It’s amazing what’s possible out there in the world.

101 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Bicycle Rush Hour”

  1. Stupid scofflaw pedestrians… Few if any are stopping for the red lights… :)

    Impressed by the guy at :31 “towing” a spare bike. I’ve ridden bikes a long time but I’m not confident enough to do that.

    For those who care, Bellevue has scraped up enough money to start a small but useful bike and pedestrian connector trail in the Factoria area. It’ll hardly bring on this kind bike traffic, but will definitely help those of us who actually want to bike to Factoria. (Predictable Bellevue bashing to follow…)

    1. I don’t bike much in Bellevue—I mostly just pass through on the the I-90/Mountains to Sound trail—but they seem to have their act pretty well together. Great trail signage, plus kiosks that are always stocked with their detailed bike map. Of course, the downtown core is not very bike-friendly, but I’d say the same of Seattle’s CBD. Now if only Mercer Island could get its act together: no official city bike map, and no signage on their maze of trails around I-90.

      1. I find downtown Mercer Island quite pleasant to bike around. I grew up there so I’m familiar with it – obviously that helps. MI Police are pretty ruthless about speed enforcement. The downtown is also engineered with streets that encourage slow speeds and there are a few bike lanes left over from the 70s. Couple that with the array of bike trails on I-90 and you’ve got a pretty welcoming environment for bikes.

        The big problem on the Island is large group rides that circumnavigate the Island on West Mercer, East Mercer, and North Mercer ways. They are narrow and winding roads without bike lanes or shoulders in many areas. Passing is damn near impossible, especially when large groups clog up the road. There are a lot of bad actors on both sides. If you are confident, reasonably assertive, and considerate, you shouldn’t have problems though.

    2. Of all the bicyclists making left turns in this video, only one signaled, that I noticed.

      I bet there are lots of collisions at this intersection. However, they would be at very slow speeds, so probably don’t cause much harm. I would like to see this video at normal speed. The bicyclists appear to be going about the same speed as pedestrians, which would be about 3 mph. That makes for a pretty long commute if you have any distance to cover.

      1. If you look at about 50 seconds in you’ll see that the bikes are going way faster than the pedestrians.

      2. Bike collisions are more rare in the Netherlands than in the US. And no, the average speed is much higher than 3km/hour.

      1. In the winter video I saw a couple of guys with helmets. I figure they must have been tourists from the US :=

      2. Not a single person in Holland wears a bike helmet. And you know what, it’s ok! It’s part of being in a country where the government treats people like adults, rather than a nanny state where the government treats people like children in the name of their own safety.

      3. Ryan,
        I was going to say that is because they have sane liberals – but you said it so much better.

    3. Towing a bike is easy, especially a Dutch style one. Just grab the handle at the crown. You see it all the time there.

    4. I wish they’d build an overpass to get from the bike trail straight across the street. I ride through that intersection twice a day, and every time I have either a close call, or have to use my bicycle air horn to alert the right hand turning cars coming off the freeway to look up and see that a bicycle is crossing the intersection.

      Still more bicycling infrastructure here is good.

  2. It’s possible because those people walk the talk. They practice what they preach. It’s not enough to simply envy the way they commute and wish we did that here. It’s not enough to slap up a video and tell everyone “this is how it should be.” If you envy’s this lifestyle, practice it yourself. Lead by example.

      1. According to Wikipedia:

        The 2007 fuel tax was € 0.684 per litre or $ 3.5 per gallon. On top of that is 19% VAT over the entire fuel price, making the Dutch taxes one of the highest in the world. In total, taxes account for 68,84% of the total price of petrol and 56,55% of the total price of diesel

        Gas gets to four bucks a gallon here and we crack open the strategic reserves.

      2. Actually, they started converting mode share back to bikes decades ago when they were filling in canals to create wider roads. Many realized that the city would soon be mired in congestion if they continued building automobile-only infrastructure. Still, gas prices there are pretty stunning. Despite that we didn’t hear a peep about them from the locals.

      3. While much of the Netherlands is flat (hence the name), the southeastern part around Maastricht is quite hilly but still has a cycling rate of around 30% of all trips.

        As David Hembrow says, “The only thing which seems directly related to cycling rate is the quality of infrastructure. The Dutch infrastructure is the best in the world and this country has the highest rate of cycling as a result. Danish infrastructure is lacking a little by comparison, and they’ve only 2/3rds the cycling rate of the Netherlands. Germany has significantly worse infrastructure again, and people there cycle only about a third as much as they do in the Netherlands. It’s quite easy to see why if you move between the borders of these countries. It’s simply more pleasant here in NL.”

  3. The most amazing part for me: at first I thought cars must not be allowed on the road during rush hour, but then I looked more closely and saw a few, maybe five. Driving is allowed, but practically nobody is choosing to do it.

    1. In Amsterdam it takes longer to get someone in a car than to ride. Most people ride but you do see cars too, just not as many. I nearly got ran over by bikes several times but never by a car.

    1. My understanding of it is that part of upgrading to a high speed line requires the removal of all grade crossings, so for the point you are trying to make, it is irrelevant. but quite a few miles I’d imagine.

    2. It doesn’t matter in this context. HSR lines will be fully grade separated.

      BTW, the tractor trailer took over 320 feet to stop. None of the reports I’ve seen have said how fast it was truck was going.

      1. What is the speed at which trains are considered “high-speed” in the U.S., and must be completely grade-separated?

        That is one of the reasons why high-speed rail is prohibitively expensive and not cost-effective whatsoever — because every single road they cross has to have an underpass or overpass. Even a road like this, which is lightly used, and out in the middle of nowhere, would have to have an overpass or underpass, likely costing millions of dollars for that one single intersection.

        What do they do about animals wandering onto the tracks?

      2. 110 mph is the fastest trains can go at standard level crossings, but they can go 125 mph if access from the road to the rail can be completely blocked off. Source:

      3. In general when speeds get above a certain point the practice is to fence off the rail ROW to keep animals and people off the tracks.

        You can get away with level crossings up to 125 MPH as long as you have 4-quadrant gates. Past that you need to fully grade separate. This is one reason many countries built their first high-speed lines out in the middle of nowhere as there are less places you need to build grade separated crossings.

        Really though the need for grade separation is no different than for limited access highways.

      4. “What is the speed at which trains are considered “high-speed” in the U.S., and must be completely grade-separated?

        That is one of the reasons why high-speed rail is prohibitively expensive and not cost-effective whatsoever — because every single road they cross has to have an underpass or overpass.”

        You know, like Freeways which have overpasses and underpasses and haven’t made any money since they were built. The TGV’s operating costs are in the black even though it’s 100% grade separated and fenced. And after transporting a billion passengers there hasn’t been one fatality. Maybe your “cost analysis” is a little off there Norm.

      5. Uh, no. Every article written about high speed rail in the U.S. says it would requier massive public subsidies to both build and operate. Can you find one article that says otherwise about any potential U.S. HSR system?

        And, what is the projected daily ridership on HSR between Portland and Seattle, compared to how many people per day use some stretch of I-5 between Portland and Seattle?

        I’ll give you a little hint: about 400,000 people per weekday use the stretch of I-5 just north of the exit to SeaTac airport. So, how many pwople would be expected to ride an HSR train each weekday on that stretch of track?

        Thank you.

      6. “That is one of the reasons why high-speed rail is prohibitively expensive and not cost-effective whatsoever — because every single road they cross has to have an underpass or overpass.”

        “You know, like Freeways which have overpasses and underpasses”

        Exactly. They made the freeways grade separated for the exact same reason HSR needs grade separation: so that you don’t have to stop at all the cross streets. And the federal government paid for 90% of the Interstates, otherwise they would have never been built.

      7. The federal government paid for the highway system using the federal gas tax, paid only by people who bought gasoline and diesel fuel. Plus some tire taxes, and other taxes on motor vehicles and trucks.

      8. Valli, pulling a pair of empty gravel trailers, applied his brakes moments before the crash but was unable to stop in time

        Inexperienced driver with a record of speeding likely didn’t realize that it’s much harder to come to an emergency stop with empty trailers than loaded ones. The gravel companies insurance is going to be on the hook for millions on this one.

    3. In a crash situation, trains generally derail and often the loss of life is quite small as it brings them to a halt rapidly. However, there can be the one in a million type crashes that turn deadly.

      A 125 mph train in Germany had a deadly crash that was caused by five different factors, starting with a bad engineering decision.

      Here’s the episode:

      Seconds From Disaster – S01E05 – Derailment At Eschede

    4. They don’t. That’s the nice thing about not putting at grade crossings on a HSR line. Even on bridges over TGV lines they have sensors to detect if something has been tossed on the tracks. You can’t see far enough ahead to actually react to anything on the tracks so the engineers largely drive blind.

  4. Does anyone know what the three train cars are that have been at King Street Station for the last week or so on the westernmost platform?

    1. If they’re non-Amtrak coached, they’re private cars. The Railroad historical Society was in Tacoma this month, so I can see why.

  5. Word to the wise: if you ever see one of those mobile Good To Go kiosks (like I saw yesterday at Bellevue farmer’s market) ask them for an orca card. They give out free cards preloaded with 6$. There is some documentation that comes along with it specific to 520 commuters highlighting the alternatives to driving. My favorite: teleworking!

    1. According to a poll conducted last year, the percentage of people who work in downtown Seattle who commute by bicycle is 3%. The percentage of those whose work is based in downtown Seattle who telework from home is 4%.

      There will likely be a very large increase in telecommuting over the next few decades. Teleworkers will probably increase to 10% to 20% of people who work downtown, mostly office workers.

      1. Isn’t it a contradiction to talk about “teleworkers” who “work downtown”.

        In the near future, 50 percent of people may be working in The Cloud…and so can make there residence anywhere they wish…coming into any number of satellite offices to get some face time only when needed.

        In fact, the “office” may become a costly appendage, no longer needed, as “gatherings could replace the cubicle. At that point, aeropolises and HSR networking replace the standard dense downtown core.

      2. For companies based in downtown. In other words, workers whose offices would be downtown in they did not work from home.

      3. Telecommuting will never ever reach a critical mass. There is too much to be gained from having people with similar knowledge bases near eachother, building off each other’s knowledge. This is why downtowns still exist at all, because of the extraordinary benefits of having such a dense HUMAN knowledge base.

      4. And people will suddenly become responsible and self-motivated (chime the duh, duh, duh music). I work remotely from here to Irvine CA. I still have to fly down on occasion and when I do I get a weeks worth of work done in 2 days. Being in the same room with other people when you’re brainstorming is incredibly important. If I were just processing numbers or doing data entry, I could see telecommuting being more successful.

      5. Seems to be a large number of Luddites on this site who resist change. Telecommuting is going to be a very large segment of offic workers in the fairly near future. The kids coming out of universities today are used to socializing, working, studying, etc. over the internet and not afraid of it. Companies that want the best and brightest of the young workers will have to offer telecommuting in order to attract them.

        And telecommuting saves so much money, that companies that refuse to join the modern world won’t be able to compete.

        This is going to happen. It is already happening. But I get a good laugh out of the people who claim it won’t happen because they don’t want it to happen. lol Good luck with resisting the future.

      6. “Telecommuting is going to be a very large segment of office workers in the fairly near future. ”

        Not likely. Most of the corporations I work for are in the fortune 100 (so not mom and pop shops) and every one of them has tried to move to telecommuting and outside of certain cases have ended up moving back to buildings with managers in them. Productivity goes down when all of those “kids” are on Facebook instead of working. Or in several cases those telecommuters compromised the network with their super secure VPNs. I’m not saying telecommuting doesn’t have it’s place but the areas that it works are in a vast minority over areas it doesn’t. I spend a lot of time writing code and you’d think that would be the perfect case for telecommuting with revision control systems and modern technology allowing us to communicate and yet I still spend a lot of time flying to California and that time always pays off.

        I think it’s a nice dream but not reality.

      7. Norman, I am one of those young college students, who spends WAY too much time on the computer, but Face time is where I do almost all of my learning. I learn more in an hour of in person conversation than in a week on the computer. You just CAN’T beat that, and anyone with HALF a brain will realize that. Not that I think you only have half a brain, you seem to be very intelligent, but all the technology in the world is not going to eliminate our need for in person relationships, interactions, etc. People cluster in cities because of the benefits of being close to other people who you can learn so much from.

      8. It already is happening. You are just in denial.

        Just in the past year two men I know in their 50’s who have worked in the same field, just started telecommuting for the first time. One works at Boeing and is not telecommuting one day per week. The other used to commute by Sounder train, but told me all he was doing in his downtown Seattle office was communicating with other people who weren’t even in Seattle! Why take over an hour each way on a commute, when he could communicate with the same people, the same way, from his home? Now he is telecommuting 3 or 4 days per week.

        A woman I know who does medical transcriptions used to commute to an office. Now, she can do that work entirely from her own home, and that is what she does. She never goes to an office at all any more.

        X-rays can now be read over the internet. My most-recent x-rays were digital. The technician let me see them on his computer screen. They can be sent over the internet to anywhere in the world to be read, including India. Until very recently, that was not possible, because x-rays were made on film.

        You can object all you want. I makes no difference what you think or what you do. Telecommuting is increasing at an accelerating pace. The statistics bear this out. Ths stories I hear from friends and acquaintances bear this out.

        And it’s not just telecommuting — it is shopping online, also, which eliminates a lot of trips. How many people physically travel to stores for music, books, newspapers, or videos now?

        You Luddites always make me laugh. But you reminded me of a question I have wanted to ask the creators and operators of this blog:

        Where is the office for SeattleTransitBlog? And how many hours per week does someone spend in that office in order to keep this blog going?

        Or, can you keep this blog going from outside of an office?

      9. I meant to write “…who have worked in the same field for decades, out of offices…”

      10. Telecommuting will never ever reach a critical mass. There is too much to be gained from having people with similar knowledge bases near each other, building off each other’s knowledge.

        Yes exactly! But that also means that traveling on the same train over and over every day to see the same people is really obsolete…especially with the “perfect storm” of mobile broadband and high speed rail.

        As I said in my post, you don’t have to go to a “downtown” and big building to have meetings. You could have them in a Starbucks…heck, why not have your co-workers come to your house for a meeting…most large surburban homes already have an office area and rec room.

        The reasons for going to an “office” used to be: access to production machinery and interface to the communications network. Well, now businesses are taking their office apps to the Google Cloud! Which means you can access it from anywhere.

        Do I think people should sit alone in their basement and call it work? No..but no more than I think they should dress in matching pullover shirts, jump on a bus, grab a coffee and sit in a cubicle in front of a computer and call it work. Yes, people need lots of interaction, but in today’s Web, we interact constantly in social networks. Then we “get together” and interact interpersonally…sometime with people we’ve “Friended” and other times with new people. This is what work will become.

        Imagine having an HSR network, so you can “work” one day in San Fransisco, then the next in Spokane and the third in Denver. Then you go back to your 2 acre homestead near Tri-Cities, and on Friday, you meet with local co-workers at the food court in the mall.

        That is what work can become!

      11. Ok. I guess I have to start proofreading my posts, because I am making way too many typos lately. Shoud read, “One works at Boeing and IS telecommuting one day per week.” (delete the is NOT)

      12. This is all speculation. Telecommuting may increase gradually, but I’ll believe 50% of people are teleworking when I see it. More likely a lot of people’s electron-pushing jobs will just disappear in the changing economy and they’ll be poor. If I said light rail ridership will gradually increase over the next two decades and people will look back and be very glad we built it, you’d say no way. I tend to be believe the same about telecommuting: it may increase but not so much that most people will be doing it — not so much that we can just assume that traffic problems will disappear. Anyway, people travel for a lot of reasons besides working, like to get groceries or a haircut or go to church. Those won’t all be replaced by telecommuting.

      13. At least one person I know has her groceries delivered. She orders them online and they are delivered by truck. One truck can go from a grocery store to a neighbohood to deliver to dozens of homes, instead of dozens of cars each making a separate trip to the store and back.

        This is true of many items people shop for, including prescription drugs, etc. Online shopping eliminates many individual trips and combines them into one trip by a UPS, or similar truck. And, by the way, some deliverly trucks now run on natural gas.

        It wouldn’t take “most people” telecommuting to relieve traffic congestion. If just 20% of people currently commuting alone in cars to downtown Seattle were to telecommute, it would make a large difference in traffic congestion.

        Take 20% of cars on I-5 during peak hours, and you make a large difference in traffic congestion.

        Even 5% or 10% fewer cars during peak hours would make a noticeable difference in traffic congestion.

  6. Utrecht 300,000 residents, and nearly the same population density as Seattle.

    Seattle: 2,842.1/km2 (7,361/sq mi)
    Utrecht: 3,068/km2 (7,946.1/sq mi)

  7. I saw a new 40-foot Metro Orion hybrid bus on southbound I-5 between Salem and Eugene this week. The sign on top was alternating between “TEST BUS” and “SEATTLE WA.”

    1. Funny that you should say that. About 2 weeks ago, I saw a similar Metro bus heading Northbound through SW Portland on I-5. I looked like the sign was showing a Seattle route, almost as if they hadn’t changed the sign from its last use or something. Otherwise, it passed me the other way too fast to see much detail. Interesting though.


    “NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Obama administration is considering requiring all new cars and trucks sold in the United States to get an average of 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

    “U.S. officials presented the possible new standard in a proposal to representatives of Detroit auto makers, the Journal reported in its online edition.

    “The newspaper said the proposal isn’t final and could be adjusted over the next several weeks before it is presented to White House budget officials.”

    If anything even close to this actually happens, it will be a real game-changer. Consider that even at an average of around 22 mpg, autos with the national average of 1.6 passsengers are more energy-efficient than the average light rail system. At about 45 mpg, they become much about twice as energy-efficient as light rail.

    They must be depending on a lot of electric cars in the U.S. fleets. Electric cars can get the equivalent of 200 mpg or more: “EPA ratings of the Volt and Leaf — 230 mpg and 367 mpg, respectively.”

    Anyone interested in energy efficiency in transportation should be promoting electric cars.

    1. Oh but I do love trolleybuses and electric rail.

      The Volt is a fantastic vehicle which is prohibitively expensive at $40,000.

    2. At 22mpg cars are more energy efficient than light rail? Numbers please. It would seem like Light rail would be more energy effecient than diesel locomotives would it?

      This doesn’t have light rail numbers but it does have cars, airplanes, Amtrak diesel trains, maglev and HSR (Steel wheel). It seems that for the environment diesel locomotives aren’t that bad currently but are more energy efficient than cars. Maglev is the best but only marginally better than Steel Wheel HSR. So little in fact that it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to do maglev.


        From the U.S. Department of Energy; Transportation Energy Data Book, 29th Edition, chapter 2

        Page 2-14: BTU/passenger-mile for cars: 3,437

        Page 2-17: BTU/passenger-mile for light rail systems in U.S.: 6,436

        from heading at top of chart page 2-17: “The energy intensity of light rail systems, measured in btu per passenger-mile varies greatly. The weighted average of all light rail systems in 2008 is 6,436 btu/passenger-mile.”

        So, actually, in 2008, the average U.S. car with the average number of passengers already was far more energy-efficient than the average U.S. light rail system. And the gas mileage for U.S. cars is going to increase dramatically over the next couple of decades. Meanwhile, 20 years from now ST is going to be using the same light rail cars that it is using today.

        In 2008, the average U.S. passenger car got 22.8 mpg, and the average U.S. light truck (SUV’s , pickups) got 18.1 mpg.

        So, you can see that motor vehicles getting 35 – 50 mpg are way more energy efficient than U.S. light rail systems.

      2. Page 2-14: BTU/passenger-mile for cars: 3,437
        Page 2-17: BTU/passenger-mile for light rail systems in U.S.: 6,436

        Norman, are you genetically predisposed to twist numbers and compare apples to oranges? Just curious. I’m not even going to bother refuting this other than to say that I’ve looked at the numbers in the report and you’re up to your old tricks. (Well, except for this teaser: Those numbers are from 2008 and include some wildly inefficient systems)

      3. Be sure to check out Figure 2.4 on page 2-18. Sounder is more energy efficient than the passenger car.

      4. “Be sure to check out Figure 2.4 on page 2-18. Sounder is more energy efficient than the passenger car”

        … and probably even less expensive on a per-trip cost, despite the hefty subsidy embedded in each Sounder trip. If folks from that area perfer Sounder service vs. less expensive bus service, who am I to argue with them?

      5. Velo. Just exactly how is it a “trick” to quote the Transportation Energy Data Book? Are you accusing me of misquoting it?

        If you are saying that I am using wrong numbers, what are the numbers from that document that you feel are correct?

      6. Sounder is more energy efficient than the average car in 2008, which got 22.8 mpg. Sounder is probably about as efficient as a car getting about 35 mpg. By 2016, the average NEW car sold in the U.S. will get about 38 mpg. It will take awhile, but within a couple decades the average car in the U.S. fleet will be more energy-efficient than Sounder and far more energy efficient than light rail. But, the average NEW U.S. car will be more efficient than Sounder within a few years. A lot of cars are already more energy-efficient than Sounder trains.

        And electric cars, already getting something like 300 mpg (times 1.6 for PASSENGER-miles per gallon), are many times more energy-efficient than any type of rail.

        By the way, high-speed rail is less energy-efficient than trains that go slower. Does that concern anyone on this blog?


        One interesting thing about Sounder is that, between 1st qtr 2009 and 1st qtr 2011, the number of boardings per revenue vehicle hour FELL from 79.18 to 60.80. This is a drop of about 23%!

        So, Sounder trains in first quarter 2011 were about 23% LESS energy-efficent than they were 2 years earlier. This is because Sounder train total boardings dropped while vehicle hours operated rose over those two years. In other words, Sounder added service, but total boardings fell!

        So, the current energy efficiency of Sounder trains is much lower than from the document I posted, while auto energy efficiency has risen since since that document came out.

        Sounder trains are a lot more energy efficient than light rail, because Sounder trains only operate during peak hours, and only 2 of 13 daily round trips are in the off-peak direction. Link trains operate most of the day — not just in peak hours — and they all make round trips, so half of Link trips are in the off-peak direction, in which they have lots fewer passengers than they have in the peak direction.

        When you take a train from Tacoma to Seattle in the morning, and park it in Seattle all day, then take it back to Tacoma in the afternoon, it is hopefully pretty full both ways. On the other hand, north Sounder trains are always pretty empty.

    3. I’d be happier if he just raised the gas tax and ditched the CAFE standards completely. Offset it with equal cuts to personal income or corporate taxes if that’s your bag. Frankly, it would be more honest since the general fund frequently gets raided to shore up the lagging gas tax revenue.

      Boom – incentive to buy a more efficient car and eliminate a whole stupid, and often counterproductive, layer of government regulation.

      1. Totally agree. Significantly higher gas tax would create important market price signals and place appropriate costs on those who choose to drive vehicles with poor fuel economy. Even the automakers are OK with this.

      2. “Even the automakers are OK with this”

        Talk about the ultimate in planned obsolescence. Car sales lagging? Just go to the Government and BEG them to raise gas taxes. Problem solved…

      3. The new GM exec, Dan Akerson, suggested just this in an interview a while ago. I’m not convinced that sort of policy would lead to an uptick in auto sales, though…

  9. Here is a news item I just saw this afternoon, relating to yesterday’s post here on energy price and production:

    This just in this afternoon:

    “Gushers highlight gas potential of Pa.’s Marcellus Shale; drillers boost production estimates”

    “ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Two unexpected gushers in northeastern Pennsylvania are helping to illustrate the enormous potential of the Marcellus Shale natural gas field.

    “Each of the Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. wells in Susquehanna County is capable of producing 30 million cubic feet per day — believed to be a record for the Marcellus and enough gas to supply nearly 1,000 homes for a year. The landowners attached to the wells, who leased the well access, numbering fewer than 25, are splitting hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly royalties.

    “There was definitely excitement among the team that planned out these wells and executed their completion,” said Cabot spokesman George Stark.

    “Drilling companies knew the Marcellus held a lot of gas. They just had to figure out a way to get it out, and they say they’re getting better at it all the time.

    “The result is that the Marcellus, a rock formation beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio, has turned out to be an even more prolific source of gas than anyone anticipated. Energy firms are boosting their production targets, not only because new wells are coming on line but also because they’re managing to coax more gas from each well.

    “Fort Worth, Texas-based Range has boosted its estimate of the amount of natural gas it will ultimately be able to harvest from its Marcellus Shale wells, telling investors this month that it plans to triple production to 600 million cubic feet per day by the end of 2012.

    “Another major player, Chesapeake Energy Corp., has likewise reported a dramatic increase in expected well production. Early on, the Oklahoma City-based driller predicted that each well would yield 3.5 billion cubic feet of gas over its life span. That amount has since doubled, to more than 7 billion cubic feet, and continues to go up.

    “The new Cabot wells help illustrate why boosters believe the gas field could help steer U.S. energy policy for decades to come.

    “Like other drillers, Cabot has steadily increased the horizontal length of its wells, from an average of 2,100 feet in 2008 to 3,600 feet last year. It has seen a corresponding increase in capacity.

    “The Marcellus isn’t the only shale formation in Pennsylvania that energy companies have their eye on. Drillers are just beginning to explore the gas-bearing Utica and Upper Devonian formations. The Utica is deeper that the Marcellus, and the Upper Devonian is shallower.

    “It’s triple the resource potential under the same plot of land,” said Kevin Cabla, an energy analyst at Raymond James & Associates.”

    The amount of reserves just keeps growing almost by the day. They keep finding more and more and getting better and better at getting it out of the ground.

    1. Here’s a news item I just saw right now, and thought I’d paste verbatim into STB, just in case anyone here didn’t know how to click a link:

      Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.
      But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.

      In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.

      “Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

      “The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

      Company data for more than 10,000 wells in three major shale gas formations raise further questions about the industry’s prospects. There is undoubtedly a vast amount of gas in the formations. The question remains how affordably it can be extracted.

      The data show that while there are some very active wells, they are often surrounded by vast zones of less-productive wells that in some cases cost more to drill and operate than the gas they produce is worth. Also, the amount of gas produced by many of the successful wells is falling much faster than initially predicted by energy companies, making it more difficult for them to turn a profit over the long run.

      If the industry does not live up to expectations, the impact will be felt widely. Federal and state lawmakers are considering drastically increasing subsidies for the natural gas business in the hope that it will provide low-cost energy for decades to come.

      But if natural gas ultimately proves more expensive to extract from the ground than has been predicted, landowners, investors and lenders could see their investments falter, while consumers will pay a price in higher electricity and home heating bills.

      There are implications for the environment, too. The technology used to get gas flowing out of the ground — called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking — can require over a million gallons of water per well, and some of that water must be disposed of because it becomes contaminated by the process. If shale gas wells fade faster than expected, energy companies will have to drill more wells or hydrofrack them more often, resulting in more toxic waste.

      The e-mails were obtained through open-records requests or provided to The New York Times by industry consultants and analysts who say they believe that the public perception of shale gas does not match reality; names and identifying information were redacted to protect these people, who were not authorized to communicate publicly. In the e-mails, some people within the industry voice grave concerns.

      “And now these corporate giants are having an Enron moment,” a retired geologist from a major oil and gas company wrote in a February e-mail about other companies invested in shale gas. “They want to bend light to hide the truth.”

      Others within the industry remain optimistic. They argue that shale gas economics will improve as the price of gas rises, technology evolves and demand for gas grows with help from increased federal subsidies being considered by Congress. “Shale gas supply is only going to increase,” Steven C. Dixon, executive vice president of Chesapeake Energy, said at an energy industry conference in April in response to skepticism about well performance.

      Studying the Data

      “I think we have a big problem.”

      Deborah Rogers, a member of the advisory committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, recalled saying that in a May 2010 conversation with a senior economist at the Reserve, Mine K. Yucel. “We need to take a close look at this right away,” she added.

      A former stockbroker with Merrill Lynch, Ms. Rogers said she started studying well data from shale companies in October 2009 after attending a speech by the chief executive of Chesapeake, Aubrey K. McClendon. The math was not adding up, Ms. Rogers said. Her research showed that wells were petering out faster than expected.

      “These wells are depleting so quickly that the operators are in an expensive game of ‘catch-up,’ ” Ms. Rogers wrote in an e-mail on Nov. 17, 2009, to a petroleum geologist in Houston, who wrote back that he agreed.

      “This could have profound consequences for our local economy,” she explained in the e-mail.

      Fort Worth residents were already reeling from the sudden reversal of fortune for the natural gas industry.

      In early 2008, energy companies were scrambling in Fort Worth to get residents to lease their land for drilling as they searched for so-called monster wells. Billboards along the highways stoked the boom-time excitement: “If you don’t have a gas lease, get one!” Oil and gas companies were in a fierce bidding war for drilling rights, offering people bonuses as high as $27,500 per acre for signing leases.

      The actor Tommy Lee Jones signed on as a pitchman for Chesapeake, one of the largest shale gas companies. “The extremely long-term benefits include new jobs and capital investment and royalties and revenues that pay for public roads, schools and parks,” he said in one television advertisement about drilling in the Barnett shale in and around Fort Worth.

      To investors, shale companies had a more sophisticated pitch. With better technology, they had refined a “manufacturing model,” they said, that would allow them to drop a well virtually anywhere in certain parts of a shale formation and expect long-lasting returns.

      For Wall Street, this was the holy grail: a low-risk and high-profit proposition. But by late 2008, the recession took hold and the price of natural gas plunged by nearly two-thirds, throwing the drilling companies’ business model into a tailspin.

      In Texas, the advertisements featuring Mr. Jones disappeared. Energy companies rescinded high-priced lease offers to thousands of residents, which prompted class-action lawsuits. Royalty checks dwindled. Tax receipts fell.

      The impact of the downturn was immediate for many.

      “Ruinous, that’s how I’d describe it,” said the Rev. Kyev Tatum, president of the Fort Worth chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

      Mr. Tatum explained that dozens of black churches in Fort Worth signed leases on the promise of big money. Instead, some churches were told that their land may no longer be tax exempt even though they had yet to make any royalties on the wells, he said.

      That boom-and-bust volatility had raised eyebrows among people like Ms. Rogers, as well as energy analysts and geologists, who started looking closely at the data on wells’ performance.

      In May 2010, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas called a meeting to discuss the matter after prodding from Ms. Rogers. One speaker was Kenneth B. Medlock III, an energy expert at Rice University, who described a promising future for the shale gas industry in the United States. When he was done, Ms. Rogers peppered him with questions.

      Might growing environmental concerns raise the cost of doing business? If wells were dying off faster than predicted, how many new wells would need to be drilled to meet projections?

      Mr. Medlock conceded that production in the Barnett shale formation — or “play,” in industry jargon — was indeed flat and would probably soon decline.

      “Activity will shift toward other plays because the returns there are higher,” he predicted. Ms. Rogers turned to the other commissioners to see if they shared her skepticism, but she said she saw only blank stares.

      Bubbling Doubts

      Some doubts about the industry are being raised by people who work inside energy companies, too.

      “Our engineers here project these wells out to 20-30 years of production and in my mind that has yet to be proven as viable,” wrote a geologist at Chesapeake in a March 17 e-mail to a federal energy analyst. “In fact I’m quite skeptical of it myself when you see the % decline in the first year of production.”

      “In these shale gas plays no well is really economic right now,” the geologist said in a previous e-mail to the same official on March 16. “They are all losing a little money or only making a little bit of money.”

      Around the same time the geologist sent the e-mail, Mr. McClendon, Chesapeake’s chief executive, told investors, “It’s time to get bullish on natural gas.”

      In September 2009, a geologist from ConocoPhillips, one of the largest producers of natural gas in the Barnett shale, warned in an e-mail to a colleague that shale gas might end up as “the world’s largest uneconomic field.” About six months later, the company’s chief executive, James J. Mulva, described natural gas as “nature’s gift,” adding that “rather than being expensive, shale gas is often the low-cost source.” Asked about the e-mail, John C. Roper, a spokesman for ConocoPhillips, said he absolutely believed that shale gas is economically viable.

      A big attraction for investors is the increasing size of the gas reserves that some companies are reporting. Reserves — in effect, the amount of gas that a company says it can feasibly access from its wells — are important because they are a central measure of an oil and gas company’s value.

      Forecasting these reserves is a tricky science. Early predictions are sometimes lowered because of drops in gas prices, as happened in 2008. Intentionally overbooking reserves, however, is illegal because it misleads investors. Industry e-mails, mostly from 2009 and later, include language from oil and gas executives questioning whether other energy companies are doing just that.

      The e-mails do not explicitly accuse any companies of breaking the law. But the number of e-mails, the seniority of the people writing them, the variety of positions they hold and the language they use — including comparisons to Ponzi schemes and attempts to “con” Wall Street — suggest that questions about the shale gas industry exist in many corners.

      “Do you think that there may be something suspicious going with the public companies in regard to booking shale reserves?” a senior official from Ivy Energy, an investment firm specializing in the energy sector, wrote in a 2009 e-mail.

      A former Enron executive wrote in 2009 while working at an energy company: “I wonder when they will start telling people these wells are just not what they thought they were going to be?” He added that the behavior of shale gas companies reminded him of what he saw when he worked at Enron.

      Production data, provided by companies to state regulators and reviewed by The Times, show that many wells are not performing as the industry expected. In three major shale formations — the Barnett in Texas, the Haynesville in East Texas and Louisiana and the Fayetteville, across Arkansas — less than 20 percent of the area heralded by companies as productive is emerging as likely to be profitable under current market conditions, according to the data and industry analysts.

      Richard K. Stoneburner, president and chief operating officer of Petrohawk Energy, said that looking at entire shale formations was misleading because some companies drilled only in the best areas or had lower costs. “Outside those areas, you can drill a lot of wells that will never live up to expectations,” he added.

      Although energy companies routinely project that shale gas wells will produce gas at a reasonable rate for anywhere from 20 to 65 years, these companies have been making such predictions based on limited data and a certain amount of guesswork, since shale drilling is a relatively new practice.

      Most gas companies claim that production will drop sharply after the first few years but then level off, allowing most wells to produce gas for decades.

      Gas production data reviewed by The Times suggest that many wells in shale gas fields do not level off the way many companies predict but instead decline steadily.

      “This kind of data is making it harder and harder to deny that the shale gas revolution is being oversold,” said Art Berman, a Houston-based geologist who worked for two decades at Amoco and has been one of the most vocal skeptics of shale gas economics.

      The Barnett shale, which has the longest production history, provides the most reliable case study for predicting future shale gas potential. The data suggest that if the wells’ production continues to decline in the current manner, many will become financially unviable within 10 to 15 years.

      A review of more than 9,000 wells, using data from 2003 to 2009, shows that — based on widely used industry assumptions about the market price of gas and the cost of drilling and operating a well — less than 10 percent of the wells had recouped their estimated costs by the time they were seven years old.

      Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, said the debate over long-term well performance was far from resolved. The Haynesville shale has not lived up to early expectations, he said, but industry projections have become more accurate and some wells in the Marcellus shale, which stretches from Virginia to New York, are outperforming expectations.

      A Sense of Confidence

      Many people within the industry remain confident.

      “I wouldn’t worry about these shale companies,” said T. Boone Pickens, the oil and gas industry executive, adding that he believes that if prices rise, shale gas companies will make good money.

      Mr. Pickens said that technological improvements — including hydrofracking wells more than once — are already making production more cost-effective, which is why some major companies like ExxonMobil have recently bought into shale gas.

      Shale companies are also adjusting their strategies to make money by focusing on shale wells that produce lucrative liquids, like propane and butane, in addition to natural gas.

      Asked about the e-mails from the Chesapeake geologist casting doubt on company projections, a Chesapeake spokesman, Jim Gipson, said the company was fully confident that a majority of wells would be productive for 30 years or more.

      David Pendery, a spokesman for IHS, added that though shale gas prospects had previously been debated by many analysts, in more recent years costs had fallen and technology had improved.

      Still, in private exchanges, many industry insiders are skeptical, even cynical, about the industry’s pronouncements. “All about making money,” an official from Schlumberger, an oil and gas services company, wrote in a July 2010 e-mail to a former federal regulator about drilling a well in Europe, where some United States shale companies are hunting for better market opportunities.

      “Looks like crap,” the Schlumberger official wrote about the well’s performance, according to the regulator, “but operator will flip it based on ‘potential’ and make some money on it.”

      “Always a greater sucker,” the e-mail concluded.

      1. Check out the price of natural gas today compared to a few years ago. Then get back to us.

  10. I would like to thank Sound Transit’s planners for allowing me to have a quick trip to Everett today without a really long trip back.

    First, I jumped on the Everett Sounder after the Sounders’ match. It was eight full cars, which is a lot more than they get on their commute run. It would be cool if more train trips, to serve all major sporting events, could be arranged, but I understand increasing our trade deficit comes first.

    I would not have done this trip except for the fact that the 512 has half-hour headway almost all the way until midnight.

    I hiked around downtown Everett for about an hour and a half, and timed my return to Everett Station to catch a 512 without a long wait. There was a full load of Pridefesters getting off the bus. At every stop on the trip, one or two people got off and a few more got on. It took just under 55 minutes to get from Everett Station to Westlake.

    Thanks, Sound Transit, for bringing back the 512 as a BRT-style route, providing half-hour headway all day on Sunday!

    This is in contrast to every other night, when headways on the 510 and 511 peter out to an hour. I made the mistake of going to Everett on a Saturday evening a couple months ago. I mistimed my hike and watched the 510 pull away as a was approaching the station. I took SWIFT about 20 minutes later, had a 20-minute layover at Aurora Village, and then took the 358 definitely-not-RapidRide.

    I’d like Sound Transit to consider switching to the 512 on Saturday and weeknights, with less headway, if ridership justifies it. It might even be a better route all day, if there are a lot of commuters going from Everett to Lynnwood.

    Sound Transit has a pretty good record responding to suggestions on this blog. A couple they adopted that I pushed for were the 560 stopping at Airport Station after the south terminal stop, and placing ORCA readers on the DSTT platforms at each end of the train boarding area.

  11. Great video from the Netherlands – look carefully and you could convince yourself that there were two Sound Transit buses at least going through plus some riders in Sounders FC gear!

  12. My gribe for the week, is that I think that Metro and Sound Transit should run more buses to the Eastside from Seattle late at night on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and/or after late game nights.

    Someone obviously did not tell Sound Transit that there was a game on Thursday between Seattle and New York in which 45,000 to 50,000 fans were expected to show up. There was no extra 554 service and only one bus to take back a lot of fans to Eastgate and Issaquah.

    Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are busy in Seattle with shows and clubs and eating etc. so please think about running the 554 every 30 mins between 9.21pm and 11.21pm instead of hourly as they currently do. Maybe run the 550 to Bellevue every 15 mins for a short window between 9.38pm and last call. The tunnel seems really busy in Seattle at this time.

    Just a thought anyways.

    Also, Sound Transit could think about running all 554 buses up to South Lake Sammamish Park and Ride now that they have reduced service on this route to every 20 mins during the day which I also do not agree with.

    1. Re: 20 min service on the 554.

      If you read this year’s DSIP, it was a cut they didn’t want to make, but they had to cut something to make budget, and this was the weakest link.

  13. Has Metro nixed the only front door after 7 rule? There’s still a sticker on every bus but I see just as many drivers open it after 7 as I do not open it before 7.

    1. No, but nor have I ever heard of anybody being disciplined for “violating” the rule. I open the back door freely when it feels safe. Main reason for that rule is to get a look at who gets ON the coach.

      1. I applaud your reasonableness but the inconstancy is annoying. I’ve been on the 255 at South Kirkland after 7PM and half the bus goes to the back door only to have the operator refuse to open it even though half the bus is saying “back door”. It’s pretty obvious pulling in there that there is nobody lurking with intent to get on the bus. In fact, rarely is anyone even getting on there after 7PM. Maybe the no back door policy should be Seattle only since it seems that’s where the problem (if there is one) exists.

      2. Per “The Book” Section 6.18 pg 630

        When scheduled to enter or leave a terminal
        in the Ride Free Area boundary between
        7 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. (non-RFA hours), collect
        fares and issue transfers when customers board.
        Use the front door to load. Customers may exit
        through either door.

        When I was an operator, I followed this since I operated trolleys most of the time.

      3. “Customers may exit through either door.”

        I think that is new in response to a assault on one of our drivers about a year ago. The old policy was front door only.

        RE Bernie’s comment: If I’m right, subtle changes in policy like this take a long time to sink in. It’s best to issue general comments to Metro so they put up Training Bulletins. Frankly, I didn’t even know of this change and I read those things. Stuff like this goes in the “Steering a battleship” category.

      4. Metro’s more like a couple aircraft carriers strung together with twine.

  14. Were those private companies running the buses in that video, or was that a government agency? Be nice to know.

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