74 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Suspended Monorail”

    1. It makes some cool appearances in the movie “The Princess and the Warrior”…I’ve wanted to go ever since seeing that movie!

    1. It might be debatable that the projects WA wants the money for are “high speed” but they are solid projects that are worth enough that the State wants to do them with or with out Federal help. These projects will decrease operating costs and improve ridership on a system that has a history of continuous improvement and solid funding. In the case of Wisconsin I can understand why fixing and maintaining roads would be a highers priority than a rail line they have no money to operate.

    2. That would be good. But NY now wants to get in on the game. Fair play if they can get the dollars. They’re probably more worthy candidates, but it would have been nice to see new interest in intercity rail throughout the country. I think that maybe we should be implementing a three-tiered system over the next few years as the deficit get under control: intercity rail, higher speed rail, and high speed rail. We should be mapping out these to see equitable investment in mainline rail systems.

      1. Instead of congress mapping out what’s equitable (i.e. equal pork for all) loan the money through an infrastructure bank. Wasn’t that one of Obama’s pledges. If States feel like it’s worth paying back the money then it’s much more likely that it’s a worth while project. It’s also sustainable meaning the system has a dependable way to grow.

      2. That wasn’t my point. My point was that there should be a NATIONAL, rather than ad hoc, local plans, for such major strategic infrastructure plans. There’s nothing wrong with states wanting to do some of the work on their own, I encourage that. And that’s exactly what as you propose, an infrastructure bank would be handy for. In addition, to regional and local projects where most of the money would be drawn from. However, that doesn’t get us a national plan, and that is what I’m talking about.

    3. Wasn’t some of the Wisconsin money to by several Talgo trainsets, to be manufactured in Milwaukee?

      1. The news report I saw said they would close in 2012 after finishing the Oregon trainsets. It seems like the Wisconsin trainsets could be used for Hiawatha service if Walker wants to save a little face and let that part of the Wisconsin grant go ahead.

      2. PACCAR long ago closed it’s rail operations in Renton. They branched out into automotive parts (remember Al’s Auto Supply?) and oil field equipment but as far as I know today they are completely concentrated in trucks under the Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF nameplates. There’s an outfit in Tacoma that might have a chance and of course Oregon Iron Works.

    4. For some reason this comment escaped the “on topic axe”, but I won’t say any more.

      The new Republican transportation leader in the House has actually taken a pro-HSR stance, but one with common sense.

      For example, he questions the benefits of spending billions to make a 40 mph go 80mph and calling it “High Speed Rail” when China and Japan are producing trains that can go 250mph. He also questioned why the Bos-NY-Was corridor, which is the most heavily used and the only profitable Amtrak route in the country was not being upgraded to HSR (real 250mph HSR).

      Second, some of the routes chosen might be up for grabs politically. As is often said her, transit routes can both be rationalized as making an existing corridor more efficient, or to promote a brand new corridor.

      1. I’m not sure why you would think the original comment was off-topic John. This is an open thread.

        Mica’s stance isn’t common sense. Agreed that it’s ridiculous to call the Milwaukee-Madison line or the faststart 3C high-speed (or for that matter, the Cascades projects). However, the grants are more properly called HSIPR, or High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail grants. Express HSR, as USDOT calls it, makes sense on some routes and the NEC is one of them. It is not the only one, but their cost is very high (e.g. over $100B for the NEC and $42B for CAHSR). It makes a lot of sense to support lower speed corridors at much lower cost to feed traffic into higher speed corridors. Building convenient connections and building a train riding culture will make it possible to justify the cost of increasing speeds on other high usage corridors. The Wisconsin and Ohio projects are useful in that regard.

        Unfortunately for us, because of our relative isolation in the upper left corner of the country and relatively lower population density, it’s hard to justify express HSR here, especially given the topographic challenges. That said, the Vancouver – Eugene corridor is a good corridor that can justify a lower level of investment to improve the service.

        California is a good example to look at. CAHSR didn’t start from ground zero. They’ve had years of building ridership and increasing service on state-supported Amtrak trains, plus robust commuter rail systems. The populations there, and the travel demand justify spending a big chunk of change to connect the Bay Area to SoCal and the Central Valley.

      2. Well rail has always had two functions — increasing transit in a heavily trafficked corridor, and developing and promoting a new region for growth.

        That is why I favor a Seattle-Spokane route for HSR. Now is the time to buy up the right of way cheaply and to foster transit east to west. It would open up vast new land areas for development, enrich the lives of both ends of the state, and maybe bring some unity to our currently bi-polar political views.

  1. Reminds me of the recently retired German-themed Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Smooth riding, that thing was!

      1. The boarding station is still there, but the tracks are gone. I used to work there (“Now enjoy your ride at The Speed Of Fright!!”) and there were many of us who didn’t want the Wolf to go :(

        But, the thing wasn’t smooth towards the end of its life. It was costly to maintain and broke down often. They say a new Coaster will be taking its place (I have no details, it’s been a while since I worked there)

        (note to STB admin: you should recognize me by my email address, but as I don’t speak for the park, I must not have my name published and they must not know who I am since (even as a former employee), I would be violating policy by speaking up)

    1. I know people are tossing the idea around, after all it makes a lot of sense to link them, but I haven’t see any serious study or money for it.

      1. Yeah, I have for quite some time seen it as a logical thing despite the fact that Link will offer a partial solution to getting to SLU in a roundabout way from the hills. So this isn’t the first time people have been talking about it, then? I thought it might have been something new post-McGinn’s election. Might be an interesting post discussion for you or Martin.

      2. There is an RFP for the First Hill SC contract which was released on Seattle’s eBid site. In the introduction, it states that optional services could include extending the streetcar to the north on Broadway and a one mile extension to connect it to the SLU Streetcar. From a quick Google mapping exercise, it appears that 5th Ave may be the route but it is not specified anywhere on the site.

      3. “despite the fact that Link will offer a partial solution to getting to SLU in a roundabout way from the hills”

        The purpose is not for end-to-end trips, which would be ridiculously lengthy on the streetcar. The purpose is to simultaneously serve three transit markets: (1) Broadway and Intl Dist, (2) downtown north-south, (3) downtown to SLU. Presumably one streetcar line is more efficient than two, and it’ll allow ppl to go from the International District to SLU with a one-seat ride. But if you’re going from Westlake or 3rd to Broadway, it would be much faster to take Link or a Pine Street bus.

  2. So on Friday I was heading to the Alaska Airlines company store (99 & 208th st.) so I decided to take link to Tukwila and try RapidRide.

    It was not smooth.

    First of all … how can they NOT have orca card readers at Bay 1 at Tukwila International Blvd station? I mean they have them upstairs … so why not the first stop of the Rapid Ride route?

    Second of all … even though the buses were supposed to run every 10 minutes … I had to wait almost 20 while the bus just sat in the pen east of the bus bays.

    Third of all … on the return trip … the bus driver had decided that the auto stop announcement system was annoying so he turned it off … everyone was missing their stops …

    At the Northbound 208th stop, I noticed that the “real time information display” just said buses operate every 10 minutes … didn’t say how long until the next one (kind of like Link) … additionally … the display signs are pointed at the street … they really should be perpendicular to the sidewalk so people waiting at the stop can read what they say without having to walk over and stand in front of it.

    Having the Orca reader at the stop was nice … but at least half of the folks waiting there were confused … they scanned their card at the stop and tried to scan it again on the bus. Better signage could prevent that (I would assume) …

    on a positive note … the buses were really nice (there might be one or two too many stanchions / poles in the bus (one passenger remarked that it looked like a casino inside) … I like the single seats across from the middle door … and the buses were pretty full (which made things worse when no stop announcements were being made)

    On my trip south Securitas agents did a pass/ticket check … like on Link but they were very forgiving when people said they thought they had to scan when they got off. They did explain to people that RapidRide works a lot like Link (in terms of the honor system of payment) … people seemed to understand immediately after they said that (and remarked that again, signage at the stops would have cleared that up (provided they read of course))

    Overall, I rate the experience as decent … there are some issues (like the driver turning off the stop announcements) … but when they were working (southbound leg) they were most helpful especially the sign listing the next stop … can’t wait until Metro get the system. The 3 door layout w/extra room for standees is something Metro should incorporate as well … they shouldn’t buy any more articulated buses with only 2 sets of doors

    1. Having just ORCA readers at every stop would work okay, *if* Metro would go ahead and eliminate paper transfers.

      Gordon, did you notice what percentage of the passengers paid with change, and how much of an effect it had?

      1. on the two buses I was on … while I was onboard 100% of people used orca cards … still not having orca scanners at Bay 1 is silly

    2. 1) Good question.
      2) What time was it? Could be a coach missed a trip due to mechanical failure or some other reason.
      3) Are you certain that the driver disabled it out of spite and did not flip the switch by mistake? Did you approach the driver and ask him why? Remember that drivers are humans and not drones and are therefore subject to making errors. If you feel it’s necessary, use Metro’s comment form to report him. Also realize that the switch is in a location where it could inadvertently be tripped.

      Signs: I don’t think the realtime info is up and running yet. Also, if the signs were perpendicular to the sidewalk, twice as many would be needed. I know that SeaTac/Airport station, which is projected to be one of the stations with the highest ridership (excluding the terminals) so they paid quite a bit of attention to that station, and it has dual displays.

      1. I don’t remember the exact time … but it was during the “Every 10 minutes” timeframe

        The bus driver said to another passenger who was pissed that they missed their stop that he turned it off on purpose … metro is aware (I gave them the time and bus #)

        as for the signs, why would twice as many be needed … as long as the info display is at one end of the stop, making them perpendicular (like Link) would be easier to read for everyone … at most they might need to be double-sided … but that shouldn’t be a technical problem

      2. as for the signs, why would twice as many be needed? …they might need to be double-sided … but that shouldn’t be a technical problem

        You answered your own question there. The signs only have a display on one side. At the airport, there are two of them mounted back to back. So not only do you double the cost since you need twice as many, but you also complexify them since you have more signs that need addressability.

      3. @Tim

        Most real time information signs I saw in europe have the signs oriented perpendicular to the direction of travel. A sign parallel to the direction of travel covers an even smaller area than a single perpendicular sign. Parallel signs are oriented across the platform (or sidewalk) which is a maximum of 5-8 feed wide, while perpendicular signs are oriented down the sidewalk and are visible in that direction as far as you can see the letters. Yes you can’t see the sign from behind but you wouldn’t be able to see a parallel sign either.

        Well placed signs can get around the problem you bring up. If the sign is located at either end of the waiting area you can cover a majority if not all riders. Also what you’ll find is people wait in areas were they can easily see the sign.

        I would also note that the signs themselves aren’t the driving cost of these systems. From my understanding the major capitol cost is getting electricity and communication to the signs, not the cost of the signs themselves.

    3. How many different public transit vehicles are running around in King County? Let’s see, Metro(comes in 3 basic color schemes, STEx(w/waves), Rapid Ride (org/red), Access in green, CT Express), Link w/more waves and who have I left out?
      Is it any wonder that new and infrequent riders are confused about how to pay?

      1. with the exception of RapidRide … I think all buses (Metro/ST/Pierce/CT) payment is handled the same way

  3. Tim Eyman is trumpeting the fact that initiative 1053 prevents state agencies like Washington State Ferries from instituting fare increases without a 2/3 majority vote in the state gov’t. WSF is checking with the AG to see if this is indeed the case … this might also effect Metro and Sound Transit and any planned farebox increases.

    In addition, according to Publicola

    Fresh off his I-1053 victory on Tuesday (reinstating the two-thirds majority requirement for the legislature to raise taxes), initiative hawker Tim Eyman has already filed a batch of new ones.

    This is his R&D phase. He floats a bunch of initiatives, seven in this instance, to see which ones work. His proposed measures this year mostly focus on transportation and one of them—if you read it closely—has implications for Sound Transit.

    Here’s the language. We’ve bolded the the line that targets Sound Transit.

    This measure would set vehicle license fees at $30 per year, minus other vehicle fees imposed in that jurisdiction; reduce certain motor vehicle taxes and fees; require voter approval of vehicle charge increases; repeal authority for certain voter-approved vehicle tax surcharges; require that certain transportation authority bonds be retired within 90 days and that collection of pledged taxes be discontinued; require local voter approval of automated traffic safety cameras and limit associated fines to $30.

    When Eyman tried to defund Sound Transit with I-776 in 2002 by freezing motor vehicle excise taxes at $30, Sound Transit, which was funded by the MVET, was spared because they were already bonded—meaning the tax was already pledged to pay of its bonds.

    The implication of Eyman’s new proposal is this: ST would have to prioritize those bond payments (which are methodically paying off the first installment of light rail), meaning they’d have zero cash to move forward on any of their current projects, like getting north to Lynwood, east to Bellevue, and south to Highline Community College.

    1. Please tell me it would not take a vote of both houses of the state lege to eliminate paper transfers…

      1. probably not … Eyman is saying that I-1053 covers changes to all taxes and fees … and he is saying Bus/Ferry/Train prices are State Fees therefore fall under 1053.

        Transfers are not … the issue there is paper vs. orca card

      2. Since transit agencys are not state agencys, i doubt they’d be affected at all by this. Of course if the legislature wanted some unfunded mandates regarding transit fares and transfers affecting the whole state…

      3. When is Tim Eyman’s coronation?

        Personally, I think there should be Express Lanes for the Judiciary for Initiatives, so we can get through deciding the constitutionality of these things soon enough to proceed with state/local business more efficiently.

    2. This one could backfire on Eyman. Since ST’s bond payments are prioritized, this would just mean less revenue for Eyman’s favorite method of transport.

      The reality is that Eyman and his conservative just want more roads, even if it means dipping more into the general fund than we already do.

      1. He’s tried games like this before and it’s gotten thrown out. State initiatives cannot alter local agencys, and you really cant touch bonds and bond sources once they are issued have all came up in regards to him and ST. Now if he wanted to, he could probally alter the ST MEVT to be more fair, which if our state legislature had done fifteen years ago it wouldent have been a problem today.

    3. It would be so fun just to run a initiatve to revoce Tim’s washington state citizenship, declaring him persona non grata, and forcing him to leave the state
      Unfortunatly I bet that the supreme court would throw it out of court on apeal :(

      1. Residency status, not citizenship. But, we could do that via the state constitution. Why not, I’m sure I can get 500,000 signatures in Seattle for that no bother. LETS DO IT!!!

      2. A few years back someone filed an initiaive to get him officially declared a “horse’s ass”, sadly and unjustly the supreme court threw it out.

    4. We got to start working against Eyman actively and not by waiting for his initiatives, then campaigning and voting against them. I think the critical action is to start sponsoring and pushing initiatives friendly to transit related causes (and not just asking for taxing authority, but rather structural changes), marketed the way he markets his. We’re all too reactionary and dependent on the courts to hopefully bail us out.

      Does anyone know of someone working in this direction?

      1. You don’t get it. You have goals and something you’re trying to achieve. Eyman runs initiatives based solely on popularity. Hell, he’d run a light rail initiative if he thought it would make him a buck. He purposefully writes things into the initiatives that cause them to be overturned because that boosts his popularity (big government stepping on the “little guy”) and sets him up to do the same thing over and over and over again. Note, he’ll never run for public office… he might win and then he’d actually be expected to do something. It’s been talked about for a while and I think what has to happen is an elimination or drastic revision in the State initiative process. If the legislature actually lets 1053 stand for the next 2-4 years then I think there’s a good chance that could happen.

      2. Yeah, I think Bernie is entirely right here. But, I’ve also held much the same notions about being proactive, Brian. It doesn’t hurt. Worst case is that you lose and you come back again. Although, as Eyman says, you never lose if don’t quit. Only quitting loses.

      3. I don’t know about that. Eyman has consistently submitted anti-tax initiatives, and some of them target transit taxes for the benefit of drivers. There is a rumor that he uses campaign contributions for his own benefit, and thus filing initiatives is a kind of job for him. But he has never gone all the way to submit a general variety of initatives (which would bring him maximum voter support and income). He has always put his ideology first, submitting only anti-tax and anti-transit initiatives.

  4. It is interesting to see how much of that line is over the river. There is the whole debate about ruining such a beautiful natural resource (I’m talking about the view, and the supports for this train are admittedly ugly). But what I find interesting is that population centers tend to situate themselves around rivers, so depending on the history of the city, zoning, etc., it could be that the river represented the most optimal route for ridership.

    1. Don’t expect any justice pretty much anywhere if you’re killed by someone in a car. At least, I don’t call a maximum sentence of 4.5 years anything resembling “justice”. (That’s even if there’s clear evidence of intent to kill.) If you want to kill someone, do it from behind the wheel.

  5. I rode the Wuppertal monorail in 2003. One really fun ride; like flying at extremely low altitude.

    Google [H-bahn Dortmund] to find a more modern monorail people mover not too far away in Germany … not as much fun to ride on … way slower and the route is not as scenic.

  6. This might mean the end of trolley buses in Seattle:

    link [use a URL shortener if you are going to post such a long link]

    Also, two of the 35′ Gilligs, 3198 and 3199, are “Center Park” buses–handicapped-exclusive buses with most of their seats replaced with wheelchair tie-downs and the back doors sealed. Will Metro purchase any Orion 7’s in this configuration when the Gilligs are replaced?

    1. Hardly… That’s a prototype bus that will, if I understand correctly, not be used in revenue service. Bernie has already brought up the issue of what rapid charging (especially over a 5-10 minute period) would do to batteries. (In short, toast them)

      I’m not against the idea – getting rid of all overhead wires in Seattle in exchange for some forced 10 minute layovers for charging will be a good thing in many bus drivers world. That said, I’m not holding my breath.

      1. Its too bad the existing Orion 7 couldent be modified with trolleypoles on the roof, and power feeding the onboard traction motor for use in the urbanized areas, than in the suburbs like the old tunnel buses they could run on diesel.

      1. That’s the way to do it. It will be interesting to watch the testing. The big question is where is the tipping point where trying to run off wire doesn’t make sense. Note that with this technology applied to ETBs they can be stored and serviced in a “normal” bus barn or lot. With the trolleys you have the additional engineering challenge of figuring out a way for the poles to reattach to the wires. As far as Link I don’t know that there’s much advantage. Possibly, if the run time is feasible it could be used to cross the I-90 bridge but my hunch is that’s pushing the distance and if that’s the only place it’s used wouldn’t justify the expense.

  7. I’ve suggested it before and it was shot down but I’ll bring around again. How about a single level viaduct replacement with the same capacity as the proposed DBT and hanging a W. Seattle to Ballard Schwebebahn from it? For the cost of the tunnel you might get transit and a roadway. Planned right it would provide a covered promenade the length of the waterfront and could connect the cruise ship terminals with Link at King Street.

    1. But you lose a ton of property tax dollars, especially since the roadway would have to be even wider.

    2. Well, I guess if you’re an entirely function over form kind of person, why not? But, I stick with my planning guns, form over function. But, I totally see where you’re coming from. Might be a bit difficult to argue against in the numbers game.

      1. I think the form of a Ballard Schwebebahn would be better than what I’ve seen for surface alternative. All I’ve see, admittedly the architects have yet to go to work, is a big ass surface street replacing the viaduct. A suspended rail line overcomes many of Seattle’s geographic obstacles and provides great views to the riders. The cover the viaduct offers is nice even in the totally unplanned and wasteful way it’s currently constructed. There’s no arguing the views are terrific and make for a great route for the Seattle Marathon. Maybe we should have more weekend closings for special events; bike Sundays, Waterfront Street Fair elevated to a new level, an F-1 race… A four lane viaduct on a single level wouldn’t have to be that wide. Especially if you design it for a 40mph speed limit.

    1. Oran wrote about one of EvanS’ slightly less epic trips. See the sidebar under “Best Reference Posts”

    2. I’ve done Seattle-Vancouver and Seattle-Portland and back via public transit. It’s a good time.

Comments are closed.