This is an open thread.

67 Replies to “News Roundup: Lives Quietly Saved”

  1. I must laugh at the Cascade Bicycle Club and City-o-Redmond. Is there any importance anymore on preserving a rail corridor? Why do we have to go from rail -> trail -> rail? Once its a trail, the rails will most likely never return.

    “David Hiller, advocacy director of the Cascade Bicycle Club, said GNP’s plans “pull the rug out from under everyone.” While the railroad hopes to make a profit, he said, “The reason we were all pushing for protection of that corridor was to support a public use and for a public benefit.”

    AKA make it a bike trail. From what I remember, the goal was to protect the RAIL corridor for RAIL use with a trail as a future possibility. That’s why tax money was spent on it. Keeping trucks and cars off the road seems like a great public use to me. Does anyone realize the importance of rail anymore?

    1. The really silly part about making the Redmond spur into a bike trail is that there’s a fine trail from Redmond to Woodinville just on the other side of the river.

    2. I was honestly amazed at the overwelming amount of Rail Positive replys to this article, usually the responders at the times seem (at least per my memory) go as far anti beter transit as possiable

      Lor Scara

      1. The anti-transit bias of the average Times commenter is trumped by their anti-bicycle bias — the enemy of my enemy is my friend, for today.

    3. Actually it is freight rail > trail > passenger rail. That is very different, mostly because people would like to go right to passenger rail but there simply isn’t money for it now.

      A more basic question is at what point does a rail corridor have more public benefit when used as a trail? Are two businesses worth it? Or if you maybe want to use the corridor for passenger rail in 10-20 years do you not temporarily convert it to a trail just so there isn’t a backlash when it is converted back?

    4. The article says

      building a trail next to an operating rail line is more complicated and expensive than tearing out the tracks and laying pavement.

      Does this strike anyone else as reversed? Case in point — the Interurban Trail in Kent which runs about 25 ft from an active rail line.

      1. We seem to have no problem with building sidewalks right next to busy roads, what’s the deal with tracks? It’s not like the train is going to swerve and hit you.

      2. Sidewalks are very expensive, though. But yeah we should go for the extra expense of building a trail and keep at least one track with sidings.

      3. I believe there is already a fine sidewalk on the west side of Willows road which is where all of the development is. There are also dandy bike lanes in each direction. That said, a woman was killed along that stretch of road when a car served across oncoming traffic and hit her. There is zero reason to build a bike trail along this stretch. The money the County doesn’t have should be used for a trail along the ROW from Woodinville to Wilburton. When they can fund that (10-20 years) then let’s talk about the Redmond Spur which already has a dandy bike trail the County can’t afford to maintain. One thing that really burns my bacon with the Cascade Bicycle PAC is they really only consider something a “bike trail” if it’s paved or at the very least buff smooth packed gravel and has zero mode share tolerance. The real bike advocacy group in the Puget Sound is Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. Their members actually go out and build bike trails instead of whining about it.

      4. In fact, the Interurban works just fine with uncontrolled at-grade crossings of switchyard tracks used by unmanned, remote-controlled trains. Not that I’d expect anyone to allow that on a new trail today.

  2. Re: Vashon

    Run the foot ferry to Fauntleroy, and increase service on the 54 (and later the Line C, so it really *is* RapidRide). Also, increase runs on the Vashon Island lines during commuter hours, so people don’t drive to the ferry dock.

    Then, lower the foot ferry fare, so people have an incentive to not bring their cars across the water.

    1. But the foot ferry from Vashon to Colman Dock is such an incredible time savings over going to Fauntleroy then getting on the 54. They should just have the Vashon Foot Ferry start at Southworth, stop at Vashon, then head straight Downtown, and reduce runs on the car ferry.

  3. ORCA:

    I absolutely agree. ORCA is very well done, and even the website does almost anything I would want. It’s especially good if you have to supply vouchers to get a transit rebate from an employer.

  4. SR167:

    This is a case of reality not jiving with the dreams of planners.

    SR167 desperately needs to be expanded. Taking away a lane represents people using a political ideology (“I hate cars…blah, blah”) over accepting that this is vital and successful highway in South King County. I would want 4 lanes in either direction and then, maybe, use one of those for an HOV. The recent addition of a lane from I-405 to the first southbound exit on 167 has worked wonders.

    Sometimes I think (put on tinfoil hat) that planners in Olympia actively sabotage highways or build really incompetent designs to force people into voting for mass transit as a “relief”…or maybe it’s just incompetence in general!

    Anyone who takes the time to visit 167 (or who, like me, use it all the time) will note that this is a very important highway. Taking away a lane for a little used HOV is a gross injustice to the residents by a foreign power (Olympia). In addition, they should cap the exit at the very end that lets out to Rainier. This is where the highway goes to a street. The traffic light backs up traffic and stalls people just trying to exit to I-405 south and north! That is probably more responsible for traffic delays than any thing!

    We need to get some rational car and transit friendly people working at WADOT so that car/train/bus — people pick the best system for the density and the neighborhood. Remove the ideologues and bring in the engineers!

    1. Converting lanes to HOV is not about taking away a lane; it makes more effective use of the lane if it encourages people to rideshare. But the lanes on SR167 are HOT lanes, so they can also be used by SOVs (anyone who gets the transponder anyway). It’s a compromise that can get the usage up compared to HOV alone. People who want the faster travel can double up, taking a vehicle out of the general purpose lanes. Or they can pay for it…

      The recent widening southbound from south of I-405 shows the way a highway expansion should be done. Find the chokepoints and address them. Adding a full lane for the length of the highway would be a waste of money.

      1. The number of vehicles in the HOV is miniscule.

        Only a handful of people use them.

        That means, you are left with a two lane highway.

        The right lane is subject to exiting and entrances.

        That means there is only one “thru lane” where a non-HOV vehicle can ride past several exits.

        Saying “you could take the HOV” is ridiculous. The HOV should only be there as an additional lane, like a BRT or a transit way.

        167 needs three full (non-HOV) lanes. It has the traffic and the potential to serve the region well.

      2. Well, then, if there’s demand for the wasteful single-occupant-car highway, but not for carpooling (!), let the people in the region pay for their gold-plated highway. It’s certainly not of any value to the state or the nation, and should be paid for by local county tax dollars. Or perhaps tolls.

        A two-lane-each-way highway is quite sufficient for *all* single-occupant-vehicle traffic purposes. If that’s full, it’s inefficient to put in more subsidies for SOVs, because you will be able to fill up HOV lanes, toll roads, railroads, et cetera.

      3. That is the attitude that I think causes a lot of animosity against transit advocates.
        I Think a good city needs good Transit AND Roads. No city can Soar without having both in a state of good repair and capable of moving people efficiently.

        IMO Metro Area Freeways towards the center in our cities should be no narrower than 3 GP lanes each direction.

        if the 16 lane D-Rex (Dan Ryan Expressway) didnt exist surrounding the CTA Red line and next to the CTA Green line, Metra Rock Island District, and Metra Southwest Service, those lines would not be able to handle the traffic

        Likewise with the north end of the line, Lake Shore Drive(8 lanes) and the Kennedy(10 lanes) make the red line not JAMMED on that side, well, it is jammed, and so are the freeways, but things would be impossible without the freeways.

        maybe 167 isnt in such a giant city, but it also doesn’t have a full-metro shadow to it (and isn’t about to get one :( ) It has but a lonely commuter line that Sound Transit refuses to truly make useful. (It is useful, but it is soooo minimal…) So, at any rate, opening the last lane of 167 to all traffic and extending it southward would do the Green/White River Valley a world of good and help the valley stay viable for business and life. ( It’s already a developed area, so might as well serve it and push it to be denser)

    2. Seriously? SOV’s have the ability to pay to use HOV lanes, and so few of them do that the project loses money. From that you jump to the conclusion that we should have given them more lanes for free? If a SOV driver on 167’s time isn’t worth $1, why should I, as a tax payer that uses that road perhaps a dozen times a year, pay money to save them time? Why should we subsidize this highway expansion to the tune of hundreds of dollars to every dollar this SOV driver didn’t want to spend (assuming signs and some RFID readers are hundreds of times cheaper than expanding the entire highway)?

      I really don’t understand how your mind works [John].

      1. Every vehicle already pays for the road for by taxes.

        Letting a single vehicle use an HOV for so small an amount effectively short changes all the other drivers.

        Think of it this way. You and 3 buddies pay equal shares for a 3-bedroom house. Each pays $100,000 for the house. Then someone comes up with a rule. Whoever puts $1 in the cookie jar in the living room, gets to use it exclusively.

        So, you are taking a resource that is a significant fraction of the $300,000 you collectively paid for the house, and offering it at a fantastic discount for the one person who wants to use it.

        A paid HOT lane or any kind of HOV lane is regressive and unfair to the general taxpayer.

      2. Your analogy is off the mark. If each roommate put $1 (or $9 on a high traffic day) in the cookie jar, all of them could use the living room.

      3. I agree that 167 needs more general purpose lanes. and the reason people don’t use the HOT Lanes is because the stress associated with the limited access merging is ridiculous and not worth paying and reduced travel times. I realize it is necessary for it to work properly, but, its crap.

        167 is at a standstill for hours from at least willis to 18 Northbound in the morning, and Kent to Puyallup in the evening Southbound.

        I think adding a lane north all the way from say pacific to Renton would be nice, and adding a lane south from 18 to puyallup would greatly clear things up.

        I used to reverse commute by car to school and watch all the poor suckers in rush hour traffic go nowhere while I zipped by in the other direction. I also noticed how Empty the HOT Lanes always are, maybe one car every 300-600 feet…. you can’t possibly tell me it is carrying more people than a general lane at that point, and is thus not justified, because it truly provides no benefit. It effectively reduces capacity, and it’s been HOV for years, so clearly it has had its time to settle and adjust and it straight up is not working.

        Come to think of it, often the bottle neck is where the HOT lanes end going south. or, one of them.
        (Southbound) Traffic stops from 18 to a little north of 15th and then is clear and it is stopped from the end of the SB HOT Lane on north, clearing right where everyone can use the three existing lanes (till of course it becomes two again).

        so, get rid of HOT lanes, and just make the freeway 3 lanes end to end and I think 90% of congestion would be gone.

        Obviously it would cause more people to use the freeway and congestion would come back in a year or two, but think of how many people you could make happy by just doing one logical step. 100,000 people would regain faith in the DOT very quickly.

      4. Why is there limited access merging?

        “Diamond” lanes for carpools only exist quite effectively *without* limited access merging in many places, not least Washington, DC.

      5. It’s because of the HOT lanes. The detection equipment for determining if a car is entering the HOT lane is at widely separated locations.

      6. “Every vehicle already pays for the road for by taxes.”

        That would be great if vehicle taxes actually covered the cost of roads.

        We could get rid of HOT lane tolling and many other planned tolls if we just increased the gas tax enough to actually cover the cost of roads.

        Until then, with general fund budgets under huge financial pressure, tolling motorists is going to remain more feasible than increasing general fund subsidies for motorists.

      7. If you are going to toll, Toll all lanes, don’t Toll one lane at a time. Tolling one lane at a time makes access very difficult to that lane, and adds extra complications to freeway driving. HOT lane tolling thus far is not working, as noted by the article above… Maybe it needs more time, but… it really doesn’t make sense, at least not on 167.

        Personally I think testing it on 167 was a STUPID Idea. IT would make much more sense to test that on the bridges, or 405 where people actually use the HOV lane, and I would think there would be a much higher usage of HOT lanes if placed there.

      8. The point of the HOT lane is to increase the usage of an underused HOV lane. If the HOV lanes already have sufficient patronage, keep it reserved for HOV. If the HOV lane gets overcrowded, increase the occupancy requirement and potentially extend the hours of operation.

        It is true that the limited entrances on the 167 HOT lanes do limit somewhat how much it can be used, but it also limits the temptation of drivers to use the HOV/HOT lane until just before an exit, then crossing multiple lanes of traffic. It requires some planning ahead, but a daily user of the road should be able to figure it out.

      9. Its easy to figure out, sure, its not easy to drive in, I am an exceptionally aggressive driver, and I despise that lane because usually when I get to my exit (from the HOT Lanes) there is a fairly solid line of cars in the left GP lane so it is very difficult to merge without slowing down considerably or speeding up considerably, and then I get in other people’s way or am cutting them off. Ordinarily I have few issues with doing these maneuvers, as I can stay out of people’s way in normal conditions, except the HOT lane requires me to get in someone’s way no matter how I do it (unless there are extraordinarily low volumes). I don’t have time to find a place when I get to the exit if I don’t find one quickly im stuck in the lane… etc. I think you get the picture. And I honestly think traffic on 167 could be solved by that becoming a GP Lane, so why on earth not? (especially since it is VERY Underutilized, even as HOT. )

      10. If you only drive that highway a dozen times a year, you are not paying much gas tax towards that highway.

      11. I didn’t realize the gas taxes you pay only go to the roads you use! Would you like to explain how that works.

      12. You pay less gas tax the fewer miles you drive. What difference does it make which highways YOUR gas tax goes to? The more you drive, the more you pay. The less you drive, the less you pay. If the gas tax you pay goes to a highway you don’t use, then someone else’s gas tax is going to a highway that you do use. It all evens out.

      13. You’re the one that said, “If you only drive that highway a dozen times a year, you are not paying much gas tax towards that highway.” Inferring that somehow the gas tax a person pays is directed towards highways that they drive on. It was your statement, not mine, I thought you’d be able to explain it.

  5. Two points from Lindblom’s article:

    “Metro has the nation’s seventh-highest bus ridership and the fastest ridership growth in the past decade.”

    This blog recently asked the question, how can Metro increase bus ridership? Metro has the 7th-highest bus ridership in the nation, and the fastest ridership growth in the past decade. It does not sound like Metro needs to do anything to increase ridership — Metro buses are extremely popular as they are, as evidenced by those two facts. To increase ridership, what is needed is to increase hours of service, which takes money.

    Secondly, the highest hourly pay of about $28.47/hour must apply to Link operators, since Metro drivers are the Link operators. Unfortunately, articles on Metro drivers’ pay never tell us what the benefits add up to, but I will just use a nice round number of $40/hour as wages plus benefits for Link operators.

    Currently, with 2-car trains, this would come to $20/hour for operator cost per Link car. With 4-car trains, operator cost would be $10/hour per Link car — a savings of $10/hour per car.

    Since the 2010 budget projects the operationg cost of Link cars to be $348/hour (it was actually $399/hr in 2009), a savings of $10/hour in operators’ cost represents only a 3% reduction in operating cost due to lower driver cost from having one operator for every 4 cars instead of one operator for every 2 cars.

    This is why I have been saying that there will be very little operating cost reduction due to operator cost by going to 4-car trains from 2-car trains in the future. There may be other, more-significant savings from doing this, but operator cost is not a large part of Link’s total operating cost.

    1. Maybe in the future, but the stub tunnel isn’t long enough for four-car trains yet. Demand’s going to increase once Link runs north and east, too.

    2. I think you’re simplifying things a bit too much regarding operating costs. I’d guess running one four-car train is more than just 3% cheaper than running two two-car trains for less obvious reasons such as scheduling reasons and operations support staff.

      However, the argument for four-car trains isn’t just about reducing operation costs, it’s also that demand will eventually necessitate these longer trains. If demand does not require four-car trains, then we shouldn’t run them just because. If we had to choose between a four-car train every 15 minutes and a two-car train every 7.5 minutes, it would be worth erring toward frequency. I don’t think we’ll have a choice in the matter as ridership is projected to be very high once U-Link reaches its base ridership.

      Finally, the metric of “operations cost per train” doesn’t mean much. “Operations costs per passenger” or “costs per passenger-mile” are measurements that illustrate the low marginal cost of providing service to new riders, and allow for better comparisons to bus service and even roadways.

    3. Just one point. We have the 7th highest bus ridership because that is all we have had up till a year ago.

    4. Adam: “We have the 7th highest bus ridership because that is all we have had up till a year ago.”

      Yes, and Metro got an award around 1990 for being the best-used and most comprehensive bus-only system in the US. I.e., compared to other bus-only cities. If you think of all the cities with better transit, they were all rail+bus.

      Norman: “It does not sound like Metro needs to do anything to increase ridership — Metro buses are extremely popular as they are, as evidenced by those two facts. To increase ridership, what is needed is to increase hours of service, which takes money.”

      Yes to the second part. If we had San Francisco level of service, we’d have San Francisco ridership.

      (Oh, by the way, since you’re negative on rail and (I think) believe that buses can completely replace it, San Francisco has rail too, and that pushes their ridership through the roof in a way buses only wouldn’t have done. And SF would have had two more E-W subways too (on Geary and Broadway) if the areas weren’t too built-up to fit them.)

      1. In SF, Geary is quite capable of having a subway, it would just be very expensive, so they keep putting it off. :-P

  6. I am glad that an agreement was reached that will allow the WA DOT to start spending money to improve intercity rail. From the state’s DOT ARRA website, these are the projects listed that will be affected:

    1. Tacoma – D to M Street Connection
    2. Tacoma – Point Defiance Bypass
    3. Vancouver – Yard Bypass Track
    4. Cascades Corridor Reliability Upgrades – South
    5. Everett – Storage Track
    6. Amtrak Cascades New Train Set
    7. Kelso Martin’s Bluff – New Siding
    8. Kelso Martin’s Bluff – Toteff Siding Exention
    9. Kelso Martin’s Bluff – Kelso to Longview Junction
    10. Seattle – King Street Station Track Upgrades
    11. Advanced Signal System

    1. What are they doing to the tracks at KSS?

      Also are there any plans to connect KSS to IDS? Where would such a tunnel come out?

      1. I find it hard to explain the track rearrangement at King Street, largely because nobody has ever published diagrams of the “before” and “after”. :-P I get the impression that they’re rearranging switch locations *very* substantially, since the goal is to reduce conflicting movements among freight, active Sounder and Amtrak, and going-in-and-out-of-service Amtrak and Sounder.

  7. These “excursion” trains–are they gonna be steam or diseasel? Sounds like a silly or stupid question but I’d like to know. It would be nice if they were steam hauled.

    1. It would be like the Spirit of Washington, so diesel. I believe the ownoer of GNP operated the Spirit of Washington.

    2. GNP apparently has access to a Steam Loco owned by Tom Payne. I’m guessing this was the same one that was in large part responsible for the economic collapse of the venture in Tacoma; along with the vintage rail cars I believe he’s going to use. Supposedly though the high cost of restoration has already been covered (i.e. by investor’s loses in that venture).

  8. Mike Lindblom has an excellent survey:

    Driver wages make up about one-quarter of the agency’s $600 million annual spending. Based on 2010 salaries and workloads, each 1 percent increase for drivers would increase Metro’s labor costs by more than $1.4 million.

    Something’s wrong with that figure. The 2009 Year End Presentation to Regional Transit Committee reports 3,450,000 service hours operated. $150M in “wages” would be $43.48/hr. If that’s total cost of labor including benefits then I can see it but calling that “wages” is wrong.

    Looking at the budget (latest I find on the Metro site is still 2008) I honestly don’t know what figures he uses using to come up with “driver wages” being a quarter of the budget. 2,230.28 FTEs at $32.40/hr comes out to $150M (2080 hrs/yr). That still seems way high for wages. Perhaps he’s adding in wages for mechanics or other operations employees.

    1. Don’t drivers get paid for their time, even when they are not driving buses during “service hours”? For example, is deadheading considered “service hours”? When buses are “out of service” or “returning to base”, drivers are still getting paid for their time, bus those buses are not “in service”, are they?

      Drivers probably get paid for other hours when they are not even driving at all, but doing other tasks.

      1. Yes, deadheading is considered “service hours”. As far as I can tell there is no difference between service hours and platform hours. Revenue hours are when they are actually moving passengers. Yes, drivers get paid for break time; I’m not sure if the time a bus sitting at a layover is considered service hours or not. Perhaps that’s the subtle difference between service hours and platform hours but Metro seems to use them interchangeably in reports. There also has to be time “on the clock” at the beginning of a shift and at the end of a shift. You have inspection time and other things like getting your assignment and such. Perhaps these “on the clock” hours make short shift PT routes more expensive than they seem. If someone is only getting paid for 2.5 hours and it’s a split shift I can see where maybe 20-30% of their time isn’t driving. Add in that close to half of time they are driving are deadheading those “packed” commuter routes might actually be an expensive drag on the system. Hard to know give the way cost information is reported.

    1. Well, since few companies here design and build rail cars, it is likely to be more US built cars of European design like the Talgo’s instead of US designed and manufactured. Still, pushing for US designed and built cars could help grow that ability. Of course it may mean we get cars that aren’t as good until US manufacturers improve.

    2. The “Buy America” requirements are honestly probably a WTO violation, but more importantly they’re kind of stupid when we don’t have much of a rail industry any more (thanks to the government funding its competitors and allowing it to die for 100 years).

      That said, the clauses are invariably satisfied by a foreign company setting up a final-assembly plant in the US. No advanced, skilled technology jobs coming here, but by gum, the trains WILL be shipped from Europe and Japan as kits of parts and assembled here! Sigh.

      1. If we could get companies like Talgo, Siemens, Bombardier, CAF, etc. to start moving some of their manufacturing plants further up the supply chain to the US — rather than just the final assembly — it might kickstart some passenger train expertise here.

  9. I think they should paint all curbs the colors that the bus stops use.

    They paint curbs in general on main roads in the middle East and it is beautiful. I think they should do that here, and I think perhaps it would add some safety benefit in that the curbs would be bright and very very visible.
    (this would especially help on rainy nights, when curbs can be very hard to see)

    I know it costs money, but just look how awesome the curb looks in the article’s photo!!!!

      1. Paint them solid colors or a slightly different color scheme.

        perhaps choose Blue and Green for typical non-emergency/stop zone street space and leave metro to its colors and fire to its.

    1. The problem with increasing the conspicuity of curbs is that it reduces the relative conspicuity of other things, like pedestrians.

      Motorists should always drive with sufficient attention and care to avoid hitting a pedestrian, without forcing pedestrians to wear neon colors or carry flags.

      Past studies have shown that adding reflectorized lane markings leads many drivers to overdrive their headlights at night — they feel like they can see further because of the reflectors, but the reflectors do nothing to help drivers see pedestrians, deer, downed trees, potholes, or any of the other hazards drivers should be going slow enough to see, even on a rainy night.

      If you want curbs painted for aesthetics, paint them dark, less-consicuous colors so that drivers have to actually pay attention to their driving.

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