80 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Double Articulated Bus”

  1. Transport for London is big on pushing Oyster cards when it comes to travelers and tourists, and Sound Transit could really push ORCA if there were a rail link (that that accepts ORCA) to Seattle Center. With the opening of Link to the airport terminal comes tourists; I think that making it easy for them to access the Seattle Center is very valuable. It would also be valuable to residents, too; I ride the 1/2/3/4/13/16 to the Center during events (even though I know it is going to be crowded and unreliable) because I don’t want to pony-up the dough.

    What steps would have to be taken to get the Seattle Center Monorail in on the ORCA action? Whether they only accept ePurse or (even better) accept all ORCA products, it is a vital piece of the transportation puzzle.

    1. I agree. I think they should do the Monorail like they do the Water Taxi: you get on for free with any pass no matter the value, but you pay $3-$4 if you don’t have a pass.

    2. Great idea! I believe the Octopus card in Hong Kong also markets itself to tourists as a souvenir, which ORCA definitely should be doing. Still, think about how long it’s taken to get the S.L.U.T. on ORCA, which is operated by Metro, even though the streetcar is owned by the city. But that’s finally in the works, and since the monorail is owned by the city, there certainly should be some way to add it. Perhaps the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau could get involved and advocate for inclusion, as the monorail is such a major tourist attraction. However, there’s minimal attention to local transit agencies – and nothing about ORCA or Link – on the bureau’s website. So this might not be something the bureau would be interested in being involved with.

      The Central Puget Sound Regional Fare Coordination Project is the interlocal consortium of agencies that are ORCA. The participating agencies have all contributed substantial funds over the years for the start-up, and all contribute to the overhead costs of operations and marketing. Those are considerable sums, and it’s hard to say what the monorail would be expected to contribute. So that’s the second hurdle. The first being the monorail operator agreeing to it, and amending its operating agreement with the city.

      Assuming the CPSRFCP agrees to add the monorail, the designated ORCA reps would need to approach their individual agencies and make the proposal, and the individual boards would need to approve the motions. I’m trying to confirm this, but all of the participating agencies may have to sign off on a proposal for it to move forward. So far, that doesn’t appear to have been a problem. Board members definitely ask questions about various aspects of the ORCA operation, but it looks like the boards generally assume that the if the reps have agreed to it, the request or proposal is OK. An amended agreement would then need to be signed by each of the agencies. Then, the city or the monorail would likely have to pay the entire programming costs to add the monorail, and the monorail would have to contribute its agreed portion of the monthly overhead and marketing. Also, the ORCA revenue distribution agreements are rather complicated, but like WSF, the monorail wouldn’t be selling cards or adding funds or passes to cards, so it should be pretty simple for them.

      The first step might be contacting the monorail operator to see what it has to say about the idea. Randay206 – are you interested in doing that and reporting back?

    3. That is a great idea.

      But the biggest thing the transit agencies could to for tourists is to eliminate this idiotic $5 fee they’re threatening to charge for ORCA cards. That fee alone will make first-time riders think twice about using transit if they’re only going to make one or two trips. Every other agency that charges for a card either refunds the fee when you return it, or has a second free card for occasional riders.

      In the 90s a laundromat with a smart-card system opened in the U-district. The owner wanted to charge me a $5 fee for the card. I was about to walk out when he gave me the card for free, as a sudden “Grand Opening” promotion for reluctant customers.

      If these smart cards really cost so much to produce, why are companies using them?

  2. Wow, now there’s some Transit porn!

    I remember Metro coming around to my elementary school circa 1987 with pictures of double-articulated buses as they were promoting the new downtown transit tunnel.

    1. With the platform length, the tunnel could have had buses articulated way more than just twice! Not that it would work anywhere else, or at all…

      1. Could you imagine the grief op training would have been? Having drivers maneuver those things around the 3rd/Pine bend? I heard that the worry over the single-articulated Bredas not hitting the tunnel walls was big enough.

    1. A slick, long, double-articulated trolley bus addition to Metro’s fleet could really make the rapid trolley idea appealing along with a little bit of signal priority and whatnot. That thing looks like a sweet ride.

  3. So, where do I test drive one? :) Right now I’d love to have those capacitors in our trolley buses. That would allow us to ignore dead spots and just focus on driving.

    I’m wondering about the length. I suspect these are not legal on US roads – maybe an exemption is in order???

    1. the problem is clearance. The bus has to be able to negotiate turns in the roads. I do not think that it could run on the 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12 or 36 as they currently run. The 14, 7, and 70 might also have a lot of trouble.

      1. I’ve seen the electric version of this bus in Zurich make some pretty tight turns, tighter than you’d expect, because of the rear-wheel steering.

      2. sure it might be able to physically maneuver … but think of all the idiots on the road. If they can’t avoid running into LINK when there is a red light … I can only imagine what might happen with a real looooong bendy bus

      3. I don’t think anyone’s hit the middle of a Link train yet.

        Maybe some signal priority/preemption can clear an intersection for an insanely huge bus making a turn.

      4. The 14 can’t even accommodate single articulated buses (and can barely accommodate 40-footers) because of the sharp turnaround at the south end.

      5. Not true. The shop routinely uses the 14 wire to Mt Baker to test Bredas. And it makes the turn-around with no problems.

      6. Oh wow, I had no idea. I’d never seen a Breda on the 14 wire, and the Gilligs have to take it very slow, and drop their poles pretty often anyways.

      7. I remember when I lived on Capitol Hill seeing one of the old articulated trolleys on the Summit end of the 14. That was an awesome sight to see on Summit Ave.

  4. I was looking at the Sound Transit/KC Metro sites today, and I was wondering if it’s true that there is no direct bus line from the Tukwilla Station to the Southcenter Mall. The best I could do was two busses, one connection via the auto route finder.

    To me, that seems silly.

      1. Rerouting Link to go over I-5 then have a straight stretch long enough for a station then curve all the way back around to go towards the airport would have cost a ton of money that we didn’t have and would have added a few extra minutes to the schedule.

      1. Awesome! Thanks.

        I guess I can wait until February.

        Now, the next time I need to have my car serviced, I can just take Link and the Bus! No, wait…

      2. Can’t wait for those 2010 service revisions. What with school happily in session for everyone, Airport Link open, and the trains probably broken in by then, the ridership numbers should hopefully be satisfying to see.

      3. Too bad for them. Really, how many shopping malls does Link need to connect to? Besides all the shopping in Downtown Seattle, it’ll soon connect to Northgate, Bellevue Square in a few years, and Alderwood later after that.

      4. “How many malls does Link need to connect to?”

        I don’t think it really needs to connect to *all* of them, but the Southcenter mall is the largest mall in the state (at least that’s what the news said about their grand re-opening). I think that fact should have some impact on how important it being included is.

    1. Wow I thought they were going to reroute the 140 to serve it… Well once Airport Link opens you’ll be able to go downstairs from the station and get right on the 140 to Burien or to Renton via Southcenter and the Tukwila Sounder.

      1. The 140 will be rerouted; they just are waiting to do the second part of the revisions until February so that Airport Link is up and running.

    1. I know it isn’t exactly realistic, but I often use Skoda 23Tr double-articulated trolleybuses on BRT lines in Simutrans (see link). It works quite well, until road capacity is maxed out and I have to switch to higher-capacity rail lines (generally subways).

  5. Thanks Brian,

    I have been waiting for an open thread for two weeks now to describe my recent experiences on the train to Vancouver, BC.

    First off, then, what started off well (this was Friday, September 11th) on Amtrak, did not end nearly as satisfactorily and proved a big disappointment. We shouldn’t let our strong fondness for rail blind us to the pitfalls of the system when they are glaringly apparent. The only thing I could take from the experience was that the irritation was all on the Canadian side of the border.

    Basically, going north, the train travels the scenic wonderful route most of us know so well. Though not the fastest way of getting to the border, you cannot complain of the beauty of the trip along the Puget Sound.

    However, north of the border, the train plods its way to Vancouver, delayed by a river bridge and then ridiculously by an absurd pantomine getting into the yard at Vancouver – first one line where the crew gets out an manually changes the switches, then when that didn’t work, we backed out and chose a second line which also didn’t work. Finally, we diverted north on a third line and dropped into Van from the north, arriving in a caged parking area that looked like something out of a war torn country. All in all, the hour delay getting the final mile into Vancouver in my book is completely unacceptable and I complained to Amtrak that it makes our job of promoting the service so much harder when it makes a journey that should really only take two to three hours max turn into a pathetic five to six hours. Typically, Amtrak blamed the railroads. I have to say to Vancouver, you have to do better than this – you are a rich and wonderful city and surely you can automate the switching to allow Amtrak to arrive efficiently and on time. I got the distinct impression we were not expected. Amtrak crews should not have to leave the train to manually flip the switches – this is not Thomas the Tank here but an approach to a major world city.

    Returning south, I do not see why we have to stop at the border returning to the US when we have just gone through customs leaving Vancouver. This seems like an unnecessary waste of time to me and only justified by the fact that the train leaves Vancouver so slowly that anyone could hop on the train.

    I am hoping, Brian, you might have some thoughts on this, because if a a third train is ever to get to Vancouver, it needs better service up there than it currently gets.

    OK, end of rant on that one.

    Second off, the maps at the Rainier Beach Link Station need changing to reflect the re-routes of the 106. Metro 106 now goes near the station but is not listed on the maps at the station, with the result that I took the train back to Othello believing I had missed something. I was trying to take my parents to Kubota Gardens on Link and the 106 and didn’t have the schedule with me but thought I had memorized it – correctly as it turned out – as leaving from around Rainier Beach Station. When I didn’t see it on the map, I questioned my memory and took the train back to Othello and traipsed off with some grumpy parents in tow to find the 7 bus on Rainier Avenue South.

    Third, some of the roads around Othello are tatty and in need of some TOD! I still cannot make up my mind whether Link should have gone down Rainier or MLK, but it will all sort itself out in the future I am sure and it won’t then matter much.

    Fourth, the Seattle Times remains unexcited by the choices on offer for Seattle mayor – as am I as I guess is well known by now to Ben’s eternal irritation – neither of these guys is exactly taking this election by storm.

    Fifth, Mercer Street is so tatty that how any candidate cannot support a rework of this major street is beyond me – who cares if it is a landscaping or transportation improvement project at this point – just get the damn thing under way. There is so much transit-oriented development already taking place that NOT doing the Mercer Street improvement seems like a travesty waiting to happen.

    I’ll sign off here…..

    1. Yes, the manual switch when leaving Pacific Central is ridiculous. If Canada cares at all about this service they should invest in at least basic capital improvements. Amtrak’s 3 Canadian trains – Cascades, Maple Leaf, and Adirondack – all suffer from degraded infrastructure and a general indifference to their operational needs north of the border.

      Second, the double customs thing coming into the USA is just strange. Last time I came through the (cocky) Border Patrol agent looked at my passport and asked me, “Why are you taking the train?” I replied, “Because I prefer it to driving” and he laughed, looked at me incredulously, and asked, “Oh, well do you have criminal convictions that prohibit you from driving?” I thought it was disrespectful. But I digress…

      1. I check in with http://72.148.42.113:8080/Amtrak/status/StatusMaps/AmtrakStatusMapWest.htm
        almost every evening, and far more often than not, one or both evening trains are running more than 15 minutes late sometimes more than half an hour behind.
        The double customs thing is something we are all going to have to get used to as long as The Patriot Act and its associated regulations remain in force. Politically, it’ll be years (if ever) before we can roll back the assault on civil liberties and civility that the DHS/TSA/Customs Services have foisted on the traveling public.

      2. Actually, the Maple Leaf infrastructure is better north of the border (though Customs leaves something to be desired) and operational treatment is just fine. But then it’s running on a line with quite a lot of all-Canadian VIA trains (Niagara Falls-Toronto is a busy VIA route) and it’s operated by VIA north of the border. (You can buy a ticket for it as a VIA train.)

        I probably would have told the Border Patrol guy, “No, I just think driving sucks rocks, and it’s more fun to read and drink while moving.”

    2. I agree. I took Cascades from BC to Seattle last March. While it was a very comfortable and enjoyable ride, it should not take 1 hour and 55 minutes (or longer) to get from Vancouver to Bellingham Station. That’s nearly half the run time of the entire trip! We carpooled from UW to Vancouver yesterday and covered it in about 2.5 hours. While riding SkyTrain last evening we glided above the Amtrak Cascades stopped at the manual switch just north of Broadway-Commercial Drive station.

    3. I just took the morning train from Bellingham to Seattle last Friday and we were delayed for one hour just before Everett Station. After the very high speeds south of Mount Vernon (we were passing cars on I-5 right next to us), it’s jaunting having to slow down to such a snails pace through Marysville because of the 100 year old bridges. Basically, all the track and bridges between Everett and Marysville needs to be replaced.

      I’ve never taken the train to Vancouver, but just looking at the timetable makes me think it’s not worth it.

    4. BC has not made the track improvements that Washington has done. That’s not Amtrak’s fault. Yes, I’ve had to wait an hour for a freight train to cross the Fraser River bridge. The Vancouver terminus is in a cage and the conductors sometimes call it that. Overall it takes a lot longer to get from the border to the terminus than you’d expect.

      The “double customs” isn’t really double. They do the immigration check in Vancouver and the customs check on the train. Sometimes the customs officers ask immigration questions but that’s not their primary purpose. When I used to ride, the train did not stop at the border except for a minute to pick up the customs inspectors, who were let off at Bellingham if I remember. If it does stop for customs now, that’s a pity.

      1. As of two weeks ago, they stopped just over the border in Blaine in the middle of an at-grade crossing at an old (abandoned?) BNSF facility. The agents drove up, asked their questions, and then drove back to the border.

      2. There are some reports from the Washington State Rail division which speak in somewhat testy terms of the unwillingness of BC to commit to the Cascades service.

        Apparently most of the delay is north of the border. WA politely identified all the chokepoints and needed improvements, discussed them with the freight railroads, and so on, and BC simply hasn’t put in a dime.

      3. From my understanding Washington essentially subsidizes the service between the border and Vancouver because no entity in BC is willing to throw any money in the pot. This despite the studies showing how much economic activity the Cascades trains bring to Vancouver. What track improvements have been done between the border and Pacific station have been because BNSF wanted them to help its freight operations, as you point out nobody in BC has spent a dime on any rail improvements on the Cascades route.

        I really wish BC would get its act together and pay to eliminate the worse delays between the border and Pacific Station.

      4. Perhaps it will soon be time for WA to cut its losses and run the Cascades Corridor from Bellingham to Portland/Eugene. We’d get another SEA-PDX train in an instant! Dealing with BC for ten years has yielded what support for these trains?

  6. The King County Water Taxi, Vashon Division, starts Monday morning – I hope to give it a test ride Tuesday afternoon, if the weather cooperates. Three round trips weekday mornings and afternoons, but with a smaller vessel than WSF used, so the overall carrying capacity is about the same.

  7. Is there any information on how (if at all) the schedule adherence has been on the 11:20 Cascades to Portland now that it originates in Vancouver and not in Bellingham? I wonder if custom/canadian issues have made this trip from Seattle to Portland less reliable — if so that would be a shame, even though it is nice to have a 2nd train to Vancouver.

  8. Today at Qwest Field I couldn’t help but appreciate the buzz at King St. Station. From 4:30-6:45 there were 8 passenger trains and a freight train: Cascades train 516 to Vancouver and 509 to Eugene, the Empire Builder to Chicago, and 5 Seahawks Sounder trains. It provided a nice glimpse into the activity level I expect for the station 20+ years from now.

    A related question: What are the expansion capabilities and/or plans for King St? A larger station building? Additional tracks? I can’t help but abhor the surface parking lot in front of Qwest…

    1. I was on a Link train after the SeaHawks game, going from Pioneer Square Sta to the airport w/ a friend – looked as though crowds were being handled well – any problems that anyone knows of or experienced?

    2. I hope King Street will be expanded. I actually think the station itself is kind of embarrassing. Not because it’s in such disarray, but because it’s so damn small. It’s not nearly the type of station I’d expect to be the rail hub for any major city. The waiting room is only large enough for about one train at a time.

      1. I think the waiting room at King Street used to be larger but it has been cut down over the years. I hope the remodel will open it up again to its former size. The low drop ceiling doesn’t help as it makes the space seem smaller.

        At least Amtrak never moved to an “Amshak” in the middle of a train yard or out on the edge of town.

  9. As for ORCA, i think setting up e-purse only options with the monorail, and eventually all the transit agencies along the Amtrak Cascades corridor is a great idea. With E-purse only (and them issuing you a paper transfer) all that has to be done is a check cut to each of the participating agencies or services and their fare structures, pass schemes, etc, dont have to be programmed into the system, at a great expense! Of course, procuring the equipment is also not a cheap matter either, can we read state or federal grants?

  10. So, just curious – why do certain bases get assigned certain buses?

    Like why is it that Ryerson was excluded from getting any hybrid artics and South Base given all of the 2008-09 DE60LFs? Somehow I won’t be surprised if South is the first to get the Orion VII hybrids and all of the old Gilligs will get dumped on Ryerson.

    Also, why hasn’t Metro learned that trolleys need some sort of emergency movement measure to avoid obstacles/detours? I’ve seen plenty of push trucks at work moving incapacitated Bredas.

    You could always put some compact engines in the empty Breda engine cavities for short term measures…

    1. A combination of factors determine the most appropriate base to host a new fleet. Maintenance size, capacity, skills, and inventory space for new parts, along with route length, type and operating hours, etc. Some bases are much bigger and capable than others.

  11. We should count our blessings and learn from LA MetroLink’s 15+ year history of operating trains in mixed traffic. The LA Times has run a series of stories about the system recently, after much trouble even getting good information, and found over 200 fatalities and over 500 accidents. The interactive map here http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-buena-metrolink-map-i,0,4277406.htmlstory
    will get you started for anyone wanting to follow the story.
    By comparision, our ST Sounders and Link have been either very good or very lucky (the former I hope) Anyway, it’s a bit off topic, but Brian shouldn’t mind too much looking forward from the cab.
    As for the double artics, Metro’s steerable artics caused more accidents because drivers didn’t know how to control as much as 3 feet of “tail-swing” into adjacent lanes with the older trolleys. At least the Breada’s, that don’t have a steerable rear axle require the driver to set-up properly for the turn, split the lanes prior to getting there, or run over the curb if you screw up. (there! back on topic)

    1. Mike,

      That was a crappy piece of reporting from the LA Times. Metrolink, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, does not operate in mixed traffic anymore than Sounder does.

      Apparently the Chandlers (who I admit no longer actually own the LA Times) do not realize that the railroads were in Southern California before most if not all the roads.

      Maybe Metrolink does not put enough money into its grade crossings. Maybe the railroads it bought these rail-lines from (The SP/Pacific Electric, the Sante Fe and any others I don’t know) left their grade crossings in crappy shape to begin with. Maybe the gap of shipping moving from rail to truck and then back to rail in Southern California was much longer, and the idea of “track=train” did not get out of people’s heads in Seattle.

      And maybe there are some real crap-for-brains with cars (note I did not say “with Driver’s Licenses”) in the greater L.A. area.

      Thanks to topography and busy ports, Seattle/Tacoma has railroads that were already in heavy use by their owners before ST or even the CPSRTA were created.

      And those lines, despite the increasing use by Sounder and Cascades, remain in UP and BNSF hands.

      I ride Metrolink daily and have only had one suicide so far this year, at a well guarded crossing in Covina. Nothing anyone can do about that.

      1. In LA the railroads and cities built an *astounding* number of grade crossings, originally with little or no protection; they built all their freight lines much like Link’s surface sections.

        They had a long way to go to get a more normal level of grade separation, to install warning devices, etc. And the trains ran *very slowly* for a long time after the first collapse of passenger services — “walk out of the way” slowly. The arrival of trains running at speed was a shock to people in LA. (This means freight trains too — they used to go at a crawl, and can now run at 50 mph clips).

        In contrast, Seattle seems to have had fast running trains.

        Houston drivers are apparently exceptionally bad about driving in front of trains. I wouldn’t be surprised if LA drivers are too, but the bigger problem is that there are just *so many* grade crossings, with fast trains, and often very wide roads, that there are bound to be a lot which are not terribly well protected. For one thing, coordinating traffic lights with railroad gates seems to be nonexistent.

    2. Metrolink has had the country’s worst rail safety record, no doubt, 244 fatalities in 16 years. And these deaths surely exceed the expected proportionality based upon their small modal share, but I do think it’s worth remembering how devastating auto fatalities are in absolute terms.

      Since Metrolink’s inception in 1992, Los Angeles County alone has seen about 9,000 car fatalities and 1.5 million injuries.

      http://www.laalmanac.com/transport/tr13e.htm

      1. So, 3% of the total auto fatalities are (primarily) caused by irresponsible and careless drivers being hit by trains – and the other 97%?

  12. I just got off link on my way in this morning and when we got to pioneer square station the driver opened the doors on the wrong (left) side of the train. After a couple of seconds the right side opened too, but both sides were open until we left the station. Kinda freeked everyone out.

  13. Other Linky problems: today my 6:27 a.m. train northbound from Columbia City left at 6:36 – this has happened several times. It’s a real bummer when it does, because I have to start planning new bus connection strategies.

    Also, when Link started out, wasn’t there 7.5-minute frequency from 6 a.m.-10 a.m. and 3 p.m.-7 p.m.? Now it’s 6 a.m.-8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Is that a change or am I making this stuff up? Just bums me out.

  14. Double-articulated buses are a nightmare. The fishtailing triggers my motion sickness especially badly.

    If they’re on *tracks*, however….

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