I found this video to be really interesting.

38 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: How TBMs Work”

  1. Thanks, Andrew. Same to Seattle Transit Blog. One of best pieces ever. Would also recommend New Yorker magazine article on engineer Martin Herrenknecht:

    Burkhard Bilger, A Reporter at Large, “The Long Dig,” The New Yorker, September 15, 2008, p. 63

    But absolutely required supplementary reading is book called “The Chunnel”, by Drew Fetherston. Especially passages in Chapter 1 describing the difference between neat (and excellent) animated presentations like this video and the real world of tunneling.

    Hard, dirty, messy work, with a lot of uncertainty-imagine having to steer something that size without windshield or mirrors. Requires people with skill and experience, both with new machinery and old realities of life underground.

    The cross-passages between the tubes under the English Channel were literally sculpted out by Irish laborers using huge hand-held jackhammers with chisel blades.

    Transit people fed up with Seattle politics can benefit from passages on the national, international, and corporate politics involved with the Channel Tunnel. Screaming boardroom arguments on the surface, steady work down in the chalk.

    Took over a hundred years from first attempt. Good perspective on efforts here.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Believe it or not, one of the things which prevented the construction of the original Channel Tunnel over 100 years ago was *fear of French invasion forces* using the tunnel.

      At least that particular piece of insane paranoia is not an issue today. (It’s not really that hard to collapse or block a tunnel, so it was never a serious problem.)

  2. Here’s another solution to the problem of parking at Northgate – golf carts!

    A golf cart takes about half the space to park as a conventional car, so if everybody who drives cars to the station or the mall drove a golf cart instead, we could decommission large chunks of the surface lots we have today, and maintain capacity without the cost of building expensive garages. Since most people who drive to Northgate come from close by, the low speeds of golf cars should be more than sufficient for such trips.

    So, the only problem left to deal with is that pesky issue that everybody has a car, but almost nobody has golf cart. The solution…use the money saved by not building the garage to buy everyone who parks at Northgate regularly a new golf cart! At $5000 a piece, the $30,000 per stall saved by not building the garage could buy a golf cart for 4-5 people, with ST still coming out ahead.

    Unfortunately, in an effort to control costs and assure that those who really need golf carts get them, only people who regularly access Northgate by driving would be eligible for this golf cart program – people who regularly access Northgate via walking, biking, or busing, would be excluded.

    1. I can just imagine hundreds of people driving golf carts to the parking lots on 5th Ave NE and Northgate Way. Although they might fit side by side in a twelve foot lane, so you could double the road capacity.

  3. Bus schedule information: Why so difficult and why so varied? It used to be that you could go to Metro’s pages on their website to find schedule information as well as particulars about a stop. It used to be that you could ascertain the “bus time” four digit number from these pages. It appears that to make things more useful Metro has decided to eliminate this information. That said it does appear that their four digit codes are pretty much worthless. Call into Metro schedule information (206-553-3000) speak to a rep and ask them for the four digit code. You’ll be given a code except none of the four digit codes work!

    The other strangeness is that if you ask for the same informaton from the KC Metro trip planner and ask for the same information from the Sound Transit’s trip planner you get completely different information.

    Add to that OneBusAway’s unreliability and you have the perfect storm of schedules that cannot be relied on in any significant way.

  4. We’ve got advanced technology to precision-drill subway systems wherever we have the money and utility to build them. But we can’t seem to remove the political torque out of circular argumentation such as this:

    1. We can’t eliminate paper transfers because poor people need them, since many can’t afford the $5 cost of an ORCA. (Though this hasn’t stopped Miami, which charges $2 for the EASY card, and requires use of the card to get transfers; and the same with DC Metro.)
    2. We can’t afford to eliminate the ORCA fee, as it requires agreement among seven agencies to do so, and while five of those agencies would have no problem eliminating the charge, since they aren’t paying for card distribution costs, Metro/ST need to cover pass-through costs for the card. We really need that extra revenue to cover the extra service needed when the RFA goes away.
    3. We need to have extra service hours for the buses downtown when the RFA goes away because lots of passengers will pay with cash and change. Trying to reduce the number of passengers paying with cash and change requires incentivizing ORCA use. We can’t incentivize ORCA use because of problem 1.


    1. I have seen advertisements on the sides of metro buses for rebated orca fees with a minimum purchase. Moving in the right direction?

      1. That is a promotion encouraging people to go to saars to get free orca cards with a minimum purchase. Unfortunately this only applies to adult cards. Youth and RRFP cards can’t be had this way.

      2. Waiving the card fee with a $5 fare purchase, and doing it at ORCA VMs, not just out-of-the-way Saars, is exactly what I want to see ST/Metro do.

        The precedents are several. LA Metro will soon be selling TAP for $1 with a $150 fare purchase. Maryland TA’s Charm Card is free with a $5 fare purchase “while supplies last”. Likewise, San Fran’s Clipper Card is free with a $5 fare purchase “for a limited time”. Miami’s EASY Card is $2, but requires $10 in fare purchase. Go Ventura is also free with a minimum fare purchase. DC’s SmartTrip will soon be essentially $2, but has an up-front cost of $5 still, with $3 credited to the card a few days after registration.

      3. LA is selling the TAP card for $1 with a $150 fare purchase?!? Wow, few people will take them up on that offer.

        Or was that a typo?

    2. Boston’s MBTA gives away its RFID “Charlie Card” for free. Why can’t ORCA do this at select locations or promotional events?

      Put some advertising on it to offset the cost. Get them out there!

      1. ORCA cards are handed out at various promotional events, through human service agencies (which have to pay for them), and through various other special promotions. The number handed out, I recall, is quite small.

      2. Good to hear. Hand them out at places like unemployment offices, Social Security offices, places that assist with getting EBT cards out, organizations that assist the poor, etc.

    1. >> I’m not sure what the hold up is in getting these crossings marked “Exempt” but it is likely due to the fact that the Port of Seattle still owns the corridor within Bellevue.

      Could someone at the Port of Seattle please buy some signage? Or could someone in Sound Transit please turn their massive political machine toward fixing this problem for you?

    2. “Heaven forbid we hold up traffic”

      In addition to improving traffic flow, each stop takes about 20-30 seconds including deceleration, the required stop and look both ways, and acceleration. The B-Line, 255, 540, and a large number of deadheading buses, however, could benefit from fixing this issue. It is a trivial expense for the signs that will accrue savings in fuel, brake maintenance, and operating time over many years to come. Sure the savings are relatively small, but how much do 4 road signs cost anyway?

      1. The buses aren’t the point, it’s the idea of putting up ‘Exempt’ signs.

        Ah, but I’m happy for the constant rain, it helps with the PNW Greenwashing.

      2. I don’t even know what cause you perceive yourself to be railing against, Jim. The line is abandoned. The railroad crossings are moot.

        As it stands right now, we could help the environment a lot by spending a few hundred bucks on some signs, sparing the air from the belching of diesel engines as they chug to pull ten-ton buses back up from 0mph.

      3. I’m railing against the supposed environmental concern of the NIMBY’s in the corridor.

        Rail in this corridor was NOT fully vetted. No side by side comparison was ever made between the BRT option put forward in the I-405 Corridor Program (at $960 million), and even ST’s analysis of a fully built out rail corridor ($1.3 billion (at the high end).

        This process was subverted.

        We’ve already had this discussion.

      4. how much do 4 road signs cost anyway?

        Ask someone at Kirkland city hall. They’ve already installed signs at all the crossings.

  5. Idea for compensating for the loss of the RFA:

    -All inbound buses TERMINATING in the CBD will be drop-off-only. In other words, once they enter the CBD, they will make NO adiitional passenger pick-ups. This DOES NOT apply to thru-routed/interlined buses, most First Hill routes, buses terminating in the SODO (41, 522), and buses that are LEAVING the CBD, which will be both pick-up/drop-off.

    1. Why? The cost on a trip that was once free will deter boarding for these short trips.

      1. As more people get ORCA loaded with a monthly pass, I’m guessing more people will be inclined to use it for short trips in the tunnel or up and down the CBD corridors. When more people realize that their mobility can cost around $3/day for all you can consume, they’ll start to use it more.

      2. +1 although there will be exceptions. Passengers with ORCA cards will likely know that they have a pass or a valid transfer and will likely still use the tunnel. One issue: When Sounder drops off a load of passengers, that will cause a bit of a delay as they all tap with their transfers. I see a pretty big crowd of passengers most mornings when a train lets off and I suspect most have ORCA cards.

    2. No, and I’ll tell you why. Drivers will start pretending that the “CBD” starts much farther out than it really does so as to save having to stop and pick up passengers.

      I used to live in Belltown before it was fashionable.

      On Second Avenue, there were/are a bunch of buses coming into the CBD from the north (like 24 and 33) that run quickly (because it is a one-way couplet) to places like 2nd and Union/University (across the street from the entrance to the DSTT that is now under Benoroya Hall but was then in a culvert in the middle of an empty lot) and to Second and Jackson for easy access to King Street Station. And no, not all of these buses were “thru-routed/interlined” but they were going down 2nd at least as far as Lane/Dearborn/Airport Way.

      The routes schedules were posted on the stops I used with times. but I had many many occasions of being passed up by an operator who had set his/her destination board to “Metro Base” already until I figured out who exactly I had to complain to. Note that this was always north of the RFA, and when the bus would stop for me, I would pay and get a transfer for the connecting trip (pre-ORCA days).

      These buses did otherwise scream (loudly) through my neighborhood if no one was waiting to ride them, the walk from Belltown to the Bon takes a good 10-15 minutes and I was paying for these buses just as much as anyone else was in the pre-Timmy days. Why am I not allowed to ride them if I choose to?

      1. In fact, since I was usually connecting to a two-zone bus, I made a point of buying my two-zone transfer on the first bus so the drivers would get the idea that some long reverse-commutes began in Belltown and I was not just some jerk who rode the bus a short distance because I could afford to.

    3. Won’t pushing all boardings onto outbound routes just slow outbound buses more, while inbound buses wait in line behind them?

      1. Odd. Works for me. Great video, worth seeing in entirety, so paste link into browser instead of clicking on link here if necessary.

  6. I know that people here have poo-pooed maglev technology but it is a component of recent proposals for Vacuum based tube transport that looks really interesting. They are claiming this type of transport can be built for 1/4 the cost of HSR.

    What do you all think?


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