This is an open thread.

47 Replies to “News Roundup: Marvel in Engineering”

  1. The Beacon Hill station may be an marvel of engineering, but it’s also an incredible marvel of poor urban design. There are many good reasons why the 36 bus stop in front of the building seems to have much more traffic than the creepy, reception-free, density-repelling, time-consuming light rail hole.

    1. As Lewis Black would say – “There is not enough deodorant in the world for this discussion”

      Have you been to any other subway system in the world? Beacon Hill’s station is beautiful, safe, and clean. I’ll concede on the lack of cellular reception, but that alone is not the reason why the bus stop has more foot traffic. Also, it’s not the station that’s “density repelling” – Seattle zoning laws and NIMBYs are density repelling.

      1. Well actually they were about to rezone the area to become a great transit-oriented neighborhood, then a couple people sued. The lawsuit, which was opposed by the vast majority of people in the neighborhood, was quickly thrown out, but there’s some state law that says they can only amend the comprehensive plan in March (I think, maybe February or April), so they have to wait until next year. But this time it should finally go through, and development can start. El Centro wants to build some kind of development that sounds like it could have a lot of promise.

    2. The problem with Seattle is that everyone is a genius, and can point out the zillion ways doing anything is WRONG WRONG WRONG.

      Beacon Hill Station, all things considered, is pretty great. It’s clean, it works, and it’s footprint isn’t ultimately that big. If and when we ever get out of this recession, it’s tailor made to be a hub building.

      But good lord, can we cool it with the hating of everything? People build stuff. Some of it you’ll like, some of it you won’t. But really, we’re all in this together. It’ll all work out okay.

    3. I also have to dispute the idea that the 36 stop has more traffic. I’m reaching there at commuting hours and most mornings there are usually 2-5 people at the northbound bus shelter and anywhere from 5-25 at the station platform.

      Plus it’s dry, warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer. Unless you have some sort of phobia about being underground I don’t see how it’s creepier than the SB 36 stop – at least there’s usually a rent-a-cop and security cameras. And time consuming? Have you ever ridden a crush load 36 through the ID?

    4. Wouldn’t it have made more sense just to route LINK directly from Seattle to the Airport along the I-5 valley on it’s own separate track all the way and use the buses from places like Beacon Hill as feeders?

      No tunnels, no street level grades.

      Just a fast, express. And you could have lots of parking at each station then.

      And then extend it along side all the ring of highways around Lake Washington to Bellevue, Renton, Bothell.

      1. I just love the suburban folks who think the train should have skipped SE Seattle. Oh, wait, no I don’t.

        Feel free to route a commuter train that way. But Seattle neighborhoods need rail too. (More than they are likely to get in the next 20 years, unfortunately.)

    5. I kind of like the Beacon Hill station. But second best engineering marvel in the country? What is he smoking?

    6. Beacon Hill station is the stupidest design I’ve ever seen. What if people actually start to use it? A metro stop only serviced by elevators? Are you joking? I can see the London announcement – “In honour of the Beacon Hill station in Seattle – a marvel of engineering – we’re replacing all London Underground stairs and escalators with lifts”. I was in shock the first time I say Beacon Hill station – speechless.

      1. What a considerate, informed comment. How much time did you spend doing engineering analysis to come up with your conclusion? What would your solution be to this problem? Show us some drawings.

        Its so arrogant of people to play Monday morning quarterback with something that a team of engineers and planners spent years designing. Knowing Seattle’s approach, there were probably many public comment periods and other ways to provide input.

        By the way, other deep metro stations also have elevator-only solutions (I believe some stations in Brooklyn Heights on the NYC Metro are elevator-only). Are they the ‘stupidest’ designs you’ve ever seen too?

      2. Also Forest Glen station on WMTA Red Line. My point is that this is not anything new or untried and is just one solution to a problem, namely getting people 160 feet below ground level in an expedient and cost-effective manner. While multiple banks of escalators could probably do the same thing and may ultimately handle more people, there are maintenance and station footprint considerations. Also, to make the station accessible, they needed to install at least one or two elevators anyhow.

      3. Grant has obviously not used much of the LU system.

        There are quite a few stations on the Tube portion (as opposed to the “Surface” one) that have as their only access elevators and, in an emergency (or when the “Lift” was broken, which was often in the late 1980’s), stairs that spiral around the elevators’ shaft.

        Chalk Farm and Goodge Street on the Northern Line, Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line to name a few.

        Here’s an interactive map:
        http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk/im/SI-T.html

        Zoom in, click on a station name, move your mouse down to “Station Access” then click on the entrance(s) of your choice. This will tell you if that entrance has an escalator or a “lift” and how many stairs you might otherwise encounter.

        Before Aldwych station was closed:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldwych_tube_station
        ticket sales and control were done by the lift operator who had a little booth inside the elevator car (this was pre-CUBIC faregates)!

      4. Ugh, just reviewed the video and saw that the CUBIC faregates did make it into Aldwych before closure in ’94.

        But you can see the little ticket booth inside the elevator car.

      5. “Grant has obviously not used much of the LU system.”

        Indeed. When I was in London, Goodge Street was our nearest station, so we spent a lot of time taking the lifts. It was not a problem.

    7. I love BeHi station – I just wish it wasn’t so leaky. If they don’t find ways to plug those leaks all the water stains and damage will quickly make the station dank and ugly. Please fix this!

      The other feedback I have is (sorry, broken record) that real-time next train arrival signs are needed on both the plaza and platform levels. This way you know if you need to rush to the platform or if you have time to load your ORCA card, make a phone call, etc. before entering the elevators.

      1. Sound Transit told us that the number of leaks at this point are pretty normal for a new tunnel like this.

        Whether that is true, I don’t have the background to know. But, yes, I wish they would repair it more quickly and not let it start to smell/look icky… it’s OK for now, but could get worse.

        Agree x1000 about the real-time signs. Particularly there, where you can’t make a phone call from the platform.

      1. I actually thought about this for a second the last time North Korea was rattling it’s sabre. Radiation should be coverd from being that deep, but I’d bet the overpressure from a nuke over Eliott bay would still flow through the tunnel and cause some problems. Too bad they didn’t opt for Cheyenne Mountain style vault doors at each portal :)

      2. If you ever go to Moscow, and look carefully at the stations where the bottom of the escalators are, you can see pretty hefty vault doors somewhat concealed into the walls.

        Still, I would hope that the KPA would choose Wasila as a target over the Soviet of Washington.

    8. I disagreed with this comment on Publicola. Do I have to do it again? At least this time you didn’t outright claim that the station takes up a whole block.

      You think the station is creepy: I disagree. They designed it well and there is security down there, and it feels quite safe.

      Reception-free, well, yes, that part IS annoying. But it’s also the case in the DSTT.

      Density-repelling? Why, exactly? On Publicola you said “It takes up an entire block, but it has no retail, residents, or officespace. It repels density. It’s like a giant park-and-ride lot without any parking.” But you’ve already been corrected there. The station does not take up an entire block, and the lack of other buildings there is because the private owners have not yet chosen to redevelop. This is quite possibly because they are waiting for the rezone to go through. I sure as hell wouldn’t develop or sell now if I were them — the property is likely to be worth more after the rezone. (And that’s not even mentioning the bad economy making it worth waiting, as well.)

      Time-consuming? On Publicola you said “Who the hell wants to spend a couple minutes going underground… only to have to trudge a couple minutes to go aboveground again when you get downtown? ” So, in other words, you are complaining about something that is common to just about every other subway station in the world.

      And I don’t agree that the 36 stop has more traffic at all. This does not match the observations I’ve made when riding. I live there and ride often. (I don’t ride during morning rush hour so things may be different at that time of day.)

  2. The federal gas tax should be indexed to inflation.

    I agree with the basic premise and the tax rate proposed would be equal to the current tax per gallon. What I don’t get is the extra 25% increase on diesel. You get more diesel from a barrel of crude than gasoline and it provides better mpg. It produces less carbon dioxide and the problems with particulates and NOx emmisions have been solved. We should be following Europe’s lead and switch the majority of our demand away from gasoline and toward diesel. It’ll take many years for the refinery capacity to adjust but it also takes at least seven years to make much of a change in the makeup of the existing fleet.

    1. “We should be following Europe’s lead and switch the majority of our demand away from gasoline and toward diesel. It’ll take many years for the refinery capacity to adjust…”

      Unless I misunderstand how oil is refined, you can’t simply “adjust” the mix of products you pull from a barrel of oil. Crude oil is heated to various temperatures which vaporizes different products that are condensed at various levels of the stack. There’s only so much gasoline in a barrel, so much diesel, kerosene / Jet Fuel, Naptha, etc…

      Sure, the Europeans use a lot of diesel, but what do they do with all the leftover gasoline? They export it to us, thus keeping our gasoline prices lower.

      1. Ok, since most of that article is behind Rupert Murdoch’s “pay me” firewall, I’ll quote a chunk relevant to Bernie’s point:

        “European refinery officials say they are gradually making investments to increase diesel and heating-oil production, while decreasing gasoline output or keeping it stable. They say they don’t see supplying the U.S. gasoline market as a long-term strategy. Still, they expect to be producing excess gasoline for at least several more years.”

        So, it looks like there is some wiggle room to “adjust” output of diesel and gasoline.

        Looks like it’s time to go buy that Diesel Jetta Sportwagon I’ve always wanted…

  3. Will the Vancouver yard project impact Amtrak times to Portland? Or is it basically just a freight thing? I need Brian’s updates to keep track of which project is which.

    1. It doesn’t really shorten the trip, or increase the speed limits. But ‘time’ can be gained in other ways, like not being habitually late, waiting for freights to move about. And the station requires a stop anyway.
      It’s the easiest way to increase schedule reliability.

      1. “What Mike said”. :-) Schedule reliability is a big deal, and is actually the main goal of a lot of the projects on the Portland-Seattle line; reliable schedules make trains significantly more popular, and on the other hand allow ‘slack’ to be removed from the printed schedule.

        The main Vancouver Yard project to improve schedule reliability already got funded earlier, this is a bonus; after both get built, passenger trains really should never be held up by freights in the Vancouver area.

        Cascades Portland-Seattle is really looking like it will be quite awesome in a few years time. Every single bottleneck is being removed, from the track layout at King St. station to the turnouts for station tracks in Portland. The one taking the longest is the Pt. Defiance Bypass and you probably won’t see shorter official schedules until it’s done.

        There’s actually one more major unfunded bottleneck, which is the trestle replacement east of Tacoma Dome station; and there’s PTC; but apart from that the next improvements possible are simply long stretches of fast track. I could see there being a major push to fund those in 2014-2016 when everything else is up and running.

  4. Re: “Transit drivers engaging in a little activism on the job, get slapped down by Metro”:

    I hate to think I class as “one of the old-timers”, but we all have to face this sooner or later. But after thirteen years working with Jim O’Rourke and almost thirty of general acquaintance with him, I’d say he’s one of the best managers in the country.

    That said, it wouldn’t hurt for Local 587 and the ACLU to sit down with Jim and the County Executive just to get it straight exactly which country we’re talking about. And to mutually recollect the political traditions of this particular part of that country.

    However, I think it’s fair for Jim to ask that before a driver uses the coach public address system to give out the County Exec’s phone number- which really is in the phone directory as well as the County website, along with the contact info for the whole council- that drivers first give passengers the trip information they’re supposed to.

    In my experience as both a driver and a passenger, many drivers would rather talk in the ear of a live cobra than use the microphone for any reason.

    On their own time, as a union and individually, drivers would powerfully benefit King County Metro Transit by organizing and directing large-scale sustained intensive citizen political interest in the transit system. And by its own invitation, King County government is the place to direct this attention.

    Almost twenty years ago when King County waged a determined and successful campaign to bring the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle into county government, one of the county’s leading arguments was that directly-elected officials should rightly be in charge of the transit system.

    The voters agreed. So there shouldn’t be any argument about it.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The issue this shakeup is the incorporation of HASTUS into scheduling “efficiencies”, resulting in a lot of trips running late due to the program’s deficits in considering various metrics. As a result, many passengers are taking out their frustrations on drivers, many believing that drivers are the ones responsible for the buses running late. Some schedules are 10 minutes or more behind on a regular basis, and passengers and drivers are frustrated. The move to let passengers know they should contact the King County Council about schedule problems is motivated by the fact that they have relied heavily on the audit recommendations, many (all, really) of which were made without consulting transit operators.

    2. What is HASTUS and when was it started? The 8, 14, 30, and 49 have been 5-15 minutes late for the past three years at least. What’s new is the uneven scheduling of the 71/72/73, which have been out of whack since February. 18 minutes between two buses, then two minutes before the third. Is that HASTUS’s fault?

      1. HASTUS is the scheduling software system Metro uses. The audit recommended purchasing an additional module that can be used to optimize schedules. I don’t how flexible the software is but it should be able to handle complex rules as defined by the people who use it. The software is a black box that only works as well as the input it is given. Garbage in, garbage out.

  5. WTA will eliminate all paper transfers beginning Jan 1 as a cost saving measure.
    http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2010/10/21/1680238/wta-votes-to-end-paper-bus-transfers.html#disqus_thread
    I’m flabbergasted by this move. In order to save operating costs, WTA designed a spoke and hub route system, that requires a transfer in downtown Bellingham. Most buses ‘meet’ each 1/2 hour at the new TC.
    Now they want to charge those riders double for the privilege of being forced to transfer, unless they buy a monthly pass.
    The reason given was to cut down on transfer abuse, because people were using them for their return trip. Oh the horror of it.

      1. Well Jessica, that’s just not going to work. Can you imagine how jam packed all the buses would be, with all the little old senior citizens ‘joy riding’ all over the place.
        Surely in invitation to disaster :)

    1. When this policy has been adopted in Southern California by, amongst others, LA Metro, OCTA (Orange Curtain) and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, it has been complimented by the introduction of an all-day pass that is (usually) available at the bus farebox.

      (LA Metro now requires the rider to have their RFID card (“TAP”) to buy a day-pass, which has led to all sorts of issues, but then the TAP card is a total debacle anyways).

  6. Killing Tunnel A Win For Chris Christie

    He recently exploded on to the national scene when he announced he was single-handedly killing the largest public transit project in the U.S., a commuter train tunnel under the Hudson River from Northern New Jersey to Manhattan, because, he said, the project was too expensive.

    Initially priced at just under $9 billion, Christie said he was nixing the tunnel because he’s received credible information that the costs will likely soar higher by anywhere from $2.5 billion to $5.3 billion.

    http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2010/10/15/killing-tunnel-win-chris-christie/?cmpid=prn_baynote-js_Killing_Tunnel_A_Win_For_Chris_Christie

      1. Guess I don’t get out much := I sure hope that WSDOT has a transponder freebie prior to starting tolling. FWIW, my trip into RV and then the Greyhound Station I likely would have just used I-90 both ways if there was a $3 toll.

      2. “FWIW, my trip into RV and then the Greyhound Station I likely would have just used I-90 both ways if there was a $3 toll.”

        I’m curious at which point you would change your mind if your travel time was longer traveling via I-90/I-405. 10 minutes? 20 minutes? 30?

        I’m not making predictions, but if enough people switch to I-90 and clog it, 520 may become the consistently faster, albeit more expensive, option. It’ll be interesting to watch.

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