"First revenue Link train to Seatac, WA", by DWHonan

53 Replies to “News Roundup”

  1. some more news items …

    China launches world’s fastest train service

    New Wuhan-Guangzhou Rail Route Shatters Average Speed Records

    Antique Steam Engine Rescues Passengers After Electric Trains Fail in the Bitter Cold

    1. One of the environmental concerns about trains has to be the tracks themselves.

      Where as a plane needs only an airport at either end, a train has to have a continuous track all the way through. This uses up precious corridor land, requires destructive construction, separates communities by bifurcating them, creates a barrier to land based animal life, introduces a high speed hazard into towns and so on.

      Why are these detriments never considered?

      1. Are you kidding me? Do you have any concept of how much energy is used to keep an airplane in the sky and the impacts on the environment of extracting, refining, and transporting that energy? Given your logic, BNSF should stop shipping coal by train and start using air freight instead.

      2. According to Wikipedia (because I’m lazy) article on the Transrapid Maglev technology: “Power consumption compares favorably with other high-speed rail systems. With an efficiency of 0.85, the power required is about 4.2 MW. Energy consumption for levitation and guidance purposes equates to approximately 1.7 kW/t.”

        The only commercial operating maglev line is in Shanghai. So why aren’t the Chinese expanding maglev and instead opted for conventional high speed rail technology?

      3. I’ve been asking myself similar questions ever since first seeing the German maglev system demostrated in a NOVA documentary — back in the 1970s !!

      4. Why spend $300-$500 million/mile (Link?) on maglev when they can spend about $25 million/mile for conventional HSR. With the advances in train technology, the speed increases per dollar don’t justify maglev. Consider that conventional trains can operate at 220mph. Maglev can operates at around 260mph. Additionally, maglev is unproven and very difficult to scale up. Think Seattle Monorail Project. Steel on steel is so damn efficient and proven. Want a high speed trainset? We can have one built for you in a month. Want a length of HSR track over there? Give us 2.

        Too bad Bombardier has a strangle on this, but linear induction motors for trains. Train rides on conventional steel equipment, but a maglev track propels the train. It’s a pretty cool idea. No moving parts!

      5. LOL…yeah, it’s really great not to be ripped off for $300M a mile – but getting taken to the cleaners for $25M per mile is as right as rain!

        Logically, your argument circumvents the whole “build rail” scenario that you and Joe Biden have been scamming the American People with. Why give up the flexibility of personal transit, for something that only marginally improves life and for only a very, very small percentage of the commuting population!

        Like Health Care, TAARP and all the rest, these programs prove Mr. Obama’s henchmen are Trickle Up…not down…

      6. How does investing in alternative modes of transportation force you to “give up the flexibility of personal transit?” Providing alternatives to the auto for people who would rather not drive does nothing to reduce your ability to drive.

      7. Blue Swan, I don’t get it, you seem to not like conventional rail (even when it is modern HSR) but you advocate for things like maglev which cost substantially more than proven HSR technology for similar speeds, aren’t compatible with the existing rail network, and are subject to the same criticisms you level at conventional rail.

        Furthermore your critiques of the environmental impacts of rail apply just as much to highways if not more as the right of ways tend to be wider, the noise impacts are continuous, and they generate a far greater pollution and visual impact.

      8. No matter how energy uses compare, environmental reviews still happen, at least here. In China, there is little environmental review for anything. Here in the U.S., there certainly is environmental review – some of the most rigorous in the world – of every major rail project.

      9. Airports expose people to exhaust smell, petrol-fired planes, air pollution, noise pollution, MASSIVE swaths of land for runways, supporting buildings, parking, roads, etc; traffic, energy costs to heat/cool huge buildings, forming HUGE fenced-in barriers that cannot be broken. Look at SeaTac Airport, its 3 miles long and a mile wide. How can you tell me this does not have a detrimental impact on an entire region?

        A double-tracked train line needs to be about 50 feet wide. As a person who has designed for this, that environmental stuff is taken into consideration and considered low-impact. We don’t assume non-fenced tracks to be a land barrier as train traffic is not constant like car traffic. I’ve seen plenty of critters crossing railroad tracks in the mountains without issue. If impacts are sever enough, a rail line can be built on a viaduct and have plenty of undercrossings if need be. The Chinese did this when building their crazy rail line over the Tibetan mountains. We don’t want to build HSR lines in cities either. It’s more costly for various reasons (more expensive land, grade separation). Trains can also be electrified and made completely emissions-free. The “exposes towns to a high speed risk” is not really a reasonable argument. Fast trains? Big deal, get away from the tracks. You shouldn’t be there in the first place. Put up a fence. Or, GET AWAY FROM THE TRACKS.

        Unlike the highways in the 1960’s, infrastructure construction is done with significantly more impact studies. Things just aren’t thrown into place like it once was.

      10. Good question about land area – Midway field near Chicago is located on a square mile section – 640 acres. Figure a 100′ row for rail and that would be the equivalent of about 53 miles of rail length. I suspect, but couldn’t quickly find the answer, that Seatac is much larger in land area. Boeing Field obviously smaller. Portland somewhere in between.

        So, likely the land area devoted to rail travel say between Seattle and Portland is similar, if not less, than the land area devoted to air travel between both points.

        In both cases, rail or air, these areas devoted to travel serve other markets too.

        The impacts you list can of course be mitigated, just as the impacts of airports can be mitigated too. When either type of facility is constructed, these factors are addressed and mitigation occurs. Saying that these “detriments” are “never considered” is of course false.

  2. Now here’s transit done right:

    The 180 bus from Kent to Seatac!


    I am taking a trip on Wednesday…Shuttle Express is $31 each way…parking $100…taxi $40.

    I haven’t flown in 3 years, and my recollection of airport bus service was that it took 3 local buses to get there — enter the 180 which (although I haven’t tried it yet) looks like the perfect bus! Of course you would want a bus that goes direct from a major transit hub like Kent Station right to the airport! A hub that is fed by major lines from Kent East Hill and elswhere.

    I’m going to take a chance on my trip and use the bus to get me SeaTac!

    Great Job Metro — flexible low cost buses are definitely the right technology for the Salish Sea region!

      1. Agreed on the morning service. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go to Burien in the evenings from the airport. I know there are other routes, but it sure is nice to get on the 180 and get off at the Burien Transit Center without stopping anywhere. Yes, I’m selfish.

      2. Just for grins, I put my return time into the Metro Trip Planner (to be fair, it found the 180 for me for my departure on 12/30).

        However, when I input 1/5/2010, from SEATAC AIRPORT to KENT EAST HILL at 11:45 pm it responded:

        #20007–Trip not possible

        Try it yourself:

        Metro Trip Planner Link [hidden very long layout breaking URL]

      3. Please don’t paste long URLs like that into a comment. It forces the browser window to become too large for my monitor, and now I have to scroll right on the whole page. You can use an HTML “a href
        tag to hide the long URL. Thanks!

        (Not a blog admin, just a reader who hates having to scroll to the right to read posts. Admins, any chance you can edit that message to put the URL in a link so it won’t stretch the page?)

      4. Thanks for fixing it!

        Tim, in Safari 4.0.3 for me it just broke at the question mark near the beginning, but the rest of it did not break. I didn’t check it in Firefox.

        Incidentally, I don’t get the “#20007–Trip not possible” that Blue Swan got.

  3. I couldn’t post a comment on the Karnes piece. It’s not as user friendly as Seattle Transit Blog.

  4. Bike racks inside the tunnel stations… not a horrible idea. University Street and Pioneer Square both have room on the mezzanines, right now (Westlake doesn’t have much, I think IDS already does have racks “street level” since it doesn’t actually have a mezannine, CPS I’m not sure how much room there is). But if the stations get busier, it might not see like as much room, and if we put them in now and try to take them out later, the outcry would be worse than not putting them in now.

    1. They’re talking about extending the Westlake mezzanine under Pine Street to 3rd Avenue, maybe they could incorporate a full-fledged bicycle garage (like Bikesation) in to the design.

      1. As much as I’d love to have more secure bike storage downtown, that seems like some really expensive real-estate. A “Bikestation North” would be better located in space on the surface, where most cyclists will be coming from, and where the costs would be lower. It should also include lockers, showers, and a mini-bike shop.

        I also find Westlake station the most cumbersome to haul my bike in and out of because of the elevator layout.

      2. Metro/Sound Transit doesn’t allow bicycles to be carried on escalators.

        But I saw a guy in a wheelchair use the escalator at Westlake once. He just grabbed the handrails and pulled himself up. Crazy!

      3. The underground Berkeley BART station has a bicycle corral. It’s not staffed but is in plain sight of the ticket agent’s booth.

    2. I’m sorry, but we can’t do that. It would make WAY too much sense. Utilize all that open space in stations and have security do something like watch over bicycles? Way too good of an idea for our time. Let’s keep fighting about floating bike lanes over Lake Union!

    3. Bad idea! There’s little difference between a bike and a pipe bomb, except for the arrangement of pipes and what’s in them.

    1. I am wondering if the presence of complimentary coffee on commuter buses will increase ridership?

      I know plenty of people who don’t have the time to make coffee or purchase it would jump at the opportunity to ride the bus if they provided coffee.

      Does anyone agree with me or is it just me and my silly imaginations?

    2. I think this was also well documented on the movie Singles for the “Supertrain”, so it’s a shame they couldn’t have thought of this too. :)

  5. The plumbing is there for them on the first order of sounder cars. IIRC the cab cars only but its there, just ST has never taken the program further.

    1. Plus, all your cab cars are belong to Metrolink. (Well, okay, only two, but…)

      My experience with WCE and the cafe car is that it would be cheaper and faster to buy and staff an espresso cart at each station.

    Handshakes abounded as the new 250 mph train completed its first journey in slightly over 3 hours. The new line runs from Seattle to Sacramento 56 times a day, at an average speed of 225 mph. The total cost of $17bn, spent over the last 4-1/2 years is impressive, considering the difficult terrain along the way, requiring 70% of the line to be elevated or tunneled.

    Oops, sorry, I meant to say it’s the new Harmony Express just opened in China.

  7. I have to wonder about Lindblom’s agenda here. Reading that article doesn’t suggest to me it was a “cost overrun” as is traditionally understood – the project’s cost ballooned and could not be completed within the original budget. Lindblom didn’t really get into the weeds about what the utility upgrades were, whether they were optional or not, whether they were related to the project or not. So he’s taking a separate cost and spinning it as a “cost overrun” which doesn’t strike me as warranted by the evidence he’s presented.

    He has an odd anti-transit bent in his articles, taking fairly normal and routine things and making them look like huge problems that everyone should be freaked out about (length of walkway at Sea-Tac station, ORCA card monitoring, now this). Then again, the Seattle Times isn’t exactly known for prizing accuracy over spin favorable to the editorial board among its reporters, otherwise Emily Heffter wouldn’t have a job.

    PS: I’m up here in Seattle this week, and although I was a regular Metro user for about 7 years earlier this decade, the ORCA card and One Bus Away are godsends that have revolutionized the rider experience. Amazing stuff.

      1. Could be. Although there’s supposed to be a strict wall of separation between the newsroom and the editorial board at a newspaper, that’s begun to break down this decade, and in recent years it seems the Seattle Times has been part of that.

        Of course, the general bias of most reporters is that transit has a higher bar to jump, has a stricter standard to meet than other infrastructure projects, including roads. I see this all the time with reporting on high speed rail in California. This decade, newspapers have become defenders of the status quo and generally tend to report skeptically on efforts to introduce something new.

        Transit is an easy target for reporters not just because of the above factors, but because it is seen as fringe and new, it is perceived to have fewer defenders and therefore offers reporters a good chance to generate “omg look at what government is doing” outrage.

  8. Here’s something that amazed me. I’m taking a trip to NYC where I haven’t been for 3 years (living in puget sound since 1986). I was wondering about taking a Queens bus from JFK airport so I looked up the MTA (New York’s ‘Metro’) website.

    WHAT A JOKE! This site is like something a skate punk would have built in 1996! No, I take that back…a skate punk would be EMBARASSED to put up such a site for one one of the world’s biggest transportation systems!


    There’s no trip planning! The KC Metro site is like something from the planet Remulus 3 compared to this thing!

    1. Have you tried Google Transit? Seems to work pretty well. Actually there’s a link to it from the MTA homepage.

      KC Metro’s website is still behind its regional peers TriMet and Translink.

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