67 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: London Hire Bikes”

      1. There are places where Metro has purchased specially colored insulators to match the sky color to appease the NIMBYs of the neighborhood. That said, the “special” color is blue which makes me wonder whether the people who demanded these improvements ever look outside their home. In case anybody hasn’t noticed, the default color of the skies around here is gray, not blue. Just sayin…

        (On a related note, I’ve recently noticed how invisible the wires can be in neighborhoods with a well established tree canopy. I’m sure it’s a nightmare to maintain since the power crews probably need to regularly trim back tree branches. But having appropriately sited trees probably do more to hide wires than fancy insulators)

      2. Hopefully Metro will get the message that some people like the trolley wires. It gives the city a streetcar-ish feel. More directly it tells me that a smooth-running, quiet, electric, non-polluting trolleybus runs here,and frequently enough to justify installing the wires. That gives me a reason to shop in that neighborhood so that I can ride a trolleybus rather than a diesel bus.

    1. Let’s see now.
      Trolleys are 6:1 better in Positives to Negatives over Hybrid’s
      Trolleys save 3.7 Million per year in annualized cost.
      I think the voters need to weigh in on this one after much more public process. It’s the Seattle way.

      1. The voters weigh in when it’s a new tax, such as a large road project or light rail segment or a stadium. And we get mad when our vote is bypassed or ignored. But Metro replacing its fleet is a routine expense paid out of its regular budget, so the vote was back when we created Metro.

      2. @Mike It’s also worth noting that those savings are coming from the same pools of FTA money which you were hysterically insisting are going to go away and somehow prevent University Link, North Link and East Link being built.

      3. Bruce, I’m getting tired of being your research assistant for factually incorrect statements around here. Do your own reading from here on out.
        Also, you don’t do your case any good by using big words like hysterically insisting that somehow I thought funding for ST2 was going away.
        Read the post. I said the funding shortfalls could be significant with an extended slow recovery for local taxes and the tea party agenda to drastically cut federal contributions for future years, and it may require significant changes in the plan (longer time lines, less service, etc).
        I’ll make a deal with you. Stop replying to me, and I’ll do the same for you, as it’s a waste of my time to discuss anything with you without your grade school name calling proceeding everything you say.

      4. Nothing would improve my weekend more than to not reply to your grade-school FUD and drivel, Mike, but as long as you go on posting afactual rubbish I will go on rebutting it.

      5. The Metro reports also addresses the instability of the federal funding. It would have to drop to 31% of current level to make hybrids break even with trolleys. At current levels the trolleys are $3.7 million/year cheaper then hybrids, while at 0% fedal funding they’re $1.7 million/year more expensive.

        For reference, the hybrids are $15.5 million/year, so the trolleys range from about 20% cheaper at current levels to 10% more expensive with no federal funding.

    2. They seem to be planning to buy only as many trolleys as they have now, which would seem to preclude fully electrifying the 36. Or am I missing something?

      Has Metro always motorized the 7/49/44/43 each weekend? I understand they have to do periodic wire maintenance, but they very rarely motorize the 1-4, 13-14 for a whole weekend (at least in my casual observations on 3rd Ave.)

      1. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen trolleys running the 43 on weekends before. Lately they’ve been dieselized (along with 44 and 49) due to the re-route avoiding the reconstruction of 15th Ave in the U District.

        I also noticed they’re not planning to expand the trolley system with this purchase. Maybe that’s further down the budget time line (and after seeing how the new trolleys perform). It did occur to me that we’ll probably see more platform hours out of the new trolleys, though, since they should be less prone to breaking than the current fleet.

      2. That makes lots of sense. The 7 is through-routed with the 49 so that would also explain the motorization of that bus.

        Since I’ve started paying attention to these sorts of things, the pattern I’ve noticed has been that the 1-4, 13 are motorized almost every Saturday morning, and about half the time they’re electrified again by late afternoon. They’re very rarely motorized on Sundays. Motorization is rarer on the 14, but follows the same pattern when it happens. The 7/49/43/44 seem to be motorized all weekend, except occasionally on Sunday evenings I’ll see a 40′ ETB at the terminal of the 43/44.

      3. Construction in the south end of downtown required that the wire at 5th/Dearborn/Airport be de-energized over this weekend. Needless to say, every trolley needs to go by this intersection.

      4. One of the shortfalls of metro’s current system is that there’s only one base access route, via 5th and Airport way. Since Metro and ST dont want to have ETB overhead and LINK catenary crossing (even though trolleycoach and high voltage eletric railway crossings are exist in europe) it dosent look like this is going to get resolved anytime soon.

      5. Metro could avoid most dieselization with new ETBs with off-wire capabilities. Maybe not for big projects like 15th Ave NE though.

    3. I am disappointed that there is no discussion about expansion of the trolley system, especially if there is federal funding for infrastructure. For starters, routes like 8, 11, 36 and 48 should be candidates because of shared segments, hills, number of trips, etc. Maybe also the 27 and 15/17/18. If they are studying costs and role of the system, expansion should be considered, not just static maintence of the existing system.

      1. The 36 is electrified already, but they run diesels during the day in addition to trolleys. I’m curious if someone in the know can shed some light on this. Is it due to trolley platooning or fleet limitations? The 36 runs at 10 minutes headways, so I could see the former being a problem on a long route.

        I know there are heaps of people here and elsewhere who want to see more trolleys. I would be happy to help volunteer/organize for such a campaign if we could get it together.

      2. Does the overhead wire cover the full 36 route, or does the wire terminate prior to the full route. I thought the wire doesn’t go the full way, and this would be an expansion. Otherwise, I don’t understand why Metro mixes diesels and ETBs.

      3. It goes the whole way; there is no turnback routing of the 36. I believe the city paid for Metro to extend the wire out there with Transit Now partnership money. If you look out of the window of the train near Othello, you can see the wire on the west side of MLK for a block south of Myrtle. I’m puzzled, too, why they run diesels.

  1. I was living in London last summer when the hire bike program started. Absolutely brilliant! Once you have your membership, if you use the bike for 15 minutes or less there’s no charge. Encourages short quick trips. When you get to your destination you simply check your bike in at the nearest rack, then get a different bike for your trip home and the clock starts anew. If you get to your destination and there aren’t any available spots in the rack to check your bike in, the kiosk will show the three nearest bike stations, how many bikes and empty slots they have, plus give you an additional 15 minutes of free time to get there. The bikes have baskets, chain guards, automatic three-speed rear hub transmissions. Plus, anywhere in the city, you’re never more than about a 5 minute walk from the nearest bike station.

    Wish we could have something similar here, of course they don’t have the mandatory helmet law in London, which simplifies matters greatly for the logistics of the casual spur-of-the-moment bike hirer.

  2. There was a post a couple of weeks ago about how nobody knows whether it will be feasible to run light rail over the I-90 bridge. My biggest beef with the following response in that thread was the poster says “ST2 funded the design”. That’s not true – there was money in Sound Move to determine whether the re-engineering was feasible:


    No, not all the technical concerns were solved prior to ST2. Today, the design of East Link and the Lake crossing isn’t even complete. The passage of ST2 funded the design.

    One of the biggest concerns of the project is stray currents from the electrical systems (rails and OCS). If not controlled, stray currents can corrode the rebar inside the concrete faster and weaken the bridge. These currents are very dangerous to the bridge and could easily cut the lifespan in half if not properly dealt with. This was a concern problem with the ULink project, but it was much, much easier to solve since an electric train in a tunnel is a 100-year old concept.

    Some other technical challenges:
    -Degradation of a rail and direct fixation system in a marine environment
    -The bridge and steel rail expand and contract at different rates, so the issue is how to deal with this difference
    -Weight of the additional infrastructure
    -How to fix all this stuff to a 3″-6″ thick bridge deck slab
    -The shape of the roadway (it’s not level in any direction)
    -The bridge moves, a lot

    Keep in mind this is the first time in history a rail line will be installed permanently on a floating bridge so there is very little data out there to examine. Engineers are carefully designing it as they go along. A test section would be a great aid in assistance to design and to make sure the system has the highest level of safety.


    So everyone has to admit that at this point we’re not getting any information from ST about the progress that has, or has not, been made on these issues.

    A couple of questions for Bruce (or whoever else has contacts inside Union Station):

    — Where are the traffic engineering studies showing the impact of moving from the 10 lane R8A configuration to the post-“trains using the center roadway” configuration? Who is doing those, and what do they show so far about increased accidents, backups, delays, and vehicle throughput?

    — The overhead electrical system support pylons can not be safely affixed into just a couple of inches of concrete road surface – that’s obvious because of concrete’s low shear strength. The use of ground-penetrating radar to locate the rebar, and sink the pylon support base fasteners into the concrete between the rebar, likely is how it would need to be done. Is that feasible in light of stray electrical current issues? I’d say no.

    — Who is doing the study to determine if the bridge and ramps can be re-engineered to support a rail trackbed for ST while maintaining appropriate safety tolerances so the structure doesn’t degrade more quickly? What progress has been made in the area of determining whether this re-engineering is feasible since ST2 passed? Are we closer to answers now than we were in 2008, and when will the public be told if this is a non-starter?

    We deserve an answer to the question “Will it be feasible to reengineer these structures to accommodate the heavy type of rail ST chose to use in a way that does not compromise the structural integrity of the bridges, ramps, etc.?” It’s been 2.5 years and I’m concerned because NO new information about this has come out from the agency.

    1. I have zero contacts inside Union Station. Almost everything I’ve ever posted about ST was from reading public documents or simply emailing questions to their public outreach people. Have you tried that?

    2. They’re probably waiting for the Supreme Court to render a final ruling. Maybe they can rule on all the outstanding engineering issues at the same time in appendix A.

    3. Did you read the 2008 I-90 Homer Hadley Floating Bridge Independent Review Team Light Rail Train Impacts Final Report commissioned by WSDOT? If not I’ll jump to the conclusion:

      Based on extensive study, analysis, and discussions with Sound Transit and WSDOT, the IRT has concluded that all issues associated with the installation of LRT on the Homer Hadley Floating Bridge and approach spans can be addressed or mitigated, providing that the IRT resolutions and recommendations are incorporated. However, several issues could affect project cost estimates and schedules and therefore should be resolved at the earliest stages of the project design. One issue, A, deals with a required design element (LRT Expansion Joint Track Bridge) that has no history of use on floating bridges, and therefore requires careful study and testing in the early stages of the project.”

      1. Speaking of which, ST recently said they were going to hire an engineering company to construct a prototype joint, so this is obviously an issue they’re taking seriously.

        From the Feb 10 Capital Committee minutes:

        B. Motion No. M2011-08 – Authorizing the chief executive officer to execute a contract with Parsons Brinkerhoff/Balfour Beatty to design a prototype of the I-90 Track Bridge System for the East Link project in the amount of $4,438,000, with a 10% contingency of $443,800 for a total authorized contract amount not to exceed $4,881,800

      2. Yeah, we replaced the original expansion joints on the Homer Hadley a couple of years ago because the original design started to crack and required expensive repair and maintenance. Besides sinking our pontoon bridges have had many other issues, cable and attachment corrosion, unexpected opening, cracks and porosity of the concrete, problems with the expansion joints on the Hood Canal bridge since the eastern half rebuild, etc. all pointing to about a 50 year usable lifespan.

  3. So I was walking through the mezzanine Westlake station last night, when a teenage kid ran up to me.

    “Bro! Bro!” he said, holding out a smartphone. I stopped and he held the phone up so I could read the screen. He pointed to the last line of a text message, which read “facilitate the pick up.”

    “What’s that word?” he asked. “Facilitate,” I replied. He looked blankly at me. “It means ‘make it happen,'” I added. A big grin spread over his face, and he patted me on the shoulder, exclaimed “Thanks, man!” and ran off to the platform.

    True story. Brought to you by public transit.

    1. Is ‘make’ really the best word? “Aid” or “help” would be better.

      Regardless, glad you were able to help this budding independent businessman. The Entrepreneurial Spirit is what made this country great.

  4. http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/MetroTransit/Projects/HowellStreetImprovements.aspx

    Regulars have heard me bitching about the lame options for getting between downtown and the U-District in the early evening. The 511 doesn’t stop at 45th St at that time, the 70 is slow, the 7xX’s are overcrowded, the 49 sits in traffic on Pike St and the 66 sits in traffic on Olive and Howell. This repaint job has the potential to make this trip somewhat better. It still won’t be a patch on what U-Link and North Link will do, of course.

    1. From 7-9, 510/511 is the best option by far. They run at a combined 15-minute headway and are much faster than anything else, even after you account for the longer walk. After 6:30’ish, it’s best to just wait 10-15 minutes for the first 510/511 to stop at 45th St.

      Before that, the 66 can be decent. It stops regularly, but staying on Roosevelt and not going down Campus Pkwy/University Way makes the trip not that bad. There are also some peak-only express routes you take take, such as 316, 355, etc. Yet another viable option is the 70. While it has the same routing as the 71/72/73 local, it’s much less crowded (because everyone’s cramming on the 71/72/73 express) and therefore, much faster.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Yet another options to consider – door to door, riding a bike is likely to be faster than any bus (unless you happen to live right next the 45th St. freeway station and the 510/511 are stopping there). I’ve done this occasionally and travel time from downtown to 15th/45th by bike is a reliable 20 minutes.

      2. My situation is that I live and work downtown, and I was contemplating a professional Master’s degree at the UW, i.e. evening classes that I would have to be punctual for, something that no bus really provides before 7 PM. You’re absolutely right about the 510/511, and I use them when I meet friends at the Ave, but I don’t think the timing would work for the schedule I’d need.

        I’d contemplate biking, but I just don’t like any of the bike options downtown at rush hour, especially in the winter. My experience with the 66 is that it’s pretty good once it gets on to Eastlake. I’m hoping this lane will make the 66 much more punctual.

  5. Has there been any final word on what Metro/SDOT will do with the trolley wire on Broadway when the First Hill Streetcar comes online? Last I heard was that they were looking into whether they could run the streetcar on the bus wire, like they do in San Francisco. They would have to use a pole rather than a pantograph, and they would have to adjust for the different voltages.

    I thought this was a short sighted idea. This would make procurement of new vehicles in the future much more difficult.

    1. They do not run streetcars on bus wires in San Francisco. The streetcars have their own wires.

      The difference between using pantographs vs. poles has to do with how switches, junctions, and crossovers are handled and how the wire is supported.

      It is possible to have a low visual impact overhead wire while still using pantographs on the vehicles. I think on Market St in San Francisco so they have a fairly low visual impact overhead wire for the streetcars.

      1. Carl

        Just returned from SF and rides on the F line. Down Market Street’s 3 or 4 miles, the F line certainly uses one side of the trolley bus wire and has for many years. F line cars all use trolley poles (with shoes, not wheels). Also almost all of the metro systems (lines J-M & T) are set up to allow both pantograph and trolley pole operation. The new T line was first tested with a 100+ year old work car using the car’s pole to detect low and high wire, etc. It was the first electric powered car on the line and also was used to tow dead LRVs during testing (it has its own generator just in case the wire is dead).

        The issue in Seattle is the crossing of a pantograph operated trolley line with the pole operated bus system. These crossing are very cumbersome. The solution would be to use poles on the street cars but that wouldn’t be cool looking (and require the operator to switch poles at the ends of the runs).

      2. Carl I can attest to this as well, the F line shares wire along Market st. I had to stand for a good 5 minutes to figure out what was going on, but I can assure you it does in fact happen in SF.

      3. When I lived in SF, which is quite a while a go, the F had its own wire, separate from the ETB pairs, but it was supported by the same horizontal wires that also supported the ETB wires. Yes the F used a trolley pole, but it didn’t use the ETB wire.

    2. Your answer is in section 2.6 of the streetcar specification for manufacturers bidding on the First Hill Streetcar vehicles.


      They plan on running the streetcars off-wire through the most complicated trolleybus intersections. The changeover will happen automatically.

      “The vehicle shall incorporate an onboard energy storage system (OESS) which shall be capable of providing propulsion and auxiliary power during wireless operation to meet the following requirements and conditions:
      • Initiating the below wireless operation with an OESS that is no more than 80% fully charged
      • Providing a maximum acceleration rate of at least 1.0 m/s2 at AW2
      • Achieving a maximum speed of at least 32 km/h
      • Operating over the SDOT First Hill Streetcar alignment, 20 trips per day, with the following wireless segments:
      Outbound – Pioneer Square Terminus (10+00) to the Station at Jackson and 5th, (23+00), approximately 0.4 km
      Outbound – Station at Broadway and Pine (127+00) to the Capitol Hill Terminus (141+00), approximately 0.43 km
      Inbound – Station at Jackson and 7th (33+00) to the Pioneer Square Terminus, (10+00), approximately 0.7 km”

      1. Sorry, I may have been able to find this myself but how many miles/kilometers will the trolleys be capable of off wire?

      2. It doesn’t explicitly ask for that. It states that it must be able to traverse those segments starting at 80% charge and ending an no worse than 40% charge (PDF page 23). That could mean as little as 1.7 km or so from 100% to empty. There’s a long list of other requirements that basically say it has to recharge in 10 minutes, last for 10 years, and the tram has to operate as normal but with degraded acceleration and top speed permitted. And maybe the A/C turned off?

        For comparison, the ameriTRAM page talks of “up to five minutes” normal operation:


      3. I know that SDOT requested manufacturer input when they created the specification, I wonder if Kinkisharyo was involved? It seems like the AmeriTram is practically tailor-made for the First Hill Streetcar.

      4. My only gripe is that they have only two doors (one double) on each side. The SLUT trams have two doubles and a single.

      5. I doubt it’s even that. The style is basically the same on Valley Metro’s LRV’s. I think it’s just that a number of cities are building streetcars right now, and they’re making a smart play. I’m interested to see what they pick for Tempe’s streetcar:


        Incidentally, anyone who thinks we have it bad with the anti-rail brigade here should check out the public meetings in Arizona. The right-wing trailer-trash density is waaaaay higher there.

  6. This could go three posts down, but I’ll put it here:

    Going to both the Fremont and Ballard outdoor markets today, I had to wonder: how is it that a Fremont-Ballard streetcar is planned when there are no buses that run that route? I had to walk to Nickerson and catch the 17, which is clearly a different thing entirely than a Leary Way bus. I had to explain to an out-of-towner how to get from Ballard Ave to Fremont…well, you can take the 44 to 8th, then catch the 28, or take the 17 to the Fremont bridge…

    1. Here’s my solution. Reasonable for an expert to comprehend, but sucks for a novice user:

      From Ballard to Fremont:
      1) Wait for 44 or 17 (whichever comes first)
      – If 17, get off at Nickerson and walk across the Fremont bridge
      2) If 44, get off at Fremont Ave and walk south about 1/2 mile. (The walking distance saved by transferring to the 28 is not enough to make it worth it).

      For the reverse trip, check OneBusAway before you leave to decide whether to head north to the 44 or south to the 17. When in doubt (if OneBusAway isn’t working), go north to the 44.

      1. Sure. But my question: why run a streetcar on a street that Metro has deemed unnecessary for buses?

      2. I would actually say the absence of a bus between the centers of Fremont and Ballard is a gaping hole in Metro’s bus service.

      3. Of course, that’s not quite true. There is one, it’s the 46, but in almost every respect it’s a disaster. It swerves all over the place, duplicating the 44 in a number of places and basically doing everything possible to be useless. Its frequency and span of service are terrible, as is its performance.

        In the absence of this streetcar proposal, I think it would be much better if Metro axed the 46, got rid of the portion of the 30 south of Fremont, extended the 13 to terminate in Fremont and extended the E-W portion of the 30 along some appropriate corridor to Ballard, and then served the 46’s long tail up Shilshole at half frequency.

  7. Here’s a Rapid Ride D line question:

    What are thoughts about asking Metro to extend the route to Northgate by cashing in the 75 west of Northgate and having the 5 not split at 103rd/Greenwood, but operate to Shoreline CC every 20 minutes?

  8. really contentious vote tonight down in the Portland area over the Lake Oswego streetcar, this would be the first ‘rapid streetcar’ line. Lake Oswego city council approved the recommendation 4-3 which was bitterly fought. Portland city council is expected to approve it easily tomorrow.

    Portland Transport-UPDATE: LO City council conditionally approves LO Transit project

    Lake Oswego endorses streetcar; Portland votes on Wednesday

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