75 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: A Metro TV Commercial!”

  1. I dropped off 2 family members at Seatac Airport this morning around 6:15am. Airport Roadway was totally congested, with a 10-minute wait.

    Given that Seatac Airport is a major destination on Link, it’s absurd that the first Link trains from downtown don’t arrive until 7am on Sunday mornings.

      1. Tim,

        Though the page doesn’t spell out that those are actually the departure times, those are actually the departure times. Note to ST webmaster: Could you insert the word “Departure” for the first and last train times? And also “Westlake (to Airport)” etc?

        Carl is correct that the first train *arrives* at Airport Station at 7 am on Sundays.

      2. Yes, Oran, that is what it says. But Carl is talking about going to SeaTac, and Tim misread the schedule. I can easily see how Tim misread it. That is why I am asking for the page to be more specific.

      3. I mis-typed. Meant to say “leaves at 6:19am”. I also mis-read Carl’s post thinking he wanted to go northbound, when in fact he was looking for the train that leaves Westlake at 6:20.

    1. I agree with Carl, even on Sundays LINK should leave downtown (or at least stadium if they don’t want to open the tunnel that early) by 5:30am on Sundays. I understand they only have so much budget for service hours and have to allocate them according to the amount of ridership generated (justify the service hours, basically), but given that LINK is the high-capacity backbone of our public transit system, it should have superior operating hours.

      Increasing the system’s operating hours will become easier to justify as the system is built out and ridership increases.

      1. The problem is not budgetary (even though the Service Improvement Plan documents imply that). The problem is allowing enough time to do nightly and weekly track maintenance.

      2. I think the problem is the the tunnel is closed, which I assume is due to budget. ST seems to further restrict service whenever they have any maintenance work to do.

        If Link didn’t run to the airport, and it wasn’t the busiest station outside of the tunnel stations, the service window might be OK. But Sunday is a busy travel day, and the morning is the peak period for departures, with flight leaving as early as 5:30am. Having the first train from downtown arrive at 7am is simply too late. If Link is going to serve the airport, it should run when travelers & employees need it. ST runs buses to the airport (from Tacoma and Federal Way), recognizing that travelers and employees need to be there early, much earlier than it runs Link.

      3. There is a Link train leaving Stadium Station at 4:40 AM on weekdays, before the tunnel is open. If the issue is the tunnel, surely they could do something similar on Sundays too.

      4. Even if the tunnel is kept open overnight, track maintenance still has to be done. If not between 1 am and 4 am, then when can it be done? For more time-consuming weekly track maintenance tasks, is there a better time to do that than between Saturday night and Sunday morning?

      5. Don’t forget the Bacon Hill tunnel too. ST likes to close that off early at night (I don’t know why). Northbound trains terminate at Mount Baker instead of Bacon Hill, both of which are south of the OMF.

      6. There isn’t track maintenance work every night. They ran trains all night during the snow/ice storm. There are plans to run night service. It is open earlier Mon-Sat. There aren’t logistical problems which prevent earlier service – it’s a financial decision, and it is mis-guided, especially on Sunday mornings since airport service is a key feature of Link.

      7. “Don’t forget the Bacon Hill tunnel too. ST likes to close that off early at night (I don’t know why). ”

        Supposedly it’s to prevent people from being stuck in the station when the doors lock automatically at 1am.

  2. TO CHAIN OR NOT TO CHAIN, That is the question.
    It takes crews many hours to chain up the whole fleet before an expected snow event, requiring managers to err on the side of caution. Trying to do it ‘ad-hoc’ on 3rd Ave, or other TC’s around the region is not very efficient. Likewise, when the event is winding down with mostly just wet surfaces except on hills, we have lots of buses travelling down the interstates at a snails pace, with chains beating the vehicle and the roadway to death.
    WTA has found a solution to this, which worked remarkably well during the last snow and ice storm – RETRACTABLE CHAINS.
    Here’s a link to the story,
    and another to a video showing how they work.
    I guess the big question in my mind, are the life cycle costs of the devices.
    Labor to chain and unchain, reduced efficiency of buses on wet pavement with chains on, and damages to chains, roads, and buses all factor in.

    1. In college I was a volunteer ambulance driver in rural Western New York (outside of Rochester). Obviously, we got some snow in that region, and our ambulances had retractable tire chains for challenging traction situations. Basically they just spin lengths of chain in front of the rear tires which get pulled under the tire as they spin. Despite all the snow we got, I only used them once when I was stuck.

      I don’t know how much they cost, however, and I still struggle with how much the Seattle area should spend to prepare for snowy roads. Given that it isn’t an issue 360+ days out of the year, does it make sense to spend a bunch of money to be completely prepared and then go a few years without ever needing it?

    2. Ahh, insta-chain.


      When I was younger, some school districts started to adapt them to their school buses. The ultimate ski activity bus was one that had automatic chains and wheel sanders.

      Metro played around with an automatic chain system back in the ’80s. A couple of Flyers had them retrofitted. I vaguely recall something about them needing a smaller wheel(?!) to accomodate the equipment. That might have been some miscommunication with the news media.

      What metro needs to do is:

      1. Bring back wheel sanders
      2. Introduce a traction-control override switch that is easily accessed.
      3. Install double-chain insta-chains on all buses

      If you are inside a bus travelling on snow or ice, you’ll recognize the traction control system activating, which basically are the brakes stopping the wheels when they begin to spin faster than their adjacent counterparts. This is why buses get stuck, their systems won’t let them gain enough momentum to move forward.

      Brian Bradford
      Olympia, WA

  3. There’s been some back-and-forth about the Sound Transit tax costs now that the Bush Recession has forced the agency to cut its revenue projections through 2023. But of course the taxing will continue for decades after that, due to how the taxes are tied to the outstanding bonds.

    So what’s the current ST estimate of what kind of tax hit the bond financing will put on the region? Yes, I know, we’ll all be dead when it’s paid off – that’s not the point.

    A story from two months ago said Sound Transit’s staff still was trying to figure out how large its tax costs would be:

    “A huge question is the long-term effect on taxpayers.

    “Sound Transit does have legal power to prolong taxes and issue bond debt indefinitely, so the costs stretch far into the 2040s or 2050s, instead of the mid-2030s time frame that agency managers described in the run-up to the 2008 vote.

    “However, financial officer Brian McCartan has yet to recalculate how the recession might push the agency to use more or longer debt financing.”


    Maybe McCartan has recalculated it now? I can’t find the estimate of tax costs on ST’s website.

    That “more or longer debt financing” is a killer. Here’s some of what ST’s financial advisors apparently have in mind: $8 billion in bonds issued, and those would be secured by pledges to confiscate about $85 billion in tax revenues from the people (mostly) and businesses around here. No peer uses anything like that abusive, tax-heavy plan to pay for bus and train service. Are those tax costs going to increase now?

    What pulls regions out of recessions? Consumer spending. Want to depress consumer spending, by a huge amount? Do what the political leadership here does: stack regressive taxes to the stratosphere. They’re the highest in the nation here, in no small part because of the 1.8 % Metro and ST joint sales tax rate. Unlike everywhere else, the bus and train taxing here takes food off the tables of the most needy in our community. Those transit taxes also act as a heavy anchor on the local economy.

    Here’s what Brian McCartan should disclose: an estimate of the real costs to the public of Sound Transit’s capital expense financing plan. The following is a method for deriving that amount. It also would show the tax costs ST now expects to impose on people, businesses, and the local economy over the next couple of generations:

    – what’s the estimate of the amount of long term bonds that will be sold,

    – when will the last of those be paid off,

    – what’s the estimated amount of tax revenue ST will have confiscated up through that debt payoff date (the expected tax pledge security terms in the bond sales contracts will drive that amount), and

    – what’s the current estimate of how much in the way of federal grants ST expects it’ll be able to obtain for its capital projects?

    Answers to those questions would quantify key features of ST’s financing plan. Only those in the silo now have that information. Other political leaders, the press, interested members of the public, etc. now are completely in the dark about those aspects of what ST is up to.

    Anyone want to suggest other ways of quantifying the cost to the public and the local economy of what the cabal running Sound Transit has planned for us? It’d be great if the agency just would clear this up . . . keeping the public in the dark just makes it look like the folks in Union Station are up to no good.

    1. You don’t do your argument any good by launching into an attack on the ‘cabal’ or characterizing Union Station as the ‘silo’. Instead, a very important public policy debate, get’s tossed on the trash heap about halfway into your point.
      One thing that gets lost in all the shouting is the importance of keeping ones eye on the goal. In my mind, that is moving many more people via efficient transit, rather than relying on one person, in one vehicle, on one lane, to get the job done.
      If the region ties up too much of transits dedicated funding, for too many years, into paying off past projects, then not enough taxing authority is left to either keep the system up to modern and safe specs, or to build more of it faster.
      Peak Oil is here. The Puget Sound, at the current rate of building mass transit is way behind, and may never catch up at the current pace it’s moving at.
      I’ll leave the tunnel, brt, bus v. rail cat-fight for others to quibble over, but the main point I’m making is that in 20 or 30 years, transit will still be hauling about the same percentage of daily trips (PSRC Vision 2040)at a cost per rider far higher than peer systems around the nation.

      1. Obviously it’s John – he would have said so if it weren’t. BTW, I’m glad our local agencies can keep secrets better than the State Dept.

    2. Overweight is right, and this does not even include an updated revenue forecast from Sound Transit. WA state just lowered their projection of future sales tax revenues about a week ago. ST has yet to do so. This is going to hurt ST’s financial situation, just as it has hurt the state’s financial situation.

      1. To add some specifics to my prior post:

        ST’s most recent revenue projections were discussed in the Lindblom article from Sept. 23, over 2 months ago. A quote from that article:

        “As bleak as Thursday’s news was, it assumes only a “single dip” recession with 1 percent tax growth for 2010, followed by an average 4.75 percent growth.”

        But about a week ago, the state updated its revenue projections, lowering them again. From 11-18-10:


        “The forecast takes into account voter approval of Initiative 1107, which repealed taxes on soda, candy and bottled water, but the drop is largely the result of a generally dismal outlook for the economy and an expectation that tax collections will be lower than previously projected.

        “Chief economist Arun Raha did not point to a sudden decline in any particular sector of the economy as the reason for the drop in the forecast.

        “Basically the economy is not growing as quickly as had been projected, and the outlook for the near future is lackluster as well.

        “That led Raha to project slower growth in tax collections.”

        So, ST has not yet taken into account the repeal of the sales tax on soda, candy and bottled water, nor has ST used the latest downward projection of WA sales tax revenue, overall.

        When is ST going to make public their new revenue projections making use of the latest data from the state’s head economist? Obviously, this is only going to make ST’s financial situation even worse than Overweight discussed.

      2. Sound Transit has a budget process that follows a specific timeline, they don’t just keep updating their forecasts ad nauseum. If the updated revenue forecasts used for the 2011 budget are off then it will be reflected in the 2012 budget process. These are predictions after all. Have either of you ever been involved is something as complicated as a corporate budget process? I’m guessing probably not.

        Now could we talk about transit? I’m sure they’re are more appropriate forums where you could air you anti-tax, anti-government views than on a transit blog. Maybe the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Blog?

      3. If WA state can update its revenue forecasts a couple times per year, why not Sound Transit? They can just use the state’s economic forecsasts.

        At the very least, it should be simple to adjust for the repeal of the sales tax on soda, candy and bottled water. ST knows how much revenue they predicted those items would bring in. So how much will the repeal of those taxes cost ST?

        And if ST does not make changes to their revenue projections as warranted, then they likely wind up spending money they won’t have, or starting projects they can’t actually afford. How can it be a bad thing to keep improving the accuracy of your revenue projections?

        “Now could we talk about transit?” Don’t bother me with the financial situation — just build the trains! And then they get angry when transit agencies all over the country cut service and raise fares.

      4. “If WA state can update its revenue forecasts a couple times per year, why not Sound Transit?”

        They have twice this year publicly, how do you know what they do internally? The fact is that the budget for next year has to be set this year, that’s just the way the budget process works. If you’re so concerned about it, why don’t you go to the budget meetings and ask them, or do a document request. Oh wait, that’s right, you don’t actually care. You just like to use the budget problems as fodder for your attacks on Sound Transit.

        ““Now could we talk about transit?” Don’t bother me with the financial situation — just build the trains!”

        That’s about right, sense there is nothing anyone here can do about aside from hope that they can manage the shortfall and deliver the projects that we’ve been waiting decades for. Most people read this blog because they are interested in the subject of transit, and that’s what the topic should stick to. There are plenty of other forums where you can cry about the government or the recession.

      5. Since when is Sound Transit’s revenue projections not a “transit” subject? Is Sound TRANSIT not a “transit” agency? Is funding not one part of transit? Why are you not concerned about how the state’s latest downward revision of its revenue forecasts affects Sound TRANSIT?

      6. Its difficult to believe your points are in earnest given your history of Troll-ish comments. This is not a slam against you, just an explanation of why other commenters have a difficult time taking your comments at face value. Take some responsibility for your history.

    3. I find that the longer the post the less likely it is to contain anything of value — and this post certainly fits that bill. This has to be another Bailo rant.

      What ever happened to the “one name” policy?

    4. There is nothing of value in that post . . . move along – nothing to see. The voters ratified the agency’s performance in 2008, and that includes its financial performance. If “Overweight” truly was serious he/she would do the research, not ask others to do it.

      The information about budgets is at the agency’s website: soundtransit.org. The right-wing conspiracy theorists never give it a break. No, “Overweight” – the big, bad gum’mint isn’t trying to gouge anyone!

    5. once you blamed the recession on Bush I stopped listening. This blog is about improving transit, whether we are Democrats or Republicans.

      1. “No republicans ever have been to this website”

        I doubt that. There are many conservatives who support transit as a cost effective means of getting people around. Sadly, the leadership of the party doesn’t seem to feel that way right now.

        If fiscal conservatives in the Republican party start to push for more cost effective transportation options for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users (rail or bus) where they make sense, I’m sure there will be plenty of folks here willing to praise them and possibly even vote for them. For the time being though, it appears that those in charge of the Republican party are determined that roads are our only viable transportation option.

    6. This board is about transit, not “muni” bond sales! All John would need to do if he really wanted this information (which he doesn’t) is send a public records request.

    7. There may be a serious point in there somewhere, but it’s too hard to find amongst the random inflammatory sideswipes. I doubt it’s Bailo. He usually talks about Seattle depopulating or hydrogen cars or such, not late bonds, and without the snarky comments.

  4. “Know your snow routes and sign up for transit alerts. Metro Transit. We’ll get you there.”

    This 43 bus in this video was on snow route, and was chained-up, when it went sliding down a hill, crashing into a telephone pole. You can see the bus at 3:15 min. Pretty funny stuff.

    1. Sam, your insensitivity never ceases to amaze me. Later in that video the fire department shows up which means somebody may have been injured.

      I’ve been behind the wheel of a 40 foot bus in similar circumstances although I was fortunate enough to be able to regain control without hitting anything. Let me assure you that neither I, nor any of my terrified passengers ,thought it was “Pretty funny stuff”.

      Seriously, go learn some empathy.

      1. Ok, I will try to learn some empathy. I want you as my teacher. Please give me a politically correct list of things I may find humorous.

      2. Funny cats, all puppies, cars stuck in traffic while Link flies by, Chuck Norris jokes, jokes about people talking on cell phones in buses, jokes about other cities’ transit systems (two Muni drivers and a NYC subway operator walk into a bar…), etc. Go nuts.

    1. One of the reasons people “camp” in the “passing lane” is because the police in our country target speeders so aggressively. So people may set the cruise control at 7 mph over the speed limit, then get in the left lane to pass someone, only to have that person on the right speed up. If people weren’t so afraid of getting a speeding ticket for going 10 over the speed limit (when conditions are clearly safe to do so) maybe they would get in the left lane and execute their pass and then get out of the way, even if it meant hitting 85 momentarily to do so.

      1. I’ve lived in California, New England, and Washington. The latter is the only place I’ve experienced camping in the fast lane. So it isn’t a country-wide problem, and it is hard to believe this is a result of aggressive highway patrolmen.

        Personally I think Washington drivers are just awful and have little or no awareness of what is going on around them.

      2. Interesting point. Speeding vs. staying to the right.

        I wonder how the State Patrol determines who is ‘camped out’ in a lane?

        I would think that if there is a reasonable break in the traffic in the lane to your right, you should move into it. I do. I learned to drive in a ‘stay right except to pass’ state, so I naturally gravitate to that side, unless, of course, I’m passing.

        However, there are some faster speeders than I who don’t have the patience to wait for that ‘left laner’ to move to the right safely (remember the rule?), and move too quickly into that right hand lane to pass, which exacerbates the problem.

      3. I learned to drive a long time ago, in a land, far, far away, before Washington State enacted this law, although I’m surprised it was a 1985 amendment (RCW 46.61.100).

      4. Never lived in the South, have you? Drivers down here make Seattle drivers look like Formula 1 guys. Not only is there NO awareness of anything around them, there is almost no understanding of basic traffic laws and responsibilities.

        It’s terrifying to drive here–particularly in one of the frequent downpours–because you have no idea what ANYONE may do. CA and NE drivers–you can guess their intentions. NW drivers–maybe half. SE drivers? Hahahahaha. (I’ve been down here for several years, so I have some idea of which I speak, and I’ve driven in all 50 states.)

      5. So Scott,

        In the Lafayette,LA area, how long does it take to get from one side of town to the other?

  5. I tried posting this a while ago, but it didnt seem to actually publish…

    JRA Bike Shop (the guys that provide service at the Bike Station downtown) has a really cool posting on their blog that shows the 1972 Seattle Bike Master plan. In all the doom & gloom it shows how far things have progressed. It’s also amazing how many of the ideas are still the ones we are using today.

    And its a government publication that shows cyclists not wearing helmets. What were they thinking? Thats a joke btw :)

    Maybe it didn’t post because I was trying to include links? So go to JRABikeshop.com, click on Blog & then scroll down aways.

    1. Biking is a hobby that goes up and down in popularity. Back in the 70’s bicycling was really popular. I think the highest number of bicycles sold in the U.S. in any year is still one year in the 70’s. But, people got tired of biking after a while, and its popularity waned.

      Biking is riding a wave of popularity in Seattle again now. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts this time. Since the weather got cold, windy, snowy and rainy, I saw almost no bicyclists in Seattle now the past week.

      1. Biking is a form of transportation for many, and a form of exercise for many others. I don’t see it going down in popularity. But who cares anyhow?

      2. “Biking is a hobby that goes up and down in popularity”

        In the past 30 or 40 years, the popularity of cycling for transportation has been pretty much a function of oil prices. Going forward do you believe that oil prices, and the cost of transportation in general, is going to magically drop?

        Even if I allow that cycling will always be a “hobby” for the majority, there is a significant percentage of folks who want other choices. Depending on the wording of the survey, 40-60% of folks surveyed would like to bike for short trips, *if they felt safe*. Even if you can only reach 10 or 20% in reality, dedicating 5% of your transportation budgets to pedestrian & cycling improvements is a no-brainer. Give folks an option to use a less expensive, and healthier, mode and you’ll free up capacity for those who don’t choose it. Seems like a conservative and cost effective way to do things to me.

  6. I just want to say I’m mostly impressed with how Metro handled the recent snowy weather. For the most part they made the right calls: chains + snow routes. Were there problems? YES. Snow, or compact snow and ice can be dealt with, even on hills, with chains. Ice, on the other hand, is very difficult to drive in, no matter what vehicle you’re in.

    I grew up in Spokane and went to college in Wester New York. I’m no master driver, but I’ve dealt with my share of crappy roads. The icy conditions we saw here last week were amongst the slickest I’ve ever experienced as a driver. So while others have griped about how bad the drivers are and how Seattle doesn’t know how to handle snow, I’m not embarrassed in the least to be a Seattle resident.

    Bravo Metro, you did well considering the conditions. Hopefully you’ll chock up a few more lessons learned from the latest snowpocalypse!

    1. I have read that most of the really bad traffic problems during the snow event — southbound I-5; Battery Street Tunnel; 520 bridge — were caused by articulated buses which jacknifed and blocked these roadways for hours.

      Is this true?

      1. I have read that most of the really bad traffic problems during the snow event — southbound I-5; Battery Street Tunnel; 520 bridge — were caused by individual cars which got stuck and were abandoned and blocked these roadways for hours.

        Is this true?

      2. In case anyone cares, this article says:

        Southbound I-5 may have been worse. The freeway was littered with jackknifed trucks, stalled and abandoned cars, bringing traffic to a standstill for hours. The state wasn’t able to clear the lanes to keep traffic moving.

    2. I agree that Metro did the best under the circumstances. I’ve lived many years in New England and the Denver-Boulder area – and I’ve seen both Worcester and Denver have similar problems in such weather – especially with the first storm of the season that catches everyone with the proverbial pants down!

      I walked between Alki and SODO throughout the worst of it. I sure wish there was a pedestrian bridge over the damned railroad!!!

  7. The Bailo Plan for snow response:

    Given, whereas no current transportation mechanism functioned correctly during snow — buses and cars incapacitated, LINK worked but only for one limited and not very well used route, I suggest we do the following:

    1) The city should purchase 100 large snow capable vehicles such as hummers, jeeps or snow cats.

    2) At the first sign of heavy snowfall, all buses should be recalled. Cars should be advised to park or return to home or shelter.

    3) The city will then offer taxi-snow service, for a $20 fee + standard taxi rates per mile. Anyone who cannot pay this fee may request a “charity relief”.

    4) This will (a) provide workable transport in snow to the destinations that people wish to go to. (b) Impose a free market cost on people so they consider what trips they actually have to make.

    1. the scheme would have minisule capacity
      it would make no economic sense
      it wouldn’t get people out of their private cars
      because of the last point, the vehicles would be stuck in traffic anyway

    2. What are you talking about? Link and Sounder both worked great in the last storm. The only real “problem” with these transportation modes in the last storm was that Metro/ST/WSDOT didn’t get the word out well enough that these systems were up and functioning and relatively unaffected by the storm.

      How’s this for a snow response plan: Don’t spend anything on keeping the roads clear and instead focus on building more LR so we don’t have to worry about snow at all….

      Seems like a good plan to me.

      And there aren’t enough taxis in the city to move everyone around — do the math.

      1. Why are you worried about snow in Seattle if it causes traffic problems only about 2 days per year, on average, and that can usually be mitigated with a competent response by SDOT and WSDOT?

      2. The only real “problem” with [Link and Sounder] in the last storm was that Metro/ST/WSDOT didn’t get the word out well enough that these systems were up and functioning and relatively unaffected by the storm.

        I think the only real “problem” with these transportation modes is that the vast majority of people need some other form of transportation for them to be useful. I guess I’ll have egg on my face when the ridership reports come out and show a huge increase on the snow days. However, Monday nobody had trouble getting to work (which lead to the cluster @#$% in the first place). So I PM ridership would be everyone that took Link/Sounder to work. We have no way to know what their commute was like after getting off the train but I think it’s fair to say just getting out of Dodge er, Seattle was the biggest part of the battle. I’d expect a number of additional people took advantage of this. “Honey, I’m leaving the car in the parking garage, pick me up at the station.” Tuesday numbers will be the rubber match.

      3. When I rode Link home Tuesday evening at about 5:00, the train had a full standing load — standees shoulder to shoulder, including on the raised ends where you rarely see any standees. I didn’t look at my watch, but I think headways might have been a little tighter than normal. Did ST slide an extra train or two into the schedule?

    3. I’m confused. Link worked almost flawlessly* in the snowstorm, but because it’s only one segment, we should abandon it in the next snow event and use taxicabs instead?

      * There were some minor delays in the DSTT.

  8. China introduces first light-rail train with new-energy fuel cells

    Recently, China’s first new energy fuel cell light-rail train, jointly developed by the China North Vehicle Yongji Electric Motor Corporation and the Southwest Jiaotong University, was successfully launched.

    China’s first new-energy fuel cell light-rail locomotive adopts hydrogen as the energy for the fuel cells as well as the world advanced permanent-magnet synchronous motor and frequency converter independently developed by the China North Vehicle Yongji Electric Motor Corporation as its main source of power.


  9. Transit bound Londoners fall victim to strike!

    Xmas shopping may suffer!


    For the thousands of London commuters who were forced to squeeze into packed Tube trains, stand on overcrowded buses or trudge to work in sub-zero temperatures yesterday, it was scarcely possible to believe their Monday could get any worse.

    The fourth 24-hour Tube strike in three months was bad enough. But with no sign of a resolution between workers and London Underground’s management, the unions are threatening to extend their walkouts to last up to three days at a time.

    Think hard before ceding your Freedoms!

Comments are closed.