Inspired by the viaduct, but actually true across the board:

76 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Seattle’s Infinite Loop”

  1. What is the criteria for choosing paths?

    And shouldn’t the steps that offer a choice be a diamond shape (decision) instead of a square (process shape)?

      1. It’s not “nitpicking” if the diagram is completely incomprehensible.

        Oh, wait, I forgot, I’m in Libworld now.

        Nothing makes real sense…excuse me for wanting logic.

      2. Well, the author of it is at least consistent in their own standards. Questions are on a Red Background, statements on a green background.

        But the bottom line is has it communicated the idea correctly? It has pretty clearly explained that it means. Nuff Said.

      3. Bailo, Omaha is beckoning. You’d love it – the whole place looks like Kent, and the local sport is beating up liberals for their lunch money ;-)

        And the transit is magnificiently pathetic, but they’re always auditing its three dollar budget for signs of “waste, fraud and abuse”

    1. Bicycles mostly ride on roads. If roads are not maintained then less people are going to try biking on them

    2. Seriously, Rich?

      I’m all for bicycling as an integral facet of the urban-mobility picture, but if you really think the great transit conundrum of this inclement-weathered, low-density city and region can be solved with two wheels, then your spandex might be a little too tight.

      Also, those bikers who won’t stop playing hop-scotch with the bus long enough to let the bus get a decent enough lead to break the cycle — those who arrogantly force entire busloads of passengers to travel at their pace — are most certainly participating in this loop.

      As are those who add 30-45 seconds each to other passengers’ travel times while fiddling with bike racks that wouldn’t be needed on real mass-transit.

      1. That situation of playing hopscotch is frustrating, but if bus stops were not every 2 blocks, that wouldn’t happen.

      2. I’m all for bicycling as an integral facet of the urban-mobility picture, but if you really think the great transit conundrum of this inclement-weathered, low-density city and region can be solved with two wheels, then your spandex might be a little too tight.

        Where’s STB’s like button?

      3. Oh no, not the inclement soft drizzle, that would be too much! And the equitable maritime temperatures? Horrible, horrible I say! Far better to inhale sweet carfug from the comfort of your SOV, morbid obesity swelling gently against your restraints. It’s the American Way.

        As for bicycles delaying buses? Cars, again, take the cake. Experiment method: ride the bus, and keep careful count of each and every time a bicycle delays the bus, and each and every time a car delays the bus. Hypothesis: orders of magnitude greater delays from the cars.

      4. Dave, stop reductions would indeed cut down a bit on incidences of hop-scotch.

        But the reason it can become a miles-long deleterious cycle has to do with more than just spacing. When a cyclist passes a bus just as it is about to pull out, the few extra seconds it costs, followed by the few extra seconds needed to get a passing window, exponentially increase the chance that the next stop will take just long enough for the cyclist to pass again.

        If the cyclist would be selfless enough to wait — yes, wait — just long enough for the bus to get ahead of him the first time, the bus would stay ahead the whole rest of the journey!

        And Jeremy needs to get off his high horse.

        Did I ever say that cars prevented pulling into traffic wasn’t a huge problem? The difference is that it takes a whole line of cars to cause a huge delay. Just one bicyclist, but initiating and perpetuating the hop-scotch game, can relegate an entire busload of people to its chosen pace for 3 full miles of 15th/Elliott or of Dexter.

        Do you really want to argue that’s not selfish?

        As for the “soft drizzle” condescension: it’s strange when cyclists inadvertently ally themselves with global warming deniers. Seattle is no longer the temperate climate of 30 years ago. Our winters have brutal winds. We have sudden downpours in any season. We have city-shutting snowstorms every winter because our politicians can’t seem to plan for such “rare” events.

        We’re also the nation’s northernmost big city, which means we have short daylight hours many months a year. And because we are low density and auto-dependent in a way your cycling is doing nothing to correct, we have lots of ineffectively-lit, unpleasant light-industrial dead zones between our destinations.

        If you want to strap all of your personal belongings to your chest and bike in sideways-rain blackness through SoDo at 11 PM, be my guest. But don’t expect everyone else to follow!

      5. @Jeremy Your response perfectly illustrates our point. I have colleagues who don’t like taking the bus when it rains because they have to stand in the rain and wind for five minutes in the morning. Why do you think car manufacturers are so successful? Part of it is bad public policy, but they’re also excellent at selling people what they want, which is comfort.

        We need to build transit systems (and car alternatives generally) that people will like, not transit systems that we think people ought to like, and until we start doing that, we’re marking time at best.

        Oh, and d.p.’s comment left of one major thing: significant grades in some of our densest neighborhoods and biggest commuting destination. Those are dealbreakers for the vast majority of the population. If you don’t understand why, you need to get out of your young, fit bike-nerd comfort zone and share an office with middle-aged office workers for a while.

    3. I agree with you Rich. It’s why, as a now middle-aged, middle-incomed, office worker I continue to ride my bike. Even in bad weather (all year round even!) and up hills both ways. And Rich, you weren’t even saying that “everone” has to ride a bike, that was clear. Just that YOU happen to do so and thus, solve some of your commuting problems post haste. That was the point that was missed.

      It’s interesting that those who choose to use a bike rather than drive or take a bus are universally hated, even on “progressive” blogs such as this. I have never heard the argument that we are now slowing the buses down. I don’t choose to get into a “leapfrog” situation with a bus – it often happens that I am actually travelling at a steady pace, within the traffic laws using a safe lane of travel (that would be the right lane so I don’t block those using the left lane if there is one available). So I approach a bus (say the #70 traveling up Fairview during afternoon rush hour for example. I wait behing the bus at Mercer for a green light. The light turns green and I follow bus up Fairview. It pulls over to let on/off people. I don’t know how long the bus will be there. I don’t know how many people are disembarking or if someone is talking with the driver. The dual flashers are on indicating it is not moving any time soon. No traffic to my left, so I pass the bus. It then “catches up to me” a minute later, using the left lane to do so, at the next light. The light turns green and I, having the right of way, proceed on my green and continue. The bus has to travel behind me for about 15 seconds before stopping at the next stop to let on/off passengers. I am ahead of the bus here. Then the bus is able to pass me again, before the Seattle Times building. And pulls over to let on off passengers again. Sometimes I can pass bus here if the light turns green and I don’t know how long the bus will be there. Sometimes the driver turns their turn signal on and I wait. And in every scenario, by the time both bus and I get to Stewart about the SAME TIME. Whether we’re leapfrogging or not. The leapfrog is not due to the bicycle rider, but the BUS having to STOP FOR PASSENGERS! Imagine that!

      1. No-one’s hating anyone here. We’re merely pointing out that the subset of the population for whom transit can replace car usage is far larger than for bikes. There is also friction in the interaction between bikes and transit, sometimes to the detriment of transit users (people taking ages to load bikes), sometimes to the detriment of bicyclists (streetcar tracks.)

      2. Actually, AJL, that’s not what Rich said.

        Rich gloated about “removing [himself] from this [thought] loop” — at best he was claiming to have no impact on the intransigent problem, at worst he erroneously claimed to be improving the situation.

        Your exhaustive description of your own commute suggests that you know better.

  2. Next time someone is tempted to get into a BRT/Bus v Rail debate with Norman, keep this in mind:

    “So, the state can cut education by billions, and kick thousands of people off the basic health plan, but cutting bus service in King County is unacceptable? What a load of garbage. Cut the bus service. Nobody will die.”

    STOP FEEDING THE TROLLS. Norman supports BRT and buses as much as Kemper Freeman does. He is just an anti-transit troll that realizes that for this audience he can’t attack from the front so he’s got to come at it sideways.

    1. And on a related note, dedicated brt/transit/carpool/hot lanes are just an Eyman initiative away from being opened to SOV traffic. Anything less is “social engineering.”

    2. Wow, somebody is a little cranky this morning. Not only did Norman NOT comment here, on this subject, but a quick check of the Publicola thread doesn’t show him weighing in over there either.
      If you’re ‘stalking’ Norman for his opines, then you’d better throw the head of the FTA in the same category of being a troll.
      Both BRT and LRT have there proper place and usefulness if done correctly. It’s not a cat fight for your favorite wheel composition (steel or rubber).

      1. Are you new here? Norman is a well known troll around this board, in fact according to a year end summary put up either late Dec/early Jan the most common correlation to thread length was whether or not Norman posted.

        In fact he is so good that often he can completely sidetrack a good thread.

        I’m just put it up for everyone to see that he IS just a troll and that we shouldn’t waste any more time on him than we do John Bailo.

      2. OK, I got it.
        Norman – Bad
        Anc- Good
        Whew, no need to think anymore. That’s a load off my little brain.

  3. Which bus went Seattle-Renton before the tunnel opened and the 101/106/107 were created? I realized I’ve totally forgotten. I think the 142 only went to Skyway.

    1. The 107 was the “express” route from Seattle to Renton in the early 1970’s when I was an information operator for Metro. It went Fourth South to Spokane, I-5 to Albro Place exit down to Myrtle/Othello as I recall and over th Rainier. It turned south there and followed Rainier all the way to Renton. It was once an hour.

      Every other 42 (then 142) went to Renton via Renton Avenue South.

      So a person could get to Renton twice an hour, via different routes and with significantly different running times.

      1. I should have said “later 142” not “then 142”. “Then 142” sounds like it’s 42 NOW and 142 THEN. Backwards.

  4. Does anyone see the problem with this loop? It’s that the so-called answer (rail) to the “problem,” won’t solve anything, because ST has stated that they are not interested in getting cars off the freeway or people out of their cars.

    1. They were never intentioned to do that. They were always intentioned to keep traffic from getting worse not to solve it

    2. They won’t impact traffic measurably, but they’ll finally give people an alternative to getting stuck in traffic.

  5. With Washington on track to earn almost a billion dollars for HSR, would there be any prospect for electrification?

    And what are your thoughts about eliminating carpool lanes and instead dedicating hard shoulder use to serve as HOV lanes when needed? In my opinion, this would save a lot of money from having to keep adding lanes, and it’s technically possible with Active Traffic Management which can open hard shoulders at any time based on traffic volumes. Just a thought, because then we wouldn’t need three lanes on the future 520, but two lanes and one hard shoulder that can serve as extra capacity for transit.

      1. In addition, preserved Breda Dual-Mode #5034 as part of the MEHVA historical fleet gets regular exercise on the surface overhead in electric mode.

    1. Incorrect, the tunnel was the same 700/750 (cant remember which) volts as the regular trolleycoach network. In the late 80s the breda prototypes ran on the surface in testing, plus at a couple of times during the tunnels tenure with trolleycoach overhead the historcal trolleys were ran inside the tunnel, plus during some snow event 4000s were ran inside the tunnel. sadly i dont have pictures of this, however on the macdonald video about seattle it does show both trolleycoaches in the tunnel and bredas running on the surface. this is what allowed the bredas to be so easily converted to use as straight trolleycoaches. The waterfront streetcar line was 600 vdc.

  6. maybe this would work here in Seattle’s future (or even Tacoma) … Alstom’s Citadis-Dualis Tram-Trains can be dual voltage (750V & 1500V) … this could allow trams to run on the street networks and on Link’s route(s)

    1. THAT is a great idea! Kinki-Sharyo has 1500 volt trams as well, in which case you’d probably have the same electrical equipment as that on the Link trains. Cheaper maintenance.

      The one problem is that trams are universally narrower than LRV’s because they are expected to run in car-width lanes at least sometimes. So there’s always a little delay putting out the spacers at shared stations. Because of that they really shouldn’t use the tunnel downtown, but they could certainly hitch a ride on a few miles of “trunk” trackage leading to the CBD, then change to the own ROW for downtown collection distribution, presumably on the surface in dedicated lanes.

      Cleveland does exactly that by having the Shaker trains use the Rapid trackage for about five miles. They used to have a short section of lower platform at the shared stations because the PCC’s that served Shaker Heights had steps down to street level platforms. Now I believe they have ramps that rise up like in San Francisco to allow level boarding. And Cleveland’s rapid cars are narrower than usual to avoid the gap for the LRT’s.

  7. I know Bruce won’t like this, but in the February meeting on the waterfront seawall replacement, I personally talked with James Corner on bringing back the old waterfront streetcar and he says it’s a possibility.

    1. Public officials at outreach events will (correctly) ascribe the word “possibility” to all manner of ideas, some of them highly unlikely, when a member of the public comes up to them and demands they do it. At the Waterfront event where I inquired about what ped/transit options were on the table they seemed much more interested in pedestrian bridges from 1st Ave and a First Hill trolley circulator on Madison and Marion to get people up from the waterfront.

      BTW, I have no problem with a Waterfront streetcar if it’s paid for primarily with a waterfront LID, or some other funding mechanism that doesn’t rob other much more productive streetcar projects in the city of their potential money. It would warm the cockles of my heart to stand on the roof of my building and see those Melbourne trams go by.

      1. Makes sense for that to come from the huge pot of money that’s paying for the new park and seawall and Alaskan Way boulevard.

      2. Bruce,

        There IS a “First Hill trolley circulator on Madison and Marion”. Of course, it turns at First Avenue. Are they proposing to extend the wire down to Alaskan Way? Is that what you were referring to?

        Just wondering.

      3. I didn’t think to ask them that question, although you’re absolutely right, of course.

  8. ANN:

    As part of its Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant, the Cascade Bicycle Club will be presenting a ‘Complete Streets’ training workshop and field exercise on Thursday, April 14th from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at Kent City Hall Council Chambers. Cascade will be providing healthy snacks and beverages for attendees per RSVPs. Cascade is hoping to get a good attendance, so come on downtown if you can!

    For more info about Complete Streets…

    The City of Kent has also been awarded a CPPW grant to consider how we can change the way we look at our existing policies to measure and achieve better public health outcomes in terms of increasing daily physical activity and access to healthy foods without having to start up a car.

      1. I think your 6 is upside down.

        They are oh so 60s.

        Even worse are flowcharts that don’t have decision boxes. (Oh no, am I agreeing with JB??!!?)

  9. Need to arrive at SeaTac (from Cap Hill, U Dist, Eastlake, SLU general area) on a Saturday in the near future by 5:15 a.m. Is there a way to do it by public transit? I think no. It’s either the Shuttle for like $36 plus tip, or a cab for practically the same. Is there something I’m missing?

    1. Have you tried Sound Transit’s Trip Planner? That’s the best tool for figuring out these kinds of things.

      The first Link train leaves Stadium Station at 4:40 am and arrives SeaTac at 5:19 am. The 84 Night Owl bus from Capitol Hill connects to that trip, leaving Broadway & E Pine St at 4:10 am. There’s also a Link train that leaves Beacon Hill at 4:21 am and gets to SeaTac at 4:56 am but no connecting bus I know of. Wish they adjusted the first 36 trip to connect with that.

      1. Thanks. I did research it, and I thought I understood that Link didn’t start that early. You’ve cleared it up for me!

    2. Take Night Owl 83 which connects to the early bird Link train, leaving Stadium @ 4:40. 83 leaves Eastlake & Lynn at 4:12.

      Full Metro maps and official time points are available here:

      You can also use this link to find your preferred stop, click “Real Time Arrival Info” then “See full schedule for this stop” then scroll down to get the exact time. I would be out there at least five minutes earlier if I were you.

      1. Thank you for the info. The question that is lurking in my mind, is, how safe is it to be standing at Stadium at 4:40 a.m. as a single woman by herself? This would be in fall when it would definitely still be dark at 4:40 a.m. Maybe it is the wise course to just pay for a cab.

      2. Stadium has never struck me as sketchy, mostly because there’s no-one living nearby, not even homeless people. That said, I’m a 6’5″ young guy, so I don’t have the same safety concerns you do. While I wouldn’t think twice about transferring at Stadium, I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you took a cab for that reason.

        I’ll email ST and ask them when the 4:40 Stadium train gets there. It’s possible it might get there five or ten minutes earlier and wait there, which might make things different for you. I’ll post their reply here when I get it.

      3. Stadium Station should be pretty safe at that time of the morning. It’s right next to the bus bases so there will be a lot of activity with all of the bus drivers headed to work. The station itself is well-lit and has security cameras.

      4. Thank you for contacting Sound Transit Bruce.

        To address your question, Link light rail will reach Stadium station at 4:40 a.m. Once it reaches Stadium station it will then proceed to head south arriving the airport at 5:09 a.m.

        If your friend is arriving via bus at 4:28 a.m. she will be standing at the station for approximately 10 minutes.

        Please know that the station is very well lit and other riders such as your friend will utilize this train to reach the airport for early departing fights.

        Please do not hesitate in contacting me if I can provide any further assistance.


        Denene Dean
        Sound Transit
        401 South Jackson St.
        Seattle, WA 98104

        There is, incidentally, an emergency phone on the north end of the platform, on the Northbound side.

        Honestly, of all the places you could be in central Seattle in the early morning, Stadium would be one of the safest, I think. Hope this helps.

  10. I’ve observed too many auto supremacists having aneurisms over the very thought of sharing road space with bikes. However, one of those auto supremacists I saw on tape from the Lake City road diet meeting with the mayor suggested bus lanes instead.

    We may be wrong about how tough a sell transit lanes will be in Seattle. A little polling might be a good investment, and come in handy when more business groups try to WestSeattle the D and E lines, as well as future transit-priority lanes.

    That said, I’ve been thinking in terms of transit infrastructure improvements that are either invisible to or appreciated by private vehicle drivers (shorter boarding times and stop consolidations) and those that will be seen as taking away from private drivers (transit/HOV/HOT/BATty lanes, and bus signal priority, not to mention billion-dollar train lines). I haven’t really seen bus signal priority become controversial yet. Maybe it is more invisible than I expected. May it has already happened on more routes than we realized. ;)

    Anyhoo, signal priority and transit lanes are much cheaper than building large transit capital improvement projects. Maybe we need to remind drivers how cheap paint is compared to trains next time they try to give RapidRide the death of a thousand cuts, like they are already doing to the C Line.

  11. I don’t think this is just Seattle, this infinite loop is *everywhere*. As for the places that build rail (Portland in particular) that simply say we’re moving ahead without consensus or even input from dissenters, the issue is the places and neighborhoods that will be served by transit and the places that will lose service, either due to the rail not stopping in a neighborhood, or service cuts elsewhere in the transit system to pay for the rail line.
    As for the complainers that think the process/diagram is flawed or doesn’t follow standard conventions, etc.: thinking of nothing but standard process (or questioning credentials) is what gets us into the mess in the first place. So what if it’s not in official flow-chart form, this is a website, not a university class.

  12. I hope a little practical is considered on-topic in this discussion of theory.

    It’s been distressing to see elected official blithely dismiss “Surface” without offering other ways to streamline traffic flow downtown, and in particular, transit. And they don’t get why transit advocates are livid at them.

    So, allow me to roll out v2 of Transit With-or-Without-Tunnel:

    As a first step, and not committing to converting portions of other streets, 3rd Avenue would cease to be a general-traffic street at all (except for crossings) and be a transit center all the way from Pioneer Square to somewhere in Belltown.

    From west to east the lanes would be aligned as follows: a southbound lane, a northbound lane, a center pedestrian island every 3-4 blocks, another southbound lane, and another northbound lane.

    All the stop bays would be on the blocks with the center islands, with those blocks chosen to be as close as possible to ADA-compliant DSTT elevators.

    As many local routes as will be able to traverse the 3rd Avenue Transit Center smoothely would be assigned to 3rd Ave, which is already happening, but hopefully more will fit after the conversion.

    The vast majority of commuter routes will eventually Link somewhere way outside the downtown core, whether it be Snohomish County commuters transfering at Mountlake Terrace or Northgate Station, Kirklanders transfering at Husky Stadium Station, I-90 riders transfering at an East Link station, or South King and Pierce riders transfering at Rainier Beach or 200th St Station (and eventually other stations further south), not because it is faster than today, but because it is faster than creating gridlock by trying to run way too many buses on the rest of downtown core streets.

    Commuter riders would give up lots of one-seat rides in favor of a comfy transfer to Link, and car drivers give up 3rd Ave and however many other lanes are needed to get local buses out of general traffic in the rest of the downtown core. I think it is a fair compromise.

    Again, if transit constitutes a majority of person trips downtown, and can be accomodated with fewer than a majority of downtown lanes, I don’t want to hear any more whining from the optional car drivers crying about the need for some people to drive cars downtown.

    Nor will this impinge freight mobility, since freight will be using Alaskan Way (in all likelihood) or the tunnel (if you can believe the true believers among the electeds).

    The 3rd Ave portion won’t even impinge general traffic noticeably, since private vehicles already have to get off 3rd Ave during rush hour. It’ll just maximize the bus and people throughput on 3rd Ave during rush hour, so fewer buses have to run on the other streets.

    The major expense would be in rebuilding the sidewalks every 3-4 blocks on 3rd Ave. That certainly shouldn’t come close to hitting ten figures.

    It is these cheap fixes, not the ones involving giga-expense, that get car drivers most bent out of shape, even when it ends up benefiting car drivers.

    So, tell me how the 3rd Avenue Transit Center wouldn’t work.

    1. What do you mean by a pedestrian island? MLK has crosswalk stopping points in the middle lanes but that only works if there’s rail in the middle, and the stopping points themselves aren’t bus stops. Would it be more like the in-street bus stop on 3rd & Pine, or like a traffic circle in the middle of the intersection? Why do downtown streets need this?

    2. One of the nice things about having multiple lanes is that there’s passing room in case one bus gets stuck or delayed. It seems like your S-N-S-N plan would interfere with that.

      1. Having the plan be S-S-N-N would require two sidewalk islands, and take away the opportunity for easy transfers between the inner-lane buses. A whole lot more outer sidewalk would have to be removed.

        As for passability when a bus breaks down, the opposing-direction buses could clear the block, and then allow the same-direction buses to pull into the opposing lane to get up to the next block. Other following buses that use that lane would have to use the other lane in the same direction temporarily for that block, or take turns with the opposing-direction buses.

        Either way, getting around a stalled bus would still be easier than under the current two-lane weave, which feels like having to get around a whole bunch of stalled buses, all the time.

        A problem with simply putting one northbound and one southbound transit lane on each of several streets is the presence of one-way streets. Plus transfering could become a loooong walk.

    3. …you’re over the tunnel? Any reason you couldn’t add weight? You’d have to miss the ventilation…

      other than that, sounds great to me :)

  13. Something I was thinking about regarding bus stops and demand-responsiveness. What if Metro had a policy of always opening the front door at a red light, except during peak?

    As I see it, this would have two benefits for dwell time:

    – Boarding would be faster, since fewer passengers will get off at stops where passengers are boarding.

    – Some stops can be skipped entirely, since passengers will already have gotten off at the red light.

    Any thoughts?

    1. (1) What happens when the light turns green and somebody is in the middle of alighting?

      (2) Shouldn’t more buses, especially trunk-line buses, be getting signal priority devices?

      1. I’m thinking that this would be useful for low-demand situations — e.g. night buses, quiet routes, etc. These are the routes that would never have enough usage to merit any transit signal priority investments.

        The green light thing isn’t a huge issue on its own — assuming pay-as-you-leave, I can’t imagine any bus having to wait more than 3 seconds at a green light because of this. (If it regularly has to wait more, then it’s too popular for this plan.)

        A bigger problem, though, would be passengers with limited mobility. You can’t let them out without a curb, and you can’t have a policy that grants better service to able-bodied people. So maybe the idea is DOA for that reason.

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