[UPDATE from Martin: This post has long been scheduled, and has nothing to do with yesterday’s earthquake. It is a freakish coincidence.]

82 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Metro de Santiago Smart Card Ad”

  1. The current Sound Transit Photo of the week at http://www.soundtransit.org/x78.xml?curID=x13502 shows a picture of the Newcastle “Transit Center” and says that Sound Transit paid $4 million of the $4.6 million price tag.

    Why is it called a transit center if it only serves two routes (Metro 114 and 240) which run parallel to each other through this area (plus some route 219 van runs)?

    Why is $4 million of our regional transit money used to repave a local street in Newcastle, far away from any regional routes? (Even if whitewashed by calling it a transit center)?

    Why is ST publicizing this use of transit money?

    1. Looks like a nice project to me. Anything that makes using the bus a more pleasant experience is a good use of transit money in my book. Last time I checked Newcastle was part of our region, and is a heck of a lot closer to major job centers than a lot of the communities where Sound Transit has spent money. Metro route 240 connects with Sound Transit bus routes, and eventually light rail, at the South Bellevue P&R and the Bellevue Transit Center.


      1. Zed, your link demonstrates that it is not a transit center. The web site has no description of the transit service offered. There are no connections made here, it is just one single bus stop on some long routes which run in parallel from Renton to the Coal Creek/Factoria interchange.

        Ben may be right that it was included in ST2 to get votes. It just doesn’t create much transit value, which makes me wonder why ST publicized it.

      2. Kaleci has a good point – it was probably part of Sound Move, where Sound Transit basically had to bow to any political interests to get on the ballot.

      3. One of the issues with Sound Move was simply finding enough projects to fund in order to balance out the spending in other sub-areas. Newport Hills is probably something like that and an attempt to swing a few votes in the area.

        However now that the transit center is there it might see more use, or it could remain a white elephant. Longer term it’s likely to see much more use in the future as East Link comes on line, Newcastle increases density, etc.

    2. Hey, while we’re complaining about Photos of the Weeks, the one from January 22-28 says it’s an “aerial” view of the Husky Stadium Station site, and the picture is clearly taken from high on the stadium’s south grandstand. I believe “aerial” means from an airplane or helicopter when referring to photography. How could they?!

    3. Look on the bright side. It is transit. It is nice. And it is in an area that has been “car only” for many years.

      I will have to check my old maps: this area may have been served by the Pacific Coast Railway many years ago…

    4. The point of transit is not just to bring people to downtown Seattle.

      In fact, it would be of greater benefit to spread the density (multi use residential, commercial, retail) all around the Puget Sound.

      So, yes, in 2010, might not make sense, but in the expectation that all these transit stops may one day be a set of “mini-Downtowns” offering jobs, shops and places to live, in addition to bigger single family homes surrounding them, then it’s a worthwhile project.

      In this spirit, I’ve started a thread here logging some articles about the concept of a “Linear City” and some designs where people propose building the city not as a singleton, but drawn out along the transit line:


    5. That image is a little sexier than the actual “Transit center” I drove through last week. I figured they blew some money on that thing but $4 Million? Dang… Next time I drive the 219 through there I’ll stop and take some pictures. It’s not like I actually drive any passengers around on that stupid route. (Grrrr… Grumble…)

      On the other hand, there was talk of adding 15 minute service to the 240. If East Link actually services South Bellevue P&R, Newcastle residents could use the 240, or a new faster route, to access East Link.

    6. That project was part of the 1996 package. As in, the voters voted for it.

      Every city has its own needs and transportation challenges. Newcastle is a city built on the cul de sac and a “bypass” highway (405). In other words, the transit demand is fairly minimal. So, a scaled down transit zone like the one ST designed is quite appropriate.

      There is one compelling reason as to why ST should NOT have built the project: Newcastle Mayor Sonny Putter. Who literally is a putz when it comes to transportation. He’s one of Kemper Freeman’s freeway guys, dead set on keeping Newcastle in the automobile stone age.

  2. What would it take to get Canadian customs to process passengers on board the northbound Cascades train? I rode a full train last weekend to the Olympics, but because they process everybody at the station, I wasn’t through customs until a FULL HOUR after the train had actually stopped. Couldn’t they board the train somewhere between Bellingham and Vancouver and do the processing on board while it creeps to Vancouver? Do any of the other routes that cross the US-Canada border do this? I’ve seen it in practice while riding across borders in non-EU Europe…

    1. Why do we not have a customs union with Canada? If the German-French border can be open, how about a border between two countries with similar legal systems that have not had any major conflicts since the 1850’s?

      1. Why can’t we just whoop ’em in a fair fight, steal their land and call the provences new states? We’re gonna need all that oil and coal real soon anyway.

      2. Cuz Canada doesn’t want our illegal immigrants? Heh, really though, it should be an open border. It’s fairly ridiculous. Frankly, we should go further and integrate our work rights between the countries and allow totally free movement and activity between the two countries. But sure, I would say that they should have customs agents board in Bellingham. I imagine that the US does it in Vancouver before departure to the US. But it was difficult enough just to get Canada to allow the second train because they didn’t want to foot the cost of additional agents. Kind of silly, but as we have more trains to Vancouver, it will become more cost-effective for them to do this (not that cost should be the primary concern here).

    2. Canadian Border Services Agency wants the option (I surmise from observations during several entries) to check everybody entering Canada against an extensive online database. Their current technology may make this problematic from a moving vehicle.

      1. Yeah, you definitely can’t access electronic databases from moving vehicles.

        Sike! I bet given the sensitivity of a lot of communications that go back and forth between agencies and moving vehicles already, the technological hurdles of installing such access securely has been figured out.

        I bet there are computer science types on this blog who would know for sure.

      2. Some of the border patrol communications stuff is encrypted, some is in the clear. Dunno (or care) about data.

      3. We cannot have a border like the one between Germany and France because we are a sovereign nation that is not part of a loose commonwealth like the E.U. We have the right to protect our borders.

      4. The Schengen Agreement defines the open borders in the EU. It would be nice, but I just don’t see that happening here.

        It would, however, be nice to have some way of speeding up border crossings. If the rail conductors in New York can charge my credit card on-board, then border officers ought to be able to clear my passport on-board too.

  3. Does anyone know why the ORCA site is having problems right now? I’m trying to log in to buy my monthly pass for March (aka tomorrow) and all the site has said since last night was, “Service is unavailable at the moment, please try again later” when I go to click ‘login’ to get into my account. Even if you click on ‘Contact Us’ at the bottom of the page to try to contact the ORCA people it gives you the same message. Does anyone know what’s going on? I can’t seem to find anything on their website sayng that it’s down for scheduled maintenance or something similar so I don’t really know what’s up. Hopefully it gets up and running today so I don’t have to pay cash tomorrow!

    1. Update: I clicked on “Customer Support” (after dealing with Metro’s amazing website I had just given up actually looking in obvious places for help on Seattle area transit websites) and tried to send them a message but when I hit ‘Send message’ I got the same, “Service is unavailable at the moment, please try again later” error message so I have no way to contact ORCA because their phone line is open only during regular business hours according to their website. I hope somone can get somebody to fix this today.

    2. Is there any way you can go over to a Link or Sounder station today? I don’t know what’s happening with the site, no.

      1. Ben,

        I’m going to head downtown tonight and see what I can do at one of the TVM’s in the tunnel.

      2. Ben,

        Thanks for your advice. I was able to get my monthly PugetPass on my ORCA card tonight. I didn’t even know you could add monthly passes like that. I always thought it had to be done online cuz I had always done it online. Live and learn, I suppose.

        PS: Why can’t you put annual PugetPasses on ORCA cards? I could save a lot of money if I could do that.

      3. A TVM will load value instantly on the ORCA card. Phone and on-line has a 24-48 hour lag time. Don’t forget you have the “auto-load” option that you can load e-purse (when it runs low) or monthly pass (at end of month) authomatically, so you don’t have to worry.

  4. On the Amtrak website it says that BNSF is replacing rail ties from Vancouver to Olympia. Does anyone know if after they finish this project will there be any reliability or speed improvements?

      1. Hello? BC Ministry of Transport?? Please piggyback onto Oregon’s order, if you’d be so kind…

      2. It might happen. After all Canada’s urban rail systems have been known to buy from companies other than Bombardier. But VIA Rial might be a bit of a stretch.

        Still at this point I’d be shocked to see any contributions toward Cascades service from either the BC or Canadian government.

    1. I talked to Vickie Sheehan, Media Relations specialist at the Rail Office, WSDOT, last week, asking the same question.
      They are waiting for FRA to asign a liason person to oversee the $590 million, and should have the specific project list in about a week, after that happens. Until then, it’s the same projects we’ve been talking about since the award.

  5. Reminds me a lot of my native DC. There they have magnetic cards. (And the last time I was back there to visit, I noticed they seemed to have a place for a contact-less smart card available as well.)

    Note also that this video has the rail underground, like any civilized city.

  6. Just wanted to thank you for all the visits to my photostream based on your blog & Flickr pool. Help yourself, just make sure to credit me so I know when I’m on :-).

    Thanks again, great mass transit you got there!

  7. just thought I’d mention that at the LINK OEM facility in SODO … all the remaining yard tracks have been laid for the LRV fleet increase (for ULink, et al extensions) … couple of switches need to still be added … but the track has been laid

    1. I wondered what they were doing – thanks!

      Speaking of Link, I haven’t taken a smooth unimpeded Link trip through the Rainier Valley for a long while now. Does anyone know what is happening or not happening with the synchronization that is supposed to take place along that corridor between the trains and the stop lights?

      1. I haven’t been on a LINK trip recently where the train HAS had to wait for lights … I guess it all depends on the operator and how good they are keeping the train moving at the correct speed

      1. there is a plan for another yard as part of East Link … location TBD but most likely close to Overlake (the documents online showing the potential routes have 3 or 4 potential yard locations listed … but the final determination for where the yard will go can be something decided way off into the future

  8. Does anyone know if when they build East Link – and I am assuming for arguments sake that they will – if a spur track will be laid in the south Bellevue area to facilitate easy expansion to bringing Light Rail out to Issaquah as part of ST3 expansion. I am envisaging something akin to the Pine Street stub tunnel that they built east of Westlake Center Station to avoid having to further disrupt the tunnel during construction of University Link.

    Assuming that ST3 will include rail to Issaquah, then they would presumably have to build something similar in the Bellevue area to avoid future disruption.

    1. Almost certainly not, as the whole extension to Issaquah could be easily built by itself. I’m guessing East Link would just be down to one track through the area of the connection for a couple weeks, not a big deal. The Pine Street Stub Tunnel was built more for turning around, although it does have the added benefit of easily allowing U Link to be built.

      1. They’ll probably do something similar to whatever they do when it comes time to connect the East Link tracks to Central Link. (at least I assume they’ll have to install switches, I haven’t seen any stub switches there)

        I’m not sure it would even require a couple week shutdown, probably more like a few days.

    2. the best thing they could do is plan to have a three-way junction so that there could be service from Issaquah to Downtown as well as to Bellevue …

    3. East Link trains are going to Northgate. Supposedly the DSTT and Northgate tunnels will be full after ST2 is implemented, so Issaquah Link trains would have to go elsewhere. One option is a shuttle train to South Bellevue or downtown Bellevue. I wonder if a lower-cost streetcar would be adequate, since there’s no large city beyond Issaquah.

      1. If it were me, I’d have an Issaquah – Bellevue line (S. Bellevue P&R or Downtown Bellevue, just somewhere), and you’d transfer to East Link to the DSTT.

        Granted, I’ve only been to Issaquah just once (a round trip ride on a 554 just to see it) so I don’t know what demand would be

  9. Is it now a done deal that Amtrak 513/516 will be reduced back to Bellingham? Has there been any word from Amtrak/WSDOT/CBSA?

      1. Me too – we definitelt want to try and keep that service. The Canadians need to bear in mind that lots of Sounders FC fans will appreciate a train to Vancouver next year! I know it would only be for one match, but you get the point.

    1. Why? The vast majority of people pay, and the few who don’t pay don’t because they don’t know that you’re supposed to. Anyone who rides it a few times can see that there are lots of fare enforcers and they’ll get a huge ticket if they don’t pay.

      1. Not true according to he facts presented here in the comments section of STB.

        Only half of the fares are accounted for.

        The rest are scofflaws.

        And as I have recounted many times, only 1 in 7 of the Sounder trains I ride on have had conductors checking tickets and of those times only once did I see someone actually using a reader for ORCA cards.

        Sounder and LINK present an easier target for scofflaws than buses who have the driver to monitor fares (although it seems that walking past and holding your hand up seems to count as “pass” for many “customers” around here….)

      2. Only half of the fares are accounted for.

        So, if I ride twice, I’m likely to get checked for fare?

      3. although it seems that walking past and holding your hand up seems to count as “pass” for many “customers” around here…

        Right, because I don’t want the operator to get assaulted because they force someone to do something they don’t want to. Not everyone has the amount of respect for operators that they should.

      4. John Bailo:

        First, you’re just making things up. You aren’t quoting actual verified numbers.

        Second, for the sake of argument let’s say your 1 in 7 checks on Sounder is a fair estimate. The price of a fine is more than 7 times the price of a ticket, so if someone is avoiding paying the fare every time, eventually it’s going ot catch up with them.

        Third, I’ve taken Sounder, and even on days with low ridership (holidays) I see at least a dozen people at Auburn Station alone using ORCA.

        Please, for God’s sake; if you’re going to make an argument at least educate yourself on the facts.

      5. “First, you’re just making things up. You aren’t quoting actual verified numbers”

        I’m quoting numbers that someone posted here in the comments section a few days back. If you’re not a regular you might want to go back and read the prior posts before jumping in and assaulting me.

      6. what exactly does happen if you don’t pay? I have seen them remove people from the train … but are you trespassed from Link (besides getting the ticket)?

      7. John Bailo, I would love to know where you got your information from.

        Sounder conductors are no longer permitted to check tickets. Security or Fare Enforcement will be checking tickets (as they were daily, on my train until I changed schedules)

        If you don’t have a ticket, you get fined and have to get off the train, pay the fare and wait for the next one (or the 578 connector)

      8. Fare evaders know that KC has a policy of not prosecuting fare evaders. The decision has been made that taking up the time of police officers, judges, public defenders, court personnel, and prosecutors over $2.00 just isn’t an effective use of resources.

        I disagree with this policy as the type of people who evade the fare are more likely to be the kind of people to cause problems for other passengers, including theft and assaults, not to mention fare evaders are more likely to have outstanding warrants for other crimes.

      9. I’ve seen them issuing tickets several times on Link… Where do you and John Bailo get your facts from?

      10. Sam, for once I agree with you. I really wish ST & Metro would crack down harder on fare evasion. The people who don’t pay their fares are the ones who cause most of the problems. Metro shouldn’t be looking just at lost fares – they should also be looking at cleaning up the garbage and graffiti and fixing the ripped seats that go with many of the fare evaders. Give me some training and a button to notify the police that I’ve got dirtbags on my bus and I’m happy to push it!

        That said, most of my passengers do pay their fare – I sure don’t agree with John’s assertion that “half” are scofflaws. Maybe on some late night version of the 358, 7, or other “problem” route. Most do pay…

  10. I’m starting to see people do some strange things to “Tap” their ORCA cards. On that thought, People, PLEASE do not put your ORCA card in your front pocket. When you “Tap”, it looks pretty obscene…

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