83 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: From a Car Company”

  1. 1. Not one skateboard! You call that a Fast Lane?

    2. The fast thing is that setting is a subway station. One more flight downstairs, and in a few minutes everybody in the picture will be moving sixty or seventy on a train.

    3. Notice how what makes the red slide fast is the total absence of automobile traffic. This would doubtless also work for the northbound HOV lane on I-5 at 5pm any Friday afternoon! Thanks, VW! Have a great Fourth of July.

    Mark Dublin

  2. I was riding Link for the first time in ages Friday to the airport and it felt very good speeding past the traffic jam. Try doing consistent arrival times with a car :::snicker:::

  3. Both Mark and Jessica touched on this. HOV treatments on Puget Sound highways is all over the board, with 2+, 3+, reversibles lanes, and now HOT and tolling coming to a roadway near you. I-5 on the north end is a good example. Transit gets the short end of the stick both coming and going. HOV policies require lanes be monitored for speed and reliability, and higher occupancies imposed when the standard is failing. When was the last time WSDOT and the Transportation Commission abided by that?
    It just seems that after 30+ years of HOV experience, we could actually have HOV lanes that catered to “High Occupancy Vehicles” system wide – Not piecemeal on a part time basis in selected locations.

    1. BTW, here’s the policy from the WSDOT website:
      “The current performance standard states that a driver in an HOV lane should be able to maintain an average speed of 45 mph or greater at least 90% of the time during the morning and afternoon rush hour. The I-5 and I-405 HOV lanes are not meeting this performance standard, nor is SR 520 during the afternoon peak in the westbound direction. WSDOT initiated a study in 2007 to look at ways to help over-utilized HOV lanes.”

      1. 520 is already 3+ but it won’t make any difference what you do until there are six lanes across the lake. I don’t know about I-5 but 405 should be switched to 3+ as soon as the braid project is finished. 3+ now would still be just as bad because the GP lanes would continue to be grid lock preventing people from getting to/from the HOV lanes. A continued investment in HOV direct access needs to be maintained for the system to work as intended.

      2. That and put HOV lanes on the inside lanes. The merge at the bridge doesn’t seem to be the major bottleneck, but rather the merging at entrance ramps and the lineups at exit ramps. Granted, remove those barriers and you would probably see the bottleneck move to the merge prior to the bridge.

      3. FWIW, 520 is only 3+ for safety reasons, not traffic or environmental reasons: that lane is a converted shoulder that can’t safely carry the weight of a standard 2+ HOV lane.

      4. Huh? You put more people in the car because it makes the load lighter? That lane is packed AM and PM rush hour. If weight was the issue maybe keeping buses out of it would be a good idea.

      5. It has nothing to do with weight. He meant it can’t hold the load of the extra traffic if allowing 2 person carpools. There would be too many cars dealing with the merging traffic, and if you add more traffic to the HOV lane, it will make the bottleneck at the bridge even worse.

      6. To avoid a preventable accident, we are *supposed* to drive buses only at a “reasonable” speed in an HOV lane when traffic in the GP lanes has slowed to a crawl. Apparently there used to be a law that the speed differential was to be no more than 15 but these days it needs to be “reasonable”, whatever that means. I’ve heard numbers of anywhere from 10-20mph difference.

        Suffice it to say, if there is a bus in that HOV lane following policy, you’re not going to meet the 45mph goal.

      7. Agreed. But it says the HOV should allow 45mph speeds. My answer is to further seperate the lanes, put in speed bumps, flyover ramps, moats or whatever else gets you to AVERAGEe 45mph. On the north end the HOV should go both ways, all day. There’s some really bright people that work for WSDOT. Figure it out! They didn’t have any trouble brainstorming an AWV tunnel.

      8. Yes! That would have helped prevent my non-preventable accident on 405 in Totem Lake in 2007, when a woman(by herself) pulled into the HOV lane from a dead stop about 50ft in front of my 60footer. Definatly need to do more than just a solid painted line.

    2. HOV lanes are another of those things that have migrated up here from California. Originally WSDOT tried to do it on the cheap and re-stripe the shoulder instead of a dedicated inside lane. Slowly it’s getting better. One thing that would help is to open the HOV lanes off peak to SOV. They do this on the eastside which I guess makes it more piecemeal. It really does help by taking some pressure off of peak load. People will move trips up to take advantage of this. Opening it up mid day would also help, especially in easing the transition to the afternoon commute. All it costs is a few signs. The HOT lane concept has promise but as has been noted most areas the HOV lanes are at capacity during peak. If they change it to 3+ then the HOT lanes might work but I think 167 has shown that it’s not the revenue generator that was expected and questionable if you can even recoup the investment. On a tolled road like we’re looking at next spring for 520 it might work since you’ve made the investment in the monitoring equipment anyway.

      1. Not sure if I buy the idea that all HOV lanes should be opened to SOV vehicles in the off-peaks. On roads such as I-5, you can see that there is heavy traffic over a pretty good portion of the day.

        The HOT lanes are a different beast altogether. From what I know, the main intent of the HOT lanes was to do a few things. First, test out the concept and see if it could work in Washington. I think on that level, it has succeeded. Second, it took a HOV lane which was not operating to its full capacity (even during the peaks, and allow SOV drivers to use it. However, to minimize the adverse impact on HOV and transit, it used tolls to control entry. Third, revenue consideration was probably a consideration but down on the list.

      2. Mike,

        HOT is also a Neo-Con wet dream and the funding for projects currently in use or under construction were set in place by some of flexibilities allowed by the current federal transportation funding law (safetea-lu)

        I know I post this link alot, but I’ll do it again:


        It is the story of a political appointee with no transportation experience gets into a position where he not only implements the Reason Foundation’s ideas on road-pricing, but rewrites the tax code so that when those roads get tolled, they will be very attractive to private interests.

      3. HOV lanes were originally in place in New York and Greater Wasthington, D.C.:


        Let’s not blame California for every ill in Washington State, shall we?

        Besides, why open a lane to SOV in off-peak if the original roadway is flowing freely?

      4. If the original roadway is flowing freely, why not? Actually that’s not the point. It’s at the margins of the peak commutes where it makes the difference. The idea is to decompress the period where the GP lanes are not flowing freely. It just gets too complicated to set four time brackets and again, why if everything is flowing freely. And, given that if everything is flowing freely it seems like using all lanes might add a slight safety benefit by putting more following room between cars and certainly helps keep the roadway moving if there is a breakdown or accident.

  4. “While the bus is a terrific way to get to Gas Works Park, please know that all buses will be running on a reduced holiday schedule, limiting the number of buses operating, scheduled stops, and amount of guests they can accommodate after the fireworks.”

    And besides, they rerouted the bus away from Gas Works Park.

    Me, I go as the crow flies.

    1. If ever there were a case for *increased* holiday service, this is it. Frankly, they should ban cars within a 1 mile (1.5? 2?) radius of Gasworks park, except for dropoff/pickup service for handicapped parking permit holders, and residents within the automobile exclusion zone. It’s not like you’re going to be able to drive out of that zone after the fireworks anyway – you might as well walk or bike the extra mile or 2 to save time.

      1. On July 4th and December 31st, Boston gradually increases Green Line frequencies throughout the day; by the time the fireworks conclude, trains are running every minute or less. They also throw open the fare gates and make it free those two days.

        That’s how a real city responds to a high-volume civic event.

        Just sayin’.

      2. We truly have so much distance to cover before we can consider this a modern 21st Century city – transport should be fare-free all day on 4 July and 31 December-1 January. Streets around celebratory events on those days should be blocked to autosauri and be open only to peds, responsible bicyclists and public transport vehicles.
        Anyone know how late the SLUTram is running tonight?

      3. When you’re $8 billion in debt like the MBTA, what’s another million to provide free Independence Day service?

      4. The MBTA is $8 billion in debt only because the state agreed to billions worth of capital projects as environmental mitigation for the Big Dig, then stuck the transit agency with the tab.

        See: future Highway 99 tunnel and the City of Seattle.

      5. Um, no…

        MBTA’s farebox recovery is twice KC Metro’s. That’s despite MUCH lower fares.

        Sorry, Zed, but you’re wrong. MBTA debt is mostly tied to the aforementioned capitol projects and the insane interest that has been collecting on them.

      6. Found the necessary figures, and the operating deficit (that not covered by fares, advertising, and dedicated tax-revenue streams) is less than 4.5% of the budget. It’s piddling compared the capital-project/interest debt.

        Plus, everyone there agrees that switching to a funding system a decade ago that tied the State’s share of funding to sales taxes was a horrifically bad idea.

        Remind me again what form of tax revenue is used to support public transit here.

      7. “The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced earlier this month that it may increase fares and cut services to mitigate its deepening financial woes, which include a budget deficit of $180 million this fiscal year and over $5 billion in debt. ”

        “Service reductions are also being considered, including the elimination of several bus routes with low ridership and a 50 percent reduction in all weekday bus services after 8:00 p.m.”

        “The MBTA’s principal and interest payments on its $5.2 billion debt consume nearly 30 percent of its operating budget—the highest debt burden of any transit agency in the United States, the pamphlet said.”

        But you know, its okay, as long as they have free bus service on the 4th of July, like a real city.

      8. Zed, I don’t think you were paying attention.

        Here’s the contrast that I was drawing:

        Major civic event in Seattle:
        – Bus service invariably reduced to a bare-bones Sunday/Holiday schedule
        – Routes that do go near the even are often rerouted away (labyrinthine circumvention often negates the supposed time-savings of avoiding traffic)
        – What service does remain winds up packed to the gills as it crawls away from the event

        Major civic event in a real city:
        – Transit service supplemented both to encourage non-driving and to actually meet the increased demand
        – Service expedited, either by temporarily suspending fares or by some other means
        – Near-constant high-capacity service is used by all, continues to function well

        It’s not the free service that makes it a real city. It’s the transit system that actually bothers to serve the needs of the citizens. Something in which Metro time and again demonstrates it has little interest.

        Just something of which I’m reminded every time there’s an event like tonights, and Metro runs about 5 buses for 100,000 people.

        Oh, and as for the MBTA’s debt burden — I’ve explained that three times and provided a local analogue that you might want to note. How about you actually engage the facts and/or the argument at hand?

      9. From the very same year-old article you quoted:

        “In fact, the MBTA pamphlet said that the MBTA has the highest debt burden of any transit agency in the United States, spending nearly 30 percent of its operating budget to service the $5.2 billion debt.”

        It’s the debt burden — owing not to service levels or fare collection but to capital expenditures to which Big Dig-pushing politicians agreed as environmental mitigation (then stuck the MBTA with the tab) — that are responsible for the budget hole.

        (Does Metro have any capital expenditures at all? A handful of hypothetical RapidRide off-board payment stations that will probably get cut? New buses that are actually heavily subsidized by the Feds? Some asphalt for some new “transit centers” that make the buses take 5 right turns and actually slow the service down?)

      10. Bash the political hack-infested T all you want, but remember that running free service keeps A LOT of drunks off the road, and that is a serious public benefit.

        Ambulances/Aid Cars, flares, coroners, body-bags, DUI/DWI prosecution, tow trucks, Fire Engine runs, staffing the ER, cleaning bio-hazards off of the pavement…it all adds up!

      11. Zed…

        p.s. (because I just noticed this)…

        The MBTA wasn’t free all day yesterday… only after the fireworks, when the million-plus who had been filtering in all day all needed to leave at once.

        So they collected at least one fare from each of those million-plus (a large portion of whom likely have passes anyway) who used it to get there.

        How many fares did Metro collect from July 4th revelers yesterday, after providing service sparse enough to discourage anyone from using it?

      12. Metro has never said why they reduce the schedule on Sundays and holidays, but I assume it’s to avoid paying overtime on union contracts. I think the Sunday schedule should be the same as Saturday, because do people really travel less on Sundays? But Metro is the man in the middle here because the government (public) doesn’t love transit enough to fund comprehensive service.

      13. Well, most systems run somewhat less frequently on Sunday and most holidays than Saturdays, for what it’s worth, often with slightly later starting hours. I presume that there’s plenty of evidence that demand remains slightly lower, although I too wish that weren’t the case.

        My point was that specific dates like July 4th and New Years Eve really have no reason to be given those reduced schedules, and that an even that involves mass convergence on a single location — I would include sporting events and Bumbershoot in this — would benefit from adding extra service to all nearby routes, which happens plenty in other cities regardless of the day of the week.

      14. I can see the case for Sunday morning before 8am, but what irks me is cutting service in half in the daytime. Several routes go from 30 -> 60 minutes or 15 -> 30 minutes, or go to their evening schedule at 5pm.

      15. Well, as I’ve hollered from the hilltops before, any route that has 30 minutes as a peak frequency and 60 minutes ever is doing something wrong and needs to be seriously rethought.

      16. I disagree. 60 minute frequency is reasonable when the transit market is very poor, but there is a small number of transit-dependent people that use the service. They’re not cut off completely, but Metro doesn’t lavish resources on them.

      17. Fair enough, Martin! Although that form of bare-bones service should be considered a separate category from the myriad in-city 30->60 routes that serve nobody well and would ideally be subject to immediate consolidation.

  5. According to Phil Liggett Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the second largest port in the world but the population of Rotterdam is about the same as Seattle, 600,000. Never having been there I wonder what it’s like when you pull back from the pretty pictures they show you from the Tour.

    It’s ambiguous how “largest” is defined. If you combine LA and Long Beach it would be larger than Rotterdam and I think we can all agree Los Angles, while it does have it’s great spots that overall it leaves a lot to be desired.

    1. Can you imagine the static build up?! Just going down a short kiddie slide can make your hair stand on end, now imagine that times 50+.

  6. Yet more proof that Rob McKenna, noted Light-Rail opponent Kemper’s [ad-hominems]:

    Andrews’ arrest popped up during the background check. Under patrol rules, a felony arrest that doesn’t lead to an outright acquittal can disqualify a candidate. The patrol did a further investigation of the police reports and court record after Andrews signed a waiver. The patrol’s human resources administrator ruled Andrews did not qualify for the job.


    The disclosure of the supervisor’s convictions prompted Andrews to amend his complaint to include a racial discrimination claim.

    “All I wanted was to have my job back and be treated equally like (his supervisor), and they couldn’t do that,” he said.

    Added his wife: “Who is the bigger threat? Someone with a false arrest, or someone with two felonies?”

    The state Attorney General’s Office, defending the two agencies, argued that the two situations didn’t compare. It was not discrimination, but a mistaken assumption that allowed Andrews’ supervisor to pass his background check, it argued.


  7. whats with the bus driver wave at passing bus drivers en route? is it just a friendly wave or is it a way of communicating/passing along info about problems encountered along the route? whats the history of it?

    1. Bus Drivers are actually trained Jedi Knights. By waiving at each passing coach, they actually power the passing bus along the street and allow KC Metro to avoid using diesel and electricity. The money allocated to fuel and power purchases is then funneled into the Jedi Academy which is located under Pier 70.

    2. What? Tell all of our secrets?!?

      I will say that we evening Link operators are coming up with a rail version of same.

    3. many times i’ve seen more than a wave but more like hand signals, thats why i was wondering if it meant anything about problems on the route

  8. I’m not clear about the Gillig ETBs, they’ve only been in service for 7-9 years (yes I realize they are partial rebuilds). Most trolleys last 25-30 years. Why are we even talking about replacements, it would seem we are at least a decade away from thinking about replacements. And the Bredas are only, what, 3-4 years into their rebuilt life (granted they are lemons) but still they should at least make it 10 more years to say 15 years which would still be a short life.

    1. The Gillig ETBs were put in to service in 2002. The shells will be 13 years old when they are retired (2015). Typical life is 11 years. The propulsion systems were taken from AMG coaches delivered in 1979 = 36 years.

      The Bredas should have been permanently retired in 2005.

      1. I just think they could squeeze a little more life out of them. Theres still a lot of diesel transit buses in service nationwide that are 18-20 years old and the shells seem to hold up. I thought trolley propulsion systems pretty much last forever.

      2. Rumor has it they are going to start leaking rainwater, as the bodies have been cracking.

      3. The problem with the 1978 AM General/Gillig trolley buses is apparently that parts are no longer available from standard suppliers and the dinosaur computer systems that run the controls. Metro video is here:

      4. Weird. You can’t get a modern circuit board to fit the slots? You can’t get a new box to replace the analog ones?

        Not that I don’t want new ETBs, but how come I can get a decent DEC PDP-8e emulator on line, or still use a rotary phone to dial out, but KC Metro can’t upgrade their CPU?

      5. The amount of engineering work to produce to board or software probably does not attract any commercial product offerings, and it’s not interesting enough for any open software developers. If Metro is having to design and hand build parts, that may be cost prohibitive. Maybe it was a false economy to move the old electronics.

        There must be off-the-shelf ETB designs. I’m skeptical of the claims that these buses cost so much more than hybrids on an apples-apples procurement basis.

      6. Head up to Metrix Create Space and see if you can interest some EE geeks in the project! It would be quite something to keep a 1970s era system running for over 100 years like the SF cable cars. :)

    1. Well yes since cars are much more efficient the percentage paid in gas tax is less. I dispute the notion that a mile driven by a 1970 Malibu is no more destructive to the roads than a 2010 Malibu. Cars are lighter, have better suspensions and tires have lower rolling resistance. They also don’t bleed oil, hydraulic fluid and antifreeze anything like the old cars did. I have no problem with increasing the gas tax but as long as the government is deficit spending to try and bring us out of recession now’s not really the time. I could see something like a luxury tax on cars over say $50k because that wouldn’t be as regressive as a gas tax increase. The old gas guzzler tax works too except you run into the exemption for trucks. The intent is to give some relief to folks like farmers that are buying pick-ups because they are work trucks. The problem is that some how a Subaru Outback gets classified as a light truck.

      1. “They also don’t bleed oil, hydraulic fluid and antifreeze anything like the old cars did”

        Do you work on your cars?

        That all depends on how many miles are on the car, along with the upkeep in maintenance. From my experience, the newer cars,as they age, seem to leak more with the failure of the ‘no gasket’ seals. (anerobic sealants, silcone only seals on what used to be gasketed joints, etc).

        As people keep their cars longer in this economy, you’ll see just as many leakers.

        What newer cars do is give better performance, with much less emissions, and better gas mileage.

        Speaking of which, I’ve always wondered why auto companies didn’t pursue the hybrid technology for light trucks. It would seem like that would give the best return, given that people buy trucks, especially 4WD vehicles, that are essentially boulevard queens. A boost in in-town gas mileage would be great, from my point of view.

        It’s not like you buy a pickup for its raw performance potential.

        One thing about the comments from the article that’s scary is the idea that roads should be paid for with income taxes.


      2. The Prius gets 50 MPG City and Highway.

        That means a Prius pays 0.368 cents per mile of road used (to the Feds).

        Just under 4 mills! Such a deal!

      3. It is perfectly allright that users of more fuel-efficient cars should pay lower taxes than users of gas guzzlers. The gas guzzler generates more emissions and wastes more energy. And someone choosing to use a vehicle consuming more fuel is choosing to spend more on fuel to start with.

      4. All well and good, but the Prius owner is using almost as many other resources in the form of the automobile itself.
        Raising a tax on “resource use in construction” of autos would certainly begin to wean North Americans from their autophilia.

  9. Should be pointed out that the ad above was filmed at Alexanderplatz in Berlin.

    The station is interesting in that part of it was sealed off from 1961 to 1990 because it was the part of the complex where the current U8 line passed. U8 began and ended in the Western Sectors of Berlin, but travelled under East Berlin passing many “Geisterbahnhofe”, including its platforms at Alexanderplatz.

    There were many in the East, frequent users of Alexanderplatz, who had not known or remembered that U8 passed through their part of Berlin, and so there were apparently many shocked faces when false walls at Alexanderplatz were merely removed to reveal another connection possibility.


  10. Transit could be free, spotless, private, and individualized so that it picked everyone up at their home and dropped them off where they wanted to go, and many Americans would still be loathe to use it.

    That’s because they’ve been brainwashed into this stupid idea that a car reflects your identity. The sad thing is that many lower middle-class people and immigrants are particularly vulnerable to this mythology, and hence tied to expensive car payments.

    1. There’s a percentage of people who will drive everywhere no matter what. I’ve had roommates like this, and it irks me when they’re immigrants from countries that have a lower percentage of drivers. We have enough problems with our own people being so car-happy, without immigrants doing it too.

      But there’s another percentage (maybe the same, maybe higher) who are driving only because transit is so bad. People who can drive to work in fifteen minutes but it would take an hour or two on transit. Sometimes it’s because they live or work in a transit-unfriendly location; other times it’s just because our geography is so decentralized that some kinds of trips just get left out.

      1. “Sometimes it’s because they live or work in a transit-unfriendly location; other times it’s just because our geography is so decentralized that some kinds of trips just get left out.”

        I wish it was just those types of circumstances.

        But you’ve forgotten all of the people who live in major urban locales, work in major urban locales, spend most of their recreational time taking advantage of the “city” parts of the city, and whose trips still would take 60-90 minutes on Metro vs 10-15 in a car.

        Until Metro recognizes that, yes, this is a problem, and really works to correct routing/scheduling/boarding/payment/assorted attitudinal efficiency issues, expect all of those people to keep driving.

      2. P.S. I’m one of those people. I don’t own a car because I’m an East Coast urbanite and I stubbornly refuse to own a car. But make no mistake: nearly every 60-to-90-minute trip I make on Metro would be 10-to-15 minutes in a car (even though I spend 99% of my time in the city’s denser locales).

        If I were less stubborn, and if I were more deferential to the value of my time and to the avoidance of the stress that Metro exacerbates, I should most definitely be owning and driving an automobile.

  11. I’ve been here in San Francisco all weekend for the 4th. San Francisco is a town awash in publc transit. So far, I’ve taken the classic trolley on the Embarcadero and also a bus from the finan cial district to Haight Ashbury. The trolley was very overcrowded and I had to miss one or two because it was packed. The bus was very workable and several short stories could be written about the clientele getting on and off along Market.
    However, what fascinated me is that with the panoply of cable cars, buses, trolleys, trains and pedicabs, that when I went to the Fourth of July celebration at Pier 39, it took something like 3 hours for all the traffic to clear out! So, in this city with an intricate web of transportation, people still crowd into their cars and gum up the streets. Here, in Eco-Central…where, according to South Park my son tells me, they even enjoy the smell of their own farts…they are so superior!

    What does that say to planners who intend to spend more and more and more to alliviate traffic or to “make us carfree”! Looks like it ain’t going to happen…at least according to what I see here…

    1. The Bay Area is in a larger class than Seattle. It’s a mega-metropolis and further along the road of directing growth than Seattle, because of BART. San Francisco has its ‘Old School’ capitalist speculator developers who want to squeeze every penny out of Market Street. They support a 2nd Trans-bay Tube; bring the populace living elsewhere in so their wallets may be emptied. Even better if they drive in.

      1. Downtown also has more bums, homeless and psychotics…enough to make Belltown look like amateur hour in the crazies department.

        Coming back from Stanford yesterday and entering downtown on 6th, as the sun sets the streets come alive, similar to the the cast of Thriller emerging from the shadows…shouting, screaming and pushing shopping carts!

      2. 6th is the so-called “South ‘Loin” and is arguably an even worse pitch for downtown SF than the regular ‘Loin is. Taken together, the two ‘Loins are a fascinating anomaly in an otherwise “good density” city, especially the way their unseemly activity fails to leech out of their tight boundaries — a “ghetto” in the most archaic sense.

        It has been argued that the police take a consciously hands-off approach to the area so that they don’t inadvertently relocate the drug trade and its corollary violence elsewhere. But that kind of screws the area itself.

    2. San Francisco has a plethora of transit options, but many people still drive evenings and weekends even if a bus route goes the same way (e.g., on Mission Street). So even high transit penetration is not enough to take the “Americanness” out of a city. I’ve seen this in Chicago too. New York seems to be the only city where the majority don’t have cars and will take transit (or in NY, taxis) to off-hours events.

  12. i would be very interested to see data or a graph showing transit ridership over a long period of time. how many rides a day or yearly were taken on transit in the early 20th century, mid 20th century, late 20th century. i’d be interested in seeing seattle’s but also cities like tacoma. it would be some interesting info to look at. is current ridership the highest its ever been? half of what it was 80 years ago? less? it would be interesting to see the drop off in the mid century and the gradual rise in recent decades.

    1. There are some interesting morsels of information and an extensive bibliography at


      Happy digging – My impression is that in general transit use peaked at the end of WWi and fell off through the 1920s and 1930s only to soar during WWII and then fall for the next 50+ years. Specific cities and metropolitan areas may well have different stories.

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