100 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Real Crosswalks”

  1. 4 Killed when Double-Decker Bus hits bridge in Syracuse NY: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/09/11/us/AP-US-Double-decker-Bus-Crash.html

    (Seattle Times headline writer wanted to title the article “Railroad Bridge crashes into bus, killing 4”)

    Slideshow here http://www.9wsyr.com/Photo.aspx?content_id=8170232e-d023-4c92-8bd2-0cc0c1f2e526
    Some video and article here http://www.9wsyr.com/news/local/story/Sheriffs-Department-releases-passenger-list/LiNwgSPQkkyL0gzAwfLlJg.cspx

    This was a scheduled Megabus route from Philadelphia to Toronto with scheduled stops in Syracuse and Buffalo. The news articles say the driver regularly drove the route but likely made a wrong turn, and that there were warning signs and lights and reflective paint on the bridge.

  2. I love that crosswalk because it pushes the cars further back from the corners.

    This limits the “right turn on red” cars from plowing into the pedestrians.

      1. I’m not seeing any accommodation for bicycles in the “ergonomics crosswalk”. Will they be expected to wait further back at the white line or should bike riders advance to the front of the crosswalk?

      2. Bike riders should never advance to the front of the crosswalk. They shouldn’t even be in the crosswalk with existing crosswalks. Bicycles are vehicles and should follow laws when operating on the road.

      3. I suspect the question refers to “bike boxes” that, where they’re installed, take up some of the same real estate as the extended edges of these crosswalks.

        Where they are used, the “bike box” generally puts bikes [i]between[/i] the motor-vehicle stop line and the crosswalk, rather than behind the stop line.

  3. New study by German military predicts 2010 is peak oil and economic crisis in 15-30 years, as oil becomes scarce. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/study-warns-of-perilous-oil-crisis/
    And http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,715138,00.html
    US military thinking along the same lines http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/11/peak-oil-production-supply

    Meanwhile, Seattle Metro wants to dismantle existing electric trolley system, and WSDOT to spend $4 billion on the 520 corridor and remove the Montlake Freeway station.

    1. LOL, when that happens, the new 520 can easily be used by bicycles, hikers, at that point, after a rush build job, light rail.

  4. Unless you put up a barrier I think a lot of people will walk straight across. And why not, what’s the improvement over just making the whole crosswalk wider. I think we should make a lot more use of all-way walk intersections and replace conventional crosswalks at intersections like 100th and NE 8th in Bellevue.

  5. Just a quick round of applause to Seattle Public Schools, KC Metro and Sound Transit. Orca cards were given to SPS students this week, and they are good for both buses and light rail. Students have their cards all year long and are able to have them replaced, just as a normal Orca card. It took them a year, but they finally got it sorted. Well done.

    1. Are these loaded with a youth pass?
      Do SPS otherwise provide transportation to/from school? Are these provided to all students, or just ones for which a school bus route is impractical?

      1. The SPS high school cards are loaded with a 75¢ PugetPass and an ST Train and Bus pass. They expire the summer after your graduation, and SPS says they’ll replace them for $5.

      2. Is this version of the youth fare pass just available to SPS students, or something that is available to the general public?

        (That is, the Metro pass only covers 75 cents, but the ST pass is all-inclusive.)

      3. All HS kids get them; previously they had bus passes. No yellow school bus is provided for HS students except APP kids. They get a morning ride, but that is only so the district can get the money from the state.

    2. Similar to the Bellevue School District. BSD gave students cards, but you can’t have them and a parking pass at the same time. In addition, replacement fees are $10 instead of $5. I’m not sure if they work on Link, but next time I’m in Seattle I’ll try.

      1. Not sure if Bellevue’s work, but the Mercer Island students ORCA passes won’t cover the 2 zone ride on 550 or 554 to Seattle. Bunch of MI students tried out their new ORCA passes on Bumpershoot weekend, and many were surprised when I explained to them how it worked and they are responsible for the extra $1 of the $1.75 2 zone fare.

  6. This brings up a really good question. That solid white line you see in the drawing just before the crosswalk? I see that around town but it seems to be a hit or miss sort of thing. In fact, along MLK Way’s light rail route, I don’t see it at all. Whenever I see the solid line, most cars don’t seem to cross over it into the crosswalk. However when it is not there, the drivers tend to encroach on the crosswalk. I wonder what determines when the solid, white paintstrip goes in or not?

    1. According to a Pedestrian Master Plan initial conditions report, in 2007(?) “There were no locations observed on multi-lane arterials where advanced stop lines were installed. Seattle is unique in having so few stop lines at intersections. In most other cities—for example Arlington, VA—stop lines are a standard part of signalized intersection design. It should be noted however, that Seattle plans to begin installing stop bars in summer 2008.” I think the transition from a no-stop-line city to a stop-line city accounts for most of the variability in stop line placement: it mostly probably depends on when street or crosswalk was last restriped. That said, the MUTCD seems to use a lot of ifs and shoulds in its description of stop line placement; near as I can tell, it’s entirely optional, though perhaps SDOT has some internal standards.

      I’m with you in thinking that stop lines are the important and effective ways of keeping drivers from encroaching on crosswalks, and I hope we get them at all our crossings eventually. As it is, I’ve definitely been noticing them more, but mostly at midblock and nonsignalized crosswalks. I can’t tell if SDOT’s installing them more for those types of crossings, or if I just notice them more there because at those locations they’re often farther back from the crosswalk than they are at signalized corner crossings, and they’re usually accompanied by those “Stop Here for Pedestrians” signs. (It always cracks me up—and kind of worries me—how many drivers stop for those signs when no pedestrians are present. I guess it’s better that they stop more than they need to, not less.)

      1. It should also be noted that pavement markings are only effective if they’re kept up, which they rarely are in Seattle. Stop lines that are allowed to get to this point are absolutely useless. It would be nice if SDOT had a crosswalk hotline and some crosswalk rangers to go along with its pothole hotline and pothole rangers.

      2. Yes, this is a good idea. And a web site/page where people could submit pictures of areas in need of maintenance would be great. Given the ubiquity of cellphones with cameras this would probably be the simplest and most common way for people to submit reports.

      3. A crosswalk is a pedestrian facility, so Seattle already does have a place you can report defective crosswalks with a cellphone camera — email to WalkAndBike@seattle.gov

        I routinely use the service while bicycle commuting through Seattle, they often have emergency repairs done by my commute home if I report something in the morning; they’ve never failed to follow up on anything I’ve reported.

    2. I sometimes “encroach” when there are zero pedestrians. Reason is that I drive a normal car — a KIA Spectra — and I often can’t see over the hoods of someone’s gargantuan Sub Urban (assault) Vehicle (SUV).

      1. people driving GM or Ford SUVs are definitely the most self centered and inconsiderate drivers on the road.

      2. Because they are larger and when one is more likely to notice it than a small car?
        Because if one already has a bias against SUVs, one will notice more examples of SUVs being evil?

      3. No. SUV drivers are frankly more likely to be bad drivers — in all manner of different ways — than drivers of subcompacts. More likely to cut you off, more likely to pass illegally, more likely to violate pretty much any traffic law you like.

        I don’t know why, but it’s very consistent, and I have a theory.

        See, people driving pickups also seem more likely to be bad drivers — unless they’re driving pickups for *work*, in which case they’re great drivers.

        People driving SUVs which are full of sporting equipment or five kids also seem to be fine drivers. It’s the solo drivers in the SUVs….

        Sports car drivers also seem to be more likely to be bad drivers….

        I think what it is is, that people (male or female) who are buying a car out of macho pretentiousness, a bigger, fancier, “ruggeder” car than they actually need — *these* people are likely to be bad drivers. The personality which causes them to drive in a hostile manner is the same one which caused them to choose the car.

        People who are good drivers buy a car which is suitable for them.

      4. i have nothing necessarily against suv drivers, all i’m saying is that from experience the people who are most inconsiderate of others on the road drive this certain type of motor vehicle.

        afterall its common knowledge that people buy certain cars based on their personality, much of this caused by endless marketing targeting a particular car make to a particular type of person.

      5. Poncho,

        I don’t like bad drivers or SUVs any more than you do. But blanket condemnation of SUV drivers is not particularly useful.

        There are lots of reasons why people might choose to buy or not to buy a particular vehicle. Some of those are utilitarian (e.g. passenger/cargo space, off-road capability, gas mileage), while others are aesthetic and/or psychological (e.g. the appearance, the marketing, the prestige of owning a certain brand of car, the adrenaline rush from going from 0-60 in 4 seconds during the test drive, the perceived safety of driving a large car).

        It’s definitely possible that SUV buyers are more likely to cite certain reasons for buying their vehicles than buyers of other cars or trucks. It’s also possible that people who buy SUVs are more likely to show certain personality traits than people who don’t. A thirdhand source states that market researchers have found that SUV buyers are “apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed”, among other uncomplimentary traits. But the behavior we’re trying to understand isn’t SUV buying; it’s bad and inconsiderate driving. If SUVs were banned tomorrow, would all these rude drivers disappear? Or would they just buy different vehicles and continue to drive poorly?

        If we want to reduce bad driving, we should focus on the motivations that different people have for driving the way that they do. Maybe rude driving is more common at rush hour. The DOT could then work with major employers to make it easier for employees to travel to/from work at off-peak times, since less rushed drivers might be less hostile drivers. Or maybe the worst driving is among single men in their 30s with high-end SUVs. In that case, a good policy might be to work with insurance companies to raise rates for people in this category, but to offer large discounts for successfully completing a considerate-driving class.

      6. One thing I always ask. Why are 80% of idiot drivers in SUVs. The other 20 % are in high priced sports cars.

  7. This isn’t the stupidest idea I have ever seen. It does recognize the walking patterns of a lot of pedestrians. I have to wonder if the new paradigm would have pedestrians walking even farther down the street than they do now. The best idea is the sidewalk bulb. It puts the pedestrian out past the cars where the walker can see and be seen, instead of having to step out and peer around the vehicle that is parked 2 inches from (or over) the walkway.

    Personally, as a pedestrian I avoid crossing at corners wherever possible, unless there is a light. It is safer to cross in the middle of the street where I have a clear line of sight to see if the way is clear. Yes, I know I turn myself into a target, but it beats the hell out of crossing at a corner while some moron with a cell phone to his ear makes a turn with no warning, no signals, and no clue!

    1. I always cross in the middle with my bike because it’s safer.

      One thing they need to get rid of at busy intersections in Washington State is right turn on red. It only makes sense at low volume places (or times of day).

      1. If we did that as a state we might lose the federal funding for our state energy conservation plan: “Each proposed State energy conservation plan to be eligible for Federal assistance under this part shall include … a traffic law or regulation which, to the maximum extent practicable consistent with safety, permits the operator of a motor vehicle to turn such vehicle right at a red stop light after stopping”.

        As a municipality, Seattle could probably do it, but it would likely need an exemption written into state law. NY state law exempts “a city having a population of one million or more”, which is why NYC is able to ban rights on red.

      2. 1 million seems excessive. It’s a dangerous thing even here in Kent…for example at the intersection of Smith and Central. I would say it should be based on individual traffic conditions.

        No sure why the feds would get so specific on funding…I guess they figure it “saves energy” to allow right turn on red…but at the expensive of dangerous, and just unpleasant, pedestrian and bicycle crossings…

      3. The mandate was established shortly after the 1973 oil crisis, at about the same time as the 55 mph speed limit, which was also meant to save fuel. A Federal Highway Administration study found RTOR would reduce delays, pollution and fuel consumption, and increase intersection capacity, with a negligible increase in collisions. Not sure if any followups were ever done to see if the projections were correct. The fuel savings from the 55 mph speed limit were apparently never realized and it was of course repealed in 1995, but RTOR stayed. In fact, in 1992 the Feds passed another mandate requiring states to allow LTOR when safe. In most states this means left turns from a one-way to a one-way are allowed on red, but in WA you can make left turns from both one- and two-way streets onto one-way streets on red. At this point, I think it’s less about fuel savings and more about “freedom”. Either way, it sure as hell ain’t about safety.

      4. I don’t have links on hand, but I’ve seen a few articles that suggest that unregulated streets (e.g. uncontrolled intersections, mixed car/bicycle/foot traffic) are safer. Intuitively, this makes sense. In any system, the more decisions have to be made at every point, the less progress will be made. Conversely, fewer decisions makes things faster; the fewer impediments a street has to car traffic, the faster cars will go.

        For computers, removing decisions (and thus increasing speed) is almost always a good thing. But for us fallible humans, increased speed means increased danger.

        IMHO, anything that forces drivers, or cyclists, or walkers, to think more — and thus to slow down — makes us all safer. Right on red is one of those things.

        In an ideal world, I might even advocate ripping out controlled intersections entirely, except where buses need them. But I imagine that might be an unpopular suggestion. After all, many people are willing to trade off other people’s theoretical safety for their own real convenience. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing. For example, various government agencies value a human life at somewhere around $5-10 million. If a safety project that would save 5 lives would cost $100 million, then that agency might conclude the money could be better spent elsewhere.)

      5. And I thought right turn on red was a west coast tradition borrowed from California.

        As for 55 mph, my friend whose family runs an auto repair shop says that cars in the 70s used to get horrible mileage above 55, but new technology in the 80s made that no longer a factor.

      6. Apparently RTOR was pretty common in the West, but in the East it wasn’t until the gas crisis, and then the mandate, that it became standard.

        As for mileage, I don’t know what your friend’s idea of “horrible mileage” is, but the same holds true now as in the 70s: the sweet spot for most all cars is 40-60 mph, and most all cars lose significant efficiency above 50-55 mph. According to fueleconomy.gov “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.” See also this website for some charts comparing the drop in MPG of various cars, all made well after the ’80s. Blame the exponential increase in drag as speed increases.

      7. wow couldnt agree more about ending right on red. i cant believe that about the feds dictating right on red in order to get funding (just like drinking age tied to highway funding).

        gotta love how a red traffic light means stop until green and then this big exception is made to allow passing through an intersection on red.

      8. According to the Feds, between 1982 and 1992, about 840 people were killed by cars turning right, out of 485,104 traffic fatalities overall. With right turns constituting only 0.2% of deaths, and with the data not even distinguishing between turns on red or green, the Feds argue RTOR has negligible safety impacts.

        As a pedestrian, though, regardless of what the data say, RTOR seems to have a huge impact on the feeling of safety (or lack thereof) when I’m out walking, and I think making RTOR illegal would go a long way to improve the walkability of the city.

        Oh, and don’t forget that in WA you can also make a left turn on red onto a one-way street from both one- and two-way streets. Gotta keep things interesting for us peds.

      9. 840 people were killed by cars turning right. I’m going to venture a guess that most of those cars were turning right on green. In my experience, drivers are far more careful when turning right on red than when they have the presumed right-of-way.

        Seattle’s approach tends to be the most counterproductive: The city’s jaywalking fascism discourages people from crossing when they have the best opportunity to do so. So instead of a trickle of crossing pedestrians during (obviously safe) breaks in car traffic, we amass on the corner as the light cycle progresses. Then, when we get a green, we cross like a gaggle of zombies, blocking the intersection for most of the green cycle and preventing more than one or two right-turners.

        As the light turns yellow, drivers continuing straight (but stuck behind the blocked right-turners) pull hazardous, forethought-free lane-switching maneuvers, while the remaining right-turners suddenly get aggressive about completing the turn (a danger to a pedestrian running for the light to avoid a ticket) or otherwise get stuck blocking the perpendicular crosswalk.

        Cities where pedestrians and right-turners go when they can — alertness required, no autopilot condoned — movement is both smoother and safer!

      10. p.s. I actually got the HTML right on that post. I have NO idea why the bold leeched out of its alloted tags like that.

      11. I have the opposite suspicion and experience. When turning right on green, drivers are more apt to be looking where they’re turning, and thus more apt to see a pedestrian in the crosswalk. When turning right on red, however, drivers may look for pedestrians when first getting to the intersection, but then they start looking left for a break in traffic; when that break finally comes, they usually hit the gas before looking back to the right to check for pedestrians again.

        I also think your jaywalking/RTOR connection is backward. It’s at least party because RTOR is allowed that folks don’t jaywalk more in Seattle. With RTOR, you have to make sure not only that there are no straight-traveling vehicles who have the green light, but also that there are no vehicles with the red light who are going to try to turn. (And since no one in Seattle uses their turn signals, figuring out that second part can be very tricky.) In contrast, in NYC, the city most known for both jaywalking and pedestrian safety, the banning of RTOR means you generally don’t have to worry about right-turning vehicles; if the straight direction is clear, you know it’s safe to go.

        I agree, though, that Seattle pedestrians tend to not be aware of their surroundings. If the light is red, they stop, if it’s white they go, and they don’t really notice the cars either way. And that’s very dangerous.

      12. Long-time Seattleites don’t jaywalk out of habit and training. Newer Seattleites don’t jaywalk out of fear of tickets.

        I still jaywalk because it makes the walk twice as fast — no exaggeration! — but now I have to look for straight-travelling vehicles, right turning vehicles, drivers on their cellphones, and the Jaywalking Stasi. So their presence actually makes it more dangerous than a city where the practice is exception.

        p.s. I’m from Boston, where r.t.o.r. is legal and the jaywalking culture is far more pervasive than New York. Pedestrians are, by necessity, aware and skilled and possess a really innate understanding of physics. And drivers, while aggressive, wouldn’t dream of making a turn on autopilot.

      13. “So their presence [the Jaywalking Stasi] actually makes it more dangerous than a city where the practice is accepted (not ‘exception’).”

      14. Ticketing for Jaywalking is total crap. It has been studied and proven safer to jaywalk than to cross at intersections on a “go-light”.

        I never even look at signals when walking anymore, I look in all directions for cars and go when safe, like anyone who lives in chicago does. We also don’t wait on the sidewalk often, we walk part way into the street (shoulder, or part of a turn lane) to wait for a clear section of traffic to cross. traffic sees us, and we see it. Jaywalking is the only way to get around. Waiting for signals as a pedestrian is a farce.

      15. There’s an intersection in my home town where the safe time to cross is on the red light. Seriously. It’s a T-intersection and the majority of traffic is right-turning from the “trunk” of the T. When crossing from the pedestrian mall on the far side of the T to the “trunk”, you cross when the light is red, because there are no cars. Green is appallingly dangerous.

      16. Pedestrians should cross the street in the most direct manner. Take the five or six extra steps. How lazy are people. I would support a 2 minute pedestrian light in the DBA with zero tolerance for jaywalking.

      17. Bob,

        The arguments for jaywalking are clear and solid:

        – It’s safer. It’s documented that jaywalkers are less likely to be hit by cars.

        – It promotes walking, and thus vibrant street life, by making streets feel less like an obstacle.

        – To many of us, it’s fairer. It’s subjective, but a driver who sits in their comfortable car waiting for one pedestrian is arguably less inconvenienced than a pedestrian who has to wait possibly 2-4 minutes (if you think I’m exaggerating, go visit 50th/Fremont/Green Lake Way sometime) for the light to change.

        Laziness is hardly a counterargument. Given that you’re arguing against jaywalking, I’m going to guess that you’re a frequent driver. Why do you drive rather than walk everywhere, if not “laziness”, or its near-synonym “convenience”? And don’t say that walking would take too long — walkers have appointments as well, and waiting at multiple lights for 2-4 minutes each can be a serious impediment to arriving on time.

        The only serious argument I’ve heard against jaywalking today is that it’s illegal, and so walkers should wait for the light for the same reason that drivers shouldn’t run a red light even if they don’t see anyone. I’d argue that the laws are qualitatively different — running a red light endangers the lives of anyone else who a driver didn’t happen to see, while a jaywalker endangers no one’s life but their own — but I certainly understand and respect this argument.

        But, suppose that jaywalking was legal. If a jaywalker was hit by a legally-operating car, it would automatically be the jaywalker’s fault, but otherwise, jaywalking would carry no civil or criminal penalties. Given that there is evidence (see above) that this law would in fact make people safer, would you be opposed to this law? If so, why?

      18. no motorists turning right are more concerned about trying to squeeze in the flow of traffic, the last thing on their minds is a pedestrian.

        this is yet another traffic safety study (leading to law) that only cares about effects on motor vehicle traffic and safety and completely neglects to consider the effects on pedestrian traffic and safety.

        never realized that about NYC, also never realized right on red was allowed everywhere else. although i never spent much time thinking about it, i thought nationwide right on red was common but not everywhere. i’d be interested in hearing more about how this law came to be and more about how NYC was able to get an exception made. this would be a good post for streetsblog to cover.

      19. @ Aleks,

        I drive for a living. In my neighborhood I walk and yes if I’m walking and the light is red and there are no vehicles in view and the weather is bad or I am late I will cross the street. I was referring mostly to the CBD. Many times a day I see clueless people talking on cell phones or texting step out into traffic. Or step off the curb as their light turns yellow a saunter across the street.

        If I ran over a jaywalker it would impact my career, be very emotionally devastating and make for a really bad day. If the bozo had a family I would be the guy who killed their loved one. So I don’t buy the argument no one is impacted but the jaywalker.

        I think people should just chill and slow down. I see people on the bus risk major head trama stepping up and paying their fare before the bus has even reached the stop. Are those three or four seconds really so important?

  8. What this crosswalk design does is adapt the crosswalk to actual human behavior. And it seems like STB is endorsing this idea. So why not take this idea one step further and apply it to STB? Since actual human behavior on blogs is to go off-topic, why not make it “legal” to be off-topic on non-open thread posts, thereby making off-topic comments not off-topic. Sounds like nutty, convoluted thinking on my part, right? Now you know what I think of this crosswalk.

    1. I know you’re being sarcastic, but I accept your metaphor.

      I would suggest that STB might flag, rather than delete, what it considers “off topic” because sometimes its good to let the comments and conversation travel where it may.

      This is the reason for “threads”. Unfortunately, threading and conversation in most web based interface is a far cry from nntp protocol (Usenet) browsers where threads can be collapsed, posters rated, and so on…far more control by the user.

      1. STB comments are collapsible. I would, however, support implementing a voting system for comments, so off-topic things could be voted down and hidden if it turns out that the community really opposes them.

      2. Then, whenever someone said something that most people don’t like, it would quickly be hidden.

  9. It doesn’t matter how you design it. Some boob in their car will think it’s perfectly OK to block it at an intersection so pedestrians and bicycles have to go around them because they a) were going to fast to stop where they should or b) don’t give a kråp about anyone other than themselves.

    1. I tend to give the “oops I didn’t see you” knee bump to their car when they do that. Guys in shiny BMWs don’t seem to like it :)

    2. or how about in NYC (particularly the times square area) where a crowd of 50+ pedestrians crossing the street with a vehicle blocking the crosswalk is forced to squeeze through a confined space. the people/mob crossing the street practically swarm the vehicle from all sides and rub up against the vehicle with their bags and rings and wipe their sweaty dirty nathan’s-hot-dog-eating fingers on the hood or trunk of the vehicle as they try to squeeze between bumpers. after you experience that once youll never stop your vehicle in a crosswalk again.

  10. So, a couple of days ago I had an 11-minute ride from downtown to Market Street on the 15 Express! Amazing, right?

    I was reminded that, at some point, I had seen some fine print that detailed the travel time Ballard RapidRide would need to reach in order to be commensurate with the proposal that voters approved in the TransitNow initiative (and have been paying for, with a regressive tax, ever since). The fine print had explicitly stated that RapidRide trips must not be longer than current average 15/18 Express trips.

    Now, we all know that, in the absence of absolute signal priority end-to-end, 100% off-board payment, further stop reductions, exclusive lanes through Lower Queen Anne, on-board bicycle racks, and a total attitude adjustment, that’s not going to happen. But I really want to track down this text.

    I’m actually inclined to think that it might have been in the small-print “full text of initiative” pages of the voter guide, which I can’t find for the life of me online.

    Does anyone still have that pamphlet, or any recollection of reading such a detailed description of what would constitute adequate RapidRide service to justify the tax increase? (Wherever it was that I read this text, I was quite sure that its stated service metrics were designed to provide a cost-benefit metric for the initiative and to be binding.)

    1. Hope you get an answer, as it may apply to the A line also.
      As things stand right now, the A line is ‘scheduled’ to be about 2 minutes slower than the current 174 schedule it’s replacing – even after all the speed treatments you mention, including about 50% fewer stops. Metro says no, but the schedules are published (ATU587 run cards for MT671).

      1. RE: all the speed treatments I mention…

        Have you any more information on the specifics of Line A? The signal priority is conjecture; the rest is assured:

        – Absolute signal priority end-to-end or “5-second-hold-the-green-(sometimes)” at 2 or 3 intersections?

        – 100% off-board payment or 40% off-board payment at “stations” and 0% at “stops”?

        – exclusive lanes through, or “bus and turning slow-poke?”

        – on-board bicycle racks, or “let my self-righteous spandex-clad ass hold up the bus for 2 minutes while I fiddle with the front?”

      2. I think you’ve pretty well assessed how the weinermobiles will operate, except there will be twice as many on the route. I hope ridership doubles pretty soon before it’s low performance(riders per something) targets it for ‘auditor tweaks’.

      3. Ah… so RapidRide A actually is twice as frequent as the 174?

        Because presuming Metro sticks to its plan to truncate the 18, the Ballard RapidRide will represent a net 0% increase in 15/18 frequency.

    2. I imagine when you say “Downtown”, you were in Belltown and not the CBD or Pioneer Square. According to the schedule (which is likely faster than reality), the 15E takes 27 minutes to get from 1st & Jackson to 15th & Market: 16 minutes to go the 1.7 miles from Jackson to Denny, then 11 minutes to go the 4 miles from Denny to 15th & Market. Jackson to Denny is regular lanes and stops every block or two; Denny to Market has no stops and bus lanes.

      RapidRide will be routed through LQA and add 6 stops & 4 stations between Denny & Market, so that section will take considerably longer than the current 11 minutes. But if Metro cuts a sufficient number of downtown stops, it shouldn’t be that hard to make up the added time.

      I’m not saying I have any confidence that Metro will do this. But it does seem quite doable. At the very least, your 11 minute ride is likely far from the average that RapidRide would be trying to meet or exceed.

      1. The 11 minutes was in fact from 1st and Pine, and yes, I know that was an (amazing) exception and not the rule/average for the expresses.

        The bus goes express from Bell to Denny before continuing ultra-express to Market. Skill and luck congealed to allow the driver to hit every single green light from Bell to Market and to avoid any lane-merging traffic bottlenecks. So it was less than 5 minutes from Pine to Denny and less than 7 minutes the rest of the way to Market.

        And it didn’t hurt to have “estimated times” on the schedule so the driver wasn’t forced to stop and wait somewhere for his time-sheet to catch up to him.

        Again, this was quite exceptional; normal would be 20-22. But knowing how much of my life I’ve spent at the intersections of Leary, Dravus, and Mercer, and knowing how completely Metro has thrown “real” BRT under the bus, I don’t think we’ll be seeing 20-minute rides regardless downtown stop choices.

    3. But seriously, can anyone manage to find the complete TransitNow initiative “fine print” text? I’ve Googled every set of terms I could imagine!

      1. Being a rainy day, and savoring the hawks win, I crunched the numbers for RapidRide A line.
        The 174 averages 43.2 minutes from TIBS to FWTC, both directions in the am/mid/pm periods. (ref: 15 selected N/S runs from current published schedules)
        IF RapidRide A is to be at least 10% faster than today, it would need to make the same run in 39 minutes.
        Looking at the new run cards, it’s scheduled to average 46 minutes, or about 7 minutes slower than it’s expectation. (Ref 671, runs 03,06A,08A)
        Metro is programed to spend 180 million on RapidRide, and according to my figures things will be worse for riders, not better, except the bus will come along twice as often (which I don’t discount as important).
        What the F%#K is going on here?

      2. I guess the particular text I’m recalling was not in the initiative itself. I can’t for the life of me figure out where I read it.

        I know it was an official document that sought to set the parameters for each RapidRide line, and I know it contained text along the lines of: “Ballard RapidRide must serve Uptown” (or the synonymous Lower Queen Anne or Seattle Center) and “must achieve travel times similar to or better than current 15/18 express service.”

        Any ideas/recollections about where I might have seen this?

    4. It said RapidRide would be as fast as the expresses? So at least there was some coherent thought at the beginning of RapidRide. It’s too bad it got watered down, but that’s what happens when the public tolerates a mediocre transit system and refuses to pay the taxes necessary for a good transit system that would actually get 50% of people out of their cars.

      1. Yes, and I remember being incredulous about it at the time, which is actually the reason I recall the text so vividly (wish I recalled the source).

        I remember thinking that, with Lower Queen Anne detour and all the Interbay stops added, only 100% level boarding, 100% off-board payment, and 100% signal preemption could possibly achieve the goal of keeping up with the express (which lacks signal preemption but uses the Dravus underpass and an Elliott route already signal-timed for non-stop 35 MPH flow).

        Clearly, Metro was never that serious about any of the above. But I’d love to locate the source of the text to see how binding it claimed to be.

  11. As far as I know, the ORCA cards are only for high school students (who usually aren’t provided with “yellow school bus” service anyway, except in very specific circumstances – special ed., for example). Elementary and middle school students still use regular school buses. And I believe you only get the ORCA card if you live at least 2.5 miles from school and qualify for transportation services. My son (a Ballard High senior) got his card last week!

      1. Nope, it’s 2.5. I understand the whole getting people to walk to school thing to reduce obesity and everything, but 2.5 miles is a 45 min or hour-long walk, which seems like an unreasonable expectation. Basically everyone between 1.5 and 2.5 miles drives or has to pay for their own bus card. 1.5 miles would be a more reasonable cutoff, as that’s just a 25-30 minute walk.

      2. 1 mile has been the magic number for Bellevue and Northshore for as long as I can remember. I think that’s also true for Lake Washington. School districts have some leeway. This is what’s on the BSD site:

        The state currently provides funding for walks outside one radial mile (as the crow flies) from the schools flag pole. The state also provides funding for walks less than one radial mile for mid-day kindergartners, special education students and certain hazardous conditions.

        There is a State guideline program for “safe walk” routes that takes into account, among other things; traffic volumes, grade level, sidewalks (or lack of).

      3. One mile as the crow flies was the NYS standard. Unfortunately my house growing up was straight uphill only accessible by a multiple switchback route…. one mile was a 45 minute walk. “As the crow flies” should not be used for purposes of determining walkshed.

      4. Maybe they came up with that rule back when kids knew how to ride bikes by the time they were in high school?

        2.5 miles is ten minutes on an old three-speed.

  12. This reminds me of a story I saw last week on the TV news (think it was KING/KONG. They ran a piece about “3D” images painted on the ground that supposedly “popped up” out of the pavement to make drivers think something was in front of them. The one they showed was a child chasing a ball in a parking garage. Personally, even if it works as advertised I don’t think it’s a good idea. Drivers become accustomed to ignoring the kid with a ball because it’s just paint. Then one day there’s a real kid. I know, probably not in a parking garage but the basic idea of creating the illusion of a hazard seems like a really bad idea.

    1. I believe they were only keeping the image for a very short period of time for this exact reason. I think it would have been a nice touch to add a lump of concrete somewhere along the image to complete the effect.

      Here’s a link to a picture.

  13. I believe it was UC Davis that left part of their campus without sidewalks, and after a year or two paved the areas where grass had been worn away by foot traffic – creating optimal paths (or “cow trails”) created by students. I wonder if something like this would work for the shape and location of crosswalks, but using video cameras instead of grass.

    1. Yeah, I heard that was done by architect Buckminster Fuller. It’s my favorite youth empowerment example.

  14. As a frequent user of Beacon Hill Station, I would include on my wish list a crosswalk in the *middle* of that block of Beacon Ave S. People use that path all the time to beat the bus to the southbound stop.

    I’m not asking for stoplights, as that would give the priority back to cars over pedestrians, and result in more missed connections or buses waiting past their scheduled times. I’d just like a few stripes of paint, and allow pedestrians to assert their right of priority over use of that section of street.

  15. Powering a British Columbia town with smart grid hydrogen

    In the small town of Bella Coola, located in Canada’s British Columbia, an innovative energy storage project is now operational and was officially commissioned in a ceremony on September 9. The inspired operation takes the clean-energy generated from a river’s nearby hydroelectric plant and uses advanced technologies to convert that power into hydrogen so that it can be stored for later use. The system, which is managed with smart grid technologies, is a breakthrough for remote towns in Canada and around the world that — like Bella Coola — are too isolated to be part of the main electrical grid.


    1. Isn’t there a safer way of making temporary power storage than explosive hydrogen? The traditional one is pumped water storage, the less traditional one is batteries.

      1. This project used flow batteries as well as hydrogen (flow batteries are awesome – more capacity, and theoretically cheaper than regular batteries since you’re decoupling the storage fluid from the charging device). And honestly not much of either – it was more of a test case than anything.

        Don’t worry about hydrogen blowing up (or at least don’t worry much). Despite lingering fears remaining from the Hindenburg, hydrogen isn’t terribly dangerous (for one thing, leaks go up).

        Water pumped storage doesn’t look like an option for that location, or they would have used dams in the first place instead of run-of-the-river hydro.

        My main criticism is the cost and efficiency of doing this for the type of application [John] envisions (cars). It’s a wasteful process to spend the energy to break apart water, compress hydrogen, store hydrogen, then convert hydrogen back to energy when you could just use batteries. I’d also be interested even in this application about the cost and efficiency of flow batteries compared to hydrogen (both are sized roughly the same).

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