132 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: A Two-Ford Family”

  1. Cool. Sign me up.
    I especially love the two car garage that’s almost as big as the house to store all my cars. Of course they fill up with crap, then the cars have to sit outside.
    The average household in WA has 2.68 of those things.

    1. “The average household in WA has 2.68 of those things”

      Please tell me you made that stat up. It sounds too high, especially when you pull in all of the apartment dwellers out there.

      1. My point is that I live in a relatively affluent and car-centric area and can safely say that 2.68 is not the average here. My neighbor does have 3 cars but one is a work vehicle. Even counting that one and others like it, you don’t get to 2.68 here so I’d still like to know where that stat came from.

      2. 7 mil. registered vehicles in the state, with average HH size of 2.5. I’ll let you do your own math.

      3. “Registered vehicles” would include fleet cars and trucks associated with businesses – and even buses.

      4. So I get to roughly 2.68 because I personally own 2 cars plus about half a bus and a fraction of a base car at work. Cool way to inflate statistics for your purposes. Now, where to park that 1/2 bus?

    2. According to the American Community Survey 2005-2009 Estimates, 6.5% of the “occupied housing units” in Washington have no cars, 30.6% have one, 38.2% have two, and 24.7% have three or more. Even if all of the “3 or more” households had 5 cars, that’s only a mean of 2.31. I suspect the true average is somewhere around 1.9.

  2. So, the Two-Ford family will be paying $40 in county tabs (if outside the Seattle city limits) and getting $40 in paper bus tickets. This idea SUCKS SALMON!

    Have any other suggestions been considered on how to reduce the hit for low-income car owners?

    Has anyone heard a reason why giving out ORCAs with loaded value wasn’t considered?

    I’m at a loss as to how this giveaway makes the car tab less regressive. Finding a way for low-income car owners to not have to pay it, or not have to pay the full amount, is what would make it progressive.

    1. We’re talking about $20 here. If someone is really in a position where $20 matters to them, they can immediately save that money by taking the bus a for one week instead of buying a third to a quarter of a tank of gas.

      1. Yes, much cheaper. I remember when I registered my first car here in the mid-90’s it cost close to $400, and that was for a beater Buick that I inherited.

      2. “Yes, much cheaper.”

        And you could add “and much more regressive” to improve the accuracy. At least in the pre-695 days, those shelling out for $40,000 Mercedes were paying more than those with a “beater Buick”.

        As for Zeds $400, I’m wondering if there was some sales tax for moving a vehicle into the state in there as well. My memory is of paying somewhere around $300 or maybe $400 on tabs for a brand new Saturn. I’d be surprised if somebody was paying $400 for a “beater Buick”. Either way, tabs were *much* higher.

      3. The WA state bill for my then 6 year old car back in 1996 would have been over $400 if I had not instead registered it in Illinois where State registration was about $49 but most municipalities charged their own vehicle sticker fees of between $30-60.

    2. What’s regressive transportation infrastructure that requires a family that’s struggling to invest in automobile ownership while I’m able to live car-free and annually invest the cost of a nice car into my retirement savings.

      If you’re concerned about the lower class, then figure out how to finish subsidizing their car dependance, or reduce it.

    3. The decision was probably rushed, given that they put it together in two weeks. Paper tickets is the status quo so they went with that. This is really just a throwaway gesture to give drivers “something” of value for their $20, to assuage the discontents. It’s not a lot of transit trips or transit expenses in the whole scheme of things, especially if only a small percentage of drivers are expected to order the tickets. Switching to a new system else would have required even more debate and convincing, and they were under urgent pressure to get the whole deal finished by April 15th.

      I did write to the county, and to both councilmembers who respnded to my earlier email, saying that an ORCA option should be included in this. Maybe they’ll get enough feedback on this to make them do it. I also wrote that the county/Metro should do more to encourage universal ORCA adoption, including a cash surcharge and either a day pass or a maximum daily fare. King County can institute the cash surcharge unilaterally. The day pass would require agreement from all the ORCA stakeholders, but there’s no time like the present for King County to start pushing for it.

      1. One additional lobbying tactic. Emails followed up by phone messages are more likely to get read and responded to.

      2. Win or lose on the free e-purse distribution tomorrow, I hope we can generate a concerted lobby effort for the cash surcharge, to commence as quickly as Metro is willing to do it. Of course, it can’t hurt to start pushing it with the other agencies, too. I bet we’ll get it done faster at ST than at Metro.

      3. Ideally, you’d just give people a discount for bulk loads onto an ORCA card. It would increase the incentive and be easier to implement. I suspect that will require a political agreement among all ORCA partners and thus, would be more difficult to pull off.

      4. I wonder if the lack of ORCA inclusion has to do with the inability of ORCA to hold a “per ride” charge. IOW, you either have an unlimited pass or an e-purse, but you can’t buy say “10 rides” and have it on an ORCA card.

      5. An option for ORCA would be to give people a rebate code that they would than enter on the ORCA website to add the $20 or whatever to their ORCA card (or use part of it to purchase a card, and add the remainder or what have you). Of course this would require buyoff from ORCA and money and time to implement from the vendor. Mabye there will be a trade in deal offered at the Metro ticket booths or customer service centers or whatever they are.

      6. “Under such a system, do monthly pass loaders also get some sort of discount?”

        They already get a discount. Assuming 20 round trip rides per month a $2.50 pass holder gets a 10% discount. ($2.50 x 2 trips per day x 20 days = $100 vs $90 actual cost) If the pass holder uses their pass for more than 20 trips then the discount gets even steeper.

        Giving e-purse users a 10% discount for loading reasonable amounts, say at least $20-$40 at a time to minimize transaction costs, won’t cost you much, especially if it gets more cash payers to convert to ORCA.

    4. “Low income car owners” have been seeing a substantial discount on their car tab fees since Eyman hit the scene and eliminated value-based tab fees.

      I believe that Washington car owners pay the lowest annual car tab fees in the nation.

      The idea that an owner of a $40,000.00 SUV pays the same fee as the owner of a ’91 Honda Accord is assinine.

      1. Objectivists would say there is no value difference in use of the roads between a beater and an expensive car and to assign such a value based on income is IMMORAL.

        But then I’m a Keynesian. ;-)

      2. part of the problem was that the MVET tables were and still are so far out of touch with reality with no possible recorse its no wonder why everyone approved I-695. He could have made it $100 flat fee and they still would have approved it. Ever try to get any questions awnsered about the ST mevet? Forgettaboutit. You call one guy, he tells you to call another, and another, and so on so forth until you get some vague refrences to the law. eventually you might get the copy of the mvet table after trying off and on for a couple of months but even than it dosent make sense and is so far out of touch with reality its useless.

  3. Totally off topic: I’d like to keep the conversation going with the day pass advocates.

    I can see the value in some sort of day cap on ORCA only, to further incentivize ORCA use. But I couldn’t come up with the right flat value that would work. So, maybe a more flexible (but still simple) formula needs to be found.

    Here’s my suggestion: Charge for the two most expensive rides during the calendar day (midnight to midnight) and make the rest free. If this amount is more than what would be charged by the two-hour transfer formula, then charge the latter.

    For the vast majority of commuting riders, it would have little effect, and would not draw people away from monthly passes. For riders who ride infrequently, but go all over the place when they do, this would be for them, but at a slight cost to the fare revenue stream. It would make riding the bus a little more affordable for those who do so only when they have to run into town and do lots of errands.

    It would also address the question of the downtown lunch crowd which might soon no longer have a free ride.

    This flexible day cap has drawbacks I have to warn you about.

    1. It will cost the bus system some revenue.
    2. It will cost some money to redesign the software and implement it.
    3. It would probably take a consensus of the ORCA bus agencies to implement it. But each agency could theoretically have a day cap on their own trips, if they are willing to shoulder the full cost of implementation.
    4. It might become an excuse not to implement other fare payment reforms that will have a bigger impact on incentivizing ORCA use.

    Let’s discuss further.

    1. First, instead of midnight-to-midnight, make it a service day, corresponding to the times that Link runs, so the day should end sometime between 1am and 4:30 am. Maybe 3am to 3am would be a good interval.

      Second, I wonder how difficult it would be to implement with the card software. Is there enough info stored on the card, and is there enough processing power in the right places, to avoid increasing the tap on delay?

      1. If you look at the ORCA Card contract, it’s entirely capable of a per-day cap, storing day passes, rolling passes (e.g. A 31 day pass valid for 31 days from the date of purchase, not a fixed calendar date), fare discounts on e-purse balances, etc. it’s all ready designed into and in the software on the card and backend systems. There is also a paper, temporary card that can be used as a short term pass. The issue is getting partner agencies to agree to them, and the costs of actually implementing the features.

        Ideally, I’d like to see Seattle apply the $400,000 RFA budget to off board payment in the downtown core (Which is partly coming with Rapid Ride lines along 3rd avenue), as well as helping Metro implement fare capping and rolling passes.

        Oh, and paper transfers need to go. I’ve lost count of people trying to sell me transfers or having a collection of old transfers so they can skip fare.

    2. Here are some much simpler ways to get more people on ORCA:

      1. Eliminate paper transfers.
      2. Increase the number of locations where ORCA is available or value can be added.
      3. Make the $5 card cost refundable.
      4. Increase the cost of cash trips.

      1. Yeah, I think that’s about right from the discussion in the past two weeks. Can we maybe write a letter suggesting these changes? I went to a Red Sox game last night, and cash payers kept my bus, one of the #70’s-series grounded for 5 min at ID station. Most cash payers got off at or before Westlake…

      2. PS)

        Please add:

        5. Provide prepaid tickets, which can be inserted to the farebox for validation. They can be sold at existing ST’s vending machines and drug stores etc.

      3. No, please don’t add bus tickets to the ORCA VMs. The cash boxes don’t have the technology to count anything other than cash, so the driver will have to inspect them carefully, which will be just as slow as fumbling cash.

      4. Suggestion 1, I’ve been told by officials, is not happening any time soon. They fear it will increase resistance to the route changes they’d like to do from people wanting to keep paying cash and not get charged more because a 1-seat ride becomes a 2-seat ride. I’m content to give the county council the opportunity to show it has the fortitude to make the route improvements.

        Suggestions 2 and 3 would be a hit to Metro’s (and the other agencies’) budget. I don’t see them happening right now.

        Suggestion 4 would be revenue-positive, obviously. I think we could make it happen as early as October 1 of this year if we make a concerted lobbying effort for it. The only big investments would be new signage and training, since the ORCA reader programming wouldn’t change. If it is easy extra income for Metro/ST/etc, and there is no organized resistance from the people who imagine bus riders living in invisible apartments on Dearborn, I don’t see why it wouldn’t happen. Let’s give it a shot!

      5. Let’s not get too caught up in eliminating paper transfers or paper tickets. These only take a split second to show to the driver or put in the farebox. That’s the same amount of time it takes to tap an ORCA card, and it’s 90% faster than fishing cash out of your pocket. So minimize cash payments first, and then worry about paper transfers and paper tickets later.

      6. Brent,

        I generally agree with your assessment and we should focus our efforts on #4, which can be implemented at any time, but I don’t quite understand why #3 hits Metro’s budget. Also, I’ve seen a plenty of buses whose farebox can read bus tickets. I was using prepaid paper tickets frequently when I lived in Victoria, and it was working perfect.

      7. I think 2 should be the top priority. We need to make it easier to get and add value to ORCA cards. Full-service TVMs are expensive, instead focus on expanding the retail network. People should be able to get and revalue their ORCA card at the nearest corner store, or drug store, or grocery that they can walk to.

        I also agree with Mike but also if cash payment needs to happen, it should happen off the bus which can be done with cheap Swift style TVMs.

      8. I’m not really caught up in eliminating paper transfers. I think that if only ORCA allowed transfers, though, it would increase the incentive to use ORCA. I’m not convinced making the cards refundable will be a big hit to the budget. Might even increase revenue if it means that more people see fit to try ORCA risk-free.

        London allows refundable cards, and I don’t think very many people use the option. It’d be great to see their data on this.

      9. @Keibun,

        Suggestion 3 means Metro doesn’t get to keep the $5. That’s why I say it would be a hit on Metro’s budget.

        We may mean different things by different terminology on tickets. The pull-out, any-time tickets don’t slow things down much, as long as you don’t have to fumble around for multiple tickets to add up to the value of the ride. But those tickets don’t serve as POP, of course.

        There have been several suggestions that ORCA VMs print out bus tickets, presumably stamped with the time the ticket is purchased, so that it can serve as POP. If they are being used solely for POP, that’s fine. If they are being used as flash passes during pay-as-you-board, that’s where the slow-down comes in. The driver has to then carefully inspect the date and time, slowing down the line roughly like a change fumbler.

      10. “If they are being used as flash passes during pay-as-you-board, that’s where the slow-down comes in. The driver has to then carefully inspect the date and time, slowing down the line roughly like a change fumbler.”

        When Sound Transit used to accept Link and Sounder tickets for a ride I found them virtually impossible to read on the fly and, frankly, just gave up trying. Virtually all that I did inspect thoroughly were valid so it was kind of pointless to waste all that time catching the ~1-5% that were intentionally trying to cheat the system. And when I do “catch” somebody not paying, you’ve never seen somebody fumble so much for change or bills, probably purposely to “punish” me for “catching” them.

        Seriously, don’t make us responsible for enforcing fares. We have little power to do anything if anybody doesn’t want to pay other than go against policy and get snippy or “not see” the scofflaw when they’re waiting at a bus stop alone. If we utilize such tactics the savvy scofflaw can actually complain about the encounter and then we get in hot water.

        Design a POP system that works and then increase the use of fare inspectors. RapidRide seems to be working well. Just figure out how to expand that system and decrease the incentive to pay cash – problem solved – mostly, at least.

      11. Another problem with making operators responsible for fare enforcement is that once the passenger is allowed on board with the operator knowing that he didn’t pay, that becomes a positive defense against fining or arresting the ne’er-do-well.

      12. @Oran,

        I think we’re talking about two different problems, that need to be addressed by two different audiences.

        Making ORCA more available addresses the issue of getting ORCA into more hands. A cash surcharge addresses ORCA holders who simply choose to pay with cash instead of using e-purse for any number of reasons.

        Making ORCA and its reloading more available is an implementation issue handled directly by Metro. Adding a cash surcharge is a policy change that has to be directed at the county council. I don’t see the two pushes as competing for one body’s attention span.

      13. Why not make the cost of public transportation based on mileage from where you get on to where you end up? Pay for entry just doesn’t make sense. Paying to switch providers doesn’t make sense. This can all be done with a chip in a debit type card.

      14. the TAP card in LA is $2 which is reasonable, why is ORCA $5? and the only way i’d be willing to accept #1 and #4 is if #2 was a reality with atleast one TVMs for ORCA at EVERY official transit station and better phone support (most of the day every day 4-5 am to atleast 9 or 10 pm)

      15. Glenn,

        It’s an appealing idea, but there a number of reasons why that doesn’t work out in practice.

        Jarrett Walker has a great article on fair fares. The basic idea is that, because the marginal operating cost per rider is very small, you can get into some perverse situations.

        In practice, it makes more sense to structure fares based on the kinds of behavior you want to incentivize. For example, one-way peak express buses should cost more, because that’s a type of service that’s very expensive to provide, compared to the alternative of a local bus connecting to an all-day frequent route. Similarly, peak-period service should cost more than non-peak service, because most of a bus agency’s costs are peak costs (they need to have enough buses and drivers for the busiest times), and so peak service is more expensive to provide than non-peak.

        On the other hand, distance-based fares for local service are somewhat annoying to implement, and arguably not worth it. There’s no real value in incentivizing partial trips — the bus already has to travel the whole route.

        Anyway, read the article; I think it’ll answer your question much better than I could. :)

    3. “It will cost the system some revenue.”

      I’ve been given rough estimate of $100 an hour for the cost of operating a bus, probably more for a train. So you can figure that every minute an in-service vehicle carrying passengers is not in motion costs the system at least $1.67.

      A five minute delay on a single bus caused by fare collection- common at the Northgate or Lynnwood Transit Center at pm rush, could cost around ten dollars dollars. Ten minutes- common on heavy trolley routes same time, might cost twenty.

      Cash fare collection in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel routinely holds both buses and following LINK trains- which shouldn’t be slowed by fare-collection at all- at least three minutes a trip, often much more on game nights. Added to the other expenses of keeping the Tunnel open.

      Anything that makes transit harder or more aggravating to use has another very damaging cost: lost customer good-will. If good-will didn’t have monetary value, private businesses would not spend fortunes trying to generate it. “Run it like a business” means above all “Don’t tick off your customers!”

      Of course our present fare system can handle day passes. Our ticket machines issue them now for round trip LINK fares! Those day passes could be used system-wide. An ORCA card can be programmed to cost anything and offer anything! Interagency arguments are not excuses: they’re violations of the promise of an integrated system.

      Everybody reading this, find out name and number your County Council representative, and also your Sound Transit boardmember- possibly the same person. Message: “Every other system on the West Coast has day passes in one form or another. Just do it.”

      Mark Dublin

    4. Somewhere I heard that the resistance to day passes is that monthly pass sales would fall if day passes were available. Commuters would stop buying monthly passes and switch to day passes and agency revenues would fall. Please don’t ask me for a source or citation, but that’s what I’ve understood is the problem with day passes.

      My solution would be to have day pass available only from 9am until the end of the service day. Anybody who rides before 9am pays full fare (or uses their monthly pass), but after 9am a day pass would be available for unlimited rides for the rest of the service day. The problems of how to purchase, where to purchase and inter-agency integration still need to be worked out, but starting the day pass at 9am would likely maintain the revenue stream from monthly pass sales.

      1. If the cost of a day pass times the number of work days is more than the cost of the monthly pass that can’t possibly be an issue. The day pass charges people throw around here are all over $5 (and anything up to $10 seems like a reasonable deal to me for a real day pass user.) The cheapest one zone peak pass is $81 a month. $5 times 20 is $100. Unless there are a lot of bus commuters who buy a pass even though they use it less than 15 days a month, even a $5 day pass seems a bit pricey. Make it $7 or more and I can’t imagine it’s an economic choice for most current monthly pass holders that actually bus commute most days.

      2. Houston used to have day passes valid for 24 hours from when you first boarded the bus and asked for it. So, I would sometimes game the system by leaving at 7:00 one morning, 6:50 the next morning, 6:40 the morning after that and so on, the effect being that the so-called day-pass was actually valid for a day and a half most of the time. The cost of the day pass was equivalent to 2 1-way fares, so I got what amounted to a 30%’ish discount off the regular fare price.

    5. Most people who would want a day pass would be tourists, who could easily be confused by a cap like that. I think it’s just better to decide that a day pass for the region excluding Sounder will be, say, $6, and let people load that day pass onto an ORCA card.

  4. Took LINK to Mariners game last night from Tukwila International (love that station, looks like something from the World’s Fair). Used my ORCA, my son visiting from Colorado got the all day Youth Pass for $2.50.

    Signage leading from the highway (and back), was abysmal. When exiting, some crafty fellow had put his ad “LINK Parking $10” pointing in the opposite direction of the (free) station parking.

    Station parking was somewhat full at 6pm, but I attributed that to the earlier Sounders game.

    Going there, almost all the seats were filled. After leaving Tukwila, I think the total boardings were no more than ten, and that’s being generous. Just kept passing one empty station after the other.

    I find the disembodied voice that says “exit to my left” amusing, since we have no idea where she is located.

    SODO station, very serviceable…but coming back, they have the ticket vending windows positioned so the people who line up there block access to the rest of the station…bad design when crowded.

    I left immediately after the Mariners won, and the train was packed, as the often are, leaving people to wait for next train. Boardings on and off after SODO were completely non-existent. At Rainier Beach and Othello, the doors would open into this black, empty, silent void, and people would look out the doors with expressions that said “why are we stopping here”. It reminded me of when a NYC subway gets stuck between stations in a tunnel.

    Tukwila….ahh…clean, well lit…and a place where people want to go to! Lots of noise and families exiting…this train serves a real purpose…as a parking lot shuttle!

    Surprisingly about one-third of the crowd went on to SeaTac. Half the stadium were Sox fans, wonder if they were flying back or staying near airport….

    1. “Going there, almost all the seats were filled.” So, less than 74 people on your Link car.

      “SODO station, very serviceable” If you went to the M’s game, why would you get off an on at SODO, which is one mile from Safeco Field? The STADIUM station is the station just a couple blocks from Safeco Field — not SODO station.

      “I left immediately after the Mariners won, and the train was packed,” Did you make any attempt to count the passengers on your end of the Link car, to give us some idea of how many people constitute a “packed” car? Or take some pictures?

      “this train serves a real purpose…as a parking lot shuttle!” With free parking at Tukwila, they could take the same number of people to and from M’s games on buses, using I-5 and the SODO bus lanes.

      Were they running 2-car trains both going to and from the M’s game yesterday, or 1-car trains because it was a Saturday?

      1. Packed:

        all seats taken.

        standing area neat doors full, but not crowded with people pressed together.

        upper level aisles barely full

        so I guess packed is a bit of an exaggeration

      2. Sounds like a lot less than 200 people per car, then. 200 people per car is every seat taken, plus about 2 standing passengers for every seat in each end of the car (nobody ever stands in the middle if the middle seats are all taken, because the narrow aisle in the middle has room enough only for the feet of the people sitting.)

      3. But still, people found the train too full to get on. I did not know that was happening on Link.

      4. Right. What that illustrates is that people consider Link cars to be “full” when they have less than 200 people on them, if Bailo’s description is reasonably accurate.

        Why doesn’t someone on this blog stand on the Stadium Station platform this afternoon about 4:00, when the M’s game will likely be about over, and count people getting on one Link car? Or, take a video from an angle where you could count people getting on one car while watching the video?

        This is an opportunity to find out how many people will get on Link cars after “events”. If you have a video showing 200 people boarding one link car at Stadium station after an M’s game, that will prove that Link cars can carry 200 people after events.

        For example, Oran likes to take videos.

  5. In the last 5 years, the world population has increased from 6,512,000,000 in 2005 to 6,909,000,000 by 2010. An increase almost 397,000,000. If half of them reach 21 and buys a car, each of those would require fuel. Increasing the demand for fuel. With an increase in demand, and with only finite supply in petroleum, the price of fuel will only increase. How much?

    1. Fifteen years from now the average new car sold in the U.S. will get about twice as many miles per gallon as the current U.S. auto fleet. Fifteen years from now, at least 10 percent of new U.S. autos will probably be electric cars.

      Gasoline consumption in the U.S. will almost certainly be lower in 2030 than it is today. And it will be far lower on a per capita basis than it is today, due to great gains in fuel efficiency.

      In 2011 dollars, the price of gasoline will probably be about the same in 2030 as it is today. However, even if the price does go up, cars will be getting twice as many miles per gallon as they do today, so the price of gas won’t matter all that much.

      By the way, since you brought up the cost of fuel, the price of oil has fallen from $115 per barrel in May to about $85 per barrel today (before it opens today). That $30/barrel drop in the price of oil in the last 3 months will be showing up at the gas pumps in a few weeks. A $30/barrel drop in the price of oil equates to a drop of about 75 cents per gallon of gas at the pump.

      I expect gas to be back around $3 per gallon or less before the end of this year. Especially if the civil war in Libya ends, and Libya starts producing oil again. The recent $30/barrel drop in the price of oil has occurred while Libya is still not exporting any oil to speak of.

      1. If Norman is correct, we should be talking about finding better methods to fairly represent the cost of automotive infrastructure than gasoline consumption. Otherwise, how can we expect the market to work?

      2. Too bad the price at the pump doesn’t include the rest of the costs, starting with the wars we have to fight to secure foreign oil, and the damage we take extracting domestic oil.

        Every patriotic fiscal conservative and deficit hawk should be hollering at the top of their lungs for a gas tax to pay for the current three wars we’re fighting for fuel.

        But even free gasoline doesn’t move anybody anywhere when roads are full and there’s no more room to build more. It’s not the gas that’s running out. It’s the space.

        Mark Dublin

      3. What wars are we fighting for fuel? That is just ridiculous. They have a lot of oil in Afghanistan? lol

      4. “Gasoline consumption in the U.S. will almost certainly be lower in 2030 than it is today”

        I love finding stuff you say that I agree with – it’s so rare :) One question for you, Norm: If Gasoline consumption is going down, and yes – it already is, where is all the money going to come from to maintain and expand freeways?

        “What wars are we fighting for fuel? That is just ridiculous. They have a lot of oil in Afghanistan? lol”

        Ever heard of a little place called “Iraq” that coincidentally had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11? Do you honestly believe the US would have the same number of military resources deployed in the middle east if their only export were dates and cotton?

      5. The Iraq war had nothing to do with oil. It was about “regime change” (Bush hated Sadaam), and “weapons of mass destruction”. It was a stupid war which should never have happened, and it caused a large DEDREASE in oil exports from Iraq. Blaming the Iraq war on oil is just stupid.

        And what, exactly does Afghanistan export, besides heroin?

        There are lots of ways to pay for roads: tolls, gas tax, MVET, sales taxes on cars and parts. The key is that we stop wasting much of the money motorists pay in taxes and fees, on transit, instead of spending it on roads. Seattle has hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance on roads, yet there are fools in this city who want to increase taxes on cars, and waste the money on streetcars and bike lanes, instead of spending it on roads, where it should be spent.

      6. (Bush hated Sadaam

        Yeah, because he nationalized all the foreign oil companies! The first dictator to do it starting a trend around the world. Notice he wasn’t big on Hugo Chávez either.

      7. “Denial” LOL

        You make up a fantasy that we invaded Iraq for oil — which they were exporting in large volumes before the war — and when I correct your mistake, you accuse me of being in “denial”.

        Yeah, I am denying that your fantasy is reality. It is not — it is just your fantasy.

        Repeating a fantasy over and over does not make it true, does it?

      8. Afghanistan is right next to our sometime buddy, Iran (huge oil and natural gas deposits). It was also a very good place to put oil pipelines from the Caspian Sea that didn’t involve Russia. Though with the state of things in Pakistan, which have been the end of the pipeline, not so great an idea now.

      9. Who really believes that we will be using substantially less oil/gas than we do now? Population increases, vehicle number increases, etc all point to using at least the same amount 10 years from now that we do now. Gas mileage across the board is just about what it was 20 years ago thanks to the big-assed vehicles like Ford Excursion and Lincoln Navigator. And the price of a hybrid still hasn’t come down to the point where it is cost-effective over the life of the car to make it cheaper than a regular combustion-engine car.

      10. “Who really believes that we will be using substantially less oil/gas than we do now?”

        As Velo posted a few days ago, “Dude, where’s my cars?“. Vehicle miles peaked in the early 2000s and is falling, notwithstanding the short-term fluctuations of the recession and rehires. Plus the teenage/twentysomething generation is less excited about cars than their parents, and more people will be elderly and unable to drive. This all does pose a long-term problem for revenues based on driving and car sales, but the trend will be gradual and there’ll be time to gradually shift to other revenue sources.

      11. The internet is replacing a lot of trips. Internet shopping is growing sustantially every year. People are using the internet to shop, bank, watch movies, download music, and work. So the number of trips people make is falling, in large part due to the internet. People don’t make as many trips to stores, banks, video rental places, music store, or work, because many people now do those things over the internet.

        Add in the fact that cars will be vastly more fuel-efficient, including many electric cars that don’t use oil at all, and it’s easy to predict that the U.S. will use a lot less oil a couple of decades from now than we do today.

      12. 15 years from now no car in America should be using gasoline. When someone gets a handle on this lots of problems will be solved and we will have new ones.

      13. I’ve been hearing the same old stories for years about how upping the mpg of vehicles will result in Americans using less gas. But, besides a few drops over the past decades, we’re still using nearly as much as we were 30 years ago. Whether its the automakers coming up with SUVs that get truck-style gas mileage, or just people buying more cars in general, our gasoline useage has remained basically the same.

      14. “Gasoline consumption in the U.S. will almost certainly be lower in 2030 than it is today.” That’s what we said 20 years ago and the average fuel economy from 1985 to now has barely budged. Don’t expect better economy unless the government forces it.

      15. Don’t take our word for it:

        “BP is unlikely to sell more gasoline to Americans than it sold in the first half of 2008. Energy efficiency means demand from OECD countries will continue to decline.” – Tony Hayward – Then CEO of BP

        Oil demand will continue to rise in the short to mid term because of new demand from emerging markets, however. I’m mainly referring to US consumption.

      16. Diesel-Electric vehicles would be far more efficient than the current gas/electric hybrids. Europe has started to build cars with this powerplant and they are getting amazing MPGs with them.

        So don’t discount the likelyhood of a competitively-priced 100 MPG sedan within 15 years- especially if carbon fiber and lighter materials replace steel and still pass crash safety standards.

  6. “There are lots of ways to pay for roads: tolls, gas tax, MVET, sales taxes on cars and parts. The key is that we stop wasting much of the money motorists pay in taxes and fees, on transit, instead of spending it on roads. ”

    The key is to have a decent transportation infrastructure and recognize that such a thing requires significant subsidies. Roads are necessary to modern life and non-motorists should pay for some of the cost, as they receive a substantial benefit from them. Motorists receive a substantial benefit from transit, especially in an urbanized environment like greater Seattle, and should pay as well. This Balkanization you fantasize about is counter-productive and the end result is no mobility other than walking.

  7. One of the many advantages of cars is that they are so much less expensive to operate than transit, at least in our area.


    Page 6, Operating Cost of autos in 2010, according to AAA:

    Average car: 17.74 cents per vehicle-mile
    Small Sedan: 14.83 cents per vehicle-mile

    Using the latest average of 1.55 passengers per auto in the U.S. that comes to:

    Average car: 11.45 cents per passenger-mile
    Small Sedan: 9.57 cents per passenger-mile

    Compare that to Metro’s operating cost per passenger-mile.

    Central Link’s operating cost is close to $1.00 per pasenger-mile.

    So, the operating cost of Central Link is about TEN TIMES as high as the operating cost of a small sedan, on a dollars per passenger-mile basis.

    The insanely high cost of ST light rail is absolutely not sustainable. Why should be build a system that has operating costs about ten times as high as a small sedan, and about eight times as high as the average U.S. car? That is just stupid. We can’t afford that.

    1. If the operating cost of a car is 9-12 cents per mile, why does the IRS have an allowance of $.55 per mile? Yet another way that cars are subsidized!

      1. IRS figures in depreciation. It’s a broad average. Obviously if you drive a new luxury car off the lot your depreciation per mile is going to be many time that of a basic midsize sedan. The IRS also figures all maintenance is done by a mechanic but a large percentage of the public is at least able to change their own oil and other simple jobs.

      1. “I hate waste and stupidity. Don’t you?”

        Yes, I do. Designing a transportation system that virtually forces most to drag a 4000 pound vehicle to the store to pick up some milk and fruit is stupid and wasteful, don’t you think?

      2. Have you ever seen people shopping at Costco? In one trip they buy enough to last for weeks.

        Try doing that on a bicycle or by bus or light rail.

        You think it’s smarter to cost close to $1 per passenger-mile to transport people to get groceries, or to cost 10 cents per passenger-mile to transport people?

      3. That’s not what I said and you know it. Yes, I shop at Costco – about 4-6 times a year. I bike about 3-5 times a week and frequently stop by the store on my way home. I’m Ok with riding on Bellevue’s streets but most people aren’t. I’d like the city to implement their planned bicycle and pedestrians improvements to give people more options.

        Meanwhile, you’ll just complain about how we need to spend more (in my mind, waste more) money on automobile infrastructure.

        I’m done with your trolling here.

    2. Do Link’s costs include the stations and maintenance or amortization of the right of way?

      I am sure the car operating costs don’t include any costs of the roadways or parking. So it’s probably an apples and lemons comparison.

      1. Both the almost $1 per passenger-mile for Link and the 9.57 cents per passenger-mile for a small sedan are only OPERATING costs.

        Those costs for Link do not include the stations, tracks, right-of-way or the rail cars themselves. They include only the operating costs as given by Sound Transit in their financial documents.

        Likewise, the operating costs for cars are only operating costs: gas, maintenance and tires. They do not include depreciation, finance costs, or other OWNERSHIP costs.

        However, operating cost for cars does include the gas tax, and sales tax on tires and maintenance, which is used for roads. NONE of the operating costs for Link go towards the tracks, right of way, the trains, or anything else.

      2. Not seeing 9.57 cents per mile anywhere for the small car. It looks like it’s 14.83 cents per mile on my copy and 58.6 cents per mile for total cost. The total cost includes insurance, license, registration, taxes and depreciation but the 14.83 does not.

        Shall I suggest moving to Pasco? They’ll never build Light Rail there and in fact add lanes of freeway where they don’t even need them just so everyone can get their SUVs on the road. They have a “freeway” the size of I-5 (downtown Seattle) between towns the size of Lynnwood and Edmonds.

      3. The 14.83 cents per mile is the cost per VEHICLE mile. Since, on average, cars in the U.S. carry 1.55 passengers per car, that makes the cost per PASSENGER mile about 9.57 cents for a small sedan.

        I thought I already explained that. Perhaps it’s a little too complicated for you?

        Or, maybe you prefer to compare the cost per VEHICLE mile of autos to the cost per VEHICLE mile of light rail?

        It is true that the OPERATING costs for autos don’t include the ownership costs, just as the OPERATING costs for Link light rail don’t include any of the capital costs.

        I am comparing operating costs of autos to operating costs of light rail. Apples to apples.

        Is that ok with you?

      4. “I am comparing operating costs of autos to operating costs of light rail. Apples to apples.”

        You’re delusional.

      5. It’s fair to either count depreciation or not when making the comparison. But, one should also then subtract farebox and advertising revenue since a private automobile has no cost recovery. King County is large enough to self insure which leads to a cost saving over private autos. Again, cost of insurance, depreciation and even oil and gas will vary a great deal so it’s difficult to come up with an exact cost. A better comparison would be taxi cost per passenger miles since they also provide the service of a driver which would have to be account for some how to really make any sort of fair comparison.

      6. “since a private automobile has no cost recovery.”

        What are you talking about? A private automobile has 100% cost recovery — the passengers pay 100% of the cost! Or, do you think most people are just given a car for free and somebody else is paying the operating costs for them?

      7. Well, when you put it that way Link has 100% cost recovery too; the bills get paid. Like I said, if you want to really compare the O&M costs of an auto with Link they you’ve got to use a taxi where you can assign value to the drivers time (unless your time is worthless). Taxis, like public transit replace or rebuild vehicles based on reliability. I doubt any 10 year old cars have the MTBF that would be acceptable for commercial service or could pull the duty cycle required so you have to figure in the “spares” cost.

      8. We’re not talking about commercial vehicles — we are talking about personally-owned autos, which most people use for transportation.

        I am comparing the costs of people driving their own cars versus taking transit. That is what the AAA study is about. That is what most of the 5 million or so autos in WA state are — privately-owned cars which the owners drive themselves.

        Moving people on transit in this area is vastly more expensive than people traveling in their own cars, on a per-passenger-mile basis.

        Of course, you could also factor in that driving in your own car is usually far faster than taking transit — saving people who drive a lot of time.

      9. “Moving people on transit in this area is vastly more expensive than people traveling in their own cars, on a per-passenger-mile basis.”

        It wouldn’t be if more people used transit. Funny how statistics work, huh?

      10. Not faster than taking a cab. Certainly not faster, or cheaper than taking a cab in a city that you’re visiting. Tried checking you’re car as luggage? Not going to happen even with a “Smart” car. So unless you’re looking at taxis you’re comparing apples with cinder blocks. I can make my bike look much cheaper than your car on a passenger mile metric but it’s meaningless.

      11. It wouldn’t be if more people used transit.

        What’s more important is what would be the marginal cost of moving 20% of the peak trips via private automobile. Rough guess could be derived from the number of lanes required and the ~$250 million per lane mile of the DBT.

    3. And total cost is 58 cents per mile. What is the total cost of transit per mile including ownership? Also do you have a link to the ST/Metro equivalents to the AAA documents?

      1. 58 cents per VEHICLE mile. Or about 37 cents per passenger mile.

        Link costs somewhere around $2.35 per passenger mile, including depreciation and all operating costs.

        Interesting that ST apparently does not give cost per passenger-mile anywhere.

      2. Of course the ownership costs in the AAA study are for NEW cars in their first five years of ownership, when depreciation is greatest.

        AAA assumes depreciation of $3,728 per year. The average car in ths U.S. is 10 years old. Depreciation on a 10-year-old car is more like $500 per year, or less.

        The AAA study also includes a “finance charge” of $823 per year. The average, 10-year-old car in the U.S. doesn’t have any finance charges left on it, since the AAA assumes new cars with a five-year loan at 6%. After the first 5 years, the loan is paid off, and you are not paying a finance charge any more.

        So, for someone driving the average 10-year-old car, total costs, including depreciation, insurance, license fees, et. al., plus all operating costs comes to around 31.5 cents per VEHICLE mile, or about 20 cents per PASSENGER mile.

        So, Link light rail total cost about $2.35 per passenger-mile.

        10-year-old car total cost about 20 cents per passenger-mile.

    4. Link is a brand-new system that’s around 1/4th built out. As more of the system comes on line, the per-passenger cost will plummet. And when the public approves an expanded system after that–which they will–Link will become even more efficient.

      1. That is not necessarily true. Link will not carry many more passengers than it is now without operating a lot more trains, which will increase operating costs. And the trips between Capitol Hill and downtown, and U.W. and downtown are short trips, so not that many passenger-MILES per boarding on U-Link.

      2. “And the trips between Capitol Hill and downtown, and U.W. and downtown are short trips, so not that many passenger-MILES”

        Trips are only important if they’re long?

      3. The cost of the M&O facility and DSTT operations will be amortized over more Link trips, reducing the per-trip costs associated with them.

        Increasing the reach of Link will enable longer trips. You can’t say flat out that the passenger-miles per trip will decrease with U-Link.

  8. We had relatives use that “prisoner at home” line from the Ford commercial with us when we had our first daughter and continued to not own a car. It’s really hard to explain to people who do live in car-oriented suburbs how much nicer life is without needing to drive everywhere.

  9. Two random questions about bus stop signs/schedules:

    1. Why do signs list “Local/Express”, but not “Local”? Intuitively, I think that most people who saw an unadorned number on a bus stop sign would assume that *all* buses with that number stopped there. Metro seems to think so too — there’s a big “Rider Alert” sign at the 71/72/73 local southbound stop right before the University Bridge, informing riders that the express buses do not stop there. So why doesn’t Metro just phase out LOCAL/EXPRESS, and instead mark the stops that only serve some buses?

    2. How does Metro decide when to combine multiple routes into a single schedule listing? Also at that stop, I noticed that the 71/72/73 were listed together, but the 70 and 83 were listed separately. The thing is, all of these buses are essentially the same, and (aside from the tunnel) follow the same route. An integrated schedule, with different letter codes to indicate if it was a tunnel bus, would provide a much more coherent picture of how to get to downtown/Eastlake from that stop. Yes, there’s the tunnel difference, but I know that Metro sometimes combines tunnel with non-tunnel routes; for example, at the westbound Montlake freeway stop, the 255/256 are listed with lots of other inbound Eastside buses.

    Anyway, just wondering if any of my fellow transit geeks know the history behind any of these procedures. :)

  10. UTC Power’s Fuel Cell System Sets World Record – Achieving 10,000-Hour Durability in Transit Service

    UTC Power, a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) company, today announced that one of its latest generation PureMotion® System Model 120 fuel cell powerplants for hybrid-electric transit buses has surpassed 10,000 operating hours in real-world service with its original cell stacks and no cell replacements. This powerplant is aboard an Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) bus operating in the Greater Oakland, Calif. area.


  11. Car-sharing service RelayRides expands into Boston from Cambridge, adds new funding

    RelayRides, the “neighbor-to-neighbor” car-sharing service, is jumping the Charles this month, using $3.6 million in new funds to expand from Cambridge, where the company was founded, into Boston. The company is also expanding in the city of San Francisco, where it is now headquartered.

    Unlike Zipcar, which leases the cars in its fleet, RelayRides invites car owners to rent out their cars when they don’t need them. (The company was created last spring by Harvard Business School student Shelby Clark, and won a $50,000 prize in the inaugural MassChallenge start-up competition.) Clark tells me that the average car owner is earning about $250 a month by renting out a car through RelayRides, and that the company has 150 cars signed up for the service so far in Cambridge and San Francisco.


Comments are closed.