54 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Crack the Surface”

  1. That was interesting. I have never explored stuff like they do, nor do I really desire to. However, what are things like behind the scenes in the Seattle area, (e.g., DSTT or Great Northern Tunnel)?

    1. I’ve heard the original counter-balance system for Queen Anne ave trolleys is still intact in a tunnel under the street. Other than that there aren’t too many tunnels to explore. Seattle isn’t as old as New York or London. If you drive a bit in to the cascades you can find some fun old railroad tunnels to explore, namely the iron goat and John Wayne trails.

    2. The UW utility tunnels are rather well-known — and, apparently, often-used, though they do have some high-voltage cables and such down there. The oldest ones are actually wide enough to fit horses (to haul out the dirt). Speaking of which, the deepest ones are around 60 feet, while the UW station platform is ~80. Surely they’ve taken this into account for the UW-Brooklyn tunnel…

  2. I’m surprised they get past all the surveillance cameras. What’s the difference between these guys and some terrorist leaving a little package behind. Apparently not much in the chance of getting caught.

      1. I don’t think it’s that good a point. Terrorism is really vanishingly rare; it’s scary, but not statistically significant. Which doesn’t assuage any of the damage it does, but as a threat it’s less worth worrying about than, say, bees or lightning strikes, to say nothing of driving a car down the road.

      2. What SecNerd said. Most of the time what keeps people safe, whether they’re average, famous, or infamous, is that not that many people want to hurt them.

  3. Although I’d be too chicken to do it, from both a legal and safety standpoint, I’d love to walk through the GN tunnel.

    It would be cool to walk through the DSTT as well, but have been through it several times on bus, and once or twice on LR.

    However, never in my lifetime of 53+ years here in the Seattle area, have I been through the GN tunnel.


    1. You could always take the Empire Builder from Seattle to Spokane (or elsewhere) that will pass through the GN tunnel. It will also go through the cascade tunnel at Stevens pass that’s 8+ miles long.

    2. The easiest way to go through the GN tunnel is to take Sounder North. If you go all the way to Everett, you can just take the 510 back downtown afterward. There isn’t much to see though, since the tunnel isn’t lighted.

  4. I think that the more opportunities there are for ordinary people of all ages to see the details of civil and sanitary infrastructure firsthand, the fewer people will be tempted into dangerous intrusions, and the more informed the average voter will be about necessary protective and maintenance measures.

    One of the most frustrating things about public transit politics in Seattle is the lifelong separation of the governing class from the vital operations under their control. After reading today’s Seattle Times editorial page, organized labor should sponsor, organize, and pay for a week-long guided tour of every local facility of the kind depicted in the video.

    Might make for a different take on who really does and doesn’t deserve to have their standard of living reset downward.

    Mark Dublin

    1. And just to clarify target audience: Entire Seattle Times ownership and editorial board, and full roster of the King County Council and the Sound Transit Board. For starters.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Not every local politician is ignorant on infrastructure issues. While many are lawyers by training they still seem to “get it”. Balducci, Constantine, and McGinn all come to mind.

        Still I wouldn’t mind seeing more civil engineers or members of the various construction trades or some bus drivers or union mechanics in local politics.

    2. I went on a tour of Metro’s West Point sewage facility a while back. Fascinating… While it obviously had its more smelly moments, it wasn’t all that bad and I came away with an appreciation of how much goes into treating our sewage. More people should be offered that opportunity…

      Frankly, stuff like this would be great tourist draws – no need to look further than the Seattle Underground tour to see that. I’d pay good money to get a walking tour of the DSTT as well as Beacon hill, even if I have to show up at 2am to do it. I doubt I’m alone…

      1. Not only should they do something like that, they should charge enough for the ticket to help subsidize field trips for students.

      2. I took the tour offered to community members of the new underground Maple Leaf reservoir. Quite interesting.

      3. Seconding the West Point tour. Everyone should have to go through this tour before flushing a toilet :)

        And anyone can take the tour, and it’s free (info here). There needs to be a minimum of 10 people, however.

      4. My Girl Scout troop took a tour there when I was a kid. I remember thinking it was cool, although a bit gross.

    1. This bus is also staffed with 2 humans when the rear platform is in use. One drives and collects cash fares (where allowed), and the “conductor” assists the disabled, answers questions, and generally wrangles passengers.

      Good luck seeing that kind of labor spending in a US transit system.

      1. Hmmm… Imagine if Metro had “expediters” at each downtown stop, to tap ORCA, sell tickets, and assist with the boarding and alighting of passengers with mobility devices. They don’t have to get operator wages, since they aren’t operating a huge deadly weapon.

      2. “Good luck seeing that kind of labor spending in a US transit system.”

        This isn’t Jakarta where labor is dirt cheap. We’re talking about London – where wages are higher and there are more labor unions.

        If London thinks there’s enough value to adding a conductor there, it might work here.

    2. Hold on a second, Bruce.

      Let me just pull closer to the curb, kneel the bus even though you didn’t ask for it, and then hold out my hand forbidding while people leaving the bus gather various scattered belongings.

      Now, what was your question again?

      1. Pretty good, d.p., except you forgot the part where half the people completely ignore you and bump into each other trying to exit and enter the coach at the same time.

      2. Well, although I dutifully twiddle my thumbs in the rain and fantasize about the death of PAYL, sometimes people take so damned long getting to the front that there’s no rational reason I shouldn’t have boarded and passed them in the aisle. Except, of course, for the insufficient standing/passing room on the vehicle.

        And that’s exactly Bruce’s point here. Metro’s bad decisions (lack of open floor plan, payment and one-door policies) don’t exist in vacuum. Each compounds the other, and the delays grow exponentially.

        But London, as he says, is treating its citizens like thinking, space-sharing, adaptable adults, and making correct individual decisions that compound to a much better, high-capacity service. It’s a polar opposite.

      3. “lack of open floor plan…”

        I had a conversation with the safety officer at East Base about this very subject. When I suggested ripping out a few of the seats in my RapidRide coach or even making RapidRide more like this bus at Atlantic with LOTS of standing room, she replied: “Give me tort reform and I’ll give you more standing room.” The theory is that more seats = fewer people falling = fewer lawsuits.

      4. Um, yeah.

        And that’s why we can’t entrust public policy on even the most minute level to those whose sense of “how the world works” and “what we need to fix” is injected intravenously from Fox News.

        What a self-defeating crock of shit.

      5. I’d bet my left arm that the money Metro loses to slow service as a result of less navigable coaches — not to mention harder-to-calculate costs like, say, transit police responses stemming from altercations exacerbated by long, slow, claustrophobic-feeling trips and the inability to pass other people politely — would blow Metro’s legal budget out of the water.

      6. Sorry, I’m not done yet.

        If someone gets injured on a Metro bus, in a manner that no reasonable person could conclude as being the fault of a rationally-operated transit system or a specific driver, then a judge will dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice early in the process, costing Metro relatively little. If the case is allowed to proceed, and a clueless jury awards absurd damages, those damages are almost certain to be reduced upon appeal.

        Our legal system is imperfect, so erroneous judgments happen. But it is fundamentally sound, and packed with checks and balances and discretion enough to ensure pretty reasonable results most of the time.

        “Tort reform” is about denying remedy to those who actually deserve it. It fixes what isn’t actually broken, for the benefit of polluters and other truly negligent corporations. It would have no bearing on the “illegitimate” suits your Fox-devotee base manager irrationally fears.

        Yeesh! I’ll point to this anecdote the next time someone tries to argue how “enlightened” our city is.

  5. Here’s the Sunday schedule for Portland’s MAX Red line to the airport:


    First train of the morning arrives at 4:45am
    In the reverse, the last train in the evening departs at 11:49pm.

    Comparable figures in Seattle are pathetic. First Sunday train arrives Seatac at 6:58am (2 hours too late to make many morning flights) and last train leaves at 11:05pm.

    Oh, and Portland riders at least get a real schedule that shows actual departure times.

    1. Look at the bright side, you have a bus that almost operate 24 hours. Take 124 and transfer at Tukwila to line A. In Portland, No late night service. past 1:30AM.

      1. JN, that combination is useless for getting to the airport on Sunday mornings, unless you want to leave downtown at 3:30am. After 3:30am, the next route 124 bus leaves downtown at 6:45am and arrives Tukwila at 7:23am. Sunday evenings route 124 buses leave Tukwila at 11:22pm, 11:52pm, 12:42am – while RRA buses arrive at 11:06pm, 11:36pm, 12:06am, 12:31am, 1:01am. It’s not well coordinated.

    2. The last late trip limits how late I can leave work in Irvine. I have to be out of there 6 pm to make the last Link.

      Going down my limitation isn’t the first Link since I’m coming from Snohomish County but rather the first 113.

    1. “Screwed up forever”

      If you go by the Mayan calendar, yes. Otherwise, until this November.

      1. Wow, the 48 schedule makes a lot more sense when you use the Mayan calendar to read it.

    2. For all that effort, are we going to get on-street parking removed (wherever any is left) and bus lanes? (or at least HOV/turn lanes?)

      1. No and no. 85th is like Denny, a very car-oriented street with a freeway connection that’s not wide enough to do much with. I think we’re getting sharrows and new bus stops this time.

    3. I was actually going to write up a little notice about this, but I’ve been sick a couple of times over the new year, and it went by the wayside.

      Metro did consider running all or partially on 80th during construction but there was some showstopper problem with that — I forget now.

      I will note that now 520 tolling is running and has presumably made the 271 rather faster and more reliable, which might open the door to the 48N-271 idea I wrote about a while ago, once this construction is over.

      1. Nah, I was in bed almost all weekend with a fever, I hardly only made it out the door a couple of times.

      2. Okay, then it was some other tall-ish individual I was hovering around, trying to catch enough of his conversation to determine whether or not he had an English accent.

    4. Too bad the change to the 355 isn’t taking effect until fall, it’ll be impacted by the phase of construction that happens in the summer.

  6. Yesterday I took a bus from 15th NE & 43rd southbound, and noticed three interesting things about the bus stop sign.

    (1) It’s the new format sign with larger route numbers and destinations next to them, the first I’ve seen outside downtown.

    (2) The #48 box has a light rail icon. That’s great. Curiously, the downtown routes don’t have a light rail icon even though they do stop at Westlake, which is closer than Mt Baker both geographically and time-wise. Maybe they figure it’s not worth putting icons on the downtown routes because all of them stop at a Link station? Or maybe it was just an oversight.

    (3) There’s a Rider Alert for #25, proposing to route it through campus starting in June. I was hoping Metro would move some routes out of campus when Link opens (specifically the 65/68/75), but that seems unlikely if Metro is putting routes into campus now. On the other hand, the 25 is also targeted for a service reduction in June, so perhaps the rerouting is just idiosyncratic to this route and not a general trend.

  7. Identity is occasionally discussed on this blog: the use of real names vs. pseudonyms, and the possibility of linking to Facebook to get commenters to use real names.

    DISQUS just ran a study, and us pseudonym users contribute far more than real-name users. It’s my ongoing theory that it’s chilling to use your real name, since the Internet is forever and we don’t want everything we say to be linked to our real identity forever. This data fits in nicely with that theory.

    And yes, it’s a highly self-serving study (they are competitors with Facebook). So take it with a grain of salt.

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