54 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Ballard Driving Academy”

  1. What strikes me about watching this Almost Live clip is how much some local communities and towns have changed in 25 years. The stereotype for Ballard is no longer Elderly and Scandinavian. Now it’s a place for young hipsters. Almost Live also used to make fun of Kent and Auburn residents as being white blue collar hicks. That stereotype has changed as well.

      1. Let’s be honest, there are very few places hipsterific as Capitol Hill…anyone from Portland or SF care to weigh in?

      2. I was on my phone when I wrote those two replies, so I couldn’t be bothered to type at length, but now I’m not, so I’ll finish what I meant to say.

        I wish people would take 30 seconds to Google the word “hipster” and find out what it actually means, as opposed to applying it indiscriminately to anything for which the adjectives “young,” “urban,” and “hip” seem to apply in some combination.

        Many young-ish people, myself included, live in the city but would be mortified to be thought of as a hipster. Hipster influence is close to nil outside of Capitol Hill, unless you want to get technical and split out Pike-Pine and the extreme north parts of First Hill and the Central District.

      3. Oh please, Georgetown takes the hipster cake. On any given night I think the number of hipsters there would give Capitol Hill a run for its money.

      4. Georgetown struck me as Bohemian, not hipster. Wallingford seemed low-key, like Ballard. But I’ve only actually been out drinking a couple of times in each place. If someone would care to apprise me of the alleged hipster hangouts in those neighborhoods, I would be happy to go down there and laugh at them.

    1. Actually I wouldn’t say Ballard is hipsterific at all. It is younger and perhaps more yuppie than its stereotype.

      1. It’s tough to accept this, but those bygone fishermen and shipfitters who pioneered the driving skills which made Ballard famous were probably the last residents chronologically able to be hipsters in the classic sense.

        Probably impossible to read everything Jack Kerouac wrote. But “On the Road” and “Lonesome Traveler” give a good sense of the industrial energy that gave its rhythm to the culture. Necessary reading in a time when Sound Transit spends a fortune to prevent LINK from sounding “Rhapsody in Blue”. And fumes from roasting coffee probably count as pollution.

        Wouldn’t give up on Ballard yet- condominium crash of 2008 let a lot of great young people afford to live here. And our downtown still contains a shipyard, a cement plant, and our own freight railroad. As long as people draw inspiration from real life as opposed to virtual, there’s hope for hip.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Oran, thanks a million for The Ballard Driving Academy! Sadly, much of Ole Torgeson’s advice is mechanically obsolete. Automatic retractors make seat-belts impossible to adjust correctly. And modern body-design doubtless saves lives, but makes makes parking by sound expensive to insure.

      Careful- elderly and Scandinavian both sneak up on you. 26 years after moving to Ballard, I suddenly have a green and white ORCA card, and know how to get to Frogener Park in Oslo on the Route 12 streetcar.

      Can also testify firsthand that the excellent India Bistro at Market and Ballard Avenue is the most authentically Scandinavian place in Seattle. These last couple decades, the Nordic countries have changed a lot more than Ballard.

      Mark Dublin

      1. No one wants to deny the “Founding Fathers” their place at the table.

        It’s just that I find there is a lot of “psychic blindness” around here to the realities outside of people’s windows.

        Outdated paradigms and mindsets are reiterated endlessly not only by centralized media, but even by individuals who often seem to be locked on to some sort of mental automatic guidance system.

    1. ST has apparently not put out the January Link ridership numbers yet, even though we are almost into March. They seem to be slower and slower with the ridership figures every month.

      But, in today’s Seattle Times, page D7 (Business section), you will find SeaTac passenger numbers for the past 13 months, including January 2011. It shows that January 2011 SeaTac passengers at about 2.3 million, down from December 2010’s 2.6 million, but slightly above January 2010.

      Since Link ridership approximates SeaTac passenger numbers, as far as peaking in summer and bottoming out in winter, the SeaTac passenger numbers suggest that Link’s January 2011 ridership probably fell from December 2010’s ridership. I will be suspicious if the ST estimates do not show this. My Link trips in January also indicate that January 2011 ridership fell from last December.

  2. Another couple of Link questions. I was reading the North Link EIS this weekend (as one does) and I noticed (I forget which page) the statement that the segment between the Pine Street stub tunnel and SODO pocket track are engineered for 90-second headways, or two-minute operational headways.

    Previous discussions on DSTT interlining have always assumed that a second tunnel would be required for a Ballard line, because ST is eventually planning to run three nine-minute lines (Lynnwood-SODO, Westlake-Fed Way, Northgate-Redmond) for 3 minute headways in the DSTT. But if the EIS is right, you could add another line and change to an 8/8/8/8 schedule, with two-minute headways downtown and four-minute headways between downtown and Northgate.

    Anyone have any insight into this?

    1. I had thought one operational plan discussed here previously was for 2.5 minute headways with three trains. I think some of the turback points were different from what you mentioned too (e.g., UW station, not Westlake for the south train).

      1. Ah, I hadn’t read that post. The problem with STB’s search function is that it searches comments as well was posts, so you miss older (and probably better-informed) posts in favor of longer comment threads.

        Thanks, that post answered my question admirably.

    1. 19th century state planners- well, city planners, anyhow- included people like Frederick Law Olmsted. 20th century planners, unfortunately, included minds like Robert Moses and “Le Corbusier”, who destroyed more city life than the Luftwaffe.

      I kind of miss the 19th century ones. At least in those days planners, as well as engineers, generally had a classical education, and knew how to do fine arts drawing. But the 21st century just got here. Give it time.

      Mark Dublin

  3. I just thought I would make everyone happy by noting that I bought a good-to-go pass to cover my embarassment at not having $4 on my card when I went across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge earlier this month. I am assured that my toll will come out of my initial $30 I eventually found to buy a transponder and some toll money. Of course, I don’t actually plan to use it much as I would take the bus across the 520 but it could come in handy.

    On other matters, I have often observed how difficult it is to take the bus through the downtown transit tunnel. Why for example is it necessary to hold a bus up for so long when the Link train ahead has long left the platform and at its next station point. It seems unnecessary caution to me and causes annoying bunching of buses and long delays in getting through the tunnel. It seems to get worse each time I use it. I know the buses will eventually go away in the tunnel, but for the meantime, I wish they could speed up the process and move all vehicles – buses and trains – through the tunnel more efficiently.

    1. I always thought it was because of the segment-based collision avoidance / signaling that all passenger trains have to use. In my experience, the tunnel functions pretty well off-peak, it’s just on-peak that’s terrible. I’ve started taking the slower and less-frequent, but more reliable and less hopelessly overcrowded 66 to the U-District on weekday evening rather than the 7xs.

      I long for 2016, when travel to the U-District will be fast and convenient, and ST can start running the tunnel the way they want.

      1. I just hope the federal budget cuts aren’t so severe we end up with University Link but no North Link. That could make the 5-year gap until Brooklyn opens into a 10-year gap.

      2. I’d recommend that you add the 49 to your repertoire. In the evening, 10th Ave is much less congested than Eastlake. I’ve found that to be the most reliable way to get from downtown to the U-District when the 70-series expresses stop running.

      3. @Aleks I’ll try that, thanks for the tip.

        @Mike I’m worried about North Link, too. After Northgate, I don’t really care what happens that much, and once you start building elevated you can build in segments, but tunneling has to be done in big chunks.

    2. As someone who has operated both buses and trains in the DSTT, and who has trained bus operators in the DSTT, and currently learning how to be a Controller the DSTT, the whole idea is that a train and a bus cannot be in the same section of the tunnel, the bore/cut and cover areas and at the platform, at the same time in the same direction. Stand at the NB IDS platform one day and see that once the train has left the platform and is in the bore, the buses south of the platform will get a proceed signal and can enter the station to get to the platform.

      Buses are allowed to operate in packs, but not trains. So as long as operators of both buses and trains serve the platforms in a timely matter, everything run smoothly.

      The system isn’t perfect, with so many Eastside buses stopping at the midpoint of the platform, and cases where the signal system still reads a bus or a train in a place it isn’t. A good controller will realize that and take steps to clear the problem, and let the signal system get back to normal.

      As a transit rider, I prefer to ride a bus or train through the DSTT rather taking a chance with a bus on 3rd Ave any day. We will see what happens when all those buses leave the DSTT in the years to come.

      1. You’re right: the Tunnel generally beats the street for speed. My average work day gives me at least a couple of Tunnel rides. My judgment?

        1. A little smoothing-out will generate a lot of satisfaction.

        2. Individual operating people matter- thing I’ve always liked best about joint operations.

        When I drove the Tunnel between 1990 and 1995, those of us who stayed with it developed various tricks for better operations. Timing was important- when to hold back a few seconds, how to adjust speed in the tubes.

        Can you think anything easy that individual drivers, train and bus both, can do to smooth out the Tunnel?

        Many thanks,

        Mark Dublin

      2. My feelings about the tunnel vs 3rd Ave are almost exactly opposite.

        3rd Ave stops are quicker to get to, and in my experience the busses move more smoothly on the surface. That said, my usage pattern is a little atypical, as I am usually going to the U-District from downtown around 7 PM, so the SOV surface traffic has abated by then, even though the tunnel is still clogged with peak-only routes. Plus the 66 lays over at the ferry terminal, so it’s not as regularly late as most of Metro’s busses.

        Metro’s insistence on running retardedly-unproductive routes like the 35, 38, 42 and 45 while crush-loaded 7xs have to crawl up Eastlake instead of being expressed on I-5 is inexcusable. (Not that this is your fault, I’m just hoping that if I bitch about it in enough places, someone who can do something will notice.)

      3. My biggest piece of advice for tunnel drivers would be, “Don’t stop for runners.” Especially at rush hour.

        I also think it would help a lot if inbound Eastside buses would pull all the way to end of the platform.

      4. Of your four routes, Bruce, only one is literally useless (38).

        The 35 is the only direct bus service to Harbor Island. Is there something about dockworkers that means they shouldn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t take transit? It is unproductive because it has literally the worst schedule in the universe.

        The 42 is a 7 for the indigent. Getting rid of it means more Dial-A-Rides (probably even more expensive). It isn’t meant to serve the non-elderly and able-bodied.

        The 45 is an express supplement to the 30. How is this a bad idea exactly? It would probably be better if it were folded into THAT route as additional service during peak hours instead of being a standalone service, though.

      5. Every time I suggest abolishing a terribly-performing bus route, someone comes along and denounces me for allegedly slighting some group of the population (poor people, old people, dock workers, whatever) and declares those services to be absolutely essential. My response is that “losing” transit that hardly anyone is actually using is not a loss, and forcing hundreds of people a day onto crush-loaded, crawling busses (and sometimes denying them boarding at all) IS a loss.

        Cutting any service is going to hurt some people, the question is how many and what are the alternatives? I can’t be bothered to rehash the arguments we’ve had elsewhere on STB, instead I will simply refer you to the performance report, and remark that I forgot to mention the 25, 37, 53, and 51 which are all also on my s*** list.


      6. While I’m at it, I’d like to shout out route 51’s night service, running at TWO PERCENT FAREBOX!

      7. First, I don’t think you have it out for the poor but you do have a cut first mentality that is unhelpful and ultimately anti-transit.

        For instance, the 42 literally replaces Dial-A-Rides. Do you think that they are cheaper? They might be, actually, but they are the most likely consequence of removing it. Unless you want an even more frequent 39 (already a poor performer) to provide (essentially) shuttle service from the Link station.

        Also I’m going to defend the 35 as a route but not as an operation because it actually represents one of the things transit should do (which is link job centers to other job centers and residences to work). And, unlike the other three routes, there is little significant duplication of service.

        It is a poor performer but it goes (on weekdays) from downtown to Harbor Island twice in the early hours of the morning and then from Harbor Island to downtown twice in the late afternoon. It also deadheads. Even though Harbor Island is a 24/7 operation.

        The alternative to the 35 as a route is that everyone who works at the Port or Todd Pacific drives almost into the center of the city everyday. It is literally the actual elimination of transit for an entire job center. And this isn’t even a matter of “oh, the poor babies have to walk a few extra blocks” – no, the nearest other transit stop is a mile distant.

      8. Also, aiming for extremely limited in scope poor performers like the 35 (or night buses) to save other routes is like saying you’re cutting foreign aid to balance the budget. Where would you reassign the two non-artics devoted to the 35 to alleviate crushloaded diesel non-artic route?

    3. Re: Tunnel delays and “unnecessary caution”

      IIRC (I can’t seem to find the source I read this from) the permit the tunnel operates under requires an empty tunnel segment between trains and buses. So buses cannot enter a station until the train reaches the next one, and the train can’t enter the tunnel between stations until the buses have all left the next station.

      We’re just lucky they allowed us to have trains and buses sharing a tunnel AT ALL. My understanding is ST had to get dozens of different waivers and exemptions to allow it.

  4. It would be good if some people actually working in both rail and bus operations in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel operations could respond to Tim Whittome’s question, and give some ideas about how trains and buses could get less in each others’ way.

    I’ve got some thoughts on the subject myself, but drove my last Tunnel bus when it still had poles on the roof.

    Mark Dublin

  5. We watched AL regularly until I moved out of the area. By the time I got back, it was gone. It’s sad not to have a comedy show that’s uniquely ours that we can enjoy collectively as a region.

  6. Further to the republican bashing discussion of infrastructure vs entitlement spending in various threads this week, I had meant to post this link but forgot:

    The logic behind president Obama’s budget has one extremely sensible feature: it distinguishes between spending that simply adds to consumption, and spending that really does mean investment. His analogy over the weekend – that a family cutting a budget would rather not cut money for the kids’ education – is a sound one. We do need more infrastructure, roads and broadband, non-carbon energy and basic science research, and some of that is something only government can do. In that sense, discretionary spending could be among the most important things government could do to help Americans create wealth themselves. And yet this is the only spending Obama wants to cut.

    The Brooks op-ed linked in that post is required reading, too.

  7. Can somebody talk a little bit more about HR1, the house bill that would cut an enormous amount of transportation funds (among other funding) from the federal budget?

    How likely is it that this bill will get through the Senate? If so, what could be the potential impacts to Washington and Seattle, in particular?

    1. That’s the best thing I’ve ever seen! Did anyone aside from myself spend Saturday watching them pour the first section of the slab? It was pretty exciting. Two pump trucks, and god knows how many mixers coming and going. They even had a third pumper just sitting there idling, which you’ve got to think was a backup in case one of the other two broke down!

  8. Meanwhile, the rail line to the south is still closed due to a derailment along the water south of Tacoma. Too bad the Point Defiance bypass was not in operation, then this would not disrupt passenger train traffic.

  9. Does anyone know what the federal funding situation is for North Link? Does it have an FFGA yet, and if not, when will they ask for one?

  10. (Apologies ahead of time for the non sequiter, but this is an open thread, and it is about Ballard, so what better place to discuss non sequiters?)

    We keep hearing that building the deep-bore automobile tunnel is a safety issue. Or, at least, replacing the viaduct is a safety issue.

    This year, tolling will begin on SR 520 to help fund reconstruction of SR 520.

    So, why not toll the viaduct to start raising money for *its* replacement. If we are concerned about hundreds of people being crushed on/under the viaduct in an earthquake, then wouldn’t it make sense to discourage use of the viaduct, starting *now*? And wouldn’t tolling be a cheap and easy way to accomplish that, while raising some money to start paying for the new SR 99?

    Tolling 99 now would reduce the shock from when the viaduct closes and the lower-capacity tunnel opens.

    At what point does the state’s concern over people using the viaduct kick in? One day after the tunnel opens? Tomorrow? Or somewhere in between?

  11. How bicycling will save the economy (if we let it)

    The bicycle economy, unlike its fancier cousin transit-oriented development, is not about new development or raising property values. It’s about bettering our existing communities. It’s about making cities and suburbs that are built on an automotive scale navigable, instead, by human power. It’s about providing the basics to everyone, in their neighborhood, now — and along with that the choice to opt for that $3,000 to $12,000 yearly rebate.


  12. One of my favorite bits from that show (“Almost Live”)…having worked in Ballard for 3 years, that wasn’t too far from the truth for some of the drivers I encountered there, most especially the seat belt dragging on the pavement!!!

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