28 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Smarter to Travel in Groups”

  1. Just left NYC Transit Museum where they recently got in painted articulated model New Flyer buses. Working doors and friction motor, too.

  2. I hope it isn’t too early to start discussing route restructures around the F Line. (Indeed, if we wait until a draft plan is made public, it is too late by then to make it more radical, given how the C/D round has gone.)

    My wish list, most of which most of you have read before:
    1. Extend the 132 down Military Rd S to TIBS. Re-route the 128 to serve S 128th St, maximizing its walkshed within Boulevard Park and shortening the travel time for 128 riders to TIBS.
    2. Have the 120, 180, and 560 terminate at the airport, serving both Airport Station and the south terminal stop.
    3. Have the 122 re-route on its north end to terminate at TIBS, and become 2-way.
    4. Continue the 105, 148, and 169 all the way to Henderson Station (scavenging the 101 during those hours), timed to have a bus pick up departing passengers at Henderson Station from each southbound train during the off-peak. During peak, extend the 143 and 153 to Henderson Station as well, divert the 102 to Henderson Station, and tweek the number of runs and timing so that there is at least one connection between Renton TC and Henderson Station, and between S. Renton P&R and Henderson Station, every 7.5 minutes.

    This would result in a better through-connection for most riders on all affected routes except the 101 and 102. For riders along the 101 corridor, it will result in slightly-increased frequency and capacity. For all affected routes, the hours saved should enable better span of service.

    It would also deal with overcrowding issues by reducing the standing-room-only period of any of these routes to less than 20 minutes (between Renton and Henderson Station), and give riders nice comfy seats on Link (which doesn’t get full until further north).

    5. Eliminate the 161, since most of its path will now have a 1-seat ride to Henderson Station or straight downtown.
    6. Terminate the 150 at Henderson Station, and time southbound trips to pick up after each southbound train. This would probably require an investment of service hours, so it is certainly at the bottom of the my list. Or the timing might work better after U-Link opens.

    1. It’s absolutely the right time to discuss this, since Metro just had a public meeting about it and wants feedback by February 17th. I was the lone commenter in the announcement article, asking how the meeting went since I couldn’t attend, and nobody answered.

      All your ideas look good, at least for the routes I know (101, 120, 128, 150, 169). “Extending” the 169 et al rather than “truncating” the 101 sounds better politically, and it would also give those routes a one-seat ride to, uh, Rainier Beach station. I had to laugh about Metro truncating the 102 peak hours though. I should bet you a cider it won’t happen.

      I think we need to focus on truncations off-peak in exchange for greater frequency, and not push too hard on peak-hour routes. Because peak-hour routes have a strong support base that’s difficult to oppoose. So there’s an opportunity for a grand bargain where we leave peak routes alone in exchange for getting our truncations at off-peak times, when the commuter lobby doesn’t care how the buses run.

    2. Looks good to me, but I’m worried it’s going to be awfully tempting to skimp out of the commitment to have a bus for every train. If we don’t want to leave people stuck at Ranier Beach for an undetermined amount of time, this is important. Furthermore, the ride from Ranier Beach to Renton needs to be fast, which means the 101 routing with minimal stops, not the 106 routing that’s full of stops. Finally, even with 10 minute headways, a true timed connection would be important for gaining acceptance from people who don’t feel comfortable sitting in Ranier Beach after dark waiting at a bus stop. This means the bus is sitting at the stop in layover until the southbound train actually arrives. Which means you get to hop on the bus immediately after getting off the train. Once everyone who got off the train has has the opportunity to board the bus, the bus takes off. We had the shuttles working pretty well while SeaTac airport station was still under construction. Shuttles from Ranier Beach to Renton should work similarly.

      1. Not to discount your recollections, but the shuttles were not timed at all with the trains, at least any time I had to ride them. If I had known they would just sit there for several minutes, I would have jumped on the 174.

        Timing the Renton buses with the train will take inter-agency coordination. I’ll have to admit that that’s risky.

      2. “it’s going to be awfully tempting to skimp out of the commitment to have a bus for every train”

        There has never been this level of commitment anywhere in King County that I’m aware of. It’s extremely difficult to get even 10-minute buses: don’t expect RapidRide F to do that except peak. I guess some peak routes are timed with Sounder, but not with Link.

      3. Until we structure bus routes to offer a true timed connection with trains, connections are always going to be unreliable.

        In the northbound direction, I agree that a true timed connection would be next to impossible, unless you wanted to piss off everybody coming from the airport by holding the train for several minutes. So you rely on Link’s frequency and reliability from having its own right-of-way to guarantee a wait time of 10 minutes max.

        In the Southbound direction, though, achieving a timed connection is easy. And as long as ST won’t randomly tweak the Link headways underneath you, there’s no inter-agency coordination required. Just tell the driver to wait at Ranier Beach for a southbound train. When the train comes, look out the mirrors and wait with the doors open for everyone coming off the train who wants to hop on the bus to do so. When you see no more people coming off the train, you take off for Renton. This is not complicated and is something KC Metro can do unilaterally without involving ST at all.

        If you want to save money, you could probably get away with something smaller than a full-size bus for these shuttles. If labor costs are problematic, operate the shuttle service through a private contractor that doesn’t have unions to deal with. Hiring someone to drive a small bus for 15-20 people shouldn’t cost as much as hiring someone to drive a 60-foot articulated coach.

  3. Low wages and working conditions aside, I’d be curious to see what STB bloggers and commenters thinks of Foxconn City.

    Few cars and roads. Compact. Presumably a very high walkshed score. Great density … the highest in the world. Again, take the controversy of the working conditions out of it. Is this the idea city from a transportation standpoint?

    From an online CNET article:

    “500,000 employees:The number of workers at Foxconn’s Shenzhen facilities alone. “Foxconn city” covers 1.16 square miles, has more than a dozen factories, its own downtown, swimming pool, fire department, and hospital. With most workers housed in crowded dormitories, this enclosed industrial city is:
    • more populous than the cities of Atlanta or Miami;
    • by far the “city” with the highest population density in the world, more than five times as dense as Mumbai.”

    1. If you want to talk about ideals, it’s better to talk in generalizations than about a particular city we know little about and is in a very different culture and economic climate. There’s a hierarchy of goodness. First, walkability. Second, bikeability, although that’s currently a minor factor in the US. Third, transit mobility. Fourth, SOV mobility.

      The “ideal” city has neighborhoods where all daily/weekly necessities are within walking distance: store, school, post office, library, gym, etc. This is another way of saying that all neighborhood centers have these things, and all residences are within walking distance of such a center. Beyond that, the center can scale up to having a wider variety of shopping available (Bailo’s apartment-next-to-a-shopping-center idea), and having a concentration of jobs so you can walk to work.

      Purely from a transit viewpoint, of course. Arranging a city so that people’s daily and weekly needs are within walking distance is always good. That’s how cities were always laid out before the rise of automobile-scaled suburbs. In the streetcar days the streetcar extended the “walking” distance and allowed the existence of bigger cities and large-scale factories. But the daily necessities (store, school, post office, etc) were in every neighborhood center, either a walk or a couple streetcar stops away. But not everyone can have a shopping center or office next to them (or wants to), so you need frequent transit to get to those things and to the rest of the city.

      The density needs to be high enough to support businesses within walking distance and frequent transit everywhere. I’m not going to say exactly how high that density should be, because we have examples of Vancouver duplexes, east coast row houses, Chicago six-story neighborhoods, New York skyscraper neighborhoods, DC Metro nodes, and Paris low-rise neighborhoods, that are all successful in this.

      Foxconn City may or may not be overcrowded. It depends on the tolerance of Chinese culture, and whether workers are happy to be there or are getting stressed out. Some workers at similar factories are just putting in a few years to earn enough money to start their own business, so we can consider them “satisfied” even if they’re not entirely happy with the living conditions. In the US, overcrowding is defined as “more than one person per residential room, excluding kitchens and bathrooms”. It doesn’t matter how large the room is or how dense the neighborhood is, but whether it’s a separate room. If people don’t have separate rooms, it increases their stress and leads to more aggression in the neighborhood.

      The other issue with Foxconn City is that it’s a company town. That can’t be compared directly with a regular city because it was designed for the benefit of the company, as opposed to thousands of residents making their own changes to the city over the years. The US has had company towns too, and the biggest problem with them was the company having a monopoly on all retail sales, and thus jacking up the prices. This may or may not lead to transit issues, but it did in the American railroad towns where train tickets were one of the monopoly commodities. If instead the company merely provides transit as a “service” (possibly free), both within the city and to an independent train station outbound, then this wouldn’t be an issue.

    2. You can’t take human rights out of it. Personal freedom is an integral component of cities, and that doesn’t exist at Foxconn. Cities are diverse, not just in demographics but also in occupations and uses. Foxconn is not.

    3. A city is not a static thing. The ideal of a city is more about the economic processes that take place there than its urban form at any particular point in time. Large, centralized urban planning (whether by governments or corproations) does not have a good history of creating long-lasting, vibrant cities. Furthermore, a controlled company town (Foxconn City is even walled), because a single company makes all major decisions about what happens there, is incapable of some very important processes in the economic life of cities, and thus can hardly be called a city at all.

      Clearly Foxconn City, with its wide range of local services, has performed some import substitution, which allows its total economy to grow beyond simple export work. But the imports and exports are strictly controlled, so that the new local products cannot become exports. This control might be good for Foxconn (or it might not be), but it stunts Foxconn City’s potential and makes it entirely dependent on the fortunes — and whims — of Foxconn. Now there’s no intrinsic reason Foxconn City couldn’t, for example, open up its wider economy with its surrounding area. But large companies simply tend not to do this. I think large companies, as much as they publicly support free markets, show through their actions (here and in other ways) that what they really want is monopolies for themselves.

      Silicon Valley companies do the same thing at their engineering campuses (at a much smaller scale), just without the walkability part (their campuses are often internally walkable but intentionally cut off from the outside world). This has predictably terrible effects when a company outgrows its original home — unable to become more dense (either because of zoning restrictions or because of the very real, physical limits on density imposed by car dependence), the company must sprawl its campus and loses its internal walkability. Now it has an internal transportation crisis, and sometimes has little choice but to operate its own shuttle service. Companies’ internal shuttles, like the other internal services they operate, are stunted. They might provide services that would be useful to the public, but for one reason or another they almost never offer them publicly. For one example, Google (disclaimer: I work for them) in Silicon Valley, like Microsoft in Redmond, operates a lot of commuter bus service. In one case Google decided to fund the operation of a VTA shuttle, but most of its operations are private (I’ve heard around here that Microsoft offered to fund lots of KC Metro commuter service to their campus, and Metro turned down the offer… but I don’t know much about this). Another example: there’s lots of great food available in the office parks of Silicon Valley but most of it is unavailable to any one person looking for lunch. Lots of other interesting services as well.

    4. There is no in-between when you dance with density. Once you allow the slightest upzone from Samm plateau levels, the next stop is Hong Kong.

    5. IDK, if you read STB on a regular basis, some patterns emerge in terms of what their vision of the ideal city is. And if you take the name Foxconn out of it, everything that is going on in Foxconn city seems to be what STB is advocating for. And all I have to say is I don’t want to live in a Foxconn city!

      1. The name Foxconn is a pretty big part of what’s “going on in Foxconn city”. The economic control exerted by Foxconn shapes what it has become and what it can become. Even if the owner’s intentions toward its workers are as good as they can be, the economic control defines the city.

      2. So? Maybe the rest of us wouldn’t want to live in dormitories at Foxconn City’s density either.

    6. Consider the parallels between Foxconn City and the shopping mall “downtowns” at Bellevue Square, Southcenter, Redmond Town Center, etc. In ye olde Main Street, or Seattle’s University Way, every building is owned fee simple and the sidewalks are public. The neighborhood has evolved based on thousands of autonomous decisions by business owners, residents, and pedestrians over the years. If somebody wants to hold a political rally, they can do it on the public sidewalk. People can stroll on the sidewalk for any reason, they don’t have to pretend to be shoppers. But in the private shopping mall “downtowns” that have replaced real downtowns in many cities (e.g., Tukwila), the entire mall is private property controlled by the mall owner. No political demonstrations. Non-shoppers are tolerated if they don’t take up too much space and “look like” shoppers, but the overwhelming presence of the mall prevents the common areas from feeling like a “town square” even when they’re called that. Foxconn City has actual residents, so it has to tolerate a wider range of activities than a shopping mall does. But it’s still a company-controlled place, so it probably has stronger restrictions than a municipal government would have.

  4. Just a tactical suggestion: if you’re in favor of transit-optimal development, pick an example from a country that is not a totalitarian police state. If you think transit-oriented design is totalitarian, be honest about how much personal freedom exists in places where people are forced to spend a large part of their income on and personal time in stuck cars.

    Just a friendly thought.

    Mark Dublin

  5. With RR C/D coming later this year, I have something to ask:

    While riding the southbound 54 home Friday night, the driver deboarded a wheelchair at the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. As he stowed the ramp I said, “Too bad the stop on the other side of the street is a ‘No-Lift’ stop.” He replied, “Yeah, it’s a tricky one. A little inconvenient if you’re trying to catch the ferry.”

    Are there any plans to modify the northbound Fauntleroy ferry terminal stop to be accessible when RR C debuts?

  6. WSDOT has a pamphlet about the Kelso Martin’s Bluff project that will help improve Amtrak Cascades service. Unfortunately, the time line shows that it won’t be done until 2017.

    You can see it at:

  7. I haven’t been able to find any updates on the First Hill streetcar construction. It was originally supposed to have started late last year, then moved to January. Any news at all?

    1. construction will begin in April provided the city works out the final contract details with the contractor

  8. I just submitted a comment and it said it was awaiting moderation. Is this site-wide, or just for specific threads? Or just for me? :P

    1. Something you said triggered the spam filter. I approved it a while ago. Multiple links in one comment seem particularly likely to trip it.

  9. for those interested … the TBM Brenda … is almost completely underground at the Capital Hill station site … only 20ft or so of its trailing conveyor gear is still visible.

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