Photo by Oran
Photo by Oran

So will Swift have next bus information before Link gets next train information?

144 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread”

    1. It seems like they also serve to tell Metro when the lower half of the busses could use a wash ;)
      Quite a few of those arrows are starting to loose their ‘shine’

    2. After a couple of high-speed wheel losses – at least one of them resulting in a pretty serious collision of a thrown wheel and a passenger vehicle – they were added.

      I’m not sure why they put them on ETB’s though, since they seldom go over 30mph.

    1. Bad news for the city of Seattle. I kind of think of McGinn in a similar light as the monorail project. Sounds great on paper and great grass roots support, but when approved by voters and starts becoming a reality, it’s nothing short of a complete disaster.

      With any luck, Nickels will run in 4 years to clean up the mess McGinn is about to create.

      1. That’s an interesting assertion, Ryan. Do you have any evidence to support this analogy? Certainly, McGinn does have grass roots support, but what evidence point to the conclusion that McGinn will be a failure as a Mayor? What “mess” are you anticipating?

      2. I hope for the best, but am disappointed that McGinn won. In my view, Seattle needs a business manager more than it needs an environmental activist, and I see McGinn as bad for business, commerce, and jobs in Seattle. His community involvement and experience has been laudable, but I don’t see him as a city manager in a time when the economy is the worse than it’s been in decades. While he appeals to folks dedicated to a certain – well, no other way of saying it, left-wing agenda, I’m afraid that he ultimately will not be good for the city.

        That and his campaign tactics, outright lies and robocalls made me want to freaking vomit.

      3. I don’t have much stake in it but I’d tend to agree. Except that I thought Mallahan was more guilty of the robocalls than McGinn. On the bright side a poor business climate in Seattle will push companies toward Bellevue ;-) Although in the long term a strong Seattle is in the best interests of Bellevue and the region. On the tunnel issue I think a strong voice demanding accountability is a regional asset. McGinn won with far less assets than Mallahan. If he can be that effective with the City budget then Seattle made the right choice! Time to give him the chance to succeed.

      4. Look, no one really knows how effective McGinn is going to be in office. If he’d been on the City Council for 30 years we’d still not really have any idea.

        That just comes with the territory of electing a new Mayor.

      5. Eh I’m guessing Nickels won’t run again, he’ll probably end up in the Obama Administration. But maybe Ed Murray?

      6. Frankly any of the sitting or former City Council members are likely candidates for Mayor in 4 years. Larry Phillips and any members of the Seattle Legislative delegations are also possibilities. Tim Burgess is most likely as he has both a burning desire to be mayor and is one of the current council members most likely to butt heads with McGinn.

      7. To be honest, I wasn’t excited about either candidate. It seemed like a choice between tapioca and vanilla pudding.

      8. Remember that the City Council is taking back much of its power and Richard Conlin runs that show. The good news is Conlin and McGinn agree on many major things like transit expansion so hopefully won’t waste a lot of time fighting with each other.

      9. I have to disagree. I was a Nickels fan during the primary, but McGinn has really grown on me the last month. I’m super excited and incredibly optimistic having McGinn as my mayor. Everytime I hear him speak, he screams knowledgeable progressive pragmatism. A perfect combo in my book. To be able to go from a virtual unknown to organizing a grassroots campaign where he took out two well financed candidates, one of which was a two-term incumbent speaks volumes on his leadership skills and mayoral potential. And that such a progressive, down home guy can beat out such well financed campaigns also speaks volumes about Seattle voters. A proud day.

  1. It does seem that Swift will get next bus info first! Assuming it is operating from day one… I really like the picture of the Tukwila Station!

    1. According to TransitMama’s sources, CT won’t have the bus tracking system running due to budget problems.

      That’s in addition to the answer I got from CT that was ‘No’ not from day one and no firm date on when. I didn’t have a name of who gave me the answer but I think it was Swift’s project manager.

      And thanks for the compliment! The falling hail made it really interesting :)

  2. So I’m planning a transit only trip to Portland next week (Sunday – Tuesday) and I thought this would be a good place to come for suggestions on where to stay/ what to do/ how to get around. Is there a good hotel to stay at that’s right near a transit hub? Any places to recommend going that’s easy to get to by transit? Any general info I should know on the Portland transit system before I go? I was planning on staying in the Pearl District and it looks like that’s right where the Amtrak station is, so that’s definitely where I’m leaning, but I’m open to suggestions. Thanks!

    1. With the Green and Yellow MAX lines now stopping at the Amtrak station, being without a car in Portland is now even easier. I usually stay at The Mark Spencer, on the northern end of Downtown, a couple of blocks from The Pearl District. It’s on the Streetcar line, too.

      The first thing I do when I arrive in Portland is buy an all-day pass from any Tri-Met ticket machine. The last time I looked, it costs $4.75. It’s good on all MAX and bus lines, and the Streetcar.

      1. On what to do, the top destination has to be Powell’s. The Multnomah County Central Library (10th and Yamhill) is a beautiful early 20th century building. There are lots of decent restaurants, shopping, etc. in the Pearl, downtown, or up on 23rd. I’ve got kids so we usually go to the playground on the north Park Blocks, the zoo, or OMSI. Saturday Market is also fun, it’s pretty much like any Seattle street fair but every weekend. Or just grab street food at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

        If the weather is good you can walk around PSU or McCall Waterfront Park.

        Oh, and the OHSU aerial tram! Awesome views and one of the least common types of transit.

    2. I’ve heard the Ace Hotel is pretty cool – though I’ve got family in Portland so have never stayed there. Downtown Portland is pretty compact, so anywhere in the center will be close to transit. It’s a great city.

      1. I was just going to recommend the Ace, too. It might be sold out though. I’ve also stayed at the Paramount and the Hilton, both are nice hotels and very close to light rail and streetcar. Pretty much any place you stay downtown will be within a few blocks of either light rail or the streetcar, so I would just pick a place within your budget.

    3. There’s a hostel close-in NW Portland (18th?) blocks from the Streetcar line and MAX, Burnside bus closest. $25 a night, cool 1910’s old Portland mansion. Bring a bike if handy. Ask friendly bikers to show you around. First, ride streetcar and MAX, with day pass for trips outside fareless square. Ride MAX on transit mall downtown. Note differences between MAX and Link. Walk all around downtown from station stops on both. Hit all Park Blocks, Main Waterfront, Eastbank Esplanade, OMSI, South Waterfront, Gondola ride to OHSU, free with day pass. Ride MAX to Zoo and view surface station. Ride MAX to Rose Quarter, Convention Center, Lloyd Center. MAX Yellow Line thru North Portland to Expo Ctr. Ride streetcar through Pearl District, get off at Jamieson Square/Tanner Springs Park. Take streetcar to NW 23rd. Walk 21st street between streetcar line and Burnside. Walk through PSU park blocks on streetcar line.

    4. Last time I was in Portland we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Hillsboro. It’s a ways out from downtown, but we got 2 nights there for what would’ve been the price of 1 at a hotel downtown. The hotel is about 2 blocks from Orenco Station (the first TOD ever) on the Blue Line. We drove to Hillsboro, but took MAX into downtown. And ignore the map–you can walk out the southeast corner of the hotel’s parking lot as a shortcut to the station.

      1. Tim,

        I always stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Hillsboro. I love it! Great staff there.

        The TOD is incredible… really the most walkable area I’ve ever been in that isn’t in a Downtown area. Beaverton Central is slowly becoming the same way.

      2. You know, I was really disappointed in the TOD at Orenco Station, last time I checked it out (2007, I think). It seemed like a long walk through a parking lot to any homes or businesses. Did I miss something?

    5. I’ve stayed at a few hotels in PDX all downtown. Any of them are good for transit if they are downtown. I’ve also stayed at the Mark Spencer which is at a really good location – right next to the streetcar, 2 blocks from MAX Blue and Red and right next to a new bike lane that has a 2-3 foot buffer from parking.

      If you’re a little adventurous and in PDX Sunday night I would highly recommend doing a Zoobomb. It’s crazy fun and they will probably be able to provide you with one of their loaner bicycles.

    6. Don’t miss taking WES. Try to get to Beaverton Transit Center for the 4:02 trip or you’ll be in the dark for some of the trip southbound. Northbound you’ll be in the dark for most of the trip, but the cars are very nice.

      The all day pass is valid.

    7. I’ve stayed at The Nines next to pioneer courthouse square as well as the Hotel De Luxe for work. Both are really nice boutique hotels and about $100 a night (at least when I stayed there). Of course a hostel would be significantly cheaper and that’s what I’d probably do if I were traveling alone for pleasure – great way to meet people from all over the world!

    8. I live in Portland, and I highly recommend using Priceline to get a downtown hotel. My wife and I typically stay downtown once or twice a year while the in laws watch the kids. We typically pay about $75 per night for a four-star hotel such as the Hilton or the Hotel Monaco. Downtown is super walkable, and you can take MAX, streetcar, or the bus virtually anywhere from a downtown location.

  3. Anyone have an update on RapidRide A Line? Is it still scheduled to start in February? Has construction started on any of the enhanced stations?

      1. The fact that this is news to anyone proves it’s another big PR fail by Metro. To be honest, I wouldn’t even count on too many transit riders knowing what RapidRide even is.

      2. The RapidRide page is buried in Metro’s website and the scheduled date on the page still says February 2010. So yes, big fail.

        RapidRide was sold as a major part of the Transit Now campaign and people voted for it so I do hope they know what it is.

      1. There is just a few cars left in L.A., 5 trailers and two cab-cars, I think. No locomotives.

        Look at it as free money. Better than them sitting in a yard collecting dust.

    1. As far as I know, yes, this is the one map for the proposed streetcar network. It’s the same one on the SDOT website. The streetcar network report lists other routes that were considered but dropped from the plan like West Seattle, Ballard via 15th, and North Broadway. Nothing has changed since it was approved last year. The final First Hill Streetcar route is subject to change as they’re working on it right now.

      1. Thanks. Any idea about the likely hood of those being built? It seems like Conlin has other ideas (not necessarily bad).

      2. Sounds like Conlin has plans to continue building that network. They decided that a West Seattle streetcar couldn’t work because it couldn’t go over the lower West Seattle Bridge, so it will be light rail going to there, as Conlin proposes, and he wants to build the Green Line to Fremont and Ballard on this map. No one’s been really talking about the Eastlake line recently, and the First Ave line is opposed by a lot of important people, including the Mayor-elect, so that’s probably not going to be built for a long time, but I’m guessing that Conlin is in favor of these.

      3. Right, he never said, or, in my opinion, implied that he wasn’t in favor of building the Eastlake line, just that this is the one we should be building now.

      4. How about a Alki-Admiral-Junction cable car, to a future Link stop there? That would be so cool.

      5. I’m sorry, but “cool” is not a measurable metric by which to measure transit viability.

        Cable cars are useful in San Francisco because all of the north/south streets over Nob and Russian Hills are 25+% grades. Even ETB’s can’t handle those grades; they hit their noses and tails at the transition to the cross-streets. I’m not sure why they keep the California street cars since there parallel 1 California ETB’s travel essentially identical hills one and two blocks to the north. Tourists don’t ride those.

        As to the idea for a streetcar, why would an isolated streetcar miles from any connecting rail transit be successful? It wouldn’t trigger transit oriented development, because people would still have to ride a bus to get anywhere.

        Please, people, this is the taxpayers’ money you want to spend. Do it wisely and in areas where it will be used.

      6. A west seattle only line would get 1/4 of the ridership per capital dollar of a line going downtown. You really can’t skip the city center until you’ve connected all the neighborhoods.

      7. Some form of West Seattle Streetcar might work as feeder service to West Seattle Link but I don’t think it does anything useful until there is some form of rail link to the rest of the city.

    2. Interesting — I had never seen that before.

      I wasn’t in Seattle during the monorail planning, but I’ve heard the monorail alignment was supposed to have been an “X” with Westlake in the middle.

      This proposed Streetcar map doesn’t have south and West Seattle connections, but going up to Ballard and the U-District seems pretty similar in spirit to the monorail alignment, doesn’t it? The ID-to-Capitol Hill line is just icing on the cake, really.

      It seems like Conlin’s transit priorities are to build Link to Ballard and West Seattle while expanding the Streetcar up to the U-District. Within the next five to seven years, we might finally get that “X” shape after all. Amazing.

      1. The Monorail was just Ballard-Downtown-West Seattle. There were rumblings of future lines, and I think a Downtown-U District monorail line was one of those, but it was never really thought out.

      2. The original monorail idea — the one that was proposed in the very first initiative we voted on — was for the big X plan. What actually was going to be built was the west side of the X, with the other side handled by Sound Transit’s light rail, so if the monorail had been built, we would have 3/4 of that X operating right now, essentially.

      3. Ben’s snark aside, litlnemo’s got it right – and in essence much of what we’re doing now is going back, again, to connecting the same destinations, just with different modes.

        I’m hopeful to see Conlin talking up some transit expansion steps, and that he and McGinn will work well together. Richard’s process-obsessed but I know he knows the importance of these things, so here’s hoping we can make some real progress!

  4. I have a couple of questions for the transit experts here:

    1) Why do you need signs at stations telling you when the next LINK train will arrive? I thought that when trains/buses came every 10 minutes, or more frequently, then schedules were not necessary. Does it really matter is the next train/bus is going to come in 7 minutes, or in 2 minutes? Does 7 minutes give you time to leave the station/stop and go shopping or get something to eat and then get back in time to catch the next train/bus? Or what? By the way, it seems to me that the “next train will arrive” signs at the S.L.U.T. stops are so innacurate as to be useless.

    2) I just noticed that in the newer Transit Guides on LINK trains, the schedule for LINK gives travel time south from Westlake to Tukwila at 34 minutes, but the reverse trip from Tukwila to Westlake is scheduled to take 36 minutes. Anyone know the reason for this? Originally, I thought that trip was supposed to take 32 minutes in each direction.

    1. Re your #1, say you’re heading to the airport from downtown, so you’re in the tunnel and a 194 pulls up. If the next train isn’t for 7 minutes, I’d hop on the 194. But if it’s coming in 1 minute, I’d probably just wait for the train. And, yeah, 7 minutes versus 2 can mean you have time to get that latté. (Not quite the same, but I’ve also used equivalent information (thanks to OneBusAway) to decide between waiting for Bus X on 1st Ave or walking up to 3rd Ave to catch Bus Y that’s coming five minutes sooner.)

      1. I’d like to know at what stations you could leave a platform, buy a latte, and get back to that platform in 7 minutes. Where do you buy a latte near the SODO station, for example? At other stations you have to walk to the end of the block the station is on to cross the street (after waiting for the light), then walk to some shop, and do the reverse to get back to the platform.

        I would bet you that after reaching a platform, which ususally entails going up or down stairs, escalators or elevators, and or walking to the end of blocks and crossing streets, virtually nobody is going to leave that platform and return if they see that the next train is due in 7 minutes.

        The #194 is going to be discontinued early next year, so that example is not relevant.

      2. Plus, if you know how long the wait is, you can make more efficient use of your time. I just left DC after three years, and I’d always use the next train arrival display to decide if it was worth it to pull a book out of my bag, or to make a phone call that could go long. Ridership will increase if riders have more knowledge about the system, and next train displays make new riders feel more confident about switching their commute to transit.

      3. Charles, this isn’t about ‘need’. This is about the lowest cost for the highest gain in ridership. Simple things that make people feel more secure that a train is indeed coming do boost ridership.

        And while today we don’t have latte carts at the stations, in a few years we likely will.

      4. Charles, ask yourself this: If you were waiting for a train during the 10 minute headways and realtime arrival info was being displayed, would you want to look at it?

      5. I’m replying out of place; I have rebuttals to many comments, and I’m packing them nice and neat right here.

        Where do you buy a latte near the SODO station?

        There’s a Shell a block away. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t know or care if Shell sells lattes per se. There’s also a Home Depot a few blocks away, and I can’t remember if that one has a hot dog cart.

        As to whether or not someone would walk back up to the street level from the platform level:
        I rarely visit the tunnel stations from the surface (because whenever I’m in the tunnel I’m always going through it) but I know that at least one of the entrances at University Street Station has a next train sign at the street level–right at the entrance. I think IDS has one too.

        On the message on the signs calculating delay:
        Based on my knowledge of how the SCADA system works, it calculates the time based on where the train is every time it’s polled. If a train becomes stuck at the Pioneer Square platform at 9:00, the IDS sign will say “2 minutes”. At 9:10, if the train had still not moved, the IDS sign would still say “2 minutes”. This is when they would be expected to make some sort of announcement.

      6. Tim, that Home Depot does indeed have a hot dog cart. Don’t know if they sell lattes or not.

      7. Does Translink’s West Coast Express still have the espresso stands onboard their Bombardier Bi-level cars?

    2. 1) Reassurance to the rider. It helps reduce anxiety and makes the wait feel shorter since you know when it’s coming. The S.L.U.T is subject to traffic conditions like buses are since it runs in mixed traffic.

      2) I noticed that too but I don’t know why. Maybe those extra 2 minutes are padding time for changing operators at the train yard? The travel time matrix on ST’s website lists Westlake<->Tukwila as 34 minutes. Add 2 minutes from Tukwila to SeaTac/Airport.

      1. A lot of the commuters here have been frustrated that they don’t know when the next train is coming. Keep in mind that delays, for whatever reason, can’t show up on the headways table. Outside of peak hours, real-time arrival information is useful for people who can consider other options. And plus, if we have the technology, we might as well use it.

      2. 1) I bet I can find ST literature/websites where ST specifically says that headways of ten minutes or less are so short that schedules are not necessary. So, if LINK trains can actually accomplish the headways ST claims they can, then people should feel no “anxiety” waiting for 10 minutes or less, according to ST’s own literature.

        So, if a trolley is held up in traffic, that delay can be sent to the arrival signs at the SLUT stops in real time? Is this actually possible? I don’t think it is being done. Who determines how long the delay will be? The driver? If a trolley is stuck in traffic, is there some way to figure out exactly how late it is going to be? If a car is parked on the tracks, for example, can they predict exactly when that car will be moved?

        2) Trains change drivers going in either direction.

      3. Yes, there’s academic research that shows that for headways below ten minutes a schedule is not needed. All you need to know is trains/buses come every ten minutes. Below ten minutes the passenger arrival pattern becomes more random i.e. people don’t time their arrivals. That’s why ST didn’t provide detailed schedules at first and instead opted for a frequency chart with first/last train times, as is typically done with many metro systems around the world. Schedules are not the same thing as next train info.

        There’s also research that shows that real-time arrival information makes the perceived waiting time shorter and reduces the “transfer penalty”. Once you arrive at the platform you know when the train is coming and that feels better than not knowing anything at all. It provides a benefit to riders. They are complimentary, not a substitute for one another.

        I don’t know of the specific details of how the prediction algorithm works but surely they took that into consideration. It depends on how much information you can feed into the system.

      4. The 2 minute shorter time going south could be even shorter, I think. Almost every time I get off a southbound train at Mt Baker, I closes its doors and then sits there for at least two minutes. I’m not sure when this started, but I’ve noticed it happening every time since it started.

    3. Research shows that riders perceive the waiting time as shorter when they have a clock. At least that’s what Metro people have told me.

      I don’t have a schedule in front of me, but I suspect that time lag has something to do with Link not getting signal prioirity in the reverse-peak direction.

      1. Where did you hear that Link doesn’t have priority in the off-peak direction? The only time I’ve experienced Link getting stopped at intersections is when the operator falls behind and misses a signal, or when a signal sequence has been interrupted too often Link may have to stop. As far as I’m aware signal priority doesn’t depend on the direction of travel or time.

      2. The time difference is all day long. Each direction is the “reverse-peak” direction at some time of the day.

    4. #1 — You need real time arrival information for a couple of reasons. First, as everyone else has pointed out, 5 minutes is plenty of time to get a Latte — and actually, the difference in your example could be as long as 10 minutes. For some stations, like the Beacon Hill station, there’s no cell phone coverage on the platform, so you can have a 9 minute phone call above ground before you catch your trail.

      Secondly, you’re cherry picking the 10 minute time. Link trains sometimes are scheduled to run as infrequently as every 15 minutes — that means up to a 15 minute wait for the next train if you just missed one. You can duck into a store for 15 minutes, or hang out, or do whatever. Just sitting for 15 minutes is a *very* *long* *time*. Try it. Sit at your computer and just stare at a blank screen. See how long you last before you get bored.

      Finally, real time arrival information is useful when trains deviate from published intervals. I did a photography trip starting at Westlake going Southbound, and getting off at each station (and getting on the following train). Although trains were *scheduled* every 10 minutes, one train came four minutes after the previous one, a few times trains were 13-15 minutes apart, and once a train was 22 minutes behind the previous one. So although they were scheduled 10 minutes apart, you had to wait between 4 and 22 minutes for a train. That’s a large deviation and the *only* way to know how long you have is real-time arrival information. I imagine that with 15 minute headways the variance increases even further.

      1. The 15-minute headways are only before 6am and afger 9:49 pm. This is a very small percentage of trains, and an even smaller percentage of riders. So you’re affecting a really small number of people.

        As in the SLUT example, how will ST estimate how long a delay will be? I have had delays on almost every LINK train I have ridden. Some for only a couple of minutes, and some for 20 minutes or more. But even the driver of the trains I was on could not tell us how long the delay was going to be. So, how could they signal the stations how late the train would arrive, if the drivers of the trains can’t even tell the passengers inside those trains?

        For example, if you are waiting at International station for a train to Tukwila, and the next train is delayed by something blocking the tunnel, how can ST know when that train is going to arrive, in order to put that information on the sign? If the train is delayed by a stalled bus, for example, can ST know exactly when that bus is going to be moved? If so, why don’t they give that information to the passengers on the trains which are being delayed? Those passengers on delayed trains are always figuratively, and literally, “left in the dark” (inside the tunnel).

      2. The operator should know what’s going on through the radio and is supposed to announce any service delays to passengers. I’ve heard automated and manual announcements for service delays and the usual “the train is being held due to traffic ahead” message.

        The arrival times on signs are determined by an algorithm and updated automatically. If there are extraordinary service problems the signs can be programmed to show other messages. They did this when they had a power issue in the tunnel and trains had to turn around at Stadium. Why they don’t do this more? Beats me.

      3. Charles, most any system, even with 3 minute headways, has realtime arrival. It increases your cost/benefit ratio, it’s a very very very cheap way to build ridership. Why knock it? It makes the system more cost effective.

    5. Re #1 – If I am visiting friends in RV and have to catch a bus downtown which only runs every 30 minutes, I can work backwards from arrival time at Westlake to make sure I do not miss my bus.
      No transit information should be a secret. Anything which helps move transit beyond a need to a choice is good.

    6. Real-time information is current best practice for all forms of high quality transportation service whether it be car, bus, train, plane etc. I think a good is analogy is WSDOT’s flow page and traffic announcements on TV and radio. Do they improve the quality of your travel? I would hope so. Do they necessary speed it up? Nope. Does it cost money for WSDOT to provide? Absolutely. But who would argue it isn’t a good expenditure of public money? Very few.

      I don’t see how transit riders are any different. They want real-time information because it is valuable to them and improves the quality of their travel.

      Its important to know that real-time information systems are integrated into other systems like the train tracking system and the closed circuit television system (for security) and are important for operations of the system in the case of disruptions or when special information needs to be communicated to riders. For example the reader boards that are in the tunnel also have integrated closed circuit cameras in them and speakers so that blind riders can also receive travel information. Metro has tracked their buses for over 10 years mostly for safety reasons. Only recently, because of OneBusAway, has this information been readily used by the public. Remember OneBusAway was developed and is operated at no cost to metro.

      I don’t know if you saw this but a few months ago I wrote about a study done by the FTA showing that real-time information systems have a large positive cost/benefit ratio even with very small changes in average waiting time. Remember this is not only about information at the stop, it is also about information before you leave home or work. ( I use real-time information every day and I find it very important.

      Here is some info on the tracking system used by Metro. ( The system used by the streetcar is a system developed by a private company.

      Does that answer your questions? I frankly find it confusing when someone argues that this information should not be provided. What is the root of your concern? You think it is a waist of money? A expensive toy that transit riders don’t really deserve/need? Please explain.

      One last thing. Could I ask if you have ever regularly used transit service with real-time information? I can see how people that have not used real-time information on a daily basis might underestimate how valuable it is. Its like when you upgrade from a normal TV to a HDTV or dial-up to high-speed internet. After a while you can’t believe that you put up with normal TV or dial-up.

    7. As a Sounder train commuter, I can tell you five minutes is enough time to leave the platform, go two blocks to my bank, use the ATM, and make it back in time for the train. It’s enough time to go buy a newspaper for the ride, too. You can do all sorts of things in five minutes.

  5. Question about link.

    Are there markers for the operators so they know where to stop if they have a 1,2,3 car train etc? I noticed at the university st station there were 2 orange reflectors on the roadbed and the train stopped pretty much right on them.

    1. Yes. There are two stopping positions: 1&2 car train and 3&4 car train. That aligns the doors to designated locations where people with disabilities (like the blind) can easily board. 1&2 car position centers the train along the platform and 3&4 places the front of train at the outbound end.

      1. At Mt. Baker station, they have the reflectors on the trackway, but they also have Delineators (I guess that’s what they’re called based on with a sign taped to them that says “BERTHING MARKER–DO NOT MOVE,” so I guess there’s some reason the reflectors aren’t working out there or something.

      2. I know, it seems like not only would they be less tempting to move, but it would have been easier I’d think just to tape the signs to the glass rather than pull in a whole stand.

  6. How are the markers differentiated? Is it the same outdoor vs indoor stations?
    I’m used to the NYC subway where we had 4 car, 8 car, 10 car and shuttle markers that were on the platform.

    1. They don’t have any markers designed for the public to use, like BART has, but that’s not a problem because they only use two-car trains.

      1. Yeah they do – there are these sort of grooves etched in the platform that on a 2-car train line up to the back of the front car and front of the back car doors. I have learned to stand at these and elbow people out of the way, although sometimes the operators miss them.

      2. What I meant was, they don’t have BART-like signs that show where the end of 6, 7, and 8-car trains are, so you don’t wait too far down the platform. I know about the textured strip and the braid, and use the strips every time.

      3. The trains appear to stop at the center of the platform, so for two-car trains the end of the train is directly across from the reflectors on the other track.

      4. Personally, I would like to see painted lines on the ground that shows where the doors are. In front of the door should be arrows leading out and pointing from the sides diagonally there should be arrows pointing in. That way people know to “please let passengers exit first”

  7. This showed up in my email this week. You could easily swap out ‘light rail’ for ‘high-speed rail’.


    “Strength in numbers

    Kevin Brubaker, Deputy Director
    Environmental Law & Policy Center (

    As America embarks on its first investment in passenger rail in decades, it
    is important to remember that the strength of our transportation system lies
    not in single corridors, but in networks. The less reliant we are on a
    single corridor or mode, the stronger our transportation system.

    Thus, when critics of high-speed rail point to the small portion of
    Americans who will use a particular train, they are missing the point.

    Many components of America’s transportation infrastructure with local and
    regional, if not national, significance carry only a small percentage of
    regional travelers or trips:

    . America’s busiest airport (Atlanta) handles only six percent of domestic
    boardings. Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles each handle less than three

    . Interstate 494 in Minnesota serves popular destinations such as the
    Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the Mall of America, and growing
    suburbs. Yet only seven percent of all trips made in the Twin Cities metro
    region utilize I-494.

    . The Capital Beltway, the busy circumferential highway dividing Washington,
    D.C., from reality, carries less than 11 percent of area commuters.
    Replacing a single bridge along this road cost $2.5 billion.

    . On a typical business day, only 2 percent of people entering Manhattan’s
    Central Business District drive over the Brooklyn Bridge.

    . And on the West Coast, trans-San Francisco Bay trips through the Bay
    Bridge Corridor, across the San Mateo Howard Bridge and over the Dumbarton
    Bridge comprise only 4 percent of all regional trips.

    Nobody would seriously suggest that any of these pieces of transportation
    infrastructure is “wasteful” because it serves such a small portion of its
    potential users. Let’s not let critics go unchallenged in saying the same
    about rail investments.”

  8. Another random question that’s been bothering me: Are there any plans to add additional Link crossover switches in the Downtown Transit Tunnel (perhaps after the buses are tossed out)?

    To my knowledge, there is no crossover between the southern end of Stadium Station and the Pine Street Tunnel (east of Westlake Station), which leaves very little flexibility in the system if there is a train breakdown or sick passenger incident. In the DC Metro, there are crossovers every 2 or 3 stations and they are frequently used to single track functioning trains around disabled trains. Do we have any similar contingency plans? It struck me that there might be enough space for a crossover on the north end of Pioneer Square Station (between the end of the platform and the tunnel), but I don’t know if anyone has considered that.

    1. With a two-car train, it might be possible to board/alight passengers at the platform before turning into the tube of the opposite direction, but with three or four car trains that is not gonna fly. (Yeah, you could switch and then back into the station platform on the opposite direction, but that is really inefficient…)

    2. I think this is the longest stretch without a crossover in the system. I’m not sure how important or plausible it would be to add one in, but I remember seeing a photo of IDS with the original rails in it, and it appeared that there was a crossover within the station itself.

      1. I don’t remember there being any crossover switches in any of the old DSTT stations. If anything, the track and roadbed looks pretty similar to how it used to.

      2. I stand corrected.

        I pulled an old picture of Convention Place. There were a crossover from the outer southbound bay. I’m assuming it’s not there anymore since those rails were useless.

      3. They had to remove the rails in IDS. For CPS it would’ve cost more money to pull them out than to leave them there. You can see the old tracks in the bus layover area south of IDS.

      4. What purpose would the crossover tracks in IDS have served? It looks like a train would completely skip both platforms in the station if it used that crossover.

      5. Actually, I stand corrected again. I lost my mind there for a second. I forgot that they didn’t remove the rails in CPS. I remember seeing them not long ago.

      6. IDS and Convention Place both had crossovers when the rails were in there originally. The concept was the ability to bypass in case of an emergency or a train were to break down.

  9. Did I not catch an article somewhere about the what the PSRC 2010-2013 TIP has for transit? I am particularly interested in two items: “Commuter Rail Project: Tacoma/Lakewood” for $9,850,000 and the “Lakewood-Tacoma Commuter Rail (D to M St New Track and Signal)” for $10,000,000. Does anyone know if these projects are now fully funded?

    1. They are not fully funded. D to M street is under way with partial funding, but they may have to “borrow” money from another subarea, or something along those lines.

  10. Olympia Amtrak Station In Danger

    Heard on the radio this afternoon that due to budget constraints Olympia is looking at cutting funds for maintenance of the Amtrak station in Lacey. Evidently six other jurisdictions kick in money besides Olympia but if Oly pulls funding it might be forced to close. They also mentioned in the news piece that the station had been built by volunteers. Built or restored?

    1. Centennial was built new in 1993.

      The original Olympia stations were downtown, but the direct route through Olympia was severed in the 1960’s construction of the mall at Sleater-Kinney. The only route into Oly now is the very roundabout UP line through Tumwater.

      For a couple of decades Amtrak used a primitive facility at UP’s East Olympia junction. For more:

      1. The Union Mills/Lacey/Olympia route wasn’t severed until the 80’s when WSDOT removed the bridge over I-5 to widen the freeway. Most of the line East of I-5 is now a bike trail except the last mile or so. Too bad as this could have been a great commuter route. I’m not sure when the BN tracks on the Westside via Black Lake and Rochester got severed but the tracks now stop at Black Lake. None of the old routes into downtown Olympia would have worked all that well for fast through-run passenger trains anyway.

        “Primitive” hardly begins to describe the stop at East Olympia. No platform, a “shelter” that was tiny and looked like it was put together out of scrap lumber, the “parking lot” was more of just a graveled area near the junction.

      2. Chris,

        Thanks for the correction. Amtrak would never have gone to downtown Olympia; you’re right, the route through Gate is way too long. But Sounder might have one day. With a little new construction, it could have terminated at Evergreen State.

        Of course that’s out of the question without the NP Lacey route. The UP is way too long and convoluted.

      3. Even if the old NP ROW was intact through Lacey I doubt Sounder would have gone any further than downtown Olympia. Now that it is mostly a bike trail even taking a couple of miles back to run Sounder as far as Slater-Kinney is probably not politically feasible. Another problem would be where to put stations, other than the old BN station at Capitol Lake there aren’t too many places were stopping a 800 ft train wouldn’t block streets in either downtown Olympia or Lacey. There would also be an issue as to where to put a parking facility.

      4. Too bad. Sleater-Kinney (or better yet, College) would be my stop. I could walk to my office on Martin Way from either place. Instead, I am doomed to SOV-ing, or the occasional and nearly intolerable Vanpool ride until my boss retires or until telecommuting becomes the rule and not the exception it is presently. I have been hoping for 15 years to be able to take rail to commute to Oly/Lacey. Doesn’t look like it’s in the cards.

      5. Well you could take rail or a ST Express bus to Tacoma then the Olympia Express to Lacey. Though that probably is a bit worse than a vanpool ride. Hopefully Thurston county either joins ST or contracts services so Sounder to Centennial station and possible integration of the Olympia Express with ST services can happen. There really needs to be single seat rides between King County and Olympia given the rather surprisingly large number of people who live in one and work in the other.

      6. I don’t think Sounder to Downtown Olympia will never happen. It isn’t like it’s completely impossible to restore that right of way, it’ll just take a little money. And I agree there are a lot of people commuting between King County in Olympia, in both directions. I’ve seen a couple Intercity Transit vanpools up in my neighborhood (Ravenna).


    Public transit stupidity is a mathematical inevitability: This is something I see almost every day in the New York City Transit system. A bus pulls up at a stop that’s so densely packed with commuters that they practically explode out when the doors are opened. Less than a minute later, it’s followed by a pair of nearly empty busses, running along the same route. Apparently, that’s a mathematical inevitability, termed the “Equal Headway Instability.”

    The authors of this paper create a model that can reproduce the equal headway problem, and then try various solutions under the assumption that the current behavior seriously annoys commuters. Unfortunately, none of their solutions—minimum and maximum waiting times at stops, limited boarding, etc.—work well under all conditions, and the authors recognize that having commuters watch an unfilled bus pull away is also going to piss them off. The solutions, not surprisingly, are basic commute manners: stand away from the doors, let people out first, and don’t pile into an overstuffed bus. Conductors have been saying all of that for years—good luck getting impatient commuters to go along.

  12. Does anybody know where to find a map of what Link might look like with ST2 and the potential West Seattle/Ballard extensions McGinn and Conlin are supporting? I haven’t been able to find any pictures, (presumably since it’s so hypothetical at this point), but I’m curious what the route might look like on a map.

      1. Your routing of East Link in the area of the Overlake Village station is off by a few blocks. It should turn north around 152nd Ave NE and the station is on that segment.

  13. Anyone notice that the state just put another $10m into the I-90 Two-way Transit Project? WSDOT pulled out some pavement work from the project and put it on the list of ARRA stimulus projects that would be funded if money was left over from the Tier 1 projects. Well, money was left over so the I-90 project is going forward.

      1. Thanks! Has anyone made adjustments to the time lines to account for all the money Transit is getting from the ARRA? From reading your link and some other ones that followed from it I saw this:

        Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the University Link light rail project. To date, FTA has awarded $19.6 million of New Starts funding for this project. This grant advances funds that would have been awarded in 2016, thus saving financing costs that would otherwise have been incurred on the project and freeing up local funds for other construction projects in the area.

        44 Mil is a nice little chunk of change. Throw in interest and the relatively cheap construction costs at the moment, and alot of projects that would have to wait can now get started early no?


    I thought this was pretty cool:

    “RapidRide figured prominently in Harbor Properties’ planning for Link [apartment building, not light rail]. Onslow says the company plans to install an electronic kiosk in the lobby with real-time information on the next bus’s arrival time.

    Harbor also is betting the city will ease parking requirements in response to RapidRide; the developer is providing fewer stalls in the complex than the code now requires. For now, the rest will be provided at parking lots on other properties the company owns nearby.”

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