"German Streetcar in the Snow" by Carl Stork

This is an open thread.

45 Replies to “News Roundup: Underrated Benefits”

  1. What’s interesting about the overall underusage of the HOT lanes is that a time penalty is the accepted ‘surcharge’ to the users of SR167, therefore the only conclusion I can draw is the there is no congestion problem to solve.

    If they claim that “they pay gas taxes for those lanes”, we know that their use (gas tax$ amount burned on that road segment), doesn’t pay the whole bill. (maybe 30% at most), so the only other conclusion is that they feel everyone should be taxed in excess to pay for their unfettered commute.

    Isn’t that called a subsidy?

    1. 167 really should be as wide as an Interstate Highway…it needs 4 lanes in some places because of the growth of Algona, Lakewood. I was just up at Legendary Donuts there and there’s so much new housing construction it’s incredible!

      The HOT lane is often empty and wasted, leaving only two lanes for traffic which can get very, very heavy.

      Additionally some of the congestion is partly due to bad design. The Interchange with 405 causes backups for miles and the irony is, even if you use the HOT lane you still get caught up in it at the end! Sometimes it’s only congested from the traffic that wants to go to I405 North, but even if you want to go South you have to wait through it.

      To me, “blaming” drivers for bad design and then using it as an excuse to add a fee is government at its worst.

      1. The I-405 Corridor Program includes a full ‘California’ style interchange to correct that ‘problem’. Part of that new interchange is the HOV to HOV interchange ramps.

        That interchange is a major expense on that corridor (IIRC, over $1/2 billion).

        The I-405 – SR167 corridor is not a ‘bad design’. The ‘problem’ is that THERE WAS NO DESIGN. Road building and expansion are done to ‘solve the congestion problem’ in piecemeal fashion, in short intervals of time. Essentialy, 5 years worth for every GP lane added. Development is done on available land, supported only by minimal road support (2 lane), with the expectation that congestion issues will be solved later at public expense.

        I say ‘public expense’ because the people using that expensive piece of roadway (an upgraded roadway such as SR 167) aren’t burning enough gas tax to pay for it. Their expectation is that I should donate my portion of the gas tax I pay to assure them of an unfettered commute.

        One solution presented to them is HOT lanes. HOT lanes give them the opportunity to solve two problems, one being the time penalty of congestion, the other of fairness as to who gets to pay for it.

        The conclusion to draw from the HOT lane underusage is that congestion is not really a problem.

  2. Can ST somehow get a handle on Links schedule, or was last week an anomaly? I took Link from RBS to downtown, and I swear the thing was on a totally different timeframe than the previous days run.

    Also, I sure wish they would retrofit Link to make the luggage racks into bike racks, and make it like Portland’s, so that two will fit side by side. Seattle always has to be different just because, I gues…..

  3. I wouldn’t use the term “Transit Oriented Blight”, because the blight in that neighborhood really has nothing to do with “Transit” per say.

    I’d call it something like “Anti-Growth Blight.” The fact that there just happens to be a major transit investment planned for the neighborhood is immaterial.

  4. I thought I’d comment on the “already as many bicyclists as cars” note on Chicago’s cycletrack. This part of Kinzie was a pretty low-traffic street, massively overbuilt for its traffic volumes, with better connections to bike-friendly streets than major roads that drivers use. Doing something for bikes there was a slam-dunk, and it’s sounds like it’s been a big success. It’s likely that most cities, Seattle included, could achieve major gains with well-placed, well-marked, well-designed bike infrastructure in and around downtown, but we shouldn’t expect there to immediately be as many bikes as cars. That’s a low bar to reach on Kinzie, and a high bar to reach on most of our downtown streets.

    1. Interesting how those videos of cycletracks and bike lanes are always taken on sunny days, or at least on days when it is not raining. I’d like to see how the number of bicycles compares to the number of cars on that cycletrack when it’s 40 degrees, 20 mph wind and pouring rain. After all, Chicago is know as the “Windy City.”

      I drove west-bound over the I-90 bridge last evening around 9:00 and saw ZERO bicycles on that protected bicycle lane. Plenty of cars on that bridge, but not one bicycle.

      I just made a round trip between the top of Queen Anne, and Interbay this afternoon, taking the long way of the Counterbalance, Mercer, Elliott, and 15th W. each direction. It was in the low 50’s — not very cold — and steady rain, and, again, not a single bicycle did I see on that round trip. Hundreds of motor vehicles, today, though.

      On sunny summer days, I always see at least some bicyclists on that trip, at any time of day. But, in light rain today, not a one.

      Bicycling is a fair-weather hobby. Bicycling is not a serious year-round transportation option.

      1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_cycling

        “In the Chinese city of Beijing alone, there are an estimated four million bicycles in use (it has been estimated that in the early-1980s there were approximately 500 million cyclists in China).[5][6] As of 2000, there were an estimated 80 million bicycles in Japan, accounting for 17% of commuter trips,[7] and in the Netherlands, 27% of all trips are made by bicycle.[2][8]”


        ^ Herlihy, David V (2004). Bicycle: the History. Yale University Press. pp. 2. ISBN 0-300-10418-9. “Millions of people around the world still rely on their trusty clunkers for cheap and efficient transportation. In fact, the global fleet aproaches a billion, with the vast majority circulating in developing countries like Cuba and China where automobiles remain a luxury.”

        The relative unpopularity of bicycles in Seattle is not due to any absolute shortcomings — after all, look at how many motorcycles we have here, and they’re just as exposed to the weather (arguably more so). Rather, it’s because of the relatively terrible state of bicycle infrastructure compared to car infrastructure, and because of the relatively few trips which are bikable but not walkable (especially compared to the number of trips which require a motor vehicle). Weather is an influence, but it’s not the deciding factor.

      2. Your Queen Anne trip is not a particularly bike-friendly one — Mercer, Elliot, and 15th? Even I avoid those roads when I can (I do ride up on Queen Anne every now and then, but mostly just for pleasure).

        I biked I-90 today and saw a few others out there. I’ve never seen really heavy bike traffic on it. The trail itself is fine (though not especially pleasant in any weather, and at the speeds the adjacent cars are traveling you’re really not protected very well at all), but it’s a long trail without many compelling destinations nearby (the shores of Lake Washington are mostly pretty sleepy all the way around), and many of the roads that connect to it are pretty intimidating to bike (true on both sides of the lake, maybe less so on Mercer Island). A trail like that makes horrible commutes bearable, but will never attract masses of riders.

        On the other hand I regularly see people on bikes, even after sundown on rainy days, on the side streets of Wallingford; on the Burke-Gilman; climbing north from the ship canal on Fremont Avenue; on the University Bridge; on Dexter.

      3. So because you didn’t see any bicycles there weren’t any there?

        I didn’t go on I-90 today, but I did ride along the cycle-track on Dexter. I ride my bike to work regularly, because I know it’s the most efficient solution for me. Just because I make different choices from you doesn’t mean I’m less serious.

      4. I think Norm is kind of right but only in the Seattle context. Go to Portland and in the dead of winter people will be riding their bikes in the snow. Last February I was waiting for the bus at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital and I was there about 10 minutes and about 30 bikes passed me… in the slush. In some places where the bike culture is more serious people do ride them all year round. In Seattle, not so much. I blame the hills.

      5. Bicycling is not a fair weather hobby for most. I personally ride in all weather here in Chicago, and I know many people who also do, including my supervisor at work. Chicago a good set of bike infrastructure going, and its now getting much much better. People here just dress for colder weather when it gets colder, and frankly, biking in the snow is easier than in the rain because all you need if glasses to keep it out of your eyes when its snowing, and when it rains, sometimes you get soaked… Life goes on. I left a nice puddle in front of my elevator where I live on night because in my 8 block ride one from work I was in the middle of a huge thunderstorm, and I got DRENCHED. It felt kinda nice(mind that WAS summer) We have things like Milwaukee Ave., Kinzie, soon JAckson, 18th St., the Lakefront Trail (which has considerable year-round usage, especially at rush hour(I think up around 20,000 bikes a day in the summer, probably more like 4-5000 in the winter). It IS flat here, but I’ll take hills over our constant lake breezes any day. Hills stop, wind does not. And wind is harder to take on than hills some days.

      6. yo. i’ve been out bicycling the past three evenings, including up and down Queen Anne twice. parts of it kinda sucked, but not because of the rain.

        the sections i biked on the burke gilman were a piece of cake! the problem with biking in the rain is entirely due to cars and potholes ie. horrible car infrastructure. every section with a painted bike lane made my life so much easier because of how horrible the road edges get in the rain. sections with a defined bike lane let bikers get a critical extra foot or two away from the curb, which is a disaster zone of puddles and potholes.

        i don’t own a car and it ain’t a “fairweather hobby” for me. i respect car owners because you can’t get everywhere most efficiently on a bike or transit, especially for a lot of commutes. i don’t understand why this respect is not returned in comments like yours.

        the problem is not cars versus bikes. the issue is terrible infrastructure that is not designed to let the two coexist very well.

      7. one more thing.

        the reason i bike instead of taking transit is that for the majority of the trips i make, including Eastlake to the top of Queen Anne, is that biking is as fast or faster than transit for me. hell, at rush hour my wife can’t make the drive from Eastlake to Queen Anne faster than i can on my bike. even in the rain. maybe even especially in the rain.

        still, in really really bad conditions i will switch to transit. not because biking is a “fairweather hobby”, but because transit becomes the faster transit mode once the conditions get bad enough.

        using the best tool for the situation doesn’t make any of the transit modes into hobbies. it just makes them .. the best tool under the given conditions.

    2. Seattle has 6 major avenues. They should be able to take at least one of them and make it carfree. I have suggested 1st avenue from Pike Place to Pioneer Square. Just a big promenade, walking, biking area with maybe two transit lanes in the center.

  5. Pittsburgh BRT is an urban bypass, not an urban boon.

    Yes, it’s nice that the commuter buses from far-flung suburbs can access an express corridor that gets all the way into the center of the city with no obstacles (it’s much better in that way than, say, highway HOV lanes that dump you onto the last-mile Stewart crawl).

    But the trunk line is useless as an urban corridor. Its routing is haphazard and its stops poorly located. And the “buses arriving every two minutes” are a bald-faced lie: schedules aren’t synced for anything resembling regularity, and many suburban buses run the busway without stopping at all.

    Stepping up to a Pittsburgh busway stop and expecting it to resemble the ideal rapid transit experience — something comes along soon, actually stops at the platform, and lets you on — would be the height of folly.

    1. It’s just an old freight rail corridor, right? That’s what it looks like on a map. Cheap commuter service might really be the best use for the corridor, but indeed it’s not BRT. Unfortunately delivering on the rapid-transit concept takes a little more effort and money.

      1. I’m pretty sure the East Busway is a purpose-built viaduct on top of a still-active freight corridor. That said, it runs directly through some dense-yet-struggling urbanity. It just doesn’t serve it very well.

        The South Busway snakes through a river valley next to a freight line that may or may not be dormant; the trunk corridor stops essentially nowhere of use. This one’s explicitly for suburban commuters: it shadows the ex-interurban/current light rail line across the river (whose station locations are of only slightly greater merit).

        The West Busway is the newest, is definitely an abandoned freight line, as was largely justified as expediting airport express service. I have no idea how useful it is for the people of Carnegie (whose downtown it totally misses), Crafton, Ingram, or Sheraden, but I do know that the West Busway has a last-2-miles problem: merging into general traffic along the Ohio River and crossing a choke-point bridge into downtown.

        Calling any of these models for BRT is pretty much a cruel joke.

  6. The benefit of the Swiss timetable is not just a clockface schedule that can be easily memorized. It’s all about good connections. Guaranteed connections within minutes whenever you arrive at a major node. No more waiting for half an hour. A major boost to the network’s mobility function.

    1. On the FBI’s list of “Crime Cities” New York City is ranked 269. However, Seattle is around 150. Many Western Washington cities are ranked under 100 (my own lovely town of Kent is 100).

      So, yes, the tables have turned…now if only West side apartment rents would fall…mmm….

  7. I once spent a summer month in Switzerland (between Montbovon and Gstaad, along those dotted lines that curve north and east out of Montreax).

    With the local and the semi-express (the latter stopped at pretty much every town, no matter how small, skipping only the flag stops between) switching off bi-hourly, and running on different clock-faces from one another, having a printed schedule was a total necessity.

    Clock-face reliability is great for high-level commuter rail systems like Germany’s S-Bahns or New York’s Metro-North. Its utility for anything less frequent than 30 minutes or more frequent than 10 is questionable.

    1. I agree, although I would point out that a majority of transit service falls into the 10-30 minute headway bin. When I lived in Stockholm the subway station I used had a clockface schedule all day. Mid-day it would come at the 3 every ten minutes. Once I figured that out I was good.

      1. a majority of transit service falls into the 10-30 minute headway bin.

        I would tend to agree with that, in urban areas or on trunk lines throughout inner metropolitan areas.

        For (wider) regional services, ubiquitous 30-minute service (or even hourly service that can justify clock-face universality) is a lot less common. Even in greater region around Greater London, it may apply only to some lines. Switzerland must be in an extreme minority to be able to try it on the preponderance of a national rail system.

        Re: clock-face on urban subways, I think the usefulness of such a mnemonic depends on where you tend to catch the train and for what reason.

        If your “home” station in Stockholm was on an outer branch, possibly exposed to the elements, and you mostly caught it when leaving your flat for work or for an errand into town, then knowing the train is always “on the ‘3s” is incredibly helpful. For those trips, you’re using it more like an S-Bahn (which is often clock-face) than like a U-Bahn (which is generally not).

        On the other hand, when getting around the city, or even when heading back home, a clock-face mnemonic isn’t nearly as helpful: you’re catching trains at many different stations and in many different directions, and you have less control over when you emerge from an errand and arrive at the station, and the stations are more likely to be weather-protected enough that 9 minutes aren’t excruciating.

        For that reason, inner-city subways where the preponderance of use is like the latter example would do better to push their headways to 9 or 8 minutes (if demand justifies and resources are available) than to adhere to an arbitrary allegiance to the clock.

  8. Typical of the Seattle Times, their article on 520 tolling didn’t even mention modes of commuting other than driving an SOV.

    It also didn’t mention that if there’s less traffic and fewer backups on 520 some other roads it connects to will have less traffic and fewer backups, not more.

  9. Road Diets (usually) create an open center turn lane the length of the project.

    This can easily be used by Emergency vehicles to pass traffic.

    And this is 1x1x1 in which the center “1” is almost always unoccupied, and those in the other “1”s can pull into the bike lane. Compare it to the old 2×2 where all four lanes can be occupied in stop and go traffic.

    Absolute NIMBY Horse Apples.

      1. @aw: Only that the greatest challenge facing humanity is global climate change. People generally have a limit on how much time they’ll spend on their commutes, so they’ll choose shorter commutes if it’s slower and less convenient to drive.

        Over shorter distances modes other than driving are more competitive. It’s a lot easier to run efficient and effective transit over short distances in high density than long distances through low density. Biking is more competitive for more people in these circumstances. If long-distance drives are harder there’s demand for a greater variety of things locally, and people can make more trips by walking, the most sustainable mode of transportation. Maybe even their work commutes (*gasp!*).

        The road that needs the biggest diet is I-5. After that, probably I-90.

    1. Nice update. I sure like the station; the points about it being kind of in the wrong spot are understandable. I just wish Amtrak had their Vancouver bound buses stop there, sure would make my life easier than having to come all the way back to Seattle on the return trip!

      1. Thanks Anthony. I feel the same way on Amtrak & access to rail.

        As of right now, if I want to get to Seattle before 11 AM from Skagit County, I have to get up at an early hour, take a county connector to Everett Station and make the Sounder. I’d love to get up at 5, not 3 or 4 at the absolute latest, and get in at a reasonable hour to Seattle after connections.

  10. One Bus Away told me this morning that the 355 was running this week, but it’s not. I had known that it wasn’t running (thanks Metro e-mail system!), but at 6AM when I’ve been up every 4 hours with my 2-month-old, my brain no longer contained that information. So, even if OBA says your commuter route is operating this week, check Metro before heading out. (I used the Report a Problem feature on my iPhone to send that problem in to OBA.)

    1. It reported a cancelled UW trip for me last week too, usually it seems pretty good about this kind of thing.

      1. Yeah, it usually is, that’s why I wanted to share. Maybe it’s just the UW cancelled trips that are the issue?

  11. OK, I have a Link related question…
    Is Sound Transit building a Stub Tunnel at the new UW station, so they can run the moles from there North toward Northgate? Or are the Northlink moles just going to head South, and after they reach the UW station, reverse back out of the tunnel? I would think they’d need some sort of stub tunnel to be able to do it without causing interruptions at the station.

  12. A few weeks ago I inquired about parking usage at Brickyard P&R. Steve Cahan, Metro’s P&R program manager, returned from vacation and provided the following information:

    “Brickyard P&R has 443 parking spaces and usually is about 65-75% full. Brickyard was expanded in March 2010 by 200 spaces so there has been room to grow. I don’t know if Tolling of SR520 will eventually result in some increased use of P&R space at Brickyard, but you should be fine.”

  13. Looking forward to the coming snowstorms next month. I do hope Metro has learned its lesson from the past few years and figures out that chains work really well but the articulated buses don’t. Also, I hope to see lots of news footage of packed LINK and SOUNDER trains and cars stuck on the road.

    Good luck everyone!

    1. Metro’s claim is that their fleet doesn’t have enough 40-ft buses to run a fleet of all 40-footers on snow days.

      Speaking of snow, does anyone know how our various bridges tend to do with snow and ice? I’ve only been here a year, but last year I got stranded at Lynnwood TC because the I-5 ship canal bridge was messed up and all the buses were stuck on the other side. High, long bridges like that one and the Aurora bridge seem like likely candidates for disaster. Do the floating bridges act more like surface roads, where the (hopefully unfrozen) Lake Washington keeps their surfaces from icing over?

      In some sense, at least for 520, it doesn’t matter. If I-5 doesn’t move westbound 520 won’t move either. This year if snow is in the forecast I’m doing everything I can to stay within my neighborhood.

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