"Thermite weld 1 Lakewood, WA", by DW Honan

This is an open thread.

62 Replies to “News Roundup: Scrambling to Save the Train”

  1. Amtrak wants to build a tunnel to connect Penn to Grand Central? Where would it go? There’s only something like six or seven subway lines in between them, operating at the same depth as the tracks at Penn. I assume they’ve factored in the move of the station to the Farley Post Office building.

    1. A similar thing came up when people were discussing the possibility of a Second Avenue Subway. People were saying “well, with the DSTT and the BNSF tunnel and the SR 99 DBT, where would this tunnel go?” The thing about tunnels is that they’re underground, and can be at any level underground. So, as the subways tend to be at least close to ground level in Manhattan, they can build this as a deeper tunnel, and easily connect Penn Station and GCT. They’ll almost certainly build entirely new stations deeper than the regular Amtrak, LIRR, NJ Transit, and Metro-North Stations.

    2. It’s perfectly straightforward actually; it runs under the 4-5-6 lines (Park Avenue Line) from Grand Central until approximately 34th St, then turns west under some skyscrapers and joins the four tunnels to Penn Station from the East River (east of where they cross under the Broadway Line).

      So it doesn’t run under any subways except for the 4-5-6. Luckily, both the Grand Central Lower Level and the tunnels east from Penn Station are *already below the level* of that line.

      The fact is that Grand Central and the East River Tunnels are not really that far apart — 42nd St to 34th St.

  2. 50 percent of all bike accidents are bike-only (falling off bike, wheels caught in train track, etc). Only 17 percent are bike-car.

    So, you could probably cut more bicycle accidents than anything with slower bicycle speeds.

    1. Your logic failed a bit there: your examples listed items independant of speed. Your second paragraph should read: So, you could probably cut more bicycle accidents with improved bicycle routes.

  3. Tacoma Link adding a stop at 11th and Commerce? Extremely depressing that people are so effin lazy they can’t walk 2 blocks either direction to an existing stop. And, it adds 2 minutes to the headways, yay! Distances between transit stops should be lengthened, not shortened (I’m talking to you #43 bus).

    1. Completely Agreed, I would have hated another stop on that thing, and I would have biked it more if it had taken another 2 or 3 minutes because I would have ALWAYS Been able to beat the train.

  4. This morning, Wendell Cox disseminated a new essay nationwide about jobs, housing, and transit in Portland, Oregon:


    Working at Home Now Leads Transit in the 7-County [Portland, Oregon] Metropolitan Area

    Jobs have simply not been created in Portland’s core. Since 2001, downtown employment has declined by 3,000 jobs, according to the Portland Business Alliance. In Multnomah County, Portland’s urban core and close-by surrounding communities, 20,000 jobs were lost between 2001 and 2009. Even during the prosperous years of 2000 to 2006, Multnomah County lost jobs. Suburban Washington and Clackamas counties gained jobs, but their contribution fell 12,000 jobs short of making up for Multnomah County’s loss. The real story has been Clark County (the county seat is Vancouver), across the I-5 Interstate Bridge in neighboring Washington and outside Metro’s jurisdiction. Clark County generated 13,000 net new jobs between 2001 and 2009.

    While taxpayer funded transit was attracting less than its share of new commuters out of cars, one mode –unsupported by public funds – was doing very well. Between 1980 and 2009, working at home rose from 2.2% of employment to 6.2%. in the four county area (including Clark County). Thus, nearly as many people worked at home as rode transit to work in 2009 (Note). Already, working at home accounts for a larger share of employment than transit in the larger 7 county metropolitan area. All of this is despite Portland’s having spent an extra $5 billion on transit in the last 25 years on light rail expansions and more bus service. (Figure 2).

    More [complete essay] at…

    Cox includes the familiar [to CETA] Census finding in his essay — Seattle metro area’s work trip market share on transit continues to exceed Portland’s. But now that Seattle region [in the short term] is growing light rail and cutting bus service, maybe Portland will have a fighting chance of catching up to Seattle.

    1. Yes, let’s follow Wendell “I hate rail and love sprawl” Cox’s ideas to craptopia. In one of his posts he touts an article that says high speed rail is “an expressway to the 19th century” and proposes that anti-sprawl policies are hurting the American dream. It looks like he is an expert with sledgehammering statistics to fit his worldview. He may be well credentialed, but he’s obviously hyper-agenda driven.

    2. Why are you making any references to the totally discredited Wendell Cox, who routinely falsifies his claims about both roads and railways?

  5. Ok, Metro rant. I live in NE Seattle where I have a choice of the 71 and 76 expresses in the AM to head downtown. The busses run only two minutes apart every 25 minutes or so. Why?

    Why not run with a 10 minute offset. For instance I catch the 8:01 71 or the 8:02 76 but then wait until the 8:25 71 and 8:26 76. why not run them off set from each other?

    I know I know, with the all the cuts and so on, its still damn good service, but it is perplexing.

    1. I can’t say anything about the 76, but the 71 is timed specifically to provide consistent headways between 65th and Campus Parkway.

    2. This is a problem on a few “couplets” around the City. I’ve complained about the 120 and 125 in SW Seattle which similarly have great headways, but tend to follow 1-4 minutes behind each other. And they both serve Burien Transit Center.

      I’d love to know if these are oversights in scheduling, or there’s some controlling factor(s) the planners know about.

      1. I agree. It’s annoying to wait at 5th S and S King for a 554 when there’s a 550 coming at about the same time. What if it came early? What if it’s full to overflowing?

        They should also post schedules for tunnel buses on the surface.

    3. Not trying to be a smart-ass, but why would you take the 71 to get downtown if you had the choice? Let’s say they did slide the 76 back 14 minutes to give 15 minute headways in front of your house, wouldn’t that 76 still get you downtown before the next 71? I guess I don’t see how, in this case, the two options are so equal that you need to adjust stop times. The crowds almost seem exclusive to the routes.

      1. No worries, I agree the 71 express is still slower than the 76 ( my preferred) but it is weird to see two buses trundling down both serving the same final destination only a minute apart…

      2. Yeah it would be better if they spaced them out for people just trying to get down 65th. Anyways, once North Link opens they should scrap both these routes and have one route that goes all the way down 65th from View Ridge to Roosevelt then up along the current 48 route all the way to Loyal Heights. Grid-style system!

      3. Having said what I just did, I remember that the same thing happens on 35th Ave SW at about 630 each weekday morning. There is a 21X and right behind it at every stop is a 21 local. I can see how that would be visually illogical.

      4. They might. Outside the 70-series corridor, the 65 and 68 are more logical choices to get to UW station; once Northgate Link opens there’d be no reason not to take the 71 (or what’s left of it) to Roosevelt Station in lieu of the 76. As is the 76 is slightly redundant with the 64. And then there’s the ongoing question of pending Metro cuts…

        Actually, the 65 and 68 may be superior options to most places on the 72 and 79 as well. Is the future of the 70-series and the southern leg of the 48 a merged 48/73/77 super-route from North City to Mount Baker Station once Northgate Link opens? Such a route might have to be RapidRide…

        (The path that led me to discovering the transit blogosphere started with my desire to rationalize the LA bus system to provide more one-seat rides instead of what I saw as a confusing grid. I still think LA has too low a mode share for a true grid – there is a reason why LA has so many city-owned bus services separate from the MTA, which itself contributes to confusion – but at least I can see why OCTA wins rave reviews despite itself following a grid.)

    4. M said…

      at about 630 each weekday morning [ ] There is a 21X and right behind it at every stop is a 21 local. I can see how that would be visually illogical.Except that the 21 local is stopping a lot more stops, so if you need to get somewhere that the 21 express doesn’t serve, you hop on the local.

      Early morning the 71/72/73/74 run a couple of locals intertwined with the expresses because the 70 doesn’t start running until later.

      1. Oh, I understand why it happens. It also happens on the 28, which I used to take on a daily basis. I was agreeing with the OP that it looks odd when you see it.

  6. Update on my question to RR-A blogger. How many signals will have signal pre-emption on startup?
    Answer: “All of the signal priority equipment has been installed, but none of it is operating yet. Metro is working with local jurisdictions to set new traffic signal timing to improve traffic coordination. We will phase in traffic signal priority at each intersection as this work is completed.

    We expect to have signal priority working at 18 intersections by the end of November. It will come to two more intersections in about a year, after Federal Way completes the final mile of HOV lane.”
    Now the schedule thing is starting to make sense – but most signals by December sounds encouraging.

  7. I came across the freeway revolt article on Wikipedia. It wasn’t just a few freeways here and there, but hundreds of freeways all over the country that were never built. It made me start wondering what it would be like if they had been built. In Seattle there would have been parallel freeways every mile or two, and the same in every city. So there wouldn’t be much city left between the pockets.

      1. Wow, I only knew about the RH Thomson, the Bay Freeway, and the 605 proposals. I had no idea there were this many! So glad that didn’t happen.

      2. Calling that a “Light rail map” is incorrect for the proposed 1968 system. It would have been heavy rail, a la BART or MARTA (not that I would expect the Seattle Times to know the difference).

      3. So MLK really would have been a freeway. I always thought so because the right-of-way was so wide. I tried to tell that to my Save Our Valley friend when he complained about Link on MLK (“It is a state highway and a potential freeway”) but he’d have none of it.

  8. I saw a few signs for the 542 up today. Hopefully it’ll help relieve the overcrowding on the 545, which was SRO and had to leave people waiting at the last stop in Redmond this evening. That first run after 5:00 is packed to the gills out of OTC.

    1. If all those people on the bus were headed downtown, the 542 won’t do much to relieve it since the 542 isn’t going downtown. For those that get off at Montlake, the 542 could help some.

      1. It could help more than that. Lots of 545 riders going north of the ship canal currently get off at downtown, because otherwise they’d have to transfer at Montlake and again in the U-District. To get to Fremont, for example, you’d have to take the 545 to the 43/48 to the 30, so many people would instead just take the 545 to the 26/28. Now, all of those people can take the 542 directly to the 30.

        Conversely, I expect that quite a few people will continue getting off at Montlake, since their final destination is Capitol Hill.

  9. Regarding Google Transit: Very similar to a Swedish system called ResPlus that has existed for many years: Just state where in the country you are leaving from and where you want to go – it spits out many options how to get there and in many instances will also sell tickets. Does not include air options, however, only surface transportation.

  10. At the Bridle Trails Community Club meeting they opened with a SR520 do-over presentation from the WSDOT project lead. I had a chance to pin him down on direct HOV access to the P&R/Transit Centers. South Kirkland will get direct access to the inside HOV lane to/from the west only. This just replaces the existing functionality of the GP metered ramps with direct access to the outside HOV lanes. There is nothing in the plans or budget to build direct access to Overlake TC. What they are doing is putting parks over the freeway for Hunt’s Point and Medina and spiffing up the flyer stops nobody uses (and will use even less with Montlake on the cutting block). The main purpose of the presentation was to discuss the “regional trail” which is supposed to be continuous along the new 520… NOT! No way to connect the present end of the trail with the new path that will end at 108th. Bellevue has a lame plan to increase the width of Northup to four lanes and strip the gutter as bike lanes and call it good. I didn’t want to get into the whole BNSF ROW thing but that would be a perfect bypass to S. Kirkland P&R. The engineering challenge then is to reconnect from the P&R to the bike path. As it sits the RR crossing by the P&R is the worst part of what otherwise is a pretty decent bike route from DT Bellevue all the way to Totem Lake. Yeah, you’ve got to use the pedestrian overpass and cross over to the east side of 405 and use Slater but that too would be drastically improved with the use of the BNSF ROW up by ParMac industrial park.

  11. I sure hope more bikes means slower bikes. While I love the idea of more and more people commuting by bicycle, I have absolutely had it with the blatant disregard fast-cyclists have for other modes of transport, both cars (such as blowing red lights on the Ave) and pedestrians (specifically on the Burke-Gilman trail, where as a freshman I was constantly dodging/yelling at cyclists ignoring Yield signs). I was speaking with a friend the other day, and he was saying he does similar things simply to avoid losing momentum and having to start and stop. While it is “harder” to stop, wait, then start up again for cars and pedestrians, I don’t see why this entitles others to disregard safety devices any more than the prospect of saving gas would entitle a car user to run lights so they don’t have to idle.

    1. You make a good point. I think the fundamental problem comes from politicians and planners that create something like Bellevue’s Ped-Bike plan assuming that there is no need to separate the modes. Somehow, skateboards that travel at what, 5-10 mph are banned from sidewalks but bikes which are easily capable of 15mph on the flats and 30+ on hills can safely share ROW with roller blades, walkers, joggers with headphones, baby strollers, etc. It’s the same reason you don’t allow mopeds on the freeway; modes have to be separated by speed. Bikes don’t belong on sidewalks nor should they be mixed with traffic on roads with speed limits over 30 mph. I’ve seen too many projects where is wouldn’t have cost any more or taken any more room to provide separated ROW but it’s just not done because Ped=Bike is “good enough”.

    2. The other side of that issue is that the engineers install stop lights and signs that make sense for cars, without considering how they impact bicyclists. On 108th NE in Kirkland, there is (or was) a stop sign at the bottom of that big dip north of the South Kirkland P&R. As a bicyclist, you want to use your downward momentum to help you uphill, not stop at the bottom and then have to push yourself up from zero. Likewise, if you’re riding uphill you want to slow down at stop signs, not stop completely, otherwise you lose all your momentum. Of course bicyclists should slow down and look for peds and cross-traffic at intersections, but expecting them to stop completely at every stop sign is a significant burden the driving public and city planners don’t think about.

  12. I can’t believe I even have to bring this up.

    Operators: If your (inbound) bus is scheduled to arrive in the C.B.D. after 6:00 pm, it is off-peak. This is reflected in every single schedule, both printed and posted at the bus stops.

    I don’t care how long you’ve been driving the route (and overcharging people). If you think otherwise, you’re wrong!

    If I ask you to change the ORCA reader to off-peak, and demonstrate that you are in the wrong, don’t argue with me. You’re still wrong, and now you’re wasting time!

    And overcharging an entire busload of people (who already pay too much for the service they get) is very, very wrong!

    1. Not quite…

      The peak-hour fare is the base fare charged during peak hours when weekday schedules are operated. Peak hours are approximately 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. but peak trips may begin before or end after the peak period. Due to the structure of routes, there are trips that begin in the peak period but are not considered a peak trip, i.e. Rt. 43 from Montlake Station. This is to avoid having alternating peak/off- peak trips. To determine a peak trip, it must be indicated on the run card with a dollar sign ($).

      When operating a base route or in-service “Y” route, the peak-hour fare applies if more than half of the trip is in the peak period (6 a.m. – 8:59 a.m. and 3 p.m. – 5:59 p.m.). For example, if a trip is scheduled to leave a base at 2:50 p.m. and arrive the terminal at 3:30 p.m., the peak-hour fare would apply.

      An off-peak transfer, or a monthly or annual pass may be used during peak-hours with the payment of additional fare.

      Occasionally, peak-hour fare information may be incorrect on the customer timetable and/or run card. Whenever this occurs, the customer is to be allowed to pay the fare indicated on the timetable. Do not get into a dispute regarding peak-hour fares. Submit an Incident/Service Report identifying the timetable and run card discrepancy OR complain on the nearest blog.

      If you really feel this is a problem, call Metro (206-553-3000) and tell them, as readers on a blog can’t do anything about it.

      1. “The peak-hour fare applies if more than half of the trip is in the peak period.”

        That may explain the seemingly nebulous “start time” for afternoon peak. I’d never quite figured out the algorithm.

        But the end-time rule is hard and fast: if the bus passes through the CBD at 5:59, it’s peak. If it does so at 6:00, it’s not. I have never encountered an exception to this. Not once. Ever.

        Which is as it should be. Inbound between 5:15 and 6:00 is one of the most excruciatingly slow trips you can possibly take. Frequencies are often less than at mid-day, and 1/4 of peak direction frequency. Counter-commute is among the things Metro does worst, and on principle, one shouldn’t be paying extra, especially when arriving after the peak period ends.

        Today’s bus driver had the gall to tell me that he’s “been driving for months.” Well, I’ve been using this exact trip for years, and the only times it’s ever “been peak” were when the driver was being an idiot.

        I’ve reported unrepentant drivers in the past, but calling Metro customer service is generally more infuriating then taking it up directly with the driver.

        It does seem to be happening more lately, always with drivers I’ve never seen before on the particular route.

    2. Just stare over the drivers shoulder and read the run card. That’s what the driver should be going by. Find the right time sequence, and see if the dollar sign is present. End of discussion for someone.

      1. Does the run card that drivers tend to hang by the transfer slips have the “$” on it? Or are you referring to something else?

        I have been amazed when I have literally pointed to the (unchanged in the last four years) off-peak indicator on the printed schedule, only to have the operator express incredulity and/or disinterest. I’d love to be able to point directly to the run card.

      2. May I suggest that Metro eliminate the PM peak period and just charge an even higher fare for riding the bus before 9 am? The PM peak period seems to cause waaaayyyyy too many problems. Instead of having 2 peak periods where the fare goes up, have one peak period, in the morning, where the fare is higher. For example, currently the off peak one zone fare is $2.00 and the peak fare is $2.25. Change the fare to $2.50 before 9 am and $2.00 the rest of the day. Simple enough?

      3. Is it weird that I just checked every run card in the correct section (pages 106-123 in your link) and couldn’t find the one for this particular trip?

      4. The run cards are sorted by base and full time or part time work. Then sorted by type of work, you’d have to go back to the atu587 main page and work your way down through all the possibilities. Sorry, it’s a pain.

      5. To find a specific trip in the run cards, there are two tricks I use:

        1) Find a page from that route that lists a timepoint, copy/paste the whole line into the search box, but changing the time.
        2) Search for xxL where xx is the route number. L means “(wheelchair) lift” stating that this trip will have a wheelchair-equipped coach. 100% of the fleet today is equipped with lifts, but that wasn’t always the case.

        Sometimes you can find stuff via the pick sheets. Usually that’s only single trips tough.

  13. One-Eye Chelminiak keeps fighting to make East Link useful! :D

    seattletimes Bellevue City Council member who survived a black-bear attack loses an eye: http://seati.ms/bZQ6QL

    I’ve noticed timetable kiosks running out of timetables before the service change even happens. Metro got away with lower timetable printing volumes last change when there were basically no changes besides a few renumberings, but it may be coming back to bite them now. Perhaps they should go the Kitsap Transit toute of putting up an effective date but no expiratrion date and reprint the same timetable until there’s a change.

    Please tell me the one-flap thing I picked up at Westlake Station isn’t the closest thing RapidRide has to a timetable. 15 minutes is NOT good enough frequency to go without a schedule.

    What determines when Metro puts up the new slide-the-pieces-around stops? I’ve noticed several stops change the last two changeovers that, if anything, modernized the look but kept the same structure…

  14. I am proposing an alternative to 1098 — in fact the opposite of — for funding transit, infrastructure and all the goodies…an expanded property tax.

    Right now, Washington residents pay on average about 25 percent of what the best funded East Coast states do. New Jersey residents pay around $8000 to $10000 a year, whereas in Washington they pay $2500.

    And with all the population increase, and higher valuations, I doubt if many in Western Washington are paying anywhere near “best use” value for land.

    Rather than taxing people by income, which is unfair, they should be taxed on assets — property. Assets more correctly map to the share of tax load that should be on the person, and from what I can see, there’s a ton of people getting a free ride off the system.

    Let’s rework the property tax and assessments to bring it into line with what a “Real State” like New York has instead of passing the property tax cut in 1098 which will eviscerate all needed services.

    1. While I approve of taxing assets in principle, the usual “property tax” only taxes land.

      Really rich people have piles of stocks and bonds and the like. So in order to be fair, you’d have to also have a tax on those — something like the “intangibles tax” Florida used to have.

  15. China’s high-speed train sets new world record news

    A Chinese high-speed train attained a record speed of 416.6 km per hour Tuesday…

    The new high-speed train, at an average speed of 350 km per hour is expected to cover the 202-km distance from Shanghai to Hangzhou, the capital of Zejiang province, in 40 minutes, reducing to half the current travel time between the two cities.

    Seattle to Portland 174 miles (Google)

    At 350 kmh (217 mph) that would be 48 minutes…and that’s at average speed, not peak.

      1. Endless supplies of Serfs in a Communist Dictatorships can result in such things.

        Ask the Germans about their Autobahn system sometime.

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