LINK O&M Facility
LINK O&M Facility

The Operations and Maintenance Facility is 25 acres.

The initial segment is 25 km long.  How’s that for mixing metric and imperial units?

The entire 775-page Oberstar transportation bill is now available for download.  It’s not clear if anyone here is going to take up the mission to follow this closely, because there’s excellent coverage at Streetsblog Capitol Hill, the transport politic, and Transportation for America.

There’s also some sort of Metro train collision on DC’s Red Line. Details are sketchy at this point.

Update 4:46pm. Four Nine dead.  Apparently one train rear ended another.  The pictures are horrible, in a “how could this have only killed four nine people?” kind of way.

In other news, 8 people were killed by cars in the New York area just last week.  Of course, that’s not going to be picked up by the national media because it’s a totally unremarkable event.

59 Replies to “25 Days: Following Congress”

    1. Except that using that level of notation (6 digits to the right of the decimal point) you’re saying that the 25 Acre number is accurate to within about a tenth of a square foot. That’s pretty amazing surveying!

      1. Hey they paid money for it so I’m sure they did a ton of surverying and environmental testing.

    2. Dammit, why the frenchy base-10 stuff?

      An acre is the amount of land tillable by one man behind an ox in one day.

      Certainly a better measure than some portion of the distance from Paris to the North Pole, squared!!

      1. What kind of man, how strong an ox, what type of soil, how big a plow, and how many hours worked in a day? It is simply not precise enough for engineering and scientific needs. All the U.S. customary units have been defined in terms of metric since July 1, 1959.

      2. I was speaking with tongue in cheek.

        Yes, the U.S. measures are officially linked to the Metric system by the Bureau of Standards (or whatever they are called now), but transportation engineering is still usually done in whole numbers of feet, inches etc.

        We have 12-feet-wide (3.6576 meters) lanes, not 3 or 4-meter lanes.

    1. According to Sam, this will be a frequent occurence.

      That, and Light Rail causing dogs to run away from home.

      1. Please do research before you write something. The trains in DC (and SF) are completely automated expect for opening and closing doors.

      2. Again, I am not against light rail. I am for light rail. But only smart light rail. All that glitters is not gold. And all light rail lines are not smart light rail lines. Some are a waste of money. Some are political lines. I can be against the idiotic Central Link line, and still be for light rail, if it’s done wisely.

      3. Central Link is not idiotic. It’s going to one of the highest ridership areas of the state (Rainier Valley) and to one of the biggest economic engines of the state (Sea-Tac). The only thing slightly “idiotic” about it is the at-grade section on MLK. Wish that could be a tunnel!

      4. Put a line thought a dense, transit-dependent area, reduce bus service, and yes, you will have high ridership. But what have you solved? And please, you don’t need to go through a list of the things that it will, admittedly, solve. In my opinion, it’s just not solving the more important transportation issues plaguing this area.

        But I’m not going to get into this now. The political Central Link line is a reality, and I hope it’s a success.

        Right now my thoughts and prayers are with the people …. hold on … international business call. brb.

      5. How about a list of the specific things you have against it? Calling it political really doesn’t do much to explain your case.

      6. I don’t want to put any energy into this right now. Basically, it gets down to wanting to see a rail line where more people are switching from cars to trains, than merely from buses to trains. I’m disappointed wasn’t designed to get more people out of their cars, and more cars off the freeway.

      7. What city’s first light rail line hasn’t been between downtown and the airport? What do you think the first line should’ve been? Do you think SLU was the right place for Seattle’s first streetcar?

      8. Sam, your refrain is common.

        “Don’t put it through the city where people already use transit and capacity is crushed by throughput, put it through the suburbs!”

        Inevitably followed later by, “Don’t put it through the suburbs where we have road capacity, put buses there!”

      9. Sam! You don’t take on your highest risk project first, or your chances of being able to go further and convince people to say yes again will *plummet*.

      10. Oh, and hey Sam, any line will end up going through the most densely populated part of a region anyhow. It’s intelligent, especially as a proof of concept.

      11. You know what guys, I think we’re giving Sam more attention than he deserves. Anytime he’s challenged, he just says he doesn’t want to go into this right now, or he just doesn’t have time to argue that. I think we should give that attitude back, and just ignore his comments.

      12. You are thinking about him too much. I think he adds something to the discussion: it’s a very different position, but that’s fine.

        As long as he doesn’t hijack unrelated threads to talk about one of his hobbyhorses…

      13. AJ, that’s pretty much textbook ad hominem.

        Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you need to caricature their arguments.

  1. Right, because the Rainier Valley is among the most politically powerful in Puget Sound. Unlike Magnolia or something.

    These two trains were inbound during the evening rush hour. They were probably relatively empty. This could’ve been far worse had even one train been outbound at that point, or if this occurred closer to downtown. WMATA has had 2 fatal accidents since beginning operations in 1976. This is awful, but nationwide an average of about 5 Americans die in car accidents every hour. You guys need to do a post on transit’s relative safety. I don’t have enough of the stats at my fingertips, or the time to find them.

    1. Every death is a tragedy, especially deaths that could be prevented through safety precautions. If 100 people were dying of auto accidents in my neighborhood daily, I wouldn’t be talking about how much safer the bus or train is–I would be pointing out the utter failure of the traffic safety regime!

      We really need to have a systems that are safe for trains, buses, cars, bikes, and pedestrians.

      1. There are about 43,000 deaths a year in car accidents in the US. That comes to about 118 a day. If your *neighborhood* had 100 deaths a day of any cause, it’d be wiped off the map in months! By numbers of deaths alone, we have the equivalent of 14 September 11ths every year on roads. Of course, there are bigger causes of death like smoking (400,000/year). I believe the #1 killer in America is heart disease.

        Safety is one of the reasons we need to shift more people from cars to transit. You definitely don’t hear it much, but if you want to get where you’re going in one piece, your chances are many many many times better on transit. Even air travel must have a higher mortality rate. I’m sure there are lots of causes for the 43,000, but sheer volume is a big one. I’ve never heard of transit rage either. But I think a lot is inherent to cars that makes them lethal no matter how good a system you have.

      2. Higher VMT = Higher crash risk

        It is a very obvious, but it is not how the engineering profession measures safety. This basic fact does not matter. Vehicle safety is measured by vehicle miles traveled, so while every mile that you travel has become safer the fact that VMT has significantly increases actually means that crashes per person (which is what really matters) has actually gone up. This is just one example of how poorly defined measurements create the wrong solution.

      3. Yes, same thing with conservatives looking at transit capital costs per mile. Much of the point is to densify and reduce the number of miles we need to go.

        A while back Sightline had a post on how our greenhouse emissions from cars have gone up even while fuel efficiency increased, because VMTs went up so much. That’s a good piece of why I think our urban growth boundary is much too big.

      4. Actually, while mor travel does mean more risk, in recent decades, safety gains have outpaced travel increases — the per capita motor vehicle death rate has been going down.

        In 1990, the traffic death rate was 2.1 per 100 million VMT, or 17.9 per 100,000 population; by 2006 that had fallen to 1.4 per 100 million VMT, or 14.2 per 100,000 population.

        Still, that’s 9/11 every single month on our streets and highways.

    2. The WaPo article quotes a rider saying only 8-10 people were in his train car.

      Also, counter to the AP story, the track in this area is elevated–not at grade. The WaPo piece describes riders helping each other down to the ground. Heavy rail has to be fenced in where it’s at grade b/c of the high voltage third rail.

      (I lived in DC for 6 years and made fairly frequent use of Ft. Totten, Takoma, and Silver Spring stations.)

      1. The car that caused the accident was one of the original fleet (1000-series) delivered in the mid-1970’s by Rohr.

        And it was then “rehabbed” by Breda in the early 1990’s. But I am sure Breda did a fine job, right?

  2. Portlands first lite rail line didn’t go to the airport. Looks like Hawaii’s new system won’t either. Salt Lake City didn’t. Probably more but I’m too lazy to look em up.

    To the above fight on the Central Link alignment, Sam, you’re not alone. I’ve never been a fan of the CLink routing. It seams extremely political rather than functional. A better route would have been SeaTac via West Seattle. West Seattle’s transit needs are far greater than MLK’s, and they’re far more dense. Upgrading their infrasturture to meet growing demands is far more costly as well. West Seattle is growing more dense and livable, and it didn’t need a lite rail line to do it. Sound Transit chose the easy way out by going down MLK and doing an at-grade alignment. No professional transportation engineer in their right mind would have suggested it. A politician on the other hand… Its also worth mentioning the two BIG missed station and P&R oppertunities at Boeing Access and another one around the Metro base along SR518. The Link is worthless to those who live between Rainer Beach and Tukwila. They should have gone straight north to where the worst traffic and biggest bottle necks are. 2000 daily boardings at Rainier Beach, 1400 at Othello, 3000 at Columbia. It hardly seems worth the $2 billion investment. The monorail studies had a lot higher ridership numbers from West Seattle. Considering how much WS wants it, they’re probably not far off.

    But no sense crying. These decisions were made a decade ago. The trains are moving and will begin in less than a month. Thank goodness in the last 10 years, ST has grown a serious set of balls. And they’re using their big cajones for East and North Link.

    1. Yes, it’s political.

      You either play politics or you get absolutely nothing. Seems like a pretty clear decision to me.

    2. They should have gone straight north to where the worst traffic and biggest bottle necks are.

      Eh? Just because link goes by where there are big traffic jams on the freeway doesn’t mean it would do anything about them. Those people doing the stop and go dance along I-5 between Southcenter and Downtown don’t live along I-5 in that area.

      Now I will agree Central Link should have served Southcenter with a big Park & Ride there. The other routing that would have made a little more sense is along 99 from W Marginal. But in any case I expect the Tukwilla International Station to get at least a few people out of their cars. There are a fair chunk of people living South and West of the station.

      1. I heard the Port didn’t want the 99 right of way taken, otherwise that’s where it would have gone.

      2. My understanding is the City of Tukwilla objected to having ROW taken from 99 which is why it doesn’t run up 99, even though there would have been one or two between S. 154th and the Duwamish.

      3. They should have gone straight north to where the worst traffic and biggest bottle necks are.

        They did try to go North but were afraid the cost of going under the Ship Canal would sink the entire project. So they did South first to get a starter line in place. Later as they gained more experience and did more ship canal studies and found a way to assuage the UW’s concerns about disrupting its seismic sensors, they found a way to make the North line work.

        As for the surface track on MLK, yes it’s a mistake, but something is better than nothing.

        I don’t remember any proposal for a West Seattle routing ten years ago. The proposals were for Rainier Valley or the freeway. The freeway choice was nixed because it would attract too few riders (nobody lives within walking distance of the freeway stations). And because they got a better federal grant for serving a poor minority area. (And, if you believe the critics, to allow ST’s buddies to acquire real estate adjacent to the line for cheap, and to funnel construction contracts to them.) If people think a West Seattle routing would have been better, they should have spoken up ten years ago.

  3. I believe San Francisco just got to the airport after something like several decades of BART and rail service. Most systems just don’t go to the airport until much later in their development when they are relatively mature. If there is anything “political” about Central Link’s routing, it is that ST decided to go to the airport in Phase I to avoid being labeled as a “Train to Nowhere.”

    Central Link routing is actually pretty darn good. Add in U Link and we have a system that ties the 2 largest transit ridership areas in the State (the UW and RV) with the largest employment center in the state (the Seattle CBD). And the ability to attract new riders along this route is greater than along long-and-thin suburban routes.

    You really can’t beat it.

    1. The problem is that nobody will ever allow themselves to admit that the Seattle CBD is the biggest employment center, nor will they allow themselves to admit that Capitol Hill, UW and the Rainier Valley are high transit ridership areas.

  4. The reason the airport is not the first destination in many systems has to do with the clout of the local taxi/livery lobby…

  5. Also you all seem to forget that the Airport itself is a huge employment center. Plus there are a couple of large hotels also within easy walking distance to the LINK station. For the low wage jobs at the airport, living next to a LINK station is going to be a big win. I think ST has underestimated the number of riders going South from the Rainier Valley. These workers are fairly mobile, being young and probably not home owners yet. Within a year they’ll consider moving if LINK is seen as a safe/fast/reliable alternative.

    1. I’ve never bought into conspiracy theories regarding the local taxi lobby – they just aren’t that powerful. I do believe that the Port was reluctant to accommodate ST at the airport, but given the amount of infrastructure and land involved, who could blame them?

      Per the airport being a “huge” employment center, I’d call that a bit of a stretch. The ridership of the Airport Station is projected to only be a relatively modest 3000/day (including all the hotel and traveler ridership) and is dwarfed by the ridership of Husky Station, the Cap Hill Station, and all the Seattle CBD Stations.

      Many of the RV Stations do have lower ridership, but they are relatively simple, at grade, mid-line stations that can be added at low cost and little effort. Their economics are completely different, and they serve an important urban renewal role which doesn’t exist at the airport.

      1. According to the Port of Seattle there are 18,700 people employed at the airport proper. That would put the airport in the top 5 employers in the area. In addition are all the people employed by hotels, restaurants, car rentals, etc.

      2. But the airport is a very big piece of property and not all those jobs are centrally located. We consumers of air travel tend to think of “the airport” as being the main terminal complex, but in reality there are a lot of airport facilities to the north and to the south of the terminal.

        A single, centrally located, Link station might be great for travelers, but it isn’t necessarily as great for airport workers. I suppose you could have shuttle buses driving around for airport workers, but adding more buses to the congestion at the airport seems counter productive and you lose ridership when you force that sort of mode change anyhow.

        But hey, if you don’t believe that, then check out the ST ridership estimates. In 2020 the Airport Station is expected to generate 3000 riders/day. But the Tukwila Int Blvd station (which is located in the middle of nowhere) is expected to generate…..2600 riders/day.

      3. In 2020 the Airport Station is expected to generate 3000 riders/day. But the Tukwila Int Blvd station (which is located in the middle of nowhere) is expected to generate…..2600 riders/day.

        Isn’t this largely due to bus tranfers (people commuting in/out of Seattle to points south? The airport by contrast is the actual destination for the 3000 riders per day. If I’m looking at the route performance tables right you’d generate at least 2600 riders just by transferring folks from Federal Way to downtown on the 174 and 194 (that’s assuming ~40% of the riders are headed downtown and it’s probably much higher).

      4. Not just bus transfers, but also the park-and-ride. It’s the only one in the system.

      5. “But hey, if you don’t believe that, then check out the ST ridership estimates.”

        I wasn’t posting a “belief” in anything, just clarifying that the airport is, indeed, a large employer.

      6. Yeah, the P&R lot will likely be at 100% capacity which will add another 1200-1800 trips (depending on average number of people per car, 600 stalls * people per car * 2 “trips” per day). Figure those are all peak commuters and call it 300 people per hour. Just dumping off the 174 and 194 could be upwards of 800 people per hour. Depending on how many bus routes they decide to terminate here I could see peak direction two car trains being standing room only at Tukwila.

      7. Lazarus, there are already a bunch of buses shuttling around the airport area, including the “secret”(?) one that loads from the ground level of the garage, just north of the main rental car counters. I see pilots and F/A’s and mechanics getting on there usually.

      8. The green line goes almost to the airport, as has BART for the Oakland airport since it opened in the 70s. But Lazarus is right that many systems don’t go anywhere near an airport until a later phase (Vancouver, Portland…)

        But still, the most well-ridden rail systems in the world do include a line from the airport to downtown. And many visitors and would-be residents judge cities based on whether they have this. My impression of Chicago, St Louis, LA, Newark, etc was raised immensely when I experienced it. As opposed to Raleigh and Charlotte, which don’t even have a bus from the airport to downtown. Even better is places like London Gatwick and Duesseldorf, which have a mainline train right at the airport, to take you downtown or to anywhere in the country.

        I was surprised when I heard Sea-Tac is the biggest transportation hub in the northwest, and the biggest generator of non-car traffic, but it’s true. What other place has shuttle vans coming from as far as Bellingham? So skipping the airport would have been a huge mistake.

      9. . Even better are places like London Gatwick

        yeah, all my English relatives that live in the London area prefer Gatwick but for international flights it’s often not an option. Heathrow sucks big time!!!

        Seattle increases it’s international stature many times over by having Link connect downtown to the airport. Our connections with Asia are very important.

        Haven’t had to travel to the Bay Area for years but SFO was always to be avoided. Didn’t matter if transit was at the airport. The airport was always hours behind because of fog delays in the morning that just extended into the rest of the day. Oakland and San Jose were better choices. Side note, I flew into SFO ~2001 when the BART train was stuck on the tracks (way the F up in the air) during testing at the airport. That wasn’t a big boost for rail.

      10. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of being able to go to the airport on Link. My only point is that, if you are going to complain about political decisions affecting Central Link’s routing, then going to the airport in phase I is definitely that political decision.

        Think of it. Between the Henderson St station and the airport there are just two stations generating only 5600 riders/day on a fairly long and expensive stretch of track. If that same amount of money had been spent on a route that continued south through the RV providing more local service and eventually serving the Boeing plant and then terminating in Renton, I’d bet that those 5 or so additional stations would generate substantially more ridership.

        Politics affected the decision to go to the airport in 2 ways:

        1) The need to quiet the critics who labeled any system not going to the airport as a “train to nowhere”. Never mind that the Seattle CBD and RV certainly aren’t “nowhere.”

        2) The need to tap into and eventually spend South King subarea funds designated for LR. Subarea equity is definitely a political necessity given our local politics, but it does affect routing decisions. If you need to cross the subarea boundary to tap into those funds, then you are either going to do it along the freeway ROW, or by going along Hwy 99. And if you are going to go along Hwy 99 then you are going to stop at the airport.

      11. > going to the airport in phase I is definitely that political decision

        Any decision on Link routing is political. There are two science-based criteria I can think of:

        1) Successful rapid transit serves the largest pedestrian destinations: downtown, UW, stadiums, airport, shopping malls.

        2) It must also serve one or more dense residential areas: Capitol Hill, U-district. Rainier (or West Seattle) is borderline, but it certainly serves this purpose better than I-5/Georgetown.

        Southcenter is obviously a shopping mall, but I think it was excluded at Tukwila’s inistance, and also because it would fit more naturally on a future 405 line, which would also serve Renton and Burien.

        As for continuing south on MLK and terminating in Renton, that was never suggested during the initial planning as far as I’m aware of. So it’s way too late to complain about it now. I do get bothered by people (not saying you’re one of them) who complain about Link’s routing at the last minute, yet never spoke up when it was being designed and could have been changed.

      12. And remember you are referring to Los Angeles, city of the car, where only within the last 5 years has it become socially-acceptable to use public transit.

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