This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Sightline points us to SpotBus a web mash-up that grabs data from various local trip planners and presents it in an easier, more intuitive way. It’s a neat idea, and hopefully the start of something bigger. I especially like the no-frills, mobile-friendly interface. As more and more of us transit riders walk around with wireless, GPS-enabled pocket computers (a.k.a. “cell phones”) riding transit will become much more intuitive.

Bus Tunnel Security

King County Metro is making some changes in security when the opening of the tunnel occurs in September according to the Seattle PI. Basically KCM is renting cops to patrol the tunnel during operating hours. Previously it used to be 2 Seattle Police officers patrolling each station that were off duty and working overtime. It appears that will continue to be the case except they won’t be Seattle Police. Due to the rise in concern of safety on 3rd Avenue up above, this has people a little nervous. The new cops will be connected and a quick response away from real authority. However, they will not have authority to arrest or carry weapons.

Metro paid about $1.5 million annually to hire the off-duty Seattle
officers, Jacobson said. O’Neill said officers were paid a flat rate with no
The new plan will cost about $1.7 million, including $984,000 for a
contract with Olympic Security Services Inc. of SeaTac and $770,000 for the
Sheriff’s Office to hire the additional commissioned officers for its Metro
unit, Jacobson said.

Do you feel this is a bad move? Would it prevent you from using the tunnel? I am excited to see it open again, I know I will be using it. I am not sure why now the plan is 200K more than prior service? The tunnel has been an example of cleanliness and safety in transit systems. I hope it continues to stay that way.

Numbers Shine for Sound Transit

Sound Transit released some stats on 2nd Quarter performance and their hard work is starting to pay off! Total ridership on Sounder, Link light rail, and Express buses went up 11% compared to last year. The Sounder alone went up 20% while Express buses went up 10% and Link light rail 2%. This is awesome, especially since Central Link isn’t even completed yet. In fact they had 3.5 Million people use Sound Transit in the 2nd Quarter. When Central Link is completed and rolling on its rails, I only see Sound Transit going up. In my perfect world, when ST Link is running to Everett and Redmond, the numbers will be as high as some other larger cities perhaps? San Francisco? Chicago?

Speaking of ridership the 19 days of pain are almost here, and as you may have heard Sound Transit added a Sounder round trip run for a total of 5 runs. The new trip starts in Puyallup at 6:17am and returns leaving King Street at 4:50pm. They have tweaked the normal schedule so make sure to take a peek if you are a regular. I see this as really the only way to sanity during this stretch of time. It will show the region that we need grade separated transit badly. In fact I hope people will use Sounder and see that it is the way to go even with all I-5 available. It provides Sound Transit with a great opportunity to showcase the Commuter Rail. So tell everyone about it that can use this awesome service. Too bad they couldn’t do 9 or 10 round trip runs! However Sound Transit is the agency that is adding service on buses and trains during the I-5 maintenance project. King County Metro is not adding any additional service as they are maxed out. Is anyone trying Sounder out for the first time? What are you doing to avoid this mess? Vacation? The coffee shop idea Mayor Nickels was talking about?

Double the Fun!

I am sure you may have seen the new Double Decker bus used by Community Transit, if not I snapped the photo above so you could see the massiveness. Community Transit is the second agency in the U.S. to put this type of bus into its regular service, the only other being Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I don’t use the CT route that uses this particular bus, but I have got to imagine the views are awesome! The bus seats 67 with room for 20 standing which is double a regular 40′ bus in the same footprint. I wonder how this compares to the articulated buses? The route 402 is currently using the bus as a testing period which will last approximately two weeks, before it rotates to another route for additional testing by Community Transit. I saw the release on the news and there was a lady who wouldn’t get on cause she was afraid it would hit the overpasses. It does clear the overpasses so don’t worry if that is stopping you. Has anyone rode the Double Decker yet? Any first impressions? I am glad to see CT pushing the envelope for innovation in modern transportation, it shows that this region is serious about transportation.

Transit = Choice

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The L.A. Times looks at the vaunted Denver light rail system. One of Denver’s suburban mayors is surprisingly candid:

Cal Marsella, the general manager of the Regional Transportation District, which is building FasTracks, can readily tick off travel times he uses to sell people on the program.

In 2025, for example, he says the drive from the airport to downtown will take 48 minutes by car and 39 minutes on the train, and the drive from Longmont — a far northern suburb — to Denver will take 133 minutes by car versus 61 minutes by train.

Politicians make much the same arguments.

“We frame this as giving people a choice,” said Steve Burkholder, the mayor of suburban Lakewood, which will get rail service as part of FasTracks. “Will this take cars off the road? I doubt it. As you grow as an area, congestion will grow.” [emphasis added]

Exactly. Congestion is here to stay, but it’s important to give people real choices. In 20 years, traffic in Seattle will be terrible. Like LA-style terrible. Imagine rush hour on I-5 or I-405 for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. If we don’t start building now, we’re gonna be seriously screwed.

“A Lot of Buses”

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Amtrak shuts down a few Cascade routes:

Posted online at 4:51 p.m. Friday Four Amtrak trains that travel between Washington and Oregon have been pulled from service at least through this weekend after technicians on Thursday discovered problems with trains built by Spanish train company Talgo.

Alternative transportation is not being provided, but customers can get refunds for their tickets, Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said.

The four trains that have been pulled from service can carry as many as 1,000 passengers a day, Graham said. Three of them travel between Eugene, Ore., and Seattle, and the fourth travels between Portland and Bellingham.

“That would be a lot of buses,” Graham said.

Well, it would be 20 buses or so, I guess. That doesn’t seem like a lot to me. Amtrak may be learning marketing, but customer service has to be solid, too.

Infrastructure Upgrades

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

The tragedy in Minneapolis yesterday forces us all to take a moment and evaluate our own infrastructure:

Wooten’s concerns aren’t too far off base — in a 2005 study of the nation’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers found that about 26 percent of Washington’s 3,000 bridges are either structurally deficient or obsolete.

And the state has had its share of major bridges collapse.

The old Tacoma Narrows Bridge — “Galloping Gertie” as it came to be called — fell into Puget Sound during a 1940 windstorm.

Fifty years later, a section of the Interstate 90 Mercer Island floating bridge sank to the bottom of Lake Washington during stormy weather.

In an effort to prevent more failures from happening here, engineers inspect each of the state’s bridges every two years, said Jugesh Kapur, the chief bridge engineer at the state Department of Transportation.

America’s infrastructure is showing its age. Most of the highways and bridges we use today were built during the 1950s and 60s. And though most are still in incredibly good shape, many are starting to fall apart. Fortunately, this is all happening at a time in which we as a society are re-evaluating the pre-eminence of the automobile. We can make better choices with this next time ’round.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

After a parade of anti-rail hit pieces, Crosscut apparently feels like they need to run a pro-rail piece. You can read it here. It does a pretty good job of dispatching the anti-rail pieces that have appeared before.

But get this — the author, William Echols, is Crosscut’s intern. An INTERN! That’s right: after going out into the world and finding anti-rail professionals in the transit community (no easy task, since most transit planners agree that light rail should be part of any urban transit network), the best that David Brewster could do for the “pro” rail piece was to look around the office and say, “how about… you! Yeah, you…. when you get back from fetching us coffee, why don’t you fire up Wikipedia and put together a pro-rail article, eh?”

Look, I have no idea how the Crosscut “newsroom” really works, and for all I know, Brewster doesn’t even drink coffee. I don’t mean to impugn the credentials of Mr. Echols, either. Like I said, he does a fine job. But one can only imagine what kind of an enlightening article we’d get if we had an actual, real-life transportation planner or professor writing a pro-rail piece.

(via CIS, who’s equally astonished that Crosscut even published a pro-rail article)

PODs Again

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Hot on the heels of the proposed London PRT system, a Mesa, AZ businessman is floating a proposal to bring a 25-mile transit pod network to downtown Mesa:

Bullet-shaped two-passenger vehicles would be suspended from overhead tracks. Instead of riding on wheels or bearings, they would be elevated and propelled by magnetic levitation at speeds up to 100 mph in city, and 150 mph between cities.

About every quarter-mile, there would be a station. Passengers would climb to the boarding platform, pay for their rides, punch in their destinations and jump into waiting cars.

A computer would guide the cars as they merge into the high-speed upper rail and then slow to a stop at the destinations.

Eventually, SkyTran advocates say, a city could be covered with a grid of lines, making it all but unnecessary to use cars for local trips.

And you thought the Seattle Monorail was a pie-in-the-sky idea?

Public Benefits

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

In 2001, State House Speaker Frank Chopp beat back efforts to privatize new Tacoma Narrows Bridge, as Knute Berger recently recounted in Crosscut. Chop claims that the decision will save us $1.2 billion. Privatizing is in vogue, Berger notes, because it provides a dedicated revenue stream (and an effective monopoly) to the companies that manage the roads.

Today we learn that the $3 bridge toll is going farther than expected, allowing us to make all sorts of road investments in the area, including tow trucks to help with rush-hour breakdowns and state troopers to enforce the tolls and other laws.

Some folks, like Rep. Pat Lantz, are dismayed what they see as too broad a use of the public’s money. But it’s important to keep in mind, that if we’d privatized the bridge, all that cash would be going to shareholder profits halfway around the world. Instead it’s being used right here at the source, to help make the commute easier. Which is what it was intended for.