Here’s an excellent video presentation of the Paris Tramway line T3 from concept to reality. From the computer renderings, stages of construction, before and after construction scenes, delivery of the trams, to the finished product, it ends with a time-lapse cab view test ride on the line.

Tram de paris
Uploaded by ar168.

The 7.9 km, 17 station line runs along a peripheral boulevard on the southern edge of Paris proper. The line began construction in 2003 and opened in 2006 at a cost of 311 million euros ($400 million US at 2006 rates). It took away 2 traffic lanes from the boulevard and replaced one of the busiest bus routes in Paris. It currently carries 100,000 riders every weekday at an average speed of 18 km/h (target 20 km/h) with trains running every 4 minutes during peak hours. Trains get signal priority. The RATP expects to reduce traffic on the boulevard by 25%. Parks, cycle tracks, public art, and a grassed trackway help the tram integrate well into the urban fabric.

You can also tour the line with Google Street View.

In comparison, it is a mile longer than the proposed Seattle Streetcar Central Line and the Link light rail surface segment between Mount Baker and Rainier Beach stations. It has more than 4 times the stops and half the average speed of that Link segment.

116 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread”

  1. Random thought: Mr Rogers must have really liked trolleys. His show ran from 1968-2001 which was pretty much the worst time for trolleys, but there he is in his walkable urban neighborhood (he never gets in a car) with a trolley. There’s also the trolley character connecting the real world with the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

    You can watch the opening theme here (video at top right):

    1. I LOVE Mr Rogers along with Sesame Street and watched it everyday. Living in Wallingford and having mom take me around on a Metro bus connected the show to the real world and left a good impression of transit and urban neighborhoods that has stayed with me ever since.

    2. Great link to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood – under “videos,” all of the classic videos we all remember are there, especially ones like “How People Make Crayons.” Not to make assumptions or paint people with too broad a brush, but my guess is that people who read and comment on this blog fondly remember things like those factory visits on the show.

      A good understanding of Fred Rogers’ philosophy of how neighbors ought to relate to each other can be gleaned from the 2005 “Neighbors” episode of This American Life at Fred Rogers obviously couldn’t share the humanity of his neighbors with viewers by waving to them from his car.

  2. These are very exciting to read. Anything that can help move people and keep them out of their cars will be better for the environment and keep insurance rates lower.

  3. The Parisian tram is being expanded east and north, more than doubling the length of the existing line by 2012. To make you even more jealous, the region as a whole has three other lines already in operation, extensions planned on all three, and four other brand new lines under construction.

    1. French cities have fallen in love with tramways recently. Lyon also recently expanded their system, Nice built a long line (which even runs in some portions without overhead wires). Alstom is obviously doing quite well.

      1. Bordeaux trams have a “safe” third rail system with no overhead wires. It’s been problematic, but they have supposedly worked out most of the problems.

  4. TriMet in Portland opened the Green line today. Another 8.3 miles of light rail to their network.

    With all the great light rail in Portland, why are do fewer percentage of riders than Seattle use transit? Is it because of skewed counting? Is it because more people ride bicycles? More people walk? I guess what I would like to see is the number of non car trips that people take. The every way but SOV trips. This might be a better way to measure the “liveablity” of a city because it takes into account land use planning as well as transit systems.

    1. While scouring the internet for news and video on the opening, there was one facit of the opening ceremony that I have seen in all clips: THE TRIMET DANCERS!

      I feel like a dance crew would have kept us very entertained while we waited for the LINK opening ceremony to begin (Dave Ross did good though, don’t get me wrong):

    2. AWESOME Timelapse video of the entire MAX Green Line from PSU/Downtown to Clackamas by the one and only NW transit video producer punkrawker4783. Running on the side of I-205, this is what North Link might look like if ST chooses the I-5 route.

      In response to the opening of the MAX Green Line there have been blog posts that discuss the merits of putting rapid transit along freeways:

      can rapid transit work along freeways? (Human Transit)
      Portland’s New Light Rail Line is Welcome News, But It’s Not Routed as It Should Be (The Transport Politic)

      1. Oran,

        The Transport Politic article says exactly what I believe about Link north of Northgate. It should swing west in a tunnel under 115th to the old Seattle-Everett interurban ROW and go north the Alderwood mall on it. It would increase the running time for people riding to downtown Seattle from north of Alderwood Mall by maybe ten minutes. But they are a small minority of CBD bound trips and will be forever.

        The old Highway 99 corridor already has a number of activity centers, and the street is frequently stop and go traffic. There are a number of places where the ROW has been degraded, it is true, and where not it’s a popular trail, so there would have to be quite a bit of elevated construction.

        But in the long run the objections noted in the article about the Max Green Line will be doubly true of Link north of Northgate. I-5 is a vastly larger highway than is I-205 with more lanes, more traffic, and a wider swath through the landscape. The Green Line at least has Lents Town Center on it’s route to provide a TOD core; Link has and always will have bupkies except for Park ‘N’ Rides.

        It is important to note that the Human Transit article presupposes freeway-oriented development along the freeways on which it advocates placing transit. In Houston where nothing happens except alongside a freeway, that would be exactly correct. But it isn’t true of I-5 north. There is NOTHING between Northgate and Alderwood Mall at ANY off ramp except a short strip of office buildings between SW 236th and SW 244th. There is no freeway-oriented development to leverage.

        Sound Transit is trying to have one mode be all things to all riders, and it just doesn’t work. Everywhere except along MLK the proposed system is more like BART than Light Rail. Yes, the vehicles are ordinary LRV’s with pantographs not third rail. And the fare collection is LRV. But the engineering is heavy rail, especially on the North line as proposed. As a result it misses the opportunities to shape development. The best result in that regard may be the NE 16th corridor in Bellevue.

        Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with building a BART-like system, but the truth is that there will be darn few people riding from South Everett to the Seattle CBD any time other than the commuting peaks, and accommodating them on express buses is better than sacrificing the great development potential of the SR99 corridor north of 130th.

      2. I completely agree – back in June I went around an I-5 traffic jam on a worse one on Aurora and thought how great Link along there would be. The Interurban line is more of a dedicated right-of-way than running in a street, but obviously a lot of crossings exist. It would appear from casual observation that tons more people live within walking distance of the Interurban than I-5; plus to me one of the things about old railroad grades is that they might not go exactly where you want them to, but a lot more potential for transit-oriented development seems to exist along them than along huge freeways.

        But two issues: First, where would North Link swing over from Northgate? Second, is this alignment at all on the table, or is it complete fantasy?

      3. I’m not sure, but I believe that there used to be multiple lines to the south – not just a valley interurban through Kent and Auburn, but also a “high line” through the SeaTac and Federal Way areas. Does anyone know if I just made that up?

      4. Maybe. I was under the impression that the Sounder took care of the valley floor and that South Link would meander through Fife and meet up with Tacoma Link near Freighthouse Square/T-Dome.

        ST 2 got us:
        “Environmental review, preliminary engineering in initial property acquisition from Federal Way to Tacoma”
        “Planning studies from Lynnwood to Everett, with preliminary engineering and environmental work if additional funding and/or cost savings are available”

      5. Matt,

        I believe there was the ‘Lake Burien Line’, the Puget Sound Electric RR (Seattle-Tacoma Interurban), and the Seattle, Renton & Southern (the Rainier Ave Interurban).


        I am unsure whether North Link should be placed along I-5 or SR 99. My TOD, walkable side says SR 99. My rapid transit side says I-5. But I agree with what you’re saying.

        A few months ago I made a Google Map of a renewed Seattle-Everett Interurban. My idea followed what it used to be historically, trains running on streetcar tracks within inner Seattle then turning on to the dedicated ROW between N 105th and N 130th St.

      6. Paul,

        Thanks for the link. I had read the SR99 Issue Paper, and I certainly am not expert to disagree with its cost estimates. So I’ll stipulate that they’re right; it would cost more 30 or 40% more given their heavy rail engineering assumptions. But it would go where the people are. Isn’t that what transit is supposed to do?

        There is already significant development along Aurora/SR99 all the way from 130th in King County to South Everett Way. Quite a bit of it is shiny and new but there’s also lots of auto-oriented strip development that could be wiped away and replaced with urban corelets (is that a word?) like those proposed for NE16th in Bellevue. I-5 is mostly the backs of houses with sound walls, golf courses and parks. Not much development potential there.

        Granted, the Interurban ROW isn’t sufficient to do the entire route; between North 190th (King Co) and 220th SW (Sno Co) it will have to run above, alongside or in the middle of SR99. The ROW has become a street for much of the way and there are single family houses fronting it. It would be scenic along Echo Lake and Lake Ballinger. But it’s not doable and would not be fair to those living there.

        Personally I think that an at-grade ROW is possible and even preferable between 115th and 180th. It would be less disruptive and Linden and Midvale in most places have face out parking on the less used side of the street which could be removed for the Link line.

        It is a mile or so longer between Alderwood Mall and Northgate because it bellies west. And speeds would necessarily be slower if at-grade were used through Shoreline. But if distance and speed are to be the determinants, then Link should not have gone east to MLK but instead just run between Landers and Boeing Access along the railroad tracks or Airport Way. That would have been way cheaper, shorter and faster than the MLK routing.

        And granted that taking in the Alderwood area omits the significant development through downtown Lynnwood, especially Edmonds CC; there are two good transit centers a mile apart on an east-west axis to be served by a north-south trunk. Unfortunately, both can’t be served efficiently. And the diagonal line between SR99 and 220th SW and Alderwood is ripe with development opportunities.

        As a last little “goodie”, crossing over at 115th allows a station at Northwest Hospital. One at 132nd would be across the street from the huge condo development at Linden Place and behind a re-developable strip center with at least six or eight acres of land facing Aurora.

        It makes more sense to me to handle those peak hour Seattle CBD commutes from the areas north of the KC line with express buses and let the light rail line work its wonders on urban development in an area better suited to it. But they don’t pay me the big bucks to make those decisions.

      7. Matt,

        The cross over would be a tunnel under 115th and Evergreen-Washelli. And yes, it is a complete fantasy. Transit planners rarely change their minds.

        However, I can claim to possibly having had some impact on the downtown tunnel, believe it or not.

        I lived in Seattle during the controversy over the SR90 bridge and the early discussions of the transit tunnel. At the time they were planning a cut and cover tunnel under Third Avenue. I wrote a paper that I distributed at a council meeting urging them to consider a drilled tunnel under Fourth, because I though it would be a serve the development centers better.

        Well I was wrong about that; all the development between 2nd and 3rd might not have happened with a Fourth Avenue alignment. But I may have influenced them to look at boring the tunnel. None of the professionals to that time has proposed it, at least publicly. I moved to Alaska right after having distributed it, so there’s no way of knowing what may or may not have come of it, but I have been thinking about transit in Seattle for a long time.

      8. You know for the portion of a North Link along Aurora another possibility instead of the old Interurban ROW would be to just run the line up the middle of Aurora itself. Doing the MLK treatment to Aurora between 120th NE and 220th SW would be a huge win for making the street more pedestrian friendly. As an alternate put an elevated line down the middle of 99 or put in grade separation for Link at major intersections.

        One thing I haven’t seen mentioned in this thread is that Shoreline wants to make the intersection of 175th and Aurora its city center and is encouraging density there. A link stop at 175th and 99 would support Shoreline’s land use goals.

        As for how far North to go, I still think extending Link to Everett has to be part of ST3. For one thing the huge Ash way P&R is too large to really ignore, second once you’ve got to Ash way it really isn’t that much to go all the way to Everett station especially if you are mostly running in the I-5 ROW. Politically it is necessary too, Snohomish county is going to demand Link to Everett as part of any expansion elsewhere, for much the same reason ST3 is going to have to extend link to Tacoma Dome station, even though any points South of the S Federal Way P&R really don’t make sense from a ridership perspective.

      9. Chris,

        Perhaps using Aurora would be better; at least it wouldn’t antagonize trail supporters. But it isolates the rail system from the surrounding community by at least two lanes of heavy traffic. (See MLK and jaywalking threads all over this blog). Using Linden and Midvale puts the system in the community, rather than in traffic. Something to think about.

        I’m in total agreement that Aurora seriously needs pedestrian amelioration!

      10. There’s nothing “boring” about the DSTT. Ha ha.

        I like Oran’s Google Map – is that completely along the interurban ROW? What would be super sweet is something between Link and the Seattle streetcar – like that Parisian tramway – going from downtown to Interbay Ballard to Greenwood and then continuing north until meeting Link at the new, gleaming downtown Lynnwood of the future.

      11. The map is for the most part along the old Interurban from N 130th St (I think it actually continued south to 85th St before joining the streetcars). There are slight deviations such as Lynnwood Transit Center and between Alderwood and Ash Way P&R.

      12. Lynnwood has a plan for an urban center with 20+ story buildings at Lynnwood Transit Center along I-5. Also, Mountlake Terrace has plans for a mixed-use urban village just two or three blocks from Mountlake Terrace Park & Ride along I-5. I generally don’t like light rail running along freeways but in this case it’s the best route because there’s lots of development planned along it. Hopefully it can deviate a block or so off the freeway for some stations to help stimulate development though.

      13. The old interurban ROW joins the I-5 ROW at around the Lynnwood Transit Center. So really the only area getting bypassed is Montlake Terrace which doesn’t have much near the freeway or P&R at the moment (at least not as compared to the density around Aurora Village or 175th & Aurora).

        If for some reason the route North of Northgate gets changed (which I don’t think is likely) I suspect people will want more than 3 stations between Lynnwood Transit Center and Northgate (say 4 or 5) which will add some more expense and lengthen the travel time some.

      14. Except for the tunnel underneath Evergreen-Washelli (which obviously would have to be bored…), it’s about 90% public or corporate (Puget Power) right of way. The parts of the interurban way south of 130th that aren’t streets are owned by City Light. Development has impinged on “Midvale Avenue” (which is really just the bike trail now) between 175th and 190th, so there would be some ROW costs there or an elevated section. And there are a couple of half block stretches at SW 208th and 53 West in Sno Co where there has either been adverse possession or Puget Power sold a short strip to an adjacent landowner. Those might cost quite a bit, but they’re few in number and total probably less than a quarter of a mile.

        And Chris is absolutely right. One would want more stations. One cannot having the urban shaping of LRT without more stations serving more destinations. From south to north I’d put them at Northwest Hospital, N 133rd (Four Freedoms and Linden Place), 155th, 175th, 200th, 220th SW, and 212th SW (there are a bunch of old low-density semi-industrial facilities here that could be turned into a center).

        Imagine the section from 130th to Alderwood Mall as similar to the NE 16th street corridor proposed for Bellevue. People who worked there but lived elsewhere would be commuting into it from the south and north and people who lived along it but worked elsewhere would be commuting out of it to the south and north. Those commuting between points to the north and south would admittedly be better served by the I-5 route, but they are always going to be fewer in number than those living in or destined to the Shorline/Lynnwood section. Those trips are better served for the foreseeable future by express bus trips, since they will almost all be peak hour work-related trips. Very few people travel all the way between Everett and Seattle in the middle of the day. Many will travel to and from UW, it’s true but the a ten minute difference in travel time is less crucial to a student studying on the train than a commuter.

        Everett will never again be the dominant city in Snohomish County.

      15. I reread my post and feel it needs clarification. When I say “Those trips are better served for the foreseeable future by express bus trips” in the fourth paragraph, I was referring to trips between points to the north of Lynnwood and south of Northgate.

        North Link as designed is a Regional Metro (heavy rail) system, regardless of the use of Light Rail technology. Stations are three miles apart on average and overall travel times are very low. It will be a great boon for the hundreds of riders who travel from Everett to Seattle every day. The people right around the few stations will also benefit greatly as well. And maybe the areas around those stations will become great development attractors. But it sucks for the large populations that live and work along the Aurora corridor, and BRT in that mess is not likely to be successful. There are just too many unco-ordinated traffic signals.

        So I’d honestly bet that a “string of pearls” of a more human scale clustered around stations a mile apart on a true LRT is more likely to attract Washingtonians. Why would someone choose to live in a highrise in Lynnwood? If they want that level of citification they’re more likely to choose Belltown. It makes more sense to look at what people who live here today choose and with some exceptions is low- to mid-rise multi-family or single-family dwellings.

        Yep, there are lots of new condos in Belltown but are they being built elsewhere? Will they be successful elsewhere?

        I guess we’ll find out.

      16. Anandakos I totally agree. I don’t understand why anyone would choose Lynnwood when looking for dense, urban housing. Lynnwood exists because people wanted to escape Seattle’s urbanism.

        There’s plenty of room for development left in Seattle. Capitol Hill, Seattle most dense neighbourhood, still has plenty of empty parking lots and drive-thrus once you move past 12th ave. Not to mention SLU, Sodo, Ranier Valley, U-Dist, etcetc. Seattle isn’t Meyberry anymore and it has a lot of growing to do before suburbs a half hour away need to start gentrifying.

      17. “Those commuting between points to the north and south would admittedly be better served by the I-5 route, but they are always going to be fewer in number than those living in or destined to the Shorline/Lynnwood section. Those trips are better served for the foreseeable future by express bus trips, since they will almost all be peak hour work-related trips.”

        I never thought I’d agree with this, but express buses are leading the way as the fastest route between Tacoma-Seattle and Link will never catch up, so maybe that’s the most feasable solution for Everett-Seattle too. (Although I hope it’s Everett-Northgate transfering to Link.) It shouldn’t be this way: in the UK trains are twice as fast as buses, but with the screwed up US infrastructure perhaps this is the best we can hope for.

        The controversy over I-5 vs Aurora just shows that both are necessary. Some people are going longer distances and need the speed of an I-5 route. Others are going to destinations along 99. This should be two separate lines. The I-5 one would have to be metro rail. The Aurora one, maybe something less.

      18. Stops along the old interurban alignment:
        Greenwood (N 85th)
        Evanston (N 94th)
        North Park (N 103rd)
        Groveland (N 117th)
        Bitter Lake (N 130th)
        Foy (N 145th)
        Pershing (N 155th)
        Maywood (N 165th)
        Ronald (N 175th)
        Richmond Highlands (N 185th)
        Echo Lake (N 200th)
        Lake Ballinger (76th W)
        Esperance (228th SW)
        Halls Lake (212th SW)
        Cedar Valley (52nd W)
        Alderwood (196th SW)

        Total travel time from the interurban schedule between Greenwood and Alderwood was 19 minutes

      19. Kaleci, Mike,

        Thanks to both of you for your posts. Even though I can’t afford to live in Seattle any longer, I love the place dearly. And this is an issue that will make a difference in thousands of people’s lives for a long time, so it deserves not to be in the hands of the consultants and staff only.


        Where did you get the old timetable? What a find, and thanks a lot for sharing it with us. Nineteen minutes from Greenwood to the Lynnwood P&R; that interurban stepped out!


        Well said, sir. I’m thinking similar thoughts for the “out years”. If the Aurora alignment is chosen your idea of transfers at Northgate for expresses from the non-LRT catchment makes a lot of sense for a couple of decades. With only three stations between Northgate and the CBD the Link will only be four or five minutes longer than the expresses would take on a free-flowing freeway and will certainly pick up and distribute much more rapidly. And it gets buses off of the CBD avenues which are going to be horribly stressed in a decade or two.

        But by 2040 there may be enough ridership between the areas to the north of Lynnwood and south of Northgate to warrant a regional metro, and I-5 would of course be the better route for that technology because it’s shorter and could be 100% grade separated.

        But I believe with all my heart that the Aurora alignment should be first and an express “shortcut” along the freeway follow later. The same might be done with Central Link between Boeing Access and Lander once the line to Tacoma is completed.

        But as a general rule express bypass rail should come only after penetrate the core rail has become completely saturated.

      20. Warren Wing’s book “To Seattle by Trolley” is a pictorial history of the interurban line betwen Everett and Seattle and Mount Vernon and Bellingham. In the book is a schedule from 1927 with trip times from downtown Everett to downtown Seattle in 70 minutes and service every 30 minutes.

      21. Personally, I think the interurban right-of-way should be developed to Lynnwood when the Seattle-Ballard line is extended.

      22. That would be awesome! And add in another line that parallels the county line from Edmonds to Woodinville, tie it into a north-south Link along the old BNSF tracks on the eastside – this is like for Sound Transit 9 in 2067.

      23. I’d bet there would be very loud NIMBY action if ST were to propose using the old Interurban ROW to the north, but it is a great idea. For those not familiar with the route, it starts at 85th and Dayton – just follow the City Light high tension lines north.

      24. I wonder when the anti-light rail nimbyism might not be a factor… after enough Link is built and in use, people will want it near them.

      25. After enough Link is built and in use, people will want it near them.

        Try reading the comments on some press releases for TriMet’s Green Line.

    3. It’s because of the enormous employment center in downtown Seattle. Since the Seattle CBD has only six streets between the Freeway and waterfront (you can’t count Western because of the impossible intersection at the north end of the market) it approaches major city densities. Parking is a budget buster and getting in and out is no picnic.

      So a large proportion of people take the bus. Since the percentage of regional employment in the Seattle CBD is also higher than is that in Portland, the effect is magnified. Portland has the long “tech corridor” along the Max, but it isn’t served in the same way that downtown is. Most people headed there drive rather than taking transit and walking a pretty good distance from the Max stations.

      With the exception of the Boeing factories — which are shrinking employment — and MegaHard there is nothing equivalent in the Seattle area.

      1. Actually, Portland has a higher percentage of center city employment (about 30%) than Seattle does (about 20%) according to the poorly done “job sprawl” study, though that may be simply because Seattle is a larger metropolitan area with multiple centers (Tacoma, Bellevue, etc.)

        But other than that you are correct, Portland’s suburbs have a lot of office park jobs (such as along US 26 or TV Highway) that are not served by MAX. It’s more or less Portland’s dirty secret. The city proper has done a pretty good job with urban form, and there are some attempts in places like downtown Beaverton, but for the most part the suburbs look like anywhere else in the USA: massive urban planning fail. The hopeful part to me is the level of knowledge about the problem and the fact that MAX is on the ground already. Replace office park surface lots with dense mixed use: WIN.

      2. Joshua,

        Wow, I’m amazed that Portland CBD has 30% of area employment. Thanks for the correction. Grant there are no satellite centers like Pugetopolis has, there are an awful lot of those “office parks” out west and down south. But the difference can’t be 10%, so Portland must beat Seattle.

      3. yes theres definitely suburban employment in portland but there arent really any true “edge cities” in the portland metro. plus the lloyd district is considered part of central city portland which has a big concentration of office and retail in addition to the true downtown core. despite the fact that the lloyd district was built in the 1960s and is auto-centric, embarassingly the lloyd has higher transit ridership than true downtown portland… they have more transportation management and incentives for transit usage by having a few large property owners vs. downtown.

        as for why seattle has higher transit ridership than portland, i can speculate that it has something to do with the extra million or so people in the region, the confined land and topography that makes the seattle region very linear north-south. university of washington/university district which as i understand is served by over a hundred bus lines, not bad for a destination outside downtown when there are many regions in the country that have many fewer bus lines than that in their entire transit system. portland gets very low density suburban outside of downtown, and downtown portland itself is mostly buildings in the range of 10-20 stories in height. there is also many fewer corporate offices in the portland area with only 1 fortune 500 company, nike.

  5. My mother had her purse, including her ORCA, stolen in the last week of September. She canceled the card online that day, and received an email saying the card had been blocked, a replacement would be mailed, and that the balance would be transferred.

    Turns out when ORCA says a card “has been” blocked, they mean it “will be” blocked … eventually. It took something like five days for the card to be blocked, and all the while the thieves used the pass repeatedly (exclusively on the 5 & 358, shockingly). The first few days’ worth of fares were covered by the September pass that was loaded on ORCA; on October 1st, however, it switched over to charging the e-purse. (The bank card that was set up to autopay for the October pass actually was canceled when it was reported stolen, so that pass didn’t get paid for and thus wasn’t loaded.)

    By the time ORCA was finally blocked, the thieves had taken a few dozen rides, and her e-purse was $7 lighter. If she hadn’t had a pass for September, all their rides would have used up her e-purse entirely.

    Oh, and of course, when you report a card stolen and order a replacement, ORCA wants to charge you $5. Of course, if you had your debit/credit cards stolen with your ORCA card, you’ll have no way to pay that $5 fee. Oops.

    My mother is still waiting to hear back from ORCA about getting a refund for the money that was lost between the time when ORCA said it had blocked the card and when they actually did. She had actually tried to get the remaining e-purse money refunded or transferred before, as it made no sense to have e-purse funds on a card that was now loaded with a pass, since those funds are completely unavailable unless the pass expires. She could have paid the $10 “refund administrative fee”, but as that would’ve been around half the money in the e-purse to begin with, it didn’t seem worthwhile, and so the e-purse sat there, completely useless. Until the thieves came along.

    With every new interaction the ORCA system seems more and more ridiculously broken. There are how many other systems in the world that ORCA can learn from, and instead they seem to be trying to reinvent the wheel, and doing a really shitty job of it at that.

    1. It’s all because of the same reason why it takes at least 24 hours for funds to show up on the card: the inability to push ORCA card account updates to a moving bus and probably bank transaction processing. Fix that and most of those complaints would go away.

      How could’ve ERG, the same company who implemented the wildly successful Octopus and EZ-Link systems, mess up so badly? Apparently, they did because the original company went into receivership. Or is the Central Puget Sound Regional Fare Coordination Project (a.k.a ORCA) also to blame since they were the ones who wrote the original system specifications for bid and operational/administrative policies?

      1. I don’t know for sure, but this might get “fixed” when the new radio system is deployed. Currently, their are two data channels. All odd numbered coaches use one frequency, and the evens use another. Since there are over 600 coaches using each channel during peak periods, it’s amazing that the real time updates work as well as they do.

        The new system will have four FDMA data channels as well as a control channel. I don’t know what the baud rate of the control will be. If it’s reatively slow like it is now, then I don’t see how it’ll help much except for when coaches send information to dispatch. One interesting thing is that text messaging will be used for routine operations. This way they won’t tie up one of their 12 voice channels. Currently there are 6 voice channels. The 6 are not trunked, the 12 will be. What this means is that the frequency is dynamically assigned based on which channel needs to be talking. Right now, each channel uses its own frequency. They’re limited to 6 channels because they only have 6 frequencies. The new system will in effect have 12 frequencies (it’s actually 6 TDMA frequencies) but they will be trunked, or dynamically as needed. Say there’s now 18 channels. There might be a need for people to be talking on channels 1 through 6 simultaneously, but the other channels aren’t in use. The master controller keeps track of what channels are in use and assigns a frequency based on what’s available. As soon as, say channel 1 is done talking, that frequency (pair) becomes available for use again.

        Follow all of that?

        And one last thing–I highly doubt bus FTPs (Fare Transaction Processors, AKA ORCA readers) will ever communicate with the master controller every time a card is read. Right now it takes a bit under a second to process the card, because the reader has to read and write to the card. You’ll notice most failed reads are because people tap them too quickly. If the reader were to “phone home” on each tap, you’d be looking at a one second “tap” best case scenario.

  6. I think that video could represent the future of Interbay- imagine a light rail line running down 15th with stops at Dravus and Garfield and a universal upzone to 6-8 storeys mmmmmm…..

      1. Yeah do you know if they’ve turned over those vacant fenced lots back to their previous owners yet and, if so, do the owners have plans to build on the lots? And what’s the zoning around the Link stations in the Rainier Valley?

      2. I don’t know but I’ve seen construction activity for ‘The Station at Othello Park’ on the lot across from the taco bus, which also sits on land slated to become a mixed use development.

        The DJC also has a rundown of TOD in the Rainier Valley by Dan Bertolet of HAC.

        Upzones. All five station areas have large swaths of land zoned for single-family and low-rise. In mid-rise zones, the maximum building height is 40 feet in two of the station areas, and 65 feet in the other three.

      3. What’s with the fences, anyway? ST added a bunch of them right before Link opened, like around the gravel area by Mount Baker station – there’s a chain-link fence with privacy slats in it! What is it about the gravel that we can’t see and that’s so dangerous it needs a fence. They’re really ugly. Of course, I think weird things like how stadiums with tracks should have no fences and track meets should be free.

    1. Grass medians are an attractive nuisance. Unlike humans in the rest of the world, children in America will be drawn to the grass and will start playing a pick-up game of soccer and adults will lay down a blanket or a towel and sunbath. Then when LINK comes along and severs their limbs, ST would get sued in court. Welcome to America!!

      1. What is it that’s different between our kids and the ones in the rest of the world? I don’t see a lot of people rollerblading or biking or skateboarding on the cement median, and all of those would be pretty amazingly fun.

      2. Yeah, if any kids would be unduly attracted to train tracks I would think it would be ones who are outside to begin with.

    2. theres supposed to be some grass trackways in portland with the streetcar plans. on a portion of the burnside streetcar such as at its western stub terminus around 23/burnside and also on a possible foster road line median.

    1. It’s definitely not just there. Read the comments on any transit-related Seattle Times article.

  7. Actually as newspaper comment threads on transit go that actually isn’t too bad. I’ve seen worse comments on the Seattle Times site about Link, or on the Oregonian or Columbian sites about MAX.

    1. the people who respond in newspaper comments are from a very narrow demographic… the old angry conservative suburban white male, the same people who also teabag, scream at town halls and get absolutely irate at the sight or mention of any non-auto transport.

  8. I’m not sure why everyone is so against having rail at street level. As the video in Paris shows, it’s the trend in Europe. I was also talking to a transportation professor of mine who said that studies show ridership goes down whenever there is a tunnel. People are more likely to jump on a train if they can see it. The cost savings would be tremendous and there would be increased ridership.

    In other news, I need to announce.

    Light rail has turned me into a jaywalker. It’s true. So much for their safety initiatives, but I cannot wait 4-5 minutes to cross MLK. It is ridiculous. As a friend of mine put it, “It took me longer to cross the street than it did for me to get from the Othello to Columbia City stations.”

      1. I was already one, but I jaywalk every day to Columbia City Station. Zap On Board can’t seriously convince me that I can’t see that train coming with those sightlines.

        Late one night this summer we were waiting for the light, and my wife asked what a bunch of Sheriff’s Deputies were doing parked near the station. “Preventing us from jaywalking,” I replied. A guy standing near us with his partner and their kid said, “Hey, I was just saying the same thing.” Then we all waited another three minutes for the light to change.

      2. I avoid the term “jaywalking”. Jaywalking implies breaking the law, and crossing a street is not a crime. I prefer “crossing when theres a break in the traffic” or “crossing midblock”.

        Another shout out to the book “Fighting Traffic” on how the term came to be and how the streets were taken away from all users into the exclusive use of motorists in the 1910s and 1920s.

      3. Downtown I just cross at the Alley. It’s not illegal to cross a street there and with the short blocks downtown they aren’t very far from the main cross walks…

      4. I took the T3 almost every day in Paris last year. Quite convenient. People “jaywalk” everywhere there. I would regularly jaywalk, then enter the platform from the wrong side where I squeeze between the fence and train. Many people did that. They also crossed in front of the train quickly while it was stopped. The train has two sounds, a ding to tell you politely to get out of the way, and a semi-truck horn to scare the crap out of you. No station is elevated, so you can access both directions easily without stairs. It’s also one of the only wheelchair friendly metro lines in the city.

    1. I’m not against having rail in the street. However, I don’t think we should have Link in the street. Link connects places that are farther apart so it should be able to go quickly whereas streetcars are local connectors so it’s okay if they don’t go as fast.

    2. Not so much against rail in the street, but rail sharing ROW with cars and other traffic can defeat most of the purpose. Although technically they’re trams, Paris’ Tramways have almost exclusive ROW and Line 2 only has two or three very small at grade crossings. Also, Paris’ Tramways are not the major regional system that Link is. Ticketing is even treated like buses (Tram to bus transfers are accepted, but not Metro to bus for example).

      I used to live on this tramway line and I remember when it opened. I hated how long it would wait at stoplights. It is way better than the bus was but it does not compare to a metro line. They’ve gotten much better with signal priority lately though and I know it’s been very successful (it’s always full). I have friends who take the tramway whenever they can because it’s nice being able to look out the window.

  9. It really bugs me how the ‘i’ in ‘Link’ on the side of each Link car is undotted. Sound Transit needs to hire a better typographer!

      1. I noticed this also! The i’s on their fold-out paper LRVs do have a tittle. I wonder which one is/was the mistake.

      2. I’m guessing the paper ones are the mistake since they’re supposed to look like the train… unless ST sent Kinkisharyo those same paper models as mock-ups for the paint job. That would be pretty cheap.

    1. I don’t mind that the “i” on Central Link is undotted, but it does bug me that it IS dotted on Tacoma Link, and that there is that inconsistency. Same font and everything!

      1. Instead of Tacoma and Central, they should start officially referring to them as Dotted Link and Undotted Link.

  10. Since this is an open thread, I’ve got a question on a different topic.

    Does anyone here ride the Sounder from Mukilteo? I’ve been thinking of taking the Sounder from there, but I know there are only 68 parking spaces at Mukilteo Station.

    Does anyone know how early they usually fill up? Do you pretty much have to be catching the first train of the morning to find a space, or are there spaces available when catching the later trains?

  11. On yet another topic – does anyone have any news about fixes for the wobbles and shakes on LINK? I rode a car yesterday that had by far the worst instability I’ve experienced yet. On the Tukwila section, the sudden jerks were enough to be really uncomfortable and even in the slow sections there was enough jerking that me and the person next to me found ourselves being heaved into each other quite a bit. I know most trains are not this bad, but some are and I’m wondering if ST has simply given up on this issue. I really hope not, considering how many more cars we will be ordering and how many more fast sections we will be building…..

    1. I rode Link today after the Seahawks game and found the ride quality to be much improved from before. There was none of the violent jerks and it was no worse than a bus on the freeway. This was both southbound and northbound on different trainsets. I’m surprised it has improved that much from the last time I rode it which was last Monday night.

      1. My jerky ride was this Wednesday, but like I said not all rides seem to have this problem and it varies a lot. This really makes me think it is the trains rather than the tracks that need the fine tuning.

  12. Also notice how Paris uses grass in the track medians as opposed to the harsh concrete Sound Transit used.

    1. The 5 southbound trains that arrived after the game ended were full. By full, I mean it’s difficult for additional people to board with people crowding the aisles and doorways. They had two fare inspectors stationed at the entrance to check tickets and passes. It looks like many people were also boarding at International District station.

      These were the SB train arrivals/departures as observed at Stadium Station:

      4:14 standing room only but not full, minutes before game ended
      4:24 first train after game ended (full)
      4:33 special train from pocket track (full)
      4:34/4:44 regular service train (full)
      4:45 briefly occupied the same platform with previous train (full)
      4:50/4:52 (full)
      5:00 end of rush (almost full)
      5:04 seats available

      See my video of a packed train and the photos in the Flickr pool.

  13. Another thing I am a little curious about – does anyone why there seems to be a “slow zone” just inside the Beacon Hill tunnel on the east side? It seems pretty standard for westbound trains to briefly slow from full speed to a very slow speed while still inside the tunnel before accelerating again and proceeding into daylight and around the curve to Mount Baker station. In reverse, trains leaving westbound from Mount Baker station seem to come to a very slow speed just inside the portal before accelerating to a regular speed. Anyone know why?

  14. The Paris tram with dedicated right of way averages 11 mph and hopes for 12 mph. The Central Streetcar without dedicated right of way is supposed to average 9 mph while in reality the slut averages about 7 mph. Is 30-40% increase in speed what we could expect in Seattle with dedicated right of way? How much would this increase ridership?

    1. Jim,

      Thank you for confirming what I feared about the Central Streetcar: i.e. it won’t have dedicated ROW. The Seattle CBD is far too constricted, congested, and crowded (reminds me of that great Cole Porter tune…”De-Lovely”)

      If the Seattle Transit Blog folks can get the Seattle DOT to agree to dedicated transit lanes (median or curb, I’m agnostic) on First Avenue and Jackson Street, then I say “go to it boys and girls!” Sure, share them with the buses. Allow right turns if they choose curb lanes. Allow shared left turns at a couple of streets per mile with left turn arrows synchronized to the approach of the streetcars in order to clear the queue if they choose median running. Whatever. But give them dedicated lanes.

      Anything else is hooey and bound to antagonize the voters when they make congestion worse. (Are you listening PSRC?)

  15. Depends on how you spin the numbers. A change from 7mph to 12mph is a 70% increase ;-)

    Seriously a lot would depend on the length of the line. SLUT goes 1.1 miles and has 15 minutes to do it (average 4.4mph). I suppose if you upped it to 12mph you could move to 10 minute headways and still maintain a reasonable layover but that would only mean empty cars going by more frequently. If you had a line where demand was high enough to need an added car then you bet the increase would not only increase ridership but do it for virtually no increase in operational or maintenance costs.

    Also, dedicated ROW means your not blocking traffic which has benefits from reduced emissions from idling vehicles to improved reliability of the bus system.

  16. In comparison, it is a mile longer than the proposed Seattle Streetcar Central Line

    The Central Line is 40% of the cost and only projected to carry a 1/10th as many people. And that’s using the numbers from City of Seattle. How have their numbers penciled out so far? The South Lake Union Streetcar Operations Fund was projected to have approximately $568,000 as a balance in the summer of 2009. Yet it’s actually in need of “borrowing” money from other city funds to make it’s obligations.

    I tried to do some length of line vs average speed and headway calculations to figure out how many trams they needed. I came up with 20 but that put average ridership over 250 people per tram. Poking around some more I found more info in French. Turns out they bought 21 trams but each one can carry 304 people. Although seating capacity is on 78! That makes me believe the average trip is far less than the full length of the line. In other words you need this scale of project for it to make sense. Otherwise you’re delivering a shopping cart worth of food with a semi tractor trail.

    In the late 1990s, the PC bus, become PC1 in this section, operated by the RATP, the line is the busiest of the network and the edge of saturation at peak hours. Despite a theoretical capacity of 50 000 passengers per day through its articulated buses, she can no longer fulfill its role under conditions acceptable. It is becoming increasingly urgent to find a credible alternative to increase the transmission capacity on this route lanes, and it is a line of tramway is planned soon.

    The project is being developed on 7.9 kilometers of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth arrondissement in Paris and has seventeen stations. 167 000 inhabitants and 89 000 jobs are located in the band of six hundred feet wide on both sides of the path.

    When Seattle is in this situation a streetcar with cyclepaths, dedicated ROW and green grass will make sense. Until then the trolley is just a character connecting the real world with the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

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