Photo by Zach

“The Metro everyone wishes they had.  It lives in Madrid.”

This is an open thread.

94 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Spanish Bragging Rights”

  1. The Madrid Metro is a metro system serving the city of Madrid, capital of Spain. The system is the sixth longest metro in the world after London, New York, Moscow, Seoul and Shanghai, though Madrid is approximately the fiftieth most populous metropolitan area in the world. Its fast growth in the last 20 years has also put it among the fastest growing networks in the world, rivaled by the Shanghai Metro or the Beijing Subway.

    Well, that really sounds like it.

  2. The Madrid metro really is stunning. I was absolutely surprised by clean, new train cars, expansive and safe stations, and a very effective network.

    1. Of course Spain having been a free country only since 1976 and the trillions of EU subsidies and PIIGS-class “loans” does help.

      1. Seattle’s been in a free country its whole history- well, for white people, at least- and we’re just barely getting a subway. What’s our excuse?

        Mark Dublin

      2. Seattle has suffered the whole Robert Moses/Lacey V. Murrow/George Lightfoot/Kemper Sr.-inspired “Move More Cars” era of the 1940’s to 1980’s.

        Fascist Spain couldn’t afford to do that.

        By the time Franco was really dead and Spain had joined what is now the EU, the thinking about urban transportation had changed dramatically, especially in Europe. Spain has thus gotten a ton of cash from Brussels since 1986 although it has come with strings attached vis-a-vis its use. While Spain has developed a motorway network like ours, it for the most part does not cut through city centers and most importantly…

        …IT MOSTLY AIN’T FREE!!!

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_autopistas_and_autov%C3%ADas_in_Spain

    1. From the ST 2009 financial report linked to above:

      “Central Link light rail began revenue operations in July of 2009. Actual ridership for 2009 totaled 2.5 million, with an average fare per boarding of $0.98, excluding free service boardings.”

      How do you interpert this? Are the “free service boardings” included in the ridership numbers ST puts out every month? Or not? It sounds like ST includes these “free service boardings” when calculating “actual ridership”, but excludes them when calculating fare per boarding.

      There are a significant number of Link boardings per weekday by fare collectors, security personnel, and other ST employees. There are also a lot of Metro bus drivers who ride Link trains to and from the bus base by Stadium station. In fact, I would say that more than half of all Link riders who use Stadium station — other than to and from events at Safeco Field — are Metro bus drivers. These Metro bus drivers do not pay to ride Link.

      I also have seen Link trains change operators at Stadium station, during normal stops, in which case the automatic counters on Link would consider these operators normal “boardings,” as if they were actual paying customers.

      In short, how many of the weekday “boardings” on Link are actually ST employees (fare checkers, e.g.), other security personnel, Metro bus drivers, and other people who are not paying customers?

      1. Anyone who thinks that ridership on Link is important should care about exactly who is being counted as “riders”, and who isn’t. Are fare checkers really “riders” on Link trains, or not? Are they being counted as “riders”, or not? There are probably well over 500 boardings per day by fare checkers. There are hundreds more boardings per day by security personnel and other ST employees. Are they all being counted as weekday “boardings”, or not?

      2. I have never seen any definitive answer as to whether ot not fare checkers or other ST employees and security personnel are being counted in ST’s “weekday boardings” or not. Are you claiming to know the answer to that? If so, why not just give us the answer here, even if you have already posted in in prior threads?

      3. Accurately counting passengers. With over 25 light rail systems in the United States and many operating for decades you’d think they figured that out by now.

      4. I don’t know the answer. Since you’re so curious, why don’t you ask them yourself and share it with us? Oh wait, you refuse to contact Sound Transit unless they pay you.

      5. In July of 2009 the first two days of service were free, that’s what the “free service boardings” is referring to. Duh.

      6. Duh, indeed. How could we forget about those two days. Link’s first anniversary is less than a week away!

    2. It is likely that Sound Transit is not getting the money it should.

      Sound Transit cannot receive its share of revenue from people with monthly passes if they don’t tap their card. That’s why since last month we’ve been hearing very frequent messages reminding people to tap their ORCA cards. Fare inspectors are also reminding passengers. I think they’ve probably been too lenient on people with passes not tapping their cards and the result is much reduced revenue for Sound Transit.

      1. How does enforcing people who already paid for their pass to tap on and tap off hurt ridership? I’m not talking about intentional fare evaders. In fact, not tapping the card means less ridership and journey info for Sound Transit to analyze.

      2. Part of the problem is the way fare is shared when people transfer between Link and buses. I heard from an operator that it is split (bringing into question whether the fare listed for buses is pre-split and the fare listed for Link is post-split). I haven’t confirmed that with official sources.

        It may be that since there are not that many transfers between Link and ST buses, the Metro bus fare average will end up significantly below that of ST express buses.

        Also, Tacoma Link is free, so the Link ridership figure includes more like a million free boardings for last year.

        Regardless, Central Link is on track to blow past 5 million boardings per year before the year is over, putting the two Link systems together at roughly 50% the number of boardings as all 24 ST Express bus routes combined. In all likelihood, when U-Link opens, the line will pass the combination of all ST Express routes combined in boardings.

  3. So what happens if you are a monthly pass holder and forget (or deliberately choose to) tap in/out and you are asked by a fare enforcer to show your fare?

    1. You don’t have proof of payment and therefore are subject to a citation and $124 fine. They take you off the train to do that. Or they give you a warning and make you tap your card.

      1. I saw this exact thing happen not long ago. A guy with a pass, who said he was a regular rider, was checked for fare, and the fare checker said he did not tap his pass. The passenger said the machine that he tried to tap in on was not working. The fare checker wasn’t buying that. The passenger refused to get off the train, and the fare checker threatened to call the police to come arrest him. Needless to say, the passenger was royally ticked off, but he did get off at the next stop.

        It was an uncomfortable scene for everyone on that Link car, especailly since that passenger was not shy about letting everyong on the car know how upset he was with how he was being treated.

      2. Some of the readers at stations have problems with freezing where it doesn’t respond for 1-2 minutes. This is a known problem that’s really annoying.

      3. [This didn’t post the first time; the second time it posted in the wrong place. Sorry for the duplication.]

        Just yesterday, I was at Pioneer Sq Station and didn’t know if I’d be taking Link or a busway bus to SoDo. The train came first, but didn’t give me the time to run upstairs and tag in.

        So at International District, I ran off the train to tag in on one of the platform-level readers they have there. It was a dead reader — and I realized afterward that one’s been dead for weeks — and I definitely didn’t have time to run to another one and still make it back on the train.

        So I had to ride the next to stops to SoDo (where there are frequently checkers) without my card tagged it.

        People don’t always have time to make it to another reader. The dead-reader thing should happen precisely never. (And WTF is with having no platform-level readers at Pioneer Sq and University Street?)

      4. I think the platform-level readers were intended for people transferring between bus and rail.

        Every platform has at least two readers per entrance. I experienced frozen readers at Westlake a month ago. One by the escalator was frozen and the other by the stair wasn’t. Sound Transit knows of the problem and the vendor is working on a fix.

      5. Or d.p., instead of all that running around you could have just waited five minutes for the next bus.

      6. I went to four readers at Westlake when I got off link on saturday and all of them were dead for both my sister and I, so I just gave up and walked off. What is one really supposed to do in such a situation?

      7. Bob… Weekend. Seattle.

        5 minutes is not particularly likely, even with multiple routes, even when you kind of expect it to be.

      8. Yep, experienced the same thing at the ID station yesterday getting off the train before the Sounders game. THREE of the machines showed as if they were working fine, but never responded to a tap. It wasn’t untilI tried the fourth machine did it work. Ridiculous.

        I’m still uncertain what’s supposed to happen in the tunnel when you have a choice between Link and a bus. If you tap in at the top of the stairs intending to take LR, but a bus is next, what happens when you tap on the bus?

      9. It makes sense for a system designer to think that platform-level readers are only necessary for people transferring between bus and train (which is definitely a common use case), but actual existing passenger use of the system also involves people being willing to take either a bus or a train, whichever comes first. When there’s a conflict between the design of the system and the actual use of the system, the design should if at all possible shift to accommodate the users, rather than the other way around.

    2. Or from Sound Transit’s RIDE newsletter Summer 2010 edition:

      Tap it!

      If you have an ORCA card, it’s important that you use it correctly to pay for your ride.

      Like a debit card, funds on your ORCA card are in an account until you spend them. Tapping your ORCA card sends payment to Sound Transit to help pay for train and bus service.

      For Sounder or Link train rides, tap your ORCA card at the yellow ORCA card reader on the station platform before you board. Tap again when you reach your destination to deduct the correct fare.

      On ST Express buses, tap your ORCA card at the card reader near the front door. Depending on the time and direction of your trip, the driver will tell you whether to tap as you enter or leave the bus.

      You must tap your ORCA card every time you ride, even if your card was issued by your employer – in many cases, replacing a former PugetPass. Failure to tap your ORCA card may result in a $124 fine. Be prepared to show your ORCA card to a fare inspector if asked.

      1. Wow, the public materials on LINK are still pretty bad. I am only an occasional rider, but do use a monthly pass, and this posting is the first time I was ever aware that I had to tap in and out with my pass. It’s a monthly pass, my ride is “free” to me! It seems totally counter-intuitive that I would have to tap it. I just rode today, I’m glad no one checked my fare (actually, I have yet to see a checker, even though I am legal…or at least I thought I was).

        Is this in the small print somewhere in the station and I just missed it? I think expecting riders to check out the newsletter seems unrealistic.

      2. Really? When I got my ORCA card, on the very first day it came out, it came in a paper sleeve with instructions on how to use it. The large How to Use ORCA posters in the tunnel stations tell you to tap your card. All the literature clearly tell you to tap the card to pay your fare. Nowhere does it say you don’t need to tap if you have a pass. You don’t just board the bus without tapping your card, do you? Why should it be any different when riding the train?

        I don’t mean to be harsh but obviously a lot of people didn’t get the message. I think it’s because of old habits where people just flash the pass and they’re good but the system no longer works that way. They now play messages at stations very frequently telling ORCA card users to tap on and tap off when using Link light rail.

        ST doesn’t get any money from your pass if you don’t tap it. So if you ride Metro and ST, but you don’t tap in on Link and only on Metro, Metro will get all the money and ST none.

        If Link had faregates you’d be forced to tap your card even if you had a pass.

  4. I’ve ridden the Madrid metro system, and I remember it being clean, modern and with nice wide trains and clear signage and stations.

    They also have the HSR that everyone wishes they had. Domestic air travel is down something like 20 percent there because of it’s success.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVE

    Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) is a service of high-speed trains operating at speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph) on dedicated track in Spain. The name is literally translated from Spanish as “Spanish High Speed”, but also a play on the word ave, meaning “bird”.

  5. I’ve ridden the madrid metro as well, very very clean, great headways and massive stations. Only downsides are the stairs of flights that you have to climb to get out due to madrids hills, one time I counted six flights. Also the pick pockets aren’t exactly something I wish we had either.

  6. Just yesterday, I was at Pioneer Sq Station and didn’t know if I’d be taking Link or a busway bus to SoDo. The train came first, but didn’t give me the time to run upstairs and tag in.

    So at International District, I ran off the train to tag in on one of the platform-level readers they have there. It was a dead reader — and I realized afterward that one’s been dead for weeks — and I definitely didn’t have time to run to another one and still make it back on the train.

    So I had to ride the next to stops to SoDo (where there are frequently checkers) without my card tagged it.

    People don’t always have time to make it to another reader. The dead-reader thing should happen precisely never. (And WTF is with having no platform-level readers at Pioneer Sq and University Street?)

    1. Sometimes people respond better to “please” and “thanks” than to profanity. I know I do.

    2. There are NO readers at the platform level at University station. I actually had gone downstairs without registering where the readers where. Just a perfect miss I guess. I had to dash back upstairs to tap but then I had to wait for the next train.

      Quite frankly, i think they should put ORCA readers on the trains as a courtesy to those who forgot. It would lower people’s stress level and raise the per passenger revenue rates.

      1. The problem with that is that the readers would have to know where the train is at all times. It would be easier to just put readers on the platforms at all stations, which is a no-brainer anyways.

      2. The train knows where it is, there are announcements saying which station it’s arriving at. That said, I’d rather see more readers on platforms at all stations than have them on the train.

        I can just imagine a bunch of people jumping up to tap in on an on-train reader when they see fare inspectors board. Hopefully fare evasion isn’t that common, though.

      3. Also, if there are readers on-board, I could see people standing by a reader and tapping it only if they see a fare checker come on board. Is this a potential problem for putting readers on buses like by the back door?

  7. Coming up on one year in operation next week, does anyone know the exact number of reported accidents that light rail trains were involved in? I believe the number is 9, but I could be wrong.

    Wasn’t ST counting on 1 accident every 12 days (just about 3 a month)? If the figure I quoted is correct (or close), we would still be far away from what ST predicted (some 30 accidents).

    Do we applaud the more courteous, educated Seattle drivers, the way the light rail system was designed or what? It appears that our system has proved a lot safer than two of the recent worst: Houston and Phoenix. Any ideas?

    1. Wow, that many accidents. That’s much too many. Why did they make such a poor assumption?

    2. That sounds about right to me. I think that the reason they were so off is because ST did a very good job of controlling left turns across the tracks.

    3. ST should be commended for buying train cars designed to minimize the impact of collisions, and prevent deaths. The suicidal, IPOD-distracted, and those seeking million-dollar civil judgements can finally be thwarted.

  8. On Friday, I went up to Vancouver by public transit (and a little bit of biking). It started with a quick bike ride from my house in Ravenna to I-5 & 45th, where I planned to catch the 510 at 7:37 in the morning. However, the 510 came with both of the spaces on its bike rack full, and so I couldn’t get on it. They really need to get the three-bike racks on every bus! I thought that meant that my whole trip was over, but then I realized that I could still have a chance by taking the 511 to Lynnwood, which came a few minutes later. On the 511, I checked a Community Transit guide which showed a 202 leaving Ash Way P&R a few minutes after my 511 and arriving at Everett Station just three minutes after my connection on Island Transit was supposed to leave. I found Island Transit’s phone number and called them and they were able to hold the bus until I came. Victory!
    It was thereafter an easy trip on the IT 412C to Camano Island, the IT 411C to Mount Vernon (where I saw that the local transit agency, Skat, allowed up to two bikes on the bus if the racks were full), the “County Connection” 80X to Bellingham, the WTA Green Line to Cordata Station, and the WTA 55 to Blaine to the border. I got off the bus just a couple blocks from the border and walked through the Peace Arch State Park to get to Customs, where the Canadian agent seemed flummoxed as to why I was taking this trip. I then got on my bike and went along the first turnoff from the highway then up a very steep hill to White Rock Centre, where I got on the first bus to any Skytrain Station, and ended up in Downtown Vancouver a mere 9 hours after leaving my house! It was a great adventure.
    I rode trains and my bike all around Vancouver for the weekend, and the main thing I came away with is that Seattle really needs one unified transit agency. I’ve often argued against it, but I realized that my arguments were actually just BS that can easily be overcome, and that the benefits of such a system would far, far outweigh the problems. Imagine having one zone-based fare structure for the entire region, having routes that went where it made sense to go rather that having to staying within the arbitrary political boundaries of a county, and, most importantly, making it easy for anyone in the region to go anywhere in the region on transit, without having to worry about transferring between agencies and not knowing how to ride other systems. It works so well in Vancouver, and in the many other places where it’s done. We really need to consider doing it here.

    1. Vancouver has one transit agency?

      I didn’t think so.

      West Vancouver Blue Bus is definitely a separate entity.
      CMBC is it’s own entity.
      SkyTrain Expo/Millenium and SkyTrain Canada Lines are run by seperate entities.

      Not sure about SeaBus.

      Am I wrong?

      Translink is an umbrella they use to coordinate fares and schedules, but is it really a unified transit agency?

      1. Some things may be physically operated by a separate company but for everything that actually matters to transit customers, it’s one agency.

      2. Thanks for the clarification. I wonder if it is the fear of losing one’s fiefdom that keeps Seattle the way it is. Perhaps an arrangement like Vancouver’s would allay some of those fears.

      3. They are subsidiaries.

        Also, was the 90X not running between Everett and Mount Vernon? That would have been quicker than making a transfer in Stanwood and possibly not required the 80X to wait.

      4. It’s not fun if you use I-5 the whole way. Plus, he surely did not want to miss a trip on Island Transit.

        ;-)

      5. Haha yeah Island Transit worked better with scheduling, was free, and made it so I didn’t have to sit around Mount Vernon for an extra hour or hour and a half.

    2. Governance. WHO DECIDES? That’s always the biggest hurdle.
      Appointed boards, like ST are seen as non-representative government, and actually resulted in Metro being merged with King Co. about 20 years ago due to a lawsuit.
      Elected commissions, with sole duties as transit commissioners, are seen as somewhat remote and the elections tend to be a ‘who cares’ deal, like the Port Commissions, but actually wield a lot of power. They tend to gravitate around and cater to special interests.
      PSRC is composed of elected officials from around the region and dole out federal dollars on a pretty much population formula, even though there’s a ton of criteria for ranking projects on strictly merit basis, so maybe that’s the best model to use.
      Regardless, there will be winners and losers in the process. I would imagine Seattle would have the biggest clout in forming alliances, and smaller cities would accept the scraps falling off the table – not much different from today.

      1. How is the ST board different from the PSRC? With the exception of WSDOT Secretary Hammond, it’s composed of elected officials with a geographic balance.

        Why is one non-representative, and the other the “best model”?

      2. Point well taken, so not a lot, except the three county executives have all the clout to appoint members for each county, except Paula. That’s significantly different than PSRC.

      3. This is an example of one of those arguments that I frequently made against it that is easily resolvable. I’m not a governance expert or anything but if we actually put our minds to making one regional agency happen, they could easily figure out a way to balance power that wouldn’t piss too many people off.

      4. If you could get Kitsap and Olympia to buy into the concept, then PSRC wouldn’t be a bad agency to govern ST and all the bus agencies. At least most of the cities would be represented. Of course the annual dollar amount the PSRC doles out is chump change compared to the transit budgets, so that’s a huge shift, and they would certainly retain local control over operations with maybe centralized dispatch.
        A good side benefit would be that Vision 2020, 2030, and now 2040 would be in sync with what actually happens, and you wouldn’t have huge ridership projection differences between ST and PSRC.

      5. Wow yeah. Imagine making it so that one ticket would get you on an ST (let’s just say ST ends up running it) bus from your home in Silverdale to the Bremerton Transporation Center, then on a high-speed Passenger-only ferry to Colman Dock, then on the Waterfront Streetcar to King Street Station, then on the Sounder to Olympia… It’d be like 14 zones but awesomely coordinated.
        And I think in general bring Olympia in at least as a partner with ST to get express service down there other than the kinda inconvenient 603 would be a good idea. Annexing the urbanized parts of Thurston County into the ST district in general would be incredible, allowing for Sounder to be extended to Lacey and Downtown Olympia and making it so that I wouldn’t have to leave over 2.5 hours to get back to Downtown Seattle from a meeting in Olympia.

      6. Why wouldn’t the bus just continue from Bremerton to Oly via the Narrows? It would save at least two hours of travel time and be a good $20 cheaper per ride.

    3. having routes that went where it made sense to go rather that having to staying within the arbitrary political boundaries of a county

      How many routes does Pierce Transit have that leave Pierce County?

      1. But I’m sure you will agree that the local buses crossing county lines in the Seattle area are definitely the exception rather than the rule. Buses from each county only cross county lines if it would be beneficial to the riders from their own county, rather than in order to serve people all along there.

    4. But wait, you used 5 separate transit agencies to make a pretty seamless trip across several counties and into a foreign country. Doesn’t that kind of show that we don’t really need one monster transit agency in order to have coordinated schedules and routes?

      1. My trip was very complicated to put together, it took nine hours from start to finish, it could have been derailed by late buses, and it almost got derailed because of the problems with the first bus, among other things. I did it because I am a huge transit nerd, but these issues would make 99.5% of America not want to take it. I’m not talking about having one regional transit agency so much for the benefit of us transit nerds as for the benefit of the vast majority of Americans who never take public transportation.

      2. It’s 9-12 hours just riding the bike. It’s a shame Metro won’t allow bikes inside when the bus is obviously empty. I’m glad to see other agencies are more rational about it. Maybe more buses configured like Swift is a better answer than replacing 2 bike with 3 bike racks. I can (and have) carried five bikes on racks with my van.

      3. And even fewer know that multiple combinations are possible. It takes 11 hours and $12 to go from Vancouver to Seattle via Whidbey Island, Port Townsend, and Bainbridge Island.

      4. Haha another awesome option. You could also go via Port Angeles and Victoria with the Black Ball ferry. I think I even wrote out an itinerary for that once.

      5. Zed has a partial point. The rural transit agencies have done a good job of coordinating their schedules. The urban transit agencies, not so much, but they’re getting better.

        I have a non-driving friend who moved to Mount Vernon but came back to Seattle to work. (She moved in with relatives after a bad divorce, but couldn’t find any housekeeping jobs in Mount Vernon.) She said she could get back to Mount Vernon as long as she left Seattle by late afternoon (5pm?). Of course she could only handle it for so long before she moved back to Seattle.

        But there has been zero marketing of statewide bus trips. A couple volunteers have put chain schedules on the web, but they’re not comprehensive or necessarily up to date. There should be a state-run transit website with all the schedules and connections in the state. (Maybe not every Puget Sound route, but at least the main intercity trunk routes: 510, 550, 554, 594, Link, 174, 358, Swift, 150, etc.)

        In Germany you can buy a 12-zone through ticket from Aachen to Liege, Belgium; which is a 3-hour trip on three local buses. The transit agencies could do this in Washington if they coordinate their fares. ORCA everywhere would be even more convenient.

    5. Good to know they allow bikes on board if the rack is full. Wait, I did see that when I made my trip between Mt Vernon and Bellingham but it was a BMX-type bike.

  9. Well folks, it’s true…the old drop ceiling at King Street Station IS GONE! I was in Chinatown for the summer festival this weekend with friends and decided to check it out for myself. There’s a lot of work to be done for sure, but at least the old, ugly eyesore from the 1960’s is a distant memory.

    Someone mentioned on a previous blog about the city having trouble finding money to pay for lighting improvements. Why can’t they use this new money from the grant they just won to pay for it? You all need to go down there and see what is happening, it gives me faith in Seattle transportation that things are being accomplished here.

    1. I think my first tour of the clock tower and a sneak peak at the old ceiling was in the mid 90’s as part of the 1st KSS renovation effort, which has pretty much been on-going ever since. I wonder how much FTE staff time by SDOT, WSDOT, other govt. entities and consultant firms has been expended in the process?
      Good to see the grand old building exposing herself.

    2. I went down there today and seeing that ceiling, even with the cords still hanging from it, just made me so happy that I couldn’t stop smiling. Something about the whole King Street Station restoration just gives me the warm fuzzies.

  10. 1. I got stuck for about 1 minute in the tunnel at both coming in Southbound at Pioneer Square and ID.

    2. I rode the LINK light rail for real (not just tunnel) for the first time when my son and I went to the Sounder’s game. We parked at Tukwila. I was very impressed with that station — it has the grandiose theme of railroading from the 19th century done in a modern way that I always like (the new L.I.R.R. Jamaica Station is another good example).

    The train itself had a somewhat playful feel to it…very Disneyesque. I felt I was not so much on a commuter train as on an adult rollercoaster. The Seussian Stations through South Seattle added to that feeling.

    Because of the Sounders game, the train acted as a Park n’ Ride Shuttle. It certainly saved me the up to $40 I’ve paid in the past for near by parking. Coming back it was jam packed…but I don’t think we left many at the Stadium Station.

    As far as the other agenda of developing South Seattle…didn’t see much of that at all the stations. However, I think that ferrying business people and the middle class sports fans through the area gave it a different feel. Maybe it makes people feel comfortable about the “inner city” and maybe the dwellers there feel connected with them coming through. That train just felt right.

    I can’t help by like LINK although the rationalist in my says “but but but it could just as well be a bus”. I wish there were a good reason for rail over bus that would satisfy that guy inside my head.

    On the Sounder this morning, I also thought, well, if Light Rail can go 60 mph as it seemed to be going when we paralleled traffic…what’s the point of heavy rail? Shouldn’t we just build an elevated along that route?

    Like anything complicated…there are more equations then unknowns to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld.

      1. It might be that the train by virtue of being something more solid or immoveable than a bus seems part transit; part building or structure.

        Like the Sounder. I like getting on the Sounder because it feels rock solid…even more so than LINK. I don’t feel the acceleration, or most of the curves (the switching is a little nerve racking).

        But also just the “thereness” of the train makes it something you can build around. That’s good and bad, but sometimes good.

    1. Tukwila-downtown trips are very popular, more so than I expected.

      The railcars and Rainier Valley stations are just normal modern light rail, so if you think that’s Disneyesque, I guess you think all light rail is Disneyesque. If you’re referring to the artwork at the stations, that’s due to the “1% for art” law, so it’s a regional thing. Did you see the playing cards in the Beacon Hill tunnel?

      The Rainier Valley routing separates those who are afraid to go through the valley from those who are not. Perhaps that’s the first step in lowering both real crime rates and suburban hysteria.

      South Seattle has clearly not developed much in Link’s first year, but check back after ten years. Also, Valleyites don’t love the train as much as Tukwila/Highline people do. Those are Link’s main challenges over the coming years (besides building out the ST2 stations).

      Sounder exists because taxpayers couldn’t resist leveraging the existing tracks. It would not have been built that way from scratch. Instead there would have been local-and-express Link going straight to Tacoma, without the wide detour to Auburn and Puyallup. It would go on 99 because that has the highest density and growth potential all along the route. (You remember what density is, right? Kent is an isolated pocket, Auburn is a has-been, and Puyallup is really far away.) Later, a supplemental loop to Kent, Auburn, and Puyallup might have been built.

      I don’t like huge double-decker heavy rail trains much. I just find light rail or subways more pleasant to ride in. But if we have heavy rail, I’d rather have it frequent than rare.

      As for “A bus could do it”, Jarrett of Human Transit points out an inconvenient truth about streetcars. Namely, if a streetcar travels the same speed as an existing bus and makes the same stops, its travel-time advantage is zero. The same applies to Link, although Link is properly compared to an express bus rather than a local bus. This means that the train’s advantages are in all its other benefits, not strictly the travel-time issue.

      Of course, one cannot truly put a bus on Link’s route and achieve the same speed because of traffic lights, hills, and traffic. But the bus fans would split it into two routes, reinstating the 194 and creating another route for Rainier Valley. We could have 7-10 minute headways on those routes, but it would take a lot of buses, and Metro/ST have been unwilling to do that anywhere except the downtown-UW corridor.

      But on another Link route, the 550 probably has similar speed and stops as Link will. So is Link useless there? It depends on how valuable you think an integrated rail network is, so that one can get from Lynnwood to Bellevue, or SeaTac to Bellevue, without leaving the rail network.

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