Last year's snow storm, by caseyrs77

54 Replies to “News Roundup: Suburban Density”

  1. On the diesel exhaust in tunnel issue, how old are the exhaust shafts? Although I do understand that the Great Northern Tunnel was dug when they were using steam locomotives. Now on Kitsap Transit’s foot ferry, the Admiral Pete, sometimes a mix of the exhaust smell and seawater can be smelled in the cabin.

    1. There aren’t any exhaust shafts or fans in the tunnel. It’s a naturally ventilated tunnel that, at least until now, has never had a problem in 100+ years of operation. These sort of tunnels are very common.

      Fan ventilation isn’t really necessary on something this short. The 7.8-mile long Cascade Tunnel has a full blown fan system, including 2 pressure doors and huge fans.

      1. Before the fans in Cascade Tunnel, Great Northern used Electric Locomotives, and allegedly before they put the fans in, proposed extending the electric operation all the way into Seattle.

        I know the Battery Street tunnel has vent shafts, but then again, it was built 50 years later.(You can see the shafts in the middle of Battery street, and can even(if traffic on the street is not present) hear speeding cars in the tunnel.

      2. GN decided in the mid-50s the 78(?) or so miles that were electrified (Skykomish – Wenatchee) was too short for efficient operations, especially since they had to pay train crews just for that section. For that and other reasons (such as it was time to replace the original electric locomotives), they looked into either extending the electrification to Seattle and/or Spokane, or pulling it out and using diesels.

        Management/the accounts decided diesel fuel was cheap, and likely to stay cheap, so they went for the ‘tear it down’ option around 1955, and it was taken out in ’56.

      3. Petroleum will always be cheap if we just follow the leadership of Richard Cheney and Sarah Heathbar Palin!


        Actually, since about 1918, adjusted to 2009 dollars, gasoline prices have been trending lower, except for two big price spikes, the second of which we are in right now. Most of that time, in 2009 dollars, gas has been between $2 and $3 per gallon. It is around $3 per gallon right now — at the very top of that range.

        When the price of oil goes up significantly, people switch to other fuels — which can take several years — lowering oil consumption, and eventually causing the price to come back down. This will happen again.

        People are switching to natural gas for heat, and buying more fuel-efficient cars, trucks, buses, etc., and just traveling less. Old appliances and furnaces are being replaced with new ones which use a lot less energy.

        There is a large glut of oil in the world right now, and it is only because OPEC is holding a lot of oil off the market that prices are as high as they are now. In a few years, if not sooner, some OPEC country(ies) will get tired of selling a lot less oil than they are capable of, and start exceeding their quota(s) and the price of oil and gasoline will collapse back to the historical “normal” range.

        If it weren’t for OPEC we would not have had either of these huge price spikes for gas.

      5. Do remember that the supply of oil, natural gas, and other non-renewables is rather finite. Just before the crash demand for oil was right at about the limit of the world’s production capacity. Any major supply disruptions would have caused huge price spikes (far larger than those seen in the first half of 2008).

        Even if there is a “near infinite” supply of crude oil (which I don’t believe for a minute) there simply aren’t the resources for all 6.8 billion people on the planet to get a 3 bedroom house in the suburbs and a Ford Excursion.

      6. They are still discovering new oil and gas fields. Even old fields can produce more oil or gas with more-expensive techniques, which become profitable as the price of gas increases.

        The supply of oil and gas are not infinite, of course. But demand is somewhat elastic. It has been proven that consumption of oil and gas will decrease if the price goes up enough. Simple supply and demand.

        As for your last point, I completely agree. There are way too many people on the earth right now. The most important thing the world should be doing is stopping population growth. If population keeps growing forever, everyone’s standard of living is going to decline, except those who are very rich. This is a different topic, but extremely important. The world’s population simply cannot keep growing. Population has got to stop growing, and the sooner the better.

      7. “They are still discovering new oil and gas fields.” Discovery of oil fields peaked in the 60’s. We’ve been discovering less and less since then – and it’s harder and more energy expensive to get to. Check out the graph here.

        In general, I don’t think you understand peak oil. Here‘s a good primer.

        “It has been proven that consumption of oil and gas will decrease if the price goes up enough.” Exactly. The problem is that 85% of petroleum geologists believe we’ll hit peak oil this decade, if we haven’t already. If they’re right, we’ll start seeing price fluctuations followed by steep price increases.

      8. Those “steep price increases” will be temporary, just as they were in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Price increases cut consumption, which brings the price back down. Might take several years, or even a decade, but that is what will happen.

        As for “peak oil”. Who knows? But there were a couple of acticles just today which suggest there is oil which has still not been discovered:

        “Britain has more oil and gas under its waters than previously calculated, according to an annual survey of the offshore industry.

        Despite the number of fields in production falling, the past two years has seen a 60% increase in estimates of untapped reserves.”

        Another article is about the possibility of a large oil field just discovered off the Falkland Islands:

        “The sea around the islands could contain up to 17 billion barrels of oil and 51 trillion cubic feet, or 9 billion barrels of oil equivalent, of gas, according to a report in 2000 by the US Geological Survey.”

        They also have come up with ways of getting natural gas out of the ground which has hugely increased the amount of natrual gas scientists now believe is available, and at cheap prices. Natural gas is a very good substitute for oil, and is cleaner than oil, too.

        Don’t worry about “peak oil”. It’s not going to affect you in your life time.

      9. “Those “steep price increases” will be temporary” Um, no. Not if we’re talking about peak oil.

        “Don’t worry about “peak oil”. It’s not going to affect you in your life time.”

        I always find it quite bold that some feel they know more than petroleum geologists. What do you base your statement on?

        re: Brittan. They have a sum total of 25 billion barrels. That would be enough to supply the world for… 5 months. That’s not the new oil they’ve found – that’s Brittan’s entire discovered oil supply.

        re: Falkland Islands. 17 Billion barrels = 3 months global supply. But that’s not new discoveries – right in your quote it’s a known source.

        Remember also that we’ve already drilled for the easy oil. New oil supplies require much more energy to pull out of the ground – that’s why we haven’t drilled for it yet.

        Yes, natural gas will help. But there’s an issue is in shipping the stuff – it takes a whole lot of energy to liquefy it, ship it across the globe, then evaporate it. And we know peak natural gas will happen soon after peak oil, so it won’t be terribly efficient to rebuild our society based on it.

      10. Just an extra million or 2 million barrels per day of production can reduce the price of oil by a whole lot. Remember, OPEC is holding millions of barrels of oil per day off the market now to keep prices from collapsing. As other countries produce more, OPEC has to produce less, which lowers their income from oil. They will only continue to do that for just so long.

        You don’t have to ship natural gas across the globe to the U.S. We have lots of it right here in the U.S.

        It would be relatively easy to double U.S. average mpg of the entire auto fleet within 20 years, if gasoline were actually to have some unprecedented price increase. Many more people can telecommute, and will, if gas prices really increase. Many more people will car- and van-pool if gas prices really increase. It would be really quite simple to greatly decrease our consumption of gasoline in a very short time frame, if the price were actually to increase dramatically.

        Here’s a question for you: Exactly how long did the price of gasoline in the U.S. stay at $4 per gallon, which it reached in 2008, I believe? How long did it take for the price of gasoline to fall from $4 per gallon to below $3 per gallon? Why didn’t it just stay at $4 per gallon indefintely?

        The price of gasoline will not go significantly higher than $3 per gallon (in 2009 dollars) and stay there for very long (unless it is because of gas tax increases). It is just too easy to dramatically reduce gasoline consumption in a very short period of time. If you just drive to work with one other person, instead of alone, it cuts your commute gasoline consumption in half. People will do this if the price of gas goes up a lot.

        Don’t worry about the price of gasoline. It has been very stable for decades in inflation-adjusted price. It will continue to be so for decades longer.

      11. I will even answer my question for you. Take a look at this chart of weekly gasoline prices in the U.S. for the past two and a half years:

        In January of 2008 gas was about $3 per gallon. By June and July of 2008 it was up above $4. By October of 2008, it was back down to $3. And by New Years of 2009, it was about $1.60. Then it bounced up to around $2.70 by July of 2009, and has stayed about there since.

        That’s how it works. If gasoline spikes up significantly, people stop buying it, and it crashes back down. That chart is pretty clear, is it not?

      12. What I see in your chart is that global demand was approaching global supply. Then the global finance problems started, and demand dropped. Once demand catches supply again, we’ll see a continuation of that upward slope.

        Why you’ve seen a constant $3/gal price is that our demand has always been able to be met with supply. Prices go up, more drilling starts, prices go down. Where this trend ends is when all of the taps are open and we still can’t meet demand. The new normal price will increase until demand falls. But since the supply curve keeps dropping, prices will adjust again and again. You may believe this is a long time in the future. But again, the world’s petroleum geologists disagree with you.

      13. You fail to consider that consumption of oil can be reduced significantly in a very short period of time. When the price of gas increases significantly, people can, and do, stop driving as much. We simply don’t “need” to use nearly as much oil as we currently do. We can greatly reduce oil consumption without much problem, even in the short term, but particularly in the long term. People take many, many tirps now that they simply do not need to take. When the price of gas goes up at lot, they stop taking those trips. This includes air travel, as we have seen in the past couple of years.

        In other words, if world oil supply does start to decline, consumption will decline along with it with very little disruption to people’s lives. And the price of gas will stay relatively stable in inflation-adjusted dollars.

        And don’t forget that there are a lot of competitors with oil. Coal, for example, is in great abundance. Nobody is predicting “peak coal” any time soon. Also, high oil prices make wind, solar and nuclear energy production price competitive, and buildings can be heated with electricity as well as with oil. Vehicles can be powered by electricity, also, as we are beginning to learn. If oil prices go up much more, wind-powered electricity used in electric vehicles might become price competitive with gasoline powered vehicles. Over a decade or two, a lot of electric vehicles can be produced.

        Bottom line: even if oil production does “peak” and start to fall, it will not be sudden — it will be gradual. This gives us time to convert to other energy sources without the price of gas increasing dramatically.

        Whenever oil production does peak, it will not be a dramatic event.

      14. Actually, tight oil supplies lead to high price volatility which can be very disruptive in and of itself. With tight supplies a minor supply disruption can lead to rather dramatic price increases and shortages.

        As for “little disruption” you sound like someone who doesn’t know about the OPEC embargo or the gas lines in 1979 after the Iranian revolution. Even the price spike of 2008 was rather disruptive to some people who found they really couldn’t afford their long commutes in vehicles with poor gas mileage.

      15. Oil will be cheap again after everybody has switched to other fuels and nobody wants oil anymore, at least not for transportation.

      16. I lived through the oil embargo. I was in college at UW from 1971 to 1974. I drove a car part of that time. I remember the gas lines. The gas lines were strictly caused by Nixon’s price controls, which did not allow the price of gas to go up. Those price controls were discontinued after a year or so, because people got sick of gas lines. Sounds like you don’t even understand what caused the gas lines — it was price controls on gas.

        You did not notice any gas lines when the price of gas was at $4 per gallon for a couple of months in 2008, did you? Gas was at $4 for a couple of months, then crashed down to about $1.50 over the next several months. Big deal.

      17. Indeed, oil prices will drop again once people switch to other fuels and/or become more energy-efficient. Of course, that happens because *people switch to other fuels* and *become more energy-efficient*. Those who do so end up winning, saving more money. Using oil for transportation is grotesquely inefficient; electric rail and electric trolleybuses are very efficient. Therefore they will be a large part of this “switching to other fuels” and “becoming more energy efficient”.

        But we will also see a *permanent* increase in oil prices when cap-and-trade or carbon taxes go in, which is going to happen. “Internalizing the externalities” is simply an essential part of slowing down global climate change, which is probably the most important thing for human civilization right now.

      18. Incidentally, studies have been done showing that the proposed electrification of the entire Milwaukee Road railroad would have prevented it from going bankrupt. Just as a data point on the stupidity of the “fuel is cheap” attitude.

        The fact is that rail network electrification pays for itself already. It just pays for itself over the course of *so many years*, particularly if they have expensive interest rates on borrowing, that the relatively short-term thinking of American business isn’t ready to do it. Even so the head of BNSF said that they did an financial analysis of electrifying its entire rail network and it was close. I have been wondering if the purchase by Berkshire Hathaway has changed the results: BNSF can likely get better interest rates, and can think more long-term. A small increase in gas prices may tip the balance.

  2. The Times is running a front-page story about Metro pulling 35 StarTrans vans from mostly suburban service due to unsafe sightlines. This may have been mentioned/reported here before—the story says the vans were pulled on January 20th and it seems like someone in the media would’ve noticed this in less than month.

    1. The Times is getting a little lax lately in running news stories that actually affect people within the Seattle area(on the RSS Feed, it seems to post stories from Eastern Washington a lot).

      As for these vans, they are a big issue, and I hope they get the problem fixed. They said because it was such a small batch of buses, they could pull them all at once and fix them. I did not even know they were in service yet, had seen a bunch of them at Metro SOUTH from Central LINK.

      1. Thanks. I had been trying to get a few photos of them in service, and forgot about routes like the 204 that they would be used on. So close.

  3. From the article about light rail coming to Ballard:

    “Hawley said the issue of parking around future Ballard light rail stations is important. The neighborhood does not yet have the density to support the light rail without available park-and-ride lots, he said.”

    Right, and you probably never will if you allow park-and-rides to immediately surround the station.

    1. It’s ridiculous for them to say that Downtown Ballard doesn’t have the density to support a light rail station without a P&R, and all of Ballard out side of there is densifying even without light rail. As you say, if they put P&Rs there increases in density will be limited, but if they don’t, I can see a lot of Ballard becoming very dense.

      1. Ballard has some of the best TOD in Seattle, all of it on bus routes. You don’t need rail to get great TOD. Just go to Ballard to see.

  4. That “pedestrian” overpass in front of Safeco Field is looking to be a real tragedy. I couldn’t imagine a less inviting path for pedestrians from the Stadium Link station to Safeco. I’ll be the first to admit guilt for not researching this project earlier and realizing it’s detriment to the pedestrian experience down there.
    Was there any organized, pro-pedestrian voice during the planning of this project?

    1. I don’t see how it’s all that bad. Yes you now climb a ramp, but isn’t that better than crossing several sets of active railroad tracks?

      I think we could also agree that grade-separated rail traffic is a plus for commuters, rail passengers, and drivers alike.

      1. What Ryan said. It’s not like that was a pedestrian paradise before.

        Pretty much the only thing it needs to do is get people to and from Safeco/Qwest, and it looks like a big improvement in that department.

    2. Went by this weekend, and I do see signs of stairs, but only on on the south side of Royal Brougham. I assume the garage didn’t want pedestrians blocking access.

    3. I totally disagree! It may look confusing at present, but I am sure it will work in the future – we desperately need a way to get across the railroad tracks to get to the ferries and I think this will help. It is not a monstrosity however.

      1. If I’m correct, when finished this leaves Holgate, Lander, and Horton streets as the only grade crossings south of the Great Northern tunnel and north of Tukwila station. (South of Longacres Way, the next one is 212th Street! Then none until Kent, where there are a whole lot.)

        Eliminating the remaining SODO crossings could possibly allow serious increases in rail speeds.

    4. It’s going to be great! It’ll offer a quick way across the tracks. I used to frequently have to wait a long time for that.

    5. have you ever gone to or left a game at safeco or qwest and realized how many freights go by and how long they are? the current situation is a nightmare and i am shocked that no one has been killed by a train. i for one can not wait for that crossing to no longer exist.

      1. Tim,

        I am personally looking forward to removing that head end restrict at Royal Brougham =D

      2. no more calling foreman troxell and asking for permission through his form B every time you are leaving the yard or king street southbound. can’t wait.
        i see the overpass almost every day and have watched it through every stage and seen the drawings of what it will look like and i think its ok.
        the staircase is wide and curved, looks way more grand than some 2 person wide straight forward stair case. the only better solution would be for trains to be in a ditch and people and cars to remain at street level but that would be impossible (or pretty close to it).

      3. I agree something definitely needed to be done to provide a pedestrian overpass here, and that this concrete jungle is nothing close to a pedestrian paradise already, but I can’t help but look at the overpass and believe that the pedestrian experience was merely an unasthetic afterthought. I just want to have my cake and eat it too, I guess.

      4. I saw a near miss with a KIRO radio truck at Royal Brougham during a M’s game: The lights started flashing just as the driver was crossing, and the gate came down on the back of the truck. I think he must have panicked and froze, because he wasn’t moving.

        Luckily, an Amtrak conductor was in the area, and he ran over and banged on the guy’s hood to get him to move.

  5. NYT:

    It was just a few months ago that no one would have been in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel at 7:14 on a weeknight.

    I forgot about that. It’s awesome that the tunnel is open nights again.

  6. >looking at the SAFECO Field renderings, of the new overpass, has there ever been a more aesthetically challenged group then the WADOT?

    >amen on your comment, Patrick Nance

  7. Did anyone* ride Link while Bacon Hill Station was closed? Did trains not run at all through the tunnel?

    *Anyone that comments here. I know that there were people riding it :)

  8. More transit madness:

    Man shot near south Seattle light rail station

    A man was shot in the arm Monday night near the Mount Baker light rail station in south Seattle.

    The Associated Press

    A man was shot in the arm Monday night near the Mount Baker light rail station in south Seattle.

    KCPQ-TV reports witnesses heard three shots, screaming, and then saw people running away.

    The victim was treated at Harborview Medical Center.

    Police say gang unit detectives are looking for a car that fled the scene.

    1. “transit madness”?

      Oh, right! Automobiles! It was a drive-by shooting. I guess we need to restrict vehicle ownership? Or was that not your point?


  9. I disagree that the NYT article is a concise roundup.

    Now that the victim has appeared willingly on one of the biggest national television programs discussing the incident she has invited scrutiny into her past, which recently indicates some very similar criminal behavior. You can separate the guards inaction from her past, but you cannot separate her past actions from the current situation she is in. Apparently the fight was over another girl’s boyfriend that she had cheated with, and the trend among youngsters such as these is to beat/rob as retaliation.

    The NYT article was kinda a hit piece on Seattle–if the story had gone down this way in Fort Greene or Park Slope, the Times would have mentioned the victim’s past criminal activites, no doubt.

    Any lawsuit with the city will be nullified or settled for a low amount, no matter how much the recently absent mother now appear$ with her daughter.

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