Photo by Slack Action

This is an open thread.

87 Replies to “News Roundup: Yet Another Line”

    1. If we don’t give in to Greyhound’s histrionic demands, maybe the demand for public intercity bus service will go up. A public bidding process for an intercity bus service operating out of King Street Station wouldn’t be such a bad thing, either.

      Personally, I’d like to see the county transit agencies get together and create an I-5 interagency bus line serving Bellingham to Olympia. Greyhound’s bus lines within the state are so slow, infrequent, and at such odd hours, that they are nearly useless. And expensive. Who wants to wait an hour or two for a bus to Bellingham?

      1. Maybe it was because my overnight trip was on Fourth of July weekend, but I was tempted to take my pocket-knife and scrape the Stars and Stripes decal off the side of the bus before fleeing the station, for the good name of my country.

        I’m not sure if that bus line’s continued existence calls capitalism in general into question. I-5 and the rest of the Interstate system is hardly a family business. Considering the reputation of private intercity bus service in places like Turkey, maybe some of their owners should get to the head of the line for special visas.

        Since intercity bus service depends on roads built under the National Defense Highway Act, I’m all for a nationwide system including buses and passenger rail. Regionally, Bellingham to Olympia is good too.

        Mark Dublin

      2. I laud the idea, but wonder about the practicality of it. Having taken Island Transit, then Skagit, then WTA all the way from Coupeville to Blaine is not easy, and takes almost seven hours. Even greyhound beats that. But I am pleased to see the mayor’s office not being in a hurry for them. Greyhound couldn’t care less about King Street, until all of a sudden they need a new home. Make them pay BIG, or fine go ahead and leave Seattle, maybe that’s better!

      3. I always go back to Bus Eireann having experienced it in Ireland. Amazing service since it was so comprehensive. We need that. We could do public/private like Ireland has. Majority stake by the public and operating the company independently (though through specificied legislation on what it must do) to operate profitable on key corridors and subsidise rural (non-Expressway services) and city services. It was always clean, cheap, and quick. http://www.buseireann.ie

      4. All of the Greyhound buses per day between Seattle to Portland equals one Cascades train. Put one more train on the line late and have Greyhound put their passengers on it. The ride would be better, the cost is the same and it would increase ridership on Cascades. It would be harder to advise the same for Seattle to Vancouver BC though since there’s only 2 trains a day. It would be harder to match up schedules if one more train was added and Greyhound was canceled. However, if possible it would leave Greyhound with sending buses only to Ellensburg and beyond thus freeing up a lot of space for buses which would probably fit at King Street Station or near. They could always store the buses somewhere else and show up just to pick up passengers.

      5. John, Sounder could but there’d be very little reason to if it stayed Diesel powered. It would cost a fortune to run I’m afraid and the ridership wouldn’t be there. I’d love to see an Ellensburg to Walla Walla type of Sounder train though. Every town in that basin has a train station. It would be great for getting back and forth between towns. I think it would take a whole mental shift for people who live there though. Many have probably never seen a passenger train.

    2. The good news is they must be moving forward with the hotel proposed for the Greyhound site. 51 stories/1200 rooms according to the article above (from 2008).

    3. Numerous times I’ve had to explain to visitors how to transfer from Amtrak to Greyhound or vice-versa, and it’s not easy. 3rd Avenue is straightforward, but Pike and Pine are not in line-of-site of the Greyhound station, and the Stewart/Olive buses are too erratic to recommend to a visitor. Sometimes I walk visitors to Westlake Station or Convention Place so they won’t get lost.

      So any new location for Greyhound would probably be an improvement. The King Street area or SeaTac airport would be fine, and even SODO would be better than Stewart Street.

      1. Would it be possible to use Convention Place as an inter-city bus terminal once Link takes over the DSTT? And by inter-city I’m including Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland to Seattle. The advantage would be fast freeway access and keeping as many buses as possible out of the CBD.

      2. I can tell you right now Greyhound won’t stop at SeaTac airport — they’re looking for the cheapest location possible, and that would most certainly not be cheap.

        Most likely is street boarding at King St. Station, I suspect….

    1. I’m glad to see the relatively low profiles of Brooklyn and Roosevelt stations, but they occupy so much street frontage!

      I also wish they’d included a view of the north Brooklyn entrance from 45th Street so we can get a sense of how visible the entrance is from the bus stop. I think they’re going to need a very big pylon to draw attention to the entrance.

      And would it have really killed them to use something approaching realistic lighting?

    2. Every time I look at plans for Roosevelt station, I am astounded by how far someone using the Kiss&Ride or bike storage locations on NE 66th has to walk to get to a station entrance. Why can’t there be a back door into the north lobby?

      1. Given the depth of the station, the total kiss&ride to platform time has to be approaching 2 minutes. It’s not exactly the west side IRT running 10 steps under Broadway in NYC.

        That said, it’s definitely better to have the entrance be quicker from 65th and slower from 66th than vice-versa.

      2. “Why can’t there be a back door into the north lobby?”

        *This* is the sort of detail where a concerted campaign really pays off. Bug Sound Transit and get all your friends to, and you’ll probably be able to get that back door….

  1. BTW, I forgot to ask…what happened last night at Rainier Beach? The passengers were all booted off the Link and the Seatte Fire Dept was climbing on top of the cars.

    Made for all traffic hell at Henderson and MLK, that’s for sure. I rarely drive, but sure am glad that in this case I did.

    1. I heard one of the train cars filled with smoke and they had to evacuate everyone. Facebook intelligence gathering!

  2. So Vancouver gets a 6.8 mile rapid transit line for just $1.4 billion. What would we get for that much money? A mile of light-friggin-rail?

    1. Average cost of light rail is 30 million per mile.

      In Seattle it is 179 million per mile.

      Singapore built a 22 mile subway line for $4.5 billion in 4years!!

      1. John,

        Sounder trains could easily make the run on the track to Pasco. That track (ex-NP Stampede line) is still used daily by BNSF freights, by the way.

      2. If Seattle were it’s own country that would be a fare comparison. It’s easy to get mega-projects done in a city-state such as Singapore.

      3. Yeah, it’s not known as Singapore Inc. without reason. But that does highlight how grossly inefficient our system has become. It’s like having a neighborhood association try to build housing; it’ll never work.

      4. Zed: If the biggest obstacle to our regional success is our current political/administrative organization, then that’s what we need to fix.

        The fact that Eastern Washington can stop Seattle from spending its own money on its own projects is a travesty.

      5. Indeed, the political system needs to be fixed.

        I don’t know much about internal Washington State problems, but at the federal level, the US Senate is the main problem — it allows Wyoming the same power as California, which is a disaster for any sort of sensible planning whatsoever.

    2. I think I remember a controversy over whether the Evergreen Line should be light rail or skytrain, with the consensus among transit advocates being that at-grade light rail was the appropriate technology but neighborhood interests pushing for skytrain.

      Am I remembering this correctly? Can anyone here fill in the details?

      1. The Evergreen line was originally supposed to be light rail but the provincial government overturned the decision and went with Skytrain technology. I would say that there was no consensus amoung transit advocates about the best choice, same with neighborhood interests. Personally I am in favour of Sky train as long as the line is extended down Broadway in the future (one single line Coquitlam to Broadway or even UBC). At this point people are just glad something is getting built as the line was proposed since the 1990s and they were starting to call is the NEVERGREEN line. I should also note that on this route do to the tunnelling requirements the cost difference between SkyTrain and LRT was quite small.

      2. @rico

        Actually when the planning was done for the Millennium Line the Northeast Sector was planned for as Skytrain technology, although detailed plans were not done at that stage. Lougheed Station on the Millennium Line has provision for a third platform and switching to “Millennium Line Phase 2” for which construction was intended to begin fairly promptly after the completion of the initial Phase 1 (VCC-Clark to Columbia).

        However, the ruling NDP at the time were defeated by the BC Liberals (who are still in office) and their Skytrain plans went out the window. With the Olympic bid and the re-organizations at Translink, the Liberals decided to push for the RAV (Richmond-Airport-Vancouver) Line, now known as the Canada Line. The RAV Line had been considered to be very far down the region’s priority list, basically sometime well after completion of rapid transit to Broadway and UBC.

        The region actually strenuously resisted the RAV Line at first and the only way the Liberals could convince Translink to go along with this was to agree to build the Evergreen Line effectively simultaneously (that worked out well). It was at this stage when Translink took over management that the Light Rail plan evolved. Later the Ministry of Transportation would take control of the project again and it would revert to being a Skytrain extension.

      1. This is a trick question? They can both move the same amount of people.

        I’d rather have elevated because they have a nice view.

  3. U.S. Population Grows at Slowest Rate Since 1940s

    The population of the United States is growing at its slowest rate in more than 70 years, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Wednesday.

    The country’s population increased by an estimated 2.8 million to 311.6 million from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011. The growth rate of 0.92 percent was the lowest since the mid-1940s.

    “The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the Baby Boom,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement.

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/12/22/us-population-grows-at-slowest-rate-since-140s/#ixzz1hIxaoROM

      1. “Fast” now being defined as 1.57%

        And that’s state…not city.

        Given the high growth of the Oly area in 2000-10 one might conjecture a tiny sliver attributable to Seattle.

        And then there are the large numbers of people who may have migrated here and left without every showing up on the databases (includes friends from Minnesota sleeping on peoples couches).

        Remember growth planning for Washington State was/is based in numbers like 30% increases. The Infrastructure Bubble burst with this news, dog.

      2. As Zed is pointing out you are comparing year over year growth to a point in the future. To put in perspective a 1.57% growth rate equals a DOUBLING of population in 45 years.

        And yes, when the national aveage is .9 something, I’d call more than 50% higher than that pretty damn fast. What it also says is that when the recovery starts and immigration into the US picks back up, we will most likely still have one of the highest growth rates. We need to start preparing for this.

      3. ‘Anc’, the recession isn’t ending any time soon, and even when it does, immigration into the US is unlikely to pick up by much (there are way better places to immigrate).

        However, *internal* immigration *within* the US is going to remain a massive force, and will continue to benefit Washington State (while Michigan and West Virginia depopulate).

    1. Well, honestly, who would want to move here? All developed countries have stabilizing birth rates, but most of them make up for it by immigration. In recent years, our immigration rate has crashed and more people are, at least as of a year or two ago, *emigrating* to Mexico than immigrating *from* Mexico.

      We have the most expensive health care in the world, and no universal coverage — people from the US now fly to Mexico and Thailand for health care.

      We have a dreadful social safety net, so that the destitute in this country are actually worse off than in Mexico. (Yes, yes, the not-quite-destitute are better off here.)

      We have an aggressive and violent strain of anti-immigrant politics.

      We have an untrustworthy legal “system” and a lot of voter suppression, and many of our civil liberties have been abrogated since 2001 — so nobody will come here for the “freedom”.

      And of course we have a giant economic depression, so nobody’s going to come for economic opportunity.

      For the average person in another country, what’s to like? There are way better places to immigrate. We could change that, but it seems our political system is unable to.

      1. Yeah, the push for a fence on the Mexican boarder is to keep Arizonans and Texans from fleeing to Mexico. The boarder patrol hauls back thousands of these would be emigrants every year.

        From 2000-2010 the only state that had a decrease in population was Michigan (-0.6%). West Virginia grew 2.5%. Washington grew 14.1%; tied with Wyoming. South Carolina grew 15.3% and that was before Boeing started moving jobs there.

  4. RE: Bus Driver behavior: “… logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” – Spock

    Assuming everybody adheres to headway management when it’s active RapidRide is only as Rapid as your slowest driver…

  5. Water taxis! You don’t have to tell me about the walkshed limitations, hilliness, etc. I’m just sort of curious if anyone knows how the economics work out for water taxis? Everyone seems to love the ferry to West Seattle, could it work anywhere else?

    One potential future route comes to mind. It’s 2014, buses are running faster/cheaper than cars on 520, and restructures force a bunch of eastside routes to terminate at UW because the Montlake Flyer Stop is dead and gone. SLU is booming as an employment center with some residence, UWMC is still big. So there’s lots of eastside-SLU travel demand, and our system isn’t good at meeting it. But if commuters can transfer to a ferry, starting somewhere around Husky Stadium or UWMC and ending in SLU, maybe with a stop serving the moderate residential density in Eastlake if dwell-time can be minimized… does that work at all — that is, is it better than taking the bus all the way downtown and backtracking by foot/bus/streetcar? Probably not without pretty high ferry frequency (even with a dedicated lane on 520 there’s still Montlake/UW traffic to kill a timed transfer).

    I just started trying to think of other places with pedestrian-type density right by water, as so much of our density is up on hills and so much of our waterway frontage is either private, low-density, or both. Ballard near the locks? Lower Fremont? Lower Wallingford is growing a little… I don’t know if SLU has the gravity for a Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-Westlake-SLU ferry, and it sure wouldn’t be fast for Ballard folk.

    1. Having been on a boat in Lake Union, there is a speed limit of about 5 (?) knots on the lake, which is pretty slow. A bus could easily beat it. Heck, bikes go faster. I don’t think such a ferry would be competitive. Maybe across Lake Washington, but not Lake Union.

      1. The “no wake” I believe only applies in the canal, which would be most of the route. It’s about 7 knots. The cost of running ferries though is ridiculous. It’s not called a hole in the water in which you throw money for nothing. Sea plane service between Kirkland and SLU would make about as much sense. The invention of the wheel really was a breakthrough.

      2. Ah, was not aware of the speed limit. In that case, no Lake Union ferries!

        As for Lake Washington… given how awful it is to cross by bridge (both in terms of traffic congestion, and the construction challenges that give us little choice but floating bridges), if the land use near the shore of Lake Washington remotely supported passenger ferries someone would have gone into business and made a killing. But pretty much the whole lake shore is private, inaccessible, low-density. Crossing Lake Washington gets you nowhere if you can’t penetrate into land a little.

      3. Ferries aren’t inherently uneconomical. Chicago and Vancouver have privately operated ferries near downtown that are useful for at least some locals — they aren’t huge parts of the transportation network, but where the geography is right they work well enough for a business to operate them alongside subsidized transportation modes.

        The geography probably just isn’t right here (except for the existing ferries across the Sound).

  6. Construction on a new Skytrain Line… Opening date pushed back to 2016 from 2015 in the last announcement. Starting in 2012, two years late from when it was supposed to be open in the original incarnation….

    It’s a great thing that the Evergreen Line is being built, but there is no denying that the fact that its happening now and the saga to get it launched represents a massive failure of management and leadership from Translink and the Provincial Government.

  7. Does anyone know why ST is using twin-bored single track tunnels instead of a larger single-bore double-track tunnel? Is it cheaper? safer? Wondering what the rationale is.

    I asked Sound Transit but did not get a reply.

    1. Cheaper. You would have to move a lot more dirt for a large bore tunnel, and most of the extra space would be wasted.

      There might be reasons related to fire safety and train evacuation as well.

      1. “and most of the extra space would be wasted”

        Not if they put an express downtown bike tunnel on top (Similar to I90). Now THAT would be cool. I’d pay a $2 toll to use that bike tunnel.

      2. It’s also easier to stabilize a small arch than a large one, so less engineering risk.

        There are lots and lots and lots of reasons to use multiple smaller tunnels rather than a single big one.

    2. Running one machine probably has some savings over two but as noted you’d be removing a lot more dirt. It works for the AK DBT because they are using a stacked two over two lane configuration. A square in a round hole whereas double track rail would be a rectangle with a lot of wasted space above and below. Another reason is the staging areas are much more constrained than for the DBT which makes multiple machines easier to deal with than Gigantor.

      1. makes sense … although there are benefits of double track tunnels … but maybe they only really come into play when building cut’n’cover tunnels

      2. benefits of double track tunnels

        If it was two plus two yes but the geometry just doesn’t work for double tracks.

        when WSDOT has a TBM naming contest…

        The advantage of being in your second childhood :=

  8. Noticed today while walking past the Capitol Hill station pit … they’ve started extending the tunnel lining into the open station box (the whole pit is longer than the final station will be) and they look like there is some serious prep work underway to get the TBM digging again.

  9. The December issue of Tramways & Urban Transit has an interesting article on Alicante, Spain’s expanding tram network … especially the fact that they have Tram Trains and regular tram service on the same line (tram trains skip most stops)

    Tram Trains are more like Link but are designed to operate on heavy rail systems AND tram/streetcar systems … trams in this case are what the TMP call “Streetcar Rapid Transit” and not the SLUT

    photos of both here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicante_Tram

    T&UT issue cover: http://www.newsstand.co.uk/i2287782/Zoom/TRAMWAYS-AND-URBAN-TRANSIT_DEC-2011.jpg

    1. Lovely stuff, done worldwide, but as others may have told you, the outdated FRA regulations in the US make it practically impossible to run tram-trains. Sigh.

  10. What are your all opinions of Seattle’s just-passed plastic bag ban? While the disposal of plastic bags is a problem, I’m concerned that an outright ban of them disproportionally impacts people who walk, bike, or ride transit to the grocery store, compared to people who drive.

    Why? Compared to paper bags, plastic is more durable, which means you can walk a lot further with a plastic bag than with a paper bag, without the bag tearing. Since every bus trip involves some amount of walking, and waiting for the bus often involves standing in the rain, this affects transit users too. And for bikers, plastic offers an additional advantage in that you have the ability to wrap the bag around the handlebars, which would never work with a paper bag without tearing it. While riding this way isn’t pretty, it’s good enough if the ride home from the store is sufficiently short, like under a mile.

    While bringing re-usable bags is a great solution for grocery trips that go from home to the store, and then back home again (I do this myself all them time), they don’t work well if you’re coming home from a trip that has nothing to do with grocery shopping, realize you’re out of one particular item, and want to hop into a store along the way – unless you’ve carried the reusable bag around with you everywhere you went that day, it’s not available when you go by the store. This scenario is particularly common with bus trips that involve a transfer, when a grocery store is available at the transfer point. For these types of trips, there simply isn’t a good substitute for a disposable plastic bag, as far as I can see.

    While well-intentioned, I’m concerned that the people who dreamed up the bag ban belong to the 80% majority of people who drive everywhere and implicitly assume everyone else does too because they can’t imagine doing things any other way. After all, a paper bag is more than good enough for a 50-foot walk to your car, and keeping a supply of reusable bags in the car for whenever you spontaneously need them is easy.

    If the disposal of plastic bags is harmful to the environment, I’d like to see more work done with either improved recycling, or modifications to the bags themselves to preserve the benefits of plastic, while being more environmentally friendly. Even a 10-cent-per-bag tax, I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to, as I would gladly pay it on the rare occasions I actually need it. However, an outright ban seems to me to be going too far.

    1. That’s a really well falsely intentioned post. But a nice job of bringing up the arguments against.

      plastic is more durable, which means you can walk a lot further with a plastic bag than with a paper bag, without the bag tearing.

      Of course this isn’t true as anyone that’s left the counter and experience the corner of a plastic bag ripping out. If you use the regular lines the the clerks will routinely double bag plastic to prevent this. If you’re walking it’s much easier to carry a load in a paper than throw away plastic bags. If you’re walking any distance (like you would if you’re using transit) they you’re already carrying bags for the purpose.

      If the disposal of plastic bags is harmful to the environment,

      If??? How much more public subsidy to study does it take?

    2. Somehow I have managed a year and a half of essentially carless and disposable-plastic-bagless living without encountering any of the issues you describe.

    3. There are time and places when plastic bags make sense…would have been better to put a price on them rather than an outright ban.

      I expect another referendum, and for the ban to be thrown out again.

    4. I don’t think a bag ban affects transit users disproportionately. In my experience I’m no more likely to make unplanned stops on the way somewhere when I’m using transit than using some other mode — given bus headways in Seattle, I’m probably less likely to do it on transit.

      I wonder about other kinds of packaging — there’s lots of packaging out there that either can’t be recycled or is inconvenient to recycle. And lots of throwaway products destined to end up in landfills. I think we should be charging a fee for disposal of all goods sold in this country that fully funds disposal and recycling programs.

    5. “And for bikers, plastic offers an additional advantage in that you have the ability to wrap the bag around the handlebars”

      I guess you could suspend two wildly swinging pendulums way out on the handlebars, then worry about them amplifying direction changes, smashing into the front wheel, your knees, breaking under the strain, etc. I can think of few worse things to try on a bicycle.

      Or you could use panniers, which you simply bring into the store, fill up, then attach back to suitable points on the bicycle.

      “there simply isn’t a good substitute for a disposable plastic bag”

      A backpack: reusable, lasts for years, available in a wide range of styles. Keeping one on your back as a pedestrian is easy.

      1. I absolutely agree with you that backpacks are wonderful. Any time I make a planned trip to a store, I almost always do it with a backpack for precisely the reasons you mentioned. However, not all shopping trips are planned. When a bus is late and you miss a connection, you have a choice of either sitting at the bus stop for half an hour, or hopping into the grocery store that’s right there and buying something that, in a few days, you’re going to have to go buy anyway. If I happen to have a backpack with me, great. But that’s not always the case and, even if I do have a backpack, it might already be filled with other stuff from wherever else I was going, so I still need to pick up a bag from the store.

        However, thinking about this a bit more, reusable bags are already available at virtually every grocery store for as little as a dollar or two, so I can always just buy one when I need it, especially if it’s raining outside and I don’t trust paper. So, worst case, I spend an extra $10 a year on grocery bags – big deal – not enough to be worth getting excited over.

    6. The problem with plastic bags is that the negative environmental externalities are just huge. Plastic bags are one of the most prevalent types of litter; they take forever to decompose; and they’re a huge waste of our depleting supply of petroleum.

      Once you factor in all the externalities, the true cost of a plastic bag is probably about a dollar or two. So even if we did enact such a tax, it still wouldn’t be any cheaper than buying the more durable bags.

      Also, as everyone else has said, I’ve lived in Seattle for 2.5 years, both car- and plastic bag-free. In my experience, a double paper bag is pretty much as durable as you could ever need. Between that and a utility cart for really big orders, I’ve never had a problem.

    7. I keep two canvas bags in my backpack for spontaneous shopping trips. I take my backpack almost everywhere, and the few times I don’t, I use the store’s bags.

    8. Around here the grocery stores sell cheap reusable bags for a small amount and will buy them back from you if they’re undamaged. Problem solved.

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