62 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: HiTrans”

  1. So, what is a medium sized city, and where does Seattle fit into that definition?
    The Hi-Trans guides are a little pricey for me, but I’d put Seattle into the medium category.
    Seattle ranks 23rd in the US at just over 600k, with 9 cities having over a million each. We fare better comparing regional population at 15th, with about 3.4 mil, and still miss the top 10 SMSA’s in the US with between 5-19 mil. each.
    Is Seattle ‘over-reaching’ trying to build a ‘heavy rail like’ system, when medium sized city solutions are more cost effective for anticipated volumes?

    1. Seattle is definitely “medium” currently, but the region has it’s eye on growing to “large”. I also wonder if US metro areas are in general growing more quickly than in Europe due to different population movement and immigration patterns.

      1. Portland is also running out of money. Both places are. You’re right, Seattle isn’t going to complete any “spine.” Each and every one of your dreams is going to be crushed — and I do mean crushed — by the voters. Just wait. You’ll see.

      2. The dreams of the 668,101 voters in three counties who overwhelmingly approved Sound Transit 2 (57.08%) will be crushed if the region can’t complete the system they voted to tax themselves for.

    1. The populations you are quoting are metro area populations – the cities featured in the video are more the scale of Spokane or Boise. Seattle’s comparable poplation is 3.4 million, or 2.6 million if you ignore Tacoma (which many people do). Every metro area in Europe the size of Seattle has an extensive metro and commuter rail system.

      For example, Prague, metro 2.4 million, has 1.5 million users per day on its three-line metro system (50% more than DC, population 5.5 million), and has an extensive tram system throughout the central city.

      1. You are correct in that this isn’t Europe, it is America, a place where ANY MAN can have a say in how his city, region, state, country develops. If you don’t like THAT, check out Tehran, I heard it’s beautiful this time of year.

      2. No, I specifically quoted the city proper populations which you could see at the links. The “Inner Oslo Fjord Region” has 1,908,231. The transnational Eurodistrict Strasbourg-Ortenau has a population of 884,988.

    1. Oddly, the 21, 22, 56, 57, 85, 116, and 119 are entering long-term “re-routes”, but are not listed on the deceptively incomplete list of affected routes under the “Schedule and Route Revisions” tab. This brings the total number of affected routes to 75! The 118 and 132 are similary re-routed, but listed under the tab because of other schedule alterations.

      The good news is that all these routes will have a 1-block walk to SODO Station. The bad news is that they’ll all be crossing the BN&SF railroad tracks at Lander St, and face severe reliability issues. We’ll see how badly the trains affect the routes, but if it does turn out to be a frequent problem, routing buses further down 4th Ave S may become necessary.

      1. So the big header that says “Routing revision for 1st Ave S routes 21, 22, 56, 57, 85 Night Owl, 116, 118, 119 and 132” somehow deceived you?

      2. My point is that the list of routes with scheduling and route revisions is incomplete. It is a simple matter to add the seven routes I listed under the “Schedule and Route Revisions” tab to make it more accurate, and cut and paste some text for the pop-up boxes.

      3. One more minor oops (and I don’t do this to embarass the fine staff at Metro, but merely to improve the accuracy of information): The page scoops Sound Transit on ST service changes, but then provides a link to the February 2011 ST schedule book.

      4. Since the trains stop and go back and forth, blocking the street for 20 minutes at a time in the daytime, this will be a daily issue. Don’t these buses run only 10 minutes apart?

      5. The 132 could be re-routed down 4th Ave S all the way to Georgetown. I’ll see if I can get my neighborhood association behind that.

        The rest of that list of routes crosses the West Seattle Bridge. For the foreseeable future, re-routing them down Highway 99 (once at least one lane of it is open each way again) is the only other option.

    2. “At these stations, riders can tap their cards to the ORCA card reader before boarding buses and enter through the back two doors.”

      They forgot the “until 7pm” part. Can we dare to hope it’ll go away with the Ride Free Area?

      1. I’m a little more horrified at the thought that maybe the “until 7pm” part will be the rule for all the downtown buses even after the RFZ is gone.

      2. Mike, I can’t find anything on the RapidRide pages about “until 7pm”. Maybe a fit of concern for the safety of the night drivers on the route overcame Metro, and they decided to add some night-shift fare inspectors, or at least not make it so obvious to would-be troublemakers that there weren’t fare inspections after 7 pm.

      3. Are you sure? Metro got rid of their “no back doors after 7pm” policy awhile ago, although they seem to have forgotten to tell the drivers.

    3. In other news, the 1 is downgraded to 60 minutes Sunday nights, following a similar reduction on the 14 earlier. Service before 5:45am on the 8 is deleted. The 24 is truncated at Magnolia Village weekdays after 9pm, Sundays after 7pm, so no Viewmont Way or south Discovery Park service after then. The 120 gets more peak and mid-afternoon runs. The 134 loses a mid-day run, shrinking its peak-only span. The 152, 155, 182’s morning spans are shortened to 6am. The 153 (Kent-Renton) loses its mid-day runs (the 169 is still available). [Skipping the Eastside mega-change.] The 358 gets 10-minute minimum northbound 1:30pm-7pm (no improvements southbound). The 908 (Renton DART) loses two hours. So the net result is that Metro is chipping away at its smallest runs. I can’t tell if it’s revenue-neutral or a shrinkage overall.

      “Link will operate … extended Saturday service on New Year’s Eve.”

      The 522 is downgraded to 60 minutes after 8:30pm but the missing trips are shifted to the morning commute. The 560 (Bellevue-West Seattle) westbound loses a trip at 8pm, downgrading it to hourly starting at 7:30 (although it says another route makes up for that trip as far as Renton). The 566 (Auburn-Overlake) drops two runs, downgrading it to hourly northbound at 5:30pm, and hourly southbound at 7pm (slightly shorter the first hour).

      Eastside P&Rs are predicted to be fuller when the 520 tolling begins, so leave home earlier.

      1. There really aren’t any ways to cut the 42 further without making it a morning-only or evening-only route. It’s one driver, for eight hours a day, weekdays only. If you want to eliminate it, write directly to MLK County Council Chair Larry Gossett, and ask him to support using the 42’s service hours for other routes where they’ll serve a better use.

    4. One other schedule change not listed in the not-really-universal list is the new early morning run on the Line A, enabling 15-minute headway all the way from 4:15 am seven days a week.

      RapidRide has a new feature the lesser routes don’t have: a toggle on its schedule page to switch between the current schedule and the new one.

  2. The city boundaries aren’t as arbitrary in Europe, and transit isn’t done on a municipality-by-municipality level. So there wouldn’t be buses arbitrarily turning back at 145th and Roxbury street because the Seattle municipality ends there. If it’s decided to expand the urban boundary, the city would expand with it. If expansion engulfs an established town (e.g., Edinburgh and Leith), the town is treated as effectively part of the city.

    The cities are also smaller in area. Walking from Edinburgh center to the Leith waterfront takes just over an hour if I recall. Walking the opposite direction from Edinburgh center to the urban edge, I’ve never done it but I expect it would take 30-45 minutes. Walking from downtown Seattle to 145th takes 3-4 hours, and to Rainier Beach is another 2-3 hours. That’s because of all the detached houses on large lots, which put the same population in a much larger area.

    So that’s one difference, and having large suburbs like Renton and Bellevue so close to Seattle is another. And South King County has a whopping 800,000 some people even though it doesn’t look like it. So it’s hard to think of a European equivalent to that.

    The closest I’ve seen is the Ruhr region in Germany, but that’s twice as big (like the Bay Area). And in the Ruhr, while the commuter trains run half-hourly 24 hours (!) and the Autobahn is clogged at rush hour, there’s a greater pressure to live and work in the same city. Part of it is cultural, part of it is that the cities are more self-contained, and part of it is the transit fares. The lowest-price pass is one city. The second level includes the surrounding cities (in Duesseldorf’s case, its immediate suburbs). The third level is the entire region (equivalent to the Sound Transit district).

    1. I would guess that an European-style strategy for Seattle would notice that the greatest density is between 85th and Roxbury, so it needs the highest level of transit. 85th to Mountlake Terrace is a step lower (larger house lots), so it needs a second level of service. But Europe has much more transit than the US. Even cities with 200,000 have light rail or trams and they get enough riders. So north Seattle and Shoreline would have RapidRide and night owls on Aurora, Meridian, 15th NE, Lake City Way, 105th, 85th (of course), etc.

      “Is Seattle ‘over-reaching’ trying to build a ‘heavy rail like’ system, when medium sized city solutions are more cost effective for anticipated volumes?”

      The Seattle-Microsoft commuters are just the biggest example of how the region is tied together. Seattle can’t pretend it’s an island. The suburbs around it aren’t tiny like Dishman and Opportunity around Spokane. Ignoring the region as a single unit is what got us into this big mess of little islands in the first place. The planners say Link has adequate capacity for Lynnwood-Seattle and Bellevue-Seattle over the next several decades, and it also provides the intra-Seattle express that has been missing. That doesn’t address local transit in Seattle, but those are two different and both important needs. You can’t just ignore one or the other and have a complete system that really makes people switch to transit.

      1. The Ruhr region (the lump in the middle of this) shows how there have to be different service levels. I’m not so sure what Link is trying to do. It wants to simulate heavy-rail regional rail with light rail and at the same time offers local streetcaresque service.

      2. Yes but our region is not willing to build three levels of fulltime service. The thick trunk is where the U-bahn (subway/tram), S-bahn (commuter/regional rail), and intercity trains run next to each other. The Bay Area could do this by expanding Caltrain and the Capitols to 15-30 minutes full time, extending BART to 24 hours, and adding San Francisco levels of trams and buses to Oakland-Berkeley and San Jose. But the voters there aren’t willing to because they just want Caltrain baby bullets at peak hours and they’ll drive the rest of the time. Likewise here. Link could be a regional-only service, and the Rainier Valley segment and Roosevelt could be served by separate HCT lines, but people weren’t willing to build two levels of service at Link’s frequency and ROW priority. UW and Stadium are regional destinations, and to a lesser extent so are Capitol Hill and Northgate, so they should arguably be on the regional line. At that point you might as well add Roosevelt and the Rainier Valley stations because they’re a significant benefit at little extra cost. (Much less than separate lines for them, or a local+express line which would require 4 tracks.)

        The opposition to Link’s routing basically has two viewpoints. One, that regional service is unimportant because people should work/shop/recreate in the city they live in. So the ST Express buses are adequate for those who do travel regionally, or maybe we should eliminate them too. The other viewpoint says that intra-Seattle expresses are unimportant, so we can delete Roosevelt and everything from SODO to Rainier Beach, because they can take the 7, 36, 48 or 124. That totally loses sight of the benefits of a 3-minute connection from downtown to Broadway, 9 minutes from Broadway to UW, 14 minutes from downtown to Northagte (10 minutes seven days a week), on the same line that goes to Bellevue and SeaTac and Lynnwood, so you only have one schedule to memorize, and if you change your mind at the last minute you can probably get to your new destination on the same line. So Link is halfway between Germany’s U-bahn and S-bahn, but that’s not surprising because King County is laid out so much differently than European cities.

      3. Obviously some do. If you don’t like the changing Seattle maybe it is YOU who should move?

        Or maybe that’s a retarded argument, as everyone is entitled to their own opinion and vision of where they live.

      4. The laws of physics and mathematics apply in the US just as much as they do in Europe. Get a grip. This is Seattle. If you don’t like it move to Arizona.

  3. Okay: A silly idea but here goes:

    Some transit agencies prefix or suffix their coach numbers with a letter to identify which base a coach operates out of (ST does a similar system to identify whether a coach is operated by Metro, CT or PT).

    The question is: Should Metro also prefix their coach numbers with a letter to identify which base a coach operates out of: A for Atlantic, C for Central, E for East, N fo North, R for Ryerson, and S for South? An example would be: R-2883.

      1. As an eastsider, I do know there are two bus bases in Bellevue, right across the street from one another. I would imagine when East Link is operating, Metro will no longer need both bases.

      2. Yep. I’ve run the numbers. And in my expert opinion, Metro will be able to close one of their eastside bases once East Links begins operation.

  4. Great video! This summer my wife and I traveled to Europe. We rode the center road trams in Barcelona and loved it. They are fast, reliable, and have frequent service. Next to a number of tram stops there are integrated “Bicing” stations for the locals to hop on bikes and ride around town. The trams combined with heavy subway lines and high-speed rail bolsters the city’s appeal to tourists and makes the city much more livable. Too bad Seattle Council did not place the $80 car tab fee on the November ballot to fund the construction of trams in Ballard, and the UW. Hopefully someday we will have something better than relatively unintegrated, slow, unreliable buses serving those areas of the city.

    1. I really don’t understand the idea of “bike and transit” lanes. The buses end up getting stuck behind the bikes. This happens a lot on 15th through interbay. Bikes should really get their own lane or cycletrack or parallel street. Bikes and transit rarely mix well in the same lane.

  5. Does anyone have direct experience with Citadis and Eurotram trains, in Strasbourg or anywhere else? In the pictures, they always seem like the most beautiful of the world’s light rail equipment. In Stockholm and Helsinki, however, I was told that full low-floor cars had trouble with older track.

    Interesting thing about Karlsruhe: for awhile, one segment of each intercity car had food service. Found info online that this service was canceled. But it called to mind the old Electroliner, which featured white tablecloths in its dining section and also a special “smoking car” segment. Also unfortunately canceled before service unfortunately ended.

    Good video-but would like to see more illustrated discussions of how we get from where we are now to anywhere near the systems shown here. Will be especially glad to see working examples of new transit-oriented communities that used to be parking lots and malls.

    We’re at the very beginning of the transit industry’s most demanding period to date.

    Mark Dublin

  6. FYI … this weekend SDOT rebuilt the street at the SB bus stop on Broadway in front of the QFC (between Republican and Harrison) … so the horrid sinking concrete slabs are no more.

    1. That’s good news. Now SDOT just needs to finish the redo of 10th Ave and the stop at SCCC. Both would do a lot for rider comfort.

  7. Given full and immediate funding (fantasy, I know), how quickly could we complete our entire Link plan? I’m really just curious how much of the time frame of building it out is financial and how much is simply the limitations of the work. It seems unlikely that the Capitol Hill – UW could move much faster because of the drills (maybe more drills are possible?), but how about everything else? Is funding the main driver of timetables for big projects like this even after they’ve begun, or is it the building of the infrastructure itself?

    It’s just so frustrating to have a project like light rail where we know we’re going to build all these things but we have to put everything on hold just because we can’t afford to pay for it all at once. I realize politics make it completely impossible, but putting that aside is there any drawback for the federal government loaning that money to us directly (and immediately) rather than waiting on all this bonding that delays the completion of the full network to the 2020s or 2030s? Is the federal government even allowed to do that?

      1. I think what’s being asked is: if we had 100% of the funding (I know, a pipe dream) and started construction on the entire Link alignment, how long would construction take?

        Or am I missing something?

      2. To Michael,

        Yes, that’s pretty much what I’m saying. If we could start everything all at once I’d be interested in knowing how long it would take. Even more specifically I’m interested in whether we could build the individual segments faster, as opposed to just starting more of them at the same time. So say, given magical funding, could the UW segment be completed before 2016 (just as an example)? And if so, would that even cost more money? It seems like there’d be plenty of financial benefits to completing it sooner, too.

        To Jake,

        Yes I’m aware that our economy is hurting. I’m also aware that the federal government can print as much money as it wants, and that we’re at almost historically low levels of inflation so it should be printing more. And that the federal government can currently borrow at a negative real interest rate, so it’s literally cheaper to spend money now than to tax and/or spend it later. And that we can get labor contracts cheaper now than once the economy has recovered more fully. And that there are people who are currently doing absolutely nothing productive because they can’t find jobs. And that we’ve already decided we want to build the damn thing, so why not do it when it makes the biggest difference to the labor market, economy, and the people who want to actually use it once it’s complete?

        I’m not saying it’s politically feasible, but it makes sense economically so I’m not going to shy away from advocating for it.

      3. We realize Seattle has to position itself to compete economically in the future, and that an infrastructure that depends on high energy inputs and high per-capita expenditures (read: cars) will increasingly be a handicap.

        We also don’t want Seattle to be like Atlanta, Raleigh, or any of the dozens of American cities that have even less transit infrastructure than we do, which makes them even more automobile-dependant.

        Note that I didn’t say get rid of cars. It’s about giving people a viable choice so they don’t have to use a car to get around.

      4. I mean “I” realize this. I’m not speaking for STB, just for myself and those who agree with me.

      5. The last time we were in a depression, the government spent a lot of money on infrastructure projects, which helped get us out of the depression by providing both jobs and better transportation options for people to use. It worked before, it can work now.

    1. I asked an ST rep this at the Northgate station open house. He said there’s not much opportunity to speed up North Link even with more money because they’re already doing as much in parallel as they can, and the remaining work has to be done sequentially as other parts are finished.

    2. Seattle would benefit a great deal from an infrastructure bank, which came out of LA’s 30/10 idea of doing 30 years worth of transit expansion in only 10 years by using low-interest government loans. This idea is getting more traction every year, and anybody who supports transit should push for it. Sound Transit builds slowly because that makes the project less expensive per year. An infrastructure bank could give ST the financing to buy more tunnel boring machines, more contractors, etc.

      1. I thought this wouldn’t work as well for us b/c ST’s bonds already get really low interest rates?

  8. Superconducting Maglev a Revolutionary Concept

    In May, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister reached a decision in accordance with the Nationwide Shinkansen Railway Development Act to proceed with the construction of the Chuo Shinkansen, adopting the superconducting magnetically levitated linear system to connect Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka via the Southern Alps route. The minister also determined that the Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) would construct and operate it. JR Tokai will finance the entire cost of construction, over 5 trillion yen ($64 billion), to cover the initial route between Tokyo and Nagoya with the goal of inaugurating service in 2027.

    When the Chuo Linear Shinkansen starts operations between Tokyo and Nagoya, travel time will be reduced from the current 96 minutes to 40. Completion of the line through to Osaka will bring the current 145-minute travel time down to 67 minutes.


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