70 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The Tube Weekend”

    1. That’s 6 hours of time that you should probably be doing something else :0

      Thanks for posting this

  1. This is good video to take a look at what it takes to keep one of busiest subway systems up and going. There are alot of stuff going on that most people don’t see and don’t give much thought to.

  2. Could NYC be considering a Sounder or LINK light rail style as an addition to their subway? Maybe we’re out in front with our crazy mix-ed bag of rail transit!

    The surprising return of the three borough x line “subway”

    The idea goes something like this.

    There are, for the most part, existing freight tracks running from Bay Ridge up through Queens and across the Hell Gate Bridge into the Bronx. Freight traffic on those rails is light. And there is, theoretically, enough space alongside them to accommodate some form of commuter rail.

    “It doesn’t have to be a subway type car,” said Zupan. “It could be somewhat smaller, but still operate as a train with multiple cars.”

    The train would run above ground and intersect with nearly every subway line in the city, avoiding Manhattan altogether.


    1. This sounds less like the Sounder and Link lines we have, and less like the Sounder and Link plans we have, than it sounds like the Eastside Rail Corridor.

      1. Every Sounder and Link line (including all lines with concrete plans) goes through downtown Seattle. This line would skip Manhattan completely; downtown, midtown, uptown. Similarly, the Eastside corridor skips Seattle completely. Being from Chicago it reminds me of the recurring idea of a “Circle Line” addition to the L.

      2. The service concept is unclear. Sounder follows an established pattern for downtown-focused commuter rail. Link has weird stop spacing and locations (designed around a number of constraints including how to get Federal funding), but it’s always had a rapid-transit service concept in mind. Regular, frequent service throughout the day, no stop-skipping or express runs or extra peak runs. On the X line and the Eastside Corridor the only thing they know is where the tracks are. Stop locations, schedule, and span of service aren’t obvious. This article talks about this line as part of the subway system, but also as a commuter line; it brings up the possibility of smaller cars (compared to what, the subway?), though car size matters very little compared to frequency and service span. And in both cases the service concept question is a hard one.

      3. The X line is a lot like the Eastside Rail Corridor in that no actual transit agency wants to build it — it’s just not a priority corridor, and the advantages of existing ROW don’t seem to make up for that given the current budgets. Whether the reasons are good or bad, we’re unlikely to see either for some time.

      Another proposal along sort of similar lines (this one is more exurban and has an airport connection) is Chicago Metra’s Star Line, which also, AFAIK, has no concrete plans for implementation.

      1. FWIW, Of the Eastside Corridor, X Line, and Star Line (the Circle Line concept that I mentioned is a lot different from the Star Line — various concepts have differed on routing, but all travel through fairly dense parts of the city with high crosstown bus ridership), I think the X Line has the most near-to-mid-term potential. It goes through areas that already have decent pedestrian access and enough density to support a rapid-transit service concept. The biggest questions are whether existing freight operations will preclude the necessary frequency, and whether it ever gets prioritized and funded. The Eastside Corridor comes in second; its routing problems are real but not intractable (could be improved with money) and there’s at least some capacity for development and improvement of pedestrian conditions around stations. The Star Line might work in little spots (the section along the Addams Tollway?), but mostly it looks like a train to nowhere, or at least nowhere that will support much frequency.

    2. Jeff Zupan is an experienced rail transit & railroad consultant. Since Hells Gate Bridge is part of the Northeast Corridor (FRA-compliant high speed rail corridor), it sounds like he is proposing multiple unit railroad cars. Electrified/electric multiple unit (EMU) cars are used for commuter rail in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Not light rail, so more like Sounder but cleaner, quieter, and accelerates more quickly. You can use this kind of vehicle for a rail transit-type operation on tracks shared with passenger or freight railroad.

      1. Big DMUs may make sense for a high-speed FRA corridor, but in the article Zupan suggests the cars may be smaller than NYC subway cars, which suggests a track off to the side of the freight trackage (like Chicago’s Orange Line?).

        If that’s the case, it seems more likely they’d be planning a rapid transit line, with frequent, regular, all-day service. You’re pretty limited in frequency and span when you’re sharing the tracks with freight trains.

  3. Nice show. Looks like London could use one of those trains that will replace railroad ties, and rail, while moving slowly along.(don’t remember what they are called, off hand. a video of one in action has been featured here in the past, I do believe.)

    1. Can’t use those underground. First, as is said in one of the episodes, sometimes there is too little space (tight curves) for big machines. Secondly, the trains you mentioned are self-propelled via diesel.

    1. Agreed completely. But we have way too many freaking branding elements as it is. Link’s logo is useful as a mode descriptor, but it’s not memorable. Does ST Express even have a logo? I’m pretty sure the big bold “T” is used to denote any “regional transportation infrastructure”, from Metro Park & Rides to Link stations.

      Our branding is a mess.

      1. My point was it would probably take someone under a second to visualize the London Underground logo, but I bet even regular riders couldn’t visualize the Link logo, which means their logo sucks.

      1. Why don’t we (Link) have big important signs denoting our subway and station entrances? Seems weird.

    2. Another great thing about the London Underground logo is you can see them from a block or more away. Unless you already know where they are, our DSTT entrances are difficult to locate from a distance.

  4. I was thrilled to go by King Street the other day and see that the windows are all being rebuilt and the plaza light fixtures are going in. Can’t wait to see them all lit up!

    And it looks like they are fixing up some of the former/future baggage area to serve as a temp waiting room when they close the main waiting room for restoration later this year.

    Could there finally be a light at the end of the tunnel?

    1. After all these years, its nice to see a lot of progress on the renovations of King Street Station. It was always depressing to go in there, especially coming from Portland’s Union Station. Soon, this will be just as nice!

  5. Catching the 510 to Everett yesterday, I witnessed two 511 sob stories, both of which reminded me of the nuttiness of not having the 512 on Saturdays.

    First, a guy with a bike wanted to get on, but the two bike slots were already taken. He complained for about a minute that he really needed to catch that bus to Lynnwood, and couldn’t wait for the next. I was waiting at that stop and watched the sob story unfold.

    A minute after the 511 departed, another gentleman came up and asked when the 511 was coming.

    Better frequency to Lynnwood would have benefitted the second guy. Interlining the services headed to Lynnwood might have saved the first guy’s job (though he should have known better not to depend on the last bus … or maybe the previous bus had its bike slots full too).

    Having the 512 at all would create connections that don’t exist on the 510/511, such as Lynnwood to Everett.

    I pondered on how to sell interlining to ST this time around, and came up with this proposal:

    Run the 512 *and* 511 on Saturdays. This would, in general, result in 15-minute headway most of the day. Stop running the 511 at night, so that the half-hour headway reaches up to Everett.

    But add extra runs of each on scheduled game days, on the same principle of running certain runs only on days UW is in session.

    I’d also suggest terminating the 511 at Lynnwood TC, at least on Saturday, due to low ridership to Ash Way P&R. The 512 provides the Lynnwood to Ashway connection.

    All ST has to do to match this to the budget is decide when headway shifts.

    1. How about doubling the current 510/511 service schedules 94,000 annual hours, costing 11 mil/yr and paying for it with N.Sounders 4 daily round trips.
      It’s about a wash on $$.
      That’ll get a lot of bikes off the roads.

      1. The commuters from Whidbey Island would have something to say to the Chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

      2. 1. Let Mary pay for some more Cascades trips from Bellingham to Seattle (2- SB/am, 2- NB/pm), or offer to merge Camino and Whidbey into the ST district. No Freeloaders, eh Mary. Think of all the hordes that will board in Stanwood. (Mary is a good Amtrak supporter, so I take it all back :)
        2. Actually, looking at the 510/511/512 schedules and maps makes one think the route that will mimic Light Rail from Evt to Sea is the 512. That’s the one you want to build ridership on, as a precursor to rail in 10-20 years. It makes ALL the stops along the way, but only runs on Sunday.
        Yet, the 512 is only slightly slower than the 510, skipping Ash Way and Lynnwood TC. It should be the premier route 7 days a week, or the workhorse.
        Additional trippers from Everett to Seattle, with few stops (510x) and more from Lynnwood TC to Seattle (511x) should be added as demand warrants.
        All this could easily be paid for with N.Sounder savings, plus some express buses from MUK and EDM to Seattle being paid for by ST/Island Transit partnerships.
        I like the idea Brent, just think bigger.

      3. I’ve heard it said that paying BNSF for the north ROW for those trips is a sunk cost for perpetual ROW. Is it really a one-time cost, or are we paying per trip?

        Also, why would BNSF not be interested in buying back the rights, if Sounder North goes the way of the Kingston foot ferry?

        Would Amtrak be interested in buying the stations from ST?

        FWIW, I don’t think it would be a good investment to dramatically increase service hours on ST 510-513 at this time. Other than for commutes and games, a lot of those buses are almost as empty as the 560 west.

      4. The $258 mil is a sunk cost to BNSF. I’ve been trying to find a copy of the contract to see if any buy-back clause was inserted, or if ST has any rights to sell their easement to a 3rd party (Amtrak, Coal, etc). If anyone knows, chime in.
        As far as the trips, let the market dictate the number. For sure, you’ll need 10 more am and pm trips to handle the existing 500 riders per day.
        I looked into travel times for both bus, Sounder and Link from EVT-Seattle. Bus and CR are a wash, and Link will be about 10 min faster than the slowest bus trip time. If Link expects to add 50,000 riders a day from Lynnwood segment (N. Corridor), and another 50,000 from N. Link to Northgate, and even more from Everett, you can’t start building ridership too soon. That’s why I like the 512 as the Core Route. It mimics Link, makes most of the stops Link will, and isn’t too much slower.

    2. How about running the 510/511-512 with 3-bike-capacity racks, like most of the other ST buses have?

      1. Yep, the Trilogy racks. I hope all the bikers remember to ask for them during budget time. Or, start asking now. They can’t be that expensive, can they?

        Of course, for bikers trying to go between different parts of Snohomish County, having to backtrack to 145th St in Seattle and wait a half hour is a painful miss, when simply adding a stop at Lynnwood wouldn’t add much to the budget and would probably fill a few more seats on the bus to Everett. (There were five of us on that bus yesterday, not all wanting to go all the way to Everett.)

        Twelve bike slots to Lynnwood every hour on weekends, instead of four, would be fabulous!

      2. I got on the 512 on Sunday and I had my bike on the rack. Another guy got on with his bike and took the second spot. He asked the driver when they were going to get new 3 slot racks and the driver said never. The man started helling at him and being very nasty. The driver said he had no control over it and the man told him this is America so he should at least have an opinion. A man who got on a bus because they had enough racks was furious. I thanked the driver for having ANY bike racks when I got off.

      3. ST and other agencies really should have a policy of allowing bikes on board, passenger load permitting if the available rack space is full. We don’t allocate two spaces for strollers and say tough luck mom, leave the baby. It’s not like you’ve even got time to go lock your bike up while the bus waits for you.

    3. I sometimes catch the 510/511/512 at I-5/45th St. to go downtown, as a faster alternative to the 71/73/73. Even though, in theory, the 510/511 coming back-to-back every 30 minutes shouldn’t be any better than the 512 coming every 30 minutes, in practical terms, taking the 510/511 on a Saturday feels less stressful than taking the 512 on a Sunday. Why? Because, two buses going back-to-back provide redundancy, which means if one bus is running late, I can still catch the other one and leave on time (*). If I have a connection to make downtown, often times the 510/511 being 10 minutes late is enough to make me miss my connecting bus, which means the redundancy and the increased chance of being on time that comes with it are really a big deal. The redundancy also helps if the buses are running early. If I see one bus go by as I approach the bus stop, that means it’s time to start running to make sure I can catch the other one. But if I don’t, I know it’s safe to keep walking because if one goes by without me, I’m still ok.

      I tried taking the 512 into downtown a couple of times. But after one time of being stuck at the bus stop a full 30 minutes because the bus left early on me (and I didn’t have the warning of seeing the other bus go by), I stopped doing that. So, at this point, I have reached the unfortunately conclusion that if I have a bus to catch downtown and need a reliable route that doesn’t involve budgeting 15-20 minutes of “padding” time, there are only two options available – bicycle and taxi. I am looking forward to U-Link opening in 2016, which will hopefully add a third reliable option to the mix.

      (*) Even though the 510 and 511 are both subject to congestion on the same freeway, on a Saturday morning, there is hardly any congestion. If there are going to be delays, the delays are going to come from wheelchair loadings/arguing over fares/etc. at the stops earlier en route, not from traffic on the freeway (and since the 510 and 511 both have fewer bus stops and fewer riders than the 71/72/73, both buses have fewer opportunities for such delays). So, the redundancy of the 510/511 really does translate into increased reliability.

      1. Don’t worry, asdf. I’m not asking to reduce the number of ST Express buses going between downtown and Snohomish County on Saturdays. (Low ridership may force frequency reduction or interlining, nevertheless.)

        I’m just asking that the buses going to Everett stop in Lynnwood along the way, so that those going to Lynnwood don’t have to wait a half hour if they miss their bus.

    4. Low ridership from Ash Way? My mother started getting on there because in her twice a week commute she didn’t always get a seat at Lynnwood because the bus was half full when it got there.

  6. I wondered if I’m the only person who wonders who the “transit” voices are e.g. who’s the guy who when you call 456-0609 for OBA says “Where is your bus. Let’s find out” or the female voice that says “Please stand back from the yellow textured strip” (even though there isn’t one at Convention Place) or the female voice that says “Next stop Broadway, Seattle Central Community College” or the female voice that says “Welcome to Metro’s rider information.”

    1. For the onboard automated lady/gentleman, it’s a company that primarily provides services to fire departments.

      They claim to have an “accent-neutral” voice, but, even though the local dialect is similar to General American, just listen to her vowels in “State Route 520” or “transit” and his in “last stop.”

      Even more interesting is the way they announce route numbers and destinations. They say “two fifty-five,” but “five hundred forty-two.” There is always an increase in pitch on the second syllable, sometimes making the lady sound unsure (“Route 41 to… Northgate?”) or sarcastic (“Route 271 to…. Issaquah?! [heh]”). And why are the stop announcements female and the directions male?

      Finally, I’m still confused about when the onboard sign chooses to show the route number and time instead of the next stop. It’s ridiculous seeing “SHELBY STREET” – a stop that is unused anyway – while entering the 520 bridge and wondering wondering if you are late.

  7. It’s stunning to watch the kind and thoughtful employees juxtaposed with the whiny, crabby passengers reeking with entitlement.

    1. Watch the episodes about fare evaders, maintenance, and rush hour service (2, 4, and 6 I believe). People do tend to act crazily in that space and would shake their heads if they could see themselves on monitors.

  8. Another week of logging parking in Seattle. Here’s the current global averages for all my parking that I’ve recorded thus far:

    Average Cost per Hour: $0.66
    Total Cost for Parking: $30.17
    Average Distance from Destination: 1.12 block(s)
    Average Time spent Searching for Parking: 1.1 minute(s)
    Total number of hours parked: 46 hours
    Total number of recorded parkings: 29

  9. Anyone know if Sound Transit is planning to do something like the “lunch bus” for U Link or other current construction?

      1. During the initial Central Link construction, ST used to have tours of stations and other sites under construction, open to the public. They were held at lunch time and they took you to the site on a bus, and they called the tours the lunch bus.

  10. Instead of doing the “low-income” shuttle/circulator bus to mitigate for the loss of the Ride Free Area, how about something like the DC Circulator. The fare is only $1 and the buses come every 10 minutes. These were excellent for getting around DC quickly and cheaply on the surface. It could still be free for anybody with a reduced fare permit.

    1. Real Change had an article strongly in favor of the circulators this week. Since the human service agencies have nixed the 358/E as a useful part of the transition, I’ve given up on it.

  11. Cool video! I’ve lived in London, and it really is spectacular how something as massive as the Tube manages to run so smoothly, if not necessarily comfortably.

    1. What is annoying is that there are places where the T spent good money to buy RFID (marketed as “Charlie”) Card Validators (Coolidge Corner was one) that you were allowed to tap your RFID card and get a slip proving you had paid. Then you could board at any door including the rear low-floor doors on the AnsaldoBreda Type 8 cars, which the T also paid dearly for in time and money due to the usual AnsaldoBreda design flaws and delays.

      (The front door in both the Kinki-Sharyo Type 7 and AnsaldoBreda Type 8 cars are step up high-floor doors and thus not ADA accessible.)

      My experience with the system was from when I was traveling with a child in a stroller. I followed posted T procedure, but the operator then insisted that I either leave the child unattended so I could show her the fare-paid slip, or take the child with me up the internal stairs to the operator through a rocking and crowded train. So I did neither and of course the anecdote passed along that the passengers not within earshot of me took away was that I hadn’t paid my fare.

    1. Oops, spoke too soon. No real time trains. Dang.
      The video on the Scenic subdivision is worth a looksee.

  12. The coolest thing about the linked episode is how the employees seem so compassionate toward the sometimes jerky customers. They seemed genuinely friendly and helpful. Weirdly, other than the operator/drivers I hardly ever see any system employees on my transit journeys. Plus, the Tube seems spotless considering how many millions use it.

    1. Weirdly, other than the operator/drivers I hardly ever see any system employees on my transit journeys.

      That shouldn’t seem weird in the city that was willing to pay $5 million for toilets to avoid paying someone to clean them.

  13. Interesting report by TransitPlannerMunich at Human Transit (article). Even in Germany where there are plenty of both trains and buses, people prefer trains.

    “Most recently we opened a 4 km tram line replacing a bus line running the same way. The high quality metro-bus line was running before every 5 minutes (even on sundays every 10 minutes), the tram mostly only every 10 minutes. Still already in January, 4 weeks after opening the line, the passenger numbers increased over 50% compared to the bus line before with over 13,000 in the strongest segment. Currently it is growing more,so that the tram service will be probably changed to every 5 minutes.”

    “On our premium bus product, the MetroBus lines with a bus every 5-10 minutes includiung sundays, we have around 3,500 passengers per km of line. They offer bus priotiry at the traffic lights and proof of payment (like in all Munich bus lines) with ticket machines also in the bus…. Still we noticed that tram/light rail is even more successful – so when we convert a line we get 50% -100% more riders. Certainly it is psychology, cause our trams are not so much faster than our buses. Also we have an excellent subway system. So you should normally expect rather less people riding a bus. Still we have in average (all buses in operation, not only MetroBus) around 450,000 passengers per bus and year. But what can we do – when we notice a line converted to rail gets more passengers, then we take them. And continue to build more rail.”

  14. This one goes out to all those who question whether there is “hydrogen infrastructure” anywhere…

    Environmentalist group takes a hydrogen-powered road trip

    During the trip, the group made use of the numerous hydrogen fuel stations that are located between Oslo and Monte Carlo. The ix35 was able to travel approximately 120 miles before needing to be fueled. Fueling was a matter of minutes, enabling the group to keep up a steady pace without any extended downtime. ZERO claims that this hydrogen-powered road trip is proof that the current hydrogen fuel infrastructure in Europe is capable of meeting the demands of a new generation of vehicles.


  15. So, I watched the episode on fare evasion (#2). That one could really spark some discussion here, I think. Does ST or Metro have any sense of what the fare evasion % is?

    What I like about the London Underground approach is that it’s fair but firm…in that they basically feel bad (mostly) about having to cite people for not paying, but realize that the system really can’t let them slide. No exceptions.

    Has fare checking on Link diminished in frequency? I don’t ride everyday, but it seems like I used to see more checking and citations being handed out.

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