113 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Automobile Actual Size”

    1. Of course you have to blame these guys for the sorry state we’re in. They were part of the group of companies colluding to rip up the rails and replace them with buses. At least we’re finally bringing back the streetcars and starting a light rail network!

      1. Wasn’t that GM and not GE? GE has had a locomotive business for a long time and it would have been in their interest to promote rail.

    1. Page looks great, guys.

      However, I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say McGinn is opposed to the Central Line. We know he opposed it in early September, but the political context has changed in a couple significant ways since then.

      First, when he went on the record with the STimes, he had yet to change his tune on the tunnel, and thus the only reality he could publicly acknowledge was one in which a McGinn victory equalled a surface-transit option. It is one thing to oppose a streetcar line running alongside the surface-transit option, another entirely to oppose that same line running alongside the tunnel.

      Second, he said he was unwilling to fund new streetcar lines while Metro was facing what appeared to be imminent and dire cuts to its bus service. That doomsday scenario has since been averted.

      To my knowledge, the mayor-elect hasn’t been asked about the First Avenue streetcar since either of these developments—but it is difficult to imagine they haven’t impacted his thinking on the topic.

      1. I think it still is accurate to say that he has “stated his opposition to it.” I would like him to come out and say he has changed his mind if he has.

      2. No doubt. I think an earlier version said “is opposed.” Just a language stickler is all.

      3. …while Metro was facing what appeared to be imminent and dire cuts to its bus service. That doomsday scenario has since been averted.

        I’m not sure that kicking the football one to two years down the line is “averting” the problem. We still have a need for a new revenue source to fund transit, and a looming budget crisis after this one-time infusion of stimulus funds and audit savings and efficiencies.

        Let’s be sure we’re all pushing the Legislature for comprehensive transit funding in the next budget cycle.

      4. I didn’t say we averted a long-term structural funding problem. I said we averted a pending doomsday scenario for bus service cuts.

      5. We all know McGinn supports anything if it makes him look cool. So, let’s just make sure this Streetcar makes him seem ‘cool’ and ‘hip’.

    2. I must say, first of all, it is appalling to see all of the proposed lines running north or to West Seattle, with none for the CD or points south.

      Now I am sure that (as always!) there are huge numbers of “technical reasons” that it is best for investment to ride out on the old North-of-the-Ship-Canal Trail. This is the city that spent all the school money north of the ship canal when they didn’t want spend money on black students, and then, when bussing began, continued to spend all of the money north of the ship canal because they did want to spend money on black students– or so they said.

      So I’m going to offer up a different viewpoint- streetcars are synergistic as part of networks, but there is no inherent logic in a streetcar system. Each streetcar line needs to be considered on its own merits and compared with a different line or several lines as to achieving those merits.

      For example, streetcar lines out the old interurban route to Rainier Beach or out Fourth to Georgetown can be considered with only modest concern for other lines up Eastlake or out Madison. (Incidentally, it may be that Georgetown actually would be good goal for the much-ballyhooed TOD.) Riders who need to use the Eastlake line or Madison line as part of a network will transfer downtown, as Seattleites historically have done.

      In one respect streetcars can serve as part of a system, and that is to just keep the car running to the end of the track, that is to say, the Georgetown trolley becomes the South Lake Union trolley which becomes the Eastlake trolley which perhaps in turn becomes the Ravenna trolley. Naturally, in most cases, only a tiny minority of riders actually wants to go from one fringe location to another on any given route. It may be that connecting the segments costs more than any benefit gained. It is, however, a possibility to remember.

      Anc, Alex and Oran have produced a fun and probably well-informed vision of streetcar thinking as it exists in Seattle today. I’m sure we’ve got plenty of time to think about this before anything concrete actually happens. Let’s try, once in a while, to get off the same old track.

      1. The article is about what is currently proposed, and I can’t fault you for wanting something different. But a Wikipedia article is no place for one to outline what one wants, rather it should be used to explain what is.

        There is a line planned and discussed in the Wikipedia article that connects to 23rd and Jackson, which is decidedly south of the Ship Canal. There is also a central line which runs through downtown. Also, don’t forget that the Rainier Valley is already served by Link.

      2. Oh, I totally get it that the wiki article is a report on current thinking. It’s also true that current thinking is, in fact, just that- thinking. Only the SLUT actually exists, only the First Hill line is confidently expected to emerge, and in the process we’ve lost the Waterfront Line.

        I think we’re still allowed to consider alternatives.

      3. With all due respect, what are you talking about!?

        1) South Seattle is the first to get rail! They have fast, frequent, clean shiny trains that folks in Ballard, West Seattle, Wallingford etc. can only dream about.

        2) What are you talking about with black kids and school spending? You seem to be implying that there is a big disparity in government resources between north and south schools in the city. Care to provide a link for that claim?

        Let’s focus on transportation, and not race-baiting digressions.

      4. I suspect SCO was using the school funding situation as an example of general civic attitude and the north/south divide that continues to exist in Seattle. Only people who live north of the Ship Canal are in denial about the reality of the situation; anyone who lives in the CD, or pretty much anywhere in SE or SW Seattle, is well aware of the current state of affairs.

      5. And what might this reality (that presumably I am unaware of) have to do with transit planning, especially when the South has seen a wealth of transit dollars flow in for Central Link despite low density in most South Seattle neighborhoods?

      6. What that reality would have to do with transit planning is, among other things-

        1) When people are daydreaming new streetcar lines, they might just as well consider replacing the overcrowded buses running out to the south with higher capacity streetcars. None of the proposed lines have been properly vetted, and the simple fact is that the bias against south end expansion may mean we fail to inspect better alternatives.

        2) Understanding that transit dollars were used to build LINK to the airport and serving the RV has been a happy coincidence that decreased the cost of construction and increased the chances for new development. It’s not a case of “They got more than their fair share so we don’t need to do any more for a while”.

        Today, everyone is happy to have a line that goes to the airport and carries local traffic. As ridership grows in both of those categories, we’ll need paralleling lines for local commuters, because building a second line to the airport would be nuts. A real transit planner would be able to think ahead and compare all the factors involved.

        For example, every streetcar line headed north over the Ship Canal involves a crossing of some complexity or an operational bottleneck that lasts forever. The amount spent building a high-level bridge to Ballard might pay for 5 miles of streetcar line out to Rainier Beach. When we understand that, and when we understand that the traditional low density of south Seattle was largely the result of real estate redlining that we now hope is gone forever, we can form more reasonable and balanced estimates of what should be done.

      7. Serving RV did not decrease the cost of construction to serve Tukwila. The Beacon Hill tunnel was a major expense, as was rebuilding many miles of MLK Blvd. A key objective of the Link alignment was to serve the RV and support development.

      8. Maybe I in turn should ask what you are talking about. You look at the map, and if that is the build-out, you end up with 4 streetcar lines and one LINK line going north past the Ship Canal, and one LINK line, plus a streetcar stub to 23rd, for the CD and south Seattle.

        What particular blindness is making you not see what I’m seeing?

        South Seattle was the first to get rail because they lie between downtown and the airport, and because they had been so shortchanged on transportation previously that planners knew people would ride. It’s very nice that things turned out that way, but it doesn’t change the situation that the proposed streetcar map so plainly shows.

        As for whether the schools are still spending more on north end schools today, I can’t say (nor did I say that in my comment). I do know that in about 1990 it was reported that the school district was still spending more in the north end than in the south end, and the district claimed it was because they had to improve the schools the students were being bussed to. In about 1995 we learned that south end high schools were using 30-year-old science textbooks, and not enough of those.

        The schools, of course, are just an indicator for a society that redlined CD and south end real estate investment, paid minorities (and still pays women) less for the same types of work, and concentrated almost all public investment for most of the 20th century north of downtown. I do not consider it a “race-baiting digression” to be aware of the past- I consider it essential to understanding the present and the possible futures.

      9. There are no streetcar lines planned to West Seattle… I agree that they need to serve South Seattle more. After these lines the one along Rainier would be another good one, connecting Rainier Station with Mount Baker. That would also stimulate a lot of TOD. I suspect that a large part of the reason why most are planned for north of the Ship Canal is that people north of Ship Canal can more easily pay for their own streetcars in LIDs, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build plenty streetcars in the south end too.

  1. Does anyone know if there are festivities for the SeaTac Station opening? Sound Transit’s site just says that service begins at 10am on 12/19.

      1. But, but, it’s one of Mayor McCheese’s last “hurrahs” whilst in office. Why can’t we attend? Will Pat Davis be there??

        Public taxes paid for it! Call the Blethens!!

  2. Adam & I got to ride SWIFT yesterday using my Old Trusty (manual) wheelchair for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised. I tried both with straps so I could face forward and tried the backing in for no straps. We’re on a 358 right now so I can try it out with my power wheelchair and I’ll reply back with SWIFT from the power chair.

    Community Transit, I’m very impressed with service :)

  3. Not a completely fair comparison, as it compares maximum capacity of a trolley coach against average use of an automobile. Of course, if you were to compare average use of a trolley coach against average use of an automobile, the automobile would probably still take up more street space, but the difference wouldn’t be as dramatic. Since the ad calls for increased use of transit, one could argue that it makes sense to use the figure for potential future capacity of a trolley bus instead of present actual capacity.

    1. 40 or so passengers is hardly the maximum capacity of a trolley coach. While it might not reflect ridership in the evenings it certainly would be low for most Seattle trolleybus routes during peak when road capacity matters the most.

  4. We are snails.

    If you calculate the size of an average sedan, it takes up approximately 100 sq ft.
    Add in the following distance of 4 car lengths (34-40 mph), then a single person in a vehicle is essentially ‘carrying around’ the equivalent of a small studio apartment.

    The average use of an automobile is 1.2 persons per vehicle.

    The comparison is fair, if you look at excess road capacity the same way. A lightly travelled highway lane is ‘wasted’ infrastructure.

    The comparison also makes sense if you are discussing the problem of congestion, which is not a 24 hour a day phenomenon.


    1. And this is why increasing the average occupancy is hands down the most effective (least cost, least “pain”) way to reduce congestion. If you upped the average from 1.2 to 1.7 on the Evergreen Point floating bridge you’d eliminate over 30,000 vehicle trips per day. If you add an express bus route you only remove about 2000 cars (12hrs x 15min headway x 50 people per bus / 1.2 per car). Sharing the ride actually saves money instead of costing money. One car with two people gets virtually the same gas mileage and cuts the emissions and road wear in half. Some might say it would hurt the auto industry, to which few on this blog would shed a tear, but I’m not sure that’s even true. If people save half (or more) on the cost of vehicle ownership I bet a lot of people are going to go out and spend that money on the shiny new Prius they want but can’t afford.

      1. Right, but it costs so much money to get people to share their rides that it’s cheaper to build transit.

        The vanpool thing is totally tired – people could do it, but they don’t choose to (past a certain number).

      2. What? Metro hasn’t scratched the surface with van pools and it is the best return on investment they have. Just simply getting more people to carpool is cheaper yet. In fact it’s a revenue source if you use HOT lanes that are free for carpools or tolls that are discounted for carpools. Transit is an important component as well. In fact it’s a great argument against 40/40/20 because one of the reasons people don’t carpool is because they need a personal car to make trips during the work day. Better transit in the dense areas where it works best would mitigate that excuse. Getting neighbors to car pool is much less of a life style change that expecting them to use transit. Especially since you’re vehemently anti park and ride.

      3. I sure wish I had known about vanpools when I lived in Kirkland and worked in downtown Seattle. The buses were slow but not so painful that I searched for alternatives. I later moved to Federal Way (which has a stellar bus connection to Seattle), but when I started working in Bellevue the so-called “express” bus from Federal Way to Bellevue was *so* bad that I decided to abandon mass transit and form a carpool, and thus discovered vanpools.

        Now I’m quite happy in a vanpool, but wish I had discovered them much earlier.

      4. Ridesharing is a great idea, so why isn’t everyone doing it?

        It would get them into the carpool lanes, but that’s not enough incentive.

        What do you do? Pass some Draconian law FORCING people into carpools/vanpools?

        One problem with vanpools is that if you miss the vanpool, you’re driving alone, and people don’t like that inflexibility of vanpools.

        Vanpools/carpools are an anwser, just a smaller part of the answer.

      5. If you “miss” the van pool you fall back on what you would have done anyway.

        No draconian law required to encourage carpooling, although it might be to force people to ride buses. Simple things like HOV lane being a way faster alternative. Employer vehicle mile reduction incentives work. Tolling on HOT lanes. Shared rides are the major part of the answer and it’s a threat to admit that because first of all it doesn’t promote transit to areas where it will never be effective but more to the point it accepts the realization that private automobile ownership will continue to be an integral part of our infrastructure.

      6. If it were the answer, then HOV lanes would be full right now.

        Now if you are talking about tolling GP lanes everywhere, then you have a valid argument.

        And your last statement basically says that there is no congestion that’s worthy of complaining about.


      7. Huh? How does Tolling on HOV lanes, thus making them into HOT lanes, encourage carpooling/ridesharing? If anything, since HOV lanes tend to be “Add-a-lane” they take traffic out of the original General Purpose lane, and then by creating the Tyler Duvall wet-dream of HOT (don’t forget your transponder! Yes, even if you are a HOV+2 you will need one soon; the DOT and the Highway Police Agency has to be able to track you!) you take yet more cars out of the GP lanes and dump them on the added HOT-nee-HOV lane.

        Private Automobile Ownership, sending our national treasure to Japan and Saudi Arabia for over 30 years!

  5. Interesting that in the 1940’s, the number of occupants per automobile is shown as 1.72. Compare that with today’s average of 1.1, which means the traffic congestion is now worse, on average.

    1. Congestion is worse and returning to a 1.7 per car ratio rather than 1.2 would help a lot. But, remember that we have way more roads today than we did in the 40’s and a huge increase in car ownership in rural America which lowers the average number of occupants but doesn’t really add to congestion.

      1. Kong County has more registered vehicles than residents, according to an article I read in the Seattle Times (gasp!) a couple of years ago.

  6. We think that when the facts are known they will appeal far more to the people than huge expenditures for street widening, express highways, and municipal parking lots which load them with unfairly proportioned taxes — and never provide more than a partial solution of the problem.

    Sigh, well we all know know that most places chose to go with the street widening, express highways, and municipal parking lots. But they were right that none of that was ever more than a partial solution of the problem.

    1. Read the book, “Los Angeles and the Automobile, The Making of the Modern City”

      Gives an insight into the politics, and what, at the time, seemed perfectly logical.

  7. I figure Seattle’s hills are better suited to trolleybuses than streetcars. But those who view the overhead wires as icky-poo-poo, prefer invisable diesel exhaust fumes. Over the last 7 years, I’ve repeatedly submitted a trolleybus system expansion design, but I’m not in with the in crowd, so it won’t get the time of day. It’s called the Seattle Circulator Plan and it’s blacklisted. YOU are NOT allowed to view and consider it. Nein!

    The 1st Ave Streetcar Line is proposed to run in the center-left lanes. Stations will be in the middle of the street. What fun waiting for the streetcar will be with traffic zooming by on both sides! I’m opposed to that arrangement. The latest streetcar station design at Union Square also proposes center-left operation on Seneca, but the design does not depict a station or terminus on Seneca, so trotting it out for public consumption was disingenuous. It’s a good thing Lady Crunican is moving on hopefully into some occupation other than transportation planning in the public realm.

    1. If you want us to see your plan, just show it to us… And traffic doesn’t exactly zoom by on 1st Ave. Center platforms work great everywhere they’re used, this is a fine plan.

      1. Hm the Downtown Monorail circulator idea is kind of cool, but this plan doesn’t seem to have much to do with trolley buses…

      2. Yeah, except for the 1st/3rd Trolleybus Circulator in Orange, and, the extensive Trolleybus Reconfiguration in Peach. Maybe you only looked at only one of the plan’s six maps?

      3. I clicked on Oran’s link and found all six maps displayed plus 2 pages of discription. Thanks Oran, but it’s been repeatedly submitted to all Seattle media and the appropriate agencies for many years. None have offered the least reply. It’s blacklisted by authorities and abused by average posters who misinform others. Why don’t you give it a cursory assessment?

        Putting streetcar stations in the middle of 1st Ave will NOT be pleasant, nor will it be safe, and it’ll be a hassle for traffic as well. This is in part why I propose a Trolleybus Circulator between Jackson/King and Mercer/Roy on 1st/3rd. Trolleybuses can pull out of traffic, and work well with other bus lines.

      4. The biggest problem with your plan is the poor presentation and lack of specifics. It is far from the quality of professionally produced plans. The maps look cool but they don’t help me or the agency official compare this to other proposals or make a decision. I end up with more questions. I want to see a more substantial and complete document. More hard numbers and analysis that matters. Distill those down into a one page executive summary that a public elected official might be willing to spend the time to read.

        A few of questions I had to answer myself to even try to assess your plan: With the trolleybus reconfiguration, how are existing trolley routes from outside the CBD handled? Are all external travelers required to transfer or will there be through routes? What’s the effect on ridership? For these bus and monorail circulator loops, what is the expected cycle time to complete a loop? How many buses would be needed? How many service hours are needed? How much will it cost to construct and operate? Are there any potential cost and travel time savings with this configuration over the existing system? If so what are they? How is the 3rd Ave circulator any better than the very frequent service on 3rd already present there that serves both local and through trips? For the circulator monorail, how did you arrive at the claim that it generates more ridership than the SMP Green Line? How did you calculate ridership estimates? How did you calculate cost estimates? Is the one way loop small enough such that a person attempting to travel “the wrong way” isn’t forced to travel around in circles? What problem(s) are you trying to solve?

        You don’t have to respond to these, as I’d rather have you spend your time fixing your document and communication, which is the real problem why no one takes your plan seriously.

        I do have somewhat related things to say:

        Alaskan Way. I’ve been reading “The Boulevard Book” which is a fascinating look at multiway boulevards. Multiway boulevards have low speed frontage roads for parking and access with landscaped medians (or even parks) separating them from the main higher speed traffic. Some of the famous boulevards in Paris and Spain are multiway boulevards. Brooklyn has them. San Francisco created Octavia Blvd from a former freeway. WSDOT and the city of Bothell are building one as part of a downtown revitalization project. I would like to see such an option reconsidered for Seattle’s Waterfront.

        Bus route reorganization. King County Metro has a blueprint for transit in the CBD that’ll consolidate service into 11 distinct paths and focus service to 1st, 3rd, 2nd/4th Avenues with transit priority, and reduce turning movements in the CBD. Transit lanes have been added to 2nd and 4th Aves. 3rd Ave continues to be a transit only street during peak hours. Metro is trying to make the system easier to understand and more streamlined. Most regional and long-distance routes (Metro, ST and CT) already use 2nd and 4th Avenues with skip-stop operation. Third also has a skip-stop pattern.

      5. Thanks, Oran. I realize a thorough study is necessary, but the design is based on concepts, namely, how circulator systems require the least number of vehicles to offer frequent service where it’s needed most, central city, to deal with hills, etc. The short routes are more readily measureable to determine and serve demand. The concepts are basic.

        The Trolleybus Reconfiguration is a basic grid which requires transfers between e/w and the n/s Trolleybus Circulator on 1st/3rd. The e/w lines reach the waterfront and run between there and Capitol and First Hills. Trolleybus thru-routes tie into this new central city grid, but likewise rely on transfers rather than attempting to build 1-seat rides to main destinations. 2nd and 4th Ave’s become thru-corridors for diesel bus lines.

        As for the Circulator Monorail, I estimated its travel times based on the historic system and came up with rough numbers, 6 cars needed to operate at under 5 minute intervals, around 20mins to circle the 6-mile route between Seattle Center and Capitol Hill. Transfer stations at Komo Plaza and Belltown allows riders to avoid riding the complete route.

        The 2nd Phase Circulator Monorail to the Waterfront added 4 miles of single-track, another 6 cars, and followed the same travel time estimate. From Seattle Center, monorail cars alternately run between there and the two outer loops every 3 minutes. The Double-Circulator design allows regional monorail lines from West Seattle and Balard to enter and travel through.

        There’s nothing like this design out there. It’s unique and conceivably very dynamic. Single-track is low-impact and low-cost. Stations are simpler to locate, less expensive and can be incorporated into buildings, unlike double-track monorail. The design shouldn’t require a lengthy and expensive professional study to determine its basic merit.

        Shut up, Matt, unless you can ‘engineer’ a better design concept.

      6. Note that conceptually many of Metro’s plans for reconfiguring transit service including the Rapid Trolleybus Network plan essentially reconfigure the bus routes into more of a grid configuration as well.

    2. There is also the rapid trolleybus network plan which was developed by Metro staff. http://globaltelematics.com/pitf/KingCountyMetroRapidTrolleyNetworkPortfolio4-3.pdf (sorry I can’t find a source for this on a King County or WSDOT site)

      In any case I really like this plan and the way it integrates with Link. There is some acknowledgment of the streetcar network but not enough IMHO, especially the First Hill and the Jackson extension of the Central line.

      1. BTW by “this plan” I mean the Rapid Trolleybus Network plan, not Wells’ “circulator” plan.

    3. The SLU Trolley’s northnmost stop at FHCRC is in the middle of a very busy, sometimes high speed roadway (Fairview). Don’t mind waiting there at all. In fact, it’s nice to wait off the sidewalk so Peds and cyclists or families and tourists and whomever can use the sidewalk without having to thread their way through those waiting for the trolley. Middle street boarding = good!

    4. I want to put a stop to this “blacklisting” idea.

      Neither we, nor any other media outlet, are obligated to spend the effort and bandwidth to store, analyze, and otherwise publicize any proposal that arrives in our inbox.

      You’re free to buy your own website and post it there, and link to it in an open thread as long as it isn’t done repeatedly. People are free to view and consider it.

      Meanwhile, we’re plenty busy evaluating proposals that may actually be enacted, that have funding and everything. For now, it’s the responsibility of proponents to convince an elected leader or prominent agency staff member, or get it on the ballot, to show the rest of the world that this is a serious proposal.

      1. Martin H Duke, you’re censoring my work. Why? I’ve submitted it repeatedly and had people like you flip me off. Did you know the inspiration for Portland’s Waterfront Park came from an average guy, an engineer actually, but he had to fight city hall and people like you so his idea get a fair hearing. Can’t you think outside the box?

      2. What is your standard for “censoring?” Oran, one of our bloggers here, actually went through the trouble of scanning, reformatting, uploading, and hosting it for you. You mentioned the plan in an open thread and those comments have remained up.

        Are we volunteers at STB obligated to spend hours studying your plan and posting on it? Other people have emailed us stuff and asked “what do you think”, and that gets a good discussion going on email. Sometimes we post if it seems interesting to us, sometimes not.

        And then there’s you, coming in with a sense of entitlement that your plan deserves top billing, filled with conspiracy theories on why your plan hasn’t been adopted, ready to accuse us of being part of that conspiracy at the drop of a hat, telling other commenters to “shut up,” and implying that we’re Nazis. That’s not a track record that inclines me to believe that this is a well-considered and realistic plan.

      3. Martin, I direct my complaint about censorship mostly to mainstream press and government agencies who ARE obligated to serve public interest. Organizations like STB and other internet forum boards allow posts from people who are entirely anti-rail, and from whom I expect unreasonable opposition. But rail advocates like yourself do this cause a disservice when they dismiss intricate proposals without giving them the least consideration. Matt the engineer [deleted, ad-hominem] dismisses my work without first having a look at it. He’s no engineer.

        Seattle’s transportation and transit systems are poorly designed because planning agencies are incompetent and/or corrupt. Grace Crunican has proven herself to be both. I am as much if not more and advocate for rail transit than you will ever be. I don’t need your approval. Because you are more inclined to be dismissive, it’s not likely your analysis would be fair.

        It’s surprising that Oran’s hasty review was so negative. I’m not a fan of his sort of maps – no detail, no landmarks, confusing asymetry, no connecting transit designations. Yet, he complains my maps are not professionally detailed and specific. His sort of maps are useful on board trains when riders know where they’re going. They are secondary maps. I give a negative analysis of Oran’s maps but temper it with the caveat that they have use in some applications. Oran’s cursory review of my work is all negative. He only found fault and did not note its value from an engineering perspective. A summary is included with the maps that detail its design concepts of low-impact, low-cost, high-productivity.

        The ‘core’ of the project is the “Circulator Monorail” which I submitted to Sound Transit in 2000 as a design that both monorail and light rail fans could both support by the way they integrate to work together. I estimate its at 1/4 that of the Greenline. The professional-looking “Freeway Monorail” and the extensive “Regional Monorail” got publication and reviews. The Circulator Monorail was least expensive and most integrated into the existing transit system but it got no review. I tried to cut $1500 million dollars on the monorail expansion project, but people like you were too focused their own designs, including the piss-poorly routed Greenline, to realize how impractical they were before they were ultimately rejected. And still the Circulator Monorail is blacklisted. Did you notice that the Seattle Times “Design Your Own Center” map is the template for the Circulator Monorail? For some unexplained reason, the Circulator Monorail was censored from that “public call” for submissions how to improve Seattle Center. Seattle is a corrupt city.

      4. Wells,

        You can’t say, “Martin H Duke, you’re censoring my work” and then in the very next comment claim that you’re directing it at government and other media.

        You’re right, however, that I focus more of my energy on plans that have been approved by voters and are underway than those that have no documented support from anyone but you and Art. I maintain that it’s a sensible allocation of finite time.

        You’re also right that you don’t need my approval for anything, unless of course you’re talking about getting big play on STB. If your approach is what you’ve displayed here — preemptively lashing out at the very people you hope to take your proposal seriously — I think I understand why no one’s taken it up, leaving aside its technical merit or lack thereof.

        One blogger here has actually taken some time to look at what you’ve done, and you’ve chosen to respond to Oran’s constructive critique by slamming his (totally unrelated) work for not doing something it’s not intended to do.

      5. I’m not a fan of his sort of maps – no detail, no landmarks, confusing asymetry, no connecting transit designations.

        For the record, I *am* a fan of Oran’s maps. Clear, concise, well-indexed – and created completely unsolicited, without compensation, and superior to those (that we can find anyway) produced by the transit agencies themselves for public consumption.

        My own .02.

      6. Matt the engineer [deleted, ad-hominem] dismisses my work without first having a look at it. He’s no engineer.

        Matt is a mechanical engineer, not a civil engineer, but that is irrelevant.

        he complains my maps are not professionally detailed and specific

        I wasn’t talking about your maps nor did I compare them to mine. I’m talking about the text. A bunch of maps with a short description does not make a credible plan. Hell, I could add some text to my fantasy map describing all the lines and send it to the agencies and the media. It’d be “blacklisted”, too.

        Since you mentioned my maps, I’m very well aware of the limitations and the purposes of my maps. I don’t produce only schematic maps. I also produce maps from GIS information that’s the most accurate it could be, like my Seattle Transit map. I was thinking of reformatting your maps in to the GIS like the recently released SDOT maps but decided not to waste my time doing the work that you should’ve done.

        Oran’s cursory review of my work is all negative.

        You totally missed my point. You have a communication problem. Look at David Wallace’s plan for rerouting East Link in Downtown Bellevue. He wants to be taken seriously and he’s shown that he means business. He or his supporters don’t go around internet forums calling people names and pissing off the very audience they’re trying to convince.

        Remember all those questions I asked you? Those answers weren’t in the document or were unclear. If the document cannot answer those basic engineering, financial and operational questions, then it has failed at its purpose. Don’t make the reader do the work. This would never pass as an acceptable report.

        Over sixty people have downloaded your plan since I posted it up here and all but one of them had anything to say.

        design concepts of low-impact, low-cost, high-productivity

        Yet you don’t have the numbers to clearly show that to WSDOT, SDOT, Metro and Sound Transit planners and engineers. They may understand the concept and agree but they want more info. Don’t let them try to figure it out, because they won’t.

        I tried to cut $1500 million dollars on the monorail expansion project

        Making such extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proof to back it up. And you have none. No, not that text talking about “single track costs less” but the assumptions and calculations you used to arrive at that conclusion. Those are usually included as an appendix.

      7. So, the gloves are off, eh? Oran, to the best of my ability, I designed a system. Not many people do that. A handful, tops. The design is unique. It is both complex and simple. It has many considerable elements which an engineer should recognize immediately: low-cost, low-impact, high-productivity. I’m pissed off because it was completely rejected without explanation. Nevermind that Seattle is overrun with traffic, it’s new light rail start is the nation’s worst, and the SLU streetcar line equally uninspiring. I’m happy to not be associated with Seattle’s failures. You should be embarrassed.

        Mr Duke, I only expected my work to receive a fair review of some kind. Instead, it was dismissed out of hand with no explanation. Seattle is widely recognized as in deep shit when it comes to transportation planning. I’m not surprised my plan is rejected this way because the agencies to which it has been submitted have a long record of failure, as if Seattle agency plans are designed to fail.

        Mr Welsh, Oran’s maps are sterile. Without the context of landmarks, street grid and transit connections, they cannot direct transit users anywhere beyond the simplest transit trips. They’re lousy maps; clean and crisp but almost worthless. Look at Metro System Map. It’s a confusing mass of bus lines where no complete route can be determined, many routes share corridors and divergent points are indeterminable. Oran’s maps are like this.

        My maps are mostly concentrated in the central city, but reaching destinations is intuitively simple without a single numbered route, plus, the design is such that transferring between lines is a reliably less than 5 minute wait period. Their design is not standard, but that is their beauty. Oran doesn’t know what to do with them. They’re out of his league. There’s none like them. They’re advanced beyond today’s standards. They require a leap of faith. They’re a kind of breakthrough. They’re worth billions and that’s why they’re censored. I’m the messenger being shot to keep the message from being herd.

      8. As you wish Mr Wells. Here’s my “fair review” using quick engineering judgment and some imagination to fill in the info you left out:

        The trolleybus circulator plan proposes reconfiguring routes into a N-S, E-W grid like system with 5 minute base headway. Current through N-E routes like the 2, 3/4, 10/12 will be broken. Most of these routes currently run on 15 minute headway during the day. A tripling of current service levels and purchase of new trolley buses would be required to achieve such low headways. That’ll may result in an excessive amount of service in outer areas on some lines. Another way to reduce headways is to designate every 2 out of 3 trips as turnback trips and have them turn around at the edge of the central area. That maintains current level of service outside the central area while providing a circulator service within. With the N-E routes broken, the combination of routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 13, 14S, 36, should provide very frequent service along the entire length of 3rd Ave downtown. Further ridership and origin-destination analysis will be required to determine the appropriate amount of service to be provided for the circulator. Breaking through routes will improve schedule reliability at the cost of requiring more buses and service hours.

        Layover space is an important concern for terminating trips downtown. By shifting E-W trips to end at the waterfront, there should be sufficient space for layover. For N-S routes, it is possible to dedicate street space near the Seattle Center and in Pioneer Square for layover as is currently done for Route 1 shuttle trips and Route 70 trips. It is preferable though to maintain through service for N-S trips.

        To be continued in Part 2

      9. Wells,

        Mr Welsh, Oran’s maps are sterile.

        It’s Welch, actually – and his maps are what is called in web-geek vernacular – USABLE. What you are describing in your critique might give those with a bit of O.C.D. and engineer-boner, but for outright usefulness in outlining systems – real and proposed, I find them informative, and wish more folks had access to them.

        Your view can (and apparently does) differ. Knock yourself out.

      10. Thank you for the kind words, Jeff.


        I’m welcome to suggestions to improve my maps. Just point out which map you’re talking about because not all of my maps are the same. Otherwise, you’re attacking my maps just out of spite with no substance behind your criticisms.

        Part 2

        The circulator monorail is problematic. Its one-way loop design and very long cycle time of 20 minutes can confuse and deter riders who wish to travel the wrong way on the loop. To travel the wrong way without cycling through the entire loop, one must walk or take a surface bus or take the monorail to one stop and then transfer. This requires more time to go back, even with very frequent bus service, than it would’ve been had the loop was two way. This loop design is more useful for tourists and less useful for people running errands and commuting. The cycle time needs to be reduced, at least by half, by splitting the loops in half and centering the system on the Westlake hub where all lines converge.

        An issue not discussed in the plan is funding. Who will fund and build the monorail? Who will be taxed? It may be possible to create a citywide monorail authority like the previous SPMA by a simple majority vote of the citizens of Seattle, who may or may not see the benefit to them. It is not in Sound Transit’s current plans to construct such a project nor the funds currently allocated to the First Hill Streetcar are sufficient or even available for this. King County Metro is not likely to fund or construct or operate this project given their past history and their aversity to large capital projects. It may also be possible to form a Local improvement district to fund the line in the same manner as the South Lake Union streetcar which will require approval of property owners in the designated LID. Public input will be required in all cases to determine the final location of stations and alignment.

        Public consultation will also be required for major changes to the trolley network and bus routes. The final outcome would likely be a hybrid system that maintains some through routes for routes with a high amount of through trips.

        The pros and cons of the trolley reorganization are as follows:

        + Very frequent service provided in the central area
        + More reliable service due to simplified and shorter routes
        + Feeds into and integrates well with regional transit system
        + Encouraged to consider integration with proposed Rapid Trolley system and RapidRide

        – Costly to break through routes with limited resources
        – Requires transfers for all L shaped trips which increases travel time for through riders (unloading time+wait time+loading time)
        – Availability of layover space contingent upon final layout of the waterfront
        – Does not address transit priority
        – Need to balance service frequency by demand, otherwise resources wasted on excessive service
        – Current system already provides very frequent service on 3rd Ave and Pike/Pine corridors

        Verdict: plausible and has merit, should be studied and refined further

        Circulator monorail pros and cons:

        + Very frequent service
        + Single one-way track lowers cost and impact
        + A loop may be easier to understand for tourists

        – Cost-effectiveness yet to be determined
        – Ridership and cost figures are unsubstantiated
        – Long cycle times may limit utility of one-way loop
        – Currently no lead agency to finance project without any grassroots support
        – Duplicative service with parts of Link LRT and streetcar network (in current plans) and trolleybus circulators
        – Excessive focus on Seattle Center makes the line too tourist oriented

        Verdict: insufficient information, seems unnecessary

        That’s my quick look, for real, at your plans. I like the trolleybus reconfiguration but the circulator monorail doesn’t convince me.

      11. I just looked at Wells’ maps and one thing that I really like is that it shows that Queen Anne is higher elevation via some sort of projection (or maybe that’s a scanning artifact). We have some nasty hills in Seattle and it would be really nice to communicate grade on maps. The bike map has little “>>>” symbols which is a start.

      12. It’s late, Oran. Will reply Wednesday. Thanks. I have always been a boat rocker. Seattle must do better. I push you to reach for highest goals and to imply what it feels like for years of hard work to be rejected.

      13. Oran, because your maps lack context with landmarks and transfer points, they only serve transit patrons who are already familiar with them. Even so, dedicated transit users are unfamiliar with most landmark destinations, all of which require transfers for some patrons.

        The caveat I offer in defense of your maps is their usefulness on board when patrons have by then organized their trip. They’re also more useful on rail systems than on bus lines because rail lines are ‘fixed’ routes and transfers occur at station stops. Bus lines travel on shared corridors and ‘divert’ from these routes at indeterminate points.

        Incorporating a new light rail system into a bus-only system requires a reorganization of some bus routes. This ‘forced transfer’ is for some patrons a bitter inconvenience. But transfers are simply unavoidable if an entire transit system is to function. Engineering transfers to be convenient is the key then to success and the Seattle Circulator Plan design is based on convenient transfers between lines. I wish it could be explained in simpler terms. There’s a lot more that need be said, including its effect on the development overlay, the connection between transportation and land-use.

        As for your Circulator Monorail point, “long cycle times limit utility of 1-way loop”, consider the Seattle Center loop. The KOMO Plaza Station is actually a double-track ‘center’ station serving both directions. The cycle time of that loop is short enough to serve Center visitors, I’d say admirably. Another point: the Lower Queen Anne station at Key Arena Plaza serves that neighborhood’s high demand, not just Seattle Center visitors. Imagine Seattle Center popularity with this kind of transit access.

        The other monorail loops are longer, (about 10min & 15min), but they are still fast, faster than bus lines. Plus, transfers from monorail to those bus lines are built into the system to be convenient. So, trips on the longer monorail loops indeed work best between major destinations at Capitol and First Hills, Queen Anne, Coleman Dock, Pike Place Market, sports arenas, etc, but return trips are complimented with surface transit.

        It’s important to note that single-track monorail is ideal to reduce visual/physical impacts and cost, and, the high capacity of (even single-track) monorail is desirable at these high travel-demand destinations.

        I don’t get into cost factors much, so just note how the Circulator Monorail’s cost is a fraction of the Greenline Monorail. And note how its productivity is based on all-day ridership, not on rush hour commuters from Ballard and West Seattle. At rush hours, the full monorail fleet is used to handle extra demand. Off rush hours, the already small fleet garages 2-4 cars and yet service frequency is still under 5mins, thus making it simple and less expensive to meet demand with supply. That’s basic high-productivity.

        Well, an hour and a half later, I’ve written a response. Maybe it’s all just gibberish to some people. But, it seems I’m onto something important. I’m sure of it. The world needs advanced transit designs. This one is certainly ahead of the curve. Last point: Where a proposed light rail line cannot reach important destinations due to cost and impact of subways or elevated segments, simpler routes become good options when circulator systems afford convenient transfers. Circulators, brought to you by “The Seattle Circulator Plan”.

  8. I rode the MEHVA holiday lights tour in the Breda Duobus.

    Surprisingly, that bus in Diesel mode ran faster and smoother than I ever remembered the Bredas running at. The engine wasn’t very loud and clunky and it was pretty speedy once it had taken off.

    Of course, accelerating and braking was still a bit jerky, but the bus ride was fairly nice. The driver did a good job rounding tight corners, streets and roundabouts with such a large bus, too. He was able to dodge a car parked out in the corner by mere inches.

    After this ride, I miss the Bredas running in Diesel mode. Maybe they gave this bus all the best parts from the retired Bredas. Or maybe its just a good specimen – there is a reason why they decided to preserve this one…

    1. As I recall the Bredas were rather loud for anyone outside of the coach though they weren’t particularly loud on the inside. They weren’t very reliable either. Switching modes was always an adventure as you weren’t sure the bus would take to the new mode. I also didn’t care for the seat pitch on most of the forward facing seats.

      1. Yeah, but seat pitch was an issue with the MAN artics of the era too. All manufacturers seemingly tried to cram as many forward facing seats as they could (which I actually appreciate…).

        But yeah, the hip to knee room around the axles are terrible.

      2. Yeah the loudness was an issue, although you could hear your bus coming and then go to the stop! I was at Green Lake for the Lumnarias on Saturday night and heard the distinctive sound, turned my head, and – sure enough! – a Breda across the Lake.


    Seriously, this would be a good chance for McGinn to prove his bona fides, for one part of the “surface alternatives” puzzle to fall in place, and it would be relatively simple, fast, and inexpensive to do.

    Most of the track and ROW are still there. Bringing those back to life would be a lot cheaper than building a new line. Vacancies are up in Pioneeer Square right now and it wouldn’t cost that much to build a temporary steel shed for a carbarn. The line could be up and running in a few months and it was the only route in the system making a profit when last it ran.

    Sure, they’re going to build the seawall there. But there’s no reason to stop living while that project drags on- you never get anything done if you live that way. Our recent ancestors would have just kept the streetcars running on temporary track under temporary wire while the seawall was rebuilt. Even if we can’t aspire to those impossibly high standards, we could try.

    This was a weak point with Nickels- he didn’t want competition for his proposed line on First Avenue and quite improperly banished the waterfront line. In reality, a waterfront line running from cruise ships at Pier 91 to King Street Station or Pioneer Square serves an entirely different ridership than the proposed First Avenue Line. McGinn could quite logically restore the waterfront service while remaining agnostic about new streetcar routes- and in doing so would be activating one element of the “surface options” we’ve heard so much about.

    So, the next time you’re in a focus group, bring up the waterfront streetcar, and let the discussion begin!

    1. Seriously. The Viaduct is not going to be torn down for at least 7 years, probably longer. That is 7+ years we could be riding on the Waterfront Streetcar (We’ve already lost 4). This would take very little capital investment. The relocation of Elliott Bay Books should be a wake-up call.

      Of course, with funding problems in both King County and Seattle, I’m not too optimistic on anything getting done.

    2. Ending the service was ludicrous to begin with. I mean take something out of service that is turning a profit and multiplying that money through tourism; how stupid is that? The City is continuing to lose money by leaving this asset that could be making a profit lie idol and deteriorate. I guess the folks who fund sculpture parks get more representation per vote than commoners that ride transit. A recession is exactly when the City should be spending money on something that not only creates jobs but does it at a profit! Forget the temporary metal shed. There should be a transportation museum along the waterfront to compliment the Aquarium, Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center (very cool for “children” of all ages ;-), the Coast Guard Musem, etc. Transportation museums are a huge draw whether they’re for flight (Tillamook, Boeing Museum of Flight), rail countless small working railroads including the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum (best of the northwest) and of course the west coast jewel California State Railroad Museum, maritime (Lake Union Center for Wooden Boats), or cars (Can’t wait for the Lemay Museum to open!!!).

    3. I completely agree with the restoration of the Waterfront Streetcar.

      Has anyone thought about taking an initiative to create a volunteer group to both operate and restore the streetcar? I know this sounds like a large undertaking (and it is), but they did this is Tucson prior to the actual modern streetcar under design right now.

      Anyone interested? If we want change, let’s start it.

      1. I agree that it will probably take an independent organization to bring back historic streetcar service to Seattle. This is essentially how San Francisco got the F Line back (they also had well-connected people in their organization). I also think Bernie’s idea of a car-barn/transit museum on the waterfront is an excellent one.

      2. Other places have done similar things – I’d be up for helping with a group like that, for sure. If you’re interested, drop me a line at johns @ transdes.com and let’s get organized.

      3. I have not seen any plans by SDOT to include a Waterfront Streetcar whatsoever (I attend SBAB meetings with regularity). This area will be a very wide, very busy street and SDOT plans on having a large pedestrian area and likely some sort of cycling infrastructure. However, it does seem to me an ideal place for a streetcar as they are predicting major tourists once the construction is complete.

        I also don’t believe in a million years that any major work will be done in the area prior to the tear-out. The viaduct work is sheduled to take place first, and only when (if) the tunnel opens will work begin on the waterfront in earnest – so we still have time to wait…years to wait. SDOT will not spend $ putting in a streetcar there only to tear it out again (even if it makes good transit sense as the waterfront could/will be clogged with cars very soon due to construction ramping up next year). SDOT is concentrating on 1st Ave for the route. Should be interesting to see what happens in the evolution of the waterfront – a very wide, busy roadway (25,000+ vehicles a day) called a pedestrian friendly area with few buses or transit options. What other roadways does this compare to?

    4. I’m still wondering exactly what happened with shutting down the waterfront streetcar line. While I suspect it was mostly stupidity, I’m beginning to suspect not a little bit of malice.

      In any case I’d at least like the possibility of reviving the line until construction on Alaskan way requires shutting it down to be studied.

      1. Basically, SAM directors didn’t like having the “ugly” streetcar barn in close proximity to their “beautiful” sculptures, and the city easily capitulated to get the sculpture park built. I think our political leaders were earnest, if passive, in their initial intent to find alternatives to bring the line back on, but the Viaduct issue swallowed up that. Remember that until less than a year ago, the Governor was swearing that Viaduct deconstruction would begin in 2012 at the latest, no matter what.

      2. Simply put, the money bought influence. I guess the “well to do” appreciate the don’t touch sculpture park. They’re sort of like the protect the wilderness faction that only ever experience “the wilderness” through coffee table books.

      3. The sculpture park is a great city resource that is open to everyone, not just the well-to-do. It really sucks that they didn’t incorporate a new streetcar barn into it or get another, at least temporary one build somewhere else, but criticizing the sculpture park is pointless.

      4. No it isn’t. I don’t really like the art in the park. Why wasn’t JP’s statue put there?

      5. I believe the lack of appreciation for transit by SAM’s patrons is why a new barn wasn’t incorporated into the design of the park and why SAM didn’t insist on having streetcar service to the park.

      6. But they sure built a lovely underground garage!!

        The only thing worth the effort in that whole project IMO is the waterfront piece. The pedestrian circulation is poor at best. *AND* we lost the streetcar barn.

      7. Remember folks,

        The Mimi “look who replaced Mary” Grdner-Gates “Do NOT Touch” welded-metal-leftovers park sits on the very, very, very toxic Union 76 Superfund site!

        Please limit your exposure to the premises, don’t eat anything there, and wash your hands, or better yet take a shower ASAP, after visiting.

      8. they could have easily designed a new carbarn to go under that pedestrian bridge berm. hell they could have even hired zaha hadid or thom mayne (or some other trendy pretentious overrated starchitect) to design a building even uglier than the “sculpture” in the “park”.

  10. That’s a really great poster. If the Metro vintage society could come up with copies of posters like this I’d be a buyer! The car might be a stylized rendition or composite of a typical sedan of the era but it sure looks a lot like a 1937 Buick. Someone with a better knowledge of classics can probably identify it (and the bus) more accurately. It’s unusual to see cars like this fitted with a lift kit, more commonly they’re chopped and lowered :=

  11. they actually knew a lot of this stuff decades ago, they just ignored it in favor of exhaust cloud autopia

    Citizen Tram – circa 1960s – Melbourne
    Citizen Tram was a film made 40 years ago when talks about scrapping Melbourne’s trams were a reality for some.

    Thankfully we had the vision at the time to keep trams in Melbourne unlike other Australian cities.
    As the short clip from Citizen Tram shows, trams were a part of the solution to Melbourne’s early congestion problem

    Citizen Tram (Video) – circa 1960s

    ‘Going Places’ – circa 1940s – sponsored by GE
    “we’ve been trying to move traffic when the basic intent is to move people”

    Going Places (Video) – circa late 1940s
    Ignore the description with the film at archive.org, its describing another film of the same name. Its very pro-transit even considering it was made at a very pro-auto time. at 4 minutes in it starts to get good. be sure to watch 6:25-7:50. also suggests busways and bus lanes (in the 1940s!!!)

      1. Yes there was – there was a rather loud (for those days) hearing at Chief Sealth High School that I attended with my parents in 1962 or 1963 protesting the pulling down of the electrical for the buses when the Seattle Transit 500 series was ordered and started to arrive. At that point other cities, notably Vancouver and San Francisco, were discussing orders for new electric buses, but Seattle chose not to join them. There was also opposition through the 1960s to the design for the I-5 project through Seattle and the proposed connections to I-90, led by architect Paul Thiry and others. But, alas, to no avail. The 1950s were a time to emulate Los Angeles.

      2. Los Angeles is a fine place to emulate. It has no strife, congestion or air quality issues. Why not move to the Golden State today!

  12. Great idea about the waterfront streetcar. Lets form a group to restore/work on it in the same model as the Market Street Railway group. The tracks should be extended to Pier 91 and the Port of Seattle encouraged to help. The boat people would flock to the cars to go downtown.

    Meanwhile I am boycotting any activity of the Seattle Art Museum until I can ride a streetcar to the activity…not a trolley bus but a streetcar. And I think the Art Park is in fact ugly…that giant eraser should be used to eliminate most of it.

  13. I am trolley qualified (Yakima Valley) and also a student diesel engineer (Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad) so I’d be more than happy to volunteer my time to run the streetcar


    Let’s do it!

  14. Are there any decent videos that show the full path one would take from the seatac terminal to the Link station?

    There’s this older video which shows a sliver of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAZ4ByMFzUw

    I have noticed (on web forums) that a number of people are asking how to get to the Link station from inside the airport. I’m assuming there will be clear signage once the station is open, but many people like to visualize it beforehand and a virtual walk to the station would be very helpful (and cool).

  15. About the revival of the Waterfront Streetcar—I remember riding the line close to the end of its life, and I can recall one flaw was that the grade crossing signals and gates north of Bell Street would only trigger when the streetcar was too close to the crossing—so the streetcar would have to stop and wait for the gates to fully lower before passing through. One of the WFSC employees said that the sensors in their tracks need adjustment. IF and WHEN the streetcar is revived, do you think that these adjustments would be made? How?

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