43 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Conductor”

  1. As a condition of FTA Full Funding Agreements made for Central Link, a standard condition was to do a ‘Before and After Study’ on five key aspects of the project after two years of operation – ridership and projections among them. That study will likely be the basis for any State Audit on ridership. Here’s part of the staff report to the ST Board when Motion 2011-55 was adopted by the Board.
    Authorizes the chief executive officer to execute a ten-month contract with EMC Research, Inc., to
    conduct the Link Initial Segment Before and After Study as required by the Federal Transit
    Administration and the Sound Transit Origin/Destination Study in the amount of $584,026, with a
    10% contingency of $58,403, for a total authorized contract amount not to exceed $642,429.
    This contract will provide data collection and analysis for two projects:
    • The Link Initial Segment Before & After Study (B&A), a requirement by the FTA, and
    • The Sound Transit Origin/Destination Study.
    The scope includes:
    • Sampling and data analysis plan development,
    • Questionnaire development,
    • Data collection,
    • Data preparation, processing and analysis,
    • Reporting.
    The project includes a comprehensive set of services for the planning, development, execution,
    analysis, and reporting of the data collection of transit passenger trip characteristics for the Initial
    Segment B&A Study and the Sound Transit Origin/Destination Study. The FTA requires data be
    collected in fall 2011 (two years after Link began service) in accordance with the B&A Study Plan
    that was submitted to FTA and approved in 2003.”
    DRAFTS should start to emerge in the coming weeks or months, with the final due out in May sometime. It will certainly keep many up till the wee hours trying to digest the data, and hopefully provide a clearer picture of how transit investments effect outcomes.

  2. Does anyone know when the 70 is supposed to be electrified again?

    Right now, the trolley wires end and Fairview and Harrison. I assume those are going to have to be rebuilt. Am I correct or way off base here?

    1. I remember hearing (or deducing) that the 70 was de-electrified because of all the Mercer rebuilding going on. That project will be finished in 2013.

      The wires end on Fairview and Harrison, but they start back up again a little before the complicated OCS at Valley and Fairview due to the streetcar intersection.

  3. Quick question: I’ve got a CD of many PDFs you might be interested in. Who do I e-mail to get a mailing address?


    1. This article isn’t looking at population density per unit of land area but rather average population per square foot of housing. It is still possible that Manhattan’s population density per unit of land area has gone down since some peak, but its just as possible it has gone up as more square footage has been added to the housing stock. Mostly this points to the average wealth of residents of Manhattan increasing over time as it has become a more desirable place to live.

      1. Brett,

        As usual it is hard to tell exactly what Bailo is trying to say. He just throws something out there and expects everyone to come to the same random conclusion that he has. But….

        In reality the population of Manhattan did go down in the early part of the last century, but it went down for some very good reasons. Mainly that America woke up to the very squalid conditions in which many people were crammed. As health, fire, and safety regulations spread throughout the tenements and New York in general there was a natural tendency towards lower density — but this was a very good thing, and a thing that I think even Bailo would support.

        But I’m not sure what point Mr Bail is trying to make, so I’m not going to waste anymore time responding to it.

      2. I think the conclusion we’re supposed to reach has something to do either with Kent, or hydrogen.

      3. I know that the bridges of New York all carried much higher daily passengers when they were primarily rail bridges, too.

      4. I think the conclusion is that everybody is fleeing Manhattan for the suburbs, and Manhattan is becoming a ghost town like Detroit. Housing prices have nothing to do with it, of course, unless a higher price means the unit is less desirable.

        The tenemants were clearly overcrowded in 1910.

    2. Ok, so let’s talk about Seattle then…

      The Evolving Urban Area: Seattle

      Despite the pre-2010 census media and academic drumbeat to the effect that metropolitan areas were no longer dispersing, the census revealed a totally different and even inconvenient truth.

      This does not mean that both residents of the entire metropolitan region, suburbs and core city, should not be proud of an attractive urban area in an incomparable natural setting.

      Yet, the vast majority of the region’s population and employment growth is taking place outside the core. Seattle is following the national and international pattern to ever greater dispersion.


      1. And it seems like the Urbist-In-The-Wool Crosscut is getting into the act!

        Time to stop snubbing the suburbs?

        Almost while we weren’t looking, towns around Seattle have acquired a range of people, goods, and services that belies the idea of the snooty, isolated, and exclusionary suburb of popular and professional literature. For a while, there was a gap politically, as the old guard of elected leaders presided over newcomers who were busy trying to figure out how to get their kids to school and run a business. Now, people of many different cultural backgrounds occupy positions on city councils, planning commissions, and other elected and appointed decision-making boards. This has essentially happened in less than 20 years — not even a generation.


      2. Thomas Friedman deserves more respect than Mobilator gives him, and Amory Lovins is required reading for urbanists interested in sustainability.

        Friedman has long reiterated his “the world is getting flatter” thesis, but he’s also in a position to know, having traveled widely to study the effects of globalization. He doesn’t spout baseless ideas. I don’t agree with everything he says but he’s worth listening to.

        Re Lovins, I’m going to immediately order this book, and thanks to Friedman and Willis for bringing it to my attention. Lovins co-wrote an earlier book, Natural Capitalism, that I found groundshaking. The entire text is online now. NatCap’s thesis is that eliminating waste turns costs into profits. When a business minimizes waste in production or operations — by recycling, using less toxic chemicals, eliminating an input, or turning byproducts into marketable products — it helps their bottom line just as much as increasing sales. The same is true for households, thinking of a household as a business. For instance, more insulation and thermal-isolating windows increases the cost of improvements — until you no longer need air conditioning, then the net cost drops significantly. Minimizing waste has since become standard practice in some businesses, but there’s still a lot of resources going down the drain, as Friedman points out.

        Re hydrogen, Lovins is as bullish on it as John Bailo, and he’s been driving his custom-made hydrogen car for, um, fifteen years? (With the on-dashboard coffeepot receiving hot water from the exhaust, he assures us.) I think he may believe electric cars are the future and will obsolete mass transit, which I disagree with. But that doesn’t tarnish his overall point. And as Friedman points out, even carbon-neutral cars don’t solve the problems of traffic or parking space.

      3. I hope STB does a post about the Crosscut (“Stop Snubbing the Suburbs”) article, so that we can discuss the issue properly. The most basic meaning of suburb is “satellite city” (small cities around a larger one), but many Pugetopolitans equate it with “bedroom community” and “post WWII automobile-scaled town” because that was the reality here until the 90s. Most Eastsiders probably work on the Eastside now, and I imagine half of Kent residents work in south King County too. Well, that’s good, it means they’re not commuting long distances. But there’s still enough commuters to fill up a Sounder.

        We need to recognize that the suburbs are densifying their centers, and encourage them to do more of it, and put frequent/fast transit between these centers. Telling everybody that they should live and work in Seattle or they can’t have transit, doesn’t help anything. It would work if Seattle were 550,000 and the burbs were 10,000, but in reality Seattle is 550,000 and Pugetopolis is 3.2 million. The general principle still applies: more density implies more transit. But the emerging suburban downtowns are some of that density. And it’s emerging, so we can’t expect it all to be there yet. We need to install frequent/fast transit before it fully emerges, to encourage it to grow in a transit-oriented manner. The reason sprawl developed is we didn’t install transit ahead of the development, so Eastsiders and southenders got used to depending on their cars for everything. Let’s not make the same mistake again.

        Does Mill Creek really have a main street? I’ve never been there because it’s so difficult to get to by transit.

      4. Even if Pugetopolis’ suburbs and exurbs are growing faster than Seattle, it doesn’t negate the fact that Seattle has 550,000 people — by far the largest city — and is growing. It also has a larger number of jobs — both downtown and total jobs — than any other regional city can generate in the foreseeable future. That’s the flip side of undensity. Fewer people per square mile, isolated two-story office parks — it means a smaller number of people, so the city has less influence and less impact.

        Bailo should also think about this. The most successful areas are not the outer exurbs. “It is also being seen in smaller cities such as Bainbridge Island, Burien, Mercer Island, Redmond, Renton, and Mill Creek. Mountlake Terrace is seeing construction of mixed-used development with multi-story residential dwellings right in the midst of the recession…. [In contrast] it’s the outermost areas of the region that have seen the greatest problem with foreclosures and drops in values…. the most stable residential values are found in the places with higher Walkscores.”

      5. I think Oregon is a cautionary tale for Washington State:

        Portland State estimates Oregon’s population growth slowing, with fewer migrants, more deaths than births

        In releasing its 2010 estimate, the Population Research Center said only about 6,400 people moved to Oregon in the past year, less than half of what the center estimated last year.


    1. Recent history will show that standardization isn’t always a good thing, just look at Pierce Transit after the CNG explosion.

      In reality if you look at families of buses that share parts there actually isn’t that many

      1)New Flyer High Floors (D60HF)
      2)New Flyer Low Floors (C30LF/C40LF/D30LF/D40LF/DE40LF/D60LF/DE60LF)
      3)New Flyer Low Floor Restyled (C40LFR/D40LFR/D60LFR/DE60LFR)
      4)New Flyer BRT (DE60LFA)
      5)New Flyer Invero (D40i)
      6)New Flyer Excelsior (XD40/XDE40)
      7)Gillig Phantom
      8)Gillig Low Floor
      9)Gillig Low Floor BRT
      10)Dennis Enviro
      11)Orion VII NG Hybrid
      12) Breda Trolley
      13) MCI Coach

      1. The Orion is so brilliantly better a ride than the previous choices, I don’t how they could pick something else. Although maybe the high top design doesn’t lend itself for highway speed…

      2. The drivetrains of these buses are actually quite standardized. Regardless of the body, almost all of our various agency’s buses are using the same engines and transmissions.

        The conventional diesels were all purchased with Cummins M11s, and all orders switched to the Cummins ISL when it came out. They all used Allison B-series transmissions, except the D40LF.

        The parallel hybrids all used a Cat D9 until the Cummins ISL caught up with current emissions requirements, and all used an Allison HybriDrive CVT.

        I believe all of the CNG coaches (i.e. PT’s buses) are using the CNG version of the Cummins ISL diesel used in the other agencies buses, so that’s pretty much standardized.

        Community transit WAS using Detroit Diesels in all their buses up until mid-decade, but have since standardized on the same Cummins ISL that everyone else is using.

        The 30′ and smaller coaches break the mold, below that point everything is different and nonstandard. Sound Transit also orders some of their coaches with Detroit Diesels – they still use them in the MCIs and used them in their D60LFs at the same time CT was (but are now on the ISL like everyone else).

        The series hybrids are a new animal, but so far they’re at least all the same.

    1. Wow…it seems like both sides now are adopting the “we’re all gonna die” philosophy of giving up. Definitely when you try to use a car as a train and force them into obsolete center cities, you end up with gridlock…Reason? It’s not a “grid” at all. It’s a bunch of lines that all point to the the same place. The most sallow schoolboy can acknowledge that.

      However, one hopeful sign is that after 3 years of denial, the current administration has reformulated the previously thriving Hydrogen Initiate, as the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Interagency Working Group.


      The new gameplan?

      Reflecting these and other innovations, the estimated
      cost for a transportation fuel cell system (2010
      technology) for high-volume manufacturing (500,000
      units annually) is approximately $50/kW, which is 30%
      less than the 2008 estimated cost, 80% less than the
      2002 estimated cost, and approaches the 2017 cost
      target of $30/kW.


      1. Thanks for the link. Clarified some things for me. One of them: none of the fuel cell technologies are ready for prime time, that is application on a massive scale. They either use precious metals as catalyst (a big no-no if only 200 tons of platinum are mined every year and fuel cells need 0.5 grams per Watt), are high temperature (no-no for vehicles), or are vulnerable to chemical impurities (no-no for cheap mass application). The technical problems are possibly solvable in a few decades.

        But the big question -where does the hydrogen come from?- remains unanswered. None of the options scale: using fossil fuels to get hydrogen is paradoxical. Electrolysis using renewables suffers from an extreme scale problem. E.g. 1,000 square miles of solar panels would be needed to provide the hydrogen for all vehicles in Germany. The only option left seems to be Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting, still under long-term research. Notice how it needs electrolyte feedstock.

      2. Incisive comments…but out of date.

        There are now ceramic compounds that have been replacing platinum for fuel cells.

        And artificial leaf technology allows for direct conversion of sunlight to hydrogen using a process based on photosynthesis.

        The later is being developed for use by no less an international corporation than Tata Motors.

      3. No, it doesn’t, darn it! It’s too difficult to guess which “Reply” link goes with which level.

    2. The magical moustache takes his vintage material to a level of self caricature that is no longer funny. It has gotten old.

      ‘I was traveling internationally to go to an important interview with someone important to discuss global affairs. I was struck with how bad traveling conditions were [or fantastically modern compared to the US].’

      ‘I then make a tortuous connection to some global problem, appropriately labeled with a buzzword (created by ME!), in this case “Hot, Flat and Crowded ™”‘

      ‘I explain how this global problem is really an US problem. Heroic efforts are needed.’

      ‘I cart out some witnesses for a better tomorrow, leading thinkers with their own books out, who have come up with equally original and wise thoughts and buzzwords. We share the ultimate buzzword that sustains us all: INNOVATION!’

      The eyes roll with pleasure.

      ‘Go for innovation! If we could only [insert marginal green-buzzy pet project here] then the future is bright. Win-Win-Win! Ra-Ra-Ra!’

      The pleasure has descended to the nether regions.

      1. Well, unfortunately you reflect the general Descent of Man when it comes to optimistic discourse.

        Both sides have reverted to nostalgia, because neither is willing to sacrifice for change (those that are, have nothing to lose anyway).

    3. “Moscow traffic — already nearly impossible because the city, which 15 years ago had 300,000 cars and today hosts nearly four million registered vehicles”

      I was in Moscow in 1996. The traffic was not bad. I saw the huge apartment blocks with only a few cars in front of them. Cars parked in a patch of dirt, some with a vinyl cover over them — the “garage” for people without garages. It was clear then that car ownership was rising, but it was also clear that there was no way in hell every household could have a car and park it in front of the building — the lots would fill up with even half that many.

      I also learned that in Moscow, just like here, some people are content to take public transportation everywhere, while others insist on driving everywhere even if there’s a subway every five minutes.

      But there’s another factor too. Moscow has expanded immensely. In 1996 there was a bit development outside the (outer) ring road, and at the ends of the metro lines they were building 10-story apartments like mad and extending the lines. Now there’s even more development outside the ring, and Moscow’s population has risen from 7 million to 11.5 million. So while there may be five times as many cars, the population and land area and housing have also increased too.

      By the way, all urban transit routes — metro, streetcar, trolleybus, and fixed-route taxi (van) — came every five minutes in both Moscow, St Petersburg, and Podol’sk (a small city outside Moscow). Going down to ten minutes in the evening. With maybe 20-minute buses at the edges, and hourly commuter rail stretching a hundred miles to the satellite towns. That’s real frequency, and it’s the level you need if most people don’t have cars. As Seattle had before most people had cars.

    1. One of the advertised advantages of taking public transit is the ability to ‘work’ during your commute. If you don’t like listening to people talk on their phones, perhaps you should invest in an iPod.

      1. I don’t mind people talking while I ride the bus..you’re missing the point. I doubt that there is anyone out there who enjoys hearing someone screaming into their phone private details of their life, or hearing a cackling laugh–remember the woman who was booted off the train in Oregon last year?

      2. Not to be snarky, barman, but have you traveled on the 358, nee 6 at any time in the last 30 years?

    2. If someone is more annoyed by someone talking on their cell phone than two people having a conversation in person on the bus or train, and they are both talking at the same decibel levels, than the problem isn’t with the person talking on their cell phone, the problem is with the complainer. They are just another kind of bigot.

  4. Wish this hadn’t been an open thread. Otherwise, somebody would have congratulated Oran for a really great posting.

    Idea that came to me is that with up-to-date electronic equipment, someone could patch into KC Metro and Sound Transit traction power substations and mix the impulses caused by various conditions and occurrences for a similar musical work, maybe with screen graphics too.

    That dump truck the other day could have brought the house down at Benaroya Hall, along with the intersection at Broadway and Union! What does the Seattle Heavy Metal Community, as Almost Live used to call it, think of possibility.

    Hope it’s not, as verdict always used to be…”Lame”.


    Mark Dublin

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