Photo by Mike Bjork

This is an open thread.

61 Replies to “News Roundup: The Lawsuit Phase”

      1. I know of folks who do similar commutes in the Bay Area, coming in from Sac-Town to the Embarcadero for work…

    1. My commute EACH way is 2.5 to 3 hours daily. Though Blaine is an OK choice, White Rock would be a far better place for the train to stop, imho.

      As for the crazy article on the east-side rail, as usual all those clueless people who want to kill rail because it’s an “urban center” now in Redmond. Good, their viewpoint stinks and they’ll be screaming about congestion even more in the future.

      The only bad plan about this is the operator. GNP has already botched one attempt at running trains down in Tacoma. AS for an excursion train, that’s really nothing more than a PR idea to get attention.

      1. Forgive me, but if your commute is 2 1/2 to 3 hours each way, then you are part of the problem. You are living an unsustainable lifestyle.

      2. Nothing like a “holier than thou” social engineer stomping on individual rights. If a person chooses to sacrifice his or her time for a long commute let them. If you want folks to change attitudes and behavior , then price their options appropriately, but don’t berate them..

    2. There are people whom currently take the Amtrak Cascades between Blaine and Seattle for commuting purposes, it’ll be a little bit easier if it was Sounder, even if it were just 2 of the 4 trains…

      1. They’ll have a heck of a time trying to find equipment. The last remaining FRA maker backed out of the SMART line and US Railcar also announced recently they are not going to do DMU’s…

        It’ll also be cheaper and smarter on a business standpoint to use Sounder equipment/crews since it is established and with crews already qualified for the route…

        I know, I know, thinking smart with transit planning is a bad, bad thing =)

    3. Blaine? Gimme a break. If we’re talking about Marysville or Monroe, now that’s resonable.

      1. Seeing that over 1000 folks commute between Sacramento and SF, it’s not that unreasonable. Bellingham to Seattle makes more sense though, but hey, if a person wants to do it…

    4. Closer to 1:45 to 2:00 each way with 4 or 5 stops along the way.
      The passenger shed is huge, just on the other side of the border from Surrey and White Rock (over half a million). Customs clearance for bus to rail transfers would could speed up things with programs similar to those in place for Mexico to San Diego travelers.
      Blaine is also interested in restoring their 1903 vintage Northern Pacific rail depot.
      Cascadia Center is on the right track with this one and should be praised for getting it to this point. Yea, Bruce Agnew and company.

    5. I’m a little late to this party, but based on what happened when Senator Haugen proposed extending Sounder service to Stanwood a few years ago*, commuter service to Blaine will probably never happen unless somebody comes up with something on the order of a billion dollars to pay BNSF for operating rights and capacity improvements. I’m not kidding about that number, either — look at what ST agreed last year to pay BNSF to add four daily round-trip trains on the south Sounder line. (* – I won’t get into details because I don’t know if they’re public knowledge.)

      Also, the full build-out of the PNWRC — the 25-year plan that has undoubtedly been stretched out due to the state’s financial issues — calls for bypassing Blaine entirely with a high-speed bypass to the east of Ferndale/Blaine/White Rock (page 5-26), re-joining the BNSF New Westminster Sub at Colebrook. The improvements that will be made along the Bellingham/New Westminster Subs will be specifically designed for 125mph-max Cascades service and likely will not have excess capacity for a commuter service — though with eight or so round trips between Seattle and Vancouver, who’s going to care about a dinky DMU? Of course, this is all three decades down the road, and assuming WSDOT can get its ship righted and convince BC to play ball, so who knows what’ll end up happening before then…

      1. Blaine has previously studied commuter rail service, but as a link to Vancouver BC, not to Seattle. The study was done prior to 9/11 and it didn’t envision the border formalities that are in place today. If commuter service to Vancouver ever is started, there would need to be a customs/immigrations station at Blaine which might make the inspection process on the Cascades trains more efficient.

        There may be a day when Sound Transit will expand commuter rail service to Olympia, Mt. Vernon and Bellingham, but that’s not in the near term.

        As for GNP, it’s hard to know what they are trying to gain. Shortlines that move about one car per day aren’t profitable and at that level of service, the locomotive is creating more pollution than the trucks it is replacing. The fuel efficiency of freight rail is in long haul moves, not in short moves.

      2. @ Guy:

        Don’t be surprised if we soon (like within 10 years) see an open, Schengen-like border with Canada. No I am not being an Amero nut.

        I have read that the USA and Cnada are in talks to have Canada both give up some sovereignty vis-a-vis Immigration controls at Airports and Seaports, who needs a visa, etc. in exchange for removal of border controls at the 49th parallel.

        Needless to say the Canadians aren’t very happy about giving up anything to the Yanks.

  1. I’ve been thinking about other governmental policies and how they affect mobility via transit.

    I’m currently unemployed, and one of the standards for a job being acceptable is that its within the next county over. As someone who doesn’t own a car, this becomes potentially problematic situation of being forced to accept a job, and potentially is an instance where I’d essentially be coerced by governmental policies into buying a car. (Either that or I’d be forced to lose my unemployment.)

    Its even potentially problematic staying within the same county. I was living on North Beacon Hill and commuting to the Willows/Rose Hill area of Redmond, and this was just about an hour commute with a bit of a bike ride thrown in. When I had handbell rehearsal after work I’d have to drive, or I just couldn’t make it in time. (I still owned a car back then.) If I had to accept a job in that neighborhood again I’m not quite sure what I’d do, but it would significantly impact my quality of life.

    We all know zoning affects transit’s viability, but what other governmental policies come to mind that also affect it?

  2. Two things:

    1. Has anyone noticed that Google Maps now has a modal preference option for public transit? Not that it does us much good in Seattle.

    2. I’m sure everyone but me is Streetcar’d out from the last two posts we had on the subject, but at the seawall open house last night I talked to one of the SDOT guys working on the waterfront rebuild. He says that current plans for viaduct demolition and seawall repair entail ripping up the Benson line tracks. He also noted that even if the Benson trams were modified to share power with the FHSC/SLUT, the platforms have to be built completely differently. Reactivating the Benson line after all this would be a major capital project comparable to extending the SLUT to Eastlake or Fremont.

    1. Oh, he also discussed improving waterfront transit with a streetcar on 1st, like I’ve been pimping endlessly on this site. Pedestrian waterfront access would be encouraged/provided by bridges (presumably like Bell St/Pier 66) and an ETB circulator running between the Ferry Terminal and First Hill on a Madison/Marion couplet.

      1. Except 1st Avenue isn’t on the waterfront. It’s a good 60-90 feet above that.

        Except at the ends (the Sculpture Park and south of the Market), we need to stop kidding ourselves that there is any reasonable access from the waterfront to 1st Avenue.

        A 1st Avenue streetcar line would solely serve the residents and businesses of Belltown and the CBD. This is certainly a worthy goal, but it will not improve access to the length of the waterfront.

      2. Right, so the suggestion is to have a long pedestrian bridge at 1st Ave level that has stairs and an elevator at the waterfront end (like Bell St.) I’m not sure whether it’s worth it but to me it could constitute “reasonable” waterfront access from 1st Ave. In fact I think a lot of tourists would go out on it just for the views and be drawn to the waterfront.

        The SDOT guy said there is actually quite a big (potential?) demand for service up to First Hill from the Ferry Terminal. Big job center etc.

        @groan Which cruise ship terminal? Pier 66 or 91? I’m on board with extending it to 66 when a ship is present but 91 seems pointless.

      3. @Bruce, actually running it Pier 91 and then onto Magnolia/Interbay (hell even Ballard) would provide an easy , at-grade access for commuters. You have enough room with the bike trail sitting there and some negotiation with the Port, BNSF, and I think the National Guard, but you would have a cheap west-side rail option with connection into Ballard if you want to spring for a Bridge… turn it along Dravus and then you connect to Queen Anne as well…

      4. I think the idea of the ETB circulator is a low-capital project that would work to move people E-W to the waterfront in combination with pedestrian bridges and a 1st Ave streetcar. What you’re describing is a replacement Benson line, which is not a low capital project and serves a related, but different purpose.

        SDOT’s thinking is that all of the transit in downtown is N-S and set back quite far from 1st Ave, and the pedestrian access from 1st to the waterfront is not obvious around the Market, which is where all your tourists are. If you put in E-W transit service at Madison/Marion and Broad, a streetcar on 1st, and the put in high-profile pedestrian bridge(s) between Bell and Madison, you create something of a ped/transit grid. You also serve Belltown / Downtown / Queen Anne commuters.

      5. @groan: It seems absolutely backward to me to destroy one of the city’s few multipurpose trails (and the only long in that area) when Elliott/15th is less than a half mile away. A streetcar / light rail / Rapid Ride on 15th will serve cruise passengers just fine if the City and/or Port are willing to run a shuttle or simply make that area more walkable.

      6. It’s slow during rush hour. It’d be pretty peppy outside of that time, which is when most tourists will be using it. It’s still better than a bus, and, until we build another subway out from Downtown through Belltown, Queen Anne, Interbay and Ballard, it’s as good as we’re going to get in that corridor.

      7. “the pedestrian access from 1st to the waterfront is not obvious around the Market, which is where all your tourists are.”

        I didn’t even know there was a top-to-bottom elevator until somebody here said it’s in the middle of… the long narrow building on the west side of Pike Place from Pike to Western. Even with that, you have to go through a dark smelly garage and uninviting sidewalk, and coming back from Pike & Alaskan you can’t take the most obvious elevator (which has no access to the Market) but have to continue to the second elevator in an obscure location.

        Most people would like to get to the waterfront from First Avenue, not go down to Jackson and back up. The only reason they did that is that’s where the streetcar was. But the east-west connections need to be several, not just one. Just as people don’t want to detour to Jackson to get to the waterfront, they don’t want to detour to Pike. Tourists will already be at pike, but residents going to a specific business on the waterfront won’t be.

    2. Benson line serves the waterfront directly, but only has walkshed in one direction. A 1st ave line can serve both the waterfront and downtown, if enough effort is put in to wayfinding for out-of-towners.

      1. Why do people keep saying this?? I am looking out of my window at 1st Ave RIGHT F***ING NOW and traffic is moving just fine and this is the normal state of affairs outside rush hour. Even then the roads are full but they move steadily. The only time 1st becomes a parking lot is during special events (Sounders games etc.) when it is indeed awful.

      2. Bruce, I used to live in Belltown. 1st Avenue is a crawl on the 15/18 during rush hour. It is also a crawl any time after 8pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

        A streetcar would bring advantages to travel on 1st Avenue. The biggest would be improved capacity (that is, a semblance of breathing room) during crush, and the second much more rapid boarding at the Union and Lenora stops. Interfacing it with the rest of the Streetcar network would be a bonus.

        But it will still be a crawl.

      3. Bruce, traffic on first gets jacked up anytime someone wants to make a left hand turn. Happens all day long every day. Until you eliminate left hand turns on First, its going to be a mess and a horrible, horrible situation for transit. Either go underneath 1st Ave or run it down 2nd.

  3. Did I notice something different in ST’s alert re: the north line for today? In the past, wasn’t the entire schedule scrapped regardless of where the mudslide occurred? I was very pleased to read that service to Edmonds and Mukilteo WOULD happen, rather than no service at all. I suppose the trains parked in Everett as per usual and deadheaded to Mukilteo to pick up passengers. As for Amtrak, when there was that slide north of Bellingham (in Canada no less), why oh why couldn’t the train have proceeded to Bellingham? One train used to terminate in Bellingham so I should have been doable. Why did the whole route have to be cancelled? Which leads me to a slight pet peeve regarding Cascade service. It ALL seems to be about Portland, Vancouver, Portland, Vancouver. What about all the intermediate stops in OUR state? Do they not count for much in the scheme of things? Can there not be any way to increase intrastate Cascade traffic?

    1. I suspect as a matter of arithmetic, they don’t, and that most of the Cascades ridership are urban car-less loser types such as myself going between the cities. If you live in Centralia, you’re gonna have a car… and you’ll probably just drive. And I can’t think of any reason I’d take a train to any in-state stop other than maybe Bellingham. What would I do there if I didn’t have car?

      1. Yep, that’s the problem I have when I go to Portland for business, unless my client is in downtown, I am getting a car anyway at the terminus.

    2. So if there’s a mudslide blocking the tracks between Mukilteo and Everett, how are the trains going to deadhead from Everett?

      1. Freight trains got through and if the Sounder coaches are empty of passengers between Everett and Mukilteo it would be allowed under the 48-hr rule, I assume.

    3. They probably looked at the bookings they had and realized it wasn’t worth running to Bellingham. Unlike commuter services they do have data of where people are getting on/off.

  4. In other news, when the 99 moves to first avenue (northbound only), Metro will drop the “Waterfront Streetcar” moniker. Will it come back if the streetcar is revived?

    1. Well if the streetcar comes back I can’t see why it would be called anything else. The fact that the tracks and wire are being ripped out is another nail in its coffin tho’.

      1. True. Of Course, the line would have to be rebuilt. Ethan Melone told me in a one-on-one discussion last year.

  5. Seattle could really use a ban on parking lots in front of buildings, or in any configuration that leaves the lot visible from the street. It would particularly help with Aurora TOD if we select an SR-99 alignment for Link.

    1. Let’s say the 28 stopped at the Ballard stops. Now the 26 needs to, too, for Fremont. But now the people who live in Wallingford need to decide between the 16 and the 26. And you also kind of want to keep the 5/16/358 together, since they have nearly the same route until 38th and Bridge Way. And you should keep the 3/4/16 together, since they serve Seattle Center.

      You have to draw the line somewhere…

      1. They don’t have to place all the Ballard buses at the same stops, but they could split them up better. At present the 15 & 18 share stops, which makes sense to me, but the 17 & 28 also share stops despite serving entirely different markets. (Even where they run only a block away from each other on Dexter & on Westlake, I honestly don’t see many people going from Westlake to Dexter or vice versa to catch buses since the two streets are so horribly connected.) Instead, the 28 and the 15 could share stops (with the Fremont buses, why not) to give East Ballard riders options, and the 17 and 18 run together on another street to cover West Ballard.

    1. The 300 series seems to be designed to meet the specs for the Capitol Hill streetcar line. It might be slightly heavier than Seattle is asking for, however.

    1. This is just the House majority wishlist; it doesn’t mean it will definitely be gone. Amtrak is slated for elimination too. It does show what might happen in 2012 though if an R president and Senate majority is elected.

    1. So the gist of the argument is that we need to stop focusing on getting people farther, faster, or else we’re setting ourselves up for failure?

      Who’da thunk it?

      Now, remind me again why we’re sending light rail all the way to Lynnwood and Edmonds?

  6. In regards to the advertising lawsuit, I learned today that the art of tattooing has been declared first-amendment protected expression.

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