124 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Bybanen i Bergen”

    1. There sure isn’t much grade separation of the right-of-way! No grade crossing gates and very little fencing. Hopefully people will be able to keep their cars, bodies, pets, bikes and prams out of the way.

      1. I noticed that also. In some cases where were walking paths or bike lanes directly adjacent to the tracks. It does show how a trail can co-exist with light rail in a right of way.

      2. Also disappointed by the lack of a consistent cycletrack…though I like the balsiness of the guy at 16:41 who centerlanes inside the light rail tracks!!

      3. Was this the very first trial run? Because you all weren’t kidding — there are a lot of people in that video who seem shocked to see a train coming down the right-of-way!

        But I couldn’t find any reports of a single post-opening incident. People learn fast if you give them the chance! There are benefits to building with the presumption of an intelligent populace, particularly the ability to build convenient stations, rather than forcing missed trains with crossing gates and platforms 300 feet from the intersection (like some city I might mention.)

      4. I think a lot of it is due to the fact that we as a society are extremely…litigious…

        Over there people are responsible for their own safety. I noticed it even in the UK where light construction and maintenance didn’t have to put up warning signs for scaffolding or open manholes.

      5. Europe’s lack of safety railing is amazing. I like how they treat their populaces as grown-ups. Plus, generally I think the blame of getting hit would be placed squarely on the individual, not the train (unlike here, it seems).

    1. It is interesting to me that that stop alongside Bergen’s Train (NSB) station has the name “Nonneseter”.

      1. What’s interesting about it? There was a medieval convent at the location (nonne = nun, seter = seat/residence).

      2. Sure, but why no mention that this is also the Main Train station in the name of the Bybanen stop? It would be like the Sea-Tac Airport station on LINK being called “Bow Lake”.

    2. Bergen eerily Seattle-like as seen from the windows of their tram…even down to the obliviousness of the pedestrians.

    1. The other day a vendor came in for a meeting, and someone asked him if he had any trouble getting there. “No, I even found parking right out front. But it was $8!”

      It will take a while before people connect those two statements. It took a 5 minute conversation to explain to him the value of his time, the relationship between cost and open parking spaces, and the reduction in traffic from people circling. In the end he was sold, but most people won’t spend the time to go through this logical and emotional process to forgive the city for charging $4 an hour for parking on the street.

      1. Agreed. The problem is that it’s a visceral reaction, not rational.It’s worth noting that the woman in the photo lives in BEVERLY FREAKING HILLS and is almost certainly not short a buck or ten.

        Whether in terms of the value of the user’s time, relative to the cost of owning and operating a car, or as a percentage of net income, it’s a pittance. Yet people will commit outright fraud to avoid it.

    1. According to the authorities at WikiPedia, the service will be at 10 minute headways, but due to production problems at Stadler, the service opened with 15 minute headways. The video must have been shot on a testing run: no passengers, people still working out bugs with the signal system, light construction still going on.

  1. I noticed that in some segments the train went faster than the cars on the adjacent road.

    It seems to me that the 35 mph speed limit on Link on MLK is needlessly slow. If the track can allow it, Link should be permitted to travel at 50 mph on MLK even if cars are limited to 35 mph. That would reduce travel times and might reduce operating costs if the time savings are sufficient to remove a trainset.

    1. Did you notice at the end that the Bergen train shared its causeway with the buses at the very end.

      Makes me wonder if LINK could have done the same on the approach to the bus tunnel…not have needed a separated track but integrated right on to the original bus stops.

    2. Also, no crossing gates anywhere. They expect motorists to obey the traffic signals.

      1. Only Germany has RTOR. And only because it was allowed in the GDR, so when the countries merged, the new Federal Republic kept it.

        Interestingly, RTOR is an energy-savings practice, but it leads to a doubling in crashes with pedestrians and bicycles.

      2. I seem to remember making right turns on red while living in Turkey – but maybe it was I just wasn’t caught.

      3. @Erik G. : Where did you get those numbers for the doubling of pedestrian and bicycle accidents where RTOR is allowed? I’m curious as I work in the industry and I haven’t seen something so definitive. Thanks.

      4. 1. Preusser et al (1981) found that right turn crashes comprised 1.47% of all pedestrian crashes prior to RTOR laws. The proportion increased to
        2.28% of all pedestrian crashes after RTOR laws went into effect.

        (Not quite double, and small numbers overall, but still a significant increase 1.5 -> 2.3)

        Then from “Re-evaluation of Accidents Experience with
        Right Turn on Red”, ITE Journal, Daniel Galin, January 1981:

        2. A California survey found…injury crashes with
        RTOR were found to be 20% higher than on RTOG.
        3. 27% to 36% of drivers surveyed considered RTOR to be dangerous to pedestrians.
        4. 43% of pedestrians surveyed considered RTOR to be dangerous to pedestrians.
        5. The article concludes with saying the analysis of ROTR crash experience presented suggests a deterioration of safety at signalized
        intersections as a result of RTOR.

        See also:


      5. The above link is to:


        P. Zador

        By the end of the 1970’s, all states in the U.S. had modified their laws to permit drivers to turn right on steady red at signalized intersections. Police-reported crash data from six states where permissive right turn on red (rtor) laws were adopted during 1974-1977, as well as data from three states where the law in effect was unchanged throughout the period, were used to determine the effect of adopting such laws on the frequency of crashes involving right turn manoeuvres at signalized intersections. The increase in the overall frequency of such crashes in states that adopted permissive right turn on red laws exceeded by more than 20 per cent the comparable change in states that retained the same laws. Larger increases were found in urban areas (25 per cent), and for pedestrian crashes (57 per cent) especially in urban areas (79 per cent). An increase of over 30 per cent was found for child pedestrians, 100 per cent for adults, and 110 per cent for elderly pedestrians after adoption of RTOR. (A) (TRRL)

        IMHO, RTOR is possibly OK for rural areas (assuming proper sight lines), but it has no purpose in urban areas.

      6. What does RTOR have to do with Link-automobile collisions on MLK? All the collisions are from cars running a red light or doing LTOR.

      7. You’re welcome.

        It may be old research, but then RTOR was implemented (some might say forced on the states) nearly 30 years ago, before pedestrian and bicycle issues we looked at seriously. And any improvements in Fuel Efficiency has trumped any savings in energy use, if they come at such a cost, no?

    3. I think the worry is that Link traveling at 50 will unconsciously spur drivers to edge closer to 50.

      1. Let the police enforce the speed limit.

        Should transit riders be inconvenienced because motorists might violate the law?

      2. Speed cameras should do the trick. Bellevue makes a pretty good chunk of change off of their school cameras – Never mind that they have a habit of turning them on even when there are no children or school buses to be seen.

      3. Retroactive enforcement really isn’t the way to handle the problem. It’s symptom management rather than addressing the cause.

        Allowing Link to travel at 50mph with the knowledge that it will encourage drivers to unconsciously increase their speed, and then turning around and punishing drivers for behavior that was willfully incited makes about as much sense as having forming a state monopoly that sells addictive substances at a gregarious markup and then turns around and spends that money on reducing demand for that same product—oh, wait.

      4. I don’t mean it as symptom management. After the regular drivers on MLK see Police pulling over people who violate the speed limit, the regular drivers learn to follow the speed limit and that will set the flow of traffic regardless of Link.

        It’s stupid to slow down Link because drivers might be tempted to speed. Managing their speed and obeying limits is their responsibility. Amtrak trains regularly travel 79 mph parallel to roads with speed limits of 50-60.

      5. If I recall the story – that is why light rail is limited to 55 mph because those in charge when Max was first built didn’t want people on the freeway racing the trains (the speed limit at the time was 55).

      6. Has anyone done the math of how much time Link going at 50 would actually save? My intuition is that it would save very little. If we want the trains to run faster, solving the problem of trains getting stuck behind buses in the tunnel would be far more effective.

      7. Even with the fictional best-case scenario in which Link does the stretch along MLK non-stop, only three minutes could be saved. Then factor in how much time Link has to be below 35 mph anyway (decelerating, stopped, accelerating). My rough math yields a savings of 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, tops.

        Eventually, Link won’t have to deal with the bus speed limit in the tunnel. I believe that savings is already accounted for in the sample travel times in the post just below this one.

    4. This would screw up the timing of traffic lights at intersections on MLK even more than Link has them screwed up now, assuming Link trains would still get signal preemption at 50 mph while traffic was limited to 35 mph.

      Now, with the trains and cars at the same speed, the signal timing theoretically works for all traffic, with lights turning green as all trains and vehicles approach intersections at 35 mph. With trains at 50 mph, and cars at 35 mph, the trains would reach intersections before cars, so the light would turn green for the trains, then be red by the time the cars got to the intersection. Or else the lights would have to stay green for much longer for MLK traffic (to wait for the cars to get there at 35 mph), meaning longer red lights and shorter green lights for traffic crossing MLK.

      In general, it is not possible to time traffic lights along a road for two different speed limits on the same street at the same time, without screwing up the lights for cross traffic.

      And of course, there is the safety factor. At 50 mph it takes a lot longer time and distance for a train to stop than at 35 mph. And those trains will do a lot more damage to whatever (or whoever) they hit, the faster they are going.

      Isn’t safety the prime objective in Seattle streets? Isn’t safety how “road diets” are justified? And “traffic calming”?

      You like it better if cars are forced to go slower, but you want trains in the middle of streets to go faster? Or, have I got that wrong?

      1. Yet another reason for elevated trains. No cross traffic to fight with and no stupid pedestrians trying to play games with God.

      2. And another good reason for elevated highways, like the Alaskan Way viaduct.

      3. I don’t want cars to go slower, I want them off the road. I could give a crap how fast they’re allowed to go.

      4. For once, Norman is right. An ST official told me at one of the open houses that altering Link’s speed on MLK would necessitate resynchronizing the lights.

        Plus, ST promised the neighborhoods that it would stick with the speed limit.

        I think the SODO bypass track is a more likely outcome than ever pushing Link to 50 mph on MLK.

      5. I disagree that trains should stay at 35 MPH.
        Regarding pedestrian safety, the tracks are aggressively barricaded and separated from pedestrians, in most locations by at least 2 vehicle lanes. At intersections, gate mazes and automatic signals exist to control the flow of pedestrians. So keeping the train speeds down just to improve stopping distance in case someone does something blatantly illegal is not a good trade-off for me.
        Regarding the alleged double-standard for trains/cars, it’s justified, because the traffic lanes lack everything the light rail has. Pedestrians can fall off the sidewalk. Cars are not on rails and can easily jump the curb. Uncontrolled driveways and unsignalized cross streets abound. It takes a lot less screw-ups to put a well-intentioned pedestrian into the path of a car on MLK then it does to put one in the path of a train.

        So the vehicles lose the accidental benefit they get now by pacing the train and getting nothing but greens. So what? That’s not an intended part of the system. They’d lose the cascade / catch up to the train at the next Link stop anyway. To be sure, it would require more engineering work on the lights, but it’s worth it.

        It might only save 3-5 minutes per train, but that adds up to a lot of operational savings over the course of a day, a week, a month.

        It’s never going to happen, though. ST promised NIMBY’s along MLK that they would always go 35. If they go back on a NIMBY promise, they’ll never manage to get anything built ever again.

    5. Given the incident last night with the fatality of the trespasser on the tracks (heard of it today on the radio), I am not sure the city would go for 50. Unless perhaps it was daytime only…

    6. Increasing train speeds on MLK is a terrible idea in terms of pedestrian safety.

      The likelihood of a pedestrian dying on impact at 30 mph is 45%. Increase it to 40 mph and it’s 85% [src]. The trackway would have to be fenced off like in SODO where trains run up to 45 mph.

      1. With three pedestrian fatalities on that short stretch of Link track in about 2 years, I would think that the city would insist that Link trains go slower in SODO. If Link trains were going only 30 mph or less along that stretch of track, they might have been able to stop before hitting and killing those people, or at least might have hit those pedestrians at a slower speed, so that they might not have been killed, as the statistics that Oran quotes suggest.

        Slower = safer. Therefore, since there have already been 3 pedestrian fatalities in 2 years on one short stretch of track, Link trains should be forced to go slower between Stadium and SODO.

        For the sake of pedestrian safety.

      2. And you’ve nicely provided data on number of non-Link pedestrian accidents in the same area?

      3. Yes. Zero pedestrian fatalities on the SODO busway in the last two years, compared to 3 pedestrians killed by Link light rail trains in SODO the last 2 years.

        You are welcome.

      4. That’s 2 suicides in SODO in Jul 2009 and Jan 2011 and 1 death in the Rainier Valley today currently under investigation. Will it be ruled another suicide?

      5. For the record, the January fatality was subsequently ruled to not be a suicide; on-board video indicated the pedestrian was oblivious to the train’s approach until the very last moment, when he tried to jump out of the way.

      6. Why do we put the burden on the train, and not the pedestrian/vehichle? If you design and implement big projects based on your population’s stupidest members, it seems like a lot of waisted efficiencies. Seriously, wouldn’t it take a lot of poor judgment to even get close to being hit by a Link train, or any train for that matter?

      7. This means we need to get rid of ALL bridges too since it’s the bridges fault anytime anyone jumps.

    7. I would want crossing gates if speeds are increased. Sorry, but there have been too many accidents along MLK since opening. And given how quiet Link trains are, they can sometimes “sneek” up on you with out your hearing them.

    1. Again with the active voice when describing Link collisions. Physics teaches us that from an equally valid reference frame, she hit the train.

      1. A few things to consider. One is safety. The road crosses the tracks and drivers have a hard time distiguishing the difference between a train going 50mph and a car going 35mph. Ditto for pedestrians. The amount of time they thing they have to cross is ingrained based on the current speed limit. Related is the exponentially longer time it takes a train to stop from 50mph vs 35mph. KE = ½mv² means twice the stopping distance or (more likely) double the damage when an accident occurs. With it’s energy absorbing design Link car collisions have been relatively benign. At 50mph they likely all would have been fatal and there would have been more of them.

        From a system point of view it’s only going to increase layover time. It’s great that travel time would be reduced but because it takes more (a lot more, see equation above) to accelerate the train to 50mph between relatively closely spaced stations only to “hit the brakes” it ups operating costs but doesn’t improve ridership. There’s no way to up speed enough to improve headways.

      2. As I wrote above, Link trains should not be allowed to go over 35 mph anywhere they are at grade, including between Stadium and SODO stations.

        For safety reasons. And we all believe that safety comes first, right?

        Which raises the question: how dangerous is high speed rail with at-grade intersections with roads?

      3. No, on that I disagree. The ROW between ID Station and SODO is pretty safe and includes crossing gates at the streets it does cross. There isn’t much opportunity for pedestrians to casually cross into the tracks unless the do so deliberately. This is different from MLK.

        One other issue of concern on MLK is that the amount of time that the signs warn you about oncoming trains is very short.

  2. Ahhh! This reminds me of the light rail in downtown Phoenix along Washington and Jefferson Streets and Central and First Avenues. There was a learning curve however in that it took a few months before the City of Phoenix realized that a nice sleek, silver pedestrain fence was necessary near the night clubs and arenas on Washington/Jefferson. I think the sidewalks are wide enough on Central and First that fences are unnecessary at this point. Some of the paths in this video look like they could use some fencing…

  3. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2015109817_othello21.html

    “New apartment complex a test of light-rail’s lure

    “The Station at Othello Park is just the kind of redevelopment Seattle planners and politicians envisioned more than a decade ago, when they decided to run light rail down Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.”

    I can’t believe this has not even been mentioned here yet. And you call this a transit blog? Isn’t this exactly what you have been waiting for? The first new big apartment complex built next to a light rail station in Seattle opened two months ago, it gets a front page write-up in the Seattle Times, linking The Station at Othello Park to Link light rail, and nobody even wants to discuss it?

    There are 351 units in this apartment complex, and two months after it opened (and almost 2 years after construction started) they have already leased “about 40 units”! Out of 351. Already! And only 6 of those are being leased by the State of Washington. Right across the street from the Othello light rail station.

    I can’t believe this is not the number one topic on this blog today.

    Development near Link light rail station opens! “About 40” of 351 units already leased!

    1. Are you considering leasing a unit Norman? Seems like a nice commute if you work downtown.

      1. I’m waiting to hear how well Ben, Martin and Oran like living there.

        Come on, guys, how about a report on how you like living in your new apartments in The Station at Othello?

      2. Well Norman, Ben and I have already moved within walking distance of Link, both of us choosing our homes on that basis. When Oran graduates I imagine he will too.

        And I love it, thanks for asking. Link is so much better than the bus that my family sold its second car.

      3. So, Martin, are you living in a “Transit-Oriented Development” then? Multi-story, multi-family, mixed-use, building with little or no parking?

      4. No, I’m not, not that it’s any of your business. I’ve never criticized anyone for not living in such a structure. I just object to people that want to take away my ability to live in such a structure through the heavy hand of regulation.

        I do hope that many more such buildings are constructed in my neighborhood.

    2. Othello Park opened in late March, so they’ve leased 40 units in less than 2 months. Good/bad? I don’t know.

      1. It’s pretty average. New construction is always priced/targeted at the top of the market, and new apartment complexes typically take several years to fill in. Some of those big Archstone complexes on the Eastside took longer. You can price the units low to get people in on day one, but it’s better business to price them as high as the market will bear, eat the cost of them sitting empty for a couple years, and then collect the higher rents forever. To put this in perspective, my 2 bedroom apartment, a ground floor corner unit in a multiplex with its own porch and small yard, on 4 frequent bus lines, costs less than their cheapest studio.

        They are very fancy, as apartments go. They could cut the rents by half and fill all the units in a couple months, they will make more money filling them with long-term residents at high prices.

        Now, Condos and house construction works the opposite way. Home purchases are planned far, far in advance compared to apartment rentals, so units are often sold long before construction is complete. In addition, new construction does not demand as big of a price premium in the homebuying market as it does in the rental market.

      2. The other thing in real estate is of course location location location. When we moved a few years ago (to a “multi-story, multi-family, mixed-use, building”) we noticed that all the new apartments follow a pattern.

        In the urban centers and villages like Capitol Hill, U-District, Fremont, etc the buildings are all about 5 stories with concrete bases, with 2 bd going for around $1700-2000/mo. Looks like this Othello project is the same way.

        Downtown and Belltown you get one notch up in highrises with views. Olivian for example, $3054/mo :
        http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/apa/2389511052.html .

        If you’re willing to live down in Kent or up in Kenmore you see 3 story townhome-style buildings that don’t have elevators and use surface parking. Lower cost construction, lower demand, lower prices.

        The other thing that took a mental shift for me was being willing to spend money for location. Like many Americans I grew up looking for the cheapest everything. One thing that helped us make the shift was renting a place in the U-District that was really cheap for all the wrong reasons. It was an old house chopped into apartments, poorly maintained (water going out for a few days due to roots in pipes was extra fun), and the landlord literally kept junk in the yard.

        I’ve never been interested in “fancy living” but we started thinking about the guideline of spending 30% of income on housing instead of just the cheapest. As a quick estimate, say you want an $1800/mo 2 bd, add a couple hundred for utilities, divide by .30 and multiply by 12 and you see combined income of about $80k which is just over King County median of $81700:


        Of course some people are happy to go over 30% if they could get rid of a car payment or massively reduce the commute or whatever. It’s just a guideline.

    3. My wife and I looked at them a few days ago. Very nice.

      The article doesn’t mention a few things, like the fact that building is still undergoing construction. That rooftop deck with hot tub, only a sketch in the leasing office. The first floor retail space, not complete. Most importantly the entire second phase (around 200 of the 300 something units) won’t come online for three weeks.

      Not to mention the own article says that leases are right on track. Remember most people have preexisting obligations (rents or a house) so it’s not like they can all move in at the opening.

      Typical Norman in other words.

      1. Yeah, right. Nobody knew when those apartments would be available until the day they opened. Like you wrote, the second phase will be online in three weeks. In other words, everyone knows those units will be available in 3 weeks, yet nobody has leased any of them yet.

        The second phase is not nearly half the units.

        Construction of the entire building is done. Only interiors in some units are not completed. But there is no major “construction noise” going on now.

        They are offering six weeks of free rent, yet only “about 40” units have been leased.

        “About 40” of 351 units have been leased (probably 35 or so), and six of those are leased by the state of Washington Department for the Blind. Meaning individuals have leased “about” 30 of 351 units in a building which has been mostly open for 2 months.

        So, here is Martin’s dream come true, and he isn’t even living there. What a surprise.

      2. Yeah right, what? Just b/c someone knows when a place is a going to open doesn’t mean they can alter their lease agreement to get out early. Maybe they could sign a one year agreement instead of two, but that is looking pretty far out.

        Also, since you seem to be an expert now, exactly how many units are in phase one compared to phase two? And why did you forget to mention it?

        As others have pointed out, these are not low cost apartments. You are looking at around $1750 for a two bedroom or $1350 for a one bedroom + den. And that is just rent. Water, power, sewer, cable etc. are all you. Plus $75 if you want a parking space and $50 a month for a first pet $25 for a second.

        Combine premium prices with lack of finished amenities (I forgot to mention that while a Zipcar is in the works it has yet to be installed) and no first floor retail yet AND we’re in the middle of the Great Recession and yet still the project is ‘Doing Well’ (which is not the same as average btw) means Link must be a pretty big draw.

    4. So they’ve already leased about half the available units despite construction noise and lack of amenities? Not bad, I expect the rest should go pretty quickly when construction is done and the whole building is open.

    5. From the article:

      “A new project is doing well if it leases 20 apartments a month, researcher Cain says. By that measure, the Station is right on target.”

      1. Slightly below “target”, since “about 40” is almost certainly less than 40. And 6 were leased by the state Department of the Blind. So, 34 or fewer leased by the public.

        And what does “a new project” mean? Does it mean only projects with at least 350 units? Or does that mean any new project, even projects with 100 units or fewer? A building with 100 units which is leasing 20 units per month is a little different than a building with 350 units which is leasing “about” 17 units per month to the public, wouldn’t you say?

        And, if living near a light rail station is so desirable, shouldn’t you expect The Station at Othello Park to be doing better than new projects which are nowhere near light rail stations, which is almost all new projects in Seattle?

      2. How you you know other projects are doing better?

        This infill rate is pretty good, especially considering their high-end pricing (based on fancy units designed before the economic collapse). Or do you have numbers showing that Archstone’s latest 300 unit suburban complex filled up within it’s first year?

        And who lines up to rent future apartments? I’ve never heard of anyone trying to reserve an apartment. Condos, yeah. Apartments, definitely no.

      3. Norman, I had a whole response written for you where I grouse about your ability to grasp at straws but decided against feeding the troll. Let’s chat next year and see how things are going.

    6. The YWCA is just about to start leasing units in a new low-income housing complex near the Issaquah Highands P&R. It will be interesting to see how it works out. The Issaquah Highlands still doesn’t have a grocery store so residents will either need a car or will need to take the 554 to downtown Issaquah. At least the walk to the bus won’t be that far.

      1. Looks like it’s 50%-60% AMI, about $50,000 for a family of four–probably most residents would be able to afford one car. The ideal for that location would be if you worked right in Issaquah Highlands such as Swedish or nearby and so wouldn’t need a car to commute. As you point out a local grocery store would be nice. Glancing at Google Maps there are some cafes and restaurants nearby but sadly you’d have to go a few miles for much shopping or even get to a library.

  4. As far as safety: I don’t disagree with the imposed 35mph limit while the trains are in mixed ROW, but when they have exclusive ROW, such as an elevated section, tunnel, or completely segregated surface section, they need to be able to move faster. I brought this up elsewhere, for when we have Link up to Lynnwood…if drivers see the Link puttering along and are passing it easily, what incentive will there be to give up the car and hop on the train?

  5. I’ve been buying a $90 monthly Orca pass for, well, since whenever it started being ORCA 2 years or so ago (was buying it at Bartells before that). What I liked about it was that I never thought about whether it was peak hours or not, or whether a transfer had run out. All I had to do was flash the card. It was my only transportation at many times. I’ve got lots of other stuff on my mind, and it was good to not have to think about bus payments.

    But I’ve been facing a financial challenge, and finally it came time to really examine whether I was getting my $90 worth out of it. I added up my specific usage via the ORCA website.

    Bought pass for March 2011, used $60 (Twisted ankle, a bit homebound)
    Bought pass for April 2011, used $92

    In May, I took the plunge and didn’t buy a pass. Tried to function mentally as though I had a pass, but in reality I did combine trips and kept track of my 2-hour transfer periods. I’m on track to spend about $75 this month.

    I’ll probably go pass-free for June-August, since I can bike & I’m motivated to save $2.25 or $4.50. When fall arrives, I’ll make a decision.

    Thanks for this forum, I lurk here a lot.

    1. There’s certainly not much discount for using ORCA vs. paying full fare. With kids in grade school I end up needing to drive about one day a month; that’s enough to make a monthly pass breakeven at best. ORCA relies on sticks more than carrots, e.g., elimination of transfers for non-ORCA users.

    2. BusPassGirl,

      I assume you are thinking about whether you will need an inter-agency transfer when you decide whether to use your e-purse or pay with cash. Ain’t that just goofy that Metro encourages cash use? Metro is the only ORCA-using agency that does that.

    3. 4 round trips a week is the break-even point for the pass.

      What I like to do is buy a pass good for off-peak fare only, and then keep money in the ORCA e-purse to cover the Peak or multizone surcharges. Unless you take nearly all of your trips at peak time, that’s an easy moneysaving method.

      The sad bit, though, is that the best way to save money is to buy a chinese moped/scooter. No insurance required, sub-$1000 purchase price, highway legal (if you get a 150cc model), and 60-100 mpg. Cheaper than a car, cheaper than the bus. Not as socially responsible, but more financially responsible.

  6. Does anyone know what the clearance between Link cars and the catenary supports are? Seems like we won’t be able to use much wider trains in the future.

  7. Since we’re linking to trams, my favorite tram (streetcar) city is Zagreb. I’d probably kick most of the cars off the road. (note the driver eating an ice cream cone – Andrew would definitely disapprove)

  8. As Metro gets ready to unveil the inevitable huge cutbacks in service hours, we should be looking at how to do it as painlessly as possible, not *if*, but *when* the service-hour cutbacks are announced.

    I’d like to re-paradigm my proposal for bus routes from Renton and surrounding areas. I’d like to see more of the local routes that terminate at Renton TC get through-routed to Rainier Beach Station, and replace 101 service with those through-routes.

    Ideally, there would be a through-route that goes through Renton TC every 7.5 minutes during rush hour. Among all the local routes (105, 148, 149, 153, 169, 908, 909) there are plenty of routes that could head on up Sunset/MLK, replacing a 101 trip, and creating frequency on the Sunset trunk matching Link’s. The 102 and 143 could also be part of the Sunset trunk route. Or if there are more than enough routes to through-route at Link frequency, the 102 and/or 143 could skip the local stops on Sunset/MLK.

    During the day and on weekends, there are enough local routes to have a through-route every 10 minutes.

    South Renton Park & Ride might only get about half that frequency. But several of the local routes are so circuitous that a major redrawing of the routes might be in order. At any rate, the routes that serve South Renton P&R ought to then head to Renton TC, and then on up to RBS.

    A major route-renumbering might also have to accompany the creation of a multi-line Sunset trunk.

    The idea is to move the transfer point for many Renton riders from South Renton Park & Ride or Renton TC up to Rainier Beach Station, and to do so by scavenging the neighborhood portion of the 101 service hours, leaving the duplicate-head portion of 101 service hours to be eliminated. A decent chunk of deadhead would also go away.

    Somehow, Metro is going to have to cut several hundred hours of service a day. This Sunset trunk would be a start, and a service improvement for many of the riders involved.

    1. 1st cuts will probably start next Feb.(about 80,000 hours system-wide), so that’s about 200+ per day/avg, so I think your numbers are spot on.
      I’d like to see your ideas fleshed out as a separate post, if you’re up to it(gets ugly around here sometimes).
      My biggest concern is that RBS is ‘almost’ near the end of the trip for many commuters, and the time penalty plus the transfer will drive them back into cars by the hundreds.
      It’s something that deserves a separate post for each major area, as cuts are coming, and the time to wet your oar is now, not after they have been announced.
      Best of luck on your ideas.

      1. Thanks, Mike.

        One selling point I meant to add earlier was the difference in fare. Taking a peak express bus downtown is $3. Taking a connecting bus to RBS, and then taking the train, would be only $2.50.

        However, if one is travelling from Federal Way to downtown Seattle, ST disincentivizes using Link. Taking the 574 to Airport Station, and then Link to Seattle, will cost $2.75 as of next month. Taking the 577 costs $2.50.

        If ST is trying to encourage more riders on Link, I’m not sure what they were thinking when they set the top rate at $2.75.

      2. Couldn’t agree more. The size of the vehicle, color, wheel composition should have nothing to do with the cost.
        If UPS puts a package on a van or train or jumbo jet, the price from A to B is the same. They pick the mode to move the parcel in the cheapest, fastest, and with the fewest transfers as possible.
        I don’t understand why ST and Metro can’t grasp that concept.
        Fed Way to Seattle should be the same price, regardless of what you ride. The mode should be based on efficiency factors, not all this turf war-branding BS.

      3. A more simplified presentation to Metro, making the Sunset/MLK proposal look like a less radical restructuring, might look like this: Couple the 169 with the 101. Terminate on the north end at Rainier Beach Station. Travel time from Kent Station to RBS: ca. 55 minutes. Mid-day headway: 30 minutes, just as the 101 and 169 are now.

        Move the newly-extended 169 to the front of the line for stop consolidation treatment and low-floor buses.

        Save some money on the ORCA promotion programs by removing the cash-use incentive (which is to say, eliminate the paper transfers, or at least make them officially accepted for only one hour).

        Travel time on the extended 169 could drop several minutes and make it doable for four buses to cover the route.

    2. Yes, an article on this would be welcome, even if I disagree with parts of it. :)

      Truncating routes at Rainier Beach and doing nothing else would be a significant hardship to Renton, and a significant disincentive for Rentonites to use transit. But if we can simultaneously improve service for Renton, then it won’t seem like such a bad tradeoff.

      We need to tell Metro loud and clear that frequency is more important than through buses to downtown. If Metro has a choice between cutting runs on the 101 vs shortening it at a Link station, or even better, shortening it and increasing frequency, it needs to favor frequency. That’s what will get the most people riding transit and telling their friends how convenient transit is. Metro’s bias is to continue the through runs by cutting frequency, and they probably get a lot of public comments to do that. But the people who say that tend to be the ones who drive more than they take transit, so they don’t understand what those who live completely by transit want, or what people who start taking transit more would want. So Metro needs to switch its bias toward frequency, but it’ll take a lot of encouragement to get them to do so, and they’ll probably do it in small steps rather than all at once. Metro is becoming more adventerous in slow steps. Much of the stalling we see is not Metro itself but the county council overruling Metro.

      Keeping a peak-hour bus to downtown makes sense. The 102 happens to fit that bill, so it might as well be it. Peak commuters are the most time-conscious because time is money, and the trip is what’s making their livelihood and giving them money to pay transit taxes with. But off-peak it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “We’ll have to lengthen your trip a bit to transfer at the Link station because we can’t afford to run buses all the way to downtown.” Remember, it’s not a boutique commute from one neighborhood, it’s THE bus for all of Renton and southeast King County. The peak bus can also be a transitional phase. It gives Renton a few years to wean itself off a through bus, and then it can be eliminated in the next round of budget cuts or reorganization.

      1. The 102 would have to be changed to serve the Renton TC though, so that it could replace the 101.

  9. Part 2 of my proposal to reduce the pain for South King County Metro cuts is to eliminate commuter express service to downtown Seatle, and have *all* the commuter express routes terminate at Rainier Beach Station.

    Or, just do that in the afternoon, when time is less of the essence.

    In exchange for a slower commute (or just a slower commute home), South King County commuters would get to keep routes that would have otherwise been cut altogether, and gain connectivity south of downtown.

    Between the Sunset trunk proposal and the truncation of commuter express to RBS, I bet Metro would end up having to eliminate very few South King County routes at all to meet the goal of eliminating roughly 100 daily service hours in the subarea next year.

    As part of the long-term service reductions, many of the commuter express routes could terminate at 200th St Station when it opens.

    And one more way to head off long-term service cuts: Charge for parking.

  10. One point on which Metro deserves commendation for always being on the leading edge is fleet modernization.

    Metro was the first public bus fleet in the country in which all the buses were equipped with lifts.

    Soon, Metro may be the first public bus fleet in the country to go lift-less, i.e. to have all low-floor buses. The lifts were always the single largest source of unpredictable non-dependability on Metro routes. Those lift breakdowns will not be missed.


    The savings in fuel costs and ameliorated lift time amount to tens of thousand of hours of service preserved. Thank you to the Obama Administration’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act for the $35.8 million contribution to modernizing and greening Metro’s fleet!

    1. I remember back in 1993, when the Kent Transit Advisory Board brought in one of the first low floor buses for static display at the Kent Library. I was co-chair at the time.
      We brought in speakers discussing the ease of roll-on roll-off for ADA, invited Metro brass, county council people, and planners. Great day!
      We also had Sperry Univac give a segment on GPS tracking and real time scheduling software for buses. That one only took 20 years to latch onto. Oh well. baby steps.

      1. Wow! Thank you for putting low-floor buses and GPS in front of the Metro higher-ups! You’re the one who should be posting on this blog, giving the rest of us some guidance on how to make good things happen with Metro.

      2. That was back in the ‘Good Ole Days’, when transit had money.
        Dick Hayes, GM for Kitsap Transit was putting in Opticom for signal priority on the cheap, and it was working great. Now we’re cannibalizing our bus system. Sad times.
        You’re on the right track to keep service in the community through route consolidation and truncation at light rail stops if it pencils out. I hope you do a separate guest post on your concepts, even if all the crazies come out of the closet. No time left for any big Sounding Boards before the slash and burn begins.
        Cheers, Mike

  11. Hey, everyone. If you haven’t come to one of the open houses by the Seattle Transportation Advisory Committee, I strongly encourage you to do so. They are asking what Seattleites are willing to pay for in trasportation infrastructure, and how they want to pay for it.

    Today and Thursday are it.


    If you can’t attend, take the survey.

    They’ll be putting together a ballot proposal. If you want to help shape that proposal, speak up. Remember: Democracy is about who shows up.

  12. Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest is considering suing Sound Transit in order to get them to build the Redondo Beach Station:


    Given that all this will achieve is draw down funds for both ST and Federal Way, it strikes me as quite counterproductive.

    ST can start by reducing daytime service on the 577/578 down to the level demanded by ridership. Then, I suppose, Mayor Priest would sue over that, too, and force ST to restore low-productivity runs everywhere, further delaying light rail’s arrival in Federal Way.

    Did this guy actually do anything when he was a state legislator to help fund light rail to Federal Way?

    1. The thing that struck me:

      Federal Way residents have contributed $12 million in taxes since April 2009 and will pay $240 million over the life of the bonds that fund the ST2 program.

      $12 million buys about 500′ of ST style light rail. They’re going to kick in $8 million a year of which probably half is going to fund existing express bus service. So, they’ve got 500′ in the bank and can fund an additional 100′ per year so in about 200 years it’s paid for.

      1. Kent and Fed Way shot themselves in the foot about 10 years ago when they decided to do the Hwy99 improvements. Instead of designing it for light rail down the middle, with future flyover bridges at major intersections for left turns, they elected to build nice new lanes, nice planting strips, curbs for BRT and such. They left LRT to ST to figure out. Good luck getting 99 torn up again, so ST has to go elevated at 10x the price tag for median running.
        I even went so far as to build a model of how a flyover at 320th would look, using the elevated section for the station, which connects the mall and W of 99 together.
        No takers at the time on the city council or the mayor.
        So now their in line for rail ‘maybe’ in 2040.
        Dumb and Dumber!

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