"Riding made EASY" RapidRide
Rapid Ride, photo by Oran

1973 is the year King County Metro was formed from the combining of Seattle Transit and the Metropolitan Transit Corporation.

Here’s a news round-up:

  • Metro is facing a giant budget hole, but King County Council-member Larry Phillips wants to make sure that Rapid Ride, Metro’s BRT system that will open next year, will be prioritized over other service when cuts are made. The Federal Transit Administration has awarded Rapid Ride a $13.8 million grant for buses and stops, and it would be a shame if the service was cut down to make the BRT service infrequent. I think we need a chance to see BRT really work in our region, so I agree with Phillips.
  • The tunneling for the station on Beacon Hill apparently created a ton of sink holes in the area around the station. It’s going to cost about $1 million to fill them all up.
  • May 9th is National Train Day. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to take a train that day, but I will be able to in just 73 days.

This is an open thread.

Update: This is a big week for BRT in the Puget Sound region. Today, Community Transit had an unveiling ceremony for its version of BRT called Swift. It will run along SR-99 in Snohomish county starting Nov. 30th of this year. It will have higher service frequencies than Rapidride (10 minutes all day) and use Transit Signal Priority to speed buses along SR-99. This corridor is perfect for BRT and will be very interesting to watch.

130 Replies to “News Round-Up: 73 days”

  1. The buses look awesome, but I would like it a lot more if there were any even hint of rapid-ness about it. It seems to me just to be a rebranding to try to get people who otherwise wouldn’t ride the bus because of the stigma attached to it to ride. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it just doesn’t seem like it should be a priority right now.
    Also, what ever happened to the possibility of S 200th open by 2012?

    1. Metro asked the public for money in Transit Now and as the signature piece of the ballot measure I believe that Metro needs to show that it can do it and is prioritizing these types of projects. Metro has historically stayed away from “capitol heavy” transit project like BRT and I hope with the next county executive that will change.

    2. BRT will be a bust. All we will get is a big red bus stuck in traffic every ten minutes. Look a Aurora south bound Tues afternoon, backed up all the way across the bridge. We need rail, folks. And not the toy monorail to Ballard.

      1. Too true. Unless they dedicate a lane for the entire corridor I don’t see BRT and being anything but a bust

      2. I wholeheartedly agree. Would you be willing to help pass funding for a new rail line in the Ballard to West Seattle corridor?

      3. Yes. I won’t see it in my lifetime (although we would probably riding one right now if the children supporting the monorail over a standard rail had grown up in time). I wonder if they had ever taken the train to Vancouver, B.C. to see how that system operates.

      4. Seattle would not have been able to afford light rail or SkyTrain as part of the Green Line plan, either, Steve…

      5. Mickyms, I don’t know about that, and I don’t think the monorail crowd ever gave it a chance. It’s a shame, since monorail could not cross with any other system. We would have an encyclopedia of systems. WSF, heavy rail, Link, SLUTs, King County ferries, monorail, buses and SOV’s.

        Almost as bad as the mess of marine hysterical societies, none with enough money to fix a rowboat.

      6. Okay, guys. Have a look at nwtransit.org – we’re starting to collect support (and money) to refresh the corridor study next year and find funding. If we can get started on at least part of the line before ST3, we can probably get Sound Transit to partner up.

      7. Despite rumours otherwise, the monorail folks looked at all technologies during the original planning. Elevated was, without a doubt, the better option. Why monorail vs. light rail (or SkyTrain)? Much of that had to do with the size of elevated light rail vs. what Hitachi and Bombardier could build.

      8. And yet, that allowed the agency to curry disfavor by bashing light rail.

  2. I must admit, I’m little worried about the sinkholes on Beacon Hill because they’re happening more frequent now. I hope this doesn’t cause major backlash on tunneling through Capital Hill and 1st Ave.

    1. The short answer is that Beacon Hill wasn’t regraded to the extent Cap Hill or Downtown was, so problems there won’t be too big. Beacon Hill is pretty much like the Cambie Street fiasco where nothing disastrous happened, but lots of little problems turned into a headache.

      1. Are sinkholes not common here? In Portland there are periodically sinkholes in the West Hills or Mt Tabor (a volcano!) that appear and do a little damage and the news is like “THE CITY IS COLLAPSING!!!” and then they just fill it in and we all wake up still safe the next day.

      2. They are not so common here. Portland is in a river valley, and suspect water might be more common under the ground. Here the hills are apparently both watery and sandy and just the low-lying areas were glacier-melt-eroded so deep-bore tunneling brings up surprises that you wouldn’t normally find nearer to the surface

    2. Beacon Hill is just a big pile of glacial till, so there’s bound to be voids. Hopefully they can track them all down and fill them in. Tunneling technology is getting pretty sophisticated and tunneling under Capitol Hill shouldn’t be too big of a challenge. The Swiss are currently boring a tunnel that is 35 miles long and is 2 miles below the Alps!

      1. Seattle is just a big pile of glacial till! Lets not kid around here folks those glaciers made this city, and dug that sound.

      2. Indeed they did! And we’ll have more sinkholes in future work. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. $2-3 million on a $1,700 million project doesn’t strike me as a big deal.

    1. I heard it’s a ticket validator that’s only used on some systems in Europe, but they have no use for them here. It is very strange though…

    2. It’s a ticket validation machine, but I have no idea why they have it. It’s been there since day one and I’m not sure if it’s ever been used for anything. They’re usually used to time-stamp tickets and are common in Europe.

      1. Portland uses ticket validators – perhaps so one can purchase a ticket at a TVM but start one’s trip later? After validating the ticket it would show when your journey actually started as opposed to when the ticket was purchased?
        Thanks goodness ORCA will eliminate so much of this arcana – tickets, paper transfers, blah, blah, blah

      2. There’s nothing really to eliminate because it’s not used for anything here. There aren’t even any tickets that would fit in there.

      3. There’s no such thing here, but Portland uses these to timestamp tickets that can be pre-purchased in booklets of 10 or so.

      4. It would be nice if they’d actually put the ORCA readers on the SLUT. My Girlfriend and I rode it on Sunday, and I currently had a valid transfer going on my ORCA pass, but had no way to prove it on the SLUT. I assume they would have believed me had they checked my ticket, but it would be nice to be able to scan when you get on and get the reassuring “you’re legal” beep…

        I asked the driver and he reassured me that they rarely check for tickets anyway, so no worries. That wasn’t the reassurance I was looking for.

      5. I ride the SLUT pretty regularly and have never been asked to see my UPASS. In years of occasionally riding MAX in Portland I only was asked for my ticket a couple times. I agree the SLUT should have ORCA readers, but I’d hope that any transit inspector really would be able to check if you’ve got a valid transfer.

      6. Ticket validation machines aren’t standardised throughout Europe. Tickets are different sizes between Paris and Lyon, let alone across country borders. So I’m thinking it wouldn’t make sense for the train to arrive with a machine unless Metro specifically asked for one.

    3. There’s a mention of ticket sales on the Seattle Streetcar website. Maybe hotels or businesses along the route can get tickets and give them out to customers/visitors.

      Some of Tri-Met’s ticket validators have problems with printing the correct time. Yeah, good thing we don’t have to deal with that thanks to ORCA.

  3. I am thinking, maybe to close the budget gap, Metro should re-instate the separate two-zone off-peak fare (essentailly the same cost as one-zone peak) that it had until the early 2000’s. What’s your opinion?

  4. Good luck to Rapid Ride! I could see maybe using the Aurora route. It’s totally bike-able for me. Are there any estimates on time savings on some of these routes?

    1. Generally BRT lines shoot for around 20% savings with much more significant improvements to reliability. I haven’t seen anything about Rapidride however I’m sure they travel time estimates. I haven’t really tried to get any information about rapidride lately but the website doesn’t have much besides maps.

      1. “Rapid”Ride won’t be rapid, will still be bumpy and have to swerve to avoid SUVs darting out of side streets, and will have most of the other attendant ills of rubber tired, diesel fired technology. Lay Rail and Hang Catenary!

      2. And hire more drivers to run the existing fleet more frequently (5 minute headways are STANDARD on the major street routes in all large European cities) in the meantime.

        Put on-street TVM’s if need be to speed boarding; and you CAN use a simpler model like we see at pay-parking lots these days.

        Someone got wined-and-dined by NewFlyer plus who ever makes those slapped-together bus “shelters”.

        Some one check Ron and Greg’s passport and see if they have been to Winnipeg recently!

      3. Nothing in particular, just updated info about he project. I would be really interested to know what the TSP setup will be and what will be the restrictions on it. Will none RR buses request priority. Last quarter for my ITS design class our final project was to create our own TSP system and I’m interested to see the inner workings of Metros.

  5. Community Transit’s SWIFT bus rapid transit line will open on November 30. Most of the foundation work for the Everett-stations (except Everett Station) are complete with the rest of the stations getting underway.
    See link: http://www.commtrans.org/News/New.cfm?id=1321

    Phase II of Everett Station (addition of an east parking lot & pedestrian bridge) is complete.

    In addition, Everett Transit recently purchased some diesel-electric hybrid buses.

    1. What I would like to know is where will Everett build the four new stations for which they got state grant money? I haven’t been able to find that info!

  6. For those who were at the RapidRide press announcement, was RapidRide Man there? Yes, he exists, at least internally at Metro. I got to talk with Willie, the transit operator who created him, on Earth Day. Another addition to our current team of transit mascots and superheroes: CT’s Oxy Gene, ST’s Zap Gridlock, Metro’s RapidRide Man, and Steve the ORCA

    1. I think that’s this year’s allotment of hybrids. So they’ll probably be in service sometime this month, just in time for the June service change.

      There’s supposed to be a few 40ft coaches as well.

    [Removed at commenter’s request]

    1. Please, no caps lock. It doesn’t make your writing any more legible.

      Here are the historical population numbers for King County since “The War Years”:

      1940 504,980
      1950 732,992
      1960 935,014
      1970 1,156,633
      1980 1,269,749
      1990 1,507,319
      2000 1,737,034

      I would say that’s pretty significant growth. You only need to look out your window from time to time to see how this region is growing.

      As for bus drivers loosing their jobs, I guess they can get jobs driving Link trains? Or Express busses? Or any other bus system in the region?

    2. This is hilarious. I hope nobody falls for this crap – the more people you put on a regional rail system, the higher the adjacent bus ridership will be.

    3. Post-war numbers pin Seattle at 456,000. In 1960, it was 560,000. It slipped to 500,000 in 1980, but was back up to almost 600,000 in 2007.

      Even in its worst years, Seattle only dropped 10% of its population, after gaining 25%.


      1. I have no clue where did you get your info from . As a matter of fact there was a time in Seattle when people were saying ” The last group leaving Seattle please turn off the ligths”. That has been recorded in the city historical facts.

    4. Sorry, but I can’t resist responding with something of substance: I believe 56 drivers were (or are to be) hired to drive link. I seriously doubt 70 drivers will lose their jobs because of Link. Assuming we weren’t in a financial crunch, Metro would have been able to find another place to put those drivers. As things stand, however, when the 194 goes away, those saved hours will probably be used to save some money.

      There is serious talk about layoffs, yes. But not because of link. The gaping hole in Metro’s budget, caused by a shortfall in sales tax revenue has taken care of that. ST Express bus service does have the potential to cushion the blow with added hours that have been promised by Sound Transit. I drive ST service right now so effectively my pay is coming from ST, not Metro.

      Of course, none of this is very comforting if you lose your job because of a lack of sales tax revenue. Just realize that Link is not the cause.

      Side note: Rumors are that management is hiring LOTS of part timers so they can just lay them off. The union contract allows one full-time driver to lose their 8 hour guarantee for every 2 part-timers laid off. ALL part-timers would have to be laid off before any full time drivers would lose their job entirely. If you want to be paranoid, focus on this rumor. It sounds a lot more feasible although frankly I think management is hiring as many part timers as they can simply because they are able to right now.

      1. Pretty much every city that has built heavy rail and light rail in mass transit system in the United States has lost bus diver jobs. There are two main areas that are a form of exception. New York City and Greater Chicago, Atlanta. Again were are talking about huge population centers that make this area a midget if you compare those big population centers. The same will happen in Greater Los Angeles. Once the system is in place many will loose their jobs there like when the bart was built in Along the bay area. First the croooked politics make speeches of stand and deliver but cannot accomplish their claims. As a matter of fact once the bart goes from Stockton to Sacramento as some have it planned and makes a circle around the area even Greyhound will loose jobs in the area. People now ride the Greyhound from Sacramento to Davis, Fairfield, Oakland, Stockton, Hayward, Livermore, Pleasanton,San Jose, etc but not once the full link is built. There just won’t be a need for the buses in areas where the population will not grow for the next 50 years if Yesus does not return before then.

    5. Which of those cities have small bus networks? New York has the largest bus terminal in the country, Port Authority, with at least 70 gates. Buses run on all the major streets in Manhattan and the boroughs. Chicago has several 24-hour bus lines, and most of them come every 10-15 minutes in the daytime. So does San Francisco.

      The one place I’ve seen without buses is Cologne. They seem to have streetcar lines a mile apart, so buses aren’t needed.

      1. About 2.4m people ride NYC MTA buses everyday and about 5.2m ride the subway, so a lot less people ride the bus but that 2.4m is still about the population of King and Snohomish Counties put together… And just FYI, the Port Authority Bus Terminal is mostly intercity buses, not city buses.

      2. Mostly yes, but there are buses to JFK airport and Hoboken, New Jersey, which are local buses (the equivalent of Renton to Seattle).

  8. This is the most entertaining post I’ve ever read on this blog. Definitely my first encounter with a transit-minded quasi-paranoid schizophrenic individual.

    Keep up the good work pal.

    1. I know, this is why I’m not just deleting him, it’s hilarious. We have a good enough signal to noise ratio here that we can get away with it. :)

    2. A strong young man at a construction site(LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM ) was bragging ( THOSE WHO THINK THE RECION WILL NOT LOST BUS DRIVER JOBS TO THE LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM )that he could out-do anyone in a feat of strength. He made a special case of making fun of one of the older workmen.
      After several minutes, the older worker had enough.
      ‘Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is,’ he said. ‘I’ll bet a week’s wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to that building that you won’t be able to wheel back.’
      ‘You’re on, old man,’ the braggart replied.. ‘Let’s see you do it.’
      The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles.
      Then, nodding to the young man, he said, ‘All right, Dumb Ass, get in.’

  9. Since this is an open thread, I want to talk about Light Rail on 520.

    Specifically, I don’t see how it would integrate into the Seattle system without a transfer at U.W. to a separate train running N/S. Or am I missing someone’s idea?

    A couple of things I see that will make this a not working idea:
    One the DTT will be at capacity shortly after the first Eastside LINK is connected and the additional trains that we all “know” will be needed for the added ridership. So adding an additional train is not going to work.

    Secondly, for a 520 train to connect to an underground line it needs about a 4% grade run at the tunnel which when I did the calculation put the point at which it needs to start decending out in the lake, which requires a large coffer dam structure which will require years of litigation/negotiation due to salmon runs etc, as well as not being part of the floating bridge. At best, we replace a section or two of the bridge to get this built, maybe making a bulge for the slightly wider structure.

    Or were people thinking that the 520 train would run to Ballard and points West? Or would another tunnel be required? or would it run down the surface of EastLake with all the issues of being in traffic yet again cropping up?

      1. Ok, so after reading that post I don’t see any reason to cross 520 at all.

        (ok maybe after we build another 100 miles of track to all the other places that deserve it..Bothell, Renton, Everett, Tacoma, Issaquah..)

      2. Ok, let me be clearer… the why I90 first vs 520 outlines a number of reasons why putting rail on 520 is a bad idea. In fact it restates most of my complaints from the original post in greater detail. So based on my napkin analysis and a posting which is supposed to show why 520 would in fact be a rail bridge at all, and in fact shows that it should not be. I can conclude that there is no reason to put rail on 520.

        #1 No way to reasonably connect the tracks from the N/S LINK line to the E/W 520 line other than a station which is over crowded with transfers as most riders of the E/W line in fact don’t want to go to or from Ballard to Redmond but instead wish to go to from Redmond to Seattle, or North Seattle to Redmond.

        #2 If in fact some large scale and difficult to build switch were built, it would need to start the decent out in Lake Washington which has numerous impacts on the environment.

        #3 If in fact the E/W line were directed to connect to the N/S the capacity of the DDT would be exceeded, so there isn’t really any room to run another train on that track anyway.

        #4 Adding additional N/S line from Montlake to Seattle just moves the transfer of station problem to Seattle. But that may be ok, because that is the end destination of most riders.

      3. #1 a station which is over crowded with transfers

        Transfers? To where? There are certainly no train to train transfers which is what the station would have to handle. That’s not an issue on the tube, I don’t see why it would be in Seattle. The only hitch might be capacity for eastsiders trying to board a train for downtown but with a capacity of 800 people every 7 minutes or so that’s around 7,000 people an hour which should handle peak commutes. As for train to bus transfers there would be some increase but only to the extent that more people from the eastside would be using transit if the choice was train instead of bus. Bus traffic from the eastside would be virtually eliminated so bay capacity on the surface shouldn’t be an issue. For a large number of riders UW would be the destination.


        I don’t think the grade issue is nearly as sever as you assume. The grade from downtown up to Capitol Hill is almost 5% (CHS to Westlake is 4.99% southbound (downhill), 4.88% northbound (uphill) according to ST Linker). The UW station is ~50′ below lake level which means you only need 1,000′ to make the drop. There’s twice that from the shoreline to Montlake Blvd and about another 1,000′ from the current 520 alignment to the Montlake Cut.

        I know the high level bridge over Union Bay had issues that precluded rail because they have to maintain 70′ of clearance under the bridge where it crosses the ship canal. It’s the drop on the north side which is the problem. I don’t know what the grade actually would be for the proposed option K in the WSDOT plans. Taht would be interesting to know.

        #3 N/S the capacity of the DDT would be exceeded

        That’s why the eastside trains go north not into the downtown tunnel. As you pointed out the demand for commuting to the eastside is from the north! Which takes care of #4 because there is no additional N/S line from Montlake to Seattle.

        FWIW another viable option would be to tunnel under I-5 and come out somewhere along Eastlake. The line would then serve SLU and Seattle Center which are two potential huge ridership areas. This would relieve a lot of pressure from downtown being the only hub for eastsiders coming into Seattle and north enders wanting to travel to the eastside.

      4. I agree that an E-W line across 520 would be a very important part of a complete light rail system. The utility of a line connecting Ballard, Freeford, the UW and the Eastside would be immense. Not only for Seattle-Eastside commuters, but for mobility within the city as well. I don’t think there is any reason to directly connect the two lines at Husky Stadium. The line from 520 could just include a station above the north Link station at Husky Stadium and people could transfer there. I’m sure enough people from the north would transfer to east or westbound trains to alleviate any crowding problems on trains to downtown.

      5. Hey Bernie, I’m not sure what you mean about eastside trains. Eastside trains will go north… into the DSTT.

        And no, the grade isn’t an issue, it wouldn’t climb.

      6. We’re talking about a hypothetical 520 rail line. Going north to connect with Husky stadium and North Link the tracks would have to tunnel under the Montlake cut. That’s the grade issue. Is there enough land once you reach the Seattle side to make the drop.

      7. You could start going underwater back where the 520 bridge touches down. There’s a lot of space there, you could probably do it well before the arboretum / protected area starts.

      8. I think the 520 line should mostly end in the U District, with one line coming just every 10 or 15 min or so connecting into the tunnel towards downtown, coming from Kirkland. The people in Redmond can still take East Link, its probably not that much slower. The U District-Ballard Line should be separate, starting around Children’s and stopping next to U Village then tunneling under the U District, Wallingford, and Ballard, then coming up and ending with a station at Shilshole connecting with the Sounder station there

      9. And my ridiculous (but possibly even cool) idea for continuing that south from Laurelhurst to Madison Park, Madrona, the CD, First Hill, and Downtown is here.

      10. That’s what it looked like on Google maps. I just hope that if they do decide on option K, the tunnel is constructed such that it could be used in the future for rail and more immediately provide direct bus transfers at Husky Stadium. Probably too much to expect underground tranfers at any point but trains could still continue north by joining North Link where U-Link comes to the surface. I’m assuming that will be in the area of the Montlake student lots. Maybe once U-Link opens some of those student spaces can be used as a P&R lot? I would like to think more students would be commuting by train and the University could make a little money on charging more for non students.

        Realistically though I don’t think there’s enough width to the 6 lane (4+2) bridge design that rail would ever be installed. Restripping to mimick the outer roadway on I90 post R8A would leave only 26′ for rail. It seems like that should be enough for two trains to pass but post R8A the narrowed center roadway will still be 38′ wide. Maybe if you eliminate the access roadway and shaved it down a bit but that’s starting to sound pretty dodgy.

      11. 520 line should mostly end in the U District, with one line coming just every 10 or 15 min or so connecting into the tunnel towards downtown, coming from Kirkland. The people in Redmond can still take East Link, its probably not that much slower.

        From Overlake to Downtown is looking like 42 minutes. Assuming the new 520 and U-Link are built by 2016 I’ll be able to beat East Link to downtown on my bike! That’s sort of sad, no?

    1. I think the most realistic route from 520 is to Ballard, not downtown. Downtown would require a transfer in that scenario.

      1. If it’s going to Ballard, it can still go downtown, too – if the same line went all the way to West Seattle, people might even choose the one seat ride to Redmond over a transfer in downtown Seattle. Depends on the line speeds.

      2. Sorry, yeah, I have no idea what I was saying. I meant Capitol Hill would require a transfer. Likely route would be: Redmond -> (520) -> UW -> Ballard -> Downtown (new tunnel) -> West Seattle.

    2. AJ, I added a link to your comment, I hope you don’t mind. :)

      Gary, do check out the I-90 post AJ pointed out.

      Later on, when we build across 520, I think it’ll go all the way to Ballard, yes. It might, in fact, even turn in Ballard and head downtown from there, which would help alleviate the transfer crush loads at UW Station. And continue on to West Seattle.

      We wouldn’t connect it into Link, we’d build a new station next door.

      1. I don’t see many people wanting to ride from Kirkland to Seattle via Ballard. Crush or no crush, it’s not an optimal path to take.

        Now living in Ballard and working in Redmond, I can see that path, same for North to a transfer at UW to Redmond, I don’t see any way around this station becoming a major transfer location IF the 520 line is ever built.

      2. If it’s not planned before the bridge is built, which seems unlikely, it will never cross 520. If it did I would expect it to go to Husky Station and then continue on the North Link track to increase headways to the UW and serve people commuting from north King and south Snohomish counties to the eastside.

        I don’t remember what the grades are for the U link roller coaster but it’s quite a bit more than 4%. I hate all of the Union Bay bridge proposals for a Pacific Street interchange. Option K which tunnels under the Montlake Cut would be the most expensive option but worth it only if it were designed to accommodate first transit and eventually light rail coming across 520.

      3. 7% is the max any of these transit systems can climb. 4% allows a train to start on the hill from a start. I picked 4% because it also isn’t as much of a roller coster for the passengers and it doesn’t require adding sand/traction material to the track and thus wear it out as fast.

        And yet it would appear to me that 520 will not be “rail ready” within the lifespan of this next bridge.

      4. In 20-25 years, if we’ve passed ST4 then and we need rail on 520, we can just replace the pontoons on the new bridge. Yeah, it’ll cost money. We don’t have that money now. That’s the way it goes…

    3. A train on 45th makes perfect sense, which is why the Monorail plan included one. Having a “+” shaped configuration can quadruple ridership because somebody in, say, Ballard can go North, East, and South. I hadn’t thought of extending the same train to the Eastside, but it’s a possibility. It could turn south at Ballard and then go downtown.

      Another route that would have made sense is a ring line from Ballard to the U to Capitol Hill to downtown to Ballard. That would cover a lot of people and a lot of trips. But now it would overlap with Link on the downtown-to-UW portion. Still, you could make an L-shaped line from downtown to Ballard to the UW. But I’d be in a nursing home by the time it gets built.

    1. So, in general, I think we want the viaduct tunnel to die.

      I know that’s crazy, but hear me out.

      The elevated structure has to be torn down no matter what. It’ll fall down if we don’t tear it down.

      Stakeholders wanted a surface option that’s much cheaper (and moves about the same number of vehicles as the tunnel anyway). That’s what we’ll get if we kill the tunnel.

      And there’s already an initiative, I-99, but it’ll fail because the staff running it can’t stop running their mouths off about a new elevated structure.

      1. Is your prefered option a 6 lane surface road? That’s not mine. I’d prefer 4 lanes on Alaska Way, with some mass transit. I prefer elevated stuff like Monorail or elevated Light Rail but the PRT folks seem to have the numbers if not a working system (other than Morgantown and Heathrow)

        The tunnel seems to beat the 6 lane option. But having it below sea level right on the shoreline didn’t seem the smarted plan I ever saw.

      2. I’d prefer ANY surface road.

        Even a 6 lane surface road can be narrowed later. If you lose the surface debate by arguing about WHICH surface option, they build the tunnel under you while you’re talking about it.

        PRT is a total joke. I’m loath to write about it at all because of the batshit crazy people who come out of the woodwork to clog up the comment threads.

      3. Well calling PRT supporters Batshit sure won’t win any arguments on the technical aspects of the system.

      4. Saying we can always narrow it is always a bad idea, its not gonna happen…

        PRT is awesome, but it’s not mass transit, it’s individual transit. It can only work for a place like an airport or small university or corporate campus, the only two places, as you mentioned, that have it.

      5. We can narrow it a lot more easily than we can fill in the tunnel. Be aware of what are choices are here. It’s not worth losing surface entirely by arguing about which one.

    2. “someone is going to be hurt or killed” As if someone isn’t hurt or killed in a car-related “incident” or accident every day?

      1. What? No complaints that Mike is an anti-transit hack out to kill Sound Transit?

    3. So McGinn has jumped on this story to campaign on a no tunnel platform. We know Mayor Nickels is full bore ahead. Anybody have a score sheet on where the other Mayoral and County Exec candidates stand?

      1. Okay, come on. That’s not true at all, we have surface options that move the same amount of traffic. And when a Nickels supporter is calling you out, you know you’re wrong.

      2. Well, the biggest problem with the tunnel right now is that we all know for certain that there will be cost overruns, and the Legislature just made it clear they expect that to be Seattle’s responsibility.

        Don’t you think that will impact our plans for light rail, streetcars, buses, TOD, etc.?

      3. According to Cascadia Official Estimates Exaggerate Cost of Tunnel

        Maybe they’d like to step up and cover any overruns? Could it be done for less, maybe. Will it get done for less? I doubt it!

        On the other hand, if it did turn out to be half the cost then construction of a new bus tunnel could become a reality. From what I’ve read original the promoters of the bus tunnel claimed it would save 10 minutes vs surface routes. If true that’s a pretty big deal on top of making it much nicer to use transit and potentially making it possible to open small areas for pedestrians like the original Westlake Plaza.

  10. Anybody know a timeline for the expansion to Tacoma Link? I know ST2 only included matching funds, but I’m not very familiar with the system. Who will be matching the Sound Transit funds (Pierce transit, I assume?), and what’s their timeline?

    1. The City of Tacoma would match the funds. I don’t know the timeline, but check out future.soundtransit.org and try to find the project PDF, it might have the timeline on it. Otherwise, email STB and we’ll try to find the information for you.

      1. We can, but we can’t FUND stuff faster than that.

        This has nothing to do with how long things take to construct. It has to do with the pathetic trickle of sales tax that has to pay for all these projects.

  11. How does the train cause the signals to start? I was waiting at a pedestrian crossing at MLK and S. thistle yesterday when a train came through. I saw the flashing signal light up, with the red arrow and image of a train. I waited to hear the bell signal (which I like for some reason – it sounds so synthesized), but the train rolled through the intersection without a sound. After it got through, the bell signal sounded.
    I sent a note to Sound Transit, so they are aware of it, but I thought I’d ask here: wouldn’t the lights and bells be coupled, so they are set off by the same sensor? Has anyone else seen anything like this? I know they still are adjusting signal timing, but this is about 180 degrees out of phase.

    1. Sure, they’re probably trying many things throughout the day. I’m glad you emailed them, though.

  12. Hey Transit gurus.

    I was downtown today and noticed a 30-ft Gillig with a “CENTER PARK” on the destination board. It doesn’t have a bike rack on the front either so I doubt it is used for revenue runs. Does anyone know what the purpose of this bus is?

    1. Thanks, I really dig Richard Florida. Did you read his piece entitled “How The Crash Will Reshape America”?

      1. Thanks, I hadn’t read that one either!

        I’m hopeful that with Link to the airport, this city will suddenly step back and say “oh“. It’s going to be a hell of a lot easier to get more of this.

    2. The entrenched reason for not funding high speed rail is right in our own back yard. City to city rail at speed is a direct competition with airlines and airplane makers. So we have Boeing and Alaska Air among others to lobby against any real funding for this endeavor.

      On High Speed rail, there’s a good case for not spending the money but rather to spend it on fixing the low speed rail to be at least medium speed rail. http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/ Mr. Kunstler is a bit of tin foil hatter, and extremely depressing, but his observation that the country is broke seems to me to be dead on. It’s not that we shouldn’t build high speed rail at some time in the future but that the immediate problem is that we need to get off the oil teat, (to fix the balance of trade issue and global warming etc.) and that the incremental cost to fix the existing rail would do more to fix that than to lay a brand new right-of-way for high speed stuff.

      1. But then it would just become obsolete in a few years when we build high speed rail. Sometimes I wish we had a 84% state income tax so we could just build anything we want right now….

      2. If you get the medium speed rail, people will support making it faster. That’s what happened in the rest of the world.

      3. More directly in competition with “commuter” plane manufacturers like Bombardier than Boeing. Improved intercity transportation would likely increase air travel overall because it would make more trips economically feasible. Operators like Horizon (part of Alaska) might see less flights on runs like SEA to PDX but that too could be offset by the fact better mobility would promote more travel. I’d like to see the operations of high speed rail opened up on a contract basis to private companies and I think operations like Horizon would be a natural to run the service.

        Money put toward improving rail freight likely has the biggest and most immediate payback and that will usually have some trickle down to improved passenger service as we rely almost entirely on shared ROW. Once you start talking dedicated ROW then “high speed” isn’t much of an incremental jump since acquiring and building the ROW is the lions share of the cost.

  13. Those rapid-ride buses look good, however, the color scheme looks quite “tacky” to say the least. Does anybody know what kind of buses Community Transit’s Swift BRT is going to use? The same ones that Metro is using or something else?

    1. No doubt, that’s one ugly bus Harry. They really do look like the Wiener Mobil. FWIW I really enjoyed spotting the Wiener Mobil back in the 60’s when we we’re driving cross country in the new ’66 Tempest with the OHC six.


    Rider Paradox: Surge in Mass, Drop in Transit
    Dilip Vishwanat for The New York Times
    St. Louis is girding itself for some of the most drastic service cuts in the country.

    Published: February 3, 2009
    ST. LOUIS — Buses will no longer stop at some 2,300 stops in and around this city at the end of next month because, despite rising ridership, the struggling transit system plans to balance its books with layoffs and drastic service cuts.

  15. FACTS ABOUT MASS TRANSIT AND LOST BUS DRIVER JOBS. The Washington Metro set a record on Inauguration Day last month when people made 1.5 million trips on it to see the swearing-in of President Obama, but its $176 million budget gap means that it is planning to cut service and eliminate 900 jobs. Chicago had its biggest gain in riders in three decades last year, but was forced to raise fares. Charlotte, N.C., whose new light-rail system is the envy of transit planners around the country, and which is enjoying its biggest ridership levels since “the days of streetcars,” according to Keith Parker, the transit system’s chief executive, will be running its new trains less frequently, raising fares and cutting back on bus service.

    In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering steep fare increases and its deepest service cuts in years to help close a $1.2 billion deficit. In addition to considering a 23 percent increase in fares and tolls, the authority is weighing plans to eliminate more than two dozen city bus routes and two subway lines, reduce off-peak service and even close some subway stations at night.

    Big systems in Boston, Atlanta and San Francisco, and smaller ones across the nation, find themselves weighing cuts or fare increases that they fear could erode the gains they have made in attracting new riders. Beverly A. Scott, general manger of Marta, the Atlanta system, said as the sales tax revenue continued to drop, she was weighing everything from fare increases to service cuts to even selling the naming rights to stations — but she still hopes for more state support.

    WHERE ARE THE BUS DRIVERS GOING? Once people start to ride the light rail. More people will get on their cars and ride to work. That has happened in every city of the United States including New York city. It will mean less jobs for bus drivers.

    Each year, the Texas Transportation Institute published congestion indexes for America’s major urbanized areas. Among the 12 cities that have built rail, the number of cars removed from the road in 11 of those cities would not change the TTI congestion index. Only in Washington, DC can an impact be discerned — from 1.44 to 1.43. Put another way, the traffic removed by rail systems in the US is so small that it can be measured in days of traffic growth avoided. The top score is again Washington, DC, where it is estimated that the $12 billion subway system has removed less that three months worth of traffic growth from roadways. In other words, in exchange for $12 billion in tax funding, traffic conditions in May 1998 are what they would have been in February 1998 without rail.

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