86 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: No Walking USA”

  1. Wonderful News – Thanks Kemper, and freinds.
    Oh, I missed the part where pigs can fly.
    (really, who made this, and when?)

      1. And less than twenty years prior to that, Walter Elias was hosting prominent German propagandists (Leni Riefenstahl) and thought Mr. Hitler was doing the right thing.

    1. Obsolescence? Have you had any conversations with highway engineers recently? Have you been following the deep bore tunnel debate? There is nothing obsolete about this way of thinking. Auto-boosters still believe the automated highway, moving sidewalk, and hydrogen powered car are just around the corner.

      In fact, the persistent belief in the vision described in this video that is used as a central argument by the anti-transit crowd. We don’t need to build light rail to solve global warming because the electric car will solve all those problems. We don’t need light rail to solve congestion because the automated highway will increase capacity. Density = crowded and unpleasant, sprawl = spacious and comfortable, walking bad, cars good. There is no doubt that these ideas are dead, but they still hold our planning and public spending hostage and prevent the emergence of a new paradigm. For all the criticism I have of this blog, and I have no shortage of it, on balance it provides an invaluable service in refuting the dead ideas displayed in this video (that still persist today).

      The video is powerful because it is visionary. Whatever criticism you can level at it, the video paints a compelling picture of what the world will be like. It is that image that still holds sway over the auto-boosters and is the bane of transit advocates everywhere. The only way to fight vision is with vision. Transit advocates need to create an alternative vision, not focus on criticism of this vision or the status quo, but a compelling, bold vision of how the world could be if it were build around transit oriented principles.

  2. I would bet anything that was a Jim Handy production for GM. If nothing else, I recognize that creepy announcer’s voice.

    What a dreary world that would be: Antisocial, antiseptic, and apparently totally devoid of contact with nature.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that could be a Maglev, at least the way they portrayed it. A Maglev needs “track”, something that can stop it from falling sideways, or drifting off the edge of the track.

  3. “Meet George Jetson …”

    It is useful to remember this 1950’s Disney Tomorrowland vision of the future when highway apologists and gadgetbahn promoters start going on about driverless cars or PRT.

    On the other hand for all of the silly predictions, some were quite prescient: interstate highways cris-crossing the Nation, decentralized suburban cities, distant suburban commutes, master planned communities, inteligent highway systems, intermodal containerized freight, etc.

    Of course one is reminded of the curse: “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”

  4. Changing the subject:

    I’m driving to Centralia to sell a collectable vehicle to a collector from Portland. I originally thought he could take the train up from PDX to Centralia, pick-up the vehicle and drive home. Leaving me to take the train back to Seattle. Turns out every train is “sold out” today. I grew up in New England and took Amtrak all the time and never encountered a “sold out” train. Who knew?

    Oh well. His daughter will be driving him up to meet me and my wife will be driving down separately to ferry me home. Sometimes even those with the best of intentions can’t follow through. At least we’ll be adding a level of simplicity to our household in 2010 by selling one of our cars.

    Happy New Year STB.


    1. most sundays the trains are sold out and this is the sunday after a holiday week so its especially busy.
      sucks we have to turn people away but theres only so many seats on a talgo and only so many trainsets.

      i grew up back east as well and miss how amtrak runs out there.

      1. It’s a shame we don’t have a few extra passenger cars to stick on the things. Being assured a seat would be a great benefit.

  5. The countdown clock to the U-Link opening is too far away. The next major event before U-Link opening would be the First Hill streetcar. A countdown to the opening of the First Hill streetcar would be more appropriate.

    Hope STB staff is listening.

    1. They are just waiting until there is an exact opening date for Metro Rapid Ride Line A, which is supposed to be in June some time.

    2. We know and we’ve talked about this before. There are no opening dates set for any of the projects to open before U-Link, so Ben just put that up for fun.

    3. Wait, my winter break ends and I go back to work. I have a bunch of junk to transport so I’m driving Monday. I go back on Link for commuting purposes at 6:27 a.m. Tuesday… start the countdown clock!

  6. I have a question about the Seatac/Airport light rail station………if you want to catch a bus that serves the Seatac/Airport station on Int’l. Blvd. and your plane gets in past 1:00am so the station is closed, how do you get to it? You have to go through the train station to get to the pedestrian bridge but from how it’s set up it seems like when the station is closed the access to that pedestrian bridge, and thus access to the 124 and 174, is effectively cut off from the terminal. Have I misinterpreted something here? I looked on Sound Transit’s page for the station itself and it doesn’t say anything and I’m not even going to bother looking on Metro’s website because it’s not their station and their website is beyond useless anyway. It’s easier (and probably faster and certainly involves less of a headache) to just ask on here.

      1. The 140 and 180 both connect the old baggage claim station and the Seatac/Airport light rail station but neither bus runs past 1:00am based on my brief research. Perhaps more importantly, is there anywhere to find out the answer to my question without having to do 15 Google searches and hours of fact-finding online? The fact that I have to turn to a blog to find this out says a lot about Metro. This is nothing people haven’t said a thousand times before, but I hate how Metro refuses to make any information like this easily accessible.

      2. Fair enough. It looks like there is a sidewalk to Int’l. Blvd. from the baggage claim stop just from looking at Google Maps satellite view so I guess that works. Not ideal, but if Sound Transit or the Port or someone at least informed the public of what to do during late night/early morning hours that would go a long way. I don’t think that people that late at night are going to have the sort of patience to try to find how to get to the stop via an alternate route (especially when there are plenty of cabs not too far away) but that’s just my opinion. Thanks for your input, Kaleci.

      3. Yes, there is indeed a sidewalk that goes from the baggage claim stop on the Arrivals Drive to International Boulevard. Prior to the opening of SeaTac/Airport Station that was the only way to get on and off airport property* without using a car.

        *The main terminal at least. Airport property is pretty huge.

    1. I’m not basing this on any source but I was under the impression that you could walk through the mezzanine level of the Seatac station over to the ped overpass even if the station level was closed.

      1. There’s a gate at the east end of the International Boulevard overpass. I’m pretty sure it gets shut and locked when the trains stop running. There is probably another gate where the other overpass meets the garage, but definitely no gate between ticketing through the end of the garage.

      2. Yeah there is another gate between the station and the parking garage which I imagine is locked up when the station is closed. That was what caused me to ask my initial question.

  7. Walt Disney and his team would later begin work on an experimental city where walking would be the primary mode of transportation. Disney died before it got past the concept stage and the company abandoned the concept soon thereafter.

    1. I like Ward. He was a great animator. The demeanor of this film was pretty indicative of the country’s disposition towards suburban living at that point in the century. It’s interesting to see sprawl blatantly propagated, but my, have we found over the years that it’s just not worth it.

      1. Of course, but what I’m saying is that something must have happened at Disney because its founder put automobiles in the background when designing EPCOT, and opted for electric trains and walking as the primary modes of transportation. If we’re going to talk about Magic Highways, it’s only fair to talk about EPCOT.

        Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkT2iLetCTc

        Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxC_a7qnGi8

        Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBNfauF6IHc

        Start with part 3. Would it have worked? Maybe, maybe not. But they were definitely thinking about the impacts of the automobile and how to mitigate them. At the end of part 2 they talk about how the pedestrian is king in downtown. That’s pretty progressive for the 1960s.

  8. An ORCA question I meant to ask a long time ago: Say I’m going to the airport, so I go into the DSTT at one of the stations without platform-level ORCA readers. Since I’d prefer to take Link, I tap the ORCA reader at the mezzanine, but when I get to the platform a 194 is pulling up and I decide I want to take that. If I hop on the bus and tap in there, what happens? Do I not get charged anything for Link, because I never went anywhere? (Is the system smart enough to figure out that, since I tapped in on a bus at the same location that I tapped in at for Link, I must have never boarded a train and thus should not be charged a Link fare?) Or would I be charged the base Link fare and then get an XFER when I tap in on the bus? Or since I never tap out on another Link reader, would I eventually get charged the maximum Link fare, along with either a XFER or a whole separate fare from Metro?

    1. There is a certain amount of time that if you tap in at locations, the second tap will read as an error. But if you wait long enough, then your tap-in at the ORCA reader will charge for the full Link trip. Remember that it’s still pay-as-you-leave in the DSTT during day hours, so you’ll be charged for taking Link. However, I would suspect the transfer would be calculated from the 194 tap-in. At any rate, this wouldn’t be a problem come February.

      1. Not necessarily. Say I want to get somewhere in SODO, so I tap in for Link and end up taking a 101, 106, 150, etc. instead of Link.

        And my comments below are somewhat of a duplication; I didn’t read Sherwin’s post before replying to Andreas.

      2. I had this very experience after we picked up an Orca card for my daughter. Here’s what happened:

        We “tapped in” on the Mezzanine, intending to catch a Link train from Westlake back to Stadium Station.

        For some reason – Link was running way behind – there was a massive backup of people waiting, and no trains in sight for 10+ minutes. So we boarded a 106. It being after 7, we had to pay – so she tapped in. Got the “Transfer” message, got off at Stadium station, and didn’t tap on the train platform (as we’d gotten on a bus).

        Result: Her Orca card got charged the maximum Youth fare – 2.00.

        I’m guessing that had we gone up to the Link platform and tapped out there, it would only have charged her from going from Westlake to Stadium, but that’s just a guess, and given that we’d tapped on the bus – hardly intuitive.

      3. I don’t see how it could work any other way. The card has no way of knowing whether you (the user) got on the train or not, and no way of knowing if you just forgot to tap out. The readers on the bus don’t know where they physically are in relationship to the train, so they don’t know whether you’re tapping in downtown or at the end of the light rail line in SeaTac. I guess the default action has to be to charge the maximum Link fare and then count the bus as a transfer.

        Maybe having real-time info in the tunnel will help people decide on Link vs. bus before tapping in.

      4. What if they created another Orca reader fare set–TUNNEL RIDE FREE or something–for buses in the tunnel. It would work the same as the RIDE FREE fare, except that it would also negate any Link tap-in from a tunnel station.

      5. The location of the ORCA readers in the tunnel was a mistake, and will cause problems until the buses are removed.

      6. You can call customer service and ask for a refund of the difference. I don’t know if they’ll do it in this case, but they did do it when I was overcharged on the 522. (The reader said 1 zone but I was charged 2 zone anyway, even though the driver confirmed the fare was $1.50.)

    2. Very rarely would you tap in on a bus in the tunnel, namely the first hour the tunnel is open or the last 6 hours it’s open–otherwise it’s the Ride Free area and you tap as you alight.

      I think it depends on whether or not you have a pass or are using E-Purse. If you’re using E-Purse, it takes the maximum fare on the first tap and then credits you if you tap out and the fare is less than the maximum.
      I’ve heard that you should always tap out anyways since there can be problems with some sort of time delay.

      1. Very rarely would you tap in on a bus in the tunnel

        Having had this happen to me, I’m guessing that it happens more than you think, particularly for those who are finishing up shopping around 7pm, tap on the Mezzanine, then grab a bus down-tunnel instead of waiting for the train.

        As I said in the other post – if you tap in on the Mezzanine then (after 7) tap in on a bus instead of the train – you get charged the maximum (bus Orca reader says “Transfer” when you tap in).

  9. Maybe the weird part is that in 1958, the world we live in today would have seemed as unbelievable as the Futureland of 1958 seems to us. Anyone who grew up in Bellevue c. 1960 and didn’t return since 1970 experiences an almost unbelievable shock if they go back today.

    Kinda like we made all the changes, but kept all the bad parts. Car-dependence, but now, Improved! with extra Gridlock!

  10. I have an ORCA question too.

    Let’s say I want to make an intermediate stop on Link between my original and my final destination, and I don’t tap out or in at that intermediate stop. How long before ORCA decides that I forgot to tap out, and charges me for the longest fare from my starting point?

    It bugs me that the scenario I just described is considered cheating. Certainly, on a bus I could make a stop mid-way, pick up the tomatoes I need for dinner, get back on with my transfer, and only pay one fare. Why can’t Link let me do this?

    1. I’ve done that before and been off the train for over an hour without a problem. My guess would be that the time limit to complete the trip is probably 2 hours, but I don’t know for sure. Why not just tap out and not worry about it? You won’t be charged anything additional if you tap back in within the 2 hour transfer period.

    2. Let’s say you are headed to Tukwila International Blvd Station from Westlake Station, but want to stop at the Red Apple Market at Beacon Hill along the way. I have done this many times, but my ORCA card is a pass – so it doesn’t take any money from my cash balance, but I’ve traveled with people who use a cash balance.

      Anyway, you tap in at Westlake and board the train. At this point, your cash balance is charged $2.50. When leaving at Beacon Hill, you tap out and your cash balance is credited $0.75 for the actual fare between Westlake and Beacon Hill. You finish your shopping and tap back in. Recognizing you already paid $1.75 and the maximum fare for Beacon Hill is $2.25, it would charge your balance another $0.50. When you tap out at Tukwila, it won’t credit your account with anything since you traveled the maximum fare. By stopping at Beacon Hill, the total fare paid is $2.25.

      If you forget to tap off at Beacon Hill and you arrive at Tukwila within two hours of tagging on at Westlake, it will assume you took a full trip and charge you $2.50. If you don’t tag out within two hours and don’t tag out or back in at Beacon Hill, you would be charged $2.50 for the trip to Beacon Hill and $2.50 at Tukwila because the system will think you are getting on a train there.

  11. Well this kinda sucks. Went to order another ORCA card and got this:

    Service Unavailable
    Service is unavailable at the moment, please try again later.

  12. I love that mid-century Disney “Tomorrowland” stuff, as misguided as it might have been.

    Wasn’t part of this shown in the first queue room for the ill-fated Rocket Rods attraction at Disneyland a few years back? I remember that that queue room was my favorite part of the ride. (The ride itself was pretty weak. Would have rather kept the People Mover that it replaced. At least that one was a leisurely chance to rest your feet.)

    1. Forgot to add that I thought it was very odd they would do any study that didn’t go all the way to Tacoma.

  13. Another ORCA related question similar to those above:

    I only have a pass on my ORCA ($2.25 fare). If I tap in at Westlake, and forget to tap out at my destination, my card should be charged the maximum fare of $2.50, right?

    But, since I can only “cover” $2.25 with my pass, does my card go $0.25 into “debt” when I don’t tap out? I’ve done this 3 times when going from Westlake to International District for Sounders games, and nothing bad has happened to my card so far, but I don’t want to get it locked out of the system since I “owe” $1.50.

    Incidentally, I’ve never actually taken Link on any of my trips to games – a bus has always come first.

    1. Good question.

      My guess (only a guess, mind you – someone should put this to the test) is that you’d see a message on the reader saying “OWE .25”, which would obligate you to pay .25 into the nearest TVM. Is that even possible?

      No answers to this one online. Another good one.

    2. The TVM will show you your balance if you press the “ORCA details” button. So does it say $0.00 or $-1.50?

      1. Thanks Mike – I’ll check it out at lunchtime tomorrow. I’ve never used a TVM, so I didn’t even know that was a feature.

    3. On Sounder, it doesn’t seem to cause a problem. I have only a $3.75 pass on my ORCA, and since there’s no ORCA reader anywhere near the north entrances to Kent’s or Auburn’s Sounder stations, I rarely tag out when leaving. (If they really cared, they’d have put in readers….)

      I’ve tagged in at King Street and not tagged out at Kent or Auburn dozens of times a month since summer, and never had any balance show up on my card.

      No idea if Link will work the same or not.

  14. I am a big-picture transportation expert, and I like talking about transportation issues, both large and small. I am a respected, tenured commenter here. I have gravitas. But can we please have less bus driver trivia and gossip?

    Thank you.

  15. Sam,

    I am a big-picture transportation expert. . .I am a respected. . .commenter here.

    “On the weekends, diesel buses are now put on many trolley lines regardless of whether there is construction or special events. It’s now become a routine, permanent policy.”

    In other news – transit operators (rail, streetcar or bus) and supervisors have a unique frontline perspective on transportation issues – as well as information that may not be evident to the transit-riding public at large. I for one am appreciative that my perspective and that of other operators and supervisors is welcome here, particularly as I not only am part of the “provider” side of transit – but also a vested consumer, taxpayer, and Seattle native.

    As for the rest, I leave that to others with one exception: I think you perhaps meant to use the word “hubris” where you said “gravitas”.

    1. I’ll always read Jeff Welch’s posts, and seldom bother with Sam’s. I’ve been using transit in Seattle for more than a half a century and have always relied on transit operators for lots of good information.

  16. BTW: When Metro says trolleys are “dieselised due to construction.” It’s usually construction ON the overhead. Seriously, all the Pine Street trolleys (7, 10, 12, 14, 43, 49) were dieselised due to “construction on Pine between 6th and 5th Aves and on Pike between 5th and 6th Aves”, so I went there and I found a red flag and a jumper cable connecting the two wires. The red flag must mean that the overhead is under repair.

    Also, is it just me or does the addition of new tunnel routes (76, 77, 316) this February mean that Metro’s soon-to-be-delivered Hybrid-Electric Orion 7’s will probably be equipped with hush mode?

    1. There is a great book called “The White Death” by McKay Jenkins. It deals with avalanche science, the Wellington disaster and other related incidents.

      1. There’s also a book specifically about the Wellington disaster, called “The White Cascade.” I haven’t read it yet, but plan to soon.

      2. I saw this at the Snoqualmie Railroad Museum giftshop if anyone is interested. I hadn’t heard of this disaster either but it sounds horrible.

  17. Yet another fun ORCA quirk: Since we have a regional pass system but don’t have standardized fares, the system doesn’t know that you use your “$2.00 PugetPass” as a “Metro adult one-zone peak pass”. So when Metro raises its fares by 25¢ and you have ORCA set up to autoload your pass, ORCA keeps you at the $2.00 level, and what should be a convenience turns into a hassle when you get an “Owe $0.25” message despite having an autoloaded pass.

    And, of course, there is no simple “Upgrade pass” button on the ORCA website. You have to cancel the existing autoload, hunt around the ORCA website to find out how to buy a new pass, re-enter all your billing info, then setup autoload again. It constantly amazes me how horribly implemented this whole thing is.

  18. Andreas,

    In all fairness – I’m not sure that Orca can/should bill any customer more than they originally agreed to. I’ve run into a lot of customers that have had this issue, and they now plop in their extra quarter, apparently having been told that they can’t change their pass value until next month (which is annoying at the least).

    I do think that customers deserve at least some of the responsibility for knowing fares were going up, and not checking to make sure they were purchasing a pass for the correct fare.

    And yeah – the entire e-commerce functions on the Orca site are horrific. I recently lost my wallet and was unable to cancel an autoload pending transaction (because I’d cancelled my card) without calling customer service first – and was unable to change to a new card until I’d done this.

    1. I wound up e-mailing the ORCA folks and suggesting some sort of notification, either by email or a notice on the website, to remind folks whenever a fare increase is approaching that their fare product isn’t going to automatically adjust to the new fare structure. I also suggested that such an email or notification include a link to easily add 25 or 50¢ to an existing autoload-enabled pass, rather than require the customer to cancel and then reorder. Doubtful anything will change, though.

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