Image from The Infrastructurist.

This is an open thread.

42 Replies to “News Roundup: % who take public transit”

  1. DuPont is doubly concerned about trains on railroad tracks – it was mentioned twice (although there are two different links).

      1. Actually just on the second link to the PI.

        I really don’t get what the problem Lakewood and DuPont have with the Amtrak trains. Even the Coast Starlight will be through any grade crossings in a few seconds. 5mph freight trains block grade crossings for a lot longer than 79mph passenger trains.

        Furthermore there will be a grand total of 10 passenger trains passing through per day with the current schedule and I believe 26 trains when the full Cascades plan is built out.

        As for the safety issue I don’t see what is wrong with 4 quadrant gates, trackside horns, and interlocking with nearby traffic signals.

      2. I agree with the cities that those crossings should be grade-separated. They probably don’t agree with me that they should come up with the cash to do it.

      3. Personally I don’t care if the crossings are grade separated as long as there are enough gates and fences to keep idiots off the tracks.

        But I do agree that if the cities on the route want grade separation of the tracks they can damn well pay for it.

      4. OR they can pay to have the Pt. Defiance tunnels widened and double tracked, plus develop a new station with bridge to Freighthouse Square!

      5. Everyone seems to forget that the trains were there for a long longer than they have been alive. I can see their concearn about speeds, but really after the initial adjustment period it will be like they have always been there. Also i think there should be an Amtrak Cascades suburban station stop at Lakewood.

      6. A stop in Lakewood would destroy the time savings gained by the shorter route, plus Lakewood is 15 minutes away from Tacoma. As far as the ‘the only safe crossing is a grade separated crossing’ argument, I said it on another blog and I’ll say it here – Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn and Kent all have a large number of Amtrak/Sounder trains running safely through their multiple downtown crossings at 79 MPH on a daily basis.

  2. I don’t care about the rest of the Waterfront/Viaduct replacement projects, but if none of them involve reviving the Waterfront Streetcar, count me out!

    1. Any plan for the waterfront should include a streetcar line running at least from Pioneer Square to the Sculpture Park and preferably all the way past Amgen to Smith Cove and the cruise terminal at Pier 91.

      While I would prefer it come back as a heritage line with historic streetcars a modern tram line would be OK too.

  3. That’s a cool picture. I found a bigger copy here, in case anyone else had trouble reading it so small. =)

    Looks like Seattle has a pretty high percentage of people who walk to work, which surprises me given the weather.

      1. Looks like NYC has the highest (no brainer there), followed by SFO and DC, Chicago appears tied with Seattle (that’s surprising) and then Atlanta and LA pretty even with Houston bringing up the rear, though they are tops in car poolers.

        Taking people who drive alone out of the equation, the other 4 modes in Seattle are pretty close.

      2. I think the reason Seattle was so close to Chicago was because of Seattle’s much weaker car culture. Most people buy cars because of necessity in Seattle, not because they are “cool”. Just goes to show how many people Seattle would be moving by transit if we has a good system.

    1. Watch Metro ridership on the core routes when the weather is good – lots of folks are walking and buses are less crowded. When the rain hits, buses are even more packed than usual. I suspect people who say they walk to work include “sometimes I take transit if the weather’s really lousy”.

      And honestly, much of the time the rain really isn’t that bad, particularly for relatively short walks.

      1. hah; ya, count me in that group. If it’s down pouring, I’m hoping a bus is coming. Though, like both of us said, most the time my hat and jacket are good enough rain protection.

    1. Incredible – thanks for the link. I’ve heard of these subway-riding dogs before, but I never tire of reading about them. The picture sort of burst my bubble of a dog wearing a fedora reading the newspaper commuting to work, but you can find lots more pictures and videos of them if you search. Check this guy out: – that could be a video of me when the light rail announces Columbia City Station!

  4. I saw a clear plastic bus driver protection door on a #13 yesterday. It was open and not protecting the driver (blocking access to the bus maps), but it was there. Please tell me this isn’t the future of our buses.

    1. They have had one on display at Central/Atlantic Base and most drivers, including me, don’t like it. Although, there are some that don’t like it, but feel its a good option for those who want to use the shield. I really hope Metro spends their money somewhere else and not on these shields.

      1. My view is that anything that improves safety and security for passengers also improves safety and security for drivers. This shield does NOTHING to improve the safety and security of passengers, and in the 2 cities that have something simliar (Toronto and Chicago), there’s no evidence that driver safety has been enhanced (no statistical drop in driver assaults or severity).

        Our focus as drivers needs to be on our customers’ safety – when they benefit, we benefit, as do we and our family members who also ride as passengers.

  5. ORCA may have been available for a year, but for me, I didn’t pay any attention to it until Metro announced that monthly passes would be getting replaced with ORCA. I got mine through my employer.

    It was the conversion that made me get it, and the E-purse that made me love it.

    Now, I can’t wait for universal pay-at-all-doors, which ORCA has made possible and the A-line will demonstrate as feasible.

      1. It’ll be interesting to see how long the station stops (with pay-before-you-board) take vs. the non-station (pay-as-you-board) stops.

      2. The only off-board fare payment that really matters with time savings is cash-paying customers. How much do Swift-syle TVMs cost?

      3. Presumably the station stops with pay-before-boarding will be located at the more heavily used stops. At stops with few riders pay-as-you-board won’t be as painful and may be a wash if pass and ORCA users can board at the middle and rear doors.

  6. Since this is an open thread, I’d just like to let everyone know about a transit event that happened at the UW today, pertaining to sustainable transit.

    I believe that the Swiss embassy was a large sponsor of the event, and consequently they were allowed substantial time to make a presentation about what they have been doing with regards to transit, and it is actually quite impressive.

    Foremost, the most astonishing fact was that the average Swiss citizen goes 1307 miles on rail a year. Germany and France were lower; I believe France was around 800 and Germany 600. The US was 87 miles per citizen per year.

    Some other interesting points were that Switzerland has essentially a nationwide ORCA – one can use the same pass on regional rail as they can on a local bus.

    Apparently 67% of Swiss passenger miles are via car, with a little over 20% being on transit; the figure for the US is 2% on transit (the presenter was unsure of the accuracy of this, and so am I).

    One powerful thing said by the presenter was that Switzerland is essentially “done” building roads. All further expansion will be with regards to rail and other technologies.

    They are building a tunnel called the “Gotthard Base Tunnel” running 35 miles, which makes it the longest in the world. It will be operable by 2017 (they recently started it) and costs them $10 billion. Compare that to University Link opening 2016, 3 miles, at a cost of approximately $2 billion. (Direct comparisons are unfair, however, since we’re dealing with soft soil and an urban environment with current underground infrastructure, as well as a canal).

    One third of freight transportation in Switzerland is done on rail, compared to about 12% for the rest of Europe.

    The number of trucks crossing the Swiss alps for freight has essentially flatlined or dropped, peaking at around 1.6 million / year and now at 1.2 million / year. However, Swiss law states that this number should be around 0.65 million by 2020.

    13.3 percent of all Swiss government spending is in transportation.

    The majority of their rail funds come from a heavy vehicle tax, which is charged on all vehicles >3.5 tons traveling on their roads. The fee is dependent on fuel efficiency among other things. Apparently a 40-ton truck would pay $1 per kilometer traveled. Two thirds of this tax is devoted to rail. Approximately half of their $3/gallon gas tax goes to transit, as well.

    Sorry that these are all disconnected tidbits – I pretty much just typed up the notes I took.

  7. Interesting traffic flow map – Lake City Way is the busiest street in the city north of 45th. Sounds like a good route for high capacity transit!

    1. I suspect a line from UW-Bothell down Bothell Way and Lake City Way to Northgate (then on to Crown Hill, Ballard, Lower Queen Anne, and Downtown) would see fairly strong ridership at least based on the ridership of the current bus routes in that corridor and the City ICT study.

      However there are some other segments that offer more bang for the buck that should be built first (Like Downtown/Ballard/Northgate)

  8. That piece you linked to on former Streetcar Suburbs is the WORST kind of example of spontaneous philosophizing with minimal research leading to backward conclusions.

    In fact, the true lesson of Streetcar Suburbs is that medium-density, pleasant, contiguous, and aesthetically pleasing single-family neighborhoods can not only support transit, but can support highly frequent transit when that neighborhood chooses (or has) to use transit.

    That’s why, before the car conquered Seattle, streetcars ran through Queen Anne, Ballard, Madison Valley, Greenwood, etc. near-constantly — all of those neighborhoods were far less dense back then.

    It’s why — in spite of the car — prototypically suburban Brookline, Massachusetts still has 3 trolley lines packed to the gills all the time today.

    I know you try to be comprehensive, but the kind of intellectual black hole found in that link would be better ignored.

    1. Looking at relative densities, you can support decent transit and even rail in neighborhoods that consist of single family houses on small lots and higher density mixed use along the arterials.

      Boston, Vancouver BC, Toronto, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc. all have great examples of this. For that matter so does Seattle, particularly in the Northern half of the city.

  9. Does anyone have any information on the utilization rates for the Sea-Tac parking garage?

    1. Are you talking about the Port of Seattle operated garage? I can tell you that it’s never full. But you do have to go up many levels sometimes to find parking. It’s a good model of how P&R demand shoud be used everwhere.

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