Photo by Wings777

This is an open thread.

65 Replies to “News Roundup: Exonerated”

  1. That Matthew Yglesias piece about the Amtrak Locomotives in the NorthEast Corridor has been making the rounds all over lately. The problem is that it’s highly speculative. He takes it as the gospel truth that Positive Train Control (PTC) will be fully operational in the corridor in just two short years.

    Positive Train Control is a computerized technology that automatically applies the brakes when two trains get two close. They’ve been talking about installing it for a long, long time. It was two years away when the tragic 2008 Commuter Rail crash in Los Angeles killed 25 people in an accident that would have been prevented by PTC. After the crash, it was going to be online within two years.

    It’s 2001, and I’m still supposed to believe that PTC is two years away? On the contrary, I think it’s wise for Amtrak to invest in technologies that work today, now, instead of continuing to rely on the promise that PTC is “only two years away.”

    1. The units they are buying the siemens traxx type locomotive are in common use over europe. Db and the sbb amongst many others all operate varients of this unit. Even with ptc im sure there will still be the onerous requirement for 800,000 buff striength for atleast some equipment. In any event even with that eliminated youd still have to spec the units for n american operation (mu control, knuckle couplers, air brake etc) . Anyway so im not sure how much diffrent the cost would be. Besides if it improves reilability today thats a good thing.

  2. Anybody know what’s up with this story posted to Slog today? Based on what I know of Sound Transit’s setup, I can think of two ways this might work:
    1) It is a loan from one subarea to another, and the East subarea would pay the North subarea back later.
    2) ST’s Board would charge the North subarea for everything between the DSTT and the floating bridge, since it is in the North subarea, although there’s only the station at Rainier and most of the ridership is from the eastside anyway.

    1. I don’t know which it is but I’m actually OK with this personally. Seattle will benefit tremendously from East Link, given the number of Eastside residents who work here, and the number of Seattle residents that work on the Eastside. Additionally, building East Link will strengthen the constituency for more transit on the Eastside, and could speed up the progress of future ST3+ Link expansions that include additional service within the North King subarea.

      1. I might agree if we were talking about whether or not to help fund East Link. But the debates about whether or not we help fund a tunnel in Bellevue. And I’m not sure how a tunnel through Bellevue benefits us at all. Portland does fine using their surface streets, and Bellevue has far more empty surface street space.

      2. No, Portland does not do fine, their system is SEVERELY limited by being on streets. Car lengths are limited, and car frequency is limited so as not to interfere TOO much with auto traffic, which is completely reasonable. I personally think we should be building a system that will be able to take us as far into the future as possible, so the less at grade, and grade crossings, the better in my opinion.

        I frankly think they should make it illegal to cross or turn left on MLK some day (build underpasses or something)

      3. The argument is that a tunnel through Bellevue will substantially speed up the trip for people living in Seattle who are going to work in Redmond. I guess it would also benefit Seattle employers who might be able to employ people who live in Redmond and northeast Bellevue, although that’s probably a smaller number. The question is whether that is enough of a benefit for Seattle that it justifies taking money from North Link projects.

      4. Portlands big limitation is the steel bridge. Thats the current bottleneck. It would help if they could go to three car trains as well but thats a moot point due to the platform limitations systemwide.

      1. Yes they did because the East Subarea was far from being ready to use any of the capitol funds it had in the piggy bank. As I understand it the loan is paid back in present day dollars so it’s basically an interest rate that’s peg to the rate of inflation. An OK deal for the East subarea, a screaming good deal for the North subarea. I don’t think borrowing from another subarea will work for East Link. The ability to bond/borrow is tied to the tax revenue coming in to pay off said borrowing and that’s already tapped out. The option that makes the most sense (which is why ST will never do it) is to postpone the project until in can be built right; which includes the E segment to Redmond. North subarea funds can not be used for East subarea projects which a tunnel in Bellevue most certainly is. North is already paying for all the track to and I believe the station at Rainier (which would already be built if they hadn’t tunneled under Beacon Hill). Conceivably it could/should pay costs out to the middle of the floating bridge where the actual subarea boundary is. That extension could be $150 million. The cost of retrofitting the pontoon bridge for 20-30 years useful life must be on the order of $300 million. Bellevue would be better off spending the $160 million to scuttle the entire project as ST has screwed up just about the entire alignment.

      2. North King has gotten plenty of bargains while saving for Link projects. I don’t believe it has paid for any ST Express or Sounder service, although it certainly gets some.

    2. This is about “getting to yes” with the Bellevue City Council. As I understand it the $150 million or so is from shifting some segment A costs to the North sub-area. In the long run a tunnel makes for a better line. I’m also liking the plan to fully grade-separate segment B on the B2-ish alignment.

    1. If I have my numbers right, we will have 62 cars. (35 original ones and 27 new ones slowly entering service)

      1. yes … I know what the plans are … I was asking for how many we have in use right now of the 62 planned

    2. Speaking of which, is there going to be an additional train yard for all these trains? Eastside? Northside?

      1. How are they burning-in the motors in the new units? Running loops around the O&M base?

      2. Nope, they can accommodate them all at the current yard, with a bit of room to spare. The recent expansion upped capacity to 80 LRVs, and it’s sized to ultimately handle 108. The line extensions are being built to have some LRV storage at the terminals, in tail and pocket tracks, which should accommodate North Link. East Link will require some extra storage tracks; there will be a siding north of NE 12th St in the BNSF corridor for LRV storage, along with some storage at the Overlake terminus.

        Long term, plans call for an Eastside maintenance and car storage facility, probably in Redmond, with space for 40-45 LRVs depending on the alternative selected. Last I knew, ST’s plans also called for a 50-car maintenance facility along the south corridor between SeaTac/Airport and Redondo/Star Lake, but who knows what the status of that is with the funding issues and reduced line length there.

    1. Won’t eat or drink any ’til I find out for sure what it is. But wouldn’t mind seeing wrap in the picture on every bus in the region. The colors are bright and best of all, not one inch of it is on window glass.

      Mark Dublin

      1. I know, it’s kinda sad when simple ads offer such vast improvement over the insipid ST design.

      2. I like the ST design. I like this too, but I don’t think the ST livery is insipid.

      3. ST livery looks like plastic.

        Not to mention the physical appearance of the trains looks rather… toyish.

      4. I really like the ST wave design. Compared to many of the other cities deploying light rail I think it’s the best design by far. Better than SFO Muni’s dull Grey(or silver I guess) with Red touches, Better than Phoenix’s, better than Charlotte’s better than PDX MAX, or even Minneapolis Hiawatha line.

        I don’t know if it is a specific cowling or the paint job but our trains also “look” like they have symmetrical end cabs versus the weird stub on the Phoenix lines that use Kinkysharo trains.

      5. @Gordon well, ya. However this picture looks a bit different than what I’d seen before. Still don’t like the Phoenix Livery.

      6. the only thing I like about the Phoenix (shorter) version of the Link LRVs are the windows on the sides (I love the black stripe like on the rapid ride buses et al … and the glass end walls so you can see out the front/back window of the LRVs …

        but hey … I grew up in NYC and loved riding the subway watching the trip through the tunnels of NYC

  3. With regards to the story about parking in Ranier Beach:

    “The Seattle Department of Transportation says they will work with those who can’t afford the $65 fee – and there’s a special rate of $10 for those who fit a low-income profile.”

    Explain how someone who can’t afford a parking fee of $65 fee every other year can afford the car to park there to begin with.

    1. Two years into a major depression, answer is that owners bought the car when they had steady jobs and a home to park the car in front of. Considering present employment picture, if environmental concern prevents you from buying a car, you might want to get a good tent to park your bike outside of.

      Mark Dublin

    1. As the person that wrote that I don’t mind. If I was Dominic I would say that not because I worried about calling someone a lier (for goodness sake it is the stranger, since when have they been shy) but to show that the stranger isn’t the only one calling BS on that line of argument… I mean after all transit blog is probably well informed about whether or not the tunnel invests in transit.

  4. Ben Franklin Transit is now on Google Maps:
    (Apologies in advance for my not-so-great blogging skills.)

    The cool thing about this is that it now only leaves CUBS (Kelso/Longview), Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Link Transit as the only large/small urban agencies in the state without a trip planner.

  5. Great, longer trip times from Seattle-Vancouver, BC. At 4 hours, they really need to try and bring it WAYYYY down. If it was in the 3.5 hour range, you could easily justify a 3rd train if not a 4th. Morning train from Vancouver, BC with 200 people, the rest down the line filled it up.

  6. your outdated and rusting transportation infrastructure needs to be completely overhauled for those strikes even to be noticed,

    I guess we’ll keep the two horse barn out back. It’s easiest to ride a bike to work but I guess moving forward horses are the future. Is it possible to be “sustainable” on 1.3 acres? Likely want to eliminate the asphalt. 405 and 520 going away would be nice.

  7. I’ve asked this before and never really got a solid answer, who paid for the DSTT? Was it all of KC as it was a Metro project?

  8. I see that the Sound Transit Board elected to proceed with the accelerated extension of Central Link to South 200th Street. Great news!

    Even better news would be that we could get the proposed pocket track south of airport station online before the September 2016 service date.

    I will dream a little more and hope for earlier access to enough track east of Pine Stub to give us a little breathing room and space for longer consists.

    1. probably won’t happen … most likely because of the OCS system can’t be built let alone energized until the structure (be it tunnel or elevated) is completed.

      Most newer systems seem to use overhead rail for their OCS system in tunnels … we don’t (not sure of the pros/cons) but having a wire OCS makes it much more difficult to just add bits more onto an existing system

      here is a photo of one of the tunnels in the Madrid subway system showing the overhead rail-type OCS

      1. I will just have to be patient!

        I have seen rail type OCS in Barcelona (underground) too. Must be hard to handle tension ballast underground or more uniform temperatures make it unecessary – I don’t think our OCS wire tension adjusts for temperature variation in tunnel segments other than at the portals.

        Must visit more of Spain!

      1. In looking up life expectancy I found this interesting study from the FTA, Useful Life of Transit Buses and Vans Final Report.

        Low-floor buses typically use [“stick built” chassis] as there is very little space under the floor for large structural elements. The relatively small size of the structural elements of the low-floor bus provides less structure to bear the suspension and engine loads and reduces the tolerance of the structure to the effects of corrosion—a factor which may lead to shorted vehicle life expectancies

        I hope the switch to low floor buses isn’t going to turn out costing 20% more in capitol costs due to this. Corrosion isn’t a big deal in Seattle but I can see where places like Chicago might get burned. Eugene might get their artics to go 20 years since I doubt they put the same kind of stress on vehicles as a large metropolitan transit service and 15 years is the average replacement point.

      2. So, after reading the FTA report it’s pretty clear that chassis structural integrity is the limiting factor in useful life. My question is why then did Metro assume an 18 year life for an ETB. Is it because they are looking at Orion which claims to already build an 18 year chassis, because the chassis for an ETB is beefed up, or do they just plan to push them beyond the 15 year average retirement age because replacement costs justify the increased maintenance on an old vehicle? Also interesting to see them talking about BRT vehicles that would rival rail in longevity à la the Paris metro’s use of rubber-tired subway trains.

    1. How much does a double deck bus cost?

      The cost of a double deck bus is very similar to the cost of a 60 foot bus. Las Vegas paid about $800,000 per vehicle in 2006. Actual costs vary dependent upon how optional features are configured (e.g., seating arrangements, heating and air conditioning).

      Yikes! That just seems wrong. The engine HP is about the same as a 40′ bus. These things are turned out in volume. The frame can’t cost twice as much to build. Labor is considerably less with only one drivetrain and suspension and no doors upstairs. The only thing that you actually have to double up on is glass and seats.

      1. Having a limited choice of manufacturers probably drives the cost up some. Plus all of the concrete in their base likely increases the steel in their frame.

    2. In Shanghai, officials recently started using massive three-section articulated buses that hold up to 300 people.

      I’d love to see Metro and CT get some of these for SWIFT, RapidRide, and the Seattle TMP HCT corridors. In the latter case it would be a way of having capacity match demand on the the Westlake and Eastlake corridors.

  9. “OLYMPIA – An agreement signed today by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and BNSF Railway clears the way for work to begin on rail improvements that ultimately will generate hundreds of jobs and improve Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland.

    Today’s agreement means the state can begin initial work this fall using some of the $781 million in federal grants awarded to Washington in the past two years. This money is part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) high-speed-rail grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.”

    More here:

    1. That’s good news. I am interested in knowing which of the projects are affected by this. They mention one in Everett, and give a dollar figure of $400 million.

      1. Other projects that are probably included in the $400M (from

        Advanced Signal System – $62.3M
        Corridor Reliability South – $91.7M
        Kelso Martin’s Bluff – Kelso to Longview Jct – $126M
        Kelso Martin’s Bluff – Toteff Siding – $37.4M
        Mt. Vernon Siding – $3.3M

  10. “On July 23, Iowa Pacific Holdings subsidiary Saratoga and North Creek Railway (SNC) launched passenger-rail service between North Creek and Saratoga Springs, N.Y. — the first privately operated, for-profit and regularly scheduled intercity passenger-rail service in the United States in more than 40 years, Iowa Pacific officials said in a prepared statement.”

    More here:–27386

  11. A few observations from my travels in the past couple of days…

    I observed significant (as in about 30% of riders) fare evasion on the 106 and and 7 buses I that travelled on Thursday evening. Not sure how I feel about it. Heck, even I’ve been “comped” a ride now and then when say an ORCA reader fails, or something. I realize many people in these areas are poor but Metro should be concerned about farebox recovery especially if they are asking for extra taxes. Not to mention, it makes the libertarians batsh*t crazy.

    Today, I travelled extensively including a trip out to Sea-Tac to see someone off. Trains were all well loaded going and coming. Heavy and steady flow of traffic on pedestrian pathways at Sea-Tac to Link station. Indeed, lines 10+ people deep at all 4 TVM machines at Sea-Tac station. I noticed significant confusion for passengers arriving on the platform at Sea-Tac when they saw that the doors were closed on the trains. Even though there are little placards on the car door to say push here to open doors, it isn’t immediately apparent. I’d suggest to Sound Transit to have some larger signage on the platform about this.

    The more disturbing thing I observed today was the participation of ARMED Federal Homeland Security officers as part of the fare enforcement team on Link this evening. 3 of them in addition to the 4 fare enforcers were travelling onboard. Took 4 people off at SODO station and on another trip, I saw them with what appeared to be a dude seriously upset at Mt. Baker station. 1 (trying not to cry) guy, 7 police/security personnel. Oh, and one of the ST enforcement officers was wearing a pair of rather menacing looking black gloves. The whole scene was over the top and in my view unnecessary and sets a hostile atmosphere.

    The last item is that I paid for an extra fare using my ORCA card this morning but the driver had significant difficulty setting this up on his terminal. It took him almost 2 minutes to figure this out. In one other instance where I wanted to do this, the driver had waved us on board rather than deal with setting up the transaction. Sounds like a major usability or training issue is contributing to lost fare collections and lost time.

  12. While that Onion spoof is indeed satire, I have actually made that same point in a serious argument. The more we minimize our “points of failure” the stronger we are and the harder it is to “attack” us at vulnerable points. Thus density and single mode transportation, industry and so on, make easy targets for terrorists.

    What made their attack on the WTC a failure was that “Wall Street” long ago vacated Lower Manhattan for server farms in North Dakota and Jakarta.

Comments are closed.