Orion Bus Controls, by Punkrawker4783

This is an open thread.

42 Replies to “News Roundup: Hallelujah”

    1. That Atlanta story is heartbreaking. I jaywalk many times per day – but then I live and work in a city with reasonable scale streets and blocks. Imagine your 4-yr old son running into traffic, you running after him with your infant, all three of you are hit and your son is killed. The drunk, medicated, and partially blind driver (who’s been convicted of hit-and-runs before) that kills him and drives off gets off scot-free and you’re convicted of vehicular manslaughter and are facing 3 years in jail. THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD.

      1. When I first read that story I assumed there was something fishy about it — surely it had to be trumped-up, and some new piece of evidence would appear that shifted culpability — this couldn’t happen. But I’ve yet to see it. The world has indeed gone mad.

      2. I disagree, the world includes some rather bicycle and pedestrian friendly populations who would likely be aghast at the brutality of the American automotive system (~33,000 culled in 2010, which, while falling year-over-year, is still 60% above the OECD average).

        Fixes include: increase driver training: make the test difficult to pass (I hear it is quite easy in America, and very difficult in Germany, for example). Impose mandatory safety training following accidents, or permanently remove their right to drive. Deny licenses to those with health or mental problems.

      3. Good point [Jeremy]. Ammended rant: THE US HAS GONE MAD.

        Driver training is better than nothing, but I’m a big proponent of fixing the road not the driver. Speed kills, so where we need speed we need fully protected roadways (freeways). In a logical world we’d have only slow city streets in cities, and freeways connecting cities (or trains! but I don’t imagine we could get there in the short term). In our existing world we have suburbs filled with wide high-speed roads and no protection for pedestrians (except to tell them to walk half a mile to cross the street). Why people assume the suburbs are a safe place to raise children is beyond me.

  1. It’s official. The $42 million electronic speed-limit sign project on 520 and I-90, in my opinion, is a failure. Yesterday, Wednesday, 7/20/11, the day Manchester United was in town, westbound 520 was at a standstill and traffic was backed up to 148th Ave. Luckily, I was traveling eastbound. So near 405, I decided to look back at what the westbound electronic speed limit signs showed to the drivers that were parked on 520. “40 MPH.” This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a large gap between the actual speed of traffic, and the advised speed on the signs. In fact, I would say during times of heavy congestion, it’s common for the signs to have a grossly inaccurate advised speed limit. In other words, the advised limits are often wrong.

    On Washdot’s website, they say “The new signs will post variable speed limits that will warn drivers of backups ahead …”

    Yes, in theory this is how they are supposed to work. If they worked as planned they could actually be quite useful, warning drivers of sudden stoppages and slowdowns ahead. But there seems to be a missing link in the system. Isn’t there supposed to be someone, in some kind of command center, who is tasked with watching traffic cams, and essentially being one step ahead of things on the ground, who will adjust the speed limit postings? If there is, I don’t think this person or persons are on top of things.

    In my expert opinion (I am willing to stake my considerable international reputation and gravitas on this), after witnessing many incidences like the one above, of electronic speed signs not being adjusted to reflect traffic congestion, I have deemed this experiment a failure. And even more than that, to rely on them, could dangerous. Personally, I no longer trust them.

    1. It’s my understanding that 40 mph is the minimum speed they’re allowed to display on those, so even in a standstill situation you’ll see that speed. It would seem a bit silly to have them display 5 mph!

      Whether or not they’re also using the message signs to warn about impending backups and delays is another story, and presumably that’s part of the reason they’re also installing travel time signs at important decision points (e.g., WB 520 just before the interchange with 405.)

      Personally I’ve seen some benefit from them traveling NB on I-5 near Boeing Field, where they slowed traffic down gradually before a major jam at the I-90 interchange, and it gave me sufficient time such that I could have exited to the West Seattle Bridge and taken surface streets to 99, if I wanted to be adventurous. However, I think they’re still feeling out just how the public will respond to them and are fine-tuning how much and what sorts of information should be displayed.

      So are they solving traffic jams? No. But I do think they are mitigating the effects to some degree.

    2. The “smarter highways” signs are not capable of displaying a speed limit below 40mph, says WSDOT’s webpage. As WSDOT points out, that’s a speed limit, not how fast you’re actually going. Sure, it’d be nice if they could display 5 mph increments from 5-60 mph, but once you’re below 40 it really doesn’t matter much, traffic sucks. (Also, the speed limit displayed is enforceable; its not “advised,” it is the speed limit).

      The system is useful on I-90. For example, in the evenings approaching Eastgate going west the right lanes are usually congested due to the Eastgate onramps and the offramp to 405; the signs are showing a reduced speed limit of either 45 or 50 about a half-mile before the actual congestion, giving everyone time (in theory) to slow down. The limit jumps back up to 60 once you’re past the 405 ramps, unless I-90 is backed up there too. The system has some other benefits, such as yesterday morning on I-90 westbound when that huge accident happened; the signs allowed them to get people merging into the one open lane, and then later to display that the HOV lane was open to everyone.
      I agree, though, that the system isn’t as worthwhile for traffic flow management. The system is supposed to help smooth out and reduce backups by slowing you down ahead of time, but in practice drivers just keep going 60 until they can’t, regardless of what the sign says. Further, the system can only have an effect so long as traffic volume doesn’t exceed roadway capacity; once you’re over the edge, you could start slowing people down on 520 at West Lake Sammamish Parkway and there’d still be a huge backup from 405 to the water.
      I don’t think the system is a failure. It doesn’t do everything that might have been originally claimed, but it helps and has definite safety benefits.

  2. Happy Birthday to Central LINK. And look at being two years older this way: Consider only possible alternative. Remember line from “Love and Death”, when Woody Allen came back as a ghost to walk down a Russian country lane with his cousin Diane Keaton. She asked him what it was like being dead.

    Answer: “You know the chicken in Tishkin’s Restaurant? Being dead is worse!”

    Same incidentally goes for the dashboard and controls of every bus I ever drove except the MAN’s. Driver shouldn’t have to look under the steering wheel to see how fast they’re going.

    Mark Dublin

  3. That’s right LINK is now 2 years old!! Anyone have any information on accident rates? I remember in the beginning that ST folks predicted it would be an accident every 12 days. As far as I can recall, in the 24 months since opening day, I don’t think there’s even been 24 accidents. Predictions would put that accident rate at 72 accidents. Pretty good considering Houston and Phoenix’ record which I would blame the state of the drivers down there and not the light rail systems.

    1. I was thinking about sounder’s accident rates today on my way home today as well. It must be rather low, aside from the bicycleist that literally ran into the sounder train i was rididng a few years back near safeco field (hit the middle of the cab car which was leading right behind the first set of doors), and a pedistrain death (or two?) in puyallup over the past couple of years.

  4. Not that I ever want to ever wanted to talk about the viaduct/DBT ever again, but Holden’s analysis of the AVW EIS had me in stitches. Here one thing that did in fact make me LOL:

    But the key point here, as environmental-law attorney David Bricklin pointed out, is that the environmental impact statement is the pinnacle study required by environmental law that mandates an honest examination of options before picking a solution. It’s not a mere gesture to be expressed or red tape to be ripped off before bureaucrats do whatever they want.

    I’m surprised Mr. Bricklin was able to say that with a straight face. Every EIS ever written sets out to defend and justify the lead agency’s choice, a reality he cannot fail to be aware of.

    For example, the original East Link EIS cost-compared rail-convertible BRT to Light Rail, rather than a BRT solution using paint and a few extra lanes, ramps and signal priority. ST did this because the political will does not exist to build a BRT system of comparable quality to Link that could meet Eastside demand for the next couple of decades for rather less money. A similar thing was done with the First Hill Streetcar EA. But you can’t say things like that in an EIS, so you cook it by setting the alternatives you don’t want up to fail.

    None of this is to say that I think ST’s choices in these respects were wrong, but every EIS is a fundamentally political document, and these po-faced protestations to the contrary are pretty funny.

    1. The EIS is showing the deep bore tunnel as roughly equivallent to tearing down the Viaduct and doing nothing (which is the option I’ve supported all along). So if the EIS is rigged, then it either wasn’t rigged enough or the tunnel is far worse than anyone imagined.

      1. As Holden correctly states, surface traffic is about as bad in any case. But as he also notes:

        As the state points out, the tunnel’s advantage is that it facilitates an additional 38,000 to 45,000 vehicles a day under downtown (or 57,000 vehicles by 2030, if WSDOT’s prediction of increasing traffic holds true, despite reports that traffic is actually declining).


        More glaringly, trips that begin at Woodland Park in North Seattle, enter downtown, and exit out the other side to the stadium district would take 9 to 17 minutes longer with ST5 than with a tunnel, depending on the direction and time of day.

        I’m not going to name names, but I can think of at least one large aircraft manufacturer and a port authority that care a lot about trips like that.

      2. It’s far worse than anybody thought.

        If you look at the updated Seattle Fault lines you’ll see that the bit down at the foot of Yesler is in sand, below sea level, and it’s crosswise to the fault.

        I like tunnels, we should build a second one up the hill to move LINK-2 from Ballard, to West Seattle, but this one is dumb. It’s for a past that will not exist in the future.

      3. “I can think of at least one large aircraft manufacturer and a port authority that care a lot about trips like that.”

        I’m not sure why Boeing would want to move parts up 99 north. The port can use I-5, and we’re already vastly improving their access from the rebuild of the south piece of the Viaduct and the new section of 90 reaching the stadium. Yes, I-5 gets backed up at rush hour, but why are we clogging our streets with trucks at rush hour anyway?

      4. Boeing moves stuff all the time between Everett, Boeing Field and Renton. Suckage on I-5 already extends into mid-day sometimes, and axing six lanes of viaduct capacity while adding one lane northbound is liable to make that worse. Time is money for the Port and industries that rely on truck freight. In fact, once the tunnel is built, I expect regional and long-haul truckers will start detouring onto 99 in order to pay the toll and avoid the traffic.

        This is not to say that I approve of the pro-tunnel’s campaign. The anti-tunnel point about surface traffic not really being any different is completely correct and well-made. The point here is to maintain regional road mobility while getting rid of the godawful viaduct, and I think the tunnel is worth the cost. Had the transit funding authority for the DBT not been axed I would probably vigorously support the tunnel and campaign for it.

      5. Meh. A 1% difference in traffic on I-5 with the tunnel compared to just tearing the thing down. If you really care about trucks then improve I-5 and toll one lane.

        What I’d really love is to downgrade 99 to a city street in Seattle. It’s a real scar that cuts through our city and breaks the street grid. Building the tunnel assures that will never happpen.

      6. 1% difference in throughput, probably because everyone else will be slogging through the city, taking much longer. I agree that I-5 should be improved and partially tolled, independent of whatever happens with SR 99.

        As we are all grown-ups here, we all know and understand that all forms of transportation are subsidized to some degree in the interests of people being able to get stuff done quickly. For similar reasons that it makes sense to spend billions to build a subway to Northgate, it make sense to spend billions to maintain the capacity of this road. The benefit and externalities in the two cases are different, but my conclusion is the same.

        It’s true that Aurora is an eyesore, but it’s far less of a gash on the urban fabric of Seattle than any interstate. There is no transit-oriented future out there where no-one needs cars, and it makes sense to concentrate long trips on high-capacity trunks so we can focus the rest of the built environment on people.

      7. I find this enlightening:

        There is little change to the region’s economy across the eight scenarios. While some scenarios replace more of the viaduct’s capacity than others, the relative differences in travel times have little impact on the region’s economy.

        Manufacturing companies that rely on I-5 to move goods, such as Boeing, are not expected to be significantly affected by any of the scenarios. This is due to the fact that travel times on I-5 vary only
        slightly among the eight scenarios, given the I-5 improvements associated with the most of the surface scenarios. Improvements to I-5 by themselves are important to improve the freeway’s operation.

      8. Bruce, I can guarantee you Boeing will never use 99 DBT or viaduct to transport its goods. If something is coming from the Port, it’s going to go on the access roads adjacent to the port or from harbor Island and enter 99 south of downtown. If it is going to Everett, it will take I-5 again, from south of downtown.

        Want to try again?

      9. “it’s far less of a gash on the urban fabric of Seattle than any interstate” That’s like saying losing one leg is better than losing two. Certainly true, but neither is necessary (if only we could remove the scar of I-5…). There’s plenty of room for TOD up north, even if people still need cars.

      10. Bruce,

        Doesn’t Boeing do a lot of its inter-facility movements by rail, anyway?

        I witnessed one of these convoys flying through Belltown not too long ago.

      11. Bruce, no, I do not dispatch freight, for Boeing or anyone else. But having lived in the north end of Seattle and used SR99 about everyday, I can tell that it is not used much as a freight thru-way for large semi’s. They might deliver to certain locations such as the supermarkets and box stores but if they are going to Everett, they are not going to choose a highway with many traffic signals. Indeed, the city’s Transportation strategic plan refers to the several opportunities for freight to transition to I-5 from SR99.

        Further, the battery street tunnel has severely limited clearance and would not suit the outsized loads that are delivered to Boeing. As someone downstream has indicated much of Boeing’s seaport freight is delivered by intermodal transfer to rail. And I would imagine with the announced upgrades to the port of Everett, some of that freight may be landing there.

    1. Are you talking about the station, the space above the station, or the neighborhood?

  5. Thanks for posting the part about Everett getting their own switcher and starting up their own operation, I thought that may have been overlooked.

    Its time they did this, other ports like Kalama have been doing this for some time, and its nice to see that another small shortline will now be operating in Washington state.

    Jumping slightly south, does anyone know when the double tracking of the two segments south of Muliteo and Edmonds, respectively, are going to put in? The base seems like all is well, are they putting up signals first then the track? These two bottlenecks account for a lot of snarled mainline action at times.

  6. Tonight in SLU at the Terry Thomas building:

    Join several of the fine candidates contending for Seattle City Council this fall for Great City’s Council Candidate Cookoff. Rather than policies, the competition is about who has the best proteins. Instead of legislation, we’ll be discussing locavores. Maybe discussing zoning over baked ziti?

    Showing off their hidden culinary skills will be Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, Maurice Classen, Bobby Forch, Jean Godden, Brad Meacham, and Michael Taylor-Judd.

    Wine provided by Soul Wine. Beer by Georgetown Brewing.

    Suggested donation: $25.

    RSVP today at: https://spreadsheets.googl​e.com/spreadsheet/viewform​?formkey=dGhUU0VYZ0tndGZrc​VFnaHZHNjd3bnc6MQ . Space is limited to 100 guests.

  7. I drive I-90 everyday and the electronic speed signs tell you 40mph when you are at a standstill, and 40mph when everyone is travelling 65+.

    1. This (in theory) means there’s a slowdown up the road, and by slowing everyone down to 40 they’ll be less likely to have an accident and more likely to clear up the slowdown faster.

  8. I’m still mad at MMH for not including Pierce and Snohomish counties into the plan for the $20 car tabs fee for transit.

  9. I rode LINK today for the first time in a few months. I live in Shoreline and work in Belltown, so I have little need to ride it at this time. But every now and then I ride it just because I can. Today, around 4:30pm, I was at Westlake station and an announcement said that the train was delayed due to blocking. The waiting area was very full of people, many of them with luggage. When a train finally appeared, it got extremely full very fast! I figured another one would be arriving soon and wouldn’t be nearly as full. About 5 minutes later, another one did come and it was full by the time we exited ID station. Decided to get off at Columbia City and enjoy the sunshine but I thought, again, how nice it would be to someday have a spur(whatever the term) come off after Mt Baker, go through Columbia City and go to Renton/Kent. As much as I don’t really mind the walk, I’m sure it would be much nicer for most people to not have to walk those three long blocks to the retail core of Columbia City.

    1. Fear not, for someone will come up with the idea of running a bus route down Rainier, and on through Columbia City, leaving no portion of the retail core more than one (1) block away from the nearest bus stop. The new train station would likely leave much of the core at least three (3) blocks from the station, at which point, we’ll find some social service agency to create clients out of their vivid imagination who cannot walk from the station and must have the bus. Throw in a bus route from Columbia City Station to Columbia City, and we’ll be set.

    2. The walk is not far. It’s just desolate, particularly at night.

      The solution is clear, and can be best expressed with a minimum of minced words:
      This city needs to get its head out of its ass and encourage real city-building along Edmunds and Alaska, thereby connecting historic Columbia City and the new station with an unbroken, activity-fostering urban fabric.

      This is not just about upzoning. This bullshit doesn’t help one bit. The connecting streets need to be part of the city. C-I-T-Y. Mixed use. Activity. Why is this so damned hard for Seattle to understand?

      1. d.p.:

        That’s true, and I wish that would be the case at all the LINK stops. There really is nothing wrong with having 6-story(or higher!) buildings within one-or-two blocks of each LINK stop. Dense housing for those who want it, single-family houses a few blocks further, but all VERY close to the LINK stop. The walk from Columbia City LINK station to the retail area seems to go on forever, although I know logically it is very quick.

      2. Indeed, Cinesea,

        But in the case of Columbia City’s situation, “one or two blocks” won’t do it. The connecting corridor is 5-7 blocks; both the city and the neighborhood have a vested interest in seeing those entire 5-7 blocks become busy, active, living connective tissue between the present commercial strip and the train station. So it’s important to think logically beyond arbitrary radii around the transit nodes themselves.

        At Edmunds, MLK and Alaska are 1700 feet apart. That’s all!

        If and when the 18 is axed in favor of RapidRide, anyone coming to or from Old Ballard will be asked to walk 2500 feet to it. Ballard residents are likely to revolt — legitimately, because RapidRide is a crock of s**t — but if RapidRide were actual rail, the walk would be fine because those 2500 feet are consistent built-up and at least minimally active at all times.

        But the Columbia City walk seems arduous and a bit intimidating after dark. And why? Because this. And that’s on the city’s own property, for chrissakes!

    3. I was on that train or the one before it. The announcement said train coming in two minutes, then there was an announcement about Link being delayed due to an earlier blockage, then the train arrived a few minutes later (five minutes after the two-minute announcement). I rode from Westlake to TIB going to the CRC hearing. All the seats and 2/3 of the standing capacity was full at Westlake. I only ride occasionally during the PM peak so I didn’t know if this was normal. There was a group of several Japanese including children going to the airport, but that’s to be expected too. I wondered how the other crowds would be able to get on at the following stations, and whether Link needs 3-car trains right now, but I didn’t see many people get on or off until Beacon Hill. A significant number of people did get off at TIB, but most of my car remained on for the airport.

    4. Also, the train felt slow the whole way. The net travel time was only three minutes longer than normal, but it felt like it was going 30 mph most of the way.

    5. Another odd thing. Even though the train was going around 30 mph on MLK, the cars were even slower. From my sideways seat I couldn’t see why that was.

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