First U-Link Car Arrives (Sound Transit)

This is an open thread.

125 Replies to “News Roundup: Deeply Flawed”

    1. The area around Mt. Baker station seems to me like the most realistic opportunity for fully realized TOD in SE Seattle. Enough of the surrounding area is controlled by commercial property owners that the NIMBYism is held in check. And the QFC/Lowes lots seem like they’d be positioned to take advantage of any upzones. Now if we can just get the UW to figure out that a gigantic Laundromat isn’t the highest and best use of their property I’ll be happy…

  1. While I couldn’t find a ton of scholarly work on the subject, there is some (try google scholar). There is also plenty of coverage in media if you do a regular google search on the subject. Perhaps you could try that first?

      1. Ok, thanks. I did do my own research. I found this …

        “The reason certain types of music work as a crime deterrent, neurologists say, may lie in people’s neurobiological responses to things they don’t enjoy or find unfamiliar. Production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and rewards, is modulated by the nucleus accumbens, one of the brain’s “pleasure centers.”

        When people hear music that they like, that stimulates dopamine production and puts them in a better mood. But when people dislike the music, their brains respond by suppressing dopamine production — souring their mood and making them avoid the music.

        Norman Middleton, senior producer of concerts and special projects at the Library of Congress, said he believes the method derives from the “Muzak” concept, and is used as a mood-altering device. “Cops and other security entities somehow got the idea to use it in a reverse-psychology way,” he said. The Tacoma Mall Transit Center began playing classical and country music in 2007, Pierce Transit spokesman Lars Erickson said.”

  2. I would really like it if we had 1-day and 7-day passes available, to be loaded onto an ORCA or bought at a TVM. It would make transit more accessible to visitors and also locals who don’t have employer-provided/subsidized passes.

      1. you forgot this is Seattle, what works all over the world can’t work here… still waiting for these common sense features to come to Orca. We should have just copied London’s system.

      2. I think historical precedence usually has a big impact as well. Does anyone know if Seattle Transit had all day passes?

      3. But that’s precisely the point, Adam. Historical-precedent-based inertia is not a good excuse. It doesn’t justify a fractured route structure. It doesn’t justify pay-as-you-leave. And it doesn’t justify not having an option that could effectively reduce cash payment to zero, provide tourists a reasonable option for using transit, permit the elimination of the Ride Free Area, and significantly speed up the system.

    1. And the marketing/signs for the train is less than impressive – as bike (or was it transit) nerd mentioned. I’ve had people fly into Seattle and take a cab (or call me for a ride) because they weren’t convinced that they could get to where they were going once they took the train downtown.

      I’d like to see signs all over the airport that says “Train to Downtown Seattle” and a few maps of the wider city with one big red line that shows the train’s route/downtown stops and a few blue lines that show the most frequent bus routes to neighborhoods like Belltown, Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, Capitol Hill, West Seattle, U district etc.

      1. I’d like to see Oran’s Frequent Service Network printed on giant posters and plastered all over the terminal.

      2. You’ve got to be a moron to miss the signs for Link Light Rail. You have to pass them in order to get to the taxi area anyways. How long does it take to Google some directions?

      3. But as multiple people have written, you have to know two basic pieces of information for “Link Light Rail” to mean anything:

        1) That it is the name of our urban rail system. (The word “link” could easily imply, to the uninitiated, an AirTrain-style connector shuttle to remote parking lots or to a different rail system.)

        2) That it heads toward the center city in a reasonable direct and efficient manner. (For contrast, a similarly-worded sign at LAX would be sending you on a shuttle-bus-to-light-rail-to-changing-trains-in-Watts journey.)

        As others have said, the words “train to downtown,” as seen in PHL, ORD, PDX, and so forth, provide the traveler with both pieces of info.

      4. The iconography on the sign makes it clear that it’s a train even though it could be more clear about the destination. Visitors may not know what ‘Link’ is, but ‘Light Rail’ should be pretty clear.

      5. Perhaps, but they don’t know that it’s direct (Los Angeles counterexample), and I’m pretty sure that a few intra-airport systems that use similar terms.

        And the term “light rail” itself, it might be worth noting, is far from universal. It’s a neologism invented to make streetcars sound more modern, as well as to relieve the fear that Western and Midwestern suburban Americans had of all the crime and noise and horrible urbanity that a “subway” system might entail.

        Transit professionals have retroactively applied the term to the hybrid streetcar-subway systems of Boston and Philly and Pittsburgh and to new projects in Jersey, but many East Coasters really would react with blank stares to the term.

        Ditto for visitors from Europe, where the term has just started to be applied to newer projects, but is still mostly limited to industry professionals. And I don’t think anyone from Asia would presume “light rail” to mean any substantial transport offering.

      6. Of course the signage may have been made that was as to not try and have the light rail compete with grey lines (now airport express’s) scheduled serviceto downtown seattle. Of coruse now that is all but gone… supposidly there was money in the hsra grants to put an amtrak cascades kiosk at the airport now if we could get a connecting bus inbetween tuk and sea tac airport.. also a simar thing based off the one bus away techology and better signage for the st express services would be a nice thing as well.

      7. The airport Link signage is fine. It costs hundreds of dollars and takes most of a day to fly here from just about anywhere. If you didn’t take two seconds before departing to research how you’re getting from the airport to your downtown hotel or wherever that’s bad on you, and you’re part of an insignificantly small and painfully dumb population.

      8. Read how the above replies unfold. The original poster spent 10x as much on the (slower) Airporter bus, mostly to save the hassle of getting to the Link station and to avoid the sense of the unknown at the other end. Multiple responders, including at least one local, affirmed his choice.

        The train’s advertising and signage didn’t sell it loudly or firmly enough.

      9. I’d like to see that too. Unfortunately, the Port makes a HUGE amount of money on parking fees, and really doesn’t want the competition. They make enough that despite having 12,000 or so spaces, they still feel it worthwhile to get the rental cars out to another facility off-site.

        As I recall, when discussions were being held regarding routing Link to a station closer to the terminal, it was the Port that went to DHS and claimed “security issue!” rather than DHS coming to the Port/ST and saying “no, you can’t put that there.” The obvious reason to do this was to increase the inconvenience. After all, most of us can think of several different airports where trains travel directly into or at least right outside the terminal, and the Port couldn’t care less about SeaTac’s town center developing…which is the only good thing about the station’s current location.

      10. To back Scott up:

        BART found it’s way into SFO’s international terminal (one of BART’s few truly useful extensions, and mere feet from parked airplanes!) in 2003.

        Minneapolis’s Hiawatha Line tunneled directly under MSP in 2004.

        And the perfectly public JFK AirTrain has passed closer to every terminal at New York’s busiest airport than Link does to SEA — and stopped inside the International Arrivals terminal — since late 2003.

        So “security issue” my tail!

      11. Especially irritating is that the Port doesn’t consider the already colossal parking garage sufficient and is building a new facility just for rental cars. My favorite quote from the fact sheet: “The Port has designed the facility to become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.” That’s right, a LEED-certified facility dedicated to putting more gasoline-burning, CO2-producing rental cars on our region’s roadways.

    1. Yawn. So Goldy is having fun with statistics. You can do that with anything. “Where Hunts Point’s tax money goes!” “Where Medina’s tax money goes!” It’s just Goldy doing what he does best. Trying to be divisive and partisan.

      1. Goldy is indeed a partisan, but that doesn’t make his numbers wrong or uninformative.

        King County would be a darned sight better off if we weren’t propping up the residents of rural Washington, who repay our largesse by voting for Eyeman’s idiotic anti-transit anti-government initiatives.

    2. There’s a couple of problems with the graphs. First, the assumption that the majority of the savings is to be found where in counties where spending exceeds funding isn’t logically valid. You’d need to know total spending in those counties before you can know what portion of the state budget they represent. Second, spending in a county or revenue from a county doesn’t reflect benefits received or even contributions by individual tax payers. Reuven Carlyle for example looked at total contribution to state revenue and then isolated school funding. A large portion of school funding comes from timber sales. My bet is many sparesly populated counties pay far more into school funding than they receive but that only highlights why dividing revenue and expese by county doesn’t make sense. King County I’m sure pays way more gas tax than anywhere else. Does that mean King County residents don’t benefit from I-90 across eastern Washington? Of course not. The Port of Seattle (and residents of King County) benefit far more than residents of eastern Washington who could get by just fine for the most part with two lane chip seal roads.

      1. I’m pretty sure that if you add all the revenue sources and expenditures up by counties then you’d find that rural counties are subsidized by cities and suburbs. County divisions are pretty arbitrary, but they happen to be the political boundaries we have. I think your example, if anything, shows the problem with siloing money from particular revenue sources into particular purposes.

      2. You can’t add up revenue and expense and claim subside without somehow allocating benefit. With my example of I-90 for instance the benefit to King County is far greater than to Kittatas. I’m sure way more students at WSU come from King County than Whitman County. What gets counted as State Revenue? If tuition is counted at all in State revenue where do you allocate it? Are eastern washington counties credited for power production on the Colombia river? Where do taxes collected on exports of agricultural goods get alocated. We all benefit from the rural and wilderness parts of our State but King County benefits proportionally to a much greater extent because it has almost 1/3 of the State population but only 3% of the land. Five counties (King, Pierce , Snohomish , Clark and Spokane) account for 2/3rds of the State population but only 12% of the land. With that sort of disparity you’d expect these counties to contribute 80-90% of all tax revenue.

      3. Of course, we benefit in trade with rural Washington, and they benefit in trade with us. None of that requires explicit governmental transfer payments. If eastern Washington split off and became its own state or joined Idaho, we might pay a little bit more for food but (in King County at least) that would be far outweighed by the elimination of transfer payments.

        The net result would be greater wealth in western Washington and reduced wealth in eastern. One might argue — and I’d generally agree — that would be an odious outcome, but it appears to be what the voters there want, and I’m inclined to give it to them.

      4. I don’t think the idea is to cut those counties more and spare King… I think the problem is that rural, mostly Republican counties have overwhelmingly supported Tim Eyman initiatives and candidates who claim that Seattle is “stealing all your money” or “wasting it on big projects” (like the DBT).

        Carlyle wanted numbers to show that, in fact, the more urban and more liberal counties are subsidizing Eastern Washington. Therefore, if voters want to oppose tax increases and support more cuts, the inevitable impacts will harm them more.

      5. I think the reason many eastern Washington tax payers feel they’d get a better deal if they were part of Idaho is because it’s true. Idaho gas tax is less than half of what Washington charges. State sales tax about the same. They do have an income tax but property taxes (both rates and values) are much lower and there’s no B&O tax on gross receipts. Per capita wellfare spending is about half of Washington’s (might go up if eastern WA was included). If WA politics were even more dominated by King County and in particular Seattle I’m pretty sure everyone’s tax burdon would increase considerably. And we’d certainly be sending a greater percentage back to the other Washington to redistribute to states like Idaho.

      6. Does that mean King County residents don’t benefit from I-90 across eastern Washington? Of course not. The Port of Seattle (and residents of King County) benefit far more than residents of eastern Washington who could get by just fine for the most part with two lane chip seal roads.

        Does Idaho benefit from I-90 across Eastern Washington? How about Montana?

        Do people in Yakima benefit from the Port of Seattle?
        Do people in Salt Lake City benefit from the Ports in Southern California?
        How about the ports in southern China?

      7. Everyone along I-90 benefits. It’s a Federal “Interstate” supported in part by dollars from the FHA trust fund. At issue is Washington States financial contribution to the portion in Washington. King County benefits proportionately more than any other county in the State because of the large population and because of the concentrated economic activity generated by the Port of Seattle. So trying to claim money spent on this road outside of King County is somehow a subsidy to other counties doesn’t wash. How China funds their ports is irrelevant.

      8. Federal Highway (one word) Administration. FHA is commonly used notation. I meant exactly what you understood it to mean.

      9. My statement is simply that if eastern Washington became a separate state, but state spending per capita remained the same in each area, western Washington would suddenly be flush with money and eastern Washington would be broke. I consider this statement so arithmetically obvious that I cannot break it down for you any further if you can’t get your head around it, and the federal funding of highways and the particular incidence and forms of taxation have absolutely no bearing either.

        It’s true that such a change would alter the political dynamics of each place — E.W. would reduce spending and W.W. would increase it. But W.W.’s “new” money would almost entirely stay within its boundaries, benefiting primarily its residents (or — less likely — be given back in tax cuts.) A new, indigent red state would alter the distribution of federal money to some extent, but that effect is divided up among all states.

        All areas benefit from each other in trade, and this applies quite independent of being part of the same government. Suggesting that King County “benefits more” from the rest of the state but not vice versa is utterly bogus, and indicates a strange agrarian bias: they “need” us to buy their food to the precisely the same extent as we “need” them to sell it to us.

      10. If it’s so arithmetically obvious, why isn’t Idaho broke and the State of California rolling in money? Looking at the disparity makes it seem like a big deal but avoids the absolutes. The “subsidy” on welfare and schools (the articles originally referenced) ignore the fact that because these rural counties are so sparsely populated the absolute dollar amount spent is negligible to the State budget. And, that the mandated spending is driven by the political ideals of the I-5 corridor.

      11. Idaho and California are a completely false analogy to eastern and western Washington, and you know it. Tossing in obvious straw men only convinces me that you have no data to back you up. Besides, how come Arizona and Texas are on the rocks? God knows those states didn’t tax and spend their way to bankruptcy.

        I fear at this point I am merely arguing against an irrational anti-urbanism or rural inferiority complex so I have nothing further to add to this thread.

      12. I’m not anti-urban and certainly don’t have a “rural inferiority complex?” All I’m pointing out is that this urban superiority complex Goldie is trying to eschew doesn’t stand up to scrutiny at any level. Note that I’ve NEVER tried to say eastern Washington is supporting the big ticket items in Western Washington. That notion is completely false. But it’s just as false to try and pretend that eastern Washington is a welfare state dependent on the Puget Sound. Both extremes are wrong headed. As for AZ (and NV, don’t know about TX) their problems are primarily due to the real estate bust in cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas. The agricultural economy is doing fine.

      13. I know that, you know that, pretty much everybody knows that. The Federal Housing Administration and Federal Highway Administration have the same acronym. That won’t work in a web address so Highway got given two letters. Since it seems to be a big bone of contention I’ll just call it the HTF from now on.

      14. Theres going to be an overall cost savings, although the cost of merging the counties (combining resources, changing signage and repainting/lettering vehicles, consolidating the administrative side) will be a major short term hit. Of course i wonder why yakima county was chosen. Since this is an open thread, the leg also needs to visit the issue of school transportation. Running a fleet of buses isnt cheap, and i wonder if there isnt some efficiencies they can find there as well (such as making people walk to the bus stop so you have fewer routes, adjusting times to make better use of equipment, and in cities encouraging transit, vs dedicated school buses (but that brings up a whole bunch of issues on its own) One would think that a bunch of the school disctricts could merge their transportation operations to take advantage of efficencies gained in maintaining a common garage, shop, radio and maintenace systems.

      15. FHWA since it was created in 1967.

        Yet the HTF goes back to 1956 and it’s history goes back much farther than that.

      16. Eastern Washington totally IS a welfare state, dependent on the Puget Sound. I couldn’t have put it better. There’s only 1 or 2 counties over there that pull their own weight, tax remittances vs. state spending. And those counties, just barely. King County OTOH contributes fully half of Washington’s tax receipts annually.

        I’m fine with this. But if the Easterners want to practice the self-sufficiency they preach, let ’em have it.

      17. There is evidence that eastern WA has more and better jobs than Idaho, however, so…. they probably don’t really want to join Idaho. There’s probably a reason for that disparity.

      18. @Bernie: FHWA Order M 1325.1D “Correspondence Manual”, Appendix B “Acronyms”, says the following:

        A list of common FHWA acronyms and other Federal government acronyms is included… These preferred acronyms are to be used in FHWA correspondence.
        HTF Highway Trust Fund
        FHA Federal Housing Administration
        FHWA Federal Highway Administration

        And as pointed out by others, the FHA predates the FHWA by several decades, which is why it got the shorter acronym.

  3. I hope that someone points out to Reagan Dunn that transit projects use a lot of lumber in their construction processes.

  4. Have the December Link ridership numbers been published yet? If so, where?

    If not, what is the delay? It’s almost February. Usually they are out fefore this date of the following month. And December is particularly interesting, because with the December numbers we will be able to determine Link ridership figures for all of 2010.

      1. Shut up — Since July, ridership has fallen every month. Although, we don’t have December’s figures yet, as far as I can tell. You have them, Snooky?

    1. For some reason, every organization I have ever seen has delays in last-month-of-year data reporting. Probably it’s also the time they audit the prior data, or something.

  5. Why is Sound Transit taking delivery of the first cars for U-Link almost six years before U-Link is scheduled to open?

    1. Well of course, ST’s purpose is to waste as much taxpayer money on choo-choo trains as possible, and acquiring the cars one-by-one on a schedule is a more organized and relaxing way of doing so than getting them en-masse.

      1. I guess it also means Sound Transit assumes there will be no improvements in their light rail cars over a 6-year period, so that there is nothing to be gained by waiting, right?

        Also, that having those cars sit outside in the sun and rain for 5-6 years before they are needed on U-Link will have no effect on them.

        Also, the warranties on thsoe cars will likely expire before they are ever used on U-Link, but this is no big deal.

        And, of course, ST doesn’t need that money for anything else right now, because they are swimming in tax dollars.

      2. No need for that. If you follow this blog at all you’d know that Bruce is just a Norman alias… geesh you’d think the high paid staff of STB would be all over this!

    2. “CEO Report
      January 21, 2011

      First U-Link car at O&M
      One of the most visible signs of progress on the U-Link light rail extension arrived recently at our Operations & Maintenance Facility.

      The first of 27 U-Link vehicles is now going through its testing and safety certifications. The initial safety and system tests take place in the O&M yard before the vehicle is added to the Central Link fleet rotation and coupled with one of the vehicles that’s been in service since we opened in 2009.

      The same testing process will be used on all the new light rail vehicles that are being delivered this year for the U-Link extension.”

      Plus they’ll need the additional vehicles for testing the U-Link tunnel systems, which is supposed to occur sometime around 2014-2015, no that far away.

      Using the U-Link vehicles in general service will also save wear&tear on the older vehicles, so the overall fleet maintenance costs will probably be no different than if they had waited.

    3. When Sound Transit bought it’s first fleet of 31 light rail cars, it also bought options for 31 more identical cars. Price of the option cars was original bid price plus inflation. ST exercised 4 of these options to service the Airport extension.

      ST faced a deadline; the remaining 27 options would expire if not exercised, and since that number corresponded to the fleet expansion needs of the University Link extension, the smart decision was to acquire those 27 additional cars.

      Sorry to disappoint the trolls and others who would much rather assume that Sound Transit screwed this up.

      1. If that was so “smart” why don’t all transit systems have fleets almost twice as large as they need?

      2. And if I understand correctly, they are delivering the vehicles over a period of several months. This benefits the manufacturer because they can have even continuity of their production line and saves Sound Transit money in a number of ways. Each of these cars arrives at a Washington port thus providing economic activity. These cars have their final assembly done in Washington State so it also provides a number of local jobs.

      3. Getting a few cars about two years early, while saving money by avoiding a whole ‘nother round of bidding with all the paperwork and uncertainty involved (and yes, prices for trains are still rising due to high world demand), is wise.

      4. Also, getting the very same cars for U-Link as we have for Central Link could lead to savings in maintenance and spare parts.

      5. “why don’t all transit systems have fleets almost twice as large as they need?”

        They aren’t expanding as much as Link is.

    4. An added reason is that they have to all have 5000 miles on them before they can enter revenue service (I don’t know why.) This can only be done at night between maintenance and on weekends between regular service runs. (We cannot run closer than 5 minute headways on MLK way for signal reasons.) LRV 136 was testing this last week out by the airport. Bugs do occur.

      Also, with the current fleet of 35 LRVs there is not enough time to work on the trains. There are 30 LRV scheduled in use during peak hours. that’s not too much leeway. (13 2 car trains on the mainline, and 2 spare 2 car trains on standby.)

  6. Careful about classical music and public order! Our music intro professor told us that Chopin touched off riots, and read us an article reflecting public outrage at “Chopin’s ridiculous mazurka!”

    Also, anybody remember “Clockwork Orange?” The horrible psychopathic gang-members always listened to Beethoven (Ludwig Van!) to get in the mood for their next outrage.

    And everybody knows what world leader liked Wagner.

    Theater was even worse. In the nineteenth century, the New York national guard had to open fire on rioters locked in murderous combat over whether a British actor or an American actor was better.

    So word to the wise. Mozart’s supposed to be good for mental development. But probably best to avoid “Carmina Burana.”

    Mark Dublin

  7. So about that U-Link train car: What exactly is the significance of it being a U-Link car? Obviously ST will need significantly more train cars as passenger volume triples from what it is today and adds 3 and 4-car trains, but what makes this train a “U-Link” train car. Is the interior design slightly different? Will it not go into service until 2016? Is it just that it’s paid for by funds allocated for U-Link?

    1. The vehicle number is larger than 135. I expect it will tested in non-revenue service, then sit in the sun for 5 years as Norman suggests while the warranty runs out. :)

      1. ST has actually installed sprinkler systems to continuously spray brine on the cars while they’re in storage, to hasten their demise.

      2. Also, that having those cars sit outside in the sun and rain for 5-6 years before they are needed on U-Link will have no effect on them.

        I hear they are going to park the cars on the tracks at night, just outside of Tukwila International Blvd Station, so taggers can create beautiful murals on them. Part of Sound Transit’s 1% for art funding.

    2. Cars are identical to the initial fleet. See my other post. They are paid for as an element of the ULink project.

      I hear the cars will be inspected and tested and then folded into the regular fleet, to build up mileage and keep them operating efficiently — not sitting in the sun, not getting brined, not getting graffiti’d, etc.

      1. They will be sitting, since there will be almost twice as many cars as necessary to operate Central Link. More than half of all cars will be sitting at most times, and even during peak hours, close to half of all cars will be sitting idle. Having a fleet almost twice as large as needed is “smart” in what way? Who takes delivery of new buses or trains 5 years before they are needed?

      2. Like you care Norman. If ST had let the options expire and then had to pay more money in a few years for the additional vehicles you’d be bitching about that. Besides, it keeps people in Everett employed assembling them.

      3. Those cars could be assembled in Everett 5 years from now, too. That’s no reason to have them delivered 5 years before they are needed.

        If there is inflation over the next few years, that means that ST’s revenues will be higher in five years, which would offset the higher cost of the cars. Same difference.

        If that really was a valid argument, then people would buy two or three refrigerators and cars at a time, so that they would not have to pay a higher price when the first one wore out years down the road. But, they know that inflation will increase their incomes over time, as well as the price of goods, and they don’t want to waste money and space storing a bunch of stuff until it’s needed.

        In other words, five years from now those Link cars might have a higher price, but they would be paid for in 2016 dollars, which will not be worth as much as 2011 dollars, because of inflation.

      4. Any airline that bought planes five years before they needed them would be out of business. Boeing routinely allows airlines to delay orders because they know forcing their customers out of business by making them take delivery would be counter productive. This is just piss poor management.

      5. “If there is inflation over the next few years, that means that ST’s revenues will be higher in five years, which would offset the higher cost of the cars. Same difference.”

        Then what are you complaining about?

      6. what are you complaining about?

        The lost value of unused capital. Why is it so hard of the ST disciples to admit a monumental screw-up? Hey, private industry makes mistakes too. FIOS anyone?

      7. I know some of you internet experts find it hard to believe, but there are other people out there who know what they’re doing. That’s why they’re doing it for a living and you’re just sitting behind a keyboard on your couch in your underwear.

        “Staff conducted a life-cycle cost analysis of the early purchase of the 27 University Link light rail vehicles and concluded that, despite added short-term operating costs and vehicle depreciation, Sound Transit would achieve a net savings in total life cycle costs with the execution of the option.”

      8. Well, thanks for the link. A key quotation:

        Not applicable to this action.

        Essentially they provide absolutely zero information about the finances other than vague references that allude to the consequences of a previously negotiated contract. There is no way this makes sense and the cloak and dagger secrecy just make it all the more apparent.

  8. December Link ridership numbers out – over 25,000 average weekday boardings! Big spike to end ’10 strong.

    1. Darwin would be perplexed at how often the dimwitted survive, and even thrive, in today’s society. It really puts pressure on credibility of Darwinism.

  9. Not to be a P.I.T.A. about the comments policy around here — because the comments above are funny… but if they were making fun of STB writers instead of Norman, they would have been deleted pretty quickly.

    1. I dunno, all in all I think people on here do a pretty good job of biting our collective tongue when baited. Personally I sit on my hands nine or ten times a day to keep from typing something; something hopefully funny but ultimately unnecessary.

    2. I’ve never been bothered by anything anyone has written concerning my posts.

      I have gotten a few good laughs from some of them, though.

      1. I suggest a name change to “Stormin Normin”. Didn’t you used to run a war or something :)

  10. I’m impressed that Cascades makes over 60% farebox recovery. That’s really good news.

    One thing about that wsdot link regarding the Point Defiance bypass… it says trains will only be running at 79 mph. I thought this was going to be a 110 mph corridor?

    1. 79 mph is an FRA limit for all trains unless they have in-cab signaling. That’s a major improvement that isn’t going to happen on Cascades’ budget. I think there’s a federal mandate to install ICS nationwide but I don’t know when that’s actually going to happen in the northwest.

      ICS is just the first step, though. There’s also the question of what FRA class the underlying track is and how fast you can go through grade crossings — they have to meet different standards for different passing speeds, and I believe that many of the crossings are still < 50 mph. Just getting the whole corridor up to 79 mph will be a major achievement and is maybe a decade off.

      Anyone know more about this (paging Brian Bundridge…)

      1. Part of the ARRA grant to WSDOT was to implement PTC (which should give in cab signaling). I think the FRA mandate was to have that installed for all rail lines that had mixed freight and passenger service or hazardous materials by 2015.

        I recall reading an earlier post on STB about progress on the Sounder extension that the new track was going to be class 6, good enough for 90 mph or higher operation. However, BNSF have said they’re opposed to passenger train operation on their tracks in excess of 90 mph. Given that much of the Point Defiance Bypass is in an urbanized area, the trains may not travel through here at top speed.

      2. Well good, at least once ICS/PTC is in the bag for the whole corridor we can focus on increasing speed in the sections where it makes the most sense.

        I’m still curious what the FRA class of the track between Tacoma and Vancouver, WA; I can’t find that info online. Much of that section is rural with few crossings and seems like the first place to invest in higher-quality track to take advantage of ICS.

      3. I wonder what it’d take to get the whole corridor from Portland to Vancouver to to Acela kind of speeds? I’m pretty sure you’ve got to get rid of all the grade crossings, which in and of itself has got to be pretty pricey.

        Looks like you’d need class 7 track to run that fast. Also, the more I read it sounds like mixing passenger trains at that speed with slower freight trains doesn’t work all that well. At some point you’re going to need dedicated ROW for high speed rail. Maybe you’d be better off to start separating them at this point rather than make incremental improvements to what’s primarily freight track. Too bad the days when you could just go steal a bunch of land and build a railroad are behind us.

        Here’s what I was reading in case anyone’s interested.

      4. Total grade separation on a new right of way would cost billions and billions and there just isn’t the population in the northwest to justify it. Keep in mind, the northeastern United States has 55 million people and Washington + Oregon together are about 10 million. Heck, Amtrak still barely makes money with Acela and they didn’t have to pay for the right of way.

        More generally, intercity rail service has three competitors: flying, driving and coach. You can’t compete with flying for speed (regional airlines flying small planes aren’t subject to TSA screening), so people in a huge hurry will always pay to fly.

        You can, however, get people out of their cars if you can offer comparable travel times and costs to a car, more comfort than a coach and sufficiently frequent trips. You can do all of that at 90 mph on double track shared with freight. This is how most of the British railway system operates.

      5. Bruce, you’re dead on that incremental improvements are what makes sense for the Cascades corridor. As for Amtrak and Acela you’re partially right. Ignoring ROW costs it turns a profit. But, Amtrak in fact owns a great deal of the ROW which they had to pay for and even with the usage fees they charge regional freight and passenger service overall it loses money. It is similar to the British model in that the government leases ROW with the difference being there aren’t any private companies providing passenger service (but private freight operators do lease ROW).

      6. You’re right, I was oversimplifying the history of the NEC. Amtrak does own and did pay for much of the NEC, and they paid to upgrade the track to class 6/7. Whatever the cost of doing that though, I’m sure it was a fraction of the cost of building class 6 or 7 from the ground up.

      7. And I think that that history (and current operations) should be trumpeted rather than ignored, glossed over or hidden. Personally I think it’s a great model. It “loses” money. SO WHAT??? The government owns the Interstate system and it loses money too. The question is how much does it cost and what do you get for your nickel. For most of the long distance trains I don’t see it making sense for the Federal government to buy ROW back from the Class A railroads (so the British model isn’t an all purpose answer for the US). But for sections of routes like Cascades (the Pt. Defiance bypass for example) that model could make a lot of sense. Another criteria might be any sections where electrification is desired. The NEC was of course prime for this because of the dense urban area much of it goes through. But parts of California, especially around Los Angeles must be similar. Here in the NW there’s the Stevens Pass tunnel. Freight operations would be vastly improved if the wait to vent the tunnel was eliminated. Other benefits are catenary efficiencies of being able to feed braking energy back into the grid. This use of government funds makes a lot more sense than Cash for Clunkers or buying solar electricity back from people for 5X the going rate (name your favorite government give-away to lobbing groups that have managed to “sell” green).

      8. “Maybe you’d be better off to start separating them at this point rather than make incremental improvements to what’s primarily freight track.”

        That’s actually the plan. The phases of the Cascades long-range plan so far have been practically all been about speeding up the really-low-speed sections: terminal trackage in Portland, Vancouver, WA, Seattle, Tacoma; the bottleneck tunnels in Tacoma; etc. This is of course what should be done first to get better runtimes. These are also the areas which it would be most expensive and difficult to get separate ROW for passenger tracks.

        However, the Pt. Defiance Bypass also starts on the process of separating freight track from passenger track, as it will include a section of what is essentialy exclusive passenger track (Lakewood to Tacoma Dome), and a longer section of “freight is secondary to passengers” track.

        The next projects on the list, should further funding come through, all involve creating a third track along the more rural parts of the corridor, for passengers only, with deviation from the existing ROW where appropriate for higher speeds.

      9. I think Brian’s suggestion was for an entirely new alignment, which would be an order of magnitude more expensive than adding track to the existing alignment. But, looking at the long-range plan, even that’s not cheap. There’s an item in the Cascades Long Range Plan for an additional 110 mph passenger-only track from Hannaford to Nisqually (25 miles) that’s estimated at $512 million.

  11. I’d like to address two points, those being; Swift, and HOT lanes.

    First, about Swift. I think it’d be a great use of taxpayer money to examine what makes Swift, in my opinion, such a successful and useful service. I tend to think that it serves a definite transportation need, at a fast, convenient pace, while maintaining the low cost of hybrid bus service. If we implemented more services like these, I think we’d see a definite improvement in the usage and quality of public transit. (Generally speaking, I know.)

    Second, about HOT lanes. I’ve detested these since inception; to me, at least, it sends the message that if you have money, you can have a faster commute. Legislators make the point that its unused capacity, and that’s true. However, if you fill it, it makes that emptiness vanish. And really, it’s just unfair; a person who can afford $2.50+ shouldn’t be able to drive faster than someone who can’t afford the $2.50+.

    I’m curious to hear the feedback on this. :)

    1. This may only partially apply to swift but BRT in general is that switching from standard service to BRT can cause one of two things to happen. First off the spacing of BRT stops are typically farther apart as such getting from one point to another can be more difficult since one or both maybe farther from the new BRT stops. Second, to eliminate this which they done with swift is they run standard service which means you have over lapping service. I am not saying this is always a bad thing since the BRT stops are typically the high rider stops and may need the extra service. Though what happens when you have multiple stops near each other that are high ridership? Are they going to serve all the high rider stops.

      Though I have never ridden swift one thing that I have noticed is that fact that the regular stops and swift are not always at the spot. This is especially true at Everett station. This in my opinion and has been brought up before on STB is a bad thing.

      1. I would think that if you have multiple stops near each other; you’d want to amalgamate them into one central stop, or two stops that divide the length into thirds.

    2. And really, it’s just unfair; a person who can afford $2.50+ shouldn’t be able to drive faster than someone who can’t afford the $2.50+.

      Why is this unfair? There are tons of situations where, if you pay more, you will get better goods/services. In fact, it’s hard to think of an example of the opposite. In what part of life are people *not* able to spend money to save time?

      1. I think it’s unfair because if one chooses to drive by themselves, one deserves to sit in traffic like all the others who chose to drive by themselves. One shouldn’t be able to “buy their way out of traffic”. It’s a fairness thing for me, essentially.

        I concede, however, that in keeping traffic moving, it makes sense to use the extra capacity.

    3. I would say that SWIFT is sucessful because it’s the only decent transit service in Snohomish county. It helps that it runs through an area which is reasonably dense, by Snohomish standards.

      But maybe I’m just an elitist.

    4. As a taxpayer I still have a lot of problems with having a BRT service running every ten minutes, with a shadow local service running every 15-20 minutes. I can see having a BRT service running every ten minutes, with a every 30 minute or more shadow local, and when things quiet down at night the local provides all the service, but if i were a snohomish co. taxpayer i’d be demanding some changes!

  12. Density also correlates with higher prices thus removing any of the purported “productivity”.

    In fact, looking around any high density “city” that was ravaged with the excesses of the 20th skyscraper mentality, and thinking back through history, one can be stunned at just how horrifying it all is.

    Never before in history has man lived in narrow, upright steel and glass constructions that rise even 10 stories about the ground. Historians might well view the current “cities” as horrible prisons…for very bad people.

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