Aside from Thursday’s meet-up, your best excuse to take the train this week is the Rainier Valley Heritage festival, which runs a few blocks east of Columbia City station from 11am – 3pm on Saturday.  There will be a parade followed by a shutdown of Rainier Ave. between Orcas and Alaska.

26 Replies to “Light Rail Excuse of the Week”

  1. Serious question:

    Why would anyone take the train when they can take the bus?

    God love you folks – trains *are* SUPER NEATO! I like riding them, I hope to drive them someday.

    But I am just not seeing how they are efficient, cost effective, or solve public transportation problems (with the possible exception of reliance on fossil fuels – solvable by emerging technologies and the existing technology available in trackless trolley buses).

    Trains are labor intensive, have a HUGE carbon footprint (seriously), don’t serve neighborhoods, have immense environmental and urban impact, and take years to build.

    What is it with the love affair with trains? Again – I agree wholeheartedly that they ARE neato!

      1. What would you like a cite for? My ‘carbon footprint’ comment includes the resourses that go into building and maintaining the network; they *are* expensive to build (duh), they DO have immense impact on the environment (like any major construction project), and they *do* take years to build.

        Which of those aspects are you disagreeing with?

    1. Sounds like someone is jealous.

      I take the train because it’s more convenient.

      Trains don’t serve neighborhoods? Let me guess – you either live north of metro Seattle or on the east side. Sure – just forget about us thousands of residents who can literally walk to a light rail station.

      1. Jealous? How does that work, exactly? How can one be ‘jealous’ of a train. Like I said – I like trains. They’re NEATO! As a taxpayer, I’m less impressed. Sorry folks, I know that this is largely a blog for railophiles – and in part I count myself among your number. I’m still having a hard time grasping how or whether this light rail thingy is really the best, most cost effective, most efficient use of limited public resources.

        No – trains *don’t* serve neighborhoods, at least not in the same sense that flexible route vehicles do. They go in a straight line. Their stops are quite far apart.

        Seattle has MILLIONS of residents. Light rail serves “thousands”. Still not seeing it as the most efficient option for public transportation. I WANT to – I really do.

        Because like I said – trains are NEATO!

      2. I think you’re confusing Seattle with, say, Chicago. Seattle only has about 600,000 residents. All of King County only has 1.8 million.

        Replacing our entire bus network with light rail would not be cost-effective. But for the corridors where transit demand is high, light rail is more cost-effective than a bus. The highest operational cost of transit is labor. A 4-car Link train can transport up to 800 people with a single operator. You would need 10 articulated buses with 10 operators to transport the same number of people. And trains generally provide a faster, smoother, more reliable experience than buses.

      3. Jeff,

        There’s actually a study you might be interested in, published by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute with support from APTA that does quite a bit of bus and rail comparison:

        Rail Transit In America: Comprehensive Evaluation of Benefits

        From the Executive Summary (page 4):

        “This study indicates that rail transit is particularly important in large, growing cities. Large cities that lack well-established rail systems are clearly disadvantaged compared with large cities that do in terms of congestion costs, consumer costs and accident risk. Rail transit can be a cost effective investment in growing cities, provided it is supported with appropriate transport and land use policies. Large cities with newer and smaller rail systems have not yet achieved the full potential benefits of rail transit, but, if their rail systems continue to develop with supportive public policies, their benefits should increase over time.

        This analysis does not mean that every rail transit project is cost-effective, or that rail is always better than bus or highway improvements. It attempts to provide a fair and balanced evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of each mode, and identify situations in which each is most appropriate. This study concludes that rail transit
        provides significant benefits, particularly if implemented with supportive transport and land use policies. In many situations, rail transit is the most cost effective way to improve urban transportation.”

        Full text: http://www.vtpi.org/railben.pdf

        For me, it’s just a more pleasant overall experience – much more like getting around Chicago for my normal trips around town than pre-Link. Only Link is cleaner and more stable than the Blue Line. Most of my trips where I would have normally used the 36, 7 or 42 have been reduced by about half.

        I never have to consider which routing the 36 is taking or if it happens to be serving the stop closest to me at that time of day. I don’t have to consult the trip planner, a timetable or One Bus Away. I simply walk 10 minutes to my nearest Link station where I know that a train will be arriving shortly.

    2. LINK cut my commute time to downtown in half. A choice between train and bus: train wins: faster, more comfortable, more predictable. The urban impact on Columbia City seems pretty good – I see a lot more people walking S Edmunds and that’s bring a nice feel to the neighborhood. Not sure how a zero-emissions train has a large carbon footprint…

      Labor intensive? Sounds like jobs.

      1. Hate to burst your bubble, bit technocally LINK is NOT a zero-emmissions vehicle, unless ST as worked out an agreement where they buy their power exclusively from a Wind farm, Solar farm, Hydroelectric dam, or Nuclear power plant. TriMet has done that with MAX.

        But unless the above is true, which I have seen NOTHING that indicates it, LINK’s emissions come from a coal plant somewhere.

        All you are doing when you electrify a train line is to displace you emissions to a point source rather than a hundred locomotives. Granted, electric vehicles of this type are MORE EFFICIENT because you are not carrying your fuel with you and have no need for what amounts to be a portable generator that you have to carry as well.

        So, they are MORE EFFICIENT but they are NOT ZERO EMISSIONS *UNLESS* you are generating your power in a clean manner.

      2. technically speaking, the LRVs are zero-emission vehicles. The system overall may not be, but the actual vehicles do not pollute.

      3. Most (if not all – not sure in Tukwila) of the power for Central Link comes from Seattle City Light, which is 90.61% hydro, 4.83 nuclear and 3.25 wind (2007 data, probably cleaner now http://www.seattle.gov/light/FuelMix/ ). They estimate 0.85% COAL!!1! because they buy some power from the BPA who have a few coal plants. That’s damn close to zero in my book.

      4. Don’t forget associated costs. The costs of laying the rail, the line, digging the tunnels, manufacturing the rail cars themselves, maintaining it all, running the thing etc. – are not zero emissions undertakings.

      1. I even try to take it at least part of the way to some of the assignments I have at a Temp Agency. LINK can cover a lot of ground in good time.

      2. If you are fully ambulatory and are up for going where the link goes, that’s great. You and the other small minority of folks living along the link line are getting a very high value for your tax dollar.

        Not so sure about the rest of us.

    3. Jeff, because they’re cheaper. With similar tax recovery between the two modes, in the three county area, in 2030 we’re going to be moving more people by rail than by bus. Simple as that – with about the same amount of money, rail will take more cars off the road.

      In addition, as the bonds for that rail are paid off, we’ll have new money to build more. The buses will be struggling to pay for operations costs (as they are now).

      1. Cheaper?

        You’re kidding – right?

        Would love to see some figures on that. What is the cost per mile – or per passenger mile – of providing link service vs. bus service?

        Anyone have the figgers on that?

      2. His argument was for 0.9% sales tax, light rail will move more people than Metro’s 0.9% sales tax. Once the bonds are paid off, it’ll be 0.5% sales tax for operations.

  2. Interesting, if you click on Jeff Welch’s name at the beginning of his pro-bus comment you are directed to: Google Groups – Seattle Transit Drivers – “Description: A group for active full, part-time or on-call operators of King County Metro, ACCESS and DART. This group is not hosted or endorsed by any of the above employers or union representation – it’s just a group for drivers to share information in an unofficial capacity.” Or from which to make anti-rail comments.

    1. sybyll101,

      My Google group is not an “anti-rail site” – quite the contrary, it’s for ALL transit workers, including rail drivers. My views are my own. I would add “Sound Transit” to the description but ST isn’t an independent employer of rail operators – they work for Metro.

      Join the group and see for yourself. I often post pro light rail news articles to the group. Haven’t posted a single anti-rail one yet.

      Think before you post, eh?

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