93 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: A Manhattan Timelapse”

  1. The ETB wire that runs along 9th Ave from James St to Spring/Seneca … was that ever used for an actual revenue bus line? or is it just there in case the ETBs need to be rerouted between the #2 and the #3/4 lines?

      1. Thanks Oran. It’s interesting the map shows it continuing north on 1st. Does the schedule show it as a through route?

        The late morning frequency from 3rd/Pike is interesting in that it is every 8 to 24 minutes.

      2. That schedule looks like it’s from 1975-6 and that routing would have been on the old wire from the 1940s.

      3. Sked effective May 29, 1976. (someone nice on the internet sent a bunch of them to me) Which means these trolley coaches were running out of Jefferson Base (the last trip of the day ends at 14th & Jefferson).

        No indication of through routing in the timetable itself but the text under COACH SIGNING says:

        “12 E. CHERRY and 12 26th AVE. S. trolley coaches return to downtown Seattle as 2 WEST QUEEN ANNE. After 7:00pm and all day Sundays and Holidays, 12 26th AVE. S. coaches are signed UNION ST.”

        I guess that means it’s not through routed after 7pm and Sunday/Holidays, meaning less evening/weekend service on the 2 W Queen Anne?

      4. Me thinks you are pulling our leg :- I didn’t start using Metro until 1978 and the two zone fare structure was well established. I don’t remember what fares were. I’m told by a friend that was in college in Bellingham that fares were 10 cents up there at the time.

        Metro to raise fares 75 cents in 10 years

        Well, right about the fares, wrong about ridership.

      5. Well I’ll be damn. Thanks Oran for that bit of history. We seem to have a history of complexity. I had no idea at the time I was the beneficiary of the first round of fare simplification. So, how much was it to ride from Redmond to UW in 78/79. I know UW subsidize the route but it was the standard fare. I remember it was 25 cents to park in the Montlake lot but I’m not sure if that was the carpool rate or general rate. What sucked was the 3+ on 520 which didn’t allow a motorcycle with two people to use it.

      6. I started riding Metro in 1981. The fare was 40c one zone, 60c two zone, with no peak surcharge. But there were fewer routes too, and most suburban routes had a huge long run to downtown Seattle rather than to a suburban transit center.

    1. I think the 3/4 route used that wire during tunnel construction when all trollleys used 1st Avenue.

  2. http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2011/08/01/in-san-francisco-all-door-boarding-catches-on/

    This is an interesting article about SF’s roll-out of all-door boarding. This may indeed work well for Seattle too, but from the cost perspective, it may be better to have this in limited stops in downtown and transit centers.

    The best solution in my mind is however to encourage more ORCA card adoption by providing discount fare. For instance, if ORCA card users get 25 cents discount per boarding, low-income and occasional riders should be more motivated to buy and use the card.

    I know Metro can’t afford this now, but does anyone know if there has been such proposal within Metro in the past, or if it is possible to raise cash fare only in the next round of fare increase?

      1. Yeah, I’ve been to SF to travel, and I saw a BUNCH of fare evaders in the Chinatown. For that reason, I prefer Metro to limit all-door boarding in limited areas and to encourage more ORCA card adoption.

        By the way, I finally had a chance to ride RapidRide, but it seems that few people were boarding from the back door.

    1. San Francisco may try its, but it has a long way to go to overcome the deficiencies that have been visited upon it by the political hacks, transit ignoramuses, and children of highway culture that have stuck it with a second-class transit system in its own metropolitan area.

      There is no room for equivocation or feel-good “all opinions valid” debating on this point: if you insist that on calling urban true mass-transit “irrelevant” if it does not cross a bunch of arbitrary boundaries or put miles between its stations, you are wrong and you are arguing from ignorance.

      It doesn’t require being well-traveled or having lived in transit cities to know this. Anyone who routinely suffers the 44 (a bus that averages 4-6 mph, for those keeping score), only to barely miss a connection and be forced to wait 25 minutes to go their last 1.5 miles, knows that urban mass-transit is valuable and vital. It is ludicrous to argue that replacing that with grade separation, capacity, and speed should be second-tier to replacing a highway bus that already runs in dedicated lanes between transit centers with a rail line that does little more.

      I really enjoyed the 130-comment back-and-forth the other day, even if by the end its narrative was so fractured and its rebuttals so multi-spliced that only the five of us could follow it. Multiple valid perspectives on financing and understandings of ridership needs were deservedly aired. But the “mass transit must cross borders” notion cannot be validly debated and must not continue to metastasize. If even earnest transit supporters get that so wrong, then our future is sunk.

      (Think I’m exaggerating? Consider the “solutions” Seattle is predicted to undertake for its in-city transit needs: a bunch of buses and surface street rail of dubious speed and ROW priority. Precisely what SF is still struggling to fix!)

      1. You still don’t get the point. The point was not that mass transit must cross borders. It was that an agency like ST, made up of many cities and suburbs in a region, understandably has a bias towards regional projects that cross borders. I personally think Metro or the city should be given adequate taxing authority to fund rail projects within the city that ST might be reticent to fund. You are talking about idealistic aspirations–I’m talking about political realities due to governance structures. If you think lines linking dense regions of Seattle are more important than suburban projects, I agree with you! But in that case we need a different transit agency than ST, because they will balance any projects in Seattle with dubious projects in the suburbs.

      2. +1 on the proposals to build more SLUT-style streetcars with no dedicated ROW. I don’t want to be in a position of having to defend the whole $80 tab if the weak link in the package is a second-rate line that primarily benefits Vulcan, at the cost of building sidewalks outside of the central city so people can walk safely to bus stops. The completion of any and all Safe Paths to Schools proposals that are waiting in line for funding would be a better selling point than a SLUT extension.

        The good numbers Martin posted about the Eastlake streetcar proposal are all coming under heavy scrutiny, including accusations that the committee was stacked. Politically, I don’t think the $80 car tab proposal can survive inclusion of the SLUT extension. It would be better politics to pick another streetcar line that would serve neighborhoods that won’t be served as well by Link, and where Vulcan doesn’t have its fingers in the pie.

        Also, I like the idea of having the filling of potholes paid for by those who create them. ;) No more property or sales tax to fill potholes!

      3. Wait… Zef, I think we might actually be having a communication breakthrough! (<– not sarcasm)

        Are you suggesting that we should completely eliminate ST's North King subarea and taxing authority, and hand over taxing authority in the same amount to the city for true high-capacity rail for urban needs (which the city could even, reasonably, hire ST to construct and/or operate)?

        Because I'd be all over that idea, as it would enshrine in policy exactly what I was writing above.

        Any other plan (involving the city winding up with insufficiant money to do in-city transit right and ST still taxing us for projects of dubious urban significance) wouldn't cut it, though.

      4. “an agency like ST, made up of many cities and suburbs in a region, understandably has a bias towards regional projects that cross borders.”

        ST’s mandate is to provide regional transit. To many people that generally means crossing city boundaries. ST provides in-city service only where it replaced another route and no local alternative was provided: downtown-Lake City, and Bellevue TC to Bellevue Way.

      5. Many people are wrong, Mike.

        Many people’s opinions shouldn’t carry weight when those same people are responsible for 100 years of transit failure.

        “Regional” transit is useless when transit in the urban center is crap. As someone from Berkeley how much BART’s existence helps them if they’re headed to Golden Gate park. They’re just going to wind up driving. The whole way.

      6. Yes, we are having breakthrough! I would completely support that proposal. I think a regional transit authority focusing on city-to-city connections can and should exist side-by-side with a Seattle transity authority focusing on the city itself. Right now we are stuck with a 4-county regional transit authority (ST) that mostly builds trains and a 1-county regional transit authority (Metro) that only runs buses. Meanwhile Seattle can only tinker at the edges with a couple streetcars and marginal bus improvements.

        Portland is dealing with this same problem, but it’s even worse. Trimet controls all transit in 3 counties and predictably focuses on suburban rail service while cutting local bus service. It is also governed by a board appointed by the governer of Oregon. It would be much better to have Trimet focus on the county-to-county and city-to-city connections, while some kind of Portland Transit had independent taxing authority for in-city transit.

        Imagine having only Sound Transit but no Metro. Or imagine if the bay area had BART but no MUNI or all the other transit agencies. Sure, it’s confusing having so many agencies, but it’s better than one huge organization that inevitably favors suburbs over the city even though the cities can and do vote to tax themselves more for transit.

      7. Brent, you keep making these comments about the streetcar that aren’t true. The Ballard streetcar would have exclusive ROW all along Westlake and much of Leary. Not only would it be a new route, it would be a lot faster than any bus would be currently. The Eastlake route is less necessary, in my opinion, since a high-quality trolleybus with fewer stops could do the job just as well. The Ballard run needs a streetcar (possibly a double-length streetcar) due to capacity needs and development potential.

        I also would like you to state clearly and succinctly why Vulcan is evil. That’s all, just tell me why. It seems to be conventional wisdom that anything that benefits them is bad for the city, but why? The so-called “giveaway” to Vulcan, the streetcar, was partly paid for by Vulcan, it benefits anyone working at Amazon, Fred Hutch or other employment centers in the area, it benefits people living in SLU, and it could be the basis for a really good extension. How is that a giveaway again? Would Amazon have even relocated to the middle of Seattle without the streetcar and the upzones? You can call that a “corporate giveaway,” I call it encouraging economic vitality in the city center rather than in the suburbs.

        Let’s not forget that Paul Allen was going to give away $20 million in land for the Commons and people rejected it. I’ve yet to hear a good explanation for why that failed. I suppose the complaints were the same: “oh no, he will benefit from it!” Yeah, and so would the entire city which would have large park in the middle of the city instead of only on the edges. Or how about Roosevelt, which is so obsessed with denying Sisley any potential benefit that they are willing to risk leaving his properties as a decaying mess? We can’t reject a common good just because someone we personally don’t like might benefit. That’s foolish.

      8. The problem with framing it as a regional OR urban mass transit conversation is that they are both necessary. Personally, I think a comprehensive, high capacity, reserved ROW system would sell very well once a regional backbone is in place. If North King were to go off an do it’s own thing, I think you would see a lot of dilution of those efforts — eg, serving specific corridors first in the interest of keeping everyone happy versus a coherent in city system with regional connections on either end.

        Especially if you talk about a corridor like U District to Ballard, referencing the 44 example above. That’s a route could be a very tough sell to people, even in other parts of Seattle. But with North and East Link in place, you’re not only talking U District to Ballard, but linking in Northgate, Capitol Hill, South Seattle, Bellevue, etc assuming the lines intersect at Brooklyn. Every new station in the regional system creates a potentially new travel pair that will serve that many more taxpayers who want to see benefits in their transit journeys.

      9. The problem I have is that Seattle already possesses the taxing authority it needs to fund capital intensive projects. Seattle already also has the Seattle Department of Transportation, which is a transportation agency focused only on Seattle’s needs. There’s no reason to give Metro more money.

      10. Zef,

        You don’t need a rap sheet on Paul Allen and Vulcan. Just keep an eye on the Seattle Displacement Coalition and their efforts to defeat the $80 tab. John Fox, the Coalition’s mouthpiece, was a leading voice in defeating the Seattle Commons.

        My point in raising the issue of Vulcan’s perceived influence in the CTAC III process is that that particular streetcar line will be a symbol of perceived graft in the package. Jettisoning it will give more useful lines, like the one to Ballard, a better chance of coming into existence. That the proposal was made to look better than it really would be in real life, by underplanning Eastlake Stations and not bringing in the cost of ROW, is further reason to dump it from the package. I hope it does get built some day, but with a more realistic budget, and not risking a whole car-tab package.

        BTW, Wouldn’t you like to see the Seattle sidewalk network be completed in our lifetimes?

      11. @barman,

        The beauty of the car tab is that it is less regressive than sales and property tax, since it only is paid by car owners. It is a greener tax, in that it taxes something we hope to see less of, rather than taxing something we want more of (like commerce).

        We aren’t using city funds to subsidize Metro. We’re using city funds to provide a higher level of Metro service over that outside the city limits. We’re buying service hours above those that would be allotted by the county under current formulaic policy.

        If not from car tabs, where would you prefer the revenue come from?

      12. Well put, Tom. The 44 example was proffered with the knowledge that U Link and North Link will be in place — not by me, but by the proposal to “study” the corridor that was included in ST2.

        I agree with you that regional interconnectedness through a regional agency is ideal: see MBTA, MTA, etc. Unfortunately, Washington state has a particular history of transit-shafting and politically abusing city for the “benefit” of state; thus a proposal that would shift enough of ST’s taxing authority to the city to get more than window-dressing projects built here.

        Zef, I share Brent’s skepticism about the Ballard streetcar, and see our above proposal as necessary precisely to enable the city to think and build beyond such things. The streetcar would only have exclusive ROW where it is least necessary — the already-fast Westlake and Leary stretches. The current plan would guarantee many blocks of bottleneck through Fremont, regardless of the Fremont route choice and in spite of any “queue jumps” at the foot of the bridge they might try to sell as solutions. SLU will still be SLU, and don’t go expecting any kind of preferrential treatment when it crosses Mercer.

        SF Muni rail lines have far more exclusive ROW than you might realize. In addition to a central subway, there are tunnels beneath the peaks, detours through parks, and lots and lots of median-strip separation. Doesn’t matter. The bottlenecks are just that bottlenecky.

        Also, you might be surprised to learn that most of downtown MAX is considered “exclusive ROW,” inasmuch as cars are not allowed to share the literal space. How’s all that working out? The 5 mph ROW on the poorly adapted Steel Bridge isn’t so hot, either.

        As for TriMet: As a less parochial and less politically-overlorded agency than either Sound Transit or Metro, I actually think it does a better job of understanding city service needs than either. It’s shoot-straight-to-the-burbs rail doesn’t provide the central neighborhoods much value, but I think that’s mostly a product of the era in which it was built and its built-on-the-cheap. Seattle should have learned from Portland’s example, especially for the money we’re spending.

        Still, TriMet serves the inner SE, NE, and N with an intuitive network of gridded routes along every major arterial, all of them coming at reliable 12-20 minute intervals. It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Metro does for Seattle’s inner 5-mile radius.

        Plus, there is the little matter of the MAX Yellow Line, built entirely in-city precisely because that was where the political support and interest were!

      13. Brent, I actually don’t really support spending precious funds on building sidewalks in areas where everyone drives everywhere anyway. The bulk of sidewalk funds should be targeted to urban centers and villages where the most people will benefit, just like transit funds.

        Nobody should take the Seattle Displacement Coalition or John Fox seriously about anything. They don’t care about affordable housing, they just care about obstruction and obfuscation. Opposing density guarantees increasing unaffordability (restricted supply meets rising demand). Rather than working on creative solutions, they just oppose anything that might lead to more people living in Seattle.

        d.p., I just moved to the inner SE of Portland and the transit is horrible. A few buses reach 15-minute frequencies during peak times, but most are stuck at 20-30 minute frequencies. MAX is almost useless since the Hollywood TC is not very accessible and the buses that go there don’t run often enough. There is no north-south transit for almost 30 blocks. The grid fails because connections take so long. Compare that to Capitol Hill or Lower Queen Anne in Seattle, where many bus lines come together for very high combined frequency. The fact is, Trimet has made its grid system useless for most people because such a grid relies on high frequencies. The only MAX line that is useful to people in the city is the Yellow Line, as you mentioned. All the others are on highways and as you say, move very slowly on the bridge and downtown.

      14. zef,

        Recall the arguments against bike lanes by the autophiles in Lake City and north Queen Anne: Why should we build bike lanes? Nobody bikes on these streets anyway.

        Do you see the parallel?

        My neighborhood (South Park) has a lot of missing sidewalks, in places they are desperately needed. I can’t, in good conscience, ask my neighbors to vote for fancy new trains when we can’t even walk to the bus stop safely throughout much of my neighborhood. We’re still trying to get funding to have safe paths to our local elementary school. Should we not get sidewalks because most of my neighbors are resigned to drive cars everywhere?

      15. Upzone South Park and you will get plenty of sidewalks! The developers will even pay for most of them, and you will get more transit service. Bike, Ped, and Transit improvements need to be tied to density. If neighborhoods want city investment, they need to agree to absorb more growth. That’s only fair. Lake City and Queen Anne actually do have a lot of apartment buildings and townhouses, but they are too car-oriented, so they make a lot of sense for improvements.

      16. Admittedly, I’ve never lived in Portland, just visited. But I’ve been screwed over trying to get up Capitol Hill or from LQA to downtown in less than 20 minutes more times than I can count. And I’ve never experience anything but ease trying hop across the river to any part of the Inner SE.

        Metro’s Seattle “interlining” just doesn’t work, expecially with routes from far corners of the universe running default 30-minute headways.

        Then there are all the places within 5 miles of downtown where the 30-minute buses are your best or only option, and where many trips (Ballard to Greenwood) require relying on two of them. I’d kill for 20-minute running cores, though we both agree that’s not enough for real networking.

        I’ve heard that TriMet’s core-route frequencies have been cut since I’ve last been there, so maybe it’s tangibly worse now than I experienced. :-(

      17. Brent,
        While a car tab tax is not as aggressive as sales tax, I consider a fixed rate car tab tax to be regressive. For it to not be regressive, it needs to be a percentage on a value of the car. In this case, I think the State should abandon their much hated car valuation schedule and adopt something that is easier to understand, such as Kelly Blue Book.

        It’s the fact that it is a fixed rate is what I have problems with the proposed car tab taxes.

      18. Regarding the sidewalks, there are many places in Seattle with poor or no sidewalks that also house people who can’t drive and are dependent on transit (and sometimes para-transit). Saying sidewalks don’t matter in these areas because everyone drives is saying it’s okay to deny some people full participation in society because they have the “misfortune” of not being able to drive. I don’t accept that.

    2. Metro is not considering eliminating paper transfers any time soon. However, they are in the middle of a study on the RFA, and expressed openness to other proposals, such as requiring RRFP holders to use the embedded ORCA technology or have to pay full fare. (This makes sense given that their chief argument for keeping paper transfers is the cost of getting an ORCA.)

      The key argument for them is not system efficiency, but reducing fare evasion.

      But they also do not want to do anything that would increase resistance to transfer-point-based routes. They do not want to increase the political noise for maintaining one-seat rides, as that would wipe out any savings from fare-payment efficiencies.

      Keep offering them a larger menu of options, and Metro will likely find a few options that work.

      BTW, I’ve seen two people arrested this past week for fare evasion on Link. If a fare enforcement officer issues a criminal trespass warning, they aren’t bluffing.

      1. “But they also do not want to do anything that would increase resistance to transfer-point-based routes.”

        The biggest obstacle to eliminating transfer resistance may be Metro’s sense of 12-15 minutes as “frequent” or “adequate” on even their envisioned future core/trunk network.

        It’s not. As long as that is the standard, one-seat bias will persist.

        By the way, there are other reasons to give pause to this city’s continue insistence on one-seat rides and excess seats over standing room!

      2. Arrested…like taken off the train in handcuffs? I am a near daily rider of Link and have never seen this. Many folks get a warning and a photo taken of their ID (my understanding is if they haven’t been cited before they get a warning and if they have already been warned they’ll get a ticket in the mail). A few will get taken off the train but I’ve never seen anyone get arrested.

      3. Yes, arrested. Cuffed. Did the perp walk to the Metro police car. Driven off. Hopefully not kept in jail more than overnight, as that would wipe out the cost of paying the fine, which I don’t expect either of the arrested gentlemen will ever pay.

      4. I saw someone arrested outside a RapidRide stop on Pac Hwy. It was Federal Way, so fare evasion may not have been the reason for them kissing the hood of the sheriff’s car.

        Outstanding warrants may have been the case in one or more of these three incidents.

    3. “The causes of the slow speeds are multifarious: The fact that most rail and bus corridors are shared with automobiles, the high density of stops, and, of course, the requirement to board up front.”

      So, while fighting an uphill battle to consolidate bus stops more quickly and improve the boarding and payment process, we’re going to build streetcars that run in general-purpose automobile lanes.

      1. Are you unaware that the Ballard streetcar would have exclusive ROW for most of its length?

      2. He’s not unaware. He’s skeptical that adding exclusive ROW only where it is easiest to do (i.e. where it’s least needed) means much of anything. Please see my long Muni/MAX-comparing ROW response above.

      3. On the other hand the TMP HCT corridors are the best chance for some neighborhoods to see either BRT or rail anytime in the next 20 years. Sure a Downtown-LQA-Ballard-Wallingford-UW line may be in ST3 but I don’t see such a line opening any time before 2030. The HCT lines can be done much sooner and the money to fund them fund much sooner.

    4. @Keibun,

      Have you contacted Metro with the suggestion of giving ORCA users a 25-cent rebate or charging cash fumblers a 25-cent surcharge?

      1. Nope. I do work with WSDOT for my job a lot, so I have good contacts there but not at Metro. If any of you have good contacts at Metro and think this could be an option for next round of fare change, please do contact Metro.

      2. Contacting the County Executive is always a good place to start.


        James Bush answers his email and points you in the right direction, usually promising a response from General Manager Kevin Desmond. Kevin then usually finds time to respond within a week or two. You’ll get a faster response that way then through Metro’s contact page.

  3. The Washington Policy Center has unleashed Five Principles of Responsible Transportation Policy which “encourages five principles of responsible transportation policy to help guide policymakers in returning to a system that improves people’s freedom of movement”.

    Normally, there isn’t much to interest me at WPC–it’s a right wing think tank supported by the “Hon. Kemper Freeman” and friends. But WPC seems to be the organization that is supplying the talking points for the anti-transit forces and with the up-coming transportation related ballot issues, it might be a good idea to get ahead in the debate and study the arguments being put forward by WPC.

    Here are a few quotes from the 5 Principles publication:
    *”In all cases, mobility should mean traffic relief”
    *”Manipulating transportation policies to force a particular behavior coerces people to abandon their individual liberties in favor of a socialistic benefit…”
    Ready for more? Start reading! (This is also an exercise in HTML formatting for me, hope all works out…)

      1. As if anyone pays for the “full cost” of their trip. Tell me, how much did you pay exactly for using the street in front of your apartment in Queen Anne, on a per trip basis?

      2. Norman: So now you support massive odometer-based taxes to cover the cost of every inch of pavement you drive in a year?

        Brent: Ha!

      3. I paid the full cost of my car, my gas, my tires. Plus tax on the car, the gas, the tires, plus license fees, mvet, etc, which pay for the streets. I pay for the full cost of my transportation.

        How much of the cost of your bus did you pay? How much of the cost of the diesel your bus uses did you pay? How much of the cost of the maintenance of you bus did you pay? How much of the cost of the streets your bus uses did you pay? How much tax did you pay on your bus fare?

        Transit users pay a tiny percentage of the cost of their transit trips.

        Motorists pay for the entire cost of their trips.

      4. Nobody pays for the full cost of their trips. You still haven’t answered how much did you pay for the street in your neighborhood exactly for each trip. Or even the full cost of your “virtual trip” to this blog.

      5. So Norman do you apply that logic to the rest of society as well?

        Do you pay the full cost of your kids educations?

        What about the full cost of the freeway systems?

        Or how about the full cost the fire department? The police department?

  4. China Gains On Google in Driverless Car Race With 177 Mile Road Trip (video)

    The race is on. Last month China cut their driverless car loose for a fully automated, 177 mile (286 km) road trip – all without GPS. Guided completely by sensors the car successfully navigated real roads with real travelers at an average speed of 54mph (87 kph).

    Although details are scarce, the car seems to be equipped with much of the same technology that allows Google’s driverless Prius perform so amazingly. Thought to have left the competition in the dust, it appears Google’s got some fast-moving competition.


  5. Robot Vans Drive, Driverless, from Italy to China (Video)

    Four (mostly) driverless vans are navigating the streets of Moscow, across Siberia and the Gobi Desert, and into Shanghai in time for the World Fair.

    The three-month, 8,000 mile venture is electric-powered, robot-steered, and a massive step forward for the field of autonomous driving technology. The team is halfway through their trip, and is currently in Eastern Europe.


  6. d.p., word to your sources in Oakland:

    1. BART to Embarcadero.

    2. Escalators upstairs to MUNI.

    3. J-Judah light rail to Irving & 9th.

    4. Golden Gate Park entrance one block north.

    I’ll have a couple hours time at The Beanery 9th above Irving for coffee, and leisurely tour of the DeYoung Art Museum in Golden Gate Park waiting for them while they’re stuck on 110 and then finding a parking place.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Pardon the typo. Correct train is N-Judah. J-Church is a neat ride too, great view of city east of Market. Ends up at main Muni maintenance center- which incidentally also has a BART station built into it.


      1. Yup… and spend just as long going the last mile and a half from the Cole Valley portal as you spent the whole rest of your trip!!

        Trust me, East Bay people do that trip in a car, because the MUNI tails are excruciating!

      2. …Just ask an Eastsider how they’ll get to, say, Greenwood, even once the whole East and North Links are on-line. Because none of them are takin’ the 44 or the 5.

      3. There had better be much better east-west connections from Roosevelt and Northgate when Link arrives there. Otherwise, it will be a waste.

        Indeed, I am detecting serious shenanigans on Metro’s part in aligning their routes with Link so much so that I’m about to raise a serious stink with them (and any city depts that will listen) about route 39 drivers saying “their not supposed to stop at the Othello Link station”. This crap has got to stop.

      4. Belated clarification:

        Mark, I’m not trying to one-up you in any way here. And playing “hypothatical trip planning” games really misses the point.

        I, too, have used the N-Judah to Golden Gate Park, as a tourist, from downtown. I know it’s possible; I even know it’s better than a lot of transit around Seattle proper. I also know it’s possible to transfer from BART. That isn’t the point. The point is to consider, when coming from somewhere further or more complicated than just downtown, how much of a liability is it that the in-city transit is comparatively slow and arduous?

        The vast majority of BART users — like the vast majority of future East Link users — find BART only readily accessible by driving to it. So you’ve already gotten in your car, you’ve already driven to a destination, you’ve already found (and maybe even paid for) parking. Totally worth doing for the swift and unimpeded ride to where BART goes; maybe even worth it if transferring to somewhere MUNI reaches before it hits its surface slowdown. But add in the last-couple-mile slog to your destination, and at that point you might as well just have driven the whole way.

        You need to stop thinking like a transit tourist — or any kind of explorative tourist — and look at it from the perspective of a practical resident who wants the fastest ride to the concert, or the easiest ride to the family outing, and isn’t going to car–>fast train–>slow train–>infinity no matter how “feasible” it is.

        Your transit journey is only as good as its weakest leg. And in SF, as in our city (no matter what streetcar plans get concocted), the in-city last miles remain weaker.

        (Also, you did cheat a little bit by selecting the corner of the park closest to the tunnel portal in your example. Most Golden Gate attractions are at least a mile and an additional trolley zig-zag further. Concerts are held a solid two miles further. Those two miles being a slog really does affect what people are willing to do!)

      5. “The vast majority of BART users — like the vast majority of future East Link users — find BART only readily accessible by driving to it.”

        Anecdote. I was staying in El Cerrito at a house that’s a 10-minute walk from the El Cerrito de Norte BART station. We were going to a house in Noe Valley in SF. I wanted to take BART of course, but my friend insisted on driving. It was a Friday or Saturday afternoon, and we spent an hour in traffic on the I-80. Finally my friend agreed to take transit, so we drove back to the house and took BART.

        That single experience turned my friend into a transit fan, at least partly.
        On another occasion, we took PATH from Jersey City to lower Manhattan and walked from the Battery to Midtown. He now agrees that rail is wonderful in these other cities and is the best way to travel. He also started riding the 106 (before Link) to downtown, even though he drives everywhere else. But he’s a “Save Our Valley” type so he has never set foot on Link because they rerouted the 106 away from Rainier/Othello. He wants them to reinstate the old 106 and 42. He drove to the home show at the stadiums just to avoid Link. Sigh. But still, he agrees that mass transit is the way to go when visiting SF, NY, SD, and other cities. So that’s something at least. And if Metro provides frequent buses from southeast Rainier Valley to Link someday, he may eventually warm to it, once he stops favoring one-seat rides.

      6. “Ends up at main Muni maintenance center”

        So that’s why I rode a MUNI train once that went northbound on Church and then turned west to West Portal. I almost missed my Greyhound connection because of it, I had to wait ten minutes for an eastbound train which took fifteen more minutes to downtown, and then run to the Transbay Terminal. Fortunately the Greyhound departed late so I didn’t miss it.

    2. Awesome retort! I was in San Fran last October on vacation–record breaking heat and all–and it was fantastic. Got a hotel in downtown just two blocks from the cable car. Took BART to a few places, visited Berkely and Fremont, and even the train to San Jose. The trip to San Jose was really nice, once we left the industrial part of San Fran behind us. The train was really comfortable and we could basically choose when to leave since there were so many choices. We also took a bus to Golden Gate Park. It was really crowded and there was a lot of road construction, but we had a good time seeing the neighborhoods. If I had to drive around there, I’d have gone nuts trying to navigate those hills AND I wouldn’t have been able to see the architecture and the beauty.

      1. Cinesea,

        Based on my few few days’ experience last month staying across the street Golden Gate Park a couple of blocks from the N-Judah light rail line, have to say that every regular passenger occasionally has experiences that would make them agree d.p. has a point.

        For a couple of miles west of the portal where the line emerges from the Market Street tunnel at Fillmore, two-car trains slightly shorter than LINK with equipment a lot more trouble-prone run streetcar track at least 50 years old. Stopping at every single stop sign.

        From the days when Robert Louis Stevenson described San Francisco firsthand in 1879- which a lot of underground San Francisco probably dates from- everything in the city has been under constant repair. No system there really works, or ever has.

        Fortunately, the working people on the transit system and every other public utility keep the place working every day, from the time they sign on duty ’til they clock out. If they didn’t do such a good job, rents would be a lot lower.

        Maybe difference between city and suburban mentality anywhere is where people would rather wait out a travel delay: someplace they can walk to coffee, food, another transit line, or a cab? Or sitting in their car with their motor draining their bank account and their engine drowning polar bears?

        As a retired professional driver, …if I had to drive to San Francisco, my choice would be to park in Sacramento, get on California Amtrak, and head for BART and Muni. I really do love my car.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Cinesea,

        As I wrote above, you really do need to look at SF’s situation not from the perspective of a transit tourist but from the perspective of someone who lives there and requires that transit catalyze their ability to use the city, not just to explore it. Quick and comprehensive beats “seeing the neighborhoods” every time.

        Other than that, I really can’t improve on Mark’s direct reply (the one right above this), except to say how nice it can be to have both fast and thorough transit coverage and the urban pedestrian amenities Mark lists. It’s totally possible, as long as civic leaders learn to disassociate true mass transit with “intercity commutes and nothing else.” That’s our advocacy black hole around here.

  7. I had a thought today: once East Link is in operation, how will service be affected during an I-90 bridge closure, such as during Seafair?

    1. the only reason why traffic is stopped on I90 is to prevent accidents from all the idiots who would be distracted because they are too busy watching the aircraft … not because of any safety issue. Most likely Link would continue to operate during the performance.

      1. If the jets really pose no safety hazard, why not reserve the I-90 bridge for buses and emergency vehicles during the flights? Great for ridership. And everybody looking at the planes will also be moving, not blocking traffic.

        Mark Dublin

  8. “Norman says:
    August 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm
    You don’t deserve mobility if you’re not willing to pay the full cost of your own trips.”

    Then no one deserves mobility, whether the mobility is via walking, transit, car, bicycle, plane, ferry…

    1. Service to the deserving…carried to logical conclusion, only people entitled to travel are dead soldiers and civilians killed in wars for oil, or whose lives have been ruined by the pollution generated by its extraction and consumption. Better budget for a fully air-conditioned fleet.

      Also: apply theory to the sewage system, and the problem with it would soon become apparent, especially in weather like this afternoon.

      Mark Dublin

  9. About Route 39 problem, and everything else regarding both LINK and Metro bus operations:

    The King County Council and the County Executive are ultimately responsible for the operation of both systems. County and city officials are also appointed to the Sound Transit board.

    So with problems like the above, find out who your King County Council representative is, and get in the habit of contacting them often enough they know your name. Same with Sound Transit board, for more comprehensive matters.

    Until 1994, Metro Transit was run by an independent agency, the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle. One of the chief arguments for merging Metro into King County government was that this would result in directly elected representatives governing the transit system.

    So: transit ops are in your county council member’s job description. Almost 20 years ago, the voters said so.

    Mark Dublin

  10. d.p.

    Our respective reactions to intolerable transit are really pretty close. Couple of weeks ago my brother, who has lived in San Francisco for several years, texted me on his Blackberry to tell me he’d been waiting half an hour at Judah and Fifteenth for an inbound train, and seen six outbound trains go by. He signed off with: “This is why people don’t use public transit!”

    In many communications with public officials on the same subject over the years, taking advantage of my union’s protection from being fired for administering the truth without anaesthetic I’ve said the same thing in exactly those words to elected officials whose job really is to fix the situation.

    The transit workers of whom, and with whom I spoke-in any city with a transit system, I’m never entirely a touris, would swear to the truth of both our accusations. But I’m afraid the requisite politicians would say, with equal justification, that if any electorate in this country would vote public transit the same money it votes private car travel, the N-Judah could finally start to work.

    It’s late and tomorrow is a workday. But curious about your thinking on this: any ideas on how, exactly, could a line like the N-Judah be made fast and reliable? Does its tunnel have to be extended farther toward Ocean Beach? Having seen similar street rail in the Nordic countries travel faster and smoother, have some ideas. But success requires a different public attitude toward transit relative to automobiles.

    Seriously, looking forward to working with you in days to come.

    Mark Dublin

    1. What’s funny is that the exact same thing happened to me on the 44 a week or two ago. OBA also said two buses passed my stop, but none came.

    2. Hi, Mark,

      I guess I’m convinced that, thanks to a uniquely American inertia about public transit, it is nearly impossible to get upgrades to pre-existing fixed transit lines bumped up the priority queue. Political will and even Federal funding guidelines are stacked against it (the “new riders” mantra). That’s why I’m so adamantly opposed to endorsing Seattle BRT and streetcar plans replete with fatal compromises. I’m not trying to be a jerk; I just don’t think they’ll ever be fixed or supplanted. (Does any experienced Seattle resident truly believe that a future Ballard subway proposal wouldn’t be met with: “We built that streetcar already; no need to be redundant here!”?)

      People along the outer MUNI lines should thank their lucky stars that early city builders had the foresight to dig the Sunset and Twin Peaks tunnels (rather than trying to go around). And I hope whoever got the Market Street Subway double-decked as part of BART construction is now a local legend, because MUNI could easily have wound up plodding along the surface for all eternity.

      But past the Sunset portal, the N-Judah is probably stuck with its 1928 ROW. It would be shorter and faster if they could eliminate the zig-zags and run it along Parnassus; unfortunately, the steep grade between there and Irving and the impenetrability of the UCSF Medical campus make that a non-starter. The Judah stretch could be helped by stop deletions, but really, the line is what it is.

      But the N-Judah is nothing compared to the T-Third, a recent investment in transit to poorer southeast SF. The T-Third runs medium-fast for miles in a median strip, and every station is high-platform at all doors. All well and good, until it reaches Mission Creek (next to AT&T Park and the Caltrain depot), where it’s forced to take a left followed by two rights and merge into the King Street/South Embarcadero slug-slog. The slowdown is excruciating if you’ve merely come from the east slope of Potrero; I can’t imaging how nails-on-a-chalkboard it is if you’ve already been on that train for miles.

      There is a plan to bypass this bottleneck. But it’s anything but a done deal. Ground was supposed to have broken last year, but I probably wouldn’t bet my lunch money on it ever happening. ‘Cause the long way around that already exists is “good enough.”

      Just compare this to the much-ballyhooed Fremont-Ballard streetcar. The SLU segment stays pretty much as it is now, and I don’t see anyone trying to fast-track a tunnel bypass into downtown. It’s like we’re trying to enshrine substandardness.

      Trams in Europe aren’t necessarily any faster or better. They just occupy a more ubiquitous gap-filling role in citizens’ movements, ubiquitous enough that they’ll be maintained beyond routine failure and will always arrive without much wait. They also tend to be supplemental to real metro networks, such that virtually no one is taking the tram more than a mile or two. There are tram-only cities, but most of them could fit between downtown Seattle and the Ship Canal. Trying to make streetcars your backbone to cover greater distances than that, in an era of heavy at-grade competition from other modes, is just folly!

      (BTW, rapid transit within SF’s underserved triangle north and west of Market would have been significantly helped if BART’s Golden Gate Bridge line had come fruition. The benefits to the city would have been viewed as incidental, as this line was primarily about serving suburban Marin — it was the ’70s, after all — but even a couple of stops in the Western Addition or The Haight or the inner Richmond District or wherever would have opened up vast swaths of the city to the possibilities of “one transfer to a very fast ride. It’s also pertinent to note that Link’s wide-spacing bias — with its 2-mile gap right in the dead center of Seattle — would be the equivalent of building from Civic Center station to the Presidio with zero stops along the way, something that never would have been considered.)

      1. d.p.
        Because of sub-area equity Sound Transit MUST include additional transit in Seattle if it builds ANYTHING beyond what is in ST2. Given the transit ambitions of the other sub-areas and the relative tax bases even a relatively modest ST3 would have to include substantial additional transit for Seattle.

        While we have no idea what form that transit will take until we see the ST3 plan one can make some guesses. There are only so many corridors for rail projects and anything using Link cars will need to connect to the rest of the system so it doesn’t need its own O&M base.

        Downtown, to LQA, to Ballard shows up on so many transit plans because it is such a good potential transit corridor. Similarly the E/W corridor along 45th keeps coming up both due to transit demand and how badly surface congestion slows down the 44.

        If ST decides not to do a Downtown-LQA-Ballard line because the city already has a SLU-Fremont-Ballard line, where do you think they will build instead?

        Beyond that surface rail or BRT doesn’t have to suck. Make the lanes transit-only, give the vehicles meaningful TSP, keep stop spacing reasonable (none of this stop every block crap Muni does on its tails or Metro still does on all too many routes), have off-board payment, and all-door boarding and surface transit doesn’t need to suck.

      2. Chris,

        Thanks for defending so persuasively the importance of future sub-area equity and its potential to provide Seattle with real and useful mass transit.

        I do hope you’re right about the ST2-studied corridors remaining the paramount and non-negotiable priorities for Seattle under ST3.

        (I increasingly favor the east-west option, permanently doing away with the 44 nightmare while still providing a 14ish-minute ride to downtown via Capitol Hill. Though wouldn’t it be great to see both built, with the north-south route continuing to Crown Hill and 85th/Greenwood, giving Seattle for the first time the interconnectivity enjoyed by other cities for so long?)

        Still, I wouldn’t count any chickens. The “regionalists” approach “rapid transit must cross borders” as dogma and all else as heresy; they are deeply committed to their destructive misapprehension. Bet on them proposing, say, a Bothell branch, and arguing for Lake City/Lake Forest Park as North King’s share and “financial responsibility.” Also bet on them arguing away the need for Ballard or anything else “center city” based on a false satisfaction with whatever stopgaps we’ve built.

        Or maybe they’ll just go for broke and demand an end to sub-area equity. (“We’re a united region now! We’ve moved beyond it!”)

        Sadly, I don’t trust regional planners to do right by this city without a gun to their pocketbook. Why should I?

      3. Lake City/Bothell was cut from North Corridor consideration because it didn’t have as many riders as I-5 or Aurora. If Bothell proposes a Lake City line, it would have to compete against a 45th line, Ballard line, Renton-Burien like, 405 line, and 520 line, and the ones with the most riders would win. (I realize I’m mixing subareas, but all of these have at least some impact on North King and East King.) East King can’t force North King to build a route to it instead of an in-city line.

        My prediction is that Ballard/West Seattle, 45th, and Renton-Burien have the highest chance of passage. The east-west lines would have the most ridership growth because they’d enable L-shaped trips as well as just east-west. Burien/West Seattle is a parallel route but it serves city neighborhoods with high ridership.

        405 would be second. That would give the Eastside its own line, and give something to Kirkland and Bothell which have been left out, as well as for Rentonites going to Bellevue. Of course, anti-rail sentiment on the Eastside may cause this to be realized as BRT rather than rail.

        Lake City/Bothell, 520, and Issaquah are unlikely until ST4, or even then. Lake City Way is a parallel route, and it’s all low density except Lake City village, which is too small to justify a rail line before 45th and Ballard. There would also be technical difficulties with joining the underground Roosevelt station; the North Link tunnel will be full, and it would have to be creative to connect to Roosevelt-Brooklyn-Ballard if it wanted to go that way. Of course it would be much easier to terminate at Northgate station, if they decided to do that, and then it could continue to Ballard a la the 75.

      4. Short answer, Mike, is that I hope you’re right.

        But keep in mind that Sound Transit itself is setting the priorities, and to some degree it gets to interpret what constitutes “value” to each subarea.

        Didn’t Central Link get built A) first; B)along MLK; and C) with wide stop spacing largely because it was a cross-subarea line segment? And didn’t we just spend the entire last week debating about North King “offering” to pay for I-90?

      5. I recall last week’s argument as being about whether North King should pay for ID station to Rainier Ave. station. Rainier Ave. station is clearly useful to Seattle despite d.p.’s assertions to the contrary.

      6. I recall last week’s argument as being about whether North King should pay for ID station to Rainier Ave. station. Rainier Ave. station is clearly useful to Seattle despite d.p.’s assertions to the contrary.

        No one, not even d.p., is saying that the Rainier station is not useful to Seattle. Of course it is. The question is whether it’s useful *enough*. Yes, Rainier is a good transfer point, but its walkshed is terrible (kind of by definition, since it’s a freeway station). And it’s pretty darn expensive for a single station.

        ST wants to charge us $150 million for that station. There are a lot of things that we could buy for $150 million, and many of them will do much more to enhance mobility in Seattle than a few miles of track along the highway with a single stop.

        Not all transit projects are created equal, and not all transit projects with capital investments inside the City of Seattle are equally useful to residents of Seattle. That’s all.

  11. Just reading something at Publicola about the proposed license fees this year, I was thinking about the following:

    What if the legislature set car fees at a relatively high level – say, 100-200 dollars, but gave people the option of having their miles tracked and paying a fee based on their use (which would, in nearly all cases, be less than the flat fee)? I think we’re headed more toward a use-based funding model for transportation, or at least the idea is gaining momentum (which I support), and this would be another step in that direction. It solves the problem of people who use their cars very little paying the same fee as those who use them regularly, may marginally affect people’s thinking about mode choice, and with some insurance companies incorporating mileage tracking it seems like it could be implemented pretty easily.

    Any thoughts?

  12. Seattle Times article about the Sound Transit – Bellevue negotiations

    An interesting part is, “moving a planned station from Southeast Eighth Street to Main Street”. That may have been in our recent discussion and I missed it. It does sound like a good move because Main Street is the periphery of downtown and I believe has several large empty buildings ready for redevelopment. It would mean that Surrey Downs would no longer have a station, but they don’t seem to miss it much and it would have a weak walkshed anyway.

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