cranked.

    • GuyOnBeaconHill says

      Who is building the new Seattle streetcars? Reading about all the problems Portland is having with their new cars from United Streetcar is making me nervous. However, I don’t see Seattle listed on United Streetcar’s project page, so I’m assuming someone else is building the new cars for Seattle. Does anyone know who is building Seattle’s new streetcars (and is this battery system going to be reliable)?

      • Seattleite says

        A partnership between Inekon and Pacifica Marine. The first batch (First Hill Streetcars) will pretty much just be assembled here with enough generic parts sourced from the US to meet the Fed’s Buy American requirements. Moving into the future it is hoped that Pacifica will transition into a full domestic manufacturer, just licensing Inekon designs (similar to the United Streetcar Skoda relationship).

      • Gordon Werner says

        Inekon, who made the SLUT’s trams … they will be assembled by Pacifica Marine … but be completely Inekon products … The FHS is not Federally Funded so they do not have to follow the Buy America act. Same reason why we are able to use Austrian girder-rail instead of having to cobble something together like Tucson and Atlanta are in order to create the flangeway.

      • Gordon Werner says

        The battery systems shouldn’t be a problem … they aren’t using any “new” “exotic” tech … but I do not know whether or not Inekon (the mfr) has used it anywhere else. The city didn’t answer my question about contingencies if the battery system was problematic other than they have a contingency plan (prob. some sort of guarantee from Inekon)

      • Mike Orr says

        Who are Inkeon and Pacifica Marine? What nationality are they? Are these more Czech companies like Skoda?

        I do wish an internationally-reputable maker of streetcars and trolleybuses would see the US as a big enough emerging market to set up a subsidiary here.

      • BigDonLives says

        “I do wish an internationally-reputable maker of streetcars and trolleybuses would see the US as a big enough emerging market to set up a subsidiary here.”

        And pay American manufacturing wages with the union bosses? Please. Unless they set up in South Carolina, don’t bother.

    • shotsix says

      Has this been tried anywhere before? I definitely have not heard about off wire steetcars until now. It sounds really, really half-baked.

      • Gordon Werner says

        All over the world.

        Alstom (makers of the Citadis) uses an off-wire system that basically puts the OCS in the ground. using computers, only the 3rd rail underneath the streetcar is powered up to prevent electrocution. … many cities in Europe use this system for where their tram lines go through historic segments of their cities or where they just don’t want OCS.

        Dubai is going 100% this route because they have all the $$$

        CAF of Span has a similar system
        Bombardier of Canada does as well.
        Siemens does too …

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground-level_power_supply

        As for Regenerative braking and super-capacitors for battery recharging … you can find that tech in our Hybrid busses, in diesel-electric locomotives, in electric locomotives, etc …

        There are even companies who are trying to market electric-only buses using similar technology.

        The only real bugaboo in the mix is the SLUT trams and the Center City Connector. If built they could not operate on the FHS as they NEED OCS … although the 4th SLUT tram will most likely be built to FHS (offwire) specs. Regardless … if the CCC is built … Metro has said that they’d sell the SLUT trams to Tacoma or elsewhere and buy new ones that can operate off-wire.

    • Gordon Werner says

      Mike.

      Inekon is the Czech company who built the trams for the SLUT

      http://www.inekon-systems.com/en/group/inekon-trams/products-and-services/production-of-new-trams/trio.html

      They collaborated for a while on the design and construction of trams … hence the similarities between the Skoda trams T-Link uses and the Inekon Trams the SLUT uses.

      Pacifica Marine is a local company who has experience in the ship building industry as well as the train industry (they assembled our Amtrak Cascade Talgos)

      http://www.pacifica.cc/

      Pacifica Marine has a deal to license the Inekon Trio (and possibly 5-segment Pento version) tram design for use in the USA … their plan is to eventually build them locally from scratch meeting Buy America requirements … for Seattle, Tacoma, and elsewhere (competing with United Streetcar of Portland)

      They are both reputable companies (unless you think the SLUT trams and the Talgos are defective in some way).

      For those unfamiliar … the Inekon Pento is a 5-segment version of what the SLUT uses … which is the “Trio” … and I believe it is possible to convert a Trio to a Pento if the demand for capacity exists … although this hasn’t been done at this point AFIK

  8. Gordon Werner says

    Went to the SoundTransit booth at the DumpThePump gathering in Westlake today.

    When you get your “Undriver License” and pledge to drive less, they give you round-trip ST Bus or Sounder tickets … or a Day Pass for Link.

    For the Link day pass … you just have to write the date in when you decide to use it.

    They will be doing this at various locations all summer.

    • Eric says

      For the Link day pass … you just have to write the date in when you decide to use it.

      In other words, you just have to write the date in the first time a fare inspector boards the train?

  9. Andrew Smith says

    What happened to the image in the background of the site? It seems to have gone walkabout.

  10. Beavis McGee says

    The reason that any American project is so expensive boils down to one word: healthcare. Other nations subsidize healthcare costs, not putting the entire burden on the employer or contractor.

  11. Andrew Smith says

    That article on expensive infrastructure seems confusing. How is this true:

    “New York government agencies are saddled by procurement rules dating back generations, Littlefield says, when corruption in infrastructure projects was endemic. Reformers demanded objective and easily policeable standards, which often meant lowest-price bidding rules. Bidders compete mostly on price, not quality.

    and yet it’s expensive?

    • Matt the Engineer says

      “The MTA must continue to award contracts to the lowest- price bidder, and without the ability to hold bad contractors accountable, Littlefield said, the agency turns to “writing longer and longer and longer contracts, expressly prohibiting every way it has been ripped off in the past.” The byzantine contracts that come out of this process drive entrants away, limiting competition and pushing up costs. ”

      This is true to a point. If you’re really driving bidders away you can select a group of bidders and pay them for their time to interpret your contract documents. The question isn’t how long the specs are but how well written they are (are you specifying items that are abundant in the marketplace, or would they have to be custom built?). It’s possible there’s something in their process that made them have poor specs (low bid their design team? if so that’s a terrible idea, and the feds are allowed to pay hourly rates for their designers for that reason), but that is also easily fixed.

    • Mike Orr says

      There are companies who specialize in combing the specs looking for ambiguities and incompleteness. Then they make a lowball bid not including that work. When contingencies inevitably occur, they claim it’s a “design change” and charge premium for it. That’s how a $2 billion job can end up costing $4 billion or $6 billion by the time it’s finished. Lowest-bidding rules prevent agencies from rejecting obviously sleazy bids.

      • says

        Tutor Perini, by the way, is working on the SR 99 tunnel, for which we have been promised there will be no cost overruns.

    • yvrlutyens says

      There is a good illustration of this problem: http://chrismapson.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/your-original-contract-vs-change-orders/

      This does happen with private sector contracts as well when company policy is to accept the lowest bid instead of weeding out the ones that have had problems in the past or been involved with litigation.

      Government contracts can also have onerous requirements for bonding, insurance and everything. It is partly that these are expensive to do, but partly because it becomes very complex that it limits the pool of bidders that can bid for these projects.

  12. lakecityrider says

    Completely random question, but it’s an open thread so…

    Why do some bus drivers (seen on KCM, KCM operating ST, PT, and even CT) not, by default, open the back door when stopping for a requested stop? I’ve noticed this happen several times and, since I usually sit near the rear door, the shouts of “BACK DOOR!!!11!!1oneomgargh” are becoming ingrained in my long-term memory. I figure there has to be a reason, though it’s never happened to me. :)

    • Ben Du says

      Welcome to seattle. Unless I’m at a stop where a lot of people get off, I always get off at the front now despite how we are supposed to exit out the rear doors when possible…

      • shotsix says

        Ha! I do exactly the same thing. It seems like all of the doors should open by default…but could be overridden if the driver saw something suspicious. The whole “exit from the rear” thing should have made this happen.

      • Kyle S. says

        [expletive] Any driver that refuses to open the back door is an obstructionist old-school asshole and needs to learn how to drive a bus in a modern city.

      • David L says

        Who said anything about “refusing” to open the back door? The question is about why drivers don’t automatically open it. There are at least three good reasons not to. Occasionally we screw up and don’t open it when we should. Occasionally you screw up at your job too. Do you like being treated like a dick when that happens? No? Then don’t talk like that.

    • David L says

      A complaint? For having to shout “Back door” once? That is the sort of visit with a chief that gives drivers gray hairs. (Now if it’s the same driver failing to open it every day, that’s different.)

      When I drove, if I failed to open the back door, it was usually because I was stopping at a low-volume stop, ridership was low, and someone was exiting at the front. I was occasionally prone to sloppily assuming that only one person was getting out at that sort of stop.

    • David L says

      I should also add that we don’t open the back door unless we have to because it slows us down. There is an interlock on the back door (which is not on the front door, on Metro coaches) that prevents the bus from moving unless the door is fully closed. Waiting for the back door to close and the interlock to release can add 5 seconds to dwell time.

      • Eric says

        I can think of several occasions where I have signaled for a stop, gotten up from my seat and stood next to the back door a few seconds before the bus came to a stop (and the rest of the aisle was clear so my standing there was quite obvious), and the driver still didn’t open the door until I shouted for it. Kind of annoying.

        I’ve ridden buses in other cities where riders can push the rear door(s) open on their own whenever the bus is stopped. Why can’t we get that here?

      • Kyle S. says

        I’m on a SRO Route 40 trip right now where we’ve twice had to call out to the driver to open the back door.

        This shouldn’t e necessary. Until metro wisens up and installs user-controlled back door buttons, Metro should drill into their operators the routine of automatically opening the back door at all stops unless extenuating circumstances dictate otherwise.

      • David L says

        Kyle S., not to defend a driver who wouldn’t open the back door with a SRO crowd, but if you require drivers to open the back door at every stop you will slow service down badly.

        Opening the back door can add 5-10 seconds if opening it is not necessary. Now multiply that by every stop where it’s not necessary.

    • Beavis McGee says

      Simple answer: time. It takes extra time to open and close the rear door, and it isn’t automatically opened for most unless the passengers actively request a stop.

    • Gordon Werner says

      when I lived in NYC back in the day … the only way the rear doors would open is if you pushed the tape / button when trying to exit at a stop (except for wheelchairs since that is where the wheelchair lift was located (this was the 1970s/80s)

      • Mike Orr says

        Yes, some cities have ‘push rod to open” or “step down to lower step to open”. They have a green light above the door to tell you when it’s ready to open. I don’t know what advantages these have over automatically-opening doors. It seems like it’s a disadvantage to have to do something to open the door. But it’s not a big deal to, it just makes you wonder why doors have so many different opening mechanisms.

      • Mike Orr says

        Actually, there is a problem with stair-activated doors. I think it’s San Francisco that has this? Several times I’ve seen visitors not know how to open the doors and the other passengers shout, “Step down!” It’s almost the mantra on those systems, the way the mantra on Metro is “Back door!”

      • d.p. says

        The rod-activated doors on Portland’s low-floors work just fine. In fact, I prefer the control they provide me.

        Frankly, I’m a fan of the old Paris Métro door levers. No unnecessary wasted energy or rushes of weather when no one needed that particular door. Plus, it lets you off the train faster.

    • Gordon Werner says

      The only few times that I have had to yell “Back Door” was because the bus was crowded and the driver didn’t see that I wanted off … w/people standing by the door due to over-crowded buses I can understand why they might not always automatically open the door … might cause people to spill out onto the street.

  13. Gordon Werner says

    There is a humorous Rider Alert posted at the 12 stop between 1st ave / 2nd ave on Marion … advising that on Saturday, due to the Rock and Roll Marathon … the stop will be closed … and to please use the “convenient” temporary stop located on 9th and Madison …

    This pretty much negates the entire usefulness of the 12 (which is to get up the 35 story hill that is First Hill)

  14. Beavis McGee says

    The back door will not open until the coach comes to a complete stop (it activates the rear brakes as an interlock). It then takes 2-3 seconds to actually open. So chill.

    • Gordon Werner says

      the question wasn’t a technical one … but rather why some bus drivers do not automatically open the rear doors … which requires people to yell “Back Door” to get the driver’s attention.

    • says

      Due to the delay in operating the back door, it seems prudent to begin opening it immediately upon stopping (every time). What extends dwell time is just beginning the back-door-opening process when the front door is ready to close and the chorus of “back door” shouts finally reaches the driver in the front.

      • David L says

        The front door can be opened as the bus comes to a stop. The back door cannot even begin to open until the bus is fully stopped. If you hit the button even a quarter of a second before the full stop, the interlock will trigger and cause a violent lurch. If there are passengers only at the front door, they could be gone and you could be moving by the time the back door even finishes opening. From that point you’re a stuck pig for five seconds or more until the back door finishes opening, begins to close, finishes closing, and the interlock releases.

        If you want a fast bus ride, drivers who open the back door only when passengers want to use it are your friends.

  15. asdf says

    I haven’t heard this mentioned yet on STB, but the 3rd round trip to Bellingham is already gone, before I had a chance to ride it. I suppose it was nice while it lasted.

    • asdf says

      I had planned on taking advantage of its near-emptiness to bring a whole group of people with bikes, that would have exceeded the bike rack capacity on the regular Cascades trip. When the new trip was cancelled, the ride was canceled with it. Also, the new train had fares quite a bit cheaper than the regular train, too.

  16. Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says

    Open thread huh? OK, here’s one for ya!

    I have come to the conclusion that King County Goverment is run by cowards. I saw 4 people get on the bus yesterday who did not pay the fare. The driver was not on the bus and they all came on at the same time. I informed the driver. He did nothing. He did not even ask them to pay. He said it was the policy of Metro not to confront riders about fare. So that meant that honest people get stolen from. We who pay have to make up for the slack for those who do not. This is cowardly. I am tired of this. SO from now on if the drivers will not do something I will. If I see someone not pay their fare I will call them what they are, a thief!

    • Bailey says

      I can see your frustration, but accosting the fare evaders is probably a bad idea. The no confrontations policy exists because drivers sometimes face violent or potentially violent situations if they insist that a patron pay when she/he refuses. Simply put drivers don’t have the resources, like say a security guard might, to insist fares be paid. In addition, spending time to haggle with a fare evader wastes everyone else’s time. I know I’d be annoyed if a driver spent more than a few seconds trying to enforce a fare because I want to arrive at my destination in a timely fashion.

      • Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says

        Fare enforcement does not ride non-RapidRide. Every honest citizen needs to stand up and say that crime will not be allowed.

      • asdf says

        I had a first-hand experience once of just barely missing a half-hourly bus connection. The final straw that delayed our bus just enough for me to watch the connecting bus drive off without me was – you guessed it – the driver arguing with a passenger over paying the fare!

      • Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says

        Missing connections happens to me all the time. 99% of the time it has nothing to do with fare but with trafficor the driver starting late. Crime is crime.

      • d.p. says

        The vast majority of actual fare evasion is not of the “just walk on” variety, but of the paper transfer fraud variety. Wallets full of old transfers and Facebook pages reporting today’s color and letter. People handed 4-hour transfers and using them for 7. Thriving black markets at multiple corners downtown.

        Just a couple of nights ago, I watched some douchejock demonstrating to three new transplants how to make a second-hand paper transfer purchase. All of these excitedly now-in-the-know new Seattleites appeared plenty well off and able to afford the full fare.

        There are ways to make transit easier for the poor without making suckers of everyone else who pays their own way. Paper transfers need to fucking die.

      • David L says

        killing paper transfers = doubling the cost of getting anywhere

        Only for those too stubborn to get an ORCA despite its obvious benefits for fellow riders and the system as a whole.

        Don’t want to pay double? Get an ORCA.

      • calwatch says

        ORCA machines need to be distributed at all major stops and transit centers, though, and/or available to purchase at gas stations and convenience stores. Otherwise you risk causing a Title VI discrimination issue, since the machines aren’t in the lower income communities.

    • David L says

      The “no confrontations” policy started when a driver was shot in the late 1970s. Forcing drivers to confront nonpayers would just result in more driver assaults, and wouldn’t particularly collect any money. There’s a reason no system, anywhere, does it.

      And having a cop on every bus would cost far more than you’d collect.

      Having paper transfers go away would help a lot, but it’s just life that fastidious fare collection is not the most important goal in an urban transit system. Getting people places quickly and safely is the most important goal.

      • BigDonLives says

        “There’s a reason no system, anywhere, does it.”

        You need to get to Philly or NYC sometime. Driver looks at you and screams “What da F*ck? pay up!”

        In other countries , you have actual fare inspectors randomly board buses. This nonsense about it is “too hard” is a Seattle passive/agressive thing.

      • David L says

        Fare inspectors are different.

        Drivers in other cities who start confrontations are doing it in direct violation of their agencies’ policies.

      • Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says

        So what you are saying is that we should just let people break the law because it might be dangerous? Wow. I say we need to enforce the rule of law.

      • David L says

        Drivers are not in a good situation to begin fare confrontations. They’re in a physical position of weakness, they’re unarmed (and arming them would be craziness), and they’re alone and isolated in random locations. Furthermore, again, the purpose of transit is to get people places quickly and safely. Every second that a driver spends in a fare confrontation is a second when the bus is not moving and the passengers aboard are at risk.

        If you want to be rational, you will accept some fare evasion, just like all other systems do. If you really want to launch a Mark Sidran-style law-and-order crackdown, you’d put a fare-enforcement team that is trained, equipped, and positioned to do enforcement on every bus.

      • David L says

        And, remember, “every bus” during midday (for example) is about 500-600 buses. That’s a hell of an expensive crackdown.

      • Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says

        About getting there on time. It has been my experience that most drivers could not care less about getting on there on time.

    • Charles B says

      It doesn’t say street car anywhere… so I guess this must be another trolley bus?

      • mic says

        or maybe just a bus wrapped to look like a vintage trolley, sort of like the buses Metro used when the Benson Streetcars got killed by the Seattle Art-Elites w/ their political hacks in tow.

    • asdf says

      The route is only running for a few months and shutting down in late September. This is typical Pierce Transit here – in a time of severe service cutbacks, finding the money to build a whole new trolley just to operate a mere 3 months.

  17. Sam says

    The riots in Brazil began with a few penny rise in bus fare. That should have been one of the items in the news roundup.

  18. asdf says

    So, I was riding the 48 today and I thought of a potential optimization that could somewhat improve travel time and reliability, and I’m curious what you all think.

    Today, the bus goes from Green Lake to Greenwood via Wallingford Ave. and 85th St. Besides Wallingford Ave. being a slow street to begin with for a large bus, the signals at 80th St. and 85th St. are all timed heavily in favor of cross traffic, which often means long waits at each of these two lights. Worse, the bus ends up right in the path of all the cars traveling between I-5 and Aurora. Without a dedicated lane (or room to add one), the bus can easily require 3 or more long light cycles to make it across. (During my trip, I also noticed the right lane, which the bus was forced to use, moving considerably slower than the left lane, as the bus was stuck behind right-turners, who were frequently stopped on the green light, waiting for pedestrians to cross).

    So, my solution is to reroute the 48 to avoid Wallingford Ave. and take Green Lake Drive to Aurora to 85th St., like this: https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=East+Green+Lake+Dr+N&daddr=N+85th+St&hl=en&ll=47.687926,-122.339351&spn=0.014069,0.033023&sll=47.684257,-122.332549&sspn=0.02814,0.066047&geocode=FcSd1wId_k21-A%3BFV-z1wIdYRS1-A&t=h&mra=me&mrsp=1,0&sz=15&z=16

    This approach cuts down the number of long lights to wait for from 3 to 2, while avoiding the chronically congested path along 85th St. between Aurora and I-5. As to coverage, some areas would have a slightly longer walk to the bus, others would have a slightly shorter walk. I suppose the total coverage area would decrease slightly with this change, it I don’t think it would be significant.

    Meanwhile, the only transfer point in the covered section is the connection to the 16 at 85th and Wallingford. For those interested in the section of the 16 south of 85th St., the connection could still be made at Woodlawn and Ravenna, so that leaves only connections between the 48 and the north part of the 16 (e.g. trips like Greenwood->Northgate). However, the 16 is so horrendously unreliable that such connections are already terrible anyway and can’t become much worse. (For those making such a trip, avoiding the 16 by walking or busing to the 40 is probably the least bad option, although, let’s face it – anyone who possibly can is going to drive).

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