55 Days

Interstate 5 Construction, 1962
I-5 construction, 1962, Photo courtesy of MoMAI

55 mph is Link’s top speed. That’s lot faster than a car stuck in traffic.

In 1955, the Seattle Transit Commission asked for transit right-of-way to be included in the I-5 design in Seattle. At $16 million, it was deemed to expensive.  The freeway opened about ten years later.


This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Our people are meeting with their people, McClatchy says:

Scott Witt, director of the Washington state Department of Transportation’s rail and marine program, said that though he and others are focused on the “here and now,” high-speed trains running nearly the length of the West Coast aren’t just a fantasy.

“They would go like a son of a gun,” he said.

Witt envisions trains like the Shinkansen, the bullet trains in Japan, or France’s TGV trains that regularly travel at near 190 mph. The bullet trains, in tests, have traveled at 277 mph, and the TGV trains have been tested at 320 mph. Both countries and others are working on Maglev or electromagnetic propulsion trains that could cruise at speeds approaching 400 mph.

Constructing a truly high-speed West Coast rail corridor wouldn’t be easy. It would require entirely new rails and a new corridor that smoothed out grades and corners. Picking a route and deciding where the trains would stop would be politically bruising. And the cost could be astronomical.

The 1,500-mile line, by some estimates, could cost between $10 million and $45 million per mile to build.

Witt said he has been talking with his counterpart in California for about three weeks.

“It’s very, very preliminary,” Witt said. “But it makes a lot of sense.”


Creative Ideas for Metro Funding

Broadway & Montgomery
Ad in a SF Muni bus stop, photo by dantc

King County Councilman Larry Phillips wants to tap into the “entrepreneurial energy” of King County to find creative ways to help with Metro’s massive funding gap. We’ve cover the funding gap a lot, for backround, here’s a story on the gap, here’s a story on one way to cover a portion of it, here’s a story about how scary it is for bus riders, here’s a story about Olympia’s help with closing part of it, and here’s a story about the Govenor’s veto of part of that help. Here’s Phillips:

“We must harness King County’s entrepreneurial spirit to find ways Metro can reduce costs and generate some cash to keep buses on the streets despite the decline in tax revenue,” said Phillips. “Metro has already tapped into some entrepreneurial efforts such as advertising in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and service partnerships with cities and businesses, but it’s time to dig deeper and expand those opportunities. For example, can we help pay for implementing RapidRide by allowing companies to buy sponsorships at new RapidRide stations?”

I like the RapidRide station sponsorship idea. We’ve been advocating more advertising in Metro stops for long, long time as a way to bring in revenue. Ads in covered Metro bus stops are practically a no-brainer. How about ads on transfers? I also think you could make a lot of money by opening kiosks for newsvendor/coffee cart folks inside the downtown Transit Tunnel.

Got any great ideas for Metro to make money? Leave them in the comments.

57 Days

BART was born in 1957 – that’s the year the state of California created it.

The older, non-hybrid 60 foot coaches in Sound Transit’s fleet have 57 seats.

1858 was the first time documented that a slip coach was employed. This was essentially insane – instead of having an express train stop at a particular local platform, a car would simply be decoupled at speed and slowed to stop at the platform. I don’t think you’re allowed to do that now.

Service Changes Start Next Saturday

Most of the big light-rail related bus changes don’t occur till September, but the June service change (actually in effect Saturday, May 30) still has tons of important changes.  Both Metro and Sound Transit (pdf) are doing these.  Highlights:

  • New Route 578 operates as a partial “Sounder shadow” providing off-peak service to many South Sounder stations.
  • One more South Sounder round trip; many new ST Express trips as a result of Prop. 1 passing last year.
  • The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will be open 20 hours a day, 6 days a week, and 18 hours on Sundays.  This affects all of the tunnel routes and matches Link’s operating schedule.
  • The Burien Transit Center opens, affecting tons of routes.
  • New bay assignments at South Sammamish P&R, Bellevue Transit Center, Aurora Village Transit Center, and Houghton P&R.
  • Route changes for 554, 555, 556, 5, 21E, 64, 66, 67, 210, 306, 308, 312, and 358.

Bike Commuting on Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge

Another Streetfilms video, this one really surprised me. Hawthorne Bridge has become a massively popular route for bike commuters:

Since the mid-1990s, for example, vehicle traffic — motorized and pedaled — on the Hawthorne has increased 20 percent. But the volume of auto traffic has increased only a little more than 1 percent. Bus traffic, meanwhile, has held steady.

Cyclists — now about 7,400 a day — account for almost the entire surge.

That’s a lot of bikes.

58 days, plus Videos of Link Testing

Montana Backroads billboards in Pioneer Square station
Montana Tourism ads in the tunnel, photo by Oran

The first mass transit service in Seattle began in 1858, with the birth of the mosquito fleet of foot ferries. This steam-powered ferry had service from Alki Point – then known as New York Alki – to present day Pioneer Square – then known as Duwamps. Must have been a short trip, Harbor Island wouldn’t exist for another 51 years. Link is opening 151 years later, in less than two months. Amazing, right?

1958 was also the first year that the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, aka Metro, was on the ballot. At the time it would not have included Seattle, and suburban voters rejected mass transit, but approved waste water treatment. Metro transit was finally created in 1973.

Videos of link testing below the fold.

Continue reading “58 days, plus Videos of Link Testing”

Microsoft Connector

samk (Flickr)
samk (Flickr)

I’ve been meaning to point out, as one of the not-employed-by-Microsoft bloggers, that the Microsoft Connector is a pretty big boon to the region’s transportation infrastructure.   Metro and Sound Transit profit immensely from the Connector’s existence, as  Microsoft continues to buy passes for all its employees, while actually paying the costs to transport Connector riders and freeing up capacity for other routes.

The only real losers from this setup are people who happen to work near a Microsoft facility.  Routes to these locations are much less cost-effective when some number of passengers are taking Connector instead.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those unlucky few.

How does the Connector affect your commute?

Metro Audit Finds $105m in Reserves; Gov Explains Veto

Hot on the heels of the Governor’s controversial veto of one of Metro’s potential funding sources, there’s word that early auditing of Metro has found that the King County transit agency has excess capital reserves that can help with its budget crisis. It’s in the P-I:

Just as it faces a $168-million budget gap for 2010 and 2011, King County Metro Transit has $105 million more than it needs in its fleet-replacement fund, auditors said Tuesday.

The agency’s fleet fund has about $200 million and is projected to hit $300 million by 2025, because it brings in more than is needed for new vehicles nearly every year, Larry Brubaker, a senior principal management auditor with the county Auditor’s Office, told the County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. “It brings into question why you’d need to maintain a large fund balance.”


Brubaker cautioned that the extra money is a one-time windfall, and said council members might want to spend it a bit at a time over several years.


The fleet funding was part of an overall finding that current Metro policies are putting more money than needed toward capital expenses and, therefore, should rework the distribution of revenue between capital and operations.

With much of Metro’s fleet facing retirement soon, we’re likely going to have to re-invest in this fund in the future. In the near-term, though, I think most of us would rather see service cuts that are less deep than worry about the fund’s balance sheet since no matter how you dice things Metro’s long-term outlook is unsustainable. However, there is nearly a universal tendency among transit agencies to sacrifice their capital goals for their operating ones, so that lost quoted paragraph in particular surprises us. We look forward to the full audit in September.

Also contained in the P-I article is the Governor’s explanation for her veto, after the jump…

Continue reading “Metro Audit Finds $105m in Reserves; Gov Explains Veto”

Sub-Regionalism Run Amok

Oakland Airport
Oakland Airport, photo by Invisible Hour

Something underlying the entire downtown Bellevue light rail tunnel conversation is the attitude present in many that since Seattle is getting a tunnel under Beacon Hill, and another from the ID up to almost Northgate, Bellevue deserves one as well. I could never argue against that: obviously, the fewer automobile intersections Link has to make the better, and a tunnel through downtown Bellevue is a way for Link to avoid several long-wait intersections that it would have to cross but would not have signal priority in. However, the more people throw around “multi-core” and “regionalism” when discussing Link, the more I fear events like the following quote, below the fold.

Continue reading “Sub-Regionalism Run Amok”

Link testing in DSTT starts tomorrow

Photo by Oran
Photo by Oran

Hopefully for real this time! A group of excited transit geeks (myself included) waited patiently 9:00am Monday at International District Station for the first Link train to roll through, only to find out that testing was canceled due to a problem with the tunnel’s control system.

Fortunately multiple sources report that testing will indeed begin tomorrow (Wednesday May 20th). A few of us will be back at International District Station around 10am to ogle. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and join the excitement!

Sound Transit plans to give bus and train operators two months of real-time experience before service begins in just under 60 days.

New Fuel Standards

Citroen C2
Citroën C2. Smaller European and Japanese cars may be on their way to the US. Photo by swgn

President Obama has introduced a new schedule for auto-industry mileage standards, the so-called CAFE system (I mentioned this previously here). The CAFE standard is the sales-weighted harmonic mean of a auto-company’s fleet of cars. Currently the CAFE standard for cars is 28.5 mpg and for light trucks and SUVs it’s 22.3 mpg. Under Obama’s plan, by 2016 the standard for cars would reach 39 mpg – it was previously scheduled to reach 31 mpg – and for pickups and SUVs it’s scheduled to reach 30 mpg instead of just 24 mpg under the old plan. All in all, this is a good – and long overdue -move on America’s oil dependence and climate change.

I still think it’s a mistake to treat SUVs differently than cars, especially since they are nearly the same thing at the more larger end of the car range and the smaller end of the SUV range. We know that SUVs are used primarily as passenger vehicles, and we shouldn’t continue to pretend they are somehow different. So-called “crossover SUVs” are essentially just large cars moved into the SUV category precisely to avoid CAFE standards and as SUVs are forced to move into the 30+ mpg range to meet with CAFE standards, they are going to look even more like large cars do today. I’ve been in the market for a larger car for some time now, and while a Subaru Outback or a Mazda 5 fit into the car category today, at 39 mpg they may not, and the 2016 version of Andrew Smith may end up buying an SUV because SUVs might be the only larger cars available at that size. If today’s large car purchases (at 28 mpg average) are tomorrow’s SUV purchases (at 30 mpg average), the effect of the new standards could be less than it appears at first glance.

Having said that, it’s still a huge step forward. With even automakers excited by the prospect, I think it shows that Barack Obama is startlingly good at bringing divergent views together on difficult issues. How about the tackling the gas tax next, Mr President?

Governor Plans Partial Veto of SB 5433

This bill, which we’ve mentioned a few times in the past, would allow two things very important to funding transit: The first, not under fire here, is the provision to allow King County Council to increase the ferry district property tax to help fund Metro.

I’ve just gotten word, however, that the governor plans to veto the provision allowing new local car tab fees (up to $20) to help fund transit. This could be used to help any transit agency in the state, and as it requires a public vote to approve I don’t really see how this is anything but Olympia dictating to local governments, yet again.

Can’t we get any progressives around here?

Don’t Try This While Driving

Here’s a new AT&T smartphone ad (sorry about the ad before the ad):

I send emails and surf the web on my HTC (and read books and occasionally use my laptop) on the bus everyday. Do this while driving, and you’d be lucky if you just get pulled over and not hurt. It’s funny, while car companies push more and more electronics into cars to make driving (and congestion) more comfortable, recent advancements in personal electronics are making time on transit more and more valuable.

60 Days

Back to South Base
Photo by Oran

Sound Transit’s New Flyer Diesel-Electric hybrid coaches are 60 feet long. Many buses in Metro’s fleet are the same model, and the pure diesel buses are 60.7 feet long.

Sound Transit is going to use cash to pay for 60% of the construction in ST2, with only 40% of the construction bond-funded. Keeping a low bond ratio helps Sound Transit preserve a high credit rating.

61 Days (barely)

Sacramento has 61km of light rail. I didn’t even know they had one!

Our low-floor 60 foot hybrid buses have 61 seats. A single light rail car not only has more seats, it also has several times the standing room. You all know that, though.

Also, thanks tres_arboles, we had lunch at the Everett Street Bistro, which was a fantastic recommendation!