64 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Hello, Shinkansen”

    1. I think this is great. It isn’t often that you have 10,000+ people show up along the train’s path to welcome it. Let’s not forget the people and community behind such an achievement.

      1. Sort of like how a bunch of Coke-lovers randomly showed up on a hillside to and sang “I’d like to teach the world to sing?”

        These people who showed up along the train’s path are obviously part of the ad campaign.

      2. We know it’s an ad. 15,000 people are a lot more than “a bunch of Coke-lovers” on a hill. The Coke ad was rehearsed and set up with lip-syncers. This ad was unrehearsed and unscripted. Basically they said, we’re going to run a train to shoot an ad at this time. If you want to be in the ad come out and celebrate. So people did.

    1. This is actually one more reason to induce adults to use e-purse (by making ORCA transfers more valuable than paper transfers, not less): Customer service will get coherent, intelligible requests on how to fix the kinks in ORCA.

    2. If only the Link TVMs at the airport said something like, “Are you going to be using public transportation while you’re here? If so, you might really want an ORCA card instead so you can get free transfers and simplify paying fares”.

      One can dream, can’t he?

      On the 2nd item, I keep a couple of ORCA cards around the house for guests and initiating neighbors to riding the bus. The “Nickname” feature would be handy.

      1. Here’s a head-scratcher, Velo: If the cost of getting a new ORCA can’t be brought down from $10 (credit card fees? cost of the card — 50 cents? some other reason?), why should tickets be available for under $10, with the cost of printing tickets and the same credit card fees?

      2. ORCA cards are only $5 + whatever e-purse or pass you put on it – for $5 at http://orcacard.com, Sound Transit will even mail you the card.

        It’s a no-brainer for many using public transportation in Seattle for more than a day or two. I’ve “sold” many ORCA cards by explaining this when I have time.

        I’ve even had folks leave my bus in the DSTT and scamper upstairs to buy an ORCA card once I explained it to them. It’s an easy sell for anybody relying on the buses. I wish we had a simple brochure to hand out – I’d keep a stack of them handy. Ambassadors at the airport during high tourist season would also be a plus.

      3. ORCA information is especially needed on our late night LINK service which only goes as far as Beacon Hill Station. The last three trips in service require transferring to a Metro bus to get downtown which costs nearly twice as much when paying cash than when using ORCA which would pay for some of the $5 fee for the card.

        A brochure explaining the benenfits and instructions on how to acquire and use an ORCA card specific to SeaTac Station customers would be handy at the TVMs and better TVM programming to ask the question: “Is LINK your only trip on transit while you are here?” if not, then leading them to an ORCA card instead of a paper ticket.

        Our station security has taken it upon themselves to inform passengers intending downtown service about the new late night connection options – a little advertising around the TVMs at SeaTac Station would go a long way to properly informing our customers of a better way to pay for their trip.

      4. Before I knew they were putting in the realtime flight info display I thought they were putting in a large “Welcome to Seattle, Transit Information for Visitors” information board. Why don’t we make it as easy for visitors (and locals) as possible?

      5. A simple improvement might be to change the names on the machines to “Card Vending Machine”. It’s not a fully inclusive name, but neither is Ticket Vending Machine.

        I understand the difficulties with educating the tourists who manage to find their way to Airport Station before getting ripped off by the rental car outfits, but is there really a reason to keep the ticket feature on the CVMs at the Sounder stations?

        Also, we might get a few more takers if the minimum load was dropped to $2. The $10 cost of getting an ORCA from a machine is the excuse for keeping the paper transfers and not giving a straight answer why the paper transfers are still good for a minimum of two hours.

      6. “The $10 cost of getting an ORCA from a machine …”

        The cost is $5!! Plus whatever you put into the e-purse.

      7. An all inclusive name would be “Fare Vending Machine”.

        ORCA is your fare.

        The card itself costs $5. The minimum e-purse load is $5. Hence first time buying cost is $10.

        Another promotion I’d like to see is set up an Autoload, get the ORCA card for free. Not enough people use or are aware of the autoload feature. That would be a way of promoting the feature and the card. My mom uses Autoload for her e-purse ORCA and she never worries about running out of value. Goodbye loose change.

        $2 isn’t even enough to get on a Metro bus!

      8. I suggested “Card Vending Machine” not to make the name as accurate as possible, but to do a better job selling getting ORCA. “Fare” is too much like “Ticket”.

        I say $10 because the 2009 SJI report claimed lots of people could not afford the $10 that is required in order to get a card vended. If the cost of getting an ORCA (including minimum load) is still a major deterrent to getting it into the hands of poor riders, then ST/Metro/etc ought to take another look at the cost, and put a figure on the cost of all the change fumbling…
        … after the paper transfers are reduced to being good for less time than an ORCA transfer, and we see if more people switch to using e-purse.

        $2 is the minimum fare on Link (other than youth and RRFP, which aren’t vended out of TVMs), hence my suggestion of the $2 minimum load. For Sounder stations, it depends on which county the station is in, but $2 is the minimum fare on a PT bus.

        All these little fixes are nibbling around the edge, of course. Metro’s obstinance on reducing the value of paper transfers is The Big Obstacle to minimizing change fumbling.

      9. Another reason for “Card Vending Machine” is as a preliminary step toward turning off the ticket feature, at least at Sounder stations, if ST is willing to try that experiment.

    3. Another interesting side effect of Seattle’s Central Link: Access to far less expensive rental cars. A quick scan of Avis’s web site shows dramatically lower rental rates for cars on many dates out of their downtown Seattle location, a mere 2 blocks from Westlake station. One example: A 4 day rental of an Intermediate sized car on July 18th-21st is $298 airport vs $161 downtown. Lots of other examples and weekends tend to not be as dramatic so they’re obviously going after business travelers who may not be heading into Seattle.

      1. We’ve had visitors fresh off the train from SEA stop at our desk to ask directions to the rental car locations for that very reason – they’ve found a much better deal downtown and are willing to pay a couple of bucks to come in on the train and take advantage of the deal.

      2. And yet, the Port of Seattle is blowing $419 Million on shuttle buses and a new 3200 stall parking lot for the rental car companies. From the link: “A Customer Facility Charge (CFC) added to each car rental fee since February 2006 will cover most of the associated costs for the facility”. Wonder what the definition of “most” is? 50.1%? So much for car drivers paying their way. Oh well, at least they are paying “$25 Million” in sales tax to build the thing although I doubt that covers the subsidy. This reeks of a smoke and mirrors shell game to hide yet another auto subsidy.

      3. Not only is it a lower rate – but you normally find that many of the taxes and facility fees are much less – away from the Airport (SEATAC Included).

        I have found a taxi ride in many cities is a better investment than the first and last day rent-a-car – for the “to and from” portion – renting the car at or near the hotel “when I need it” at a lower rate.

        The new Rental Car Terminal – like the one at Sky Harbor, is just stupid, on all accounts. It is bigger than an average airport – and for many travellers – already in the wrong direction. That time can be better spent getting where you need to go, North or South, Cab, friend or even late rail.

        The rent-a-car terminal will discourage rent a cars in favor of cabs. Got to think that one through, as to which one is more resource efficient.

        We can hope it will encourage late rail – but not neaer as much as having the LINK terminial “IN” the Airport, rather than “NEAR” the Airport.

      4. Why isn’t that mammoth facility built to process 12,000 to 14,000 rental cars per day literally adjacent to the TIB station, so they don’t need an additional fleet of buses, CNG or no? Link is already running in that segment, with that much spare capacity indefinitely. Is there a use envisioned for the land adjacent to TIB that builds more ridership than that?

      5. FWIW, JD, there is a sidewalk being constructed on the west side of Highway 99 across SR 518 that appears to lead toward the parking garage under construction.

        But if I were in charge of one of the rental agencies, I wouldn’t want to tip off potential customers to the existence of the light rail before getting the rental contract signed.

        If the Port agreed to 50 years of shuttle buses duplicating the work of Link, I’m going to cry.

      6. “If the Port agreed to 50 years of shuttle buses duplicating the work of Link, I’m going to cry.”

        According to the web site, the term is 30 years; Kevin Wallace style “magic walkways” would make the trip so convenient. Doubt the rental car companies would want to pay that though.

        I did find the definition of “most”. Depending on where actual costs hit, all but $20-30 Million will be paid by the user fee. So much for the $25 Million into State coffers they’re crowing about.

        As for the shuttle buses, they are part of the deal. The maintenance and fueling facility is built into the facility. Tissue?

      1. Oran, you might know – does this mean the Tsubame connector service is gone, and you can take one train straight from Hakata to Kagoshima?

    1. Yeah, the little of it I could understand was the names of cities newly connected (Kumamoto, Kagoshima) to the Shinkansen network:

      For reference, Kyushu is the south island and has about 10% of Japan’s population (by comparison the Tokyo metro has about 30%). I was an exchange student in the largest city on the island, Fukuoka, which has had Shinkansen service to Tokyo via Kyoto and Osaka since the 1970s

      Another interesting thing about this video is how it shows how much of the land in Japan is farms–Kyushu transitions fairly quickly from very urban like Fukuoka (population 1.4m city, 5m metro) to farm. “Satsuma” oranges are originally from the Satsuma region around Kagoshima, for example. If you’re ever in the area there are some great national parks–coastline, Mount Aso and Unzendake are active volcanos, and Shimabara Castle is intact and has an interesting exhibit on the Arima Clan of Christian samurai, and of course Nagasaki is worth a visit.

  1. http://blog.nwautos.com/2011/06/auto_renaissance_is_this_the_next_great_age_for_vehicle_innovation.html?cmpid=4740

    New Golden Age of Autos: better fuel efficiency, safer:

    “”Ten years ago, good gas mileage meant small, gas-powered cars,” he says. “Now, there’s diesel; electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt; hybrids such as Prius; and even natural gas.”

    “Eddie Alterman, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine, agrees. “Honda Civic alone has a huge spectrum of models: regular gasoline, natural gas, hybrid, even an eco-gas version that gets near-hybrid mileage,” he says.

    “He also points to new, gasoline-powered models that get more than 40 mpg, including the Hyundai Elantra and some Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus models.

    “Forty mpg is the new 30,” Alterman says. “The internal-combustion engine keeps surprising people by getting more advanced with technology like direct injection.”

    “Cars, too, have never been safer. Roadway deaths in 2010 were the lowest since 1949, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    “Airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic-stability programs and new roof-crush standards have dramatically decreased the chances of injury in an accident. Volvo is leading in developing systems that detect cars and pedestrians, and can stop the vehicle automatically to avoid collisions.

    “This new golden age is showing no signs of slowing. New longer-range electric-car batteries are on the horizon, and emission-free hydrogen could be the next big fuel source. Cars are coming equipped with the latest in satellite-navigation tools, such as Google Earth visuals, and entertainment systems are reaching new levels of sound quality.”

    When cars get even 30 mpg, let alone 40 or 50 mpg, autos are more energy efficient than transit. In a few years, in the U.S., new sedans are going to get 40 pmg, and new compact cars will get 50 mpg. Some already do.

    1. Good one, Norm. In your world, you will still have to build more roads to accomodate all the traffic. In the real world, we are building other modes of transportation to accomodate people who choose NOT to get stuck in traffic for four hours each day.

    2. Volkswagen’s Clean-Diesel, 70-mpg Polo May Head Stateside: Test Drive

      What about the VW Lupo? Not yet. Too small, too compromised. I can’t gush about the Lupo, because it’s really, really small. Sure, it adds about 20 mpg to the Polo’s already impressive numbers, but it feels like a compromise. If I were single? Maybe. But with a wife and two kids? No way. At least not until gas is a whole lot more expensive than it already is. As it sits, a clean-diesel Lupo would be a great choice for the committed environmentalist who’s willing to forgo just about everything for the ultimate in efficiency.

      We’ll have a heads up that people think gas is getting too expensive when Ford’s F series pick-up truck is unseated as the best selling car in the world.

      1. The new F-160’s are available with a DI V6 that rival’s previous generation’s V8s for power, yet makes 17-23 mpg, which puts it on par with the small SUVs and mid-size passenger cars of yesteryear.

        Now, improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions is great, but there’s no reason transit can’t do the same…in fact, that article fails to take into consideration all-electric transit, which varies in emissions based upon the local generation method. (WA is blessed with huge amounts of clean hydro power.)

        On the other hand, we’ll ALWAYS need cars to get to places outside the urban corridors. I own an Escape 4×4 for this very reason. I can take it anywhere, for camping, hiking, exploring, etc. I also commute to work on the Sounder. :)

    3. “New longer-range electric-car batteries are on the horizon, and emission-free hydrogen could be the next big fuel source.”

      Hydrogen is a storage medium, not a fuel. You won’t operate on free hydrogen unless you’re talking about an interstellar ramdrive. It’s only as emission-free as your electrical source is.

      1. @AW, the prospects of hydrogen generation by wind, solar, geothermal, or other emission free means is not far off. Already GE has efficient means of electrolysis reaping up to 75-80% efficiency.

        Wind grids could be making hydrogen for periods when they are idle or when they are kicked off the BPA grid as happened recently during the snow melt.

      2. Even if the hydrogen generation is 99% efficient, it would still be more efficient to just use the electricity directly to power the car. Using hydrogen as an intermediary for electric -> hydrogen -> electric is inherently less efficient.

        Not to mention the fact that we already have a distribution system for electric power.

  2. http://blog.nwjobs.com/careercenter/easy_riders_vanpooling_can_save_time_money_and_the_planet.html?cmpid=4742

    June 19, 2011

    Easy riders: Vanpooling can save time, money and the planet
    “King County Metro — which has the largest public commuter van program in the country — has 988 public vanpools in operation, according to Syd Pawlowski, supervisor of rideshare operations. Approximately 2,500 vanpools operate in Washington state.

    “For King County vanpoolers, “The average cost for about 50 to 60 miles round trip is $100 a month per person,” says Pawlowski. In addition, he says, public vanpools are exempt from tolls, including the upcoming 520 bridge toll.

    Helping the planet

    In 2010, King County’s vanpool program had a large environmental impact:

    ◦Reduction in vehicle miles traveled – 46,056,054
    ◦Gallons of gas saved – 2,769,785
    ◦Metric tons of greenhouse gas reduced – 494,484
    ◦Metric tons of carbon dioxide reduced -483,111

    1. So you’re all for using gas tax money to improve our HOV system so vanpoolers can get where they are going even faster, right Norman? I love it when we find something to agree on.

      One problem though, vanpools are great for those that can find one but since we’re all going to be telecommuting I’m not sure who’s going to need them. Instead of burdening our road system with their vehicle miles or sucking off the public vanpool teat, they’ll be at home or the local coffee shop basking in the glow of their laptop’s LCD screen. Which is it, Norman?

      1. Somebody will turn those disused vans into an art sculpture. A graphical commentary on how people used to get to work, back when “going to work” was something people did.

      2. Shuffling across the house in pajamas and bunny slippers will be the new “going to work”. Taking the train or bus to the bar will be the new “going out on the town” though, hence the need for more investment in public transportation.

      3. No because off-peak trips don’t matter. Only those going to work at peak hours are numerous enough to justify transit.

    2. Vanpools are great for a select trip type. Specially trips to/from work to large employers with fixed work schedules and people traveling long distances (generally more than 40 minute drive or so). It does a very good job for that market, but not really any other market.

      1. I’d like to emphasise that – not really ANY other market. It’s fixed use. Solves one problem whereas better transit solves a lot of problems.

  3. Since this is an open thread, I have a question;

    Have the new Orions been pulled off the road?

    For maybe two or three weeks, when I would spot a 128 in passing, I was seeing exclusively Orions. For the past week and a half or so, I’m seeing it’s back to being exclusively Gilligs.

    Anyone know what’s up?



    1. They’re testing them on other routes. On Friday I was at Federal Way TC and saw some working the 181. I talked with one 128 driver and he said that one complaint riders have with the new buses is that the seats are too hard.

      1. I guess we’ve got an uphill battle to convince Metro to install *fewer* seats on the C/D line buses (which would help make room for a second rear-facing wheelchair spot).

  4. Thanks, SR Das.

    That thought actually crossed my mind after I posted.

    Shoulda hopped on one of them on the 128 while I had a chance!


  5. I came across a colorful, low-cost traffic signalization system today. It’s at the corner of NE 67th St and 35th Ave NE, in front of the Northeast Branch Library.

    A black bucket is nailed to a light pole on each side of 35th. The buckets contain three irridescent yellow flags apiece, and instructions to use them to get drivers’ attention while using the crosswalk.

    It struck me as a good solution for the somewhat-dangerous crosswalk at Beacon Hill Station. I really, really do not want to see crossing lights installed there, as all that will accomplish is making people miss bus and train connections. Rather, a fine tradition has been established there that people simply assert their right to cross at the crosswalk, and cars stop. (Unless I’m running to catch a 60, I let any oncoming bus pass before I step into the street.)

    I don’t know if the flashly yellow flags have the okay of SDOT, but I’d sure love to try that at BHS before something tragic like the installation of timed walk signals happens.

    1. I’ve seen those flags in a few other places before I saw them at the 35th NE location. The flags tend to disappear, and they might all end up on one side of the street.

      It would be much better if drivers just paid attention to pedestrians without the need for such gimmicks. The flag won’t make it hurt any less if I get run over.

      I like the pedestrian crossings with flashy lights embedded in the pavement for mid block crossings. You can find these in Bellevue (e.g. 156th NE near NE 16th) and Redmond (Bear Creek Parkway in Redmond Town Center).

      1. Beacon Hill has the lights-embedded-in-pavement sort of crosswalk already just a block south of the station, at the Beacon & Forest intersection in front of the library. It’s OK at night, but the lights are invisible during the day, so it’s not very helpful then. Even at night they aren’t as bright as I expected — other crosswalks like this that I’ve seen were brighter.

    2. Even frequent replacement of the flag supply should have a much lower operating cost than lighted crosswalks or overhead yellow flashing lights.

  6. We have those in a few locations in West Seattle as well. And sadly, yes, the flags disappear.

    A while back, maybe close to a couple of years ago now, a father and (IIRC teenage) son were supplying a crosswalk along California Av in the Admiral District with flags out of their own pocket, and concern for their neighbors.

    Sadly, there too, the flags disappeared, and the young man learned the disappointment of a good deed getting “punished”. The crosswalk/intersection was near two bars, so I don’t know if that played a major role in the disappearance, or not.


  7. Hello from Japan!

    Nice blog here! Happened across it in researching a prospective trip on the
    Coast Starlight. As I live in Japan, (I’ll drive past the main factory that builds
    the shinkansen trains on my way home) going back to the US is a big step
    down when it comes to transit efficiency. But, having ridden AMTRAK
    often between Portland and Seattle often, and the Empire Builder
    several times, I do like the comfort and general vibe.

    One unanticipated downside of the Coast Starlight trip I’m in
    the process of trying to arrange, is the baggage limitation that
    applies (for Coach, anyway) if you’re getting on/off at a
    small station – you can’t have any checked baggage – very
    inconvenient ..

    I guess I’d be less depressed at the state of passenger rail
    in the US if I was unaware of the outstanding
    rail systems that America had one time – and then mainly just scrapped
    in favor of highways. Of course, most people now are blissfully unaware
    that such systems ever existed, (and rarely get out of the
    US to see what’s going on in other countries)
    so I guess they are spared that.

    FWIW – the flag system for crossing streets has been in use in Japan
    for a long time – less so now, though – they have traffic signals at
    pedestrian crossings that don’t even have pedestrians.

    In the film “Walk, Don’t Run” which was shot during the
    1964 Tokyo Olympics, you can see the flag crossing system in operation,
    plus footage of the first-generation Shinkansen trains in operation…

  8. Pierce Transit will end I-5 service to Olympia

    An average 627 riders a day use Intercity Transit’s service, according to data from the first three months of 2011. The route is one of the agency’s most popular and reported standing-room-only space for riders on 27 [of the 36] trips during the first three months of the year.

    Are they running 16 passenger vans? 627/36 is only 17 riders per trip.

    1. They run 35 or 40 foot buses. It’s a tight fit during morning commute…I took the bus during my insane trip to Olympia on public transit: ST550–>Sounder–>Olympia Express. On the plus side, I got to meet Chair Reardon and tell him about my “adventure”

  9. Bus Wraps: Generally I’ve been supportive of them. Some are sort of cute and add a big of fun. ST certainly can use the money. I can sympathizes though with the window blocking issue. I saw one today on a 535 that was egregious. Essentially all white so you couldn’t even really tell this was public transit and the white completely covered all the windows. The real kicker, it was for AAA.

    1. Maybe we could bring down the cost of ORCA cards by selling ORCA wraps. Just a thought.

  10. KUOW this morning teased their story on Constantine’s tab fee with the phrase “drivers subsidizing bus riders”.

    I don’t have to explain to this crowd why that would irritate me, and I’ve already whinged on their Facebook page, but I’m still upset so I’m whining here, too.

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