Brenda heading downtown (Sound Transit)

This is an open thread.

61 Replies to “News Roundup: Cutting Red Tape”

  1. I just saw a new Workhorse van running a route (249?) at the South Kirkland P & R. I thought these vans weren’t being deployed. What is the story on these?

    1. Thank you. I had heard (on this blog) that they had been pulled but when I saw the one on the 249, I thought they were being re-introduced.

      1. From an engineering standpoint, they seem like kind of a Goldbergian design. Front wheel drive, longitudinal engine with inline transmission, driving a stub driveshaft connected to an external “drop box” that has another stub driveshaft up to the solid front axle. The whole floor above the drivetrain is raised and unusable for entry or passenger seating, so the front 10′ of the vehicle is wasted, way more than most.
        And the manufacturer has the balls to call it an “Innovative design”.

        They are some manufacturers that make small low-floor buses out of conventional, cheap, easy to maintain rear wheel drive cutaway vans. I don’t see why we ever went with anything else.

  2. $1.3M federal grant for Port Townsend-Seattle ferry

    While the federal grant will pay for a new ferry, it won’t pay operating costs, and that could be a problem, [port executive director] Crockett acknowledged. High fuel cost and low ridership caused a Kingston-Seattle passenger ferry to go out of business, and the new Kingston-Seattle ferry operated by the Port of Kingston still struggles.

    Port Townsend officials say they particularly hope to attract those coming to Seattle for conventions or to join a cruise ship, where visitors often have an extra day to spend in the area.

    Tom Norwalk, president and Chief Executive Officer of Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been a big promoter of a Port Townsend ferry.

    1. I WILL RIDE THIS FERRY!! I don’t know if I can afford to cover the operating costs myself…but I will totally pitch in my part :D

    2. Can’t wait for it to be built. I’m over there at least once a month and between the cost of driving (car ferry, etc) I’d be saving money if they charged $25 each way. Not that fond of the drive either.

    3. I rode the Seattle – Pt Townsend ferry that was running for a while. It was great and a quick way to get across without driving or taking a long bus ride.

    4. I will definitely ride this ferry, at least on an occasional basis. I love going to PT, but the drive is a bit onerous for day trips.

      1. I also took the Seattle – PT ferry on the Chinook and had a blast! The boat had almost 120 people onboard it too! Very fast, fun way to get up there.

        It really is a shame this won’t be expanded or even have a bigger boat… I think they grossly underestimate how popular this will be.

  3. It’s astonishing the extent to which almost all development fights come down to traffic and parking.

    You’ve got to admit that Point Wells is little cut off from civilization to have 3,000 residential units stuck at the bottom of a hill, with only a 2 lane road as access. Now if the developer was going to fund a rail connection to downtown Edmonds that runs every 10 minutes during the day, maybe cars wouldn’t be such an issue. All they are offering is that “Point Wells would be built around multiple transportation options, ranging from bicycles, van pools, car sharing programs, and mass transit-including a bus turnaround and a potential Sound Transit commuter rail station at the site.”

    Yeah I can just see everyone bicycling up that hill.

      1. The issue is the thousands of trips everyday that will be going through the SF neighborhood at the top of the hill. Life will be grand for those that can afford their private retreat in the new development. I don’t see it as being a transit oriented demographic because other than downtown bankers commuting via Sounder you’ll have to take your car (or yacht ;-) everywhere.

      2. That is plenty of capacity to support a TOD oriented development at Pt Wells.

        And don’t forget, with a Sounder station and services at the new development, a lot the existing residents will be going down the hill to Pt Wells instead of heading up the hill like they do now.

        All in All a very good idea.

  4. Regarding more stores downtown, I’m pretty psyched about national retailers’ renewed interest in urban stores.

      1. They just hired Apple’s Exec VP of Retail. I’ve always felt JC Penney was a bit downmarket from where it should be; closer to Target than to Macy’s. Hopefully Johnson is able to swing them back towards quality.

    1. Isn’t the business model of big-box stores like this skewed towards selling giant-size everything in bulk though? It seems like that would work best for people that are driving and stocking up in huge quantities once a month, and thus not very well in a downtown location with limited parking and traffic constraints but better “casual” access…

      A store selling expensive “major purchase” stuff can just offer good delivery services for heavy items, but that doesn’t seem to fit these super-cheap-price places.

      Do they change their business style in downtown locations?

      1. They do adjust the stores for urban locations. For starters they are about 1/3 the size. I can’t imagine for instance that a Target DT will have an acre of BBQ grills on display. I would guess they focus on their highest margin items and all of the end of season clearance stuff gets trucked out to the burbs. The have to make a higher margin because the lease cost per sq ft is so much higher.

      2. Yes, actually my brother works for Target and he specifically mentioned fewer lawn chairs and the like. Target (and many “discount” chains) make their profit on a relatively few high-margin items (even silly stuff like greeting cards). The rest is just break even to get you in the store. That’s how they kill off small businesses that are trying to make a little profit on ever item. Oh, and lower quality of course, _The Wal-Mart Effect_ is a really good description.

      3. Target (and now Walmart apparently) introduced “urban” style stores in the Chicago market with at least 2 stores 1 in the Roosevelt/SouthLoop area and the other in the Uptown neighborhood. The Uptown store appears to be getting the majority of its shoppers that arrive on foot or via public transportation. The Red Line Wilson stop is 1 block away and the very frequent 36 Broadway bus stops right in front bringing customers from Lincoln Park and Edgewater. The store is 2 stories and about the size of the Northgate target store. It is also part of a larger complex including apartments and other retail.

  5. “TriMet will also introduce a new “rolling” 30-day pass, giving riders the convenience of buying it at any time during the month. The new pass will be valid 30 days from the date of purchase.”

    Metro/ST/ORCA, are you listening?

  6. I heard the expected ridership on the U-link segment of Central Link would require running trains more often than they currently run between Westlake and the Airport.

    When U-Link opens and the line is extended to Husky Stadium, how often can trains run between UW and Westlake? If they run more often, will they have to travel all the way through the DSTT to the ID stop before turning around?

      1. I’ve read a lot of information about planned headways AFTER Northgate opens. I just want to know how ST is going to integrate U-Link.

  7. Stress-Free On The Freeway: BMW’s Latest Self-Driving Tech

    In the absence of Star Trek tech, autonomous vehicles are the next best thing. Several carmakers and computing companies are developing the technology to a stage where it now really works.

    To prove it, BMW has equipped a 5-Series sedan with its very latest autonomous technology, allowing it to travel along a freeway, controlling everything from braking and accelerating to passing other vehicles, all by itself.

    http://www.allcartech.com/news/1065617_stress-free-on-the-freeway-bmws-latest-self-driving-tech

      1. Each Link light rail car weighs about 52.5 tons. On average, throughout the day, they carry around 20 passengers on each car, or about 2.6 tons per passenger.

        The average U.S. mid-size sedan weighs about 1.75 tons, and carries 1.55 passengers. That comes to about 1.13 tons per passenger.

      2. I was thinking about that yesterday.

        Who is to say we couldn’t have autopiloted bicycles…or vehicles the size of a bicycle.

        In fact, by losing the need for a human brain based guidance system, you could have, for instance, a delivery vehicle that ran on a fuel cell and was the size of large box on wheels.

        You could design all sorts of very lightweight, green “vehicles” to do trips to the stores, supermarket, pizza store, for you…

      3. Ooh, it’s Norman.

        Cars have many negative attributes, but as I mentioned, probably the biggest direct problem with cars is not their weight, it’s the utterly insane amount of space they consume (both while in use and not in use).

        [But if you want to talk about weight, why use Seattle Link, which is not a particularly great train system, as an example? The train I normally use has an average per-passenger weight of about 0.3 metric tons… (1 million riders and 678 8-car trains per day, each [EMU] car weighs an average of 30 metric tons, average trip is probably about half the maximum distance)]

    1. I’m waiting for the day when we can use self-driving technology for transit buses. No longer will Metro be able to make the excuse that decent frequency is too expensive because of labor costs. Of course, the union will probably do whatever it takes to ensure that this never happens…

      1. Why not simply and on demand robotic taxi van, that could use computer routing technology to pick up 5 or 6 people on a route and bring them door to door?

    1. I always thought the algae-based bio diesel was pretty promising, myself. Diesel-like liquid fuels pose the fewest logistical challenges to widespread implementation.

      1. New Zealand, Texas companies collaborate on algae process

        Aquaflow Bionomic Corp., a New Zealand-based algae technology developer, is taking a broad approach to algae-to-fuel development—one the company’s director Nick Gerritsen said may include nonalgae feedstocks. Aquaflow recently agreed to work with Texas-based CRI Catalyst Co. to further develop a process that can potentially convert algae and other feedstocks into renewable fuels. According to Gerritsen, the company has developed conversion technology that enables multiple biomass feedstocks to be used, and “it is a view that we have been quietly pursuing for the last few years, leveraging the special chemistry of algae and supplementing it and building it out with other feedstocks.”

        http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/articles/8013/new-zealand-texas-companies-collaborate-on-algae-process

  8. Metro finalized the change to the 65 (http://metro.kingcounty.gov/up/sc/plans/2011/65/index.html) to serve Children’s Hospital starting with the October service change. It’ll add a few minutes travel time for those coming from the north. I’m disappointed Metro didn’t use this as an opportunity to consolidate stops on the rest of the route. Along 35th Ave NE between NE 45th St and NE 125th St stop spacing averages 728 feet (northbound, slightly higher southbound). Metro is currently doing stop consolidation on the northern tail of the 41, where stop spacing is 785 feet, and consolidating the 65 stops would be a good way to help offset the added time.

  9. NOSE COUNTING – The new art of planning transit
    With the demise of funding formulas for Metro at a time when revenues and reserves are going the same way as the Wooly Mammoths, I read a recent Mike Lindblom article in a different light.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016085821_cartabs02m.html
    To what degree will Metro find new sources of revenue from local jurisdictions a requirement of new service? Dividing the current 9/10th sales tax pie is a net sum losing game on a region-wide as costs continue to climb. Local car tab initiatives seem to be today’s short term funding solution, now that Fed support for transit is tanking.
    Transit agencies are looking for positive votes to retain or expand service, while concurrently considering amputation of service areas not willing to ‘play ball’ at the ballot box.
    Mike points towards a $20 mil/yr funding package, of which maybe 1/3 will go towards transit service and planning for the 10 year measure. In reality, that probably disappears in Metro’s current budget shortfall countywide, though through the miracle of accounting, will look good on pamphlets.
    If Kent or Kirkland for example wants to retain service, or try something new, will a requirement be to float a local bond or tax levy to pay for it? That’s a far different planning landscape going forward than what proceeded the crash of ’08.
    Will planners begin the process of earmarking all those new ‘required local matches if you want anything in the future’ services from Metro. Or worse than that, will planners be told to start whacking off service from communities that don’t come forward with new local revenue streams – in effect, transit blackmail for new votes.
    I suspect we are entering uncharted waters with some really nasty side effects for ‘localization’.

  10. Idle question, what does Metro do with passengers when a bus breaks down? Say on a route with hourly frequency and stops that are far apart. Do they send a replacement bus, say to wait for the next one, something else?

    1. Typically dispatch a replacement coach for that to fill the gap or depending on how long it will take and how many passengers, the dispatcher will send a supervisor out in a van to take people for the rest of the trip and allow the next coach to fill in the missing gap.

      At least in my own personal experience(s)

    2. My NB 511 got a flat today just north of the U District. They sent another bus by to pick us up and continue the route. The wait wasn’t too bad, actually.

      I was once stuck on a Metra train leaving Chicago that broke down just short of the Oak Park station. It was the second-to-last outbound train of the day… we had to wait for the next train to come (an hour behind) and push us to Oak Park. Then everyone piled on the last train and headed out to their destinations.

    3. Thanks for the answers, wondered because I experienced my first Metro breakdown the other day…trolleybus going up a hill could only get intermittent contact with a wire. Was a quick walk to my destination but it got me curious what would be done if a problem were to occur someplace more remote.

    4. Metro’s pretty good about dispatching supervisors/mechanics/replacement coaches when a coach breaks down. They don’t like leaving their drivers, passengers, or equipment stranded. (snowstorms excepted)

    5. Unless it’s the 30, in which case the bus just doesn’t show up and you take the next one 30 minutes later.

      1. But when it’s the 30, you never know whether the “30 minutes later” bus was the next one, or the one you were trying to catch running 30 minutes late.

  11. Solar-powered hydrogen refueling station planned for Michigan

    Michigan’s Mass Transportation Authority isn’t waiting around for the hydrogen highway to come to its neck of the woods. The transit organization is building an alternative fuel testing ground for its planned fleet of propane and hydrogen-electric buses. When it’s completed, the entire facility will be powered by an on-site solar farm, including the hydrogen generators.

    http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13746_7-20100018-48/solar-powered-hydrogen-refueling-station-planned-for-michigan/#ixzz1WoYaKAsK

  12. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed Metro swapping in a lot of 40-foot coaches on runs that are usually ST 60-footers this week?

  13. I just noticed that one of my favorite green, environmental sites is using Disqus.

    Seems like they had the technical knowhow to make it work, even though their site is more complicated than STB.

    You might want to tap into their knowledge.

    http://grist.org

    1. Yeah, I agree with this — Disqus is hardly perfect (I can list lots of annoying points about it!), but it’s pretty decent, and at least it (1) allows comment editing and “likes”, and (2) isn’t facebook.

      Recently it seems like every other site is using Disqus too, so it seems to have some momentum behind it.

      But didn’t STB briefly try Disqus a while ago, and then stop using it after having probs?

      [One thing I wonder about, though: in Disqus, are comments stored locally on the client site’s server, or only on Disqus’s server (clearly there’s some sort of centralization, but I don’t know whether that’s just a copy of the data)? If it’s the latter, I’d worry about losing info…]

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